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Context (New York Times),

The episode has been a sobering lesson in how even an agency that carries some 350,000 passengers over 104 miles of track every workday can be brought low by a seemingly ragtag group of activists who identify themselves by pseudonyms like Lamaline_5mg.

In Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, I found this entry,

be brought low (old-fashioned) to lose your wealth or your high position in society

But I'm wondering if we can just simply interpret this idiom literally? Please see these two entries in Merriam-Webster,

bring: (4) : to cause to come into a particular state or condition.

low: 11: unfavorable, disparaging

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Brought low indicates that once it was high up, and something caused it to lose its high position. In this case, the power of a prestigious cell phone communications provider was compromised by a "seemingly ragtag group of activists", which is a "sobering lesson".

So X was brought low by Y means though X previously had much power/ability, Y compromised/destroyed it to the point that X has very little ability.

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It comes from bring down, as you might "bring down" a government - so somebody who has lost power or authority has been "brought down" (in BE) or "brought-low" (AE)

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