Kill switch thrown on Internet in Syria

Amid bloody civil war, communication blackout hits all of country

Internet and mobile communications were shut down on Thursday morning in war torn Syria.

Renesys Corp., a global Internet monitoring firm, earlier today reported a " major outage" in Syria, and added that a kill switch had been thrown within the country.

Renesys also reported that the Middle eastern country's primary Syrian Telecommunications Establishment and all of its customer networks are unreachable.

"Syria's international Internet connectivity shut down," said Renesys in a blog post. "In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet."

That means no Internet traffic -- or any online communications -- is possible in Syria.

Meanwhile Google's Transparency Report notes that all of its services, including Gmail, Google Search and Google Maps, are inaccessible in Syria.

Using the hashtag #SyriaBlackout, Google tweeted late this afternoon, "Internet access completely cut off in Syria. This is why a #freeandopen Internet is so important."

The SecDev Group, an Internet analytics firm, reports that the Internet outage in Syria spiked today, but that it began on Nov. 22.

SecDev CEO Rafal Rohozinski said all Internet communications have been stopped in Syrian, except for those based on individually operated satellite connections, such as satellite phones.

"The reports we are getting from people inside Syria is that cell telephony, Internet, and some land lines were affected in all the major cities," wrote Rohozinski, in an email to Computerworld.

"It appears that the outage was caused by interruptions at the main telephone switches, and core backbone routers. As of late this afternoon, cell phone services within Damascus, and landline seem to have been partially restored but there is no Internet connectivity," he added.

Rohozinski also noted that the Syrian Minister of Information blamed the outages on terrorist attacks, and said that Internet services will be restored.

"This outage coincides with apparent attacks on the airport in Damascus, and the recent seizure of several key military bases by the rebels," added Rohozinski. "As a result, it may be an attempt by the government to tighten up the communication environment to deny the rebels the command-and-control channels they have been using via cell phones and the Internet."

Similar blackouts have also occurred in Middle eastern countries Egypt and Iran .

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said a government- caused Internet blackout just adds to the unrest in the country. For the people, this is huge. They have no way of communicating outside."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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