death of the net!!!

film at 11
PS: Gulf cable cut was due to ship anchor, no need to stress.
Med cut maybe due to common geologic incident like subsea slide
see link for details

not wanting to get weird, but another Mid East undersea fiber optic cable break appears to have happened

Daily Tech reports a second break in the Falcon cable in the Persian Gulf
That would make five breaks or interruptions in total. Two in the Med and three in the Gulf, one of which was some sort of power interruption.

also discussion on slashdot

The cables are being repaired by ships, the first break in the Falcon cable has already been reached and one end of the cable pulled - they were expecting to have it fixed this week, faster than expected.

Several nations are affected: Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, gulf emirates.
The intertubes are robust, and traffic reroutes.
For sheer geeky joy, try traceroute on some random targets in the affected region.
Lots of drops and loop-de-loops as the servers route around the damage.
Personally I'm still pondering why our root server decided to try to route one set of packets via the Chicago transit authority server.

One major router in Iran is totally dead

Iran is still online, even Ahmadinejad's blog is up - but no posts this year. Slacker!

It is essentially impossible to cutoff completely a nation with land borders, consider for example Iran - it has a major landline connecting through Turkey and Turkmenistan in the north, with spurs to Armenia and Azerbaijan. A new link through Afghanistan is under construction.
In addition there are satellite uplinks, and presumably local low bandwidth cross-border landlines - the IP packets will try BBNet routes if needed.
Internet is designed to survive and re-route.

Yorkshire Ranter gets gratuitously linked to here

So... what could be going on?
It could well be coincidence. There were really only two breaks. A pair of breaks near each other in the Med off Egypt, and a pair of breaks somewhat separated in time in the Gulf off UAE/Quatar.
The Falcon cable end has been recovered, so we know it physically broke, the telecoms presumably have seen the end of the cable, and possibly the sea bottom conditions, they must have some idea what manner of break it is.
If they've said, I haven't heard.

It is possible that the second Falcon break (presumably TDR probing of the cable is what is showing another physical break) was caused by the recovery team.

IF it is not a coincidence it is deliberate.

Who? Why?

Well, it could be commercial interests.
But, first of all, this would be an expensive and ultra-illegal thing to do.
And telephone companies are losing real money because of this. You do not want to piss them off.
Further, actual trading (some conjectures are that this happened to interrupt Iranian oil trade) can be done with very small bandwidth. It takes very few bits to actually make deals.
So that doesn't smell right.

It could be non-governmental organizations. That would imply a very high level of organization and equipment. The breaks will be repaired in a few days, so why bother, you don't do this for nuisance value.
Which would imply the NGO wanted to impair external communications for a few days to/from one of the countries above.
So, a coup planned in one of those countries? But again what comms that matter are affected, this is nuisance, not catastrophe.

Which leaves governmental agents.

The US could do this, but why? Why interrupt comms for a few days.
If they wanted to install surveillance hardware, it would be easier on land - if the locals co-operated. Most usually would. Most of the time - it'd have to be some time critical reason.
Also, one break at a time would be normal - installation of taps is detectable by the cable operators, so you need to break the line and install the taps down-break while the fix is being made.
But, doing it multiple places at the same time requires much larger logistical effort and telegraphs to paranoid people that their comms are being messed with.

Another hypothesis is that this forces comms onto open air and landlines, which are easier to tap - the traffic is choked. But, again, only for a week or two. So why now?

China, Russia and several NATO countries could also carry this out, with some difficulty and enormous political capital spent.
But I cannot discern a motive for why they would.

It is possible Israel has the capacity to do this, and the absence of an Israeli reaction on the incidents is puzzling.
The question, again, would be why would they bother?

It is conceivable this was done to flush communications traffic off the fibers into the open where it could be monitored, which would imply some time critical monitoring.
One clue, IF this was a deliberate act, is that the Falcon cable was looking to be rapidly repaired, in 3-4 days rather than in a week or two.
At which point a second break was promptly reported, which will then presumably take another few days to fix.
So that gives us a time window: Feb 8-12 roughly. Right at the new Moon going into first quarter.

So... IF IF IF this was deliberate then someone is contemplating kicking over a geopolitical bucket over the weekend.
In the Mid East, somewhere between Egypt and Pakistan, inclusive.

Obvious worry would be an airstrike, obvious target would be Iran.
Not sure why the cable breakers would want the comms degraded, risks telegraphing that something is about to happen (or it is a dry run to get a "cry Wolf" effect, do it 2-3 times over the next few months, and one of those times it is for real - but that is crazy - if nothing else people are going to be looking for future attempts to break the cables, high risk of getting caught)?
I don't know why anyone would risk this. For actual tactical comms advantage presumably the Trans Asia cable would have to be taken out at the start of any action, either at the hub in Tehran or by ground special forces at or near the border crossings.
The two up by the Turkey/Iraq border would be relatively "easy", the other two not so much. Er, it would be "easy" in the fictional world of the sort imagined in chunky books authored by men with short names and sold at airports.
No one, of course, would base their national interest on such fictional plot notions.

So, are the Israelis spooked enough by Bushehr being fueled and/or the Iranian orbital launch, that they would risk all out war and missile attack by trying a second "Osirak" strike?
They have the capability, with locally adapted long range F-15 and F-16s and they have trained for it, and they may have given up on the US doing the job for them.
It'd also be crazy scary risky thing to try. Even with a nod-and-a-wink from the US administration.

I don't know what is going on.
It is a big world, and one-in-a-billion coincidences are both certain to happen and be noticed given large enough a world and long enough time.
This will be an interesting weekend though.


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That's interesting, the source for the 50 undersea cable cable repair claim on wikipedia is this:

Analyzing the Internet Collapse

Multiple fiber cuts to undersea cables show the fragility of the Internet at its choke points.

By John Borland

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

That source was only just published 2 days or so ago.

Whatever else, that's kind of amusing.

Man, that dood is totally copying me... ;-)
Now that is scary 'cause that is one whacky site.

The Atlantic cables had 50 repairs last year, not 50 breaks.
I remember the 2006 break, it was a major nuisance and took a long time to fix.
Other way of looking is that I see no press releases on cable cuts or breaks for Flag Telecom in 2007, 2006 or 2005, and SeaMeWe-4 seems not to have had other physical breaks except the 2006 earthquake
Or to put it another way, CANTAT-3 had one major prolonged break in 14 years, and it was a noticeable disruption.
TAT-14 broke twice (in quick succession) in its seven year history.
So a typical cable, based on sparse data, breaks about once per decade.

I thought about the possibility the Iranians had spawned a strong AI, but Google would never let that happen, and their fix would be subtler...

Well the thing about rense is that, as far as I can tell, they'll publish anything anyone sends in so it's a bit of a potluck:

Haven't checked all the cites out, but so far, from what I've looked through, the facts the author is using to make their argument all seem to be referenced.

Steve Bellovin seems to be on a similar track to you BTW:

I read that at least some of the traffic is being rerouted from one end of the a major cable to a landing site, over land to another landing site, and then back out over the other end of the major cable, so as to bypass the broken segment. Assuming that this is true, then we can look at the locations of the breaks to see whether the locations appear to be randomly chosen wrt to the likely (in)convience of rerouting. If malicious (and if the hypothetical line breaking party was sufficiently forward thinking), then you would choose break points that either physically very difficult to rerouted over land or would be logistically/politically difficult. My uniformed opinion is that the breaks near Kuwait and Dubai don't seem like they were placed strategically, if the goal was to cause a general disruption. On the other hand, cutting off Egypt/Jordan and others downline from both France and Sicily seems sufficiently sinister to take seriously. (Although I can't tell if that's what's actually happened.)

The explanation of the "fifth break" is pretty simple. When the nice man from FLAG told the NANOG list - the people who need to know these things - how long it would take to fix, he mentioned two breaks in the Gulf, several days ago.

It's just crappy reporting.

It is possible Israel has the capacity to do this, and the absence of an Israeli reaction on the incidents is puzzling.

What should the dog have done in the ... err,

What sort of Israeli reaction should there have been to be non-puzzling?

The question, again, would be why would they bother?

I've been keeping my blog up-to-date with facts about these cable issues, some of which are breaks and some of which are faults for other reasons. At least one (the Dubai-Oman segment of FLAG FALCON) site was due to a ship's anchor, which was abandoned and recovered at the site by the cable repair ship. These have all occurred during periods of extremely bad weather, which delayed the cable repair ship from the UAE.

Impact to Iran has been minimal by comparison to other countries; Pakistan and Egypt were the hardest hit. Iran has terrestrial connectivity through Turkey in addition to at least one submarine cable to Kuwait (also part of FLAG FALCON, that has itself had two reported faults).

In December 2006, there were nine simultaneous cable breaks due to earthquake between Taiwan and Japan. On Bruce Schneier's blog, one of the commenters has noted that there has been some seismic activity in the region as well as bad weather.

Daily Tech reports a second break in the Falcon cable in the Persian Gulf

It sounds like the original break was repaired before someone got done installing the tap at a second site. Oops, don't you hate it when that happens?

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 07 Feb 2008 #permalink

AFAIK, the two breaks in FALCON are the same incident. Certainly, FLAG's RFO treats them as such. The report of something "between Sri Lanka and Suez" (way to get geographical precision!) is a double report of the FALCON break.

Leaving out the Qatar-UAE failure, which appears to be unrelated, we have two incidents on three cables, one of which resulted in two cables a quarter of a mile apart being damaged and another resulted in one cable being damaged in two places. That fits with two ships dragging their anchors.