Thefts of valuable copper cabling used for broadband internet delivery has forced BT to develop a new rapid-response monitoring system, RABIT, that promises to be fast enough to catch thieves red-handed. The Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker uses "broadband signals and correlating signal events" the company's security chief says, capable of pinpointing the location of the theft-in-progress down to the distance between two access panels in the street.
The system allows BT to dispatch police to the crime scene more quickly, with some early success in trials that began at the tail-end of 2011. In one incident "the [alleged] thieves fled the scene and left evidence - cutting equipment - which gives the police something to DNA swab," BT Security general manager Luke Beeson revealed. "We're pretty confident it's only a matter of time before we catch thieves in the act."
Copper is a common target, as the metal is currently high in price on the scrap market, and easily cut through with manual tools. Unfortunately fiber optic cables - which have no real resale value - are often damaged in the process, an expensive and tricky repair job for BT's engineers.
BT claims it sees copper theft attempts numbering in the thousands each year across the UK, and though identification technologies such as indelible ink markers that stay stuck to thieve's hands have been implemented, it's hoped the RABIT system will end many of those attempts before significant damage is done.