Bringing Down the Web

Engadget (but strangely, no mainstream news sites?) is reporting that a fourth underseas fiber cable has been pierced in the Middle East.

People are now starting to draw the conclusion I draw the second time: something fishy is going on. (Err, no pun intended there…)  Underseas cables don’t get cut that often, but for four of them to get cut in a week, and all to a war-torn region?

Someone is pretty clearly trying to cut off the Internet to that part of the world, and they’re doing a pretty good job. Fortunately, the Internet has always been designed to route around failures like this, but it seems like they’ve taken out a huge chunk of the backbone to some parts of the world. There was an earthquake to that region, too, though. But still, I’m suspicious.

Of course, some are saying that the fourth line wasn’t actually cut, but apparently just suffered technical issues not related to the underseas line itself. But still, I’m calling shenanigans. I’m just not sure which motive is at play: are they resisting Western influence? Trying to prevent technology? Obsessed with censorship? There are multiple motives, just as there are many, many possible culprits.

Although I have to hand it to them: those underseas cables look incredibly resilient, and I can’t imagine that too many people know where every single one is located.

One thought on “Bringing Down the Web

  1. To be fair, I guess the mainstream news has picked up the story, although I didn’t see anything until I specifically searched for it.

    Some additional facts have come in:

    – There was apparently an earthquake, which could conceivably cut multiple lines, and perhaps even cause latent failures that don’t show up right away. However, looking at the diagram on my last link in the article shows that undersea fiber lines are meant to be quite resilient.

    – The fourth is being chalked to a power failure on one end. If an edge router fails, the line would understandably go dark. (However, something tells me that they’ve got a little more than a 1U machine with a GigE fiber card powering trans-continental fiber backbones…)

    Throwing a little fuel unnecessarily on the conspiracy fire: anyone familiar with data centers will be aware of just how insanely resilient they are. A data center is considered low-budget if it only has one set of battery backups for short-term interruptions, and only one backup generator with a month of fuel in reserve that kicks in when the power fails. One of my favorites stories is the time that RackShack (before changing names and ownership…) had a huge transformer supplying power to their data center blow up. (And I mean blow up. A news helicopter got shots of sixty-foot flames.) Customers were completely unaware that anything was awry, until the company released a news statement. The switch to backup power was seamless.

    Also… A power failure doesn’t really disprove that something is up. (If anything, it confirms it?) If you can’t cut the line, cut power on one end, which is just as good as cutting the line.

    – The first two lines that went down were blamed on a dragging ship anchor. (Somewhat arbitrarily, it seems.) It’s since been announced that no ships were even in the area at the time.

    – I don’t give it much merit, but some have been pointing out that, with these lines down, most traffic is being routed over US-controlled lines, leading some to believe that the US government did it to snoop on this traffic. (I said I didn’t buy into this one!) A slightly more credible theory is that the breaks were intentional, but not for the reason we think they were. Cut the cable in one place, then go down further and splice into it. Still pretty out there, but far from the most lunatic conspiracy theory ever posed.

    Slashdot has a good piece on it, with some good comments.

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