[LINK] How Egypt Shut down the net

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Thu Feb 17 08:34:51 AEDT 2011

"How Mubarak shut down Egypt's internet
James Glanz
February 17, 2011

EPITAPHS for the Mubarak government all note that the mobilising 
power of the internet was one of the Egyptian opposition's most 
potent weapons. But quickly lost in the swirl of revolution was the 
government's ferocious counter-attack, a dark achievement that many 
had thought impossible in the age of global connectedness.

In a few minutes just after midnight on January 28, a technologically 
advanced, densely wired country with more than 20 million people 
online was essentially severed from the internet.

The blackout was lifted after just five days, and it did not save 
President Hosni Mubarak. But it has mesmerised the worldwide 
technical community and raised concerns that with unrest coursing 
through the Middle East, other autocratic governments may also 
possess what is essentially a kill switch for the internet.

Because the internet's legendary robustness and ability to route 
around blockages are part of its basic design, even the world's most 
renowned network and telecommunications engineers had been perplexed 
the Mubarak government succeeded in pulling off the manoeuvre.

Engineers have now worked out that the government exploited a 
combination of vulnerabilities in the national infrastructure - the 
main one being that the Egyptian government owns the pipelines that 
carry information across the country and into the world.

Internet experts say similar arrangements are more common in 
authoritarian countries than is generally recognised. In Syria, for 
example, the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment dominates the 
infrastructure, and the bulk of the international traffic flows 
through a single pipeline to Cyprus. Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Saudi 
Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have the same sort of 
dominant, state-controlled carrier.

Over the past several days, activists in Bahrain and Iran say they 
have seen strong evidence of severe internet slowdowns amid protests 
there. Concerns over the potential for a government shutdown are 
particularly high in North African countries, most of which rely on a 
just a small number of fibre-optic lines for most of their 
international internet traffic.

The government's attack, in which it shut down its portals, achieved 
a double knockout. It cut off Egypt from the outside world and left 
its internal systems in a sort of comatose state: servers, cables and 
fibre-optic lines were largely up and running but were too confused 
or crippled to carry information save a dribble of local email 
traffic and domestic websites whose internet circuitry somehow 
remained accessible."
New York Times



Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
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Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
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~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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