Georgian Woman Accidentally Brings Down Armenia's Internet

Scavenging for metal, damages fiber optic cable with her shovel

2 min read
Georgian Woman Accidentally Brings Down Armenia's Internet

Who needs to conduct a sophisticated cyber attack to bring down a country's Internet service when all you need is a shovel?

There were news stories this week in the London Guardian and the Wall Street Journal (here and here) regarding a 75-year old Georgian woman by the name of Aishtan Shakarian who was scavenging for copper accidentally damaged with her shovel the international fiber-optic cable carrying 90% of Armenia's Internet traffic. While some Armenian telecom companies were able to switch to connections running through Iran, most of the 3.2 million citizens of Armenia were without Internet service for up to 12 hours, as were some portions of Georgia and Azerbaijan. 

According to the Wall Street Journal:

 "The Georgia section of the international cable, commonly called the country's West East fiber-optic backbone, is laid underground along railway tracks and operated by Georgia's state railway company and its partners. The line comes to Georgia from Bulgaria, crossing the Black Sea to the Georgian port of Poti. It later forks into Armenia and Azerbaijan."

The cable is supposed to be heavily protected, says the Guardian article, but "landslides or heavy rain may have exposed it to scavengers," it reports. When Ms. Shakarian, dubbed the "the spade-hacker" by the local media, cut into the cable, she set off alarms signals which helped police locate her. Ms. Shakarian was arrested, but a severe jail sentence is unlikely given her age, the stories say.

In 2008, submarine cables off Egypt were damaged twice (see here and here) which disrupted Internet, data and telephone communications across Europe and the Middle East. Also in 2008, a backhoe operator severed a fiber-optic cable causing a major land line, mobile phone and Internet shutdown for more than one million people in Queensland and Northern New South Wales, Australia.

Update 14 Apr 2011

Not much new about this incident, but there is this a story here from earlier this week published by the Sydney Morning Herald that states the woman, Aishtan Shakarian, who is accused of damaging the fiber-optic cable, denies doing it.  Ms. Shakarian is quoted as saying that she isn't strong enough to have damaged the cable:

 "I did not cut this cable. Physically, I could not do it."

The Morning-Herald says that the Georgian Interior Ministry notes that all claims of innocence aside, Ms. Shakarian "has already confessed to cutting the cable."

The Herald also states that ".. Georgian Railway Telecom insists that the 600-kilometre cable has 'robust protection' ..."

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}