Syrian Internet and Mobile Communication Blackout



Arik Hasseldahl of the website reports on a troubling development from Syria:

The research firm Renesys, which keeps track of the status and health of the technical underpinnings of the Internet around the world, just reported that at 10:26 UTC this morning — which, by my watch, would have been 5:26 am ET — effectively all of Syria’s international Internet connectivity shut down.

More technically, what happened was that within the global routing table, all 84 blocks of IP addresses assigned to Syria have gone unreachable. That means that Internet traffic destined for that country is going undelivered, and also that traffic coming from within it cannot get out to the world.

The Associated Press reports that cellular service has also been disabled in many areas, explaining:

The Syrian government shut down the Internet across the country and cut cell phone services in select areas Thursday as rebels and government troops waged fierce battles near the capital’s airport, wounding two Austrian peacekeepers and forcing international airlines to suspend flights, activists said.

The article goes on to explain that Syrian spokespeople are denying that the outage is national, saying that technicians are working to repair the problems.

BBC News explains why this news is so alarming, with organizations like Amnesty International calling it “very disturbing”:

Syria has previously seen large outages in July and August this year, each lasting less than an hour and only affecting targeted areas.

During the uprising in Egypt, four major internet service providers were cut off in the country during mass protests against the then-President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptians quickly found ways around the blocks, and Google introduced a “speak-to-tweet” service which allowed people to connect to Twitter via the telephone.

In Libya, internet blackouts were common in areas that were at the time still controlled by Colonel Gaddafi.

The exact method being used to cut off the internet in Syria is unknown, one security expert said, but there are clues.

“It looks like they are using the same approach as Libya did,” explained Rik Ferguson, vice president of security research at Trend Micro.

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  1. Alarming and Predictable. .. and “… and cut cell phone services in select areas.” means you can’t even use an IPhone to twit and send pictures or video!

    The Arab Spring was all net and social media and smartphones and people watched and they were shocked, or even totally indifferent. Other’s watched and saw a risk to themselves and made plans – they learned how blocks were bypassed, so thay have been building bigger and better blocks!

    So many think that the internet and their use of smart phones is a god given right! They think the net is public property a bit like the sidewalk – if you keep walking you can protest and scream First Amendment!

    A Heads up may help – The American Constitution only applies guess where? Syria is not affiliated to the USA and neither is Syria’s national infrastructure or back bone on The Net! Net access anywhere on the Globe and by any means can be cut instantly – and what you going to do – Write and email to complain – Blog about it?

    Cut of the DNS servers and it’s nothing in or out unless you have a permanent point to point connection over a fixed line – that has to bypasses all exchanges – all telecoms Infrastructure and be independently powered at both ends … or basically have you own personal internet with all security and power safeguards in place.

    Even bypassing that with a Satellite Net Link has become an issue as Satellites coving the Syria market have been experiencing jamming for weeks!

    Want to consider when, where and how the same could happen to you? Alarming and Predictable.

  2. Kathryn DeHoyos says:

    This is terrifying! To think that a government can and will completely cut its citizenry off from the rest of the world, for whatever reason…Maybe I’m a cynic but I can’t help but wonder what it is they are really trying to hide from the rest of the world!!!!!

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