[LINK] How Egypt Shut down the net

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Wed Feb 23 06:57:07 AEDT 2011

On 22/02/11 9:16 PM, Martin Barry wrote:
> A bit late to this thread but the article is just so wrong... so dumbed
> down...
> $quoted_author = "Jan Whitaker" ;
>> 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.
> I don't think anyone was surprised. There was curiosity about how exactly
> it was achieved but no surprise.
>> 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.
> Wrong.
> The main vulnerability is the licensing of the ISPs and the willingness of
> the government to make things happen by using threats of licence revocation
> and/or nationalisation.
>> 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."
> Apologies for getting "technical" but what appears to have happened is:
> - government contacts ISPs and instructs them to turn off their external
>    BGP sessions
> - BGP is the protocol used to advertise paths to IPs
> - without these announcements, the rest of the Internet no longer knows how
>    to reach Egyptian IP space and the Egyptian networks no longer know how to
>    reach the rest of the Internet
> - traffic stops flowing
> This reason this wouldn't (shouldn't?) work in less autocratic countries is
> that at step one the ISP is confident enough in their countries institutions
> to respond with "get stuffed".

The "what stops Australia from doing what Egypt did?" from (especially) 
the lunar right turns out to be unanswerable. They seriously believe the 
government has instant powers to declare an emergency on any pretext and 
take over the infrastructure. Questions of laws, the High Court, etc, 
are considered irrelevant. The government's coming to get you!

As for your technical notes, I agree. The article was such confused 
nonsense there's little point in taking it seriously ... how fibre optic 
links become "confused" remains a mystery to me!


> cheers
> Marty
> _______________________________________________
> Link mailing list
> Link at mailman.anu.edu.au
> http://mailman.anu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/link

More information about the Link mailing list