Sunday, February 03, 2008

Communications Blackout

Last week, it emerged that three (some say four) submarine cables that ferry the Internet around the world had been cut, over just as many days.

Having one cable cut isn't usually very interesting news. Yes, it would cost a bundle of money to fix it, but it isn't really news worthy as the Internet was designed to withstand exactly this sort of problem. Packets may take longer to travel around the world, but they will still get there.

But, having three cables lost one day after the other, is very mysterious indeed. It was initially attribute to some stupid captain of a random ship who might have forgotten to raise her anchor. A big ship dragging it's anchor across one of these cables is the most obvious way to cut these cables. It has happened before.

However, recent reports have emerged from the Egyptian Ministry of Communications, which say that this is an unlikely scenario. Analysis of video surveillance of the shipping lanes around the area show that no ships were in the vicinity when the cables were cut. Also, the cables are a designated no-go zone, ruling out any commercial ship as the possible perpetrator of such stupidity.

As a result of this massive loss of bandwidth, countries around the region had lost a lot of capacity. Egypt issued a call to all it's citizens to ration their own bandwidth usage and to reduce downloading too much porn movies music unnecessary data. India complained of affects on it's technology business as network connections had to be rerouted.

Amidst all this, one thing that has gone unnoticed by most mainstream media is this: Iran has dropped off the map. Yes, that's right. With the cuts, Iran is no longer connected to the rest of the world, via the Internet. Quoting a /. reader:

Once is accident.
Twice is coincidence.
Thrice is enemy action.

This story will be another conspiracy theorist plum. According to reports, no surface ships were in the vicinity when the cables were cut. There is another kind of ship that could possibly cut these submarine cables, which would not appear on any surveillance as they are designed to evade them. Not many countries operate them, especially anywhere near the middle east..

All this reminds me of a scene from Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, which I shall link to here:

** image from The Times Online **


~ xYz ~ said...

ermm.. what's the consequence of iran dropping off the map?

Shawn Tan said...

Interesting that you asked this question. I don't really know. But communication cables have been cut on purpose in history. From here:

At the outset of the war, the Germans had five transatlantic cables that ran through the English Channel. One went to Brest in France, another to Vigo in Spain, one to Tenerife in North Africa and two to New York via the Azores. The English cable ship Telconia cut them all in England's first offensive action in the war. This left a cable that ran between West Africa and Brazil that was largely American-owned that the Germans could use. In short order the allies ended that source of direct cable communications with the overseas world. Consequently, Germany was forced to use their powerful wireless station at Nauen, just a few miles outside Berlin. From this moment, German messages were routinely picked from the air and began pouring into the offices of British Naval Intelligence. In order to capture this flood of information, four new allied listening stations were established along the English coast with direct wires to Admiral Hall's offices. The positive result from this investment could not be overemphasized.

~ xYz ~ said...

haha.. since the cable cut might have been done on purpose, so i was just wondering if iran's communication being cut off completely was intentional. =D

Dan said...

someone's been reading too much tom clancy/Blind Man's Bluff!!! :P