How were Syria's networks and Internet taken offline?

How were Syria's networks and Internet taken offline?

Summary: Yesterday, reports suggested that Syria was cut off from the outside world, but how was it achieved?

SHARE:
TOPICS: Security, Mobility, Wi-Fi
5

Yesterday, Syria was the focus of reports which stated the country had been cut off from the Internet.

The battleground of the government and rebel fighters, Syria -- at around 10:26 a.m. UTC -- found itself disconnected from the International network which supports access to the web.

Renesys, monitoring the situation, said that "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," and traceroutes into Syria were failing, which ultimately is expected in a major outage."

Google's Transparency Report has also confirmed the outage, although as a tweet I received suggested, some archaic dial-up connections are possibly still active.

Traffic – Google Transparency Report syria update
Credit: Google/Screenshot ZDNet

 

Reports state that a "pro-government" television station broadcast the message that "terrorists" caused the countrywide Internet outage, and the state were not involved. The message said:

"It is not true that the state cut the Internet. The terrorists targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off."

The main communications and Internet cable was cut -- and engineers were working to repair the fault, according to Syria's telecommunications minister. However, an investigated conducted by CloudFlare reinforces the idea that this simply may not be true.

The team mention several reasons why one singular cable-cutting exercise couldn't take down the entire system. Most importantly, all connectivity was severed in Syria, and not merely some regions. In addition, Internet access is provided by state-run firm Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, who provides the main "Autonomous System" (AS) gateway to the Internet.

When connections were severed, each Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) was withdrawn from the system, which prevented Syrian IP spaces from connecting -- achievable only when the BGP provider, the AS system, modifies communications routes. The video below documents routes being cut off within the space of two minutes:

CloudFlare's investigation suggests that Syria may have a number of "edge routers", controlled by Syrian Telecommunications, that were able to systematically remove every communications channel through router software updates, rather than physical technology failures or aforementioned cable-cutting "terrorist" activities.

Finally, Syria does not simply have one cable. Four -- including three undersea cables -- keep Syria connected, and for the Syrian telecommunications minister's statement to be true, each one would have had to be cut simultaneously.

Topics: Security, Mobility, Wi-Fi

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

5 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What do you expect from a dictatorship government?

    Sometimes stupids forget that there are intelligent people out there too!!!!
    Nsaf
  • 2nd

    I second that emotion Nsaf
    rbwfla
  • Happen here?

    I wonder if our government, in order to "protect" us, has such capability. Maybe not legally or openly, but it would not surprise me at all to find such a system in place today here. If not to cut the system, then to flood it to overload in a massive, government-issued "denial of service" attack or via some other method?

    Well, I am paranoid, but....

    Have a nice day,

    Doc
    Doc.Savage
    • Actually...

      I think it was just a month or two, ago that the Federal government actually declared that the executive-branch required, exactly, this kind of power to "shut-down the Internet" within the United States "...in an Emergency", to "...protect our way of life" from "terrorists", "criminals", and home-grown insurgents.

      Kind of scary, huh..?
      Had_to_be_said
  • Happen here?

    Doc.Savage, no u r not paranoid; to begin with the said or such system comes from the USA who r, after all pioneers in IT. Second, it is the USA who are so eager to control the world or rather the globe. Third, any Gov. is able to and capable of manipulating its peoples be it through sweet tunes or otherwise.
    have a sweeeeet day.
    abhu@...