The Internet was originally invented to be a communication network that could survive a nuclear war. Ironically, the monster that grew from that idea known as the World Wide Web is actually very, very fragile. They didn't anticipate what the Internet would become--because they weren't fucking insane--and as a result, the whole operation now sits on a rather shaky foundation.
5The Internet is a Series of Cables, and Cables Can be Cut
Considering how much people freak out when a single big site goes down (everyone remember the Great Gmail Outage of '09?) it's clear that most of us think of the Internet in general as pretty much invincible. If an asteroid smashed into the Earth tomorrow, millions of us would immediately pull out our phones to try to get Twitter updates from the affected area.
"It must be pretty bad. Ashton Kutcher hasn't tweeted in days."
But the truth is, the Internet travels from continent to continent by way of a network of trans-oceanic cables, each thousands of miles long and only as thick around as a thumb. If enough of these high-pressure porn hoses were compromised, international Internet communication could collapse entirely.
Since these cables are the backbone of a huge portion of the global economy, they must be pretty well protected, right? Guards in armored diving suits, badass nuclear submarines inexplicably captained by Scotsmen, Kraken...
We're pretty sure AT&T has at least one of these at their disposal.
As it turns out, the cables aren't protected at all.
And it's not like they're impervious to damage either. The largest of them, hilariously named "SEA-ME-WE-3" was severed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and in December of 2008 a boat anchor sliced it and three other cables in half. The disaster cut communications capacity between Europe, the Middle East and India by around 75 percent.
Hundreds of millions of people spent weeks without reliable (or, in some cases, any) Internet access. Because of an anchor.
Nukes are hard to come by, but we're pretty sure Al-Qaeda can scrounge up one of these.
Though, some skeptics point out that the idea of three separate cables being cut "accidentally" by anchors within a few days of each other is a little far-fetched. They've proposed terrorists, Israel, drunken fishermen and the Pentagon as possible alternate causes.
So What Can We Do?
Nothing. Remember the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable we told you about? It's more than twenty-thousand goddamn miles long. Look at this map of all the undersea cables. There's no way you could police all of that, not even with a thousand Krakens AND Bill Murray in a scuba suit.
You'd need at least two.
On the plus side, it's not exactly hard to repair a damaged cable. These things get busted up all the time, which is why the telecoms that own them have repair boats on stand-by. That means everything should be fine unless some bad guys think up a way to really fuck them up.
"OH SHIT THEY'VE TRAINED THE SHARKS."