Friday, January 28, 2011

Removing an entire country from the internet is easy

Jacob Aron, technology reporter,, 28 January 2011:

John Gilmore, internet activist and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, famously said "The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." But what happens when all online routes are cut off?

At around 10.30 pm GMT last night, the Egyptian government shut down the entire country's connection to the internet, leaving its citizens unable to access websites hosted in the rest of the world. Attempts to access Egyptian sites from outside also fail - for example, is currently unresponsive - while Egyptian access to .eg domains is likely to be extremely unreliable.

Protesters against the government had been coordinating their actions on social networking sites, leading the government to block the likes of Twitter and Facebook, but many got around these restrictions by using smartphones or proxy servers. Now, access through any means is almost impossible - Egypt is effectively offline.

"The Egyptian government's actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map," said James Cowie of Renesys, a internet access monitoring company, in a blog post last night. "What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the internet?"

Only one Egyptian ISP remains connected to the outside world. It's unclear why the Noor Group remains online, but Cowie points out that the Egyptian Stock Exchange is still accessible at a Noor address.

It appears that removing an entire country from the internet is surprisingly easy, by making changes in a system known as the border gateway protocol (BGP). Read more>>

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