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An «Internet apocalypse» is predicted due to a solar flare

Powerful solar flares can trigger Internet outages around the world. This prediction was made in her report at the SIGCOMM 2021 conference by a researcher from the United States, Sangeetha Abdu Jyoti.

Solar flares accompanied by coronal ejections are one of the most powerful transient phenomena in the Solar System. However, powerful solar flares are observed quite rarely — all of the three known ones occurred before the Internet era. However, after three decades of low solar activity, there is a probability that such an event will occur.

Therefore, Sangeetha Abdu Jyoti, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, decided to assess their threat. According to the researcher, solar flares pose the greatest threat to underwater Internet highways connecting entire countries. Despite the fact that the optical fiber is not affected by geomagnetic-induced flash currents, the electronics of repeaters located every 50-100 kilometers are vulnerable to them. At the same time, the risk will differ for different cables. So, Southeast Asia will suffer less: the Internet highways there are shorter, and the solar flare will cause more damage in high latitudes. The longest cables connecting the United States and Europe are at the greatest risk. For local and regional Internet infrastructure, the threat is minimal, since the cables are grounded there quite often.

Even a powerful solar flare will not lead to a complete shutdown of the Internet, Jyoti admits, but it can seriously destabilize it. In addition, such a phenomenon will disable all equipment in Earth orbit, which will deprive humanity of satellite Internet and global positioning systems.

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