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Las Vegas crooks go mad for copper

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Telcos and data center operators, watch out for your copper. As the price of the metal skyrockets copper is suddenly looking very appealing to thieves.

So much so that Embarq, which offers communications services in 18 states, is offering a $5,000 bounty for information leading the prosecution of people who steal its cable in Las Vegas. The company has already spent $400,000 this year replacing pilfered lines in that city alone. More than 60 individuals have been been arrested for copper theft in Las Vegas

"You've got people that are going out there and trying to steal wire cable," said Embarq spokesman Charles Fleckenstein. "It's an area where we have almost 13,000 miles of cable and it just looked like a real good area to get started."

Copper thieves often drive vans, don hard hats and scale telephone poles, in an attempt to blend in with legitimate telephone workers. But instead of fixing broken lines, they pilfer the fiber used to connect ATMs, emergency 911 call centers and phone service.

Embarq isn't the only company feeling the pain. According to this entry posted Tuesday in the diary of the SANS Internet Storm Center, data center operators should look out for thieves stealing air-conditioning components, since copper heat exchangers usually reside outside, where they can be easily accessed.

"The usual recommendation is to build a 'cage' around the device which still allows for sufficient air circulation," Johannes Ullrich, the author of the post, wrote.

On a grimmer note, anecdotal support for the high incidence of copper theft seems to be born out by this Yahoo! search, which appears to pull up dozens of legitimate news accounts of people who have been electrocuted while attempting to steal live wires. ®

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