The State Information System's Authority (RIA) replaced dozens of meters of fiber-optic cable due to rodent damage on Wednesday and promises that automatic devices to be installed within one year will help prevent service disruptions in the future.
"It was a fiber-optic data cable widely used by telecoms. Rodents damaged it in several places and we had to replace dozens of meters of cable to fix the problem," Kaido Plovits from RIA's state network department told ERR on Thursday.
He said that RIA's CERT-EE division constantly monitors the functioning of critical services and noticed that data communication was patchy for some clients around 8 p.m. on November 19. RIA started its search of the problematic section at 8 a.m. the next day and had located it by 3 p.m.
"Because data communication was disrupted, RIA technicians started looking for the problem on November 20. They connected the ends of the cable to special devices to try and pinpoint the faulty section. Because the cable was fine in some places, finding the problem took time. We knew by 3 p.m. in which communication manhole rodents had damaged the cable. We decided to fix the cable right away to avoid further damages. Work started at around 5 p.m. and was largely completed by 9.30 p.m.," Plovits said.
Had we postponed repairs, the connection could have been broken at any moment and caused greater damage. We will consider how to notify our partners and clients of unscheduled repairs more effectively," he added.
The cable in question connects two state data centers and the link was used by RIA services, the eesti.ee portal, health insurance board and Estonian Lottery. The disruption concerned eesti.ee services, the digital prescriptions system, RIA in-house network traffic and Estonian Lottery services. A part of data exchange automatically moved onto another main, while the rest was switched manually. Harku rural municipality schools, kindergartens and local government buildings experienced the longest data outage, only getting their network back around 12.30 a.m.
"The entire state network didn't go down, only a small part of it the backup of which has not been automated yet," Plovits emphasized. Services that moved through a cable between two state data centers were disrupted. RIA hopes to reach a situation inside a year where damage to a single cable would not cause serious disruptions like these.
"We are using European structure funds to procure the last of the equipment we need. A year from now, we will have installed devices that can automatically move services and cost around €100,000 each in all state data nodes and centers. An alternative data channel is in place and services the switching of which was already automated were migrated instantaneously, Plovits explained.
The direct cost of the repair work carried out on Wednesday amounts to around €5,000, while RIA cannot yet comment as to indirect damages. "The fact remains that we cannot see underground and can only detect an outage or anomalies once we see service disruptions. We are monitoring services on a daily basis and will fix problems as soon as possible," he added.
Editor: Marcus Turovski