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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Web Monitoring Services: Syria Offline... Literally

By Susan Duclos

Web monitoring service Renesys reported Thursday morning that Syria went dark, completely removing Syria's Internet presence. This news was confirmed by another web monitoring service, Akamai, who provides a chart showing the extent of Syria's blackout.

Via Renesys:

Starting at 10:26 UTC (12:26pm in Damascus), Syria's international Internet connectivity shut down. In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet.

Washington Post reports that Syria has not claimed responsibility as of yet for the blackout and Syrian state TV denied the blackout was nationwide, although the chart above runs contrary to that assertion.

Foreign Policy reports:

The Internet blackout comes at a time when Syria's rebels are believed to be making significant gains around Damascus. This map provides a snapshot of the insurgents' gains (in red) around the capital's suburbs. The fear among opposition activists is that the shutdown is the first step in a wider crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, to preempt a rebel offensive.

There are signs that Damascus airport could be the focal point of the brewing conflict between Assad and the rebel forces. The airport road was closed after being the scene of fierce fighting, and Dubai-based Emirates Airline suspended flights into the capital - possible a reaction to the rebels' acquisition of surface-to-air missiles. An Egypt Air plane landed in Damascus today, but according to an official at Cairo airport, the pilot was instructed to take off back to Egypt without passengers "if he felt that the situation there is not good to stay for longer."

This sounds like the beginning of a story, rather than its end. More as it develops.

Wired points out that Syria's systematic disconnection from the internet actually began at least a week earlier, according to research by the SecDev Group internet analytic's firm.

According to Reuters, Syria is denying responsibility and blaming "terrorists."

Syria’s information minister claims that the Damascus government had nothing to do with the shutdown. “It is not true that the state cut the internet. The terrorists targeted the internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off,” Reuters quotes him as saying. One regime-friendly website calls the cutoff a NATO “psychological operation.”

The communications blackout — which, according to some local reports, also briefly included cell and landline phone service – is hugely important to the war effort in Syria. The rebels don’t just use these networks to share information with one another. They train their forces and document regime atrocities with YouTube clips. The government has been known to shut down internet service in a particular city in advance of a major attack.

“But this is the first time are seeing it centralized (from what I can tell),” emails SecDev CEO Rafal Rohozinski, who has been working with Syrian opposition groups. “We are trying to ascertain whether this is a deliberate pulling of the plug, a technical error, or something else.”
Damascus International Airport has also reportedly disappeared from some flight radars.

Read the rest of the Wired article.