BT chases cable thieves with RABIT

BT is using a new tracking technology that can sound the alert when a cable has been cut or damaged, as it seeks to crack down on thieves trying to steal valuable copper

BT is going after cable thieves with a new technology capable of spotting a break in a wire and identifying it quickly enough to potentially catch the robbers red-handed.

Cable theives

BT is using a new tracking technology that can sound the alert when a cable has been cut or damaged, as it seeks to crack down on thieves trying to steal valuable copper. Image credit: BT

The 'RABIT' technology monitors signals on broadband and telephone networks to detect when a cable has been cut or damaged, and alert police and BT's Security Control Centre, the company said on Monday.

"We're using broadband signals and correlating signal events," BT Security general manager Luke Beeson told ZDNet UK. "The [digital] broadband signals run over fibre and copper."

The RABIT (Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker) monitors a broadband signal on both copper and fibre networks to detect cuts, said Beeson. BT runs tests to be able to locate a cable break to "between two manholes", said Beeson.

"We run simple network tests to locate the break," said Beeson.

BT tries to avoid false positives by using its Security Control Centre resources in co-ordination with the police, said Beeson. He declined to give further details.

BT has been trialling the technology since before Christmas, mainly with South Yorkshire police. BT alerted police in Essex to an alleged attempted cable theft incident during the trial, said Beeson.

"The [alleged] thieves fled the scene and left evidence — cutting equipment — which gives the police something to DNA swab," said Beeson. "We're pretty confident it's only a matter of time before we catch thieves in the act."

BT sees thousands of incidents of attempted copper theft per year, said Beeson. The thieves target copper due to its high resale value, while fibre, which is not valuable to thieves, is often "collateral damage" due to how the cables are laid, said Beeson. Thieves often cut through fibre cables to extract copper cables.

The company also uses other security measures, such as SmartWater, a marking liquid that coats the cable core and can help identify a suspect.


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