back to article Comms 'redlining' in Brussels as explosions kill up to 30 people

Communications are "redlining" in Brussels after three explosions struck the city this morning, two at the Zaventem international airport and one at the Maelbeek metro station. Belgian national media has called for citizens to stay indoors and off of their phones around the capital city following what seem to be terrorist …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not only in the capital

    GSM network is dead many miles around Brussels. I'm 30 miles out, and although 4G works fine, voice is dead as a doornail, and someone calling my landline said they haven't been able to reach me on mobile. They got the mesage 'correspondent can not be reached'.

    Photographic evidence from several sources looks quite horrific. I fear I will be waking up in a different country tomorrow.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not only in the capital

      I can confirm that mobile voice has been pretty much offline, it's only slowly been released. I'm not sure if Belgium has the same facilities as, for instance, London where they can lock out voice for exclusive use by emergency services but I hope so, it was needed. It was a good idea of Telenet to turn the dual use home WiFi service into a support mechanism.

      As for waking up in a different country, I hope not. I have lived through quite a few years of IRA bombing in London (during which, I may add, the Met Police had nowhere near the draconian powers that law enforcement now seeks, and they still did a good job). Life goes on, and MUST do so, or the b*stards win.

      1. Jimbo 6

        Re: Not only in the capital

        (@ AC - you just beat me to posting !)

        I'd be very surprised if it falls to the Belgian mass-media to *ask* citizens stay "off [of] their phones".

        AFAIK*, in such scenarios UK networks simply block calls to/from any standard number (a large separate block of numbers is set aside for emergency-services/gubmint use), across a defined area.

        *Source : v reliable friend who was at Vodaphone's Newbury centre at the time of 7/7, and took the call from the Met police invoking 'Protocol Aardvaark' (or whatever the procedure is called). She advised that the standard media statements that "networks *failed* due to the number of people trying to contact loved ones" is complete BS, they just block all calls from prole-phones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not only in the capital

          (@ AC - you just beat me to posting !)

          I'd be very surprised if it falls to the Belgian mass-media to *ask* citizens stay "off [of] their phones".

          AFAIK*, in such scenarios UK networks simply block calls to/from any standard number (a large separate block of numbers is set aside for emergency-services/gubmint use), across a defined area.

          I looked at this in the days of the UK NICCS, which after the usual juggling with acronyms has become the CPNI. Give politicians time and they will eventually redefine the alphabet.

          Also had fun evaluating electricity provision as part of CNI. My advise: keep a torch handy..

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Not only in the capital

            keep a torch handy

            Don't you mean a generator, an AKM, boxes of food and enough ammo to keep the neighbors off your lawn?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not only in the capital

              enough ammo to keep the neighbors off your lawn

              No, I just keep enough ammo handy to take all of the above from my neighbours..

        2. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: Not only in the capital

          ...took the call from the Met police invoking 'Protocol Aardvaark' (or whatever the procedure is called).

          ACCOLC: Access Overload Control.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only in the capital

        Life goes on, and MUST do so, or the b*stards win.

        Too right. And WITHOUT any restriction or abuse of civil rights by the security services in the name of "counter terror".

        Keep calm and carry on. Good advice, and two fingers up to those who think terror will somehow make the world a better place.

      3. John Sturdy

        Re: Not only in the capital

        If the bastards win, that's when they will start the serious killing. Presumably all "infidel"s?

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Not only in the capital

          If the bastards win, that's when they will start the serious killing. Presumably all "infidel"s?

          Infidels with nukes... won't end well.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Not only in the capital

            If the bastards win, that's when they will start the serious killing. Presumably all "infidel"s?

            Infidels with nukes... won't end well.

            It probably will end well for them. Isn't part of their "creed" that the final battle will end in a lake of fire and all their warrior go to see Allah and collect their virgins? Or something like that after the lake of fire part.

            1. Triggerfish

              Re: Not only in the capital

              Sort of but as far as I understand part of that creed is also because they are expecting their deity to turn up during the final battle, join them and prove their own little brand of religous lunacy was the correct religion, destroying all of those other religous people who decided to do a different version of the religion thing and obv destroying all of the godless infidels.

              Part of me almost wants to see it, just to see the look on their faces when they realise it's all bollocks as a A10 strafes them and God doesn't turn up and block the bullets.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not only in the capital

              Nowhere does it say their 72 virgins will be women.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not only in the capital

      Comms seem to be back up around Brussels, although they are a bit sketchy at the time of 15.15 local.

      To the person who downvoted me for reporting : thanks, I really needed the reality check after such a fine day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not only in the capital

        Comms seem to be back up around Brussels, although they are a bit sketchy at the time of 15.15 local.

        To the person who downvoted me for reporting : thanks, I really needed the reality check after such a fine day.

        There is another reason why you'd want to drop the mobile network other than for designated phones: remote triggers. This could be why some packages did not explode.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not only in the capital

          Well Peter, I didn't down vote you but me and the colleagues I've spoken to still can't get through on our mobiles. Local time is 15:52.

          I've heard trains may start again at around 16:00 from some stations but I don't think anyone will have an easy journey home unless they are on foot.

          The Internet doesn't seem to be effected either by 4G or from my work which is some small conciliation.

          As for the comments about carrying on and staying calm..... I 100% agree.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not only in the capital

            Mij GSM was back up around 16.15 local, and my mum called to see if I was alright (she knows I'm in Brussels every once in a while). About 10 minutes after I hung up I got a cryptic message on my phone stating 'your service is now restricted' or something to that effect, and they pulled the plug again. Possibly they found something somewhere and decided to play it safe, but that is pure speculation on my part.

            Internet cable is running full speed right now, and 4G looks OK, but I'm on wifi so I'm not sure.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not only in the capital

          "There is another reason why you'd want to drop the mobile network other than for designated phones: remote triggers. This could be why some packages did not explode."

          I don't know what the term is for the opposite of 'fail safe', but for a phone detonated bomb it would be equally possible to arrange for it to detonate if it didn't get a regular 'reset' phone call.

          AC - just in case...

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Not only in the capital

            They were apparently still allowing text messages (at least the government statement was urging people to use them rather than calling) - so I imagine they weren't worrying about remote triggers. Or had blocked texts at the specific cells they were worried about. Some of the second lot of London bombs and the Madrid train bombs used SMS triggers.

            That's not a nice trade-off to have to make - between making people's lives even harder (given the level of disruption and lack of voice comms) and safety.

          2. Yag

            Re: I don't know what the term is for the opposite of 'fail safe'

            Fail deadly. Anyone's up for a nice game of chess?

  2. frank ly Silver badge

    Safety Check

    It's a pity that it takes a private company to come up with and implement what seems to be a very good and useful idea. Having said that, I shudder to think of the delays and 'negotiations' if separate governments, even if limited to a region such as the EU and supposedly with a common purpose, were to try to come up with anything similar.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Safety Check

      If a government was tracking its citizens as Facebook does, we all would be crying out loud about invasive mass surveillance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Big Brother

        Re: Safety Check

        We're not crying about invasive mass surveillance?

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Safety Check

      Facebook is an irrelevant parasite.

      Also about the most bandwidth hungry method to communicate.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There goes schengen...

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      >There goes schengen

      Given the extent of cross-border employment and shopping, that cork can't be put back in the bottle, for Belgium at least.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why? These are probably criminals already resident in Bruxelles - maybe even born in Belgium - and not coming from other EU states. Nor Schengen ever allowed to enter EU from outside it without checks - exactly the other way around, the rules for a Schengen visa are - on paper - more stringent than before, because a visa is valid in multiple countries.

      Nor Schengen ever allowed to import arms and explosives at your will.

      It is the complacency of border controls (often helped by bribes in some embassies and consulates), immigrations and polices, that led to this situation - regardless of Schengen. But because politicians always need a scapegoat, Schengen risks to be the easy one. Criminal will keep on travelling easily.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        "It is the complacency of border controls (often helped by bribes in some embassies and consulates),"

        And thats the problem isn't it. A border is only as strong as its weakest links. While the border police might be (mostly) trustworthy in western europe, I wouldn't trust the ones in eastern europe or the balkans further than I could run from their AK-47 bullets if I didn't pay their bribe.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Do you trust western europe? Italy had shutdown the embassy in Santo Domingo after some people were able to obtain a Schengen visa that was previously denied by Spain. Some friends in Eastern Europe tell me that "buying" a Schengen visa is not that difficult, as long as you can pay enough - and money goes to western europe embassies and consulates employees, not only to the local "intermediaries".

          There's a huge number of immigrants from Latin America and Asia who enter with a "tourist" visa they should not be able to obtain if Schengen rule had been obeyed (one of the main rules is you have to demonstrate you have very, very good reasons to return back to your home country, besides an income and a job, or the visa can be easily denied) - and those people don't enter travelling in a boat - they come comfortably by plane. Some countries (i.e some Central America ones), with very high criminality levels. for "strange" reasons are even visa exempt - but hey, life and "business" are easy there for Europeans! - or you have to say yes to some European countries with strong "cultural" or ex-colonial interests there.

          Schengen can't really work if border controls don't work, and if criminals, including the insiders, are not spotted and placed in the appropriate jail.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There goes schengen...

      Really? I live 5 minutes from the border, which is on a 120 km/h motorway. I can't recall the last time I slowed down there, but we're talking decades. As kids we grew up without the idea of borders, and "abroad" was but a bicycle ride away.

      For natives it was quite normal to work with 3 different currencies and as many languages - it was a natural side effect of growing up here. We may use Euros now, but we still have the languages :)

  4. Christoph Silver badge

    UK government explains "This could be avoided if you let us track every single thing you say or do" in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Security expectations

      UK government explains "This could be avoided if you let us track every single thing you say or do" in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

      Joking apart, watching the coverage of these incidents on the BBC I heard one TV anchor ask "If the security services were on high alert, how could this happen".

      Sadly, this seems to be something which a lot of people think: that miraculously the police and security services can prevent this sort of attack.

      This is simply never going to be the case, despite ever increasing security theatre, you cannot stop a determined person from walking into a public building and either leaving a bomb or committing suicide.

      My condolences to all in Belgium.

      1. billse10

        Re: Security expectations

        "Sadly, this seems to be something which a lot of people think: that miraculously the police and security services can prevent this sort of attack"

        It's certainly a thing that a lot of politicians and journalists think .. whether normal people think that, not among those I know ..

        Condolences to those in Belgium or those affected in any way.

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Security expectations

        It's of the nature of terrorism that any increased state "protection" is actually a win for the terrorists as they want to create terror and subjugation. They are not fighting a military war.

        It's totally impossible to stop terror attacks.

        If the State gets very militaristic it even breeds recruits. US reaction to 911 has made the world worse, not safer and created terrorists.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Security expectations

          The big mistake US did is you can't make "half a war", nor a "quarter" of it. I believed Vietnam had taught them it, but no, politicians never learn nor understand. They are too much worried about the press, which in turns, is made of vultures with the easy tear to sell more copies (or now, clicks). Military high brasses need politicians for their careers, and don't want to risk showing they are too incompetent for the roles assigned to them. Europeans are no better, waiting for someone to cover their butts, but wanting the command of operations (as long as someone else combats), as Italy's Renzi did.

          A full war is expensive, risky, and kills people. That's how you win a war. When your enemy is so scared it has no will to combat any more. Then you can rebuild. Otherwise, if you let your enemy terrorize you, you have lost.

          Especially when your enemy believes that being peaceful means to be weak, and dialogue is a synonym of cowardice. Some understands only missile targeted at them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Security expectations

            So in England TFL carries about 4 million passengers a day on the rail about 2.75 million per day in 2010... so that seems unlikely that you could search everyone (or even a useful percentage)- not to forget many stations aren't manned. But pretending it was possible to check everyone or even a useful percentage of everyone.

            What rules would you have around what you can take onto a train / tube / bus given I've seen people with more or less anything you can reasonably imagine fitting onto such a piece of transport carried by up to two people. Not limited to a kitchen sink, bicycles, monitors, wide screen tvs, laptops, food, people with a weekly shop, power tools, knife sets, a butane canister, wheelchairs, prams, children's toys and clothes.

            That's just shit recently. So even if it was possible to search everyone in a timely and useful fashion how would you decide what you could and couldn't carry. The general problem with security is unless you can apply it to every single person all the time then your security will fail. So forget spot checks, they just keep honest people honest.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Security expectations

              Oh air travel in comparison does about 617,000 per day dumb average from 2015 numbers (over a shorter period of time per day and from a smaller number of locations and with a far stricter set of requirements and significantly longer loading times - I can get to from the bus, into the station and onto a train in under a minute in a rush.)

      3. Stuart Castle

        Re: Security expectations

        RE: Sadly, this seems to be something which a lot of people think: that miraculously the police and security services can prevent this sort of attack.

        They do, mostly. The problem is that even with the best intel and the best protection in the world, the terrorists are likely to triumph once. As someone said on TV (and I have heard many times before), the Security Services have to win every time, the terrorists only need to win once.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Security expectations

        "This is simply never going to be the case, despite ever increasing security theatre, you cannot stop a determined person from walking into a public building and either leaving a bomb or committing suicide."

        Agreed, but I do sometimes wonder if the ££billions being spent on data hoovering might not be better spent increasing the actual physical security, eg not cutting Police budgets, properly training and paying the borders and immigration people etc.

        We have yet to find out about these people, but pretty much every recent terrorist attack has bee carried out by people the security services claimed to have known about but not had the budget to keep tabs on them

        1. DougS Silver badge

          9/11 was a "lucky shot"

          Comparing the death toll from 9/11 to IRA bombings isn't relevant because 9/11 should have killed less than a tenth as many people. Bin Laden was as surprised as anyone when the towers fell, and that's what caused most of the deaths - had they stayed standing the people in upper floors who had issues with staircases being out or smoke filled would have had the time they needed to find unaffected stairways.

          It still would be one of the biggest terrorist attacks ever, but not so outsized that everything else looks like small potatoes by comparison.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: 9/11 was a "lucky shot"

            DougS,

            What do you expect if you fly 2 planes into a building, when each has got well north of 20 tonnes of fuel onboard? Plus don't forget the hoped-for casualties from the two other planes.

            Anyway the point is that Al Qaeda were after mass casualties, as well as headlines. There was a plot that got foiled a few months after to detonate bombs on 8 planes over the Pacific simultaneously. That wasn't like the Heathrow plot here, mostly home grown, but one of Bin Laden's senior lieutenants. So they were hoping for a couple of thousand casualties there.

            The point is that their schtick was killing lots of people at once. More headlines that way. I guess because their only constituency is nutters. Whereas the IRA had to have some public sympathy in order to survive in the community - and had an objective that was actually sane. Even if their method of achieving it was evil. That imposed limits on them. When AQ tried to hold territory in Iraq, the locals rose up and killed/expelled them, then did a deal with the hated US army to keep them out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "UK government explains "This could be avoided if you let us track every single thing you say or do" in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ..."

      May will be using it to justify rushing through the IPB before the corpses are cold. If the definition of terrorist is a person who uses terrorism to achieve political aims, she's the poster child. Don't feel left out 'Merkins - Trump is filling in for her across the pond.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC

        Trump was at least prophetic in asking to hold off on any immigrants "until they can be vetted".

        Guess NONE of them can be vetted now! Why bring in ungrateful people who advertise they want to kill you anyway?

        1. Afernie

          Re: @AC

          "Trump was at least prophetic in asking to hold off on any immigrants "until they can be vetted".

          Guess NONE of them can be vetted now! Why bring in ungrateful people who advertise they want to kill you anyway?"

          And... obvious troll is trolling obviously.

          1. julian.smith

            Re: @AC

            Trump was prophetic ....

            BS, Trump is pathetic .... Americans deserve him

            LMAO

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Hold off on any immigrants

          I fully agree. After all, we don't really need any immigrants for this kind of thing: the home-grown product is more than capable already.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: @AC

          "Guess NONE of them can be vetted now! Why bring in ungrateful people who advertise they want to kill you anyway?"

          An extremely small, almost immeasurably small minority of immigrants/refugees. Maybe the family of Andy Grove should have been refused entry to the US as refugees from what was basically a war zone at the time?

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Facepalm

        @AC

        You're not joking about Trump. He has already endorsed water-boarding today, in response to Brussels. He'll probably be suggesting a return of auto-de-fe by dinnertime.

    3. Yugguy

      I'm not a fan of increased generic mass surveillance but to be honest I could accept increased levels of physical searches on or near transportation hubs if it meant less chance of being killed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm not a fan of increased generic mass surveillance but to be honest I could accept increased levels of physical searches on or near transportation hubs if it meant less chance of being killed

        Nobody has ever objected to more police activity in times of threat, nor would anyone argue with it. The discussion is always about not doing that when there is NOT an immediate threat. At the moment, there is a shutdown. Inconvenient? Nobody cares, they know why, accept it and will help if asked. Tomorrow, life resumes.

        Personally, my main argument against the sort of mass surveillance the governments seem to desire is that it only improves the haystack. They ought to focus on methods to better identify the needles in what they already have. So far, it has emerged fairly often that perpetrators were already known to law enforcement..

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