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[dupe] Nearly two centuries ago, France was first hit by a data network attack (2017) (1843magazine.com)
61 points by startupflix 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments

It was not “an attack on the network” as such (the goal was never to disrupt the network's primary functions, so "the France" was really never "hit") but it was actually a “side-channel exploit” (and effectively a kind of "phreaking" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phreaking ). And it was really brilliant!


Interesting story, though I'd argue this wasn't a network attack, rather an attempt to lower latency.

No. Nobody was interested in lowering latency in the network. The goal was using the communication line by the actors who weren’t officially allowed to use it at all. And they succeeded by “implanting” a real “man in the middle” (using bribing). Then a “side-channel” was used to let other nodes automatically retransmit their own plaintext, undetectable when the information was processed by the original protocol by all the nodes. It was really brilliant.


"Of course, the bribed operator could not simply be asked to transmit a few extra messages, since that would be immediately detected. Instead, the brothers instructed him to make a specific and highly unlikely series of errors in the transmissions to signal dramatic rises or falls in the Paris market. Normally, operators who had innocently made an error would encode a correction in a subsequent transmission. Both the error and its correction would then be duplicated from station to station. It was not until the message-plus-correction reached the end of the line that a telegraph official would step in to translate the transmission and remove the error. The Blancs were prepared: an accomplice who lived close to the last station on the line to Bordeaux took note of the "errors" before they were deleted and then relayed the news to the Blancs."

> > rather an attempt to lower latency.

> No. Nobody was interested in lowering latency in the network

i think it was indeed an attempt to lower latency, but not within the context of "the" network. sending market information by semaphore is lower latency than sending a messenger.

The Chappe telegraph was also used to communicate information such as harvest results and the price of commodities.

Knowing before anyone else if the harvest was good or if the price of a commodity dropped was a surefire way to corner the market: telegraph operator bribing, insider trading, spreading false rumors, and much speculation ensued.

Plus ça change...

For those interested, there is a good wikipedia page covering the concept of mechanical hilltop line of sight telegraphs:


Wait, the clacks are real!? That’s so cool!

Not only that, but in The Count of Monte-Cristo, the hero subverts a Chappe telegraph to send a fake message to Paris to undo his nemesis. Sound familiar ?

(although in the original story, the fake message causes a run on the stock exchange, thereby ruining his enemy. And the operator is bribed. Less romantic and much more prosaic than Terry Pratchett's version)

Well, that is what inspired them, seveda! ;-)

Thank you for this! I was a bit clueless on how someone would be spying on telegraph messages with a telescope.

Thank you for this link. :)


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