Debunking the tin foil hat theorists…

February 11, 2008

There has been so much speculation for the past two weeks about the many fiber optic telecommunications cables being cut in the middle east, including here, that someone wrote a Wikipedia Article about the disruptions and the theories surrounding those breaks.

My own speculation led me to consider the soon to open Iranian Oil Bourse as a motive for these disruptions. In fairness though, I did also mention James Bond like spies, and The Incredible Mr. Limpet as possible suspects in the outage too. But if you must, go ahead and color me a tin foil hat weirdo. I am guilty, I guess.

As a techie, I still find it odd that so many cables in the area went down concurrently. Original reports had Iran 100% down, and that was incorrect. It certainly made me reconsider sources for future links.

I think that this has been an interesting experiment in media studies for me – seeing how much speculation and chaos could come from a bunch of nerds wondering why something broke. The bigger issue is that the speculation itself became a bigger story than the original outages. I am still getting several hundred hits a day on the postings from this story.

Because of all this, I learned a lot about the Iranian Oil Bourse, or commodities market. This is a very big story on it’s own, and is definitely worth learning something about. It of course has had very little mention in the U.S. media, despite how much it may change (or not) our economy, and the oil market globally.

Yours in the brotherhood of weirdness,

the (still) inquisitive techie

It's a Conspiracy!


Follow the the underwater cable story over at

February 7, 2008

This is the kind of coincidence that turns tinfoil into hats.

read more | digg story

Cable Cut Mania!

February 7, 2008

Only a bunch of techies could get whipped into a frenzy by the Internet going down – in Iran. As I have mentioned, and many others have mentioned, several undersea cables in the middle east have been cut. While many think this odd, and worthy of interest, and perhaps suspicious, others have gone a bit farther. This person seems to have been researching this since the first cable cut over a week ago, and these guys have lots of charts!

While I for one am skeptical about the likelihood of this many cables going down concurrently, I am however, awaiting judgment on it’s role in any number of nefarious world domination schemes. Here’s a cool chart of the Internet’s Undersea World,, and an old soviet era underground sub base you could use in case you wanted to build your own undersea lair.

Some folks are less than thrilled with the The Internet Traffic Report site that many (including) myself have used to determine Iran’s Internet availability. There are many .ir sites that are still functional.

The one scheme I am holding out for is the disruption of the opening of the Iranian Oil Bourse. Read this bold proclamation by the Iranian Finance Minister about the opening of the long delayed Bourse, complete with predictions of doom for the United States Economy, on a .ir site that is up.

The new oil market will be the first outside of the US or London, and will not trade in dollars, but will base its trades on the Euro, dealing a blow to the dollar. The opening of the Bourse has reportedly been delayed again by the recent outages, one of many in a long series of delays for the Bourse.

One could see many interests in the U.S. not wanting the Bourse to open. couldn’t they? Anyone who has read anything about Peak Oil would be a little suspicious.

… or maybe it was this guy:

The Incredible Mr. Limpet

The Internet is broken for much of Asia and the Middle East. Oh yeah, and ALL of Iran.

February 6, 2008

TV Test PatternI just dugg an article linked from engadget. It seems that all of Iran, and much of Asia, have lost their Internet connection. Look at the real time Internet Traffic Report for Asia. Iran has been at 0% response time, and 100% packet loss for days.

From the engadget article: “For the fourth time in a week, an undersea communications cable has apparently been cut (or “failed due to a power outage,” as some sources suggest), and while no official reports of subversion have surfaced just yet, things are beginning to get suspicious.” The New York Times first reported these outages back on January 31st.

An article in the Khaleej Times reports that there have actually been FIVE major undersea cable outages since January 23rd, all which can likely be attributed to ships dragging anchors while fighting rough weather.

So here’s one small thing that bugs me – the reality is that undersea cables don’t break that often, they do break often I guess – see below. If you look at the Wikipedia entry for undersea cable, there have been a few accidental breaks in the past few years, but only a few over many years, or at least as noted in this article.

Therefore, it seems a logical conclusion is that no huge multinational conglomerate telco, like Flag Telecom, would spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, over 17 years, to install a massive global communications network to the Middle East, and install cable in a manner that would easily break, or be snagged. Undersea cable is simply too expensive to install, and even more expensive to repair. The likelihood of five ships dragging anchors into five cables in five days seems slim, doesn’t it? Here’s a link on Alacatel’s site that shows how they BURY undersea cable when they install it.

Cable piracy is a new phenomenon, according to the International Cablemakers Federation. There have been reports of undersea cables being “un-installed” in the South China Sea. In Vietnam young thieves have caused millions of dollars in damage to communications networks while stealing telecom cable for scrap.

On a creepier note, Ziff Davis reported way back in 2001 that spy agencies had shifted their intelligence gathering efforts to these underseas networks. One person at points out that there are interesting disparities in the geography in reports regarding the cable outages.

Whatever happens here, it just reminds me that the Internet that we all take for granted now could be removed from our lives very quickly, and succinctly, with must a few snips, and a few power switches thrown. The pirates in Asia simply took cable, and caused weeks long outages. No technical experience required for this position.

Half a continent and a few countries were just bounced off the Internet altogether, for reasons yet to be determined, in just a few days time. I am certain that the estimated 10,000,000 internet users in Iran, and the governing powers of all nations determining their fate, are now fully aware of the suddenness of this outage, and its potentially larger long term consequences.

Update: ABC NEWS has come out with their theory on this, and it seems to make the most sense. Outages in undersea cables are fairly common it seems. The reason that we don’t hear about them more often is that there is a large amount of redundancy in data networks, and the breaks don’t usually cause any delay in traffic, let alone outages here in the U.S.

Internet traffic in the middle east is routed through several single cables, each susceptible to total failure, unlike most of the remainder of the Internet. Could this whole problem be poor network design, and a weaker Internet in a developing area of the world? Time will tell.