The use of an optical fiber as a distributed sensor for detecting and locating intruders over long perimeters (>10 km) is described. Phase changes resulting from either the pressure of the intruder on the ground immediately above the buried fiber or from seismic disturbances in the vicinity are sensed by a phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometer (Φ-OTDR). Light pulses from a cw laser operating in a single longitudinal mode and with low (MHz/min range) frequency drift are injected into one end of the single mode fiber, and the backscattered light is monitored with a photodetector. In laboratory tests with 12 km of fiber on reels, the effects of localized phase perturbations induced by a piezoelectric fiber stretcher on Φ-OTDR traces were characterized. In field tests in which the sensing element is a single mode fiber in a 3-mm diameter cable buried in a 20-46 cm deep, 10 cm wide trench in clay soil, detection of intruders on foot up to 4.6 m from the cable line was achieved. In desert terrain field tests in which the sensing fiber is in a 4.5-mm diameter cable buried in a 30 cm deep, 75 cm wide trench filled with loose sand, high sensitivity and consistent detection of intruders on foot and of vehicles traveling down a road near the cable line was realized over a cable length of 8.5 km and a total fiber path of 19 km. Based on these results, this technology may be regarded as a candidate for providing low-cost perimeter security for nuclear power plants, electrical power distribution centers, storage facilities for fuel and volatile chemicals, communication hubs, airports, government offices, military bases, embassies, and national borders.