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A Look At How Egypt Shut Down The Internet

from the a-few-phone-calls dept

With Egypt taking the extreme step of shutting down the internet last week, a lot of people started wondering just how does a country go about doing that. According to a report by Ryan Singel at Wired, the answer appears to be with a series of phone calls to ISPs. Wired published this telling image from Arbor Networks, that shows just how dramatic the cut off was:
The report notes that while there isn't anything like a big red "stop the internet" button, and there are a variety of different internet providers, it's still possible to shut them all down with just a few phone calls. And you can kind of see that in the fact that the turn off didn't all happen exactly at once, but there were a series of drops over the course of a few hours, leading up to that big drop off. The report does note that at least one ISP, Noor, appears to still be operating, which appears to represent that tiny bit of blue at the bottom of the chart.

It looks like ISPs as a bottleneck may be yet another piece of internet infrastructure that's a bit too centralized.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Cowardly Anon, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 9:57am

    More like ISPs who are in the government's pocket that is a bit too centralized.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Most smaller countries have a limited number of ISPs and a limited number of income connections. Basically, they each hit their BGP and remove all routes, and within seconds, the outside internet no longer exists.

    I would not be shocked to see more and more governments work to get control of the internet connectivity, as it is a powerful tool. Islamic countries are pretty agressive about blocking certain things on the internet, which means there is already good communication between authorities and the ISPs.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    If your government shuts down the internet, shut down your government.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Graph would be more telling if you showed from say the 15th to the 30th. I suspect it would show a huge increase in traffic just before it was shut off, an indication that the net was used to incite the riots.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    Oh no, people communicated! The horror.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Dan (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    Following that logic, riots weren't possible before the internet. It was shut off to stop the REPORTING on the riots.

    I'm sure Obama is absolutely salivating knowing this is actally possible, along with a good number of Republicans.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re:

    Why, because they took away your binky? grow up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Benny6Toes (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re:

    It wasn't just the reporting of the riots Mubarak's government was trying to stop. I'd say that wasn't even the primary purpose. The internet is was being used to organize and advertise the demonstrations so it got shut down. Preventing the internal reporting on the web was sort of a bonus (obviously the lack of internet connectivity hasn't stopped reporting).

    As for Obama and a good number of Republicans...really? You think they're salivating over this? You didn't think they knew this was possible to begin with after the telcos rolled over on warrantless wiretaps, etc.?

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Kevin (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re:

    Regardless of the riots that were to occur you could also surmise there was a rise in activity based on people simply trying to find out what is going on. People communicating with family, friends, governments, and businesses looking to get out ahead of what they thought (at the time) was a potential explosive situation. Not all of the increased activity could be directly linked to the riots that eventually/were happened/happening.

     

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  10.  
    icon
    cc (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:37am

    I haven't looked at the details, but I recall reading that all of Egypt's infrastructure is owned by four companies. If you look closely at the diagram, you can see usage fall in steps (four of them, in fact) starting at around 4PM.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    DS, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, that's exactly it.

    /facepalm/

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your irony is awesome, as always, TAM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:51am

    I wonder how much music sales went up during this period.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 10:59am

    "It looks like ISPs as a bottleneck may be yet another piece of internet infrastructure that's a bit too centralized."

    This sentence makes absolutely no sense. Clearly, you understood that it was MANY ISPs, as you stated it yourself. How could they possibly be more decentralized? It's the country's LAW that made them able to shut down "the internet" not the fact that anything was centralized. Even if there were 200 000 ISPs, it would have only taken a few more phonecalls and would have not prevented anything.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 11:08am

    And some how the riots are still raging on.

    Heck some people even manage to get online.

     

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  16.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    The point is that the vast majority of the infrastructure is owned by FOUR COMPANIES. Think about that for a second.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 11:58am

    Re:

    Do they sell commercial music in islamic countries?

    I thought they just keep repeating "alah oh akubar" or something.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 12:00pm

    If they make us...

    ...we will rebuild it. And we can. The genie ain't going back in the bottle.

    What's more, if they make us do it, THEY won't be invited.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re:

    The vast majority of the internet infrastructure for a smallish country was run by four companies. Big freaking deal. That isn't centralized.

    That is a Mike Masnick "line", something to refer to later. "We already showed how the internet is too centralized".

    It's FUD.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, because they took my binky. Binky of course refers to my only source of unfiltered news and communication. Also the medium through which billions of dollars is added to the GDP. And of course we can't forget that my binky is the fastest and most efficient method of organizing resistance against a government that is not in the best interest of the citizens. I love my binky

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 12:55pm

    Re:

    They are using dialup. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of the human spirit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Another Anonymous Poster, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Government Controlled Internet

    Do you honestly believe that various government agencies don't already effectively control the Internet in the US? The Patriot Act and other laws pretty much put every ISP/Telcom under their jurisdiction/control. Maybe facilitating snooping and providing historical data is as far as they are going today, but I imagine that most ISPs would pull the plug if faced with a government order in the guise of national security.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    In Soviet Russia Internet does not shut down government, government shut down Internet.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 2:24pm

    Not well thought out

    Without the Internet, I can't get my work done - With all this free time on my hands, I might as well go join that protest outside.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nothing we didn't know in that post. It still doesn't show anything as centralized. Without their existing laws to allow them to do it, it would have been close to impossible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Chuck Money, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    Competition, anyone?

    Well, if you ever need an argument in favor of having multiple, reasonable ISP choices in the same market, here you have it. If the US Government decides to cry "patriot act" or "terrorism" and shut down the internet in the US, what do they really have to do? Well...call Comcast, AT&T, HughesNet, Charter, and about 5 other ISPs and bingo, the internet is 95% offline. I mean, the moment they start screaming "national security" at a CIO at 3AM and he can't get the company's CEO on the phone to argue/bribe/whatever the NSA/CIA/FBI/etc then it's all over, the internet is freaking gone. This is the #1 reason there should NEVER be ANY monopoly in ANY industry, PERIOD. If nothing else, having a large number of small companies increases the odds that the government can't shut down or take over all of it.

    I'd vote for a law stating that no company may ever possess more than 10% of any market, or if it does, it must pay every single penny of profit it makes above 10% of the market to the government as taxes. Under this model, small businesses would thrive (of course, in return, they'd pay MUCH lower taxes) and large corporations woudl be forced to pay their fair share. No loopholes, no write-offs, nothing. If you own more than 10% of your market, fine, but you can't profit from it, period.

    A bit extreme? Maybe, but so is picking up the phone for 5 minutes and shutting down the whole damn internet!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Competition, anyone?

    Chuck, as soon as an armed revolution starts in the US, you can expect the internet to go down. Until then, adjust your tin foil hat and have a nice day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    lux (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Here comes the coffeeshop rebellion!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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