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Internet disruptions overview for Q2 2022

Internet disruptions overview for Q2 2022

Cloudflare operates in more than 270 cities in over 100 countries, where we interconnect with over 10,000 network providers in order to provide a broad range of services to millions of customers. The breadth of both our network and our customer base provides us with a unique perspective on Internet resilience, enabling us to observe the impact of Internet disruptions. In many cases, these disruptions can be attributed to a physical event, while in other cases, they are due to an intentional government-directed shutdown. In this post, we review selected Internet disruptions observed by Cloudflare during the second quarter of 2022, supported by traffic graphs from Cloudflare Radar and other internal Cloudflare tools, and grouped by associated cause or common geography.

Optic outages

This quarter, we saw the usual complement of damage to both terrestrial and submarine fiber-optic cables, including one that impacted multiple countries across thousands of miles, and another more localized outage that was due to an errant rodent.

Comcast

On April 25, Comcast subscribers in nearly 20 southwestern Florida cities experienced an outage, reportedly due to a fiber cut. The traffic impact of this cut is clearly visible in the graph below, with Cloudflare traffic for these cities dropping to zero between 1915–2050 UTC (1515–1850 local time).

Not only did the fiber cut force a significant number of Comcast subscribers offline, but it also impacted the types of traffic observed across Comcast as a whole. The graphs below illustrate the mix of mobile vs desktop clients, as well as IPv4 vs. IPv6 request volume across AS7922, Comcast’s primary autonomous system. During the brief disruption period, the percentage of Comcast traffic from mobile devices increased, while desktop devices dropped, and the percentage of IPv4 traffic dropped, with a corresponding increase in IPv6 traffic share.

South Africa

On the morning of May 17, Telkom SA, a South African telecommunications provider, tweeted an “important notice” to customers, noting that “Damage to a Fibre cable was detected on the Telkom network around 8:00am on Tuesday, 17 May 2022.” and outlining the impacted services and geographies. The graphs below show the impact to Cloudflare traffic from the Telkom autonomous system in three South African provinces. The top graph shows the impact to traffic in Gauteng, while the lower graph shows the impact in Limpopo and North West. Across all three, traffic falls at 0600 UTC (0800 local time), recovering around 1300 UTC (1500 local time). Telkom SA did not provide any additional information on where the fiber cut occurred or what caused it.

Venezuela

Although unconfirmed, a fiber cut was suspected to be the cause of an Internet disruption experienced by CANTV subscribers in Venezuela on May 19, the latest of several such incidents affecting that provider. Although the fiber cut reportedly impacted subscribers in multiple states, the most significant impact was measured in Falcón, as shown in the graph below. In this state, traffic dropped precipitously at 1800 UTC (1400 local time), finally recovering approximately 24 hours later.

AAE-1 & SMW-5

Just after 1200 UTC on Tuesday, June 7, the Africa-Asia-Europe-1 (AAE-1) and SEA-ME-WE-5 (SMW-5) submarine cables suffered cable cuts, impacting Internet connectivity for millions of Internet users across multiple countries in the Middle East and Africa, as well as thousands of miles away in Asia. Although specific details are sparse, the cable damage reportedly occurred in Egypt – both of the impacted cables land in Abu Talat and Zafarana, which also serve as landing points for a number of other submarine cables.

The Cloudflare Radar graphs below illustrate the impact of these cable cuts across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Given that the associated traffic disruption only lasted several hours, the damage to these cables likely occurred on land, after they came ashore. More details on this event can be found in the “AAE-1 & SMW5 cable cuts impact millions of users across multiple countries” blog post.

Castor canadensis

Finally, on June 13, a beaver was responsible for an outage that impacted Internet users in British Columbia, Canada. According to a published report, a beaver gnawed its way through a tree, causing it to fall on both power lines and a Telus fiber optic cable. The damage to the fiber optic cable affected connectivity customers in over a dozen communities across British Columbia, including those using CityWest (AS18988), a utility company that uses the Telus cable. In the graph below, the impact of the damage to the fiber optic cable is clearly visible, with no traffic to Cloudflare from CityWest subscribers in British Columbia between 1800 UTC on June 7 until 0310 UTC on June 8 (1100–2010 local time).

School’s in, Internet’s out

Nationwide Internet shutdowns have, unfortunately, become a popular approach taken by authoritarian regimes over the past half dozen years to prevent cheating on secondary school exams. It is not clear that this heavy-handed tactic is actually effective in preventing cheating, but the associated damage to the national economies has been estimated to be in the tens to hundreds of millions of US dollars, depending on the duration and frequency of the shutdowns.

This year, governments in Sudan and Syria implemented a number of multi-hour shutdowns in late May into June, while Algeria’s government appears to have resorted to more targeted content blocking. Additional details on these Internet disruptions can be found in the recent “Exam time means Internet disruptions in Syria, Sudan and Algeria” blog post.

Starting on May 30, Syria implemented the first of four nationwide Internet shutdowns, the last of which occurred on June 12, as seen in the graph below. Interestingly, we have observed that these shutdowns tend to be “asymmetric” in nature — that is, inbound traffic (into the country) is disabled, but egress traffic (from the country) remains. One effect of this is visible as spikes in the DNS graph below. During three of the four shutdowns, requests to Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 resolver from clients in Syria increased because DNS queries were able to exit the country, but responses couldn’t return, leading to retry floods.

In Sudan, daily shutdowns were implemented 0530-0830 UTC (0730–1030 local time) between June 11 and June 22, except for June 17. (It isn’t clear why that date was skipped.) The graph below shows that these shutdowns were nationwide, but not complete, as traffic from the country did not drop to zero.

In Algeria, exams took place June 12 through June 16. In the past, the country has implemented nationwide shutdowns, but after recognizing the enormous cost to the economy, the government has apparently chosen an alternate tactic this year. The graph below shows nominal drops in country-level traffic during the two times each day that the exams took place—0730–1000 UTC (0830–1100 am local time) and 1330–1600 UTC (1430–1700 local time). These drops in traffic are likely more indicative of a content-blocking approach, instead of a broad Internet shutdown.

On June 27, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq began to implement twice-weekly (Mondays and Thursday) multi-hour regional Internet shutdowns, expected to last for a four-week period. The shutdowns are intended to prevent cheating on high school final exams, according to a published report, and are scheduled for 0630–1030 am local time (0330–0730 UTC). The graph below shows the impact to traffic from three governorates in Kurdistan, with traffic dropping to near zero in all three areas during the duration of the shutdowns.

Government-guided

In addition to shutting down the Internet to prevent cheating on exams, governments have also been known to use shutdowns as a tool to limit or control communication around elections, rallies, protests, etc. During the second quarter, we observed several such shutdowns of note.

On April 10, following the blocking of social networks, VPN providers, and cloud platforms, the government of Turkmenistan implemented a near complete Internet shutdown, starting at 1400 UTC. Apparently related to criticism over the recent presidential election, the disruption lasted nearly 40 hours, as traffic started to return around 0700 UTC on April 12. The graphs below show the impact of the shutdown at a country level, as well as at two major network providers within the country, Telephone Network of Ashgabat CJSC (AS51495) and TurkmenTelecom (AS20661).

A month and a half later, on May 25, an Internet disruption was observed in Pakistan amid protests led by the country’s former Prime Minister. The disruption lasted only two hours, and was limited in scope — it was not a nationwide shutdown. (Telecom providers claimed that it was due to problems with a web filtering system.) At a national level, the impact of the disruption is visible as a slight drop in traffic.

In the cities of Lahore and Karachi, the disruption is visible a little more clearly, as is the rapid recovery in traffic.

The impact of the disruption is most evident at a network level, as seen in the graphs below. Cyber Internet Services (AS9541) saw a modest drop in traffic, while Mobilink (AS45669) experienced a near complete outage.

Closing out the quarter, a communications blackout, including an Internet shutdown, was imposed in Sudan on June 30 as protestors staged rallies against the country’s military leadership. This shutdown follows similar disruptions seen in October 2021 after the military toppled the transitional government and attempted to limit protests, as well the shutdowns seen earlier in June as the government attempted to prevent cheating on exams. The graphs below show that the shutdown started at 0600 UTC (0800 local time) and initially ended almost 12 hours later at 1740 UTC (1940 local time). Connectivity returned for approximately three hours, with traffic again dropping to near-zero levels again around 2040 UTC (2240 local time). This second outage remained active at the end of the day.

As a complete nationwide shutdown, the impact is also visible in the loss of traffic at major local Internet providers including MTN, Sudatel, Kanartel, and Sudanese Mobile Telephone (SDN Mobitel / ZAIN).

Infrastructure issues

In addition to fiber/cable cuts, as discussed above, problems with other infrastructure, whether due to fires, electrical issues, or maintenance, can also disrupt Internet services.

Around 2030 local time on April 6 (0030 UTC on April 7), a fire erupted at the Costa Sur generation plant, one of the largest power plants in Puerto Rico, resulting in a widespread power outage across the island territory. This island-wide outage caused a significant interruption to Internet services, clearly visible in Cloudflare traffic data. The graph below shows that as the power failed, traffic from Puerto Rico immediately fell by more than half. The regular diurnal pattern remained in place, albeit at lower levels, over the next three days, with traffic returning to “normal levels” three days later. By April 10, Luma Energy reported that it had restored electrical power to 99.7% of its 1.5M customers.

The impact of the Internet service disruption is also fairly significant when viewed at a network level. The graphs below show traffic for Datacom Caribe/Claro (AS10396) and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico (AS14638). At Datacom Caribe/Claro, traffic immediately fell by more than half, while Liberty Cablevision traffic declined approximately 85%.

On the evening of May 3, Swiss telecom provider Swisscom tweeted that there had been an interruption to Internet service following maintenance work. A published report noted that the interruption occurred between 2223–2253 local time (2023–2053 UTC), and the graph below shows a complete loss of traffic, but quick recovery, during that 30-minute window. Beyond citing maintenance work, Swisscom did not provide any additional details about the Internet disruption.

Iran

Iran has a history of both nationwide and regional Internet shutdowns, as well as connectivity disruptions due to infrastructure damage.

On May 6, the government disrupted Internet connectivity in Khuzestan province, reportedly in response to mass protests around shortages of bread and water. It was reported that mobile data had been cut off locally, and that fixed connectivity speeds were significantly reduced. To this end, we observed a drop in traffic for Irancell (AS44244) (a mobile network provider) in Khuzestan starting around 1000 UTC as seen in the graph below.

A similar disruption affecting Irancell, occurring amid reports of ongoing protests in the country, was observed on May 12, with lower peak traffic during the day, and a further drop around 1800 UTC.

Near-complete Internet outages were observed on multiple Iranian network providers on May 9 between 1300–1440 UTC (1730–1910 local time), as illustrated in the graph below. Impacted providers included Atrin Information & Communications Technology Company (AS39650), AryaSat (AS43343), Ariana Gostar Spadana (AS48309), and Pirooz Leen (AS51759). All of these networks share Fanaptelecom (AS24631) as an upstream provider, which, as the graph shows, was also experiencing an outage. No root cause for the Fanaptelecom outage was available.

Mobile provider Mobinnet (AS50810) experienced a multi-hour Internet disruption on May 14, lasting from 1230–1530 UTC (1700–2000 local time). According to a tweet from Mobinnet, the disruption was due to a “widespread cyber attack of foreign origin”.

Ukraine

Now more than four months into the war in Ukraine, the Internet continues to be an active battlefield, with ongoing Internet outages in multiple cities and across multiple networks. However, we want to highlight here two similar events observed during the second quarter.

The Russian-occupied city of Kherson experienced a near-complete Internet outage between 1600 UTC (1900 local time) on April 30 and 0430 UTC (0730 local time) on May 4. According to social media posts from Ukraine’s vice Prime-Minister Mykhailo Fedorov and the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, the outage was caused by “interruptions of fiber-optic trunk lines and disconnection from the power supply of equipment of operators in the region”. The graph below shows effectively no traffic for Kherson for approximately 24 hours after the disruption began, followed by a nominal amount of traffic for the next several days.

Around the time that the nominal amount of traffic returned, we also observed a shift in routing for an IPv4 prefix announced by AS47598 (Khersontelecom). As shown in the table below, prior to the outage, it reached the Internet through several other Ukrainian network providers, including AS12883, AS3326, and AS35213. However, as traffic returned, its routing path now showed a Russian network, AS201776 (Miranda) as the upstream provider. The path through Miranda also includes AS12389 (Rostelecom), which bills itself as “the largest digital services provider in Russia”.

Peer AS
Last Update
AS Path

AS1299 (TWELVE99 Arelion, fka Telia Carrier)
5/1/2022 16:02:26
1299 12389 201776 47598

AS6777 (AMS-IX-RS)
4/28/2022 11:23:33
12883 47598

As the disruption ended on May 4, we observed updates to Khersontelecom’s routing path that enabled it to return to reaching the global Internet through non-Russian upstream providers.

Peer AS
Last Update
AS Path

AS174 (COGENT-174)
5/4/2022 05:56:27
174 3326 3326 3326 47598

AS1273 (CW Vodafone Group PLC)
5/4/2022 03:11:25
1273 12389 201776 47598

Additional details about this outage and re-routing event can be found in the “Tracking shifts in Internet connectivity in Kherson, Ukraine” blog post.

A month later, on May 30, we again observed a significant Internet disruption in Kherson starting at 1435 UTC (1735 local time). And once again, we observed updated routing for Khersontelecom, as it shifted from Ukrainian upstream providers to Russian ones. As of the end of June, the Internet disruption in Kherson and the routing through Russian upstream providers both remain firmly in place, although the loss of traffic has not been nearly as significant as the April/May disruption.

Peer AS
Last Update
AS Path

AS4775 (Globe Telecoms)
5/30/2022 13:56:22
4775 1273 12389 201776 47598

AS9002 (RETN-AS)
5/30/2022 09:58:16
9002 3326 47598

Conclusion

This post is by no means an exhaustive review of the Internet outages, shutdowns, and disruptions that have occurred throughout the second quarter. Some were extremely brief or limited in scope, while others were observed but had no known or publicly conjectured underlying cause. Having said that, it is important to bring increased visibility to these events so that the community can share information on what is happening, why it happened, and what the impact was — human, financial, or otherwise.

Follow @CloudflareRadar on Twitter for updates on Internet disruptions as they occur, and find up-to-date information on Internet trends using Cloudflare Radar.

Source:: CloudFlare