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The Internet Idle

Elderly Georgian Woman Cuts Armenian Internet 282

welcher writes "An elderly Georgian woman was scavenging for copper with a spade when she accidentally sliced through an underground cable and cut off internet services to nearly all of neighboring Armenia. The fibre-optic cable near Tiblisi, Georgia, supplies about 90% of Armenia's internet so the woman's unwitting sabotage had catastrophic consequences. Web users in the nation of 3.2 million people were left twiddling their thumbs for up to five hours. Large parts of Georgia and some areas of Azerbaijan were also affected. Dubbed 'the spade-hacker' by local media, the woman is being investigated on suspicion of damaging property. She faces up to three years in prison if charged and convicted."
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Elderly Georgian Woman Cuts Armenian Internet

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  • All I see is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:50AM (#35742514)
    Company laid vital fibre-optic cable 10cm from the surface. The company that put that fibre down should be investigate for endangering the public.
    • Re:All I see is (Score:5, Informative)

      by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:01AM (#35742572)

      "The cable is owned by the Georgian railway network. It is heavily protected, but landslides or heavy rain may have exposed it to scavengers."

      • Re:All I see is (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:11AM (#35742636)
        Why do they call them "scavengers" instead of what they really are - thieves.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You mean "prospectors".

          Anyway, TFA states that this practice usually involves collecting unused copper wires. I don't really see how that's stealing. Is a bum that picks up used cans from the street also a thief in your book?

          I'm not saying that it's an honest and good way to make a living, but sometimes there is no choice. We all need to live. Apparently this woman's need for money is greater than the proper owner's need to dig up the unused copper. No real harm done.

          • Re:All I see is (Score:5, Informative)

            by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday April 07, 2011 @07:10AM (#35742892)
            Apparently you are unaware of the current trend of stealing live telephone wires from telephone poles. I assume that this "scavenger" was engaged in the same business, only with underground cables.
            • Re:All I see is (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:44PM (#35746418) Homepage Journal

              That's not current at all. My mom was Wire Chief for a railroad in the 80s and the practice was old then. Thieves would go from pole to pole for a mile long stretch of line and cut the wire loose so that it was laying on the ground, but still intact and passing signals. Then they'd coordinate with walkie-talkies and cut both ends simultaneously, tie one end to a hydraulic spool on the back of a truck, and wind it up as fast as possible while they were starting to drive away. Mom would get an alarm signal that a phone line was down and would send out the Special Agents (yes - railroads have their own armed police force) and line technicians. By the time they arrived, the thieves would be long gone.

              And by "thieves", I mean "murderers". If you cheerfully shut down the communications network that keeps trains from colliding, or E911 services from working, or otherwise disrupt life-or-death decisions, then I'm all for a shoot first, ask later response if you get caught.

              • If you cheerfully shut down the communications network that keeps trains from colliding, or E911 services from working, or otherwise disrupt life-or-death decisions, then I'm all for a shoot first, ask later response if you get caught.

                If an interrupted cable in your train safety system leads to any kind
                of dangerous situation, you need to have a serious look
                at the fundamentals of this system, because it is already defective.

                There's a reason stuff like this is supposed to "fail safe".

          • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

            TFA is wrong. "Unused copper wires" belong to people who laid them. Digging them out of the ground is theft.

          • by anegg ( 1390659 )
            I think TFA was probably being overly kind to say that the practice involves unused wires... Here in the United States the practice seems to include any kind of copper wire they think they can get away with taking, including completely stripping a local county athletic field of the underground copper for the lights TWICE in quick succession.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by alendit ( 1454311 )

          Why do they call them "scavengers" instead of what they really are - thieves.

          On behalf of all elderly people who have to make living with scavenging copper let me say: "Fuck you!"

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Why do they call them "scavengers" instead of what they really are - thieves.

            On behalf of all elderly people who have to make living with scavenging copper let me say: "Fuck you!"

            On behalf of people who do honest work to get by and PAY for the copper, please insert your brain back into your rectum in order to cleanse it and then DIE IN A FIRE.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Xest ( 935314 )

          Yes, because your set of moral standards are accepted globally to be the One True Set of Moral Standards (tm).

          Sorry no, I suppose you think the poor Nigerians scavenging in the massive rubbish tips sailed over to their country by the West simply to find what they need to survive at thieves too?

          Fringe cases like this which are theft in your country, are accepted, legal and essential to survival for some people in other countries. Don't try and apply your moral view of the world in your no doubt cushy western

          • Re:All I see is (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @11:46AM (#35745576)

            I'm sorry, but this is bullshit. Thieves cause an enormous amount of economic damage not just because they devalue the stolen goods (used with unknown history and maybe damaged during the theft), and destroy installations (e.g. your laptop's data) and adjoining property (e.g. locks). Often what they take is even just thrown away because it's too application specific, identifiable, etc. (e.g. computer data)

            So this lady just caused hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars of enconomic damage for what? $20 of copper? That has to stripped of insulation, melted down, refined, shipped, and reformed into wire so they can repair the damage? I can sympathize with theft of things like food and money (and perhaps jewelry) to survive. Copper though? Such theives should be shot on sight.

            P.S. Quite frankly, this sort of destructive behavior by the poor is why they stay poor. Now the government(s) and businesses affected have to deal with fixing this damage rather than improving the lives of their people.

            • by geekoid ( 135745 )

              NO it isn't.

              Many places in that region of the world have unused cable buried. And by unused I mean. No party exist to claim it. The military doesn't claim it, the government doesn't, no company owns it.
              So a lot of people pull it up. It is literally a rotting cable with nothing on each end.

              There are a lot of cables like that. That is what she was looking for. While doing that shit sliced through a used cable.

              This is why it's scavenging and not thieving.

              Like if someone went to scavenge a ship off the bottom o

            • Re:All I see is (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:27PM (#35748514)

              You're failing to understand my comment because you don't seem to be able to grasp the simple fact that scavenging is not theft.

              In plenty of countries across the globe, collecting and taking abandon materials is not illegal, it is not theft, it is scavenging.

              Once you've got that concept in your mind- when you've managed to understand the distinction between the two, and that once again, what is illegal in your country and illegal under your moral standards is not illegal under everyone's and is common place in other countries, then you can begin to understand further the point that if such scavenging is indeed legal in Georgia, and if this woman was indeed simply scavenging, then it is wrong to call her a thief.

              In every country in the world some degree of scavenging is acceptable, there are few countries where taking berries from naturally occuring plants for example is not illegal, the boundary is usually drawn at either human produced items, or clearly non-abandoned human produced items.

              I'm amazed so many people think their moral standards are shared identically across the globe, it's almost as if you think your view of the world is the One True View (tm) and that anyone else with a different opinion of moral standards is automatically wrong because they are different to you.

              So on the contrary to your last sentence, scavenging is actually tolerated or even legal in many poor countries because the governments there recognise it's much better to let the poor make use of abandoned resources and survive off them, than it is for them to expect welfare, or to commit real actual crime to survive instead. To illustrate how stupid your last comment is, here in the UK we've had contractors from large wealthy corporations accidently cut through fibre before, across the globe ships anchors regularly tear through fibre pipes (as regularly as 3 times a week on average believe it or not)- obviously it's something that actually happens far more as a result of large wealthy corporations and not as a result of "poor" people.

              But as I say, you wont be able to comprehend this latter point until you grasp the rather simplistic point that scavenging and theft are two different things, and until you realise that not every part of the world is the same as your little part of the world.

        • Who steals fiber optics? There's no scavenger resale market for that.
      • by SirCyn ( 694031 )
        "exposed by rain" doesn't exactly fit my definition of "heavily protected"
    • by durrr ( 1316311 )
      They just want a reason for using a tool as fancily named as a Fusion Splicer at ever opportunity.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      "Scavenging for copper" = "Steal copper wires from the ground".

    • by Tarsir ( 1175373 )

      Why is it that every time a tech employee or company makes a mistake, some idiot thinks someone should be investigated and/or charged with a criminal offense? Do you work? Do you think your every mistake should be scrutinized by government employees for wrong-doing?

      Don't you know how expensive and unwieldy the justice system is? It's a massive beast that routinely destroys people's lives totally by accident[1]. Making something illegal should be a desperate, last-resort measure for keeping civilization runn

  • I mean, it was an accident. 3 years in prison for a poor woman scavenging for metal doesn't seem too fair, at least assuming her goal wasn't to steal copper wire. Hopefully they won't charge her, or will give her a slap on the wrist.


    • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:57AM (#35742540)

      assuming her goal wasn't to steal copper wire

      "Scavenging for copper" is a euphemism for exactly this. The only copper you find 'just lying around' is copper being used for power or data transmission.

      • by leuk_he ( 194174 )

        ANd as you see "Scavenging for copper" can cause a lot of damage []

      • Not really. In those old soviet states there's plenty of old stuff that's no longer in use. Like that old nuclear testing site TFA mentions.

        • Yeah. That's why I like it when "scavengers" go and "scavenge" copper and electrical equipment from abandoned houses. Maybe the house is old, maybe the financing ran out, maybe it's just delayed building. Either way, they're "no longer in use", so feel free to take it.

      • Uzbekistan citizens are required by there 'leader' to collect scrap metals for the rulling family to dispose off naturally at a profit to them alone. You may not have heard of it but it exists. The world has some interesting leaders.

        Uzbekistan citizens have complained that metal buckets for recycling are not as easy to find as they once where.

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:00AM (#35743118)

        "The only copper you find 'just lying around' is copper being used for power or data transmission.

        Clearly you've never been in an office building or an industrial site. There's literally hundreds of km of unused and abandoned copper wires in buildings around the US. The basic practice of leasing a building with no network services, installing network services, and then when the lease is up reaching into the wall and cutting cables short so the next company can't benefit from your expense has caused all of this. In many places decommissioning is another way of saying get rid of the equipment and just cut the cable at both ends and leave it buried. We serviced an antenna mast a few weeks ago and pulled some 9 40m lengths of LMR-900 off the tower, all cables were traced from dead antennas to either loose connectors in the buildings or had been cut off in the building or on the tower. After the decommissioning we took the cable with us and someone sent it down to the recyclers. The metal in it was worth a fortune and no one could even tell us why it was there.

        • Saying that they cut the copper to prevent others from using it... is somewhat unfair.

          Last time I was involved in renting a building, when we moved out we were REQUIRED to cut the cable, by zoning regulations and our lease agreement. This was in Santa Clara, CA.

          • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:43AM (#35744028)

            Wow, that's messed up. Cable is treated the same as plumbing in Minnesota: A basic part of the infrastructure of a building. The company I work for recently moved about 2,000 people into a new building. We chose to re-use the existing cable plant instead of wiring all new.

            That's not normally our practice because we have frequently found that the old cable didn't meet our needs, but still. We've always had the option here and in most other states where we've moved people into an existing building.

            Sounds to me like the cable pullers must have quietly greased a few palms in California a while back. :-)

          • by anegg ( 1390659 )
            Hmmm. Interesting. In Maryland, USA we took over a space (subletting from the original tenant) and had the original tenant pay (before we would sign the lease agreement) to replace the telephone/network cabling infrastructure because it had been cut by the previous subleasing tenant. The cabling infrastructure is a necessary component of a modern office building, just like plumbing and electrical wiring.
        • This happened in the office building where my company moved into a couple years back. All the network and telephone cables had the ends ripped (not cut) off. We had to redo all the ends of the cables. Which is much easier than redoing all the wiring, but still difficult considering the wires left had no labels for what matched up to what. We still have jacks that we have never been able to find the corresponding end for.
        • Let's do some calculations. Cat-5 cable has eight strands of AWG 24 wire, which has 817.7 feet/lb, that means the cable contains one pound of copper for each 102.2 feet. Scrap copper is worth $4.30/lb, meaning 23.77 feet of cat-5 are worth $1.

          The minimum wage in Armenia is, according to Wikipedia, equivalent to US$1888/year. Assuming someone works 50 weeks/year @ 40 hours/week, that is 2000 working hours to earn those $1888.

          What all this means is that she has to steal 22.4 ft of cat-5 to get the same she wo

    • There is no such thing as an "accident" when human agency is involved*. An accident is when a meteor crashes through your roof and kills you. Cutting the Internet to an entire country isn't an "accident" it is stupidity.

      The reason developing countries rely so heavily on mobile phones isn't because it is a good solution but because copper gets ripped up by thieves almost as soon as it is laid. Though I do enjoy reading about potential Darwin award winners who try and "scavenge" power cables.

      * As the saying g

    • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @07:39AM (#35743016)

      I mean, it was an accident

      So said Exxon after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. []

      If you cause harm due to ignoring the possible consequences of your action you should be punished according to the consequences of your act, not according to your intent. That's what the law defines as "criminal negligence".

  • Impressive! (Score:3, Funny)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @05:59AM (#35742556)

    In other words, some old granny succeeded where even 4chan would fail?

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:02AM (#35742578)
    How many Americans are thinking "I didn't know that Armenia was anywhere near the South-Eastern States"
  • Redundancy man. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:03AM (#35742584)

    If one shallow cable knocks a country out, someone failed pretty hard in the first place.

    I don't know an awful lot about backbone type setups, not being in the industry, but I was under the impression that a self healing ring was a fairly common way of dealing with important fiber. That way as long as you don't cut two cables at once, you're golden, and can take your sweet ass time fixing a broken link without a whole bloody country losing internet access.

    But of course, redundancy costs money. Hopefully not as much as downtime...

    • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:16AM (#35742664) Homepage Journal

      I was under the impression that a self healing ring was a fairly common way of dealing with important fiber

      Sorry, but you're making it too easy to even try..

    • Maybe the network was centralised for political reasons. Maybe the government wanted a single point of failure.

    • There are also practical reasons for this. Armenia is a land-locked country whose neighbors, for the most part, don't like it too much. They don't really have a lot of practical ways to connect to the internet save through Georgia, and it's really Georgia, not Armenia, who can really dictate which cables get placed where.
    • Bah. Clearly you never dealt with Baby Bells back in the day. Telco's idea of a "redundant circuit" was two wires in the same conduit.
    • Re:Redundancy man. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:22AM (#35743250)

      Maybe you missed the part of the article that stated what countries were actually cut off. Armenia is a country with an entire population of just 3.2 million people. Shoot, many countries have cities that have a larger population than this. Granted, this does make it a fairly densly populated area as far as former Soviet states are concerned, but its still a small, poor coutry (the GDP is just around $2,600 per person, compared to the US at $46,000 per person). Azerbaijan, who also lost some internet, is a country of about 10 million and a GDP of just $10k. In other words, the fiber laid was very likely not from a business standpoint of providing broadband to these countries. It sounds like a business laid the line between distant offices, and decided to sell off some bandwidth to help subsidize the cost (or a humanitarian effort, depending on how you look at it). In either case, there would be almost no redundancy in the line. It is probably, from a business standpoint, cheaper to send a crew out every few years to do a splice than to pay all the money up-front for redundancy. And if it was a business trying to connect outlying offices, they are probably just going to connect to the closest High-speed hub and who has it for the cheapest - probably Russia or one of the other former Soviet States. Granted, it would make sense for Armenia to get their Internet from Turkey, but, once again, this probably wasn't a government-sponsered broadband roleout or a telecom roleout, but rather just hooking into a business that already had their own fiber line laid.

      Point is, in Armenia, their capital city is in the western part of the state, and probably does get broadband from Turkey, but the rest of the coutnry probably gets theirs through this line. Azerbaijan probably has redundancy, but wouldn't be surprised if this came from an Arabic country - such as Iran.

      Just because many countries have redundancy doesn't mean that everyone does, and I am sure many places have fiber lines laid out by the cheapest means necessary.

  • Sooo, an adequate demonstration of the need for redundancy when it comes to telecommunication networks. Honestly, the only reason this is news is because it cut of 3.2 million people, and it was caused by an old lady. But telecommunication cables are cut all the time, both by people and accidents.

    Yet, if I cut the phone line near my parents place, they'll still have Internet access (satellite). Indeed, I suspect they would still have phone access, because the cable would need to be cut on either side of the

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      "Yet, if I cut the phone line near my parents place, they'll still have Internet access (satellite). Indeed, I suspect they would still have phone access, because the cable would need to be cut on either side of their house to completely kill it."

      you suspect wrong. The phone company does not run redundant lines to your home. They abandon stuff in place, but never EVER run redundant lines unless you paid for that added feature at a severely jacked up price.

    • telecommunication cables are cut all the time, both by people and accidents.

      Do you mean intentionally and accidentally?

  • But then again she is Georgian, has lived through one world war, countless skirmishes, the Stalinist purges and survived 'til now.

    I say pay her room and board, and free internet, until she dies.

    • Not only that. At that age a 3 year sentence could easily be a life sentence.

      • Not only that. At that age a 3 year sentence could easily be a life sentence.

        She's 75 and she's running around the countryside digging up copper cables for a living. She may be in better shape than you are.

    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      I say pay her room and board, and free internet, until she dies.

      Oh you mean send her to an Australian prison?

    • by mangu ( 126918 )

      I say pay her room and board, and free internet, until she dies.

      At her age, she probably gets a pension from the government.

      However, if you consider that the Armenian per-capita GDP is about one tenth of that of the USA, that must be a pretty small pension.

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @06:27AM (#35742694)

    Around last year an anchor cut the only undersea connecting cable which connected where I live to the rest of the world.

    The country spent half a week without internet. Sometimes you can't really afford redundancy.

  • Georgia gives new meaning to the word "back ho"
  • She must be quite the 'hacker' to bring down the Internet for a whole country.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @07:47AM (#35743060) Homepage

    Ok, could we sensationalize this one up more? Catastrophic? really? So how many people died? how many places exploded or burned to the ground?

    Oh and Sabotage... really [] for a definition... so "Unwitting sabotage" makes Merriam Webster cry.

    I'm not a grammar Nazi, but good god, I've seen better and more level headed reporting on Fox News.

    Maybe next time the submitter could make more crap up so that he can put in more inflammatory words to get us all worked up into a proper outrage?

    • Personally, reading the summary, I thought the person who wrote it was attempting to be a bit humorous about it. . .I mean, immediately after using the words "catastrophic consequences", he says, "Web users in the nation of 3.2 million people were left twiddling their thumbs for up to five hours."

      If that's not being facetious, I don't know what is.

  • She can't be alive if she's that old.

    Not Victorian, too young to be late Edwardian but definitely not Georgian.

    If she were Georgian she would be displayed in a glass case somewhere.

  • Really, they bury unshielded copper wires in the ground of someone's backyard now....sounds more like someone dropped the ball with installations and then want to pin it on some elderly lady. If an elderly lady has enough force to cut through a thick shielded trunk of a wire
    with a shovel, then guess what, it definitely wasn't installed or built right, but then again, they do not have a lot of money there, and probably cut corners everywhere.

  • So much for "routing around the damage".

  • I don't think they will imprison an elderly lady. I think nothing will happen except a slap on the wrist and a "don't do that again!" speech

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