Could Russia Sabotage Undersea Internet Cables?

For several weeks, the French media has been sounding the tocsin: in addition to power outages, our country may be the victim of an internet blackout due to the sabotage of submarine cables by the Russians! A great fantasy!

“Submarine cables: Europe under threat of Russian internet shutdown”asks BFMTV. “War in Ukraine: Can Russia Cut Internet in France by Attacking Submarine Cables? »concerns France Info. “A Russian Internet Shutdown: Europe’s Nightmare”adds La Tribune.

Besides being cold this winter, are we at risk of not being able to connect to our favorite sites because of the Russians? The last presence of one Russian “research” ship Academic Boris Petrov, who may be a spy, spotted on UK shores reinforces these fears. The Royal Navy tracks him down after he suddenly changes course.

There are fears of an attack on submarine cables essential to the internet. of fiber optic cables connecting the United States and Europe constitute the “backbone” of the Internet. US Navy officials have warned for years about the devastation Russia could wreak if attacked.

Europe is self-sufficient

However, this case of submarine cable sabotage is a fantasy. “There is a great confusion that is made in many media with the situation of God all and that of a country like ours. When an ISP’s subcontractor clumsily cuts an individual’s fiber, the latter can no longer access their favorite sites. The situation is not at all comparable for France for two main reasons. First, our country has many external connections, a good part of which is land. Second, a good part ofinternet activity it is local, as Western Europe is a special case with a strong local interconnection. As far as the Internet is concerned, Europe is self-sufficient. This is not the case in Africa and South America, which are highly dependent on external linkages.specifies Stéphane Bortzmeyer, network specialist.

For this expert who knows the workings of the Internet well, “Cutting all the submarine cables on the planet would have annoying consequences in France, because we couldn’t get to the United States or Australia. But this would not be a disconnection from the Internet, because the Internet is an interconnection of networks. Only French companies that will host all their data in Amazon or Microsoft data centers in the United States will no longer be able to access them in the event of transatlantic cable disruptions.

In addition, it is not necessary that the Russians sabotage an underwater cable so that companies are affected. Failure at the level of a content delivery network¹ or acts of vandalism such as those that recently occurred in the Marseille region have implications for certain services and businesses.

“In fact, the media and politicians fantasize a lot about these submarine cable cutting stories, when we should be focusing more on the French health system which is going very badly as shown by the pandemic.”laments Stéphane Bortzmeyer.


¹ A content delivery network (CDN) is a group of geographically distributed servers that accelerate the delivery of web content by bringing it closer to where users are

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