Tech UPTechnologyA major solar storm could leave the world without...

A major solar storm could leave the world without the Internet for weeks

Vulnerabilities in the world’s massive undersea communications cable network coupled with a major solar storm could leave several countries around the world without the Internet. This is the conclusion of a new study carried out by experts from the University of California, Irvine, who evaluated how space weather could affect the infrastructure of the Internet.

Electromagnetic fluctuations caused by intense solar storms cannot directly damage the fiber optic cables that form the backbone of the Internet, but they do have the potential to eliminate signal amplifiers found along submarine cables that are necessary to maintain connections over long distances.

In addition to internet access disruptions, solar storms could also cause widespread blackouts by overloading power grids and shutting down GPS systems.

Today’s long-distance Internet connections tend to run along fiber optic cables, in which pulses of light bounce off the inside of silicon strands to transmit information. Because of this, the cables themselves are not directly susceptible to magnetically induced currents. However, explains Professor Abdu Jyothi, leader of the work, the same cannot be said of the ‘repeaters’. These devices act as signal amplifiers ensuring that the signal is not degraded too much when it reaches the other end of the connection. The repeaters are built with electronic components, which means that they could be damaged by a solar storm. The link could stop working, hence this platform is more vulnerable in the event of a widespread network outage.

The full study findings were presented at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGCOMM 2021 conference, which took place virtually August 23-27.



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