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Egypt says it arrested ‘criminals’ trying to sabotage its Internet

In an intriguing story developing out of North Africa, Egypt’s military says it arrested members of a "criminal operation" attempting to cut an underwater cable that provides Internet to the country. Military officials tell Ahram Online that "criminals" wearing diving suits were apprehended while on a fishing boat near the coastal city of Alexandria. Another ...

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In an intriguing story developing out of North Africa, Egypt’s military says it arrested members of a "criminal operation" attempting to cut an underwater cable that provides Internet to the country. Military officials tell Ahram Online that "criminals" wearing diving suits were apprehended while on a fishing boat near the coastal city of Alexandria. Another report in the Egypt Independent says the disruption of the maritime cable caused Internet services to drop by 60 percent:

The SMW4 maritime cable was cut at 8 am around 750 meters north of Alexandria, which slowed internet service in Egypt and other countries.

But industry officials said they were hard at work to get services up and running.

"[Internet services] will be back 100 percent on Thursday morning," he said. "We are using alternative feeds."

The above map shows the underwater Internet cable network that feeds into Egypt. (TeleGeography, a telecommunications market research firm, published the map earlier this year.) The circled location represents the area where the alleged saboteurs were found, which just so happens to be near a major regional cable.  

In an age when the Internet plays an increasingly vital role in daily life, the severing of underwater Internet cables is no laughing matter. Though sabotaging a region’s Internet by non-state actors is a rare event, it does occasionally happen. Last year, Tanzanian "vandals" were said to be sabotaging the nation’s fiber optic network by excavating fiber optic cable. In 2011, a 75-year-old Georgian woman cut off Internet access to 3.2 million people after she sliced through an underground cable while scavenging for copper.

It’s not clear what the intent of today’s alleged saboteurs was, but it could feed conspiracy theorists rather quickly if the government doesn’t get in front of the story.

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