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Egyptian Forces Capture 3 Divers Trying To Cut Undersea Internet Cable 166

Posted by samzenpus
from the cutting-the-cord dept.
Egypt's Naval forces claim they have captured three scuba divers who were trying to cut an undersea Internet cable in the Mediterranean. Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a statement that the divers were caught while “cutting the undersea cable” of Telecom Egypt. Internet services have been disrupted since March 22 in Egypt. From the article: "The statement was accompanied by a photo showing three young men, apparently Egyptian, staring up at the camera in what looks like an inflatable launch. It did not have further details on who they were or why they would have wanted to cut a cable."
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Egyptian Forces Capture 3 Divers Trying To Cut Undersea Internet Cable

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:03PM (#43299047)

    But did they even cut once?

    • Re: Measure twice. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:31PM (#43299193)

      Yes, they cut into the cable but not all the way through it. It resulted in slower Internet traffic in the region fed by those cables.

      • The MB does not like the West very much, and that cable links Egypt to (in their way of thought) the West

        Maybe that's the reason they cut the cable

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:51AM (#43299809)

          Doubtful. The Muslim Brotherhood isn't isolationist like, e.g., the Taliban, nor do they have anything in particular against the West, as with Wahhabism. In other words, they don't necessarily see a conflict between modern institutions and Islamic life. They just have a really, really, really conservative opinion about how to live as a Muslim within a modern, technologically progressive nation-state.

          They're more like what you'd get with Pat Robertson and his ultra-conservative compatriots controlling all three branches of the government. You could kiss the Constitution goodbye, but you'd still have some semblance of federalism, a free market, free-ish speech, etc.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:18AM (#43299927)

            They are not isolationist in the sense that they are happy to support foreign Jihadi organizations, like Hamas, CAIR, al Qaeda, et al. They are certainly isolationist when it comes to Western - read Infidel - influences on Egypt - that's a part of what those 'Arab Spring' revolutions were all about.

            Really, the last thing that we need is apologists here for a Jihadi organization that's the parent organization of terror groups like Hamas and al Qaeda, and trying to paint them as being nicer than Wahabis or the Taliban. The only difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahabis is that the former believes in the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, whereas the latter follow the Hanbalis. But to non-Sunnis, it's a distinction without a difference.

            • by Bongo (13261)

              I gather "deal with us or deal with the Taliban" is a tactic ––but their aims may be quite similar.

              And at some point is gets hard to tell the difference. Ordinary folk write comments like, "we don't want Communism, and we don't want Capitalism, we want Islam."

              It is the path of renunciation and purity — everything will work so much better if everyone just submitted to the proper and good system, namely Islam.

              The West also had a thousand years or more of that sort of strive for purity

              • Ther is a deeper problem, a sectarian one, Though they seek "pure" Islam, there are two "Islam"s to seek. Obviously the Sunni see the Shia as heretics, and their reverence of Ali as idolatry. And the Persians have this "hidden Imam" thing going on. With each revolution of Earth, this gets more and more interesting.

                I hope Israel's renewed diplomatic relations with Turkey does something to keep this part of the world from melting down.

          • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @11:10AM (#43303185)

            The Muslim Brotherhood isn't isolationist like, e.g., the Taliban nor do they have anything in particular against the West

            Oh, well they don't sound all that bad...

            They're more like what you'd get with Pat Robertson and his ultra-conservative compatriots controlling all three branches of the government.

            OH GOD KILL IT WITH FIRE!

          • by Etherwalk (681268)

            You could kiss the Constitution goodbye, but you'd still have some semblance of federalism, a free market, free-ish speech, etc.

            Sounds like the United States.

        • They were probably trying to steal the copper.

          • They were probably trying to steal the copper.

            From an undersea cable? I admire the ambition, but...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:54AM (#43300091)

        The cable was slightly bent during the process, so 0's could get through, but 1's would get stuck where the cable is bent. That's how you end up with slower Internet traffic.

      • by Tarlus (1000874)

        Efforts are being made to retrieve all the lost 1's and 0's floating out to sea.

    • by Brad1138 (590148)
      It is going to be one royal pain in the ass, repair optical cable undersea.
  • by Cito (1725214) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:04PM (#43299059) Homepage

    Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, he makes sure Egypt doesn't lose internet tv.

  • Copper prices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:06PM (#43299065)

    It did not have further details on who they were or why they would have wanted to cut a cable."

    They probably thought it was copper cable. It sells for a pretty penny as scrap right now you know. Imagine their shock when they were told by the cops it contained only "worthless" fiber.

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:14PM (#43299115)
      I was thinking that Telecom Egypt needed an excuse for screwing up the Internet for so long, so they are framing somebody for it. Two months in jail for $100,000. There were hundreds lined up, and they took the first three.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Fiber has a kevlar sheating which should worth something.

      • Re:Copper prices (Score:5, Informative)

        by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:39PM (#43299227)

        Fiber has a kevlar sheating which should worth something.

        Why? It's not like you can use it for anything. Kevlar needs to be purpose made for specific uses. You can't melt it down and reuse it like metal. You can buy sheets of Kevlar fabric [google.com] for very little. It's mostly the labor and skill that it takes to make stuff that adds the value. Not the material itself.

        • I used some mysef to make an ndestructable dog toy. Worked nicely: Kevlar-denim-silicone composite fabric witht two squeakers inside. Super-tough.

          Dog doesn't like it though. He prefrs toys with bits that can be ripped off, so e just have to keep buying new toys every week.

          Silly tablet keyboard is dropping letters.

          • by Muad'Dave (255648)

            If he ingests Kevlar fibers, they'll likely perforate his GI tract and kill him.

            • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @09:30AM (#43302183)

              Yet the dog lives.

              I took that into account. The outer layer is a very tough, abrasion-resistant denim. Dog-safe. The kevlar is used underneath that to add tensile strength, and kevlar thread is used in all the stitching. Seams turned inwards, of course. Dog had has that toy for a year and subjected it to a lot of demanding use, and it has yet to tear or puncture.

        • I would hardly call the price of Kevlar fabric cheap. It's 4 or more times the price of fiberglass.
          Your point stands however. The Kevlar in an underwater cable would be thin strips and possibly impregnated with epoxy: useless for resale.
      • Re:Copper prices (Score:5, Informative)

        by plover (150551) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:55PM (#43299323) Homepage Journal

        Fiber has a kevlar sheating which should worth something.

        Worth what, exactly? The stuff is woven about the plastic sheathed glass fibers, some insulated copper wires that carry power to the repeaters, and encased in a waterproof coating. If you cut it open and empty the useless crap out you'll destroy the integrity of the fibers. It's not like you can knit yourself a bulletproof Kevlar sweater out of it.

        The copper will be worth a few farthings per furlong, but that's likely to be it for value.

        • The copper will be worth a few farthings per furlong, but that's likely to be it for value.

          Some farthings [coinsgb.com] are worth [coinsgb.com] quite a lot [coinsgb.com]. Offer me a few of the several-thousand-sterling each types, and I'll gladly deliver a furlong of cable.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      They probably thought it was copper cable.

      So they were after a copper cable, but got a navy colonel? Doesn't matter, looks like they were arrested anyway.

    • by plover (150551)

      It still has a copper conductor carrying 7kV, used to power the undersea signal repeaters.

      You can, however, imagine their shock when the saboteurs encountered the 7000 volts.

      • You can, however, imagine their shock when the saboteurs encountered the 7000 volts.

        The police arrested three people in a harbor, not pulled three bodies out of one. I know throwing a plugged in toaster into the bathtub with you in it is an efficient way to suffer a total existance failure. So that must mean voltage is less deadly the higher it is. I can't help feeling though like maybe we're missing something important here...

        • by plover (150551)

          An ocean full of salt water is a somewhat different environment than the confines of a bathtub, a toaster, and a victim. I'm guessing that if someone breaches the inner aluminum waterproofing shield, the conductivity of the salt water probably popped whatever circuit protection they have, shutting down the power.

          If you're somewhat interested, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine_communications_cable [wikipedia.org] has a good description of the materials making up the cables. And if you're really into it, Neal Stephens

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:16PM (#43299123) Journal

    I can see two likely possibilities:

    1. Plausible deniability.

    Say that a foreign government decides they want to tap a cable. The easiest way is to cut the cable a few hundred miles away so that nobody will notice while they're severing and reconnecting fibers. Sure, they could blame somebody dragging an anchor across it, but that starts to look suspicious if you do it too many times. But if you can create what looks like a botched terrorist act, then you can later come and sever the cable, and everybody will assume that the successful cut was also a terrorist act. Even better if Egypt can host a mock show trial.

    2. Something to hide.

    Say you're the Syrian government and you don't want the world to have proof that you are beginning to gas the dissidents. What better way to cut off communication than to sever the right undersea cables?

    Of course, I could be wrong—it could really be a terrorist organization—but I really can't think of any plausible aims that could be achieved by doing something like this, which is why it seems more likely that it was done by some random government's black ops team, either for nefarious purposes or to distract attention away from something else nefarious.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      1. Not necessary. The worlds superpowers can tap undersea cable without interrupting services.

      2. Plausible.

      3. Most likely local third country nationals who are mad at the Egyption gov.

    • Why go to all that bother and expense?

      Egypt can just seize the servers at any time. Weren't there stories about Egypt and Blackberry servers? Government wanted the ability to intercept and decrypt communications going through those servers, and Blackberry eventually rolled over, IIRC.

      Putting divers in the water is risky and expensive.

    • by postbigbang (761081) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @11:13PM (#43299407)

      Tapping fiber is not so easy, as it's photonic. The cuts would be seen by optical time domain reflectometry on the other side. Doing it underwater is ugly. #1 isn't so easy.

      Hiding something, like a service outage while you're about to do something evil is somewhat plausible, save that it's no longer possible to actually shut down ALL of the communications going out of a country, just a large bulk of it. Why would Syria, Israel, or even the Eritreans try to cut the cable? I think #2 is equally implausible.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Of course, I could be wrong—it could really be a terrorist organization

      If so, then they've really lost their way. Sure it's easier to cut an undersea cable than to blow up a nightclub or to fly a plane into a building, but where's the terror? Sure it's inconvenient to have slow internet, but they are terrorists not invonvenientists....

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Far easier to imagine religious nut seeking to cut off the evil influence of the internet. Well, at least the young gullible pawns of religious nuts. So idiot religious proselytizers with no real understanding of anything, trying to cut the tube full of internets.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      How about 3....

      #3... They are divers. They might cause damage, then later offer their services as divers to assist in repairing the damage (for a large fee, of course).

    • I'm thinking old fashioned extortion. Cough up some protection money, or bad things will happen to your network access... which is why the Egyptian authorities knew to look for them.

  • by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:26PM (#43299169)
    they were Egyptian simply by the way they looked?
  • "The statement was accompanied by a photo"

    So how about a damn link to the photo since TFA doesn't have a copy?
  • by RandomUsername99 (574692) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @10:36PM (#43299219)

    Who, at some point, hasn't gotten *that* tired of seeing stupid reddit memes?

  • I generally feel like doing the same thing to the largest internet tramsmission cable I can find, when I disregard all of the good sense and wisdom that I've gained from my prior negative experiences, and actually read the comments on YouTube videos.

  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @11:12PM (#43299403) Journal

    During a week in 2008, three undersea cables were cut off of Egypt. At the time (and still) the cuts were attributed to ships dragging anchors -- although the fact that there were three cuts so close in time was, and remains, hard to believe.

    So, now we see people intentionally cutting a cable. Hmm.

    During the second world war, there were teams of saboteurs who were tasked with cutting telephone cables across France, in preference to almost any other target, because it was much easier for the British to intercept radio messages than telephone messages. I can't imagine any other reason for this.

    • by jewens (993139)
      I wonder if anyone has yet designed a task-specific cable-cutting anchor or is this an untapped market?
    • Wait, you're saying teams of saboteurs cut the wires so that the Egyptian government has to use radio to communicate, so it can be spied on? And you can't think of any other reason? You either need to be more imaginative or less, I'm not sure which.

      Try this reason: these three guys thought it was copper wire, and wanted to steal it and sell it as scrap.
    • by Xest (935314) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @07:33AM (#43301411)

      "although the fact that there were three cuts so close in time was, and remains, hard to believe."

      I debunked this conspiracy theory at the time. I can't be arsed to do it in such detail again, but the gist of it was that using the ITU's stats on cable cuts 3 cuts in a week wasn't out of the norm and submarine cables tend to get cut all the time (at least once a week). It's a more common occurrence than people realise.

      Couple this with the fact that Egypt has the Suez canal which is one of the busiest (or even simply the busiest?) shipping lane in the world and there's really nothing hard to believe about that sort of incident at all.

      I know some people get excited when they see a chance for conspiracy but I'm afraid the world is often much less exciting. Much as I might be amused by the idea that this woman is part of a crack commando unit for example, I think she really was probably just looking for salvage:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13158351 [bbc.co.uk]

    • During the second world war, there were teams of saboteurs who were tasked with cutting telephone cables across France, in preference to almost any other target, because it was much easier for the British to intercept radio messages than telephone messages.

      From what I've read, that was more a matter of the Germans using different codes for radio than for telephone.

      Guess which set of codes the Brits had cracked?

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      During a week in 2008, three undersea cables were cut off of Egypt. At the time (and still) the cuts were attributed to ships dragging anchors -- although the fact that there were three cuts so close in time was, and remains, hard to believe.

      So, now we see people intentionally cutting a cable. Hmm.

      Maybe these three were moonlighting as ship anchors?

  • Egyptian need slogan (Score:4, Informative)

    by loki.tang (2752431) on Wednesday March 27, 2013 @11:12PM (#43299405)
    "Cable contains no copper, Steal it will put you in jail". Chinese print this slogan everywhere in China.
  • by kokoko1 (833247)
    Is this the same cable cut which effecting the internet services in the region [dawn.com]?
  • It's a reminder of how tenuous modern society is. It doesn't take a major act of vandalism or terrorism to bring things to a halt.

  • by Biff Stu (654099) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:52AM (#43300087)

    Quite a few years ago I was hanging out in Egypt at a Red Sea resort with my girlfriend. Now I can hang on a lounge chair on a beach for a few hours, but that's about all can take before I want to get up and do something. So, I decided to take a tour boat out to the coral and go snorkeling. When the boat got to the coral reefs, they dropped their anchor right on the reef, which pissed me off. The captain explained that the government had installed permanent mooring buoys in order to preserve the coral, but these had been stolen by thieves.

    Now, fiber cable doesn't have the same resale value as copper, but then try to explain that to a third world dumbass thief.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Nice anecdote, but you blew it with the girlfriend reference and the fact that you can't sit in a chair for hours without getting bored. You therefore lost at least 90% of the slashdot audience.
  • If this is true, the logical culprits are Iran along with their allies.

    They have the animus and the motives. Iran is internally attempting to heavily censor/eliminate internet access. They are the target of network enabled attacks: Stuxnet. It would fit their profile to attack the same kind of international infrastructure, even if Stuxnet was injected by USB memory, not network connections.

    The Assad regime is an ally of Iran, and has been receiving military aid. An attack on internet cables is an attack o

  • Collateral damage (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kelerei (2619511) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @03:27AM (#43300511) Homepage
    The East African SEACOM cable [wikipedia.org] has been having outages lately; they posted an outage notification [seacom.mu] due to a cable break off the Egyptian coast at 08:40 UTC yesterday (March 27th, 2013). Of course, this has been having knock-on effects: for instance, many South African ISPs use this cable as their primary international link, and have had to fall over to secondary links resulting in significant service degradation [mybroadband.co.za].

    Co-incidence? Perhaps, perhaps not...
  • "Dear Customer, Due to international undersea cable system down between India to Europe, you may face slow issues in some sites. Inconvenience regretted-Beamtele". I just got that message from my Indian ISP, Beam Telecom. Some European sites are noticeably slower for me here in India.
  • The article says "divers were arrested while 'cutting the undersea cable'", "The statement said they were caught on a speeding fishing boat just off the port city of Alexandria." So they were caught on a small boat while cutting an undersea cable? Makes perfect sense.

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