[ISN] Prepared for the worst

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Sun Apr 15 2007 - 22:27:08 PDT


By Mark Gibbs
Network World

Several readers wrote in after last week's column [1] to ask whether it 
was a good idea to tell the bad guys about One Wilshire -- the carrier 
hotel inhabited by a bunch of Tier 1 service providers -- and how to 
find it.

Reader Charlie Clarke wrote: "I found your column extremely interesting 
and extremely disturbing. I may simply be unnecessarily paranoid, but as 
an IT person in a Southern California financial institution, I found 
that the revelations in your column about the amount of network 
infrastructure at a specific address (in not one but two buildings) on a 
specifically identified busy street corner in downtown L.A. sent me into 
a cold sweat."

Clarke continued: "Pre-9/11, I wouldn't have given it a second thought, 
but now it seems foolhardy at the very least to toss out such specific 
information when a general nod toward 'buildings on the west side of 
L.A.' would have sufficed. A truck bomb of the type used to devastate 
the Murrow Building in Oklahoma City would do untold damage to this 
vital network infrastructure."

I asked John Savageau, managing director of CRG West, the company that 
owns One Wilshire, for comment, and he replied: "This is a frequent 
topic of conversation. We are well known by agencies watching this type 
of activity, and we are at the end of a very short tether for emergency 
services within L.A. -- as are all our colleagues in the industry."

Savageau pointed out that it isn't just One Wilshire and the other 
carrier hotel facilities in downtown L.A. that are at risk. The stakes 
are far greater than that and, as a consequence, there are a lot more 
people paying attention to the entire area's safety than we're aware of.

Savageau went on to note that we live in a packet world, and nearly all 
the United States and international carriers in One Wilshire have 
replaced or are replacing circuit switch and Digital Access Carrier 
System equipment with softswitches and Dense Wavelength-Division 
Multiplexing gear. "There is an alternate route available for nearly all 
services through Las Vegas or Northern California serving all 
facilities-based carriers in Los Angeles -- all interconnected at 
numerous L.A. and L.A.-area fiber-optic terminals supporting both metro 
and long-distance cable.

"Yes, a [9/11 style disaster] at One Wilshire would cause serious damage 
to global communications in the short term," he said. "However, with all 
the talented and dedicated telecom engineers in L.A. and the global 
community, I am confident all but the smallest single-threaded 
operations would be recovered within a surprisingly short amount of 
time. One Wilshire is important due to the proximity and ease of 
interconnection. However, that interconnection can occur in many 

That really underlines what humans have created: A global communications 
system that does, as intended, route around damage.

Savageau concluded by pointing out that his "office is smack at the 
intersection of Wilshire and Grand. As I type this message I am 
confident not only in our security, the intelligence of our public 
safety, national/international anti-terrorist agencies, and first 
responders to reinforce security at One Wilshire, but also in our 
industry's ability to recover from disaster. . . . We have had this 
discussion many, many times with a lot of different people in 
governments (we do hold a key role in the national interests of many 
countries), companies and law enforcement. Can't give you details, but I 
am confident we'll continue to meet the needs of our industry for a long 

I found his perspective refreshing in the face of the alarmism that 
appears whenever terrorism is discussed. In IT we know we can never be 
truly safe, but we're smart enough to be prepared to deal with the worst 
if it ever happens. Perhaps we need to have telecom people in charge of 
the Federal Emergency Management Agency?

Comments to backspin (at) gibbs.com. To join the Gibbs Irregulars go to 

[1] http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2007/040607backspin.html

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