Sabotage on the high seas threatens Internet infrastructure

Credit: Madang

The story started out suspiciously: at a time when two major undersea cables were in 'maintenance mode', a third cable carrying internet to Egypt was severed yesterday. This sent Internet speeds plummeting for massive swathes of users, some areas experiencing slowdowns of up to 60 percent.

Initial reports on the cable cut indicated that it was probably just an accident:

"...we suspect, based on our experience with sub-sea systems and the nature of the sea area where the cut has occurred, that the most likely cause is external aggression to the cable most probably caused by a larger vessel dragging its anchor across the sea bed." — Mark Simpson, CEO of SEACOM

SEACOM owns and operates the cable in question and has a good amount of experience in the area of outages. Other sources echoed the anchor accident claim and that was thought to be that. And that was the story until the Egyptian Navy apprehended three divers in a dingy near Alexandria, the site of the cable cut. The Egyptian Navy even went so far as to throw the news up on their Facebook page, along with this image of the divers themselves.

So much for the 'just another anchor accident' theory. Its easy to think of the Internet as a big amorphous, impermeable network. Incidents like these show us in real terms how fragile our networks can be. While Internet speeds are promised to be back up to 100 percent today, the identities or ultimate fate of these three men has yet to be revealed.

Washington Post via GigaOM

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