Wildfires, cyberattacks, and cheating students turned off the internet in the third quarter

Internet traffic was choked off in different parts of the world in the third quarter this year by a variety of problems, including cyberattacks, natural disasters and cheating at universities, according to a report issued Wednesday by content delivery network (CDN), security and internet services vendor Cloudflare

Iraqis were affected by exam weeks that took place in August, when the government shut down local internet providers like Newroz Telecom, IQ-Online and KorekTel in an effort to prevent cheating during examination periods by students, according to Cloudflare’s third quarter internet disruption summary. Other outages had much more serious causes, Cloudflare noted.

Wildfires in Hawaii in early August caused power outages and internet disruptions, with traffic dropping nearly to zero in some parts of the state. The fires killed almost 100 people and caused widespread damages to homes, infrastructure and businesses. The earthquake that killed almost 3,000 people in Morocco in September also resulted in widespread infrastructure damage to the worst-affected parts of the country, according to the report.

Elsewhere, political strife prompted government-led shutdowns of the internet. Clashes between government forces and local militia prompted ongoing shutdowns of mobile service providers in Ethiopia, just as they did earlier this year in April, after the government attempted to disband regional armed forces. Controversial presidential elections in Gabon spurred similar shutdowns in that country in late August, in order to “prevent the spread of calls for violence,” the government said at the time.

Cable cuts and mishaps drove outages in a multitude of countries during the third quarter, according to Cloudflare. Road maintenance work cut off a major fiber channel in Cameroon in July, while a similar fiber was cut in South Sudan in mid-August. Several other African nations, including Togo, Benin, Namibia and the Republic of Congo, suffered connectivity losses due to damage to the South Atlantic 3 undersea cable on August 6. The cable was damaged by an undersea landslide.

Other notable outages did not have such ready explanations, according to Cloudflare. Spectrum communications in the US suffered an outage of more than an hour in several southern states on August 17, while satellite provider Starlink dropped offline for 90 minutes on September 12. Sky UK, a major British telecommunications company, suffered a nationwide outage for about two hours on the night of September 19/20.