Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 01, 2008

Cable Cut

by Debs is Dead
(lifted from a comment)

[ed. note - as I explain in the comments I personally doubt that the cable cut is nefarious. But there is no certinity for either side - b.]

So how many people saw this NYT article and wrote it off as "Murphy's law" ie when something fucks up it is certain that another accident will compound the fuck-up.

The article titled 2 Communication Cables in the Mediterranean Are Cut told us:

Two undersea telecommunication cables were cut on Tuesday evening, knocking out Internet access to much of Egypt, disrupting the world’s back office in India and slowing down service for some Verizon customers.

One cable was damaged near Alexandria, Egypt, and the other in the waters off Marseille, France, telecommunications operators said. The two cables, which are separately managed and operated, were damaged within hours of each other. Damage to undersea cables, while rare, can result from movement of geologic faults or possibly from the dragging anchor of a ship.

Now I realise how paranoid this sounds but given these submarine cables are laid pretty deep, when they are coming up into shallow waters the cables are generally laid away from areas where anchors or fishermans nets can catch them. Two in a day and both cables just 'happen' to carry a huge swathe of the internet traffic out of ME Arab countries and South Asia India and Pakistan.

Firstly I had better explain something about these cables, submarine cables are preferred because while they may be expensive to lay they are mostly running through international waters where no one has ownership of the ground they rest upon. Where they enter sovereign soil it is the soil of the countries who are part of the treaty of co-operation that use the cable. These cables travel around the world stopping in at a range of countries on the way. Few cables go directly from A to B without stop offs.

A small digression. I prolly mentioned this before but when I was an adolescent layabout tired of the course I was studying at Uni, I decided I wanted to find out a bit more about communications systems in particular the telephone, so I got a gig as a trainee telecommunications technician for a while. I had a few incidents around discovering 'extra-legal interceptions' but mostly the job was a daily grind of tracking faults in the decaying publicly owned system and fixing the faults. this may seem counter-intuitive at first but one of the quickest ways to find a problem with a cable is by systematically disconnecting it.

If a cable appears to be losing power to earth or picking up extra power (battery) the way to find it is to start from the endpoint and work inwards disconnecting the line until the problem disappears appears then you know that the problem is between the last two disconnection points. Clear as mud? Sorry about that but the point I am trying to make is that if someone, say for the sake of argument USuk intelligence services, wanted to know where some group of ME patriots were introducing their data into the network, then one way to do it would be by way of a series timed disconnections. This is far more complex than the straight cable pair running out to someone's phone because the internet has built in redundancy. If one piece of the network is damaged the data is automatically re-routed another way.

Of course there are limits to that redundancy and this article explains a little better than the NYT story how much loss of net connectivity there has been throughout the ME.
This quote from the article would get any conspiracy theorists going:

""It is a problem off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt. For some reason ships were asked to anchor in a different place to normal - 8.3km from the beach. One of the ship's anchors cut our cable but there are multiple cuts - we're not the only company having problems.""

  ahh. . . who moved the ships?  Why?. . .  several cuts?  Hmmmm!

The NYT provides a little more information on Thursday. There had been some glee on the Register link's bulletin board that this damage would mean fault and warranty calls would have to be dealt with in the same country as the caller, that the huge Indian helpdesk industry would have been neutered, Even better Indian telemarketing would take a break. Not so according to the NYT where we were told:

India took one of the biggest hits, and the damage from its slowdowns and outages rippled to some U.S. and European companies that rely on its lucrative outsourcing industry to handle customer service calls and other operations.

''There's definitely been a slowdown,'' said Anurag Kuthiala, a system engineer at the New Delhi office of Symantec Corp., a security software maker based in California. ''We're able to work, but the system is very slow.'' . . .

The cables, which lie undersea north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria, were snapped Wednesday just as the working day was ending in India, so the full impact was not apparent until Thursday

This bit gets me:

"There was speculation a ship's anchor might be to blame. The two cables, named FLAG Europe Asia and SEA-ME-WE 4, are in close proximity.

Yeah OK, both cables run through the Suez canal but didn't they say earlier "One cable was damaged near Alexandria, Egypt, and the other in the waters off Marseille, France"?

This last quote from the Thursday's NYT got me thinking.

With two of the three cables that pass through the Suez Canal cut, Internet traffic from the Middle East and India intended for Europe was forced to reroute eastward, around most of the globe.

Apart from the NYT slipping up on the 'cut' bit; throughout the rest of the article the cables whose fragility is emphasised at least a couple of times, and the cables are alleged to have 'snapped' rather than been cut, there is a another interesting factoid in the NYT piece.

2 out of 3 cables running through Suez and which carry all the net data for the ME and India Pakistan are not functioning and may be down for days' possibly weeks. There is now no redundancy on that cable which would make the job of tracing data which has up until now been injected into the net somewhat surreptitiously, a lot easier. Say for example a video of this week's exploding hummers, accompanied by the latest anthemic islamic pop song, may now be easier to trace or at least it may be possible to uncover enough about the route to block out future data injections.

The mainstream media doesn't go out anywhere much in rural iraq. Anywhere much outside the Green Zone really. Since those gangsters kidnapped journos in Gaza last year, very few mainstream journos go there either. If these outages weren't accidental we may be at the end of the oppressed people of the ME getting their side of the story onto the net.

Posted by b on February 1, 2008 at 7:35 UTC | Permalink


Interesting angle, Debs.

Sometimes cables fail, sometimes they could be cut.

As far as what benefit, and to whom, you raise some interesting speculation.

Another idea if in fact the outage was deliberately engineered is that it may be an experiment in disruption -- when you have well-trained and well-funded teams, as the US, Nato countries, Russia and who knows who else, they may well be sent to "try something" and see what happens.

Although it could again simply be a failure -- I seem to remember that ship anchors and tides can be a factor.

Whether there is a benefit to some party to interrupt service now remains to be seen, or most probably not seen. My guess is that occam's razor works here but you've opened up a new series of questions -- well done.

Posted by: jonku | Feb 1 2008 8:16 utc | 1

As a onetime Chief Technical Officer of a bigger Internet company in Europe I "bought" and "owned" quite a big chunk of sea cable capacity. So allow me some informed opinion.

There are lots of such under-water cable systems (map) but their landing points are quite concentrated. For some time Land's End in the UK was critical. The landing point in Egypt near Alexandria was well known to be critical too. But while the Atlantic is now crossed by a number of systems that avoid Land's End and take various geographic routes, the connection between the Mediteranian and Asia is for 90% running through the Suez Channel.

The reason is simply geography and costs. Customers (like me) will not pay enough to allow for redunant land lines.

A ship drifting in stormy sea with its anchor down can easily rip up more than one cable. That doesn't explain the NYT report of a cut near Marseille, but as there is no offcial information yet on the cuts I doubt that the NYT really knows. I remember two double-cuts on transatlantic lines in the late 1990s and it took days until the reasons became clear.

The reports only speak of "degraded" internet traffic in India. That makes sense as some cable systems from/to there are still up. Youtube will be slowed down and unusable, but email will still go through. Everything just takes longer.

While network admins do buy redundant capacity on multiple cable systems, the controllers, CEOs and shareholders never cough up enough money to allow for 100% redundancy. The risk of a multiple cut are quite low. A few days with degraded traffic every five to ten years is not expensive enough to pay a monthly bill double or triple the usually needed size. There are also insurances or contract penalities involved so some might even make some shorttime extra money from the cuts.

But the story highlights a big problem. In a war a country's or continent's international connection can be cut down to nearly zero with not-so-much effort. There is still too little thought put into this by national security agencies and the commercial interests of international cable systems don't care about some pesky government here or there.

Posted by: b | Feb 1 2008 8:16 utc | 2

In annie's original links to this story (Dubai, India), in Wired magazine's map there's a link to Neal Stephenson's jaunt to explore the building of the FLAG cable that connects the east to the west via the Internet.

It was a great story, showing the triumph of manpower over technology (crews of men digging miles of cable ditches) and describing in detail the implications of this new connection, I think only about 10 years ago.

Wired Magazine's 1996 Neal Stephenson series on wiring the planet third-world style (long but good)

People who use the Internet (or for that matter, who make long-distance phone calls) but who don't know about wires are just like the millions of complacent motorists who pump gasoline into their cars without ever considering where it came from or how it found its way to the corner gas station. That works only until the political situation in the Middle East gets all screwed up, or an oil tanker runs aground on a wildlife refuge. In the same way, it behooves wired people to know a few things about wires - how they work, where they lie, who owns them, and what sorts of business deals and political machinations bring them into being.


FLAG, a fiber-optic cable now being built from England to Japan, is a skinny little cuss (about an inch in diameter), but it is 28,000 kilometers long, which is long even compared to really big things like the planet Earth. When it is finished in September 1997, it arguably will be the longest engineering project in history.

Bernhard points out the fragility of this infrastructure and ignorance of its importance to international trade and local finance and business.

Posted by: jonku | Feb 1 2008 8:44 utc | 3

Just wanted to point out that the broken FLAG fiber optic cable originally was built to connect England to Japan, per the excellent Neal Stephenson series of articles in Wired Magazine in 1996.

For intrepid readers here's a link to that article in Wired Magazine.

The original article was full of photos and diagrams, it still exists in the Dec. 1996 pager copy of the magazine I'm sure. The text is preserved in the link above.

My longer post is in the spam trap, it included about 4 or 5 links recapping annie's original post and half a dozen paragraphs of text.

Posted by: jonku | Feb 1 2008 8:53 utc | 4

yep the cable outages may well be completely accidental although here is a bit to get us all paranoid. The initial NYT story talks about information first coming to light Tuesday night New Delhi time a full 24 hours before it happened.
Now I'm always a bigger fan of the cock up than the conspiracy ie the NYT got it wrong rather than they wrote the story before their mates cut the cables, although that is two large errors in the original article The NYT was 24 hours off beam and a few hundred kilometers (the distance between Marseille and Alexandria.)

Where I live we only have one cable (the southern cross submarine cable) hooking us up to the rest of the world apart from an ancient and tiny (long time pre-internet) cable connecting to Australia.

When the telecommunications monopoly was privatised the 50% shareholding in the Southern Cross was privatised too. Unfortunately then when Bernie Ebbers took down Worldcom who owned the other 50% of Southern Cross I tried to crank up a campaign to stop Telecom (the privatised monopoly) from getting that 50% as well. No one paid any mind it was back in the late 90's and people here really hadn't caught on to how valuable a resource a cable monopoly was. Now of course we all pay far too much for a bottle necked system. Telecom have had to let others into the copper loop. but there has been no pressure put on them over their fibre optic or the southern cross cables.

You're correct about the general lack of awareness about the national security issues of course B, I can't get anyone in Wellington to concentrate their minds on whether it is a really good idea to allow 100% (well prolly 95% there are some old deals from way back over a few percentage points) of our submarine cable connections to be owned by a private company that has majority foreign shareholding.

Telecom NZ pays off all the major pols of course, even so a couple of years ago they went too far - complicated story but they had put a mole in the Prime Minister's department who got caught so they were on the outer for a year or so until they swapped senior management. (nothing happened to the mole who was part of the public service old boys network.) During that time it came out that a goodly chunk of NZ's journalists have free telephone accounts - a small thank you from Telecom for not 'rocking the boat'.

Of course close scrutiny of any privatisation of a former state owned monopoly just about anywhere throws up similar corruption issues but this one has continued undaunted and uninterrupted for well over a decade.

I have no doubt that if it were thought to be necessary NSA or the UK GCHQ would have no compunction about attacking the ME network.

I suppose they may draw the line at disrupting USuk corporate bottom lines which appears to have been somewhat protected by the timing of the cuts ie post close of business in India.

Probably we will never know the truth, but one thing I do know is that the internet's privacy, independence and freedom is under attack like nothing else at the moment.

When TV disrupted amerika's plans for Vietnam (ie prevented amerikan generals from engaging in the total war which would have killed millions more Indo-Chinese people) the amerikan elites didn't rest intil the TV bosses had been sufficiently indoctrinated into the empire to ensure nothing like that could happen again. Embedding etc.

The interweb which is heid to blame for much of the opposition to the Iraqi invasion and occupation presents a more complex problem The decentralised network cannot easily be controlled from a few select points.

That means amerikans should expect domestic 'solutions' such as the ironically termed 'net neutrality' legislation and the rest of us outside amerika should expect far less subtle attacks such as taking the network apart to study it then put it back together with filters, bugs and back-doors installed.
I agree that claiming this outage is 100% for sure sabotage on the existing evidence is paranoid and irrational, but not as irrational as imagining USuk intelligence wont do everything in their power to control the internet and shape it to their ends.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 1 2008 11:03 utc | 5

not as irrational as imagining USuk intelligence wont do everything in their power to control the internet and shape it to their ends.

That's what they try to do. But to "control" something, shutting it down doesn't make much sense. It is easier to install equipment at a few chokepoints and manipulate as wanted. The NSA billions have to go somewhere ...

One can compare those lines to roads. Armies need roads. They are the attack lanes. The U.S. Air Force is currently building network attack squads. Those don't make sense when the net gets shut down.

Posted by: b | Feb 1 2008 14:12 utc | 6

I don't know a great deal about internet and submarine cable communication systems but upon learning that

"the connection between the Mediteranian and Asia is for 90% running through the Suez Channel." and that connection had been interrupted,


"With two of the three cables that pass through the Suez Canal cut, Internet traffic from the Middle East and India intended for Europe was forced to reroute eastward, around most of the globe."

One might reasonably expect that communication from oh, say South and Central Asia would have to travel east, across the Pacific, to one of three landing points?

If I were a betting man I believe I'd give a lot of thought to how a large country with a powerful Navy could temporarily interrupt a communications channel in order to force the traffic to flow in a particular direction.

Posted by: Lurch | Feb 1 2008 16:16 utc | 7

thanks debs

jonku it may be an experiment in disruption

this was my first thought.

most likely because my head is always somewhere in iraq i immediately connected the two. i first read about this, sans link on an iraqi blog thread. i immediately googled it and found most of the reports were from the ME. it seemed like an incredible piece of news that was largly unreported here as opposed to india, dubai etc.. one of the stories mentioned ATT and some flow being diverted thru the US via ATT. my mind started racing.

ok, this is probably crazy but i wondered what i had heard just recently, what's the biggest piece of news i heard and my mind landed on the bribes and possible threats regarding the oil and gas legislation. obviously this is more than an iraqi affair. to assume the parliament in iraq is not made up of international players beholden to SA, dubai, whatever. i saw this as a threat. a 'here's what we can do'.

it is hard to imagine the cheney administration leaving office without getting this deal underwraps. it is perhaps the most important piece of legislation impacting the future of the globe and the powers who seek to control it.

these pawns are being pressured by more than the US. they are being pressured by their respective associates.

of course, i could be wrong. but chances are some very powerful players are applying pressure threatening to disrupt business. it's something to do w/the financial markets, some threat or blackmail. this could represent a drop in the bucket in terms of what they could do.


just my little mind working overtime.

Posted by: annie | Feb 1 2008 18:03 utc | 8

ruh roh...

Third Undersea Internet Cable Cut

(CNN) -- An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days.

Debs, methink your suspicions may have been well-placed.

Posted by: Bea | Feb 1 2008 19:19 utc | 9

Ack -- that last line should have read, "Debs, methinks your suspicions may have been well placed" and it should not have been in blockquote.

Posted by: Bea | Feb 1 2008 19:20 utc | 10

well-placed and now rather threateningly scary.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 1 2008 21:26 utc | 11

Third Undersea Internet Cable Cut AND

Iran has completely lost Internet connectivity

Posted by: Other rouser | Feb 1 2008 22:57 utc | 12

oh my

Posted by: annie | Feb 1 2008 23:09 utc | 13

one wonders what hakim/sistani and maliki think of that.

Posted by: annie | Feb 1 2008 23:10 utc | 14

Schoonover said a similar Internet problem could not happen in the United States.
"We have all the content here," he said. "It's not going to be felt other than we won't get the BBC."

.. or MoA

Posted by: DM | Feb 1 2008 23:23 utc | 15

Schoonover said a similar Internet problem could not happen in the United States.
"We have all the content here," he said. "It's not going to be felt other than we won't get the BBC."

.. or MoA

Posted by: DM | Feb 1 2008 23:26 utc | 16

It does look like Iran has been disconnected from the Internet for at least 24 hours.

b ?

Posted by: DM | Feb 1 2008 23:45 utc | 17

I don't doubt that public Iranian internet access is down at the moment but if you look here which is a précis of Iran's communications infrastructure you will see that Iran has access to various foreign communications satellites as well as some Iranian owned satellite telecommunications capability.

The Iranian administration will be pissed but not that pissed after all these publice access points were the way that domestic critics were getting their point of view out to the public. Official points of view will still make it out by satellite transmission.

This link is to a page which details the setbacks Iran has suffered from amerikan and israeli interference in their own space program but Russia hasn't been slow in taking advantage of that to ensure it's profitable participation in the Zohreh program.

This is madness. amerika's real problem with Iran is that amerika no longer gets the share of Iran's oil profits that Stalin had promised Truman at Potsdam as payment for WW2 'expenses'.

amerika lost their share because of their cruelty and greed in support of the Shah who made Saddam Hussein appear a saint in comparison, that forced Iran into revolution. Russia stayed right out of that one, they tried to keep to the deal, consequently the Iranians developed their Islamic movement.

If amerika had gone along with the changes and accepted that there would have to be some reparations for the murderous Shah and Savak the trouble would have been over by 1985 or so, then everyone would be happily warming the joint up with Iranian oil once more.

Instead amerika spat the dummy and just about everything they do drives Iran into a stronger economic relationship with Russia and now China. Real cut off yer nose to spite your face stuff.

If these cable disconnections are deliberate then this is more of the same. Iran will eventually repair the submarine links while paying the Russians for assistance in developing a satellite communications network, the "no nuclear program anymore" assessment means that Russia cannot be restrained from these contracts any longer.

Satellite data transmission is not ideal, there are latency problems as well as being much more expensive for the amount of bandwidth, so we can also assume Iran will also increase the land based fibre optics North through Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan. These are other nations who have discovered that Russian hegemony is less demanding than amerikan imperialism.

The amerikan empire is self destructing under the weight of it's hubris and arrogance.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 2 2008 0:34 utc | 18

Thanks, DiD. Your legwork and analysis are much appreciated. Gonna suggest this thread to a few folks I know.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Feb 2 2008 2:10 utc | 19

over dinner my friend (who's mom was an fby agent his entire childhood) told me about a great book Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

The most interesting chapter reveals how an American sub secretly tapped Soviet communications cables beneath the waves.

In an unusually successful amalgam, veteran journalists Sontag and Christopher Drew combine a gripping story with admirable research to relate previously unknown information. Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. depended heavily on submarines for intelligence gathering, whether tracking Soviet missile subs, monitoring Soviet harbors and missile tests or, in some cases, retrieving lost Soviet equipment. The U.S.S.R. responded with everything from comprehensive espionage operations to depth charge attacks on particularly intrusive snoopers. The broad outlines of this clandestine confrontation are relatively familiar, but the details have largely remained secret. Although the authors have based their book largely on interviews with submariners, intelligence operatives and politicians, they recognize the possibility of distortion and back up personal accounts with an elaborate and convincing system of verification. While necessarily incomplete, the resulting work depicts what was arguably the most successful long-term, large-scale intelligence operation in American history.

Posted by: annie | Feb 2 2008 4:15 utc | 20

From Smoking Mirrors

Did you really imagine that they were through yet?

Let me say it again; there is no Al Qaeda, Bin Laden is dead and besides he was a CIA asset, 9/11 was an Inside Job and no boat anchors cut those cables.

and one of the reader comments ..

in the words of Michael Rivero

In the days leading up to 9-11, the FBI shut down Muslim websites across America, silencing the voices that would have spoken out against the propaganda blaming Arab Muslims for 9-11.

So now we see the websites in the Middle East being cut off from the entire world.

And the Superbowl is this Sunday!

Nah! You gotta be batshit crazy to think that there is anything going on ...

Posted by: DM | Feb 2 2008 4:25 utc | 21

Well, if this --as some have suggested-- is the first salvo in widening the war, it makes sense. I for one see no paranoia in what DID, has written in the recent past, nor now. And if this is indeed, preliminary actions abroad,then an incident I recently came across, very well may be a clue as to what we can expect at home:

DHS Edited My Freaking Blog!

Ok guys, this is pretty weird. About an hour ago I got an email from a friend. He was looking at my recent post on homemade explosives. He hit the refresh button for whatever reason, and some of the content magically disappeared, replaced by the words ---redacted---in bold letters. I figured I had made some kind of mistake and checked my content, then re-published the post. Ten minutes later, the content was missing again. I re-published. Another five minutes, and the content was gone again.

I contacted Typepad, who hosts this blog. They said that everything was fine on their end, and that they weren't in the habit of editing user content. They suggested I take a look at the tracking information for my site. So I did. I noticed that right before each redaction, the following IP address visited the page: Now, I like to think that I'm fairly internet-savvy, but I don't know what the hell to do with an IP address. So I googled it.

As it turns out, the host,, is registered to the Dept. of Homeland Security. It was at that point that I started sh#$$ing bricks. I posted an article about homegrown terrorism and included recipes for homemade explosives and incendiary devices. And I thought nothing was going to happen. I honestly don't know what I was thinking. I'm terrified right now that the men in the black helicopter are going to come and whisk me away to Syria or something and make me disappear. Is this a crime? There's similar content posted all over the internet, so if it is, a lot of people are in for some serious trouble starting in 3...2...1....

This is by all means an event still in progress. It's 3:15 pm on Saturday - if anything new comes up I (hopefully) or someone else will post here (assuming the blog is still around). Really, if anyone knows anything about this, comment here. I'm not sure what to expect.

one in which was also followed up upon here:

Follow up on: DHS Edited My Freaking Blog!

As many of you now know, I was recently detained and questioned by the FBI regarding several posts on this blog. Two of the posts in question were first altered, then removed all together, by what appeared to be the Dept. of Homeland Security.

However, the original poster of the above, no longer cares to talk or write about it though. Can't say I blame him, but it sure would be nice to get it verified. Make of it what you will, but I damn well believe they have the know how, technology, and will to use their powers in just this fashion. And that it will be used as a means to slowdown, dampen or out and out halt mass communication at home and abroad.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2008 5:14 utc | 22

ahhh, damn,

the last sentence above should have read,

And that it will be used as a means to slowdown, dampen or out and out halt mass communication at home and abroad, when the time comes.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2008 5:22 utc | 23

Go Pats!

Posted by: boxcar mike | Feb 2 2008 5:50 utc | 24

It does look like Iran has been disconnected from the Internet for at least 24 hours.

Hmm - I find no news thereof, all Iran services seem reachable. The Dubai FALCON system is a ring structure so one physical cut should not effect it.

Posted by: b | Feb 2 2008 5:52 utc | 25

From 'Other rouser' on this thread ..

He links to ..

Drill down to the Iran router ..

Try to ping that router (

Now, can't vouch for that web site, and there may be other routers, but it does appear to indicate NO traffic to Iran. I don't normally access any Iranian services, but if you are accessing servers hosted in Iran, then the above information must be misleading.

Posted by: DM | Feb 2 2008 6:29 utc | 26

Iranian External Internet Connectivity Looks like, One eensy submarine cable to the UAE. But what do I know eh?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2008 6:45 utc | 27

that internettrafficreport site also shows 0% for africa, colombia & florida. i have no problems hitting african sites & someone from fla was just visiting moa.

Posted by: b real | Feb 2 2008 6:49 utc | 28
.. both these end up somewhere .. but I don't have any utilities/traceroute programs. Can we assume that is actually hosted in Iran?

Posted by: DM | Feb 2 2008 6:50 utc | 29

.. and we've also had a recent visitor from Iran (85.198.1.#) ...

Posted by: DM | Feb 2 2008 6:59 utc | 30

So does this all lead us to expect the President to interrupt Super Bowl coverage to tell us that we are at war with Iran?

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 2 2008 8:07 utc | 31

Well, the Iran link bit seems to be a Furphy, but some paranoia is not totally out of order. This internet link would be the first thing to go if there was to be any skulduggery afoot.

Posted by: DM | Feb 2 2008 8:29 utc | 32

@Uncle $cam - Iranian External Internet Connectivity Looks like, One eensy submarine cable to the UAE.

A network graph from 2001(!) - The Open Research Network report from 1999(!) A X.25 connections and 9.6kbps???

I am sure those tell us everything about the current situation...

Posted by: b | Feb 2 2008 8:44 utc | 33

It is as slow as a wet week but if you persevere you can get through to Iran.

The ip address on the router above is for Armenia Yerevan University Of Science & Technology which does appear to be down for whatever reason.

I eventually got through to the Iranian broadcasting service at That took some perseverance though. So it seems some access is still there but it is very limited.

On the other hand I don't remember trying to access Iranian websites before.

The Iranian Embassy in Ottawa has a list of a few Iranian newspapers on this page Most appear to be accessible if slow.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 2 2008 8:52 utc | 34

b- Wuzzup??? I've been checking in to see what sense you're making of 2 more cables being cut. You rarely disappoint, but I don't see any indication of how you're evaluating the current situation. Will you pls. give us your re-considered opinion over the weekend? thanks...

Posted by: jj | Feb 2 2008 10:01 utc | 35

Good catch b, I missed that totally; wonder how far they've come in 7 or so years, I can tell you in biology, in seven years, you are a totally different person, on a cellular level but, I am not a technology trend geek.

I'm no Dublin dilettante, so Mia culpa, if indeed there needs to be one.

Pour another capt'n? Make it a strong one. ;0)

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2008 10:06 utc | 36

Wuzzup??? I've been checking in to see what sense you're making of 2 more cables being cut. You rarely disappoint, but I don't see any indication of how you're evaluating the current situation. Will you pls. give us your re-considered opinion over the weekend? thanks...

There are in total three cable cuts. I don't knwo how you got to four. The three cuts are likely due to shitty weather and maybe anchor drag (not yet confirmed). Sometimes deep see waves are enough to rip cables apart.

On the 30th two cables Egypt-Italy were cut, effecting Middle East and Asia traffic to Europe and the U.S.

On the 1st Feb there was one cable cut on a ring structure off Dubai. In a ring when one cut happens, traffic can be rerouted. According to FLAG traffic is mostly restored on the Dubai leg, but the repair ships can't leave the harbour due to BAD WEATHER.

There is absolutly no verification that Iran traffic is down. One univeristy router in Iran is down or changed its address and traffic between DiD's position in New Zealand and Iran is slow. That is to be expected as the two mediteranian cables are down and the ME - EastAsia lines are therefore congested. Traffic to Iran from my place in Germany seems to be normal (I guess that it runs on a land line)

There is absolutly no basis for conspiracy here. The cuts happened in very bad weather and relative shallow water. Such cuts happen all the time, but people only learn about it when by chance several cables are cut and traffic problems occure.

This is not simply my "opinion" but judgement on the available facts based on years in that business and technical field.

Of course I am willing to reconsider the judgement when more or new information is available.

Posted by: b | Feb 2 2008 13:00 utc | 37

@jj - 35

you likely have fallen to something one Mike Rivero posted at

Third undersea cable reportedly cut between Sri Lanka, Suez
Given that the cable linking UAE and Oman was cut earlier today, this cable linking Suez with Sri Lanka is the FOURTH cable that has been cut! - M. R.

Despite that conspiracy site's name, this did NOT really happen.

The link Rivero gives and which I copied above points to this:

DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--A third undersea fibre optic cable running through the Suez to Sri Lanka was cut Friday, said a Flag official.

Two other fiber optic cables owned by Flag Telecom and consortium SEA-ME-WE 4 located near Alexandria, Egypt, were damaged Wednesday leading to a slowdown in Internet and telephone services in the Middle East and South Asia.

"We had another cut today between Dubai and Muscat three hours back. The cable was about 80G capacity, it had telephone, Internet data, everything," one Flag official, who declined to be named, told Zawya Dow Jones.

The cable, known as Falcon, delivers services to countries in the Mediterranean and Gulf region, he added.

Another link Rivero gives points to an AP/CNN report copied at Marc Parent's site

An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days.

Ships have been dispatched to repair two undersea cables damaged on Wednesday off Egypt.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with TeleGeography, a research company that consults on global Internet issues, said those cable were likely damaged by ships' anchors.

The loss of the two Mediterranean cables -- FLAG Telecom's FLAG Europe-Asia cable and SeaMeWe-4, a cable owned by a consortium of more than a dozen telecommunications companies -- has snarled Internet and phone traffic from Egypt to India.

Officials said Friday it was unclear what caused the damage to FLAG's FALCON cable about 50 kilometers off Dubai.

But Eric Schoonover, a senior analyst with TeleGeography, said the FALCON cable is designed on a "ring system," enabling traffic to be more easily routed around damage.

So Rivero links to two different pieces that BOTH speak of a THIRD cable cut in a cable ring named FALCON off Dubai.

But Rivero counts that as cable cut three and four. Does he actually read what he is linking to?

Maybe he should rename his site into "WhatReallyNotHappend"

Posted by: b | Feb 2 2008 14:54 utc | 38

re deb's 18 link, could it be that the connectivity to iran could be exclusively as a result of the satellite service?

Posted by: annie | Feb 2 2008 17:27 utc | 39

@annie - 18 - could it be that the connectivity to iran could be exclusively as a result of the satellite service?

Definitly not (it is relativly inefficient to use satellites for mass internet traffic): CIA World Factbook

Iran: Telephone system: international: country code - 98; submarine fiber-optic cable to UAE with access to Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through the northern portion of Iran to Turkmenistan with expansion to Georgia and Azerbaijan; HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; satellite earth stations - 9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat (2006)

Even if the Dubai link and the other lines are deteriorated through cable cuts, Iran currently still has quite good connections (at least measured from my place) through the TAE line which runs from Shanghai, China to Frankfurt, Germany along the silk route and connects some 20 countries including Iran.

There is NO credible report that Internet traffic to Iran was down at all or is deteriorated beyond what is explainable by the ripped cables near Dubai and near Alexandria.

The link that "other routher" posted in comment 12 (and elsewhere I guess - interestingly it seems to have been distributed quite far among the usual suspects) points to a private site maintained by some individual which unreliably measures connectivity between very few points.

That site, the "internet traffic report" is neither complete nor maintained well, the results are thereby highly dubious. It currently reports that "Iran is down" but also that "Germany is down" and "Africa is down". As you can tell through the exitance of this comment, the reports are simply crap.

Posted by: b | Feb 2 2008 18:41 utc | 40

The Backhoe: A Real Cyberthreat

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2008 21:53 utc | 41

Internet problems continue with fourth cable break

by Dylan Bowman and AFP on Sunday, 03 February 2008

PROBLEMS CONTINUE: A fourth undersea telecoms cable has been damaged between Qatar and the UAE. (Getty Images)Internet services in Qatar have been seriously disrupted because of damage to an undersea telecoms cable linking the Gulf state to the UAE, the fourth such incident in less than a week.

Qatar Telecom (Qtel) said on Sunday the cable was damaged between the Qatari island of Haloul and the UAE island of Das on Friday.

The cause of damage is not yet known, but has been told unofficially the problem is related to the power system and not the result of a ship's anchor cutting the cable, as is thought to be the case in the other three incidents.

It is expected to take at least "a few days" to fix, according to one person with knowledge of the situation.

The damage caused major problems for internet users in Qatar over the weekend, but Qtel's loss of capacity has been kept below 40% thanks to what the telecom said was a large number of alternative routes for transmission.

It is not yet clear how badly telecom and internet services have been affected in the UAE. Etisalat is expected to release a statement on Monday.

Parts of the Gulf Arab region were plunged into a virtual internet blackout on Wednesday when two undersea cables were cut near Alexandria, on Egypt’s north coast.

The initial breaches were in segments of two intercontinental cables known as Sea-ME-We-4 and Flag Europe-Asia.

The situation was made worse on Friday when Flag, part of India's Reliance Communications, revealed a third cable, Falcon, had also been damaged off the UAE coast.

Etisalat said it does not use the Falcon cable and is therefore unaffected, but the UAE's second telco, Du, warned the damage could hamper its efforts to restore normal service to customers. Etisalat said it is helping Du minimise disruption.

Flag said a repair ship was expected to arrive at the location of the third damaged cable in the next few days, but bad weather has prevented the vessel from setting off from Abu Dhabi port.

The ship is now expected to depart Monday morning and the repairs should take five days.

The third cable is located 56 kilometres from Dubai on a segment between the UAE and Oman.

Etisalat said it had been informed by Flag Telecom, which operates one of the two damaged cables in the Mediterranean Sea, that the problem should be fixed in two weeks, while the operator of the other cable planned to carry out repairs on February 8.

Flag said on Saturday a ship should reach the cable repair ground by February 5.


Ships did not cause Internet cable damage


3 February 2008

CAIRO - Damage to undersea Internet cables in the Mediterranean that hit business across the Middle East and South Asia was not caused by ships, Egypt’s communications ministry said on Sunday, ruling out earlier reports.

The transport ministry added that footage recorded by onshore video cameras of the location of the cables showed no maritime traffic in the area when the cables were damaged.

‘The ministry’s maritime transport committee reviewed footage covering the period of 12 hours before and 12 hours after the cables were cut and no ships sailed the area,’ a statement said.

‘The area is also marked on maps as a no-go zone and it is therefore ruled out that the damage to the cables was caused by ships,’ the statement added.

Two cables were damaged earlier this week in the Mediterranean sea and another off the coast of Dubai, causing widespread disruption to Internet and international telephone services in Egypt, Gulf Arab states and South Asia.

A fourth cable linking Qatar to the United Arab Emirates was damaged on Sunday causing yet more disruptions, telecommunication provider Qtel said.

Earlier reports said that the damage had been caused by ships that had been diverted off their usual route because of bad weather.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 3 2008 21:44 utc | 42

b-, thanks for yr. great info. on this. What I wrote fell into the great blackhole of mis-understanding that the web can generate. I did NOT mean "opinion" in the prejorative sense. I used the term "considered opinion" to mean that you had considerable background knowledge, but no 1st or 2nd hand information. I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want you to evaluate the stuff that was coming in. When I logged on, I saw a piece on Marc Parent's site that indicated possibly 4 head went spinning, so i immediately whizzed over here hoping you'd made sense of it, since I can't. That's all I was trying to express. Very Sorry if you thought I was degrading your knowledge.

Posted by: jj | Feb 3 2008 21:51 utc | 43

@Uncle @42 - thanks - funny reports:

The first has a headline of a fourth cable cut but the report itself is about a power system failure NOT a cable cut - dumb journalist and dumb headline editors ...

The second report is likely an Egyptian self excuse. The cable cut off Alexandria was some 8+ miles off the coast. How do their land based cameras (why not radar???) check ship movement there during a storm???

Cable lines in shallow water are marked in sea charts and are officially no-anchoring, no-ground-fishing zones. The local state (Egypt) is supposed to control such rules. Actually few states do so and many ships/fishermen don't care about the charts.

Of course the cable breaks off Egypt may have had other reasons - sea ground waves etc. - but the official indemnifying sounds fishy.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2008 22:37 utc | 44

On one hand, when Britain ruled the waves they also ruled international communications through telegraph cabels, and most intercontinental traffic went through London. In the late 19th century the british navy had extensive plans on which cabels to cut depending on which nations they went to war against, to maximise damage for the target countries and minimize damage to neutral and allied countries. It is reasonable that when the primacy passed to the US, this planning was continued in other offices. So reading about communications going down gets me kind of worried. Especially considering Iran.

On the other hand, even in the 19th century the plans called for cutting the cables at the same day. No point in delaying it.

On the third hand, sabotage can be motivated by other things. Money for one. And the necessary skills to cut cables are much more spread today then in the 19th century, with all them underwater diving equipment being invented and all.

But then again cables do break without malice.

So - though worried - I am supporting the accidents happen theory for now.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Feb 3 2008 23:44 utc | 45

"There is absolutly no verification that Iran traffic is down."

Use ping and traceroute, then you will have a better idea as to Iran's internet accessibility.

Sure it is difficult to cut every link to Iran, but I think when corporate ownership of telcos is added to the cuts in the equation, I "appear" to have considerable difficulty connecting to Iran:

Last login: Mon Feb 4 14:40:04 on console
Welcome to Darwin!
jalaluddin:~ jalaluddin$ ping
PING ( 56 data bytes
--- ping statistics ---
68 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss



Posted by: Jalaluddin Morris | Feb 5 2008 11:53 utc | 46

PING ( 56 data bytes
--- ping statistics ---
68 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss

So one of several thousnads of routers is down. Maybe someone unplugged it?

Obviously you have no ideas about networks.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 14:16 utc | 47

I guess this settles the Iran network question:

ATTENTION: Iran is not disconnected!

In the following graph, we plotted the availability of Iranian networks for four entire days, 30 January 00:00 UTC until 3 February 00:00 UTC. The first day is the day of the cable cuts. Of the 695 networks that geo-locate to Iran, at no time were more than 199 unavailable, as observed by large number of Renesys peers. A few peers here and there might not have been able to reach Iran for local reasons, but the vast majority of the world could get to most of the networks in Iran for this entire time period. Note also that around 64 networks were unavailable before the event even started. These networks could be simply unused at this time. In other words, at most 135 networks that were active before the cable cuts disappeared for at least a short while during the outages.

Posted by: b | Feb 6 2008 12:30 utc | 48

thanks everyone for the informative discussion and links. i've been struggling to know what to make of it. i'm going to stick with "not clear at this time," and wait for more details.

not being an expert in any of this stuff, all i know is that when it comes to the criminal republican policy in the ME, they almost never are to be trusted to do the right, or even smart thing. certainly law doesn't stop them.

Posted by: chicago dyke | Feb 7 2008 1:47 utc | 49

Wired (fitting magazine name for the situation): Cable Cut Fever Grips the Web

After two underwater cable cuts in the Middle East last week severely impacted countries from Dubai to India, alert netizens voiced suspicions that someone -- most likely Al Qaeda -- intentionally severed the cables for their own nefarious purposes, or that the U.S. cut them as a lead-in to an attack on Iran.

Then two more cables failed in the same area, one in a segment connecting Qatar to an island in the United Arab Emirates, and another in a link between Oman and the UAE. The former wasn't even a cut -- it was a power failure, but you can't keep a good conspiracy theory down; some news sites are even reporting incorrectly that Iran is cut off from the internet, and claiming that there's a fifth cut, which turns out to be an unexceptional cable failure from weeks ago.
Stephan Beckert of TeleGeography Research says it's all a bit much.

"I'm much more worried about terrorists blowing up people than cables," Beckert said. "If you cut a cable, all you are doing is inconveniencing a lot of people."

Only the first two cuts had any serious impact on the internet, says Beckert. Those cables near Alexandria, Egypt account for 76 percent of the capacity through the Suez canal -- connecting Europe with the Middle East, North Africa and the India sub-continent.

Once those failures sensitized a conspiracy-happy net, it was natural that other cable failures would be found to feed the frenzy, because they occur all the time.

"Cable cuts happen on average once every three days," Beckert said. There are 25 large ships that do nothing but fix cable cuts and bends, Beckert adds.

While any severed cable is a "cut" in the parlance of telecom, most often they're the result of cables rubbing against sea floor rocks, eventually cutting through the copper shielding and exposing the thin fiber optics inside.

Normally, netizens have no idea when there are cable cuts since large providers instantly re-route communications through other cables.

Shitty stormy weather, deep sea waves or drafting ships ... nothing special here ...

Posted by: b | Feb 7 2008 16:36 utc | 50

5th cable "cut" -- with map and more speculation

Posted by: manonfyre | Feb 7 2008 19:46 utc | 51


I destructed that false report here yesterday.

Posted by: b | Feb 7 2008 20:37 utc | 52

According to the Wall Street Journal, these cables are almost definitely NOT being cut by sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. (story comes with a helpful graphic of the non-perpetrator)

That's a damned relief.

Posted by: Monolycus | Feb 8 2008 4:17 utc | 53

"If if wasn't a direct attempt at eavesdropping, perhaps it was indirect. Several years ago, a colleague and I wrote about link-cutting attacks. In these, you cut some cables, to force traffic past a link you're monitoring....."

... referenced in article by Raimondo (8 Feb)

Posted by: DM | Feb 8 2008 9:22 utc | 54

The comments to this entry are closed.