Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sliced Cables Spawn Conspiracies from Gulf to Asia

One accidental slice on Flag Telecom, leagues under the seas, could be construed as an unfortunate accident taking out the Middle East and crippling communication with Italy. Two, seems unlikely as the cable between Dubai and Oman severed communications. In a week, the third and fourth incidents occurred involving sliced/cut sea cables affecting the same regions, crushing web traffic to frozen molasses or ancient turtle speeds. While cut cable 1 and cut cable 2 are practically on top of each other, no one knows whether it was one giant slice at the same time or two separate incidents to cut off millions of users. The fourth received a hurried explanation as a power supply problem to the United Arab Emirates.

A supposed undersea cable caper brings out the latent conspiracy theorist in the young, old, Hindi, Muslim, seasoned technologists and casual users. Godzilla or Governments as the creepy cause are each popular theories in the Gulf Region and South Asia. The internet cable cut mystery - Who did it - How and Why? One note of caution is cables break, snap, come apart for a multitude of reasons; ships with anchors, friction or marine life with a hankering for copper dental floss. A dedicated group of ships or submarines exists to perform daily repairs just like the cable guy that schedules between 2 -4 pm at your house.

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.

Repairs to two key cables carrying 3/4 of the traffic between Europe and Asia are in full swing and so is the wired internet chattering class - well, those that can still easily get online. Egyptian repair crews decided to map a new sea route as they repair the cable. Built into the architecture of these cables is the ability to reroute traffic to distribute the load across other networks. Most of the time it is seamless and the end user happily clicks away without knowing. Cue music from Jaws, this time that did not happen. Cyberwarfare is not off the table in the conspiracy realm.

In the past five years, both fiction and nonfiction treat cyber warfare with more respect, as it is a major tool in sophisticated governments arsenal as well as those that use terrorist means. A good primer is useful. This one entitled Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber Terrorism allows the budding conspiracy theorist to get grounded in facts before spouting off on the recently repaired interweb.

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