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Pine Media Suffer Targeted Attack on Sheffield Full Fibre Network

Tuesday, Jan 23rd, 2024 (12:01 am) - Score 4,520
Pine-Media-Engineer-Shows-Damaged-Fibre-Chamber

Network builder and UK ISP Pine Media, which has been steadily deploying their own gigabit speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure across parts of South Yorkshire, Kent and rural Derbyshire, has informed ISPreview that part of their network in Sheffield was recently hit by what appears to be a targeted attack.

According to the company’s Founder and CEO, Will Dear, part of the operator’s underground network was attacked in Sheffield on Saturday 13th January at 8:01pm. As a result, around 200 customers in the local area suffered connectivity problems. But thankfully, most of the issues were resolved within the space of 24-hours, except two leased lines that were cut too short by the attack and required extensive work to re-instate.

PICTURED: Pine Media engineer holding up the damaged underground spine joint.

The area of the attack is covered by a number of CCTV cameras that belong to some of Pine Media’s customers, which the police will no doubt be studying as part of their investigation. The cameras revealed that the attacker was in and out within just 5 minutes, lifting the lid on their underground chamber and rummaging deep into the space below to cut five cables – severing a spine joint (pictured).

The box is shared with a number of other network operators, such as ITS Technology and Openreach, and Pine Media’s kit was deeper below most of that (hard to reach). But despite this, only Pine Media’s infrastructure suffered any damage and as a result the operator has not ruled out the possibility of this being targeted criminal damage. Similarly, nothing appears to have been stolen (this kind of kit doesn’t hold much value), it was purely damage.

The news comes not long after another network operator, Ogi, suffered a much more significant attack against its own infrastructure in South Wales (here). The big challenge in all this is that there’s not a lot operators can do to mitigate the risk of recurrence, particularly when anybody so inclined can easily buy the necessary lifter and very few of Openreach’s PIA (physical infrastructure access) accessible chambers are locked. In any case, locks have their caveats too (e.g. they degrade, create complications with access for other engineers and can still be broken etc.).

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
17 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Clearly the attacker knew what they were targeting, surely a disgruntled ex contractor or employee? Why would anyone else go for that and leave everyone else alone?

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an existing customer they had annoyed somehow. I once called their 24 hour support line and was met angrily with someone kicking off asking if I knew what time it was. Not quite what I expected.

    2. Avatar photo JP says:

      Noice xD

    3. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      An existing customer like that would need to be extremely knowledgeable about the network to know exactly what to cut and where in a busy chamber, within just 5 minutes. I doubt it.

    4. Avatar photo Will Dear says:

      Hi Anonymous,
      I remember this occasion which was over four years ago and in our very early days; a phone routing mistake resulted in your call reaching one of our team who was not on call and didn’t realise the call was from a customer (I believe you were in a block on Rockingham St?). I see you have made similar comments before so I can see this has understandably upset you, I am very sorry, and I can assure you and others that this was a one-off mistake.
      Will

    5. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      @Mark you’re probably right that it would likely have to have been someone who knew what was down there to specifically target it, especially considering it was underneath the other networks equipment.

      and @Will – I don’t think it’s great that you’re wanting to share address details in a public manner when airing the dirty laundry. It is inappropriate. I was understandably annoyed about it at the time, though that and this paints a picture about Pine Media that leaves a sour taste. Clearly this and the single other time I mentioned it got to you. An apology could have been made the next day after such a serious error but clearly putting things right is not in Pine’s playbook. I personally wouldn’t want to deal with Pine again.

    6. Avatar photo Steve says:

      Two sides to every story and I’m pleased we’ve been able to see both sides. Yes customer service should never be that poor, but the situation has been described without any context. Given the location sharing it’s a huge area and no way an individual could have been identified to outsiders. The company has a right to respond, for an individual to call this dirty laundry seems a bit excessive when it’s that individual who has brought it up in the first place.

    7. Avatar photo Jeff says:

      As a bystander I have to say I’m very shocked to see even a part of someones address revealed like that by Pine Media. That’s totally inappropriate and it reveals a lot about the company.

  2. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    Can’t rule out people cutting networks thinking they are disabling security systems for nearby buildings to enable other crimes either – I’ve seen a couple of reports of external VM cabling being cut before houses are burgled. Doesn’t achieve much when cameras have local recording or there’s a cellular backup in place but it’s not stopped people trying.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Surely such a person would cut every cable they saw in there, not specifically target one fibre node out of multiple in the chamber? Just from that picture I can see at least 2 other operators’ fibre network in that chamber: it’s pretty busy.

  3. Avatar photo Will Dear says:

    @Anonymous, I had meant only to demonstrate that my comment was not generic and I did genuinely recall the occasion, but you are right, mentioning the location was inappropriate. Unfortunately, as you were not a customer we didn’t have any contact information to make an apology at the time.

    1. Avatar photo Jeff says:

      Then why did he call the 24 hour hotline and how did you know enough about their address to reveal it to us?

  4. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Nice to see him standing on other providers tails/pairs, the way he treats others kit im not surprised their joint was damaged.

    1. Avatar photo Rob says:

      Yep literally standing on OR cables, and I’m not even surprised.
      Whoever fitted the mobra needs a good talking to as well, corner brackets aren’t optional.

    2. Avatar photo Fender says:

      It’s shocking. And if they are happy to pose for a picture doing that, you have to wonder what they do when nobody is looking. The dangers of infrastructure sharing.

  5. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    Criminals sometimes cut cables, outside a bank for example, to distract police while they carry on their trade elsewhere.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I’m sure they do though the distraction would be bigger if they cut all the cables rather than digging through the chamber to find one specific operator’s cables to cut.

      Unless they went to the trouble of confirming that some interesting premises were served by Pine Media it’s very odd selecting that one operator’s spine to slice when indiscriminate cutting would cause more of a distraction and take a matter of seconds longer.

      Either way this trend of vandalising altnet plant needs to stop. Prosecution and some serious sentences for those involved would be a good start.

Comments are closed

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