New sabotage of Internet infrastructure in France

New sabotage on French backbone links. On the night of Monday October 17 to Tuesday October 18, around three o’clock in the morning, a segment of the backbone fiber that carries the Western Internet from northern Europe to Marseilles was severed at Aix-en-Provence. According to the first elements of the investigation, it was enough for the criminals to lift the cast iron cover of a telecom chamber dug under the roadway and to cut the sheath in which the cables filled with fibers 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 communicatedthen suggests that the cut impacts the transport of the Internet via the submarine cables that leave from the port of Marseille to serve Africa, the Middle East and Asia:

“A major cable cut in the south of France has impacted the main submarine cables providing connectivity with Asia, and potentially other parts of the world. This cut is likely to cause packet loss and unusual latency for websites and applications that cross the affected links,” writes the American publisher.

Zscaler also evokes sabotage in three places around Marseille. On the backbone segment from Lyon (the Amsterdam-Paris-Lyon-Marseille axis is used to connect the submarine cables in the Atlantic to the submarine cables that leave from the Mediterranean and run along the sides of the Indian and Pacific oceans). On the one from Madrid (which serves as a relay for other cables crossing the Atlantic). And on the one to Milan (which serves South Eastern Europe).

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

No internet breakage

Asked by LeMagIT, Interxion, owner of the Marseille data centers which make the junction between the terrestrial and submarine backbone segments, also denies any interruption of traffic. “We did not observe any particular drop in speed. We didn’t even have to intervene in our operator interconnection rooms to route communications over alternative links,” says Fabrice Coquio, President of Interxion France.

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

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

Who sabotaged the backbone?

The sabotage of backbone fibers – the real backbones of the Internet – is not a first. Already last April, three backbone fibers converging on Paris had been literally cut off south, east and north of the capital, at twenty-minute intervals. The telecom providers questioned at the time rejected the thesis of an accident altogether and spoke of coordinated operations.

On the other hand, the authorities still do not seem to have 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 pylons)? Or maybe contractors in retaliation for too many invoices not honored ?

This sabotage, like that of April, mainly impacted the networks of national operators SFR, Free and Bouygues. But not that of Orange. In both cases, the severed ducts had been deployed between 1999 and 2002 by subcontractors of Louis Dreyfus Communication (LDCom), which sold all of its activities to SFR in 2007. The ducts which SFR inherited and which it continues to maintain are also leased to Bouygues, Free, Verizon and Colt. Orange has rolled out its own network of earth ducts.

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New sabotage of Internet infrastructure in France

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