'Act of vandalism': Major cable cut in France just hours within Shetland incident

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A major internet cable in the south of France was reportedly severed on Wednesday night, triggering internet issues across the world – and it occurred just hours within a “major incident” that left residents of the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland without connectivity following damage to a submarine cable. According to cloud security company Zscaler Trust, the damage to the cable in France impacted connectivity to Europe, Asia, the US and potentially other parts of the world. The incident reportedly affected three cable links: Marseille-Lyon, Marseille-Milano and Marseille-Barcelona. Zscaler reported that its “customers may see packet loss and or latency for websites and applications which traverse these impacted paths”. 

While the incident has since been resolved, Zscaler CEO Jay Chaudhry has claimed that it was an “act of vandalism”.

He wrote on Linkedin: “Zscaler detected a strange traffic anomaly. From Europe to India, access to certain applications became sluggish. Latency to impacted applications spiked, but others kept on operating normally. Our investigation identified that the issues were a result of a severed fibre cable in Marseille, France. However, this fibre cut is unique for two reasons:

“1. Zscaler detected the fibre cut and posted a trust notice long before anyone else. Since Zscaler controls the network, we were able to re-route the traffic and mitigate the issue for our global users. It is interesting that, while our telco partners acknowledged the event privately, this event has not been picked up broadly, even as of this writing.

“2. This fibre cut was an act of vandalism and impacted at least three cable systems. Sitting between applications and end users with the ability to steer traffic between our data centres to influence network paths is more than just about security. “

Mr Chaudhry also that this cable that he suspects was likely targeted was a hugely important one, further raising his suspicions. 

He said: “This capability provides reliability during times of uncertainty, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as with natural and man-made disasters such as this one. It is a critical tool in our arsenal.

“Having visibility into global performance based on 250 billion transactions a day coming from tens of millions of users makes Zscaler a reliable and trusted partner in an uncertain world.”

This also comes after reports emerged that the French Presidency was consulting with leading experts to strengthen the security of submarine cables amid growing fears that France could be Russia’s next target, following its suspected “sabotage” of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines last month. 

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Chaudhry

However, experts have warned that defences are currently somewhat meagre, leaving the 530 active or planned submarine cables seriously at risk.

While the damage to the south subsea cable off the Shetland Isles was believed to be caused accidentally by a fishing vessel, the fact that there were two incidents in one day has also raised suspicions. 

Brandon Weichert, a geopolitical analyst and former Congressional staff member, exclusively told Express.co.uk following the Shetlands incident: “Officially, it [the cut cable] is believed to have been [done by] a fisherman. Although, even as that story indicates, two points of damage at two different areas along the cable track is strange. 

“We know that the Russian Navy has been interested in severing undersea cables since before the start of the Russo-Ukraine War. It is my belief that this may have been a dry run for Russia to test a larger attack against undersea cables linking Europe with England and with North America.”



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