On the night of April 26 to 27, part of the Free and SFR networks broke down after acts of vandalism. Breaks in fiber optic links would be the cause. Several regions including the Grand Est are impacted. An investigation is opened.
Since around 4 a.m. this Wednesday, April 27, internet networks have been experiencing a major outage in France. It mainly affects the eastern part of the country, the Grand Est and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté are not spared.
Malicious acts are the cause of these breakdowns and slowdowns. A source familiar with the matter told AFP that “this kind of incident of this magnitude [n’arrivait] never”, without knowing the perpetrators of these acts. According to AFP, the fixed and mobile networks of SFR and Free are the main affected by the failure. The Orange and Bouygues Télécom groups have indicated that they are not concerned.
Nicolas Guillaume, manager of the alternative operator dedicated to professionals Netalis seeks to explain to AFP: “Is this an act of digital terrorism? Maybe. There was a major impact because the coordination of the attacks on the cables was well done, by people who inevitably know the network.”
According to initial findings, these are cables “long distance” fiber optic inter-regional networks that pass along highways, railways and waterways, which have been deliberately cut in several places, in particular the Paris-Lyon and Paris-Strasbourg link.
“Three of the four arteries of Free”, called “backbone” and which constitute “the backbone of their network have been vandalized”. Backbone of an internet network, the “backbone” is used to interconnect Internet traffic between different geographical areas using very high-speed fibers.
At the end of the afternoon on April 27, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced that it was opening a criminal investigation after these sabotages.
In March 2020, telecom cables were intentionally cut in Ile-de-France, Vitry and Ivry (Val-de-Marne), temporarily depriving tens of thousands of Orange subscribers of internet access while that data centers saw their operations disrupted. A complaint had been filed and an investigation opened, but one of the parties to the case told AFP on Wednesday that he had “no news from the authorities” on this subject.
According to the Univers Freebox website, fiber cuts in Ile-de-France on infrastructures that link Paris to other major cities were observed on the night of April 26 to 27. A hypothesis confirmed by Numérama, which explains that these slowdowns are linked to “breaks in fiber optic links”. The coincidence of a triple accident caused by three diggers on a construction site accidentally hitting the fiber optic cables is a hypothesis that would be frankly surprising, explains the site.
Still according to Numerama, feedback and exchanges between specialists establish the breaks around 3:20 a.m., 3:40 a.m. and 5:20 a.m., mainly affecting SFR and Free, but also Orange. Less on the Bouygues side.
Among these links impacted, the Paris-Strasbourg axis. As a result, several breakdowns and slowdowns were observed in the Grand Est. On the Downdetector site, we can read that reports from Internet users have increased since the morning of April 27. Contrary to what we indicated previously, the Free network is not the only one impacted. Reports have been made by SFR customers.
Alsace is affected, but also Champagne-Ardenne and to a lesser extent, Lorraine.
At the end of the morning, the Ministry of the Economy confirmed to AFP that it had been informed of the problem of “severed pipes” which could correspond to acts of vandalism, while the operator Free, largely affected, reported on Twitter of “multiple malicious acts on the fiber infrastructure that occurred overnight and now “circumscribed”.
On social networks, many users of the Free network were worried that their connection would go down. They quickly realized they weren’t the only ones.
According to several Internet users, the situation seemed to improve at the end of the morning.