Egypt severs internet connectivity to leave it in a black hole

News by Dan Raywood

Following week-long protests against the government in Egypt, ISPs have been ordered to stop routing traffic and effectively cut off the country's internet.

Following week-long protests against the government in Egypt, ISPs have been ordered to stop routing traffic and effectively cut of the country's internet.

According to media reports, internet and mobile phone data service appeared to be cut across the country from last night. Washington-based said that Egypt's four primary internet providers: Link Egypt; Vodafone/Raya; Telecom Egypt; and Etisalat Misr all stopped moving data in and out of the country at 12:34am.

Telecom experts said that Egyptian authorities could have engineered the cut-off with a simple change to the instructions for the companies' networking equipment. A statement by Vodafone Egypt said: "All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course."

Those still able to access social media confirmed that ‘Egypt now is a total black hole'. An Egyptian based in South Africa said: “We should be prepared for total mobile phone blackout tomorrow also (or at least in protest hotspots).” A Twitter user called ‘Alaa' said that mobile phones were still working in Egypt, but service was ‘spotty' in areas.

Alaa later tweeted that the internet and SMS blackout is not intended to seal Egypt and block news intentionally, it is to cripple the ability to coordinate protests, however he later said that morale in Cairo was still high.

Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tweeted in Arabic the following: “We call upon the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests, and call on them to refrain from interfering with means of social communication.”

Statistics from Arbor Networks' ATLAS technology showed that traffic in the country suddenly stopped at around 6pm having been between 2,000-3,000 Mbps for the previous six hours.

Rik Ferguson, senior security advisor at Trend Micro, commented that with the major ISPs shut down, the only ISP that currently appears unaffected is Noor Data Networks which is used by the Egyptian Stock Exchange. “The availability of this network and normal connectivity to the rest of the geographic region demonstrates that this is not a cut cable or other physical outage,” he said.

“This sudden severing of internet connectivity appears to have all occurred at a similar time and the assumption must be that it is a part of officially sanctioned tactics to attempt to contain the growing political unrest in the country. The crackdown first started with the censoring of social network in the country but as Iran learned, determined people quickly find ways around this with help from the outside world.

“If indeed this action is officially directed then it would seem that the regime in Egypt has learned lessons from the Iranian attempts to censor communications there last year and taken even more drastic measures. This action is unprecedented in internet history.”


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Video and interviews