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Internet to Pakistan Goes Down 368

TwobyTwo writes "According to CNN, a power supply problem on an undersea cable has severed all outside Internet connectivity to Pakistan. Many businesses have been seriously impacted. Repairs will involve some disruption to access from other countries, and are tentatively scheduled for overnight." From the article: "'It's a worst-case scenario. We are literally blank,' said a senior foreign banker who declined to be identified. An official at the Karachi stock exchange said Pakistan's main bourse was unaffected as it had its own internal trading system."
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Internet to Pakistan Goes Down

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  • Tinfoil hat ON:

    OK, so what are the odds that the problem with the link is due to a faulty tap by an *unnamed* government? We have been tapping undersea cables now for years and have specifically developed technology for all types of cables including optical cables. Given Pakistan's role in the last few years, I would not be surprised to find a tap on this cable that *perhaps* has leaked or otherwise failed causing an increase in resistance resulting in the power problems. Come on now, this is a prime ca
    • OK, so what are the odds that the problem with the link is due to a faulty tap by an *unnamed* government?

      I'd be more worried if *my* Internet pipe went down due to a *unnamed* Government tap or if our Country's Internet pipe went down.

      I have no need to put the tinfoil on for Pakistan.
      • I have no need to put the tinfoil on for Pakistan.

        Why not? Assuming for one moment that it was brought down by an *unnamed* government, surely this is serious enough to warrent serious concern, even if it is only Pakistan. The world relies on the internet in a major way, almost to the point where we are dependent on it. If governments can bring down other government's internet access, this is a major problem
    • by Exodious ( 49817 ) <exodious@gmail.PERIODcom minus punct> on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:28PM (#12934448)
      I've read stuff about that sort of thing before. I can't find the exact article but I did find this [] which is along the same thread. If I recall correctly, the one I had read basically said the main problem with tapping the cables is making sense of the HUGE amount of data you get.
    • by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <> on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:29PM (#12934474) Homepage
      Typical slashbot bullshit. Even assuming that the US wanted to do this, why don't they just tap the endpoint(s) instead of spending a billion dollars to send divers down to the bottom of the ocean to connect a pair of headphones to a massive fiber cable that is likely buried in 6 feet of silt?

      You've been watching the Discovery channel too much. This is not a copper phone line that services Vladivostok, and James Bond doesn't really order shaken martinis.

      I cannot believe this kind of thing gets modded up.

      • by Bendy Chief ( 633679 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:37PM (#12934542) Homepage Journal
        Source: CNN

        WASHINGTON (AP) -- The USS Jimmy Carter, set to join the nation's submarine fleet Saturday, will have some special capabilities, intelligence experts say: It will be able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them.

        The Navy does not acknowledge that the $3.2 billion submarine, the third and last of the Seawolf class of attack subs, has this capability.

        "There are limits to what I can say on the sub's capabilities, but let's just say the Jimmy Carter is uniquely capable to perform missions vitally important to the war on terror," said Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican and former CIA officer whose district includes Groton, Connecticut, where the sub was built.

        But intelligence community watchdogs have little doubt: The previous submarine that performed the mission, the USS Parche, was retired last fall. That would happen only if a new one was on the way.

        Like the Parche, the Jimmy Carter was extensively modified from its basic design, given a $923 million hull extension that allows it to house technicians and gear to perform the cable-tapping and other secret missions, experts say. The boat's hull, at 453 feet, is 100 feet longer than the other two subs in the Seawolf class.
        • ...let's just say the Jimmy Carter is uniquely capable to perform missions vitally important to the war on terror...

          Thats a statement I thought I'd never see!
          • Regardless of what you think about the man's politics or the success (or lack thereof) of his administration, there's no denying that Jimmy Carter is one of the smartest and most well-educated men to occupy the Oval Office in recent memory. Jimmy Carter has a master's degree in Nuclear Physics and used to design nuclear submarines. In contrast, GWB can't even pronounce "Nuclear".
      • by mr_luc ( 413048 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @06:14PM (#12936857) ream_id=423 []

        "ECHELON and the Insecurity Industry"

        You can grab it with StreamRipper (as the download link appears to be broken, even via ftp), and listen to your heart's content. I'll spare you the details, but at one point he mentions how the USS Jimmy Carter has been overhauled -- at MASSIVE expense -- to have a bigger "ocean interface", which means (as it has in the past) that, in addition to the incredibly rare rescue scenarios, they still believe that tapping undersea cables is a viable technique.

        Since almost everything important is running on fiber nowadays, and the old cables are going the way of the dodo, the obvious conclusion of security industry observers (and of Sy Hersh, recently and notably) is that the big players in the sigint/commint community can tap undersea fiber.

        This is not make-believe! It's not bull, or exaggeration. It's widely known and accepted within the intelligence community (including the community of intel watchdogs).

        Generally, the US *does* tap endpoints (and the countries that it shares intel with, like Britain and Australia and New Zealand, all help), and there are really only a couple of cables of interest in the Mediterranean, but in Asia and the Middle East, there are a lot of places that the US does not have end-point access to via the ISPs.

        Contrary to popular belief, it is far less risky for the US to tap an undersea cable than to do so covertly on land in a country like Pakistan (or to secure THAT level of intel cooperation with their government; they're cooperative in some ways, but not THAT cooperative).
    • Although it's not likely that this was a bad tap, afterall, why not capture packets at the ISP, rather than the bottom of the sea?

      Carnivore for crabs anyone? []
  • Weird... (Score:4, Funny)

    by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:20PM (#12934332) Homepage
    Weird, I didn't notice it at all!
    • Re:Weird... (Score:2, Interesting)

      I wonder what effect this will have on our connection to India, etc. A lot of companies are going to have a very bad day if they have to take down circuits to India to fix the problem in Pakistan. Too bad we'll never know for sure what happened. How'd you like to be the Navy Seal that slashdotted an entire country?
  • of the closet with the Cisco 2502!
  • by srmalloy ( 263556 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:20PM (#12934338) Homepage
    An entire country Slashdotted...
  • I should've known! The emir of Pakistan just wired me 80 billion dollars too... oh well, I'm sure it will still get here once the connection is restored.
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:22PM (#12934359) Homepage
    The whole point of the way internet routing works is to allow traffic to route across alternate links when the "best" link goes down.

    Having a single pipe feeding an entire country is pretty damn stupid.
    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#12934383)
      Having a single pipe feeding an entire country is pretty damn stupid.

      Actually, some of their larger users have been routed around to satellite backups, but the load is way, way too much and it pretty much unusable according to TFA.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Iran. India. Afghanistan.
      They are either enemies with their neighbors or the their neighbors are, for whatever reason, less than trustworthy.
      Just one of the cost of living in a tough neighborhood.
    • The whole point of the way internet routing works is to allow traffic to route across alternate links when the "best" link goes down. Having a single pipe feeding an entire country is pretty damn stupid.

      Maybe they accidentally cut off both lines.
    • by gooogle ( 643307 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @03:01PM (#12934812) Homepage
      Agreed, it is quite stupid and this should be an eye-opener. Pakistan's infrastructure is lagging behind and in desperate need of an upgrade, however, there aren't many options. There is Iran and Afghanistan to the West which are unstable regions and don't seem like viable options. China in the north but would mean running a cable through the northern regions which are highly unstable (although it seems like the next best option) and then there's India to the right which already has a solid IT infrastructure in place and that's who we are currently routed through.

      A secondary fibre-optic connection [] is being planned, also through India.

      Some indigenous efforts [] are also underway but the costs are too high.

    • That is pretty bad, but sometimes people forget about the physical aspects of running cable too. I once read that all transatlantic cables for North America follow the same path off the shore of New Jersey or somewhere close to that. Just imagine if someone dragged their anchor through that trough. Also, many times people will setup what they think are redundant internet connections from different ISPs, when in reality, they all terminate on the same switch somewhere.

      Also, when you think about internet
      • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @06:01PM (#12936763) Journal
        While many of the transatlantic cable systems are near each other, and some of them do share cable heads landing sites, there's also a lot of diversity, put in there specifically to prevent single events from taking out redundant systems all at once, and they're designed in self-repairing rings and meshes for most networks. The Pacific and Caribbean cable systems are pretty much the same way - it takes a lot of time and money to get diversity, and it's done because otherwise you can lose all your connectivity too easily. In India, there are at least three major cable landing locations, and systems like SMW-3 and FLAG use at least two of them, with land and water connections between the landings, to avoid getting disconnected. But Pakistan only has one spur off of SMW-3, and there are other small countries with similar problems along the Persian Gulf.

        That doesn't mean you can't have multiple failures that take out redundant systems - about a year ago, there were multiple cable cuts on different sides of Singapore that killed parts of some of the cable systems, so carriers who only used one cable consortium were in trouble for a couple of weeks. Similarly, there was an earthquake in the Mediterranean a couple of years ago that took out parts of half a dozen cable systems, and it took a long time to get them all fixed.

        Land-based internet peering points in the US do have the possibility of things going wrong - but that's why any respectably large ISP has physically diverse connections into their important buildings, and access rings using those connections that can restore around failures, and big ISPs peer with each other at multiple locations. There are occasionally geographically entertaining problems, like that railroad tunnel near Baltimore that caught fire a few years back, taking out the circuits from several major ISPs - railroad right-of-way is a very popular way to route long-haul fiber, and often carries multiple long-haul providers as well as local telcos. Fortunately, my employer's network didn't use that tunnel, but we had sufficient diversity in that area that cutting one of our cables would have minimal impact (we design everything with that objective, but there are places like crossing the Rockies where you sometimes have to go a long ways to get an alternate route.

  • by aliens ( 90441 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:22PM (#12934367) Homepage Journal
    We heard your collective screams and offer our prayers. I can only imagine in my nightmares if we lost our internets.

  • whew (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#12934382)
    thank god I still have access to Tech Support services in India...
    • thank god I still have access to Tech Support services in India

      Actually, according to TFA, they will have to take down one of India's major pipes for a couple of hours in order to fix the power supply problem.
  • Not Again... (Score:3, Informative)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:25PM (#12934410)
    At least, they can't blame the rats [] this time. I wonder if they have the same provider.
  • Undersea cable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by St. Arbirix ( 218306 ) <matthew,townsend&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:28PM (#12934447) Homepage Journal
    I'm a little curious about why the single point of entry into a nation's internet is through the ocean when the country is bordered on most sides by land. Was it a political decision or economic? I can see it going both ways.
    • Bit of both. To the east is India. No connections through there thanks to political considerations. To the west is Afghanistan and Iran. No connections through there thanks to economic considerations.

      Chris Mattern
    • Re:Undersea cable? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sampson7 ( 536545 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:53PM (#12934720)
      Well, I don't really see them as having many choices. They are on-again off-again at war with India. Afghanistan can't keep its lights on, never mind provide internet connections.

      Iran? China? Wow. Who other sets of political issues. (See pretty map here [].)

      Not to mention that a large part of Pakistan's borders are extremely inhospitable mountain regions. The Arabian Sea actually makes sense.
  • So their only point of connection was through the arabian sea? Maybe this will get them to improve relations with their neighbors so they can get a second link that runs through China or India, maybe Iran. Afghanistan seems like a dry hole for that sort of thing. A single point of failure for the entire country's networking... amazing.
  • I felt a great disturbance in the Internet, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced...
  • Reminds me of the classic quote:

    Mike doesn't like it when I ban whole countries.
    Subnetmasks and ISPs are fine.

  • by TioBlack ( 895824 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:32PM (#12934491)
    Osama Bin Lobster did it!
  • I know that we are becoming mroe dependent on the internet, but I can't help but think that if it dissappeared overnight we ought to some how manage to survive. I mean the human race developed civilizations what, 8,000 years ago? The masses have only been using the internet for a decade, the ubergeeks for two or three. If we are so dependent on it that its failure would lead to such wide spread damage than aren't we pretty much already screwed?

    I would think that anything that has become irreplaceable t

  • Does Pakistan really only have one link to the Internet, and an undersea one at that? I can understand there wouldn't be links to India, or perhaps China, but aren't there reasonably friendly countries to the west? Heck, can't someone lay a fiber cable (one of the 10km ones) to another country for the moment?
    • > aren't there reasonably friendly countries to the west?

      To the west are Iran and Afghanistan. Not exactly the most wired of countries.

      Chris Mattern
    • Re:No landlines? (Score:3, Informative)

      You try running a land line through here []

      Pakistan isn't exactly known for having hospitable terrain. Or being well developed in outlying areas. Packets can route around "damage" only if there's actually a route there to use. The infrastructure just isn't there. Hell, according to the factbook, 40% of the "highways" aren't paved. I'd wager that high speed data lines aren't exactly a high priority.

      As for links through China...the Chinese don't seem to like having their own citizens using their links to the
  • Road Runner (TW) tech support now..
  • by kc0re ( 739168 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:33PM (#12934505) Journal
    "...Internet Attacks from the Middle East seemed to grind to a halt today..."
  • Cut to scene (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AtariAmarok ( 451306 )
    Cut to scene of Gilligan walking out to the lagoon the morning after a huge storm. He sees end of an undersea cable washed up on the beach.

    Not long afterwards, the Professor has managed to build a contraption out of bamboo and coconut fibers, connected into the wires and terminating into a speaker made of palm-leaves. The castaways hear out of it: "Osama? Osama? Why don't you call anymore? After that night in Tora Bora, you said you would never forsake me!". After a while, the castaways grow tired of it.

  • Colombia and Ecuador (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Micah ( 278 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:36PM (#12934527) Homepage Journal
    This has happened before. Last November, a boat dropped an anchor, breaking the underseas cable that feeds Colombia with Internet. Colombia feeds Ecuador (and maybe Venezuela, not sure on that one). So most ISPs in Colombia and Ecuador were out of service for about 24 hours.

    I live in Ecuador and would have been pretty ticked. Fortunately, I was vacationing in Peru at the time, happily accessing the Net from cybercafes on Lake Titicaca. :)
  • by MonkeyCookie ( 657433 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:36PM (#12934528)
    I'm currently in Pakistan, and I have to say that not having any Internet really sucks.

    How am I going to read Slashdot now?
    • My friend, it is good to see that you too have found a way to connect to the outside world while our Internet connection is down.
      This message brought to you by the good people at Practical Modern Solutions, the only IP over Camelback (IPoC) solution provider in the Islamabad area. Our service is only exceeded by our latency.
  • by JVert ( 578547 ) <<corganbilly> <at> <>> on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:36PM (#12934530) Journal
    Damnit! I was trying to cut the India line but it was all jibber this jabber that and being underwater didn't help my vision.
  • If North America or Europe lost most of its internet one day? Can the economy survive without IP?
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:44PM (#12934621) Journal
    The Slashdot crowd finally went through with their threats and went after outsourcing. Only problem is that they got the wrong cable.

    Joking aside, what would it mean if most connectivity to a large company's outsourced IT force was suddenly cut off? Does it look like such a great idea after all?
  • And in another related story, the amount of zombie infections and attacks dropped dramatically worldwide as well!
  • Details (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gooogle ( 643307 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:49PM (#12934672) Homepage
    It is caused by a break in the SME-3 cable, in the Arabian sea, some 35 km south of Karachi. The problem started out on Monday morning [ reported on a local slashdot-style forum [] ]

    The repair operation is complex and might take up to two weeks possibly causing disruption in India and UAE as well, who are also connected by the same cable.

    SME-3 is Pakistan's primary pipe to the internet and the only backup is through satellite uplink which is providing service to some high ISPs at 10% of regular bandwidth. Call centres are surely going through a real tough time and their business will probably be impacted adversly by this.
  • Aquaman (Score:3, Funny)

    by greenskyx ( 609089 ) * on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:50PM (#12934683)
    Damn, where is Aquaman [] when you need him?
  • I felt a disturbance in the Force, as if a million DSL connections cried out and then were silenced.
  • In Other compleatly non-coincidence news software Giant XXX started to hire 5,000 more developers today.

    (posting anonymously)
    ((work for software giant XXX))
    (((I like my job, please dont fire me)))
  • *** Osama has been left the channel #h8usa. Disconnected.
  • by Andy Gardner ( 850877 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:53PM (#12934715)
    I feel a great disturbance in the Internet. As if millions of Pakistani nerds cried out in terror, and were suddenly silienced.
  • by wembley ( 81899 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @02:55PM (#12934735) Homepage
    Now that we know what the underwater cable is for, will someone in Pakistan please tell me what's in that damned hatch?
  • is a very very bad man...
  • One cable? (Score:2, Funny)

    by kvn ( 64836 )
    We don't need no stinkin' backup! What could possibly happen to our

  • Let's see, Bush's poll numbers are in the dirt, he has to go on TV tonight and spew more of the same , we need to keep going in Iraq forever to support Halliburton.

    What if the powers that be though that catching Bin Laden today before he goes on TV would be great, and if so we need to cut off Pakistan to control the news.

  • This sucks... (Score:2, Informative)

    by h2d2 ( 876356 )

    Two years ago I noted in my blog [] about how Pakistan's entire bandwidth is depended on this one undersea connection (SMW3 []) and how 'little' it is when compared to what ordinary consumers have in the developed world.

    Since then, Pakistan has leased a Hughes HGS-3 satellite and using it for various purposes, including telecommunications. Apparently now, all internet traffic is going through that and other satellite links... and from what I can tell even the country's biggest ISP Brain.NET [] (known for it's foun

  • I have it on good authority that the real cause was due to the high volume of jobs being sucked overseas and the amount of code being squeezed off shore.
  • As if millions of PakMen screamed out and then were suddenly silenced...
  • > Many businesses have been seriously impacted...

    Especially the ones selling Pen1s enlarg3m3nt products as their spam servers are now inaccessible.
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @03:36PM (#12935250)
    Surely the network continues to function within the country, no? Basically, it sounds like the entire country has a single upstream connection to the 'net, and that got severed. Well, I work in an office with a TCP/IP based LAN, and if our uplink goes down, we can still use the LAN. Not everything grinds to a halt.

    So maybe it isn't really accurate to say that they are off the Internet -- it's just that the number of hosts they are able to reach has been greatly reduced. Surely this shouldn't cripple domestic uses of the Internet, only international ones... (No more so than a broken uplink at the office interferes with me reaching the local file server.)

  • by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @03:50PM (#12935416) Homepage
    In the earlier days of the Internet in Pakistan, say 1996, the connection cost Rs70 per hour. In fact the first connection was from Paknet, the govt ISP.

    Their connection was like a BBS system, where you'd dial into a BBS, and see the Linux 1.3.x kernel. You'd get a curses menu and seleced lynx to browse the net.

    You could also select another option after which you could close the telnet window and use IE or netscape 3.0 through ppp.

    Turns out, they were using a gigantic NAT, whereby everyone in Pakistan was channeled through a single IP address. Everyone knew that IP address, which was blocked by many IRC servers like the Dalnet. The customers must've been less than 65535 to fit at any time I imagine.

    You'd have to try dialling MANY times to get a connection. At one time, we crossed the 100th attempt to dial to read a single email.

    And boy was hotmail slow.

    In the telnet menu, you could also drop yourself into a shell, which was my first brush with UNIX. All we knew was ls and cd (dont know how we learnt those, possibly from trial and error). We copied /etc/passwd, which was plaintext and humungous. The passwords were a simple MD5 hashes and didnt take more than a cracking script with words like 'pakistan' 'sex' 'fuck' 'god' 'allah' 'cricket' and common names like Ali to produce a significant list of passwords.

    Now why would you run a whole country on a Linux server with kernel 1.3.x with bad security? It is amazing that even in beta, Linux held up well enough to run the country of Pakistan's internet connection. After all who could afford a cisco over there? Or even multiple IP addresses?

    Here in Canada, businesses are commonly provided with 64 IP address blocks by Bell and Telus, even if they really need one.
  • by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Tuesday June 28, 2005 @04:52PM (#12936160) Journal
    Just imagine if the internet cables leading to Nigeria had been cut. The rest of the world would probably not be quite so eager to restore them,... we'd get a bit of peace and quite from all those damned 401 emails! :-)

    If Nigeria requested our assistance in restoring the cables, send back a reply charging them $200,000,000,000, in cold hard cash, packed into several suitcases. :-)

If it's worth hacking on well, it's worth hacking on for money.