Last night, a pipeline carrying Iranian natural gas to Turkey was damaged by an explosion, halting gas flow, and perhaps surprisingly to some, disrupting Internet connectivity to northern Iran and Iraq. The Turkish government has accused the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) militant group, who have claimed responsibility for pipeline explosions in the past, of perpetrating the attack.
Internet communications lines are often installed along existing physical routes, such as highways, power lines, rail lines or oil and gas pipelines. Since someone has gone to the trouble of establishing a right of way and clearing a path over hundreds of kilometers, the telecommunications folks often take the opportunity to lay fiber optic cable along the route, if at all possible.
Thus, when a pipeline suffers physical damage, as was the case yesterday, we can often see the impact via shifts in Internet traffic patterns. In fact, our software detected this event yesterday within seconds of the incident, leading us to fear we’d be reading about another pipeline explosion in Turkey today. This seemed all too plausible given the geographic path of the routes involved and the impact of similar recent events.
|Evidently, Turkish Internet and mobile provider Turkcell Superonline (AS 34984) was using communications lines along this pipeline to provide Internet service to northern Iran and Iraq. When the pipeline was hit (at 20:27 UTC according to our data), it took out Superonline’s ability to serve Iranian incumbent DCI (AS12880) and Iraqi provider IQ Networks (AS44217), who had been one of DCI’s new customers in Iraq.
Because Superonline’s connections to these providers are still down, we conclude that this is a serious disruption in service, rather than a planned maintenance event. While service to the Iranian networks was restored quickly through DCI’s other international transit providers, IQ Networks is still offline as of this writing.
In our traceroute data, the drop-off of Superonline service into Iraq and Iran is equally compelling (times in UTC):
The silver lining in this incident is perhaps the cooperation of players in the region. Just as Russia’s state-owned Gazprom immediately increased its natural gas flow to Turkey to make up for gas lost as a result of the blast, Russian incumbent Rostelecom, as well as DCI’s other International Internet providers, immediately provided alternative routes for those networks impacted by the loss of Superonline service.