NO SIN­GLE EN­TITY CAN BRING DOWN THE WWW

But it’s pos­si­ble to crip­ple it mo­men­tar­ily.

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK -

In late Oc­to­ber 2015, it was re­ported that there were height­ened lev­els of ac­tiv­ity by Rus­sian sub­marines and ships along routes car­ry­ing vi­tal un­der­sea cables, lead­ing to grow­ing con­cerns by the United States govern­ment that Rus­sia could be study­ing or even plan­ning to at­tack or cut th­ese cables dur­ing times of ten­sion or con­flict.

Th­ese fears are very real given the re­cent state of affairs sur­round­ing Rus­sia and United States re­la­tions. The two na­tions have had a tense his­tory, but mat­ters took a turn for the worse fol­low­ing the Ukrainian Cri­sis of last year. And re­la­tions be­came even more bit­ter af­ter Rus­sia de­cided to pledge sup­port for Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad of the Syr­ian govern­ment, against the United States’ de­mands that As­sad leave power. As a re­sult of th­ese provo­ca­tions, re­la­tions be­tween the two su­per­pow­ers have dipped to lev­els un­seen since the Cold War.

Ac­cord­ing to a New York Times re­port, it said “The ul­ti­mate Rus­sian hack on the United States could in­volve sev­er­ing the fiber-op­tic cables at some of their hard­est-to-ac­cess lo­ca­tions to halt the in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tions on which the West’s gov­ern­ments, economies and cit­i­zens have grown de­pen­dent.”

This is a view echoed by some of the United States’ most se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers. Rear Ad­mi­ral Fred­er­ick J. Roegge, com­man­der of the Navy’s sub­ma­rine fleet in the Pa­cific, said, “I’m wor­ried ev­ery day about what the Rus­sians may be do­ing.”

But the ques­tion re­mains, “Can Rus­sia re­ally take down the United States’ ac­cess to the In­ter­net?”

The short an­swer is that it is highly un­likely. For that, we have to visit the ori­gins of the In­ter­net. The In­ter­net that we know to­day is a net­work of net­works con­sist­ing of bil­lions of devices and count­less num­bers of nodes and servers. It was birthed from ARPANET (Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency Net­work), an early net­work de­signed to show­case packet switch­ing and TCP/IP tech­nolo­gies. Al­though the rea­sons for ARPANET’s de­vel­op­ment are hazy, it’s gen­er­ally agreed that the net­work was de­signed pri­mar­ily for sur­viv­abil­ity in the events of at­tack and for mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The idea be­hind ARPANET en­sured com­mu­ni­ca­tions wouldn’t be sev­ered even if nodes were taken down. With that in mind, cut­ting a sin­gle data ca­ble, even a ma­jor one is un­likely to have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on United States telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions.

In an in­ter­view with Ni­cole Starosiel­ski, As­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of me­dia, cul­ture, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion at New York Univer­sity, and au­thor of the book The Un­der­sea Net­work (Duke Univer­sity Press), and she said that th­ese un­der­sea cables are ac­tu­ally fre­quently dam­aged, as of­ten as once ev­ery three days, by nat­u­ral oc­cur­rences like storms and tremors, and even mun­dane items such as fish­ing nets and ship an­chors.

She went to clar­ify that even if nu­mer­ous cables were sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged, the In­ter­net

"The idea be­hind ARPANET en­sured com­mu­ni­ca­tions wouldn’t be sev­ered even if nodes were taken down. With that in mind, cut­ting a sin­gle data ca­ble, even a ma­jor one is un­likely to have

sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.“

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