Somebody disabled a large number of France’s fiber optic cables earlier this week. The incident, which is being criminally investigated and has been called an act of “vandalism” and “sabotage,” temporarily disrupted the internet in multiple French cities, including Paris.
Several French internet service providers claim to have had their cables targeted, including the companies Netalis, SFR, and Free.
“Internet cables have been cut in the Ile-de-France region, which is affecting the landline and mobile network. We are in touch with operators who are working to restore service,” announced Cédric O, the country’s Minister of digital affairs, early Wednesday morning.
That same day, the French internet provider Free tweeted out pictures of some of the cables, which look like they had been snapped in half with a bolt-cutter or some other tool. “Multiple malicious acts on infra fiber during the night and the morning,” the ISP tweeted, along with pictures of the destroyed cables.
The apparent sabotage spurred a series of web outages in cities across France, including in Paris, Lyon, Reims, Bordeaux, and Grenoble, Reuters reports.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has now opened a criminal investigation into the incidents and, somewhat unusually, the nation’s domestic intelligence service, DGSI, is assisting, the Associated Press writes. It’s not totally clear how the cables were cut or what kind of tools were used, and authorities haven’t said whether there are any suspects in the case. In short: we don’t know a whole lot about what happened right now.
That said, other outlets have noted the somewhat weird timing of this whole episode. France just finished a highly contentious presidential election and the attacks on the nation’s internet occurred only a few days after the political race wrapped up.
Attacks on critical infrastructure have become a widespread concern for governments in recent years.
In the U.S., authorities have continually expressed concern that hackers and domestic terrorists are looking to target the nation’s electrical and industrial systems. Just last year, the FBI arrested a man who claimed he wanted to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia and thus “kill off about 70% of the internet.” In February, three men similarly pled guilty to a right-wing plot that allegedly involved the targeting of electrical substations throughout the U.S.