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Oct 1, 2021
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The Monstrous Vulnerability of the World’s Internet

The Monstrous Vulnerability of the World’s Internet

It is only now that those who have built the world’s immense internet infrastructure and cabled continents have realized that they have not taken into account the impact of geomagnetic storms on this submarine network.

According to the journal Live Science, we are talking about cables with a length of thousands of kilometers, connecting the United States with Europe and with the whole world. Hastily, with the least cost, laid along the bottom of the seas and oceans, they turned out to be not very reliable.

By itself, a fiber-optic cable is not subject to geomagnetic effects, but every 50-150 kilometers there are repeaters on it, which must amplify the optical signal. It is they who will fail with a powerful solar flare.

When designing the submarine network, no one thought about special protection for repeaters. The entire cable becomes useless if even one repeater breaks down. The most threatened are cables in high latitudes, where the United States and the United Kingdom are.

It is difficult to say how long it will take to re-establish the connection; repairs can take months. But just one day of shutting down the American Internet will cost $ 7 billion.

Scientists are urging cable Internet operators not to waste time and lay cables in low latitudes. However, replacing and protecting repeaters is too expensive a business, so no one takes it up and everyone is waiting for the “sun thunder” to strike.

There have been two geomagnetic storms in history that could disable the Internet: they were observed in 1859 and 1921. Less severe overloads are also dangerous, one of them in 1989 for nine hours deprived of electricity the Canadian province of Quebec. But since then, the dependence of mankind on the global Internet has increased many times. Scientists warn that the fatal solar burst could occur at any time.

Nikolay Ivanov.

Photo: ADOBE STOCK.

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