Destroy the Internet with a hacksaw?
Thursday, April 9th, 2009 at 10:54 am
This morning many people in Silicon Valley woke up without 911 service, Internet, cellular phones, and in some cases TV. Web sites were impacted and Internet traffic between a few major datacenters stopped flowing. Several of our employees were cut off from the Internet and phone service.
AT&T put out a press release stating that there was a fiber cut, but to make this happen, there had to be several cuts. According to several employees that work at AT&T, it may have been done by the very people that repair this stuff, the Communication Workers of America Union (CWA).
This of course is speculation on behalf of these individuals. The cuts could have also been framed to make it look like it was done by a competent group, someone that knows where the major fibers are sitting inside specific manholes. However, the CWA contract to do work for AT&T expired last Saturday night. According to various press releases from CWA, “five of CWA’s six agreements with various AT&T companies expire at midnight, April 4, 2009″. The cuts were clean, done apparently by a hacksaw
. The first major cut went down around 2 AM in the South East Bay which isolated the city of Santa Cruz. Another cut around 4 AM took out the major Metromedia Fiber Network (MFN) in the San Francisco bay area as well.
Regardless of who did it - someone did it.
These areas are within driving distance of each other.
What’s more terrifying, the cuts were clean and easy to fix, but what would happen if they were mangled and more calculated? What happened if rather than going down into the manhole, the perpetrator poured many gallons of gasoline down the hole, and tossed a match on it? It could have melted all the fiber/glass/plastics together, causing complete mess making the problem much worse.
Fiber maps such as the one below show details on exactly where fiber runs are and how to locate perfect targets, found directly off of almost every network provider’s web site:
Now, what would happen if someone were to coordinate with a group of people and demolish key areas where fiber concentrations are very thick in major cities around the world. What if it were done all at the same time?
If that were to have happened, more than just Silicon Valley would have been impacted: Globally people would be waking up to find out their land lines don’t work, 911 calls fail, their email is down, and yes no Twitter.
Sound improbable? Well, three undersea cables: FLAG, SMW-3, and SMW-4 where all cut at the same time on January 5th 2009, which crippled communications to several countries. Traffic had to be re-routed and it really was a mess, but nobody was left in the dark.
Realistically it would be a few days of an outage, but it would not be great given society is depending more and more on the Internet for day-to-day things such as the DMV, voting, work, and daily life. Our society is becoming dependent on something very fragile and somewhat unprotected.