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Zscaler CEO: ‘Major’ EU Internet Cable Cut Was ‘Act Of Vandalism’

Jay Fitzgerald

Cybersecurity firm tries to mitigate damage that’s disrupted Internet connectivity in Europe, U.S. and Asia. The severed cable has since been fixed.

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Zscaler CEO Jay Chaudhry

Zscaler chief executive Jay Chaudhry is calling a severed fiber cable in the south of France an “act of vandalism” that’s been felt by Internet users around the world.

In an online notice posted on Wednesday, Zscaler, the San Jose, Calif.-based cybersecurity company, first warned of Internet problems due to a severed fiber line in the southern portion of France.

“We are aware of a major cable cut in the South of France that has impacted major subsea cables with connectivity to Asia, Europe, US and potentially other parts of the world,” Zscaler reported. “As a result of the cable cut, customers may see packet loss and or latency for websites and applications which traverse these impacted paths.”

The online alert added: “Zscaler has made routing adjustments where possible to route around the problem but in certain cases we see the reverse path from the Application/Content providers which is under the control of the Application/Content Providers still traverses the impacted paths.”

Then the Wednesday notice hinted at potentially more ominous developments: “Based on the information we have, the local authorities are investigating and repair crews are on scene but can not access the site until police complete their evidence collection.”

On Wednesday evening, Zscaler’s Chaudhry took to LinkedIn and was even more blunt: “This fiber cut was an act of vandalism and impacted at least three cable systems.”

He added that “our investigation identified that the issues were a result of a severed fiber cable in Marseille, France” and that the incident was “unique” for two reasons.

First, he said that “Zscaler detected the fiber cut and posted a trust notice long before anyone else (https://lnkd.in/eAtg4E52). Since Zscaler controls the network, we were able to re-route the traffic and mitigate the issue for our global users.”

Chaudhry seemed perplexed the incident wasn’t receiving more attention. “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,” he wrote on Twitter.

The second “unique” aspect of the cut cable, Chaudhry wrote, was that it was caused by an “act of vandalism.”

Chaudhry didn’t elaborate further, but his comments come at a time of heightened concerns in Europe over possible sabotage of the continent’s infrastructure.

Indeed, many suspect that Russia was behind the recent major leaks found in gas pipelines that run from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea.

Over the past 24 hours, there were some concerns that the severed cable line in France might be connected to a cut undersea“submarine cable” off coast of northern Scotland. But The Record, a publication from cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, is reporting the line was slashed by a fishing vessel.

But in a notice posting update, the company wrote Thursday that a Zscaler Operations team has confirmed that one of three disrupted links “has been fixed and we have observed a drop in packet loss and latency for some destinations.”

The update ended: “We will continue to monitor and update on any changes to the situation.”

In an interview with CRN Thursday afternoon, Misha Kuperman, a senior vice president of global cloud operations at Zscaler, said the cable-cutting incident actually occurred in the French city of Aix-en-Provence, located just north of Marseille.

The land-based cable ultimately connects to subsea lines that handle Internet traffic with other countries, he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the links to three subsea cables have all be fixed, Kuperman said.

As for the cause of the severed landline cable, Kuperman said local French and European media outlets are reporting the incident was an “act of vandalism.” Local telecom operators are privately reporting the same thing, Kuperman said.

He said there’s “no evidence” yet of who may have cut the “very sensitive infrastructure.”

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