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Understanding Networks and Data Transmission Systems as they Relate to Cybersecurity Nationwide

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Ronald GD Davis's picture
Director of Mechanical Engineering

6 Years Military Service in which Time I took an EE correspondence course .. Spent the next 13 years in technical positions between manufacturing and engineering .. Advanced problem solving...

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  • Aug 24, 2020

This item is part of the LTE Networks & Utilities - Summer 2020 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Composition of Networks: 

Before cybersecurity can be examined, we must first examine the networks that our data runs on .. It is critical to understand the distinction because the vulnerabilities of networks are not well understood by those outside the industry .. It is also important to understand what short haul low latency networks are composed of and points of presence or sometimes called POP's which provides connectivity along the way to the destination ..  POP's are also sometimes called "Hubs" but this is not the popular name for those in the IT industry .. At the center of POP's we have what is called Back Office Carrier Class switches which means they are the most rugged and long life functional elements that route data along to its destination .. Then we have gear called high speed concentrators or routers which compress the data into high speed streams which move the data to the "Big Switches" in the Back Office which determine the path as it leaves the data centers / POP's .. The high speed concentrators are fed by switches and servers which properly package the data for the concentrators so that data is more compressed lumps of data instead of more fragmented .. It's much like a train yard and its switching station with box cars as the lumps of data that the train moves.. 

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These networks are called "Low Latency Networking" which means they are moving data from place to place in short steps .. The idea behind the short steps and why it takes many POP's to move data around the world is that the data is better controlled in short steps because of the "Low Latency between hops / POP's" .. It is safe to say that the networking industry is built around the "Low latency Model" because there is more money to be had using this technique of data transfer .. Imagine if those who sold network gear sold high latency networking equipment .. This would dramatically cut down the number of POP's / Hops across the U.S. .. Other issues arise when high latency networking is used .. It requires long distance dedicated lines and amplification stations to boost the signal along the way .. It used to be impossible to do this because of the noise introduced when amplifying an optical signal, this is not the case nowadays ..  More about this dedicated line later .. 

Public & Private Networks: 

It is safe to say that the majority of data moves along the public networks .. Public data are less secure than private networks .. Yet private networks do have segregated lines for communication .. Yet they are typically composed of many paid subscribers who want the next level of security .. Banks and parts of our Government that deal with classified information are on dedicated lines that are private meaning they and they alone have data that move along those lines .. This makes their private networks more secure than the others who have segmented private networks who share private lines with other subscribers .. Leasing private lines are much more expensive than the subscriber private networks .. All the aforementioned networks consist of low latency networking equipment .. High latency networking which is not popular as yet are by their nature Private Networks because of the many leased lines they operate .. They can be subscriber / shared private lines or dedicated private lines .. 

Last Mile:

When the data reaches the POP's closest to the point where the data is destined to go, the last mile equipment is then required .. Again we have shared subscriber lines and we have completely private lines for extra security .. More and more companies view their cybersecurity more seriously because their data can't have a price put on it and it represents the livelihood of the corporations which use the Internet .. Some subscribers are now using VPN or encrypted networking sometimes called tunneling networks which safeguard for the most part the data .. This is adequate for some corporations when they weigh the cost benefits ratio of networking for their corporation .. Last mile considerations are also an issue for High Latency Networks as well .. This is a security issue which cannot be overlooked .. This is why Government and Financial institutions "Always" use private dedicated lines which require a high level of security .. Optical lines provide a much higher level of security than copper as copper lines radiate and couplers can be placed on lines to "sniff data" .. Optical lines don't radiate and if breached they can quickly determine the distance at which the breach has been .. 

Copper & Optical Fiber:

Twisted Pair Copper tops out at approximately 12.5 GigaBits Per Second while Optical tops out at somewhere around 400 GigaBits Per Second also denoted as 400 Gbps or 400G .. This is not gigabytes as a byte of data is 8 bits so we would have to divide these numbers by 8 to see the GBytes or GB per second .. The issue with speed through the POP's is that as the data is being moved from one POP to another the amount of time increases and that data is slowed .. So new standards are being developed to come up with for the future .. We currently have only one way to transfer 1 Petabyte of data .. 1 Petabyte of data cannot reliably be transferred across the internet .. The data or box cars if you will, make the train station unmanageable and some of the data goes missing .. What do they do to move such large amounts of data .. They hire bonded carriers with data suitcases that take about 1 week to load 1 Petabyte .. The bonded carrier takes the suitcase to its destination and it is unloaded at the site .. It takes about a week to unload it and it also takes a large data center to be able to manage the data at its destination .. Now is the very important part .. For those moving 1 Petabyte and larger data set from one place to another the only way to do this over the internet is through "High Latency Networking Equipment" .. I only know one company that has developed a high latency high data rate long haul equipment that can transfer 1 Petabyte over one optical fiber from the East Coast to the West Coast .. Dedicated long latency lines move data farther faster than short haul short latency equipment .. The equipment required for long haul is very different from a standard data center .. It requires certain considerations such as very high speed storage at the start of its journey to the end of its journey .. This is of the major distinctions that make high latency networking "The New Wave of the Future" .. 

Cybersecurity Along Electrical / Gas that traverses the nation: 

I don't know how much data is passed from one place to another along the power grid .. I don't know what security has been deployed so I cannot comment about that aspect .. What I do know is the vulnerability of Multiple POP's .. This one of the weakest links in the chain .. The Last mile is also a weak link .. VPN does provide good security and phones that allow VPN connections for apps are a good way to disseminate data to employee's that have the need to know .. Segmenting or compartmentalizing access to the entire networks needs to happen if phones with apps are deployed .. But to provide the safest networking across the entire grid would be to have one central hub with dedicated low latency optical fiber to the central hub with only VPN access available for its employee's / customers .. VPN is a must have in this day and age as number crunching / cracking / hacking machines grow in power and in use.

Where things are going:

The U.S. Government data center is growing at an exponential rate .. The current data and historical data are moving from 100-200 Petabyte data centers which can't move this data in or out to Exabyte or 1,000 Petabyte data centers .. So It is my prediction that Long Haul High Latency networking will be commonplace within the next 5-7 years .. The need to move mountains of data to specialized data centers which do analytics has become necessary .. The reason for this is that there are many types of analytics engines which specialize due to cost .. So it is better to break off large chunks to process data where specialized equipment exists .. For instance .. I want to know during the past 10 years when a person accessed a certain facility and what he did in that facility .. Visual processing is one thing, but machine learning and visual processing are a valuable tool because the machine can determine suspicious activity from patterns which we would not be able to do so easily .. So CCTV footage over ten years must be examined which can be a large data set for a large area .. This kind of analysis keeps everyone very honest. This is only one example where visual processing is required that makes the data center unique .. Not to go too deep into the analysis the trend is much much more analysis for security reasons than 5 or 10 years ago .. This is the kind of analysis that would keep our National Gas and Electrical Grid systems safe and secure. We need an audit trait and we need computers always looking at data to determine activity so we can preempt any issue before it happens. Another audit trail would be in use of data through the VPN phone APP right before an event. This might give leads as to identifying involvement at whatever level. Is it important that someone looks at data and what date they look at 15-20 second before an event ? Then this form of cybersecurity is necessary.


If you have a key interest in Long Haul Long Latency extreme security then there's only one company I have found that does this .. .. I am not attempting to promote their brand I am instead attempting to promote the highest security possible .. Let's say I have 6 POP's / hops across the U.S. networks to get from L.A. to Portland Maine .. I have six points of vulnerability across the networks .. With the High Latency Networks I could limit this to one POP / Hop across the country and this connection could reliably 1 Petabyte per day per fiber across the U.S. If you need 10 or even 100 lines this opens a whole other realm of possibilities for those who have mountains of data they must use for analysis .. I know that this is what Microsoft Azure, Google's GCP, and Amazon's S3 data centers are set up for but they are just now becoming truly useful because of RStor mountains of data movement capabilities .. Each one of these companies specialize in certain types of analytics .. I must also give an honorable mention to Oracle as well as they have one of their data centers specifically set up for Optical Analysis as I mentioned this in the previous section .. Data analysis and cybersecurity go hand in hand as we can't have one without the other because of the value of the data involved


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Thank Ronald GD for the Post!
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