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Mediterranean Undersea Cables Cut, Again 329

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the cut-me-twice-shame-on-you dept.
miller60 writes "Three undersea cables in the Mediterranean Sea have failed within minutes of each other in an incident that is eerily similar to a series of cable cuts in the region in early 2008. The cable cuts are already causing serious service problems in the Middle East and Asia. See coverage at the Internet Storm Center, Data Center Knowledge and Bloomberg. The February 2008 cable cuts triggered rampant speculation about sabotage, but were later attributed to ships that dropped anchor in the wrong place."
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Mediterranean Undersea Cables Cut, Again

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:11PM (#26176539) Journal

    dropped anchor in the wrong place.

    As it turns out, that is a pretty serious offense ... the last time I dropped anchor in the wrong place, I ended up in the drunk tank at the county jail with both indecent exposure and drunk in public charges.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by megamerican (1073936)

      I don't buy the original explanation that 2 ships were able to cut 5 cables in different locations.

      One of the cables near Egypt that was cut had video footage and it showed no ships at the time it was cut.
      http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2008/02/04/egypt-ships-didnt-cut-internet-cable/ [datacenterknowledge.com]

      • Re: Dropping Anchor (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lgw (121541) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:35PM (#26176847) Journal

        Most of the alternative explantions were even more far-feteched, like the idea that the US would need to cut a cable in order to tap it (we have nuclear submarines built specifically for the purpose of not tipping our hand when we tap undersea cables).

        • Re: Dropping Anchor (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:39PM (#26176897)

          what about the US just wanting to cut the cables to fuck over iran? that seams both possible and feasible

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lgw (121541)

            We have no motivaiton to mess with Iran *in that way* right now. At current oil prices the current Iranian government is certain to collapse. The best thing we can possibly do right now to mess with Iran is to make it as hard as possible for the current Iranian goverment to distract it people from internal problems by giving them an external enemy.

            Iran's demographics favor a serious culture shift soon. The ruling theocracy has dealt with this repeatedly in the past by going to war, often wars so nasty th

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by he-sk (103163)

              Where do you get your facts? Since the Islamic revolution Iran has fought exactly one war, which was started by Iraq.

              Also, what is your personal interest in seeing the Iranian government collapse?

            • Re: Dropping Anchor (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Xaositecte (897197) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:19PM (#26177501) Journal

              Even though it never got reported on, the cable cuts were a serious nuisance to American troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq at the time too.

              This is probably no different.

            • Re: Dropping Anchor (Score:5, Informative)

              by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday December 19, 2008 @08:29PM (#26179763)

              At current oil prices the current Iranian government is certain to collapse.

              They once had a parliamentary democracy of course, but the leader, Mossadegh, committed the heinous crime of trying to get a better oil deal for his country. This resulted in the US and UK backing a coup which installed the Shah of Iran, a dictator who would rule with an Iron fist for decades. His CIA-trained secret police (the SAVAK) tortured and murdered thousands. The inevitable backlash unfortunately resulted in a theocracy rather than the democracy the people we hoping for.

              Iran's demographics favor a serious culture shift soon. The ruling theocracy has dealt with this [b]repeatedly in the past by going to war[/b], often wars so nasty that they killed off the majority of males in their 20s, directly changing the demographics.

              Iran has not attacked another country for centuries. Iraq started the war with Iran and was supported by the US, UK and others. It was a devastating war but rather than trying to stop it, we poured fuel on the fire hoping that Saddam would win. The support for Iraq was so great that the US even tried to blame the Iranians for Saddam's chemical attack on Halabja. So we wreck one democracy and install a dictator. Then when he is overthrown we back the neighbouring dictator in a devastating war.

            • We have no motivaiton to mess with Iran *in that way* right now.

              That's never stopped you before...

          • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:47PM (#26177927)
            I was in Iraq when the cables were cut last time. 90% of our internet connection was cut as well as significant portions of classified connections. I find it hard to believe we did that on purpose.
        • Re: Dropping Anchor (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:43PM (#26176935) Homepage

          "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
          - Sherlock Holmes

          If we have proof that there were no ships there at the time, then ships were not the cause. If the only remaining explanation is sabotage, then it was sabotage.

          • by liquidpele (663430) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:53PM (#26177069) Journal
            So the cables were cut as part of a conspiracy by George Bush so that he can use the new anti terrorist laws in order to keep control of the country while secretly being guided by the Rothschild Illuminati, the under cover aliens who landed in Roswell in order to crash UFO's disguised as passenger jets into the World Trade Center as ordered by the intergalactic banking cartel?
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
              You forgot the reverse vampires.
            • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@ g m a i l.com> on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:35PM (#26179213) Journal

              Why does everyone assume it had to be the US? Iran is not very popular in the region, you know. It could be Israel, it could be agents for one of the Sunni countries in the region, or hell it could just be a small anti-Iranian group wanting to make life in Iran suck a little more. But just because it smells of sabotage doesn't automatically mean the US did it.

              We got too much crap going on trying to keep our economy afloat for it to be us IMHO. It just doesn't make any sense for the US to stir up shit there when we are stretched thin as it is and the price of oil is down so IMO the LAST thing we would be doing is trying to stir up more shit in the region which could cause oil prices to climb at a moment when it could hurt us the worst. so if it turns out to be sabotage we should be looking at who BESIDES the USA hates Iran and would like to see them hurt.

        • by nightsweat (604367) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:48PM (#26177017)
          Just cut the cable and the reroute takes the traffic through the US and through the NSA monitoring operation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by megamerican (1073936)

          I agree with that. One of the more interesting and plausible theories at the time was that it was a sign that we may soon invade Iran (they were the worst cut-off from the internet at the time). Thankfully that wasn't true.

          Seymour Hersh recently talked about Cheney wanting to dress up as Iranians and have them shoot at US ships.
          http://thinkprogress.org/2008/07/31/cheney-proposal-for-iran-war/ [thinkprogress.org]

          I can't say the real reason for them being cut, but the official story doesn't add up. The article explaining the two

        • by The Mgt (221650)

          They wouldn't necessarily need to tap the cable there. As the first linked article says, "Most of the B to B traffic between Europe and Asia is rerouted through the USA." Where no doubt it could be eavesdropped on more conveniently.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The world can be far-fetched sometimes.

          My current favourite is the far-fetched and still unexplained (good luck gettng Israel to own up to this one):

          Israeli Art Student Mystery [salon.com], when at the beginning of 2001, the American DEA were flooded by large numbers of fake Israeli art students.

          They were Israeli but not really students, some carried classified information on USA agents and locations, some had large denominations of cash or evidence of having moved large denominations around (up to $180,000 over a coup

        • by GooberToo (74388) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:58PM (#26179483)

          Most of the alternative explantions were even more far-feteched

          I bang my head when I read statements like that. The US already has an established history doing exactly this type stuff against the USSR and other countries. Simply put, calling those "alternative explanations", "far fetched", is nothing but ridiculous. In fact, that statement in of it self is "far fetched."

          Now then, this does not mean it has to be anything other than what is publicly known, just the same, given the US' history of doing exactly these types of operations against the USSR and other countries, it is borderline idiocy to outright dismiss such arguments; especially given the odds of such things happening. You do know ships these days have very nice GPS/LORAN systems which tell them exactly where they shouldn't go and/or drop anchor? In other words, the chances of the publicly disclosed story being 100% true are actually pretty slim.

          I find it funny so many people are so willing to dismiss a more likely explanation with one which is far, far more unlikely. If you think about it, it is actually pretty funny.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by chrb (1083577)

          There's an interesting ZDNet article on the cable intercept submarines [zdnet.com]. I think it was actually on Slashdot years ago..ah yes, here we go [slashdot.org].

    • I knew it was called SEA-ME-WE for a reason. Dodgy...
  • Reroute? Hmmmmm.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton.yahoo@com> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:14PM (#26176563) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    Most of the B to B traffic between Europe and Asia is rerouted through the USA.

    Gee, why would someone want business internet traffic rerouted through the US?

  • Soooo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:15PM (#26176571)
    If they used an axe to cut the lines, would that be construed as illegal hacking of cable?
  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:17PM (#26176617)
    Shadowy American intelligence services recovering all of their snooping gear before Obama gets into office...damn shame.

    All that hassle to cause commotion and outages by putting it there in the first place, and less than a year later they gotta get it back. Many years from now we will find its remains scattered across the ocean floor.
  • Hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:18PM (#26176639) Journal
    I wonder what the going rate is to have a ship drop anchor in the location of your choice? There must be somebody, if you ask around quietly, who would be willing to set up a grubby little shipping company with no real assets worth suing for and have their rusty crap freighter drag an anchor across whatever bit of seabed needs some accidental scraping.
  • Rerouted (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frost_knight (885804) * <winter@frostmarch.com> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:20PM (#26176657) Homepage

    Most of the B to B traffic between Europe and Asia is rerouted through the USA.

    How convenient for U.S. packet sniffers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw (121541)

      The US seriously doesn't need to cut cables in order to monitor traffic.

      Kids these days don't remember the cold war, but this is something we're very good at indeed, in the way that only billions in research funding can make you good.

  • by Behrooz (302401) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:21PM (#26176663)

    Cables going to very close shore landing points between similar destinations tend to be pretty close together, saves significantly on the survey costs.

    The article's timing of the outages (SeaMeWe 3&4 within minutes, FLAG half an hour later) and the relative proximity of the cable courses suggests either anchor drag or someone who cares enough to make it look that way.

    Chalk up another victory for geographically dispersed redundancy.

  • by tacarat (696339) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:21PM (#26176665) Journal
    Sorry boss. Must not have gotten the email.
  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:26PM (#26176717) Journal

    "dropped anchor" is the new "weather balloon"

  • Yeah⦠(Score:2, Interesting)

    Someone managed to drop the anchor in the wrong place several times year ago, and now I'm confident that some big-jawed sea monster gnawed them. Nobody would be foolish enough to assume that the cables were cut intentionally, right?

    So the best explanation we got so far is obviously wrong. Isn't there any other source of information about this, leaked documents, analysis based on the ship identification, pure speculations... Hell, even articles from conspiracy nuts would be better than what we already have.

    T

  • Cross Country Links? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:30PM (#26176775) Homepage Journal

    The article claims that India is "82% Out of serivce". Something that I've always been curious about through is smaller inter country links and Internet connectivity. That is to say, if minor yet not insignificant links exist between Indian Telecoms and Pakistani Telecoms, and also between Pakistani Telecoms and Iranian Telecoms, and so on and so on... Then is it still possible due to the capabilities of packet switching, that computers in India could still communicate with ones in the US via a very, very long and convoluted path through many, many local connections?

    Would any Slashdot Internet guru's have insight into the capabilities of the global packet switched network in the event of major single data connections going down? Is the network really as robust as we think?

    • by Ironica (124657) <pixel@[ ]ndock.org ['boo' in gap]> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:43PM (#26176943) Journal

      The article claims that India is "82% Out of serivce". Something that I've always been curious about through is smaller inter country links and Internet connectivity. That is to say, if minor yet not insignificant links exist between Indian Telecoms and Pakistani Telecoms, and also between Pakistani Telecoms and Iranian Telecoms, and so on and so on... Then is it still possible due to the capabilities of packet switching, that computers in India could still communicate with ones in the US via a very, very long and convoluted path through many, many local connections?

      From TFA:
      "A first appraisal at 7:44 am UTC gave an estimate of the following impact on the voice traffic..."

      So the 82% applies to voice phone service, not computer data. Voice can still be packet-switched, sure... but usually isn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by raju1kabir (251972)

      Posting from Malaysia, here. Some article I just saw claimed we were down 55% of network capacity, though my DSL seems to be working the same as ever.

      Being a bit of an internet backwater and having experienced the effects of several major cuts over the past few years, Malaysia might be a good example to illustrate your question.

      Our fattest pipes head westward, to the Pacific and onward to the USA. There's also an eastward connection via India and the Middle East to Europe.

      When the westward connection is

  • by owlnation (858981) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:34PM (#26176829)
    "Sea Me We 3 and 4"

    Sounds like two girls one cup. I suspect radical feminist sabotage this time.
  • by ZackZero (1271592) * on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:36PM (#26176855) Journal
    "Once is an accident, twice is coincidence..."

    Need I remind everyone what a third incidence would point to?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hazem (472289)

      "Once is an accident, twice is coincidence..."

      Need I remind everyone what a third incidence would point to?

      Fool me-- you can't get fooled again?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by AkaKaryuu (1062882)
      Third is oral? I forget my bases.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:01PM (#26177197)

      "Once is an accident, twice is coincidence..."

      Need I remind everyone what a third incidence would point to?

      A trincidence?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jerf (17166)

      A bad statistical model for predicting cable outages?

      Not that conspiracy theories aren't a whole lot of fun and all, but as I'm yet to see a terribly credible motive*, "people are too optimistic about how good their tech works" is a pretty reasonable explanation.

      (*: Remember, for a motive to be credible, it has to not merely "explain" the actions, but explain why the perpetrator thinks this is the best thing they could do with their time, or at least credibly close to the "best thing". Nothing I've seen eve

  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladvNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:42PM (#26176923) Homepage

    Apart from the fact that you'd have to have an unknown boat in foreign waters, I'd think it would be pretty easy to "fake a mistake". Drop your anchor in a place you know where the cable is, drag for about a quarter mile, wait for your contact monitoring the connection to send you a nondescript signal that it's down, then pick up and make a bead for international waters.

    So how does a nation without a sophisticated coast guard figure this out? Is any western country going to care (that is, the ones who aren't in on it, if it is espionage?

  • by gujo-odori (473191) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:43PM (#26176945)

    Did anyone notice on their map of the Med that Sicily is mislabeled as Malta?

    Malta is a much smaller island that lies roughly south by southeast of the southeastern corner of Sicily, about 1/4 of the way between Sicily and Libya.

    With maps like this, I think we can attribute the cuts to a backhoe operator digging where the map said to ;)

  • Cthulhu (Score:4, Funny)

    by lupinstel (792700) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:46PM (#26176979)

    Cthulhu needed something to floss his teeth with.

  • by Doug52392 (1094585) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:46PM (#26176981)
    So I guess THIS is what the RIAA meant when they said they would get ISP's to agree to start cutting off user's Internet access rather than suing millions of people...
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Friday December 19, 2008 @04:57PM (#26177133) Homepage Journal

    Might explain the *DRASTIC* reduction in spam the last couple of days?

  • Sorry! (Score:4, Funny)

    by AioKits (1235070) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:01PM (#26177191)
    I was piloting one of those new British subs with Windows on it and I kinda got spooked when Clippy popped up and fired a torpedo by accident right at the cable. Damned animated paperclip.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:08PM (#26177345) Homepage

    Anyone who wants to tap any of these cables will do so on shore after paying a modest bribe. The Mediterranean is a shallow sea with lots of traffic. The cable operators route their cables close together near ports (because that's where they land) and are too cheap to plow them in. Thus it's easy for a dragged anchor to pull up a bunch of them.

  • by sp3d2orbit (81173) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:22PM (#26177543)

    During the cold war the US used induction to tap undersea wire cables running to the Soviet Union. This worked great because the device was undetectable. It didn't require severing the cable, instead the listening device was simply placed next to the cable.

    Unfortunately for the US spy outfits, fiber optics can't be tapped the same way, induction doesn't work. To tap a fiber optics cable, you have to literally cut it and insert the new device.

    Off the top of my head, I'd say the best way to tap a fiber optics line would be to cut it once, move to another location, cut it again, and install the monitoring equipment at the second location before the first cut is patched. By the time the first cut is patched the equipment will be functioning pretty much undetectably.

    Why not tap it when the fiber optic cables come ashore? Besides the political problems of trying to get host countries to agree, an above water tap would be much easier to detect during and after installation.

    I'm sure someone will point out that fiber optics can't be tapped, just like encryption can't be broken, and Windows doesn't have a backdoor for the NSA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PieSquared (867490)

      No, I'm pretty sure the problem with that plan is that you *can* tap fiber-optics. Without cutting an entire undersea cable to do it. You would have to cut into the cable, but I'm sure a good submarine (it's the US you're thinking is tapping, right?) could seal a section of cable off from the ocean and drain the water out, if that was its mission. From that point it'd just be sitting there a while until you managed to install whatever tap it is you want, seal the thing off, and leave.

      Besides, nobody your

  • by Xest (935314) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:29PM (#26177653)

    I would like to point all the conspiracy theories who think everything in the world that goes wrong is to be laid at the feet of someone or something to a sobering article and some facts (yes I know facts are hard to comprehend when you're the type of person who thinks steel has to completely melt into a liquid for a building to collapse, but please, stick with me).

    First, let's start with a reference:

    http://www.iscpc.org/publications/About_Cables_in_PDF_Format.pdf [iscpc.org]

    Page 34 is a good place to start, coupled with page 13. The fact is that there are hundreds of these cables across the world and many covering local areas are kept close to each other as can be seen on the map. Now look at page 34 and realise that the following can cause cable cuts:

    Anchors, Trawlers, Sharks, Earthquakes, Landslides, Fault lines, Currents, Waves, Extreme weather, Ice bergs (not in the middle east though I'd hope!).

    Many other human activities can be responsible too of course (sinking ships, cargo/litter being dumped off ships etc.)

    Now check here:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/08/seabed_cable_break_fix_forecast/ [theregister.co.uk]

    Where it's noted that about 2 cables a week break on average.

    So really, when there's so many cables (sometimes close together), when there's so many hazards for the cables, and when two cables a week requiring repairs is the norm does it really have to be an "OMG they're out to get us" drama, when instead of the average 2 cuts a week we have the oh so above average 3?

    Finally, last time this happened, the boats responsible were caught via satellite and brought to justice:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/14/undersea_cable_cut_ships_nabbed/ [theregister.co.uk]

    Sorry guys, as much as I myself think making George Bush president twice is probably one of the worst things a population can ever do conspiracy theories about America trying to cut off Iran or whatever simply don't cut it (pun not intended). This is neither an odd occurance, nor is it a coincidence unless it's a coincidence that it happens every god damn week.

    There is no reason a single trawler pulling big heavy nets along the ocean floor couldn't be responsible for damage to the whole lot, the cables are all shown as very close to each other, and despite the summary suggesting all 3 cuts happened within 5 minutes of each other, they didn't, the SeaMeWe cables were cut within 5 minutes of each other and FLAG about half hour later- that sounds very much like an anchor or trawler at play.

    For all the anti-religious sentiment on Slashdot, many people here aren't half prone to believing in some rather far fetched ideas when it comes to stuff like this. Personally, I prefer to at least be consistent and believe that it's all a load of crap which usually it seems it is!

  • History lesson (Score:3, Informative)

    by david_thornley (598059) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:42PM (#26177861)

    Shortly after the start of World War I, the British cut the cable going directly from Europe to America, so that all communications had to go via Britain. This allowed them to intercept the Zimmerman telegram (among other things), which was what caused the US to declare war in 1917.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 19, 2008 @07:13PM (#26179045) Homepage

    The first time it happened, it was "fishy" but it was fixed and we moved on. Now it is the second time in a relatively short time. The WORLD needs to investigate this and expose the perpetrators to the light of public media. If it was the U.S., I would like to know and why. If it was someone else, I would like to know who and why. This is stupid as hell and we shouldn't tolerate it!

    ...oh look at that on TV, another news story... what was I talking about again?

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