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posted by requerdanos on Tuesday August 31, @01:04AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the the-geomagnetic-storm-is-building-we-shouldn't-stay-long dept.

A Bad Solar Storm Could Cause an 'Internet Apocalypse':

Scientists have known for decades that an extreme solar storm, or coronal mass ejection, could damage electrical grids and potentially cause prolonged blackouts. The repercussions would be felt everywhere from global supply chains and transportation to internet and GPS access. Less examined until now, though, is the impact such a solar emission could have on internet infrastructure specifically. New research shows that the failures could be catastrophic, particularly for the undersea cables that underpin the global internet.

At the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference on Thursday, Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi of the University of California, Irvine presented "Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse," an examination of the damage a fast-moving cloud of magnetized solar particles could cause the global internet. Abdu Jyothi's research points out an additional nuance to a blackout-causing solar storm: the scenario where even if power returns in hours or days, mass internet outages persist.

There's some good news up front. Abdu Jyothi found that local and regional internet infrastructure would be at low risk of damage even in a massive solar storm, because optical fiber itself isn't affected by geomagnetically induced currents. Short cable spans are also grounded very regularly. But for long undersea cables that connect continents, the risks are much greater. A solar storm that disrupted a number of these cables around the world could cause a massive loss of connectivity by cutting countries off at the source, even while leaving local infrastructure intact.

[...] On top of all of this, a major solar storm could also knock out any equipment that orbits the Earth that enables services like satellite internet and global positioning.

"There are no models currently available of how this could play out," Abdu Jyothi says. "We have more understanding of how these storms would impact power systems, but that's all on land. In the ocean it's even more difficult to predict."


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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:43AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:43AM (#1172630)

    Sorry we are apocalyped out, on the good side, we'd no longer hear about any more apocalypses.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:55AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:55AM (#1172634)

      n/t

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @02:24AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @02:24AM (#1172642)

        Won't there be a very sudden stop in the stream ... and billions hitting the refresh button and wondering what happened to the interwebz.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by hendrikboom on Tuesday August 31, @03:17AM

          by hendrikboom (1125) on Tuesday August 31, @03:17AM (#1172654) Homepage Journal

          I'd guess that content delivery services like Akamai already have mechanisms in place to deal with divided networks.

          On the other hand, people complaining that the internet is broken will for onece be right -- it isn't just the wifi that got unplugged.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday August 31, @01:55PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 31, @01:55PM (#1172816) Journal

      Sorry we are apocalyped out, on the good side, we'd no longer hear about any more apocalypses.

      Some of my favorite apocalypses.

      Just an observation from The Revelation, chapter 16. I'm summarizing from memory, the first five of the seven golden bowl judgements:

      1. Ugly and painful sores break out on everyone who took the mark of the beast. (not my point here)

      2. The oceans are turned to blood. (not my point here)

      3. The fresh water sources are turned to blood. (not my point here)

      4. The sun scorches people with fire, they cry out in agony and curse God . . . (the first thing you want in such heat is a nice tall glass of blood)

      5. The kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness . . .

      The fourth golden bowl could be a solar storm. The fifth golden bowl . . . OMG Twitter is down! And less importantly, all electrical, phone and internet service is down!

      Just some apocalypses for those are aren't apocalypsed out already.

      --
      In order to make Halloween scary this year, children are ordered NOT to wear masks.
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:46AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:46AM (#1172631)

    The internet is mostly a mass-surveillance/manipulation tool. It's best if it becomes unreliable enough to drive away the normies and put the hurt on monetizers.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:53AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:53AM (#1172632)

      The surveillance state started long before the internet was ever thought of. Modern technology has made it cheap enough that nobody is below notice any more but that would have still happened without the net.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @02:32AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @02:32AM (#1172645)

      The whole point of the new 5G infrastructure is more granular connectivity at higher speed. So that in crowded urban areas everybody can still be tracked and advertised to vigorously. Right now it is sometimes problematic. Global connectivity is not really that important. Each city/state generally focuses on it's local denizens. If there are breaks in the global nature, just promote more nationalism so that people can feel cozy in the webs that hold them in place.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday August 31, @02:02PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 31, @02:02PM (#1172824) Journal

        Wait a sec . . . from what I've heard, even hinted at here on SN, is that the point of 5G is to give everyone COVID or something worse but for the same low low price.

        --
        In order to make Halloween scary this year, children are ordered NOT to wear masks.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:45PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @01:45PM (#1172811)

      The real issue is the heavy infrastructure dependency on the internet. Banks, power, agricultural, you name it.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Beryllium Sphere (r) on Tuesday August 31, @03:34AM (5 children)

    by Beryllium Sphere (r) (5062) on Tuesday August 31, @03:34AM (#1172660)

    I thought that what's running undersea now is optical fiber. It's an insulator.

    Is the issue that there's maybe electric power in the cable to run repeaters?

    If so, how does a solar flare affect something at the bottom of the ocean? We can't use radio with submerged submarines. The salt water should short out the effects of the flare.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @03:44AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @03:44AM (#1172662)

      It's dependent on frequency. Radio is absorbed quickly, but a large enough surge in the magnetic field would induce currents even in wires on the bottom of the ocean. Those optical cables have repeaters every 20 ~ 50 km. I don't know if they are powered by batteries or wires (I think there are some of each). If the repeaters are powered by wire they would be susceptible.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @03:34PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @03:34PM (#1172858)

        The repeaters are powered by high voltage DC lines that run the full length of the cable.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, @12:42AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, @12:42AM (#1173061)

          I meant some of each on different cables. I thought some of the shallow ones ran batteries, I didn't mean mixed on the one cable.
          DDGing around, it looks like the short ones are unrepeatered and the long ones all run wires.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by janrinok on Tuesday August 31, @01:07PM (1 child)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 31, @01:07PM (#1172793) Journal

      Magnetism can travel through water. We detect submarines using magnetic anomaly detection [wikipedia.org] which is essentially detecting the disturbance to the earths magnetic field caused by the large metal body of the submarine.

      The field will be quickly weakened but without knowing the strength of magnetic flux associated with solar storm and the depth of the electronic devices it is impossible to say how much of a threat this will pose. Nevertheless, above water there could be so many problems that the cable connections will not be the most important issue.

      --
      It's always my fault...
  • (Score: 2) by legont on Tuesday August 31, @04:11AM (2 children)

    by legont (4179) on Tuesday August 31, @04:11AM (#1172670)

    Should I burn more or less gas to stay on the good side?

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @10:21AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @10:21AM (#1172773)

      Your comment is confusing.

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday August 31, @01:19PM

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday August 31, @01:19PM (#1172797) Journal

      When in doubt, do more!

      --
      Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MIRV888 on Tuesday August 31, @07:44AM (2 children)

    by MIRV888 (11376) on Tuesday August 31, @07:44AM (#1172732)

    If we experience a serious coronal mass ejection all the A/C generators that aren't shielded in a Faraday cage are going to burn up their windings from the induced current. No electricity will bring down the internet even better than failed undersea cables.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @12:02PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, @12:02PM (#1172783)

      in other words: "why the hell would you shoot me? this is my favorite t-shirt, and now there's blood all over it!"

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by cmdrklarg on Tuesday August 31, @02:00PM

      by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday August 31, @02:00PM (#1172821)

      The Carrington Event https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859 [wikipedia.org]

      If one of these happened today, civilization would be completely fucked.

      --
      Dealing out the agony within
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