Threat: Joe the Backhoe Operator

The previous post considered forces of nature – we also have man-made threats:


Where Dennis the Weatherman is a proxy for all the threats nature can pose, Joe the Backhoe Operator is a proxy for man-made threats outside the data center.

Backhoe Fade is a familiar term in the telecommunications industry, where it refers to construction activities cutting cables. This can be anything from a single network link to a major fibre optic link affecting millions of people. The classic example is a backhoe operator digging in a field in the middle of nowhere who digs right through a cable, taking out a major telecommunications link.

Closely related to backhoe fade is damage to undersea cables, often from ships dragging anchors across the cables and severing them. And, of course, sharks… How Google Stops Sharks From Eating Undersea Cables

While not necessarily a classical security threat, and not a threat to system integrity in the same way as other threats we have discussed, backhoe fade is a great threat to system availability and business continuity.

Major data centers will typically have multiple redundant, physically separated network connections to allow them to route around network failures.

Unfortunately, it is much less common for individual buildings where people actually work to have such redundant network connections. If the hundreds of people in your office can’t get to the corporate data systems, it really doesn’t matter which end of the cable has been cut…

Next: Greatest Threat: Yellow Sticky of Doom

About Russell Doty

A technology strategist and product manager at Red Hat, working on the next generation of open source systems.
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