Communications Sector

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The Communications Sector is an integral component of the US economy and the operations of all public and private sector organizations. It includes wireline, wireless, satellite, cable, broadcasting capabilities, and the transport networks that support the Internet and other key information systems.

Communications infrastructure is shared across adjoining states. For example, the Armstrong Tower in Alpine, New Jersey, was used as a temporary transmitter site for some of New York City’s television and FM radio stations after 9/11. This transmission capability was essential for response and recovery efforts.

Threat

Cyber: Moderate
Nation-state cyber threat actors—including but not limited to Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea—possess the capabilities to disrupt regional communications systems in the US; however, they currently lack the intent to carry out a consequential attack of this magnitude, partly due to the possibility of attribution or a response from US intelligence or military agencies. Conversely, non-state threat actors—including profit-motivated criminals and activist hackers—also possess the capabilities and are more likely to carry out disruptive attacks. Non-state actors were reportedly responsible for multiple distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in October 2016 that disrupted a major Domain Name System service provider and prevented Internet users from reaching some of the most highly trafficked websites in the US. In addition to disruptive attacks, future tactics used to target the sector will likely seek to manipulate data or inflict physical damage to communications infrastructure.

Terrorism: Low
There has not been a terrorist attack against the Communications Sector in the past 10 years. However, the sector could be a target of interest for adversaries because of the potential to delay emergency response and the negative economic consequences that would likely occur.

Natural Hazard
The Communications Sector is vulnerable to varying weather-related hazards. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, communication outages occurred from Virginia to Massachusetts for more than four days, impacting millions of customers.

Preparedness

JerseyNet is the nation’s first deployable wireless communications network dedicated for use by public safety agencies. JerseyNet addresses the challenge of non-dedicated wireless service for first responders by providing public safety personnel with access to a reliable, dedicated, high speed communications network. The network provides constant communication service through three geographic regions in New Jersey: the Route 21 corridor that runs from Essex County to Passaic County, Camden, and Atlantic City. Deployable assets can also provide temporary communication services at any location in or around New Jersey.

The Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) and Wireless Priority Service (WPS) supports authorized national security and emergency preparedness users by enhancing their ability to complete calls in a crisis situation. GETS and WPS users are responsible for command and control functions that manage and respond to national security and emergency events, particularly during the first 24 to 72 hours. The US Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications recommends these individuals request both a GETS and WPS card.

The National Coordinating Center for Communications (NCC- Communications) Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC) facilitates the exchange of vulnerability, threat, intrusion, and anomaly information among government and industry participants.

The Shared Resources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program, a NCC-Communications service, provides an additional means for users with a national security and emergency preparedness mission to communicate when landline and cellular communications are unavailable.

Intelligence Gaps

  • What groups would be interested in  planning  an attack on New Jersey communications infrastructure?
  • What methods would a capable and determined cyber actor use to disrupt communications in New Jersey?

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Preparedness Bureau at preparedness@njohsp.gov.