Syria disconnects itself from the Internet for 40 minutes

Syria disconnects itself from the Internet for 40 minutes

Summary: Syria didn't exist online for 40 minutes between 4:32PM to 5:12PM local time on July 19, 2012. The country's government temporarily severed all connections. Was this a mistake that was quickly rectified or was it part of a larger test of censorship?

Syria disconnects itself from the Internet for 40 minutes

On Thursday, Syria severed all Internet connections to the outside world for a total of 40 minutes. The outage wasn't anywhere as significant as when Egypt and Libya flipped their respective switches, but it showed the country's government is testing how it can flex its censorship muscles if need be.

Again, it's not clear if President Bashar al-Assad's administration is planning a complete Internet outage, but it would appear that is being considered. Either way, all 61 Internet networks routed though Syria's state telecoms organisation, Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE) were withdrawn from the global routing table, according to Internet monitoring firm Renesys:

Typically, there are 66 routed Syrian prefixes (networks) and 61 of these go though the incumbent, STE. All of these networks were unavailable from 13:32 UTC to 14:12 UTC, or 4:32 to 5:12PM local time. However, five routed Syrian networks were not impacted by this incident.

While these five prefixes are registered to STE and geolocate to the country, they are originated directly by global provider Tata (AS6453), ranked as the eighth largest Internet provider globally and third in the Middle East according to Renesys' Market Intelligence. Interestingly enough, among the websites hosted in these networks is one providing a fake Skype encryption tool (EFF), purportedly targeting Syrian opposition activists.

Until this outage, Syria's Internet connectivity was considered relatively secure. It was believed al-Assad's administration knows the value of the Internet (at least for its own purposes) and thus decided not to follow in Egypt's and Libya's footsteps. Let's hope they're not having second thoughts.

See also:

Topics: Security, Censorship, Outage

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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  • Sometimes You Just Don't Want Them to Know...

    When there are things that you don't want others to know about, there is a natural tendancy to clam up about it. Syria about their revolution. Romney about his taxes. It's all pretty much the same thing.
    • RE: Clamming Up

      You strategically neglected to mention Obama and his Birth Cert.
      • No matter what

        Obama's birth certs and Neil Armstrong's autobots on the moon.
  • Strategic Timing?

    Perhaps they didn't want the public to know about the suicide bomb attack that killed 3 of Assad's top defense and security people on Wednesday (the day before the outage).

    Or maybe they wanted to see if they could cut rebel comms by killing the whole net.
  • minor network change

    That's just enough time to add a new device in-line for each connection. Passive tap anyone? for full packet capture. Or maybe an active filter in bridge mode.
    It could always have been a screw up by someone but given the situation I'd say not