High-security networks, like those used in government, healthcare, retail, and financial applications, require a higher level of network security than commercial applications. While fiber optic networks are well known for their speed, they also present significant security benefits compared to CATx networks. The following security benefits are important to evaluate when considering fiber for high-security networks:
No Radiated Emissions
CATx cable, the network standard, carries a risk of radiated emissions while fiber optic cables do not emit or absorb electromagnetic energy. To transmit data, CATx cable uses electrical signals which conduct an electromagnetic field. Although CATx cables might be wrapped in shielding to help prevent leakage, the risk of possible exposure of the data poses a risk to security. The effectiveness of the CATx cable shielding depends on the material, quality of construction, and necessary flexibility. Conversely, fiber does not radiate electromagnetic signals and is extremely difficult to tap.
Travels Long Distances
By using light to transmit data at high speeds and great distances, fiber optic cable has very little loss. Unlike the native 328 foot (100 meter) limit of copper, the distances possible with fiber depend on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. As noted in 8 Advantages of Choosing Fiber over Copper Cable, fiber can travel from 550 meters to 40 kilometers depending on speed and cabling. Longer distance requires fewer signal repeaters and signal boosters and therefore fewer breaks in the system that may be exploited to compromise security. The less equipment there is, the easier it will be to centralizing the system, improving overall security.
Harder to Tap
Because fiber is extremely difficult to tap, it offers data security unmatched by copper. Any attempt to break the physical security of a fiber network will be immediately apparent because the leak will cause the entire system to fail. Instead of having wiring closets and equipment throughout the building, fiber networks typically feature a secure central location to house all of the network equipment.
While single-mode fiber offers the greatest bandwidth, the exact speed of transmission depends on the specific types of cable. Fiber carries more information with greater fidelity than copper at speeds of 10 Gbps or better.
Reliability and Immunity
The core of fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through, providing extremely reliable data transmission. Because it is completely immune to environmental factors that affect copper such as electrometric interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, and impedance problems, fiber cable can be run next to industrial equipment without concern. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.
The proliferation and declining cost of media converters has made migrating from copper to fiber much easier. Media converters provide seamless links that extend the life of existing hardware. Fiber upgrades may include 12- and 24- strand MPO cassettes, cables, and hardware possibly in preparation for future 40- and 100-GbE networks.
Meeting Future Networks Needs with Fiber
Fiber optics are the right choice for most modern networks. Although other technologies may be sufficient, the capabilities of fiber are vast. As technology continues to emerge, fiber optics are making great strides, extending its superior capabilities even more.