Georgia, Armenia taken offline by elderly scourge of the Internet

'Spade hacker' chops parts of three countries from 'net, while digging copper

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If dogs had a religion, the vacuum cleaner would be their Satan.

If telecom managers had religion, their devil would be the backhoe.

Apparently, in the former-Soviet republic of Georgia, Satan is a 75-year-old woman with a shovel.

Last week, while scavenging for buried copper wire to sell as scrap metal, a woman nicknamed "the spade hacker" chopped through a fiberoptic cable outside the capital city Tiblisi, cutting off Internet access to all of the neighboring country of Armenia as well as large parts of Georgia and parts of Azerbaijan.

Zdestroya Tchnoinski, of 73 Lenin Prospect, Tblisi, is one of many Georgians who scavenge for salable copper wire, often in dangerous circumstances and in large scale.

In 1996 a group of scavengers was arrested while using 48 vehicles and 5 excavators to dig for cable on the spot most nuclear explosions took place at the former Soviet nuclear testing ground at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.

Georgian ISPs supply 90 percent of the Internet access to Armenia, so when that single cable was cut, the nation of 3.2 million people had no choice but to drop offline and continue to exist only in the real world.

The disability went on for five hours as Armenian and Georgian telecom providers tried to fix the problem or find a route around it.

Remote-monitoring gear belonging to western Europe ISPs isolated the point of the break and notified Georgian authorities, who sent a security team to identify and suppress the terrorist faction responsible for severing an entire country from the Internet.

The woman was arrested without any casualties to the security team. She was released later "on account of her old age," according to a spokesman for the interior ministry, but may be brought in later for more questioning.

"She found the cable while collecting scrap metal and cut it with a view to stealing it," the Interior Ministry spokesman, Zura Gvenetadze told the AFP news agency.

The interior ministry said she had no accomplices.

The cable is owned by a Georgian railway, which said its cables are normally buried deeply enough to be safe and suggested rain or landslides may have exposed it.

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