New Sabotage of Internet Infrastructure in France

New sabotage in French spine joints. On the night of Monday October 17 to Tuesday October 18, around 3:00 a.m., a segment of the backbone fiber carrying the Western Internet from northern Europe in Marseille was divided in Aix-en-Provence. According to the first elements of the investigation, it was enough for the criminals to lift the cast-iron lid of a telecom room dug under the road and cut the sheath in which the fiber-filled cables pass.

It took until the following Thursday morning for the information to be revealed by Zscaler, an American publisher of cloud access security platforms.

His communicate then suggests that the cut affects the transmission of the Internet via submarine cables that leave from the port of Marseille to serve Africa, the Middle East and Asia: “A major cable break in the south of France has affected the main submarine cables that provide connectivity to Asia, and potentially other parts of the world. This outage is likely to cause packet loss and unusual latency for websites and applications traversing the affected connections,” the US publisher wrote.

Zscaler also instigates sabotage in three locations around Marseille. On the backbone segment from Lyon (the Amsterdam-Paris-Lyon-Marseille axis is used to connect submarine cables in the Atlantic with submarine cables that depart from the Mediterranean and pass along the sides of the Indian and Pacific oceans). In the one from Madrid (which serves as a relay for other cables that cross the Atlantic). And on the one to Milan (serving Southeast Europe).

However, it seems more likely that traffic to Madrid and Milan has been affected by a single outage, on the fibers from Lyon.

No internet outages

“We have not noticed any particular drop in speed. We didn’t even have to break into our operator’s intercom rooms to route communications through alternate links. »

Fabrice CoquioPresident Interxion France

Asked by LeMagIT, Interxion, owner of Marseille data centers which make the junction between the land and submarine backbone segments, also negate any traffic interruption. “We have not noticed any particular drop in speed. We didn’t even have to interfere with our operators’ connection rooms to route communications through alternative links,” says Fabrice Coquio, President of Interxion France.

According to him, this act of sabotage is particularly disturbing, if only because it testifies to the fragility of the infrastructure in France. “Thousands of people in France, subcontractors of operators, personnel of operators have access to fiber backbone route plans. On these roads, every 500 meters you have an opening, very rarely locked, to enter the casing. »

On the other hand, this sabotage had no consequences on the scale of the Internet. “Telecom networks are built to be resilient. When that sheath was cut overnight Monday into Tuesday, communications simply went through alternate terrestrial fiber. At the end of the day, we still saw just as much data arriving at our data centers in Marseille. »

Who sabotaged the spine?

Sabotaging the backbone fibers – the true backbones of the Internet – is not the first. Already last April, three spinal fibers are converging in Paris it was literally cut off to the south, east and north of the capital, in twenty-minute intervals. Telecom providers questioned at the time rejected the thesis of an accident altogether and spoke of coordinated operations.

On the other hand, it seems that the authorities have not yet found the culprits of these sabotages. An enemy power against Western infrastructure? Activists at war against digital (in 2021, 341 acts of vandalism were recorded against 5G masts)? Or maybe contractors in retaliation for too many bills not honorable ?

This sabotage, like the one in April, mainly affected the networks of the national operators SFR, Free and Bouygues. But not that of Orange. In both cases, the disconnected channels were installed between 1999 and 2002 by subcontractors of Louis Dreyfus Communication (LDCom), which sold all its activities to SFR in 2007. The channels that SFR inherited and which it continues to maintain are also leased to Bouygues, Free, Verizon and Colt. Orange has opened its own network of underground channels.

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