Photo: PhotoTalk/Getty

Google apps' web traffic was mysteriously routed through Russia and China on Monday.

Why it matters: Some security experts believe this may have been an attack on one of the internet's core networking protocols.

Yes, but: It could also have been caused by something as simple as a typo in Russia or China. The internet is fragile.

What is clear is that on Monday, something was horribly amiss in the border gateway protocol (BGP).

  • Not all internet and web service providers can talk to each other, and BGP lets various networks coordinate the quickest path from point A to point B.
  • On Monday, through some accident or intentional attack, the internet began to believe that the fastest way to Google was through a server in Russia and a server in China regardless of where the traffic originated from. The China server ceased all the traffic sent its way, making Google Cloud briefly appear to be out.

What is not clear is whether this was an intentional attack. Given the countries involved, it's very possible it was, although due to the way internet traffic is encrypted, China would have needed to let the internet traffic through to Google to do full-throttle surveillance.

  • BGP routing errors can and frequently are caused by simple mistakes. This could be a mistake. It's impossible to definitively say.

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