Cyber attacks on fiber optic networks throughout New Jersey could leave utility, transportation and communication networks vulnerable, according to a state lawmaker.

Insulated fiber optic cable (Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images)

So far this year, fiber optic Internet cables have been intentionally cut over a dozen times in California, disrupting Internet, phone and television services for businesses and residents.

New Jersey Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Flemington) said these attacks must be taken seriously and said the state needs to send a message to would-be offenders that these attacks won’t be tolerated.

"Our society depends on data and communication via cable networks across the country, including New Jersey," Simon said.

In an effort to fight back, the assemblywoman is sponsoring a measure to increase the penalties for criminal mischief, which is what these attacks fall under. Currently, the punishment for criminal mischief is anywhere between three to five years behind bars.

“My idea would kick it up to an imprisonment of five to 10 years or a fine of up to $150,000 or both. If it causes any type of injury or it causes reckless death, it goes up to a first degree which is punishable with imprisonment of 10 to 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000,” Simon said.

These attacks can be widespread. The severed cables in California disrupted service in the San Francisco area, Sacramento and even as far north as Seattle. Microsoft said the cable cuts also slowed down its Azure cloud computing system.

“In New Jersey, this type of crime could impact our critical infrastructure. It could be really catastrophic. It’s not just localized by somebody that’s mischievous or a disgruntled employee. If they really have a greater plan to put citizens at risk it can be devastating,” Simon said.

 

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.