Security

Syrian internet is off, government “killswitch” suspected

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This morning, Syria dropped off the face of the planet — at least digitally.

Internet analytics and networking company Rensys noticed early today that all 84 of Syria’s internet protocol (IP) address groups are unreachable. That essentially removes the country from the internet, as traffic cannot be routed to, from, or through those blocks.

Syria is, of course, in the middle of a bloody civil war which is being fought online — and in the media — as much as in the streets and cities.

Renesys says that the primary provider for Syria is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, and that all of its customer networks are currently unreachable, using the word “killswitch.” This does not bode well for the Syrian rebels — if the government forces are shutting down the internet, it is presumably either so that they can operate with greater impunity and less publicity, or so that rebel forces cannot use the internet to communicate.

Or, both.

Oddly, however, there are five Syrian networks that are still up and running. Sort of Syrian, at least:

Now, there are a few Syrian networks that are still connected to the Internet, still reachable by traceroutes, and indeed still hosting Syrian content. These are five networks that use Syrian-registered IP space, but the originator of the routes is actually Tata Communications. These are potentially offshore, rather than domestic, and perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria.

Those networks happen to be the same ones, Renesys notes, that were used in the delivery of malware targeting Syrian rebels earlier this year.

Which may mean, to those of nasty suspicious minds, that the government is retaining some level of internet access for itself, while denying the rebels — and the rest of the country — the same benefit.

Here’s Arbor Networks‘ graph of web traffic to Syria over the last day or so:

photo credit: FreedomHouse via photopin cc