Any illusion that anyone had about the Internet being unbreakable were shattered last week, when Egypt took down the Internet. In Egypt, at least, turning off the Internet turned out to be easy. There were network work-arounds to get to the Internet, but, frankly, they didn't work that well. Now, the Egyptian government has turned the Internet back on.
In essence, that really is what the government did. There was no need for any fancy networking tuning. The Egyptian officials just called up the Egyptian ISPs and told them to switch their core-routers and Domain Name Service (DNS) servers on at about 11 AM local time, 5 AM U.S. Eastern time and within half-an-hour, most of the Egyptian Internet and its associated Web sites was back up again. As Dr. Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, a network security company, told me. "All major Web sites and providers now appear reachable again."
According to James Cowie CTO of Renesys, an Internet analytics firm, "All major Egyptian ISPs appear to have re-advertised routes to their domestic customer networks in the global routing table, with the exception of Noor Group." Noor, which hosts the Egyptian Stock Exchange, had been the last Egyptian ISP to go dark. It has since come up as well.
Other Internet watchers at the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG), an Internet administrator and research group also reported that the Egyptian Internet, both the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) [the Internet's routing protocol] and DNS were up again. BGPMon, a company that monitors BGP and produces network analysis software, also reported "the first signs of life from the previously unreachable Egyptian networks. We saw the first BGP announcements for Egypt come in at 09:30:48 UTC. And as of 10:52 UTC the website of Noor data networks was reachable again. It looks like the majority of the providers are now back."
Cowie is also reporting that bringing up Egypt's Internet "wasn't totally smooth; a few larger network blocks belonging to the Egyptian Universities Network (EUN) were still missing. Unfortunately, these included the address space that hosts the ".eg"top level domain servers. The routes have since recovered."
I, however, at about noon Eastern Time, am still having trouble reaching the main EUN and its associated sites. This troubles me, especially since EUN hosts the main .eg [Egypt's TLD (Top Level Domain) DNS servers. I fear, in the light of growing violence in Egypt that the Egyptian Internet may yet face troubles this time from demonstrators rather than from a dictatorial order.
Egypt's Internet may up for now, but as pro-Mubarak thugs take to the streets, I wouldn't count on it staying up. Journalists are being attacked on the streets of Cairo and the heretofore peaceful protests are taking an ominous turn towards violence. From where I sit, it appears that Egypt's government is taking a more direct and violent approach to stopping communications than just turning off Egypt's core Internet routers.