Cut cables in the Middle East

2008-02-06

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Politics, Security

Something strange is happening to undersea fiber optic cables in the Middle East: they are being cut. At least four, and possibly five, of the communications links have failed in the last twelve days. The first two were allegedly damaged by a ship’s anchor; subsequent failures are more mysterious. Serious disruptions are being experienced in Egypt and India, along with lesser problems in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kuwait, the Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The fifth cable cut seems to have disabled internet access in Iran.

It’s tempting to ascribe some nefarious motive to all of this. That said, it is sensible to recall how past hysterias proved unjustified. After much hoopla in the media, it turned out that the ‘cyberwar’ against Estonia was the work of a twenty year old subsequently fined $1,620 for his misdeeds.

The cable problems are being widely discussed:

[Update: 16 February 2008] According to The Economist, all this was just hysteria.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon February 7, 2008 at 11:23 am

Could it be conservative local groups that want to limit the exposure of the populace to Western culture and ideas?

. February 7, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Just to be clear, early reports of the entirety of Iran being offline turned out to be exaggerated or perhaps entirely false.

. February 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Disabled Middle East Cables Under Repair
InformationWeek – 1 hour ago
Two out of the three communications lines could be up and running this weekend as the network operator looks at alternate cable routes through the Mediterranean.

One Internet cut explained, but four others still a mystery AFP
Middle East Cables Will Be Repaired Soon PC World

. June 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Map of undersea cables from 1901

Cory Doctorow at 7:17 AM Wednesday, Jun 15, 2011

. September 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

SIERRA LEONE’S single largest link to the internet sits on a ridge in the west of the capital, Freetown. Behind a red wall topped with razor wire several satellite dishes point skyward. The surrounding district is called Wilberforce, after the 18th-century British politician who campaigned against the slave trade. However, the digital connection maintained by Airtel, a mobile-phone company, is not free: it costs $89,000 a month.

Sierra Leone, a poor west African country, has no fibre-optic link to the outside world. Its internet users rely on satellite bandwidth. The International Telecommunication Union says this is also true of the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Guinea, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Seychelles.

anon@sindark.com July 16, 2013 at 10:27 pm

The Creepy, Long-Standing Practice of Undersea Cable Tapping
The newest NSA leaks reveal that governments are probing “the Internet’s backbone.” How does that work?

Olga Khazan Jul 16 2013, 1:55 PM ET

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