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Egypt Cuts the Net, Net Fights Back 232

Posted by timothy
from the let's-use-big-metaphors dept.
GMGruman writes "Egypt's cutoff of the Net enrages the Netizenry, who are finding a bunch of ways — high tech and low tech — to fight back, from dial-up to ham radio, from mesh networks to Twitter. Robert X. Cringely shows how the Net war is being waged, and asks, Could it happen at home, too?" Sure, it could. On the same topic, reader dermiste writes "In reaction to the Egyptian government crackdown on the Internet, the French non-profit ISP French Data Network set up a dial-up Internet access. This way, anyone in Egypt who has access to a analog phone line and can call France is able to connect to the network using the following number: +33 1 72 89 01 50 (login: toto, password: toto)."
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Egypt Cuts the Net, Net Fights Back

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  • For how long (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cdp0 (1979036) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:17AM (#35042088)

    This way, anyone in Egypt who has access to a analog phone line and can call France is able to connect to the network [...]

    I'm wondering for how long will the international phone lines work. The gvt. is most likely able to cut those too. Remaining options will then be HAM radio, GSM roaming, if you are close enough to a border and you are lucky to be in the range of a GSM base station from across (but I have no idea about the situation in Egypt), and satellite phone.

    • Re:GSM Roaming (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not much likelihood of GSM roaming. Take a look at a photo of Egypt at night from space.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/28634332@N05/5146231463/

      Egypt *is* the Nile. And not much near the borders...

      • by RogerWilco (99615)

        Not much likelihood of GSM roaming. Take a look at a photo of Egypt at night from space.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/28634332@N05/5146231463/ [flickr.com]

        Egypt *is* the Nile. And not much near the borders...

        Yeah, and then it it's most populated neighbouring areas are the Gaza strip and Libia. Not exactly places that have a lot of potential to get a signal out.

        • by GCsoftware (68281)
          Well there's always Taba, where you can pick up an Israeli network or possibly even a Jordanian one.
    • I'm wondering for how long will the international phone lines work. The gvt. is most likely able to cut those too.

      They can't do it too long : the egyptian economy relies too heavily on tourism (see here [wikipedia.org]).

      The same happened in Tunisia a few weeks ago. Ben Ali (the former dictator) quickly understood that he could not cut his country from the rest of the world, because it was too dependent from outside (tourism & call centers). He then left to Saudi Arabia, which might be a good elderly home for Mubarak too.

    • That's only needed for outside communication, internally things like UUCP, Unix to Unix Copy [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FidoNet [slashdot.org]">FidoNet would work internally for email and good old Usenet [wikipedia.org] would also be handy as hell. As densely populated as Cairo is wireless routers would be capable of being the backbone with the addition of a pringles can or two. It'll be funny when dictatorship start considering OLPC a terrorist enabling NGO.

      • UUCP and Fidonet would be useful, but do you have the software? UUCP doesn't seem to be installed by default on Ubuntu. I'm not sure about Fedora. As for Fidonet software, I'd be pleasantly surprised if it is installed by default on any of the major distros. Of course, windows users are probably Straight Outta Luck.

        So, can you get the packages without the internet?
  • I'll wager the exchanges are being told to block it right about now

  • Toto...?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ghoser777 (113623) <fahrenba@@@mac...com> on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:22AM (#35042114) Homepage

    Would that be a homage to the group Toto, "famous" for the song "Africa"?

    It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you
    There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    Gonna take some time to do the things we never have

  • Yesterday when I read that Egypt had pulled the plug on the internet the first thing that went through my mind was, 'the people will find a way.'. The second thing was, 'I can't wait to see how they do it. This is going to be fascinating.'. Since then I have been contemplating ad-hoc wireless networks and dialing into 56k modems thousands of miles away.
    I have been chewing at the bit (haha! I made a pun!) for any information as to how this little project is proceeding.

    The best Cringley's article can muster is a French company offering 56k access for free and the words, 'Wireless mesh network'. That is all fine and dandy.
    I am happy and impressed that the French company is offering there resources to the Egyptian people. Big round of appluase for those guys. But the geek in me is not impressed. Dialing out of country to a 56k connection is just so bloody obvious. I want to know the bloody details of the wireless mesh. I want to know about the sap that has hacked his satelite dish to give internet access to his town.

    I want more. It has to be out there.

    • by bogjobber (880402) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:37AM (#35042172)
      I can't imagine that somebody who set up a wireless mesh network or hacked his satellite TV is going to be very focused on reporting the technical details of what he's doing to the foreign press. There's a revolution happening and the Egyptian government is cracking down hard on protesters.
    • Those bastards. They're probably too busy blogging/tweeting etc. about the triviality [heraldsun.com.au] of their daily lives [sky.com]. Maybe when they can just about be bothered we can get the much needed details of how they're doing it in the form of a wordpress blog or a flickr stream.
    • > Dialing out of country to a 56k connection is just so bloody obvious.

      Dialing out of country to a 56k connection is damn near impossible.

      28.8? If the phone lines are good.

      I wonder if there are any Egyptians left with USR HST modems, and if the dial-up concentrators even speak that any more..

    • Yesterday when I read that Egypt had pulled the plug on the internet the first thing that went through my mind was, 'the people will find a way.'. The second thing was, 'I can't wait to see how they do it. This is going to be fascinating.'. Since then I have been contemplating ad-hoc wireless networks and dialing into 56k modems thousands of miles away.

      Just as a hypothetical, perhaps not as a government action, but an act of sabotage, but what if it were to happen here? Suppose your internet went dark. What would you do? Do you have out-of-country dialup numbers handy? Do you even have a working modem? Do you even have a POTS phone line? Do you even have a terminal emulation program installed? In the before time we used to use bbs systems like fidonet; a series of nodes that connected via modem and swapped info periodically. Who's ready to deploy such a t

    • by Xyrus (755017) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @02:01PM (#35043522) Journal

      I propose a new protocol: Internet Delivers Information Over Twitter, or I.D.I.O.T for short.

    • Egypt turned off the internet by shutting down the DNS servers [zdnet.com]. It is extremely useful to have public DNS servers memorized. Google: 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4
    • by pongo000 (97357)

      I want to know the bloody details of the wireless mesh.

      Here's a place to start: HSMM-MESH [hsmm-mesh.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.nowpublic.com/world/egypt-protests-residents-open-wifi-networks-protestors-2751360.html [nowpublic.com]

    I submitted a seperate story on this - before seeing this story.
    Any ways - I think this gives greater significance to the WiFi p2p protocols - couple of links I can find in a rush:

    http://netsukuku.freaknet.org/ [freaknet.org]
    http://sourceforge.net/p/widi/home/ [sourceforge.net]

  • I think it's extremely important that we all take notes here. Dial-up may be getting phased out, but keeping one kicking around might not be the worst idea. Probably learning how to set up an actual dial-in connection with ease would be good. Because it can and will happen here when the shit hits the fan, and, being a veteran of war, I can tell you that the best way to demobilize and weaken your enemy is to fuck his communications as hard as you possibly can. Indymedia, while relegated largely to the role o
    • Setting up dial-in is pretty straightforward. One technique I like to do is kick off either a slipd or a pppd attached to a serial terminal based on the shell in the password file. This way, I can just dial in to a shell when it's convenient and/or I have a very slow connection.

      The hard part about it is having a POTS phone line. A lot of people forget that you can't run a modem over a VoIP line. This is yet another reason why I refuse to give up my copper pair...

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:34AM (#35042164)
    People like to think of the internet as the answer to "the man" and that it has a grass-roots connection to people that allows them to multiply their effectiveness at bringing "people power" to bear. Is there really any truth in that? Although it's a popular meme among advocates, it does sound unlikely.

    For a start, the greater the technological advancement, the more dependent it is on a larger number of underlying functions. That makes it vulnerable not only to someone hitting the kill switch, but to government agents (of whom we can safely assume there are many infiltrated amongst any overthrow plot) sending out false information under the guise of "the people" Whether that's reports saying things are different from what they really are, or sabotaging rallies by sending people tot he wrong place - the problem with believing an anonymous source (on twitter, say) is that they're anonymous: you can never be sure they truly represent who they say they do.

    So, while there is/was obviously some use of the internet by some people in Egypt, I would think that its main effect has been to deliver part of the story to outsiders (whether news organisations or just people) rather than to get things going within the country itself. As such, if the only way we have of getting information is through the internet we naturally (and mistakenly) presume that is also how people inside are getting information, too. There appears to already have been quite enough groundswell without the need for smartphones or websites.

    • by bogjobber (880402) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:47AM (#35042200)

      I would disagree with you that the main effect of the internet in Egypt has been to deliver news to outsiders. While internet access is blocked now, the use of social media has been instrumental in informing the population and organizing protests for quite a while. See the April 6 Youth Movement [wikipedia.org]. (Sorry, my work blocks most sites so I can't give a more informative reference than that wikipedia article).

      This is a movement that has been years in the making. I imagine a large number of the people involved in the protests (who are largely young, educated people who would have internet access) became interested and involved well before the protests of the last few days.

    • by mad flyer (589291) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:51AM (#35042218)

      you are in denial or full of shit...

      Just look at what's happening, how it started and how it's being conducted... The net was not shutdown in egypt without reason... Denying it's usefulness as an insurectional tool or saying it lack reliability is just stupidity or attention whoring "HEY look at me ! i'm going against the flow!!!"

      One thing for a start, multiple report from multiple source have more chance to give a good picture than any official newsgroup. It's chaos, propaganda and truth have the same 'timeslot' on the net... it's usually not difficult in these case to see that something is going on, maybe not precisely, but enough to get some part of the big picture...

      I'm getting really tired of smartasses like you, you have nothing of any value to add, just bucket loads of improbable "what if" that you try to pass as reasonable analysis...

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @09:54AM (#35042232) Homepage

      There are 2 reasons Mubarak tried to block Internet access:
      1. It was being used by protesters to coordinate - reporting on where police were concentrated, where people were gathering, etc.
      2. It had this video [youtube.com] of a civilian getting shot by police while he was backing away. Mubarak probably thought that by blocking access to the video the Egyptian people wouldn't figure out that the cops had crossed that line.

      It hasn't worked. As a longtime /. sig once put it: The Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That "longtime /. sig" is a quote by John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, creator or the alt.* Usenet hierarchy, major contributor to the GNU project, fifth employee of Sun Microsystems, co-author of the predecessor to DHCP, beard wearer. The correct quote is "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

    • There are other media sources to check: good coverage at the moment by AlJazeera [aljazeera.net].

      Some more Reuters quality photos here [totallycoolpix.com] (warning: some show injuries, not nice). Barak Obama should probably not view photo 80, the protestor doesn't look too happy with the 'made in USA' tear gas canister....

    • by InterGuru (50986)

      In 1789 mobs on the streets of Paris overthrew the monarchy without the Internet, without television, without radio, without telephones and without the telegraph.

      There is no question the Net has played a large role, and perhaps triggered the uprising earlier than would have happened without it, but it is not absolutely needed.

  • by sugapablo (600023)
    Luckily, Twitter doesn't take much bandwidth. YouTube won't be a good weapon at that rate, but 56K should be plenty for effective Twitter usage.
    • by sjames (1099)

      That's the great value of actual ascii based communication. 300 baud is good enough to transmit news stories as text or to coordinate protest.

  • When is someone going to invent a Wireless peer to peer messaging system? I know it will suck, and there's all kinds of security problems, but in situations like this it would be invaluable.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These are exciting times to be living in Egypt. I'm not an Egyptian myself having moved here a few years ago and the locals are usually wary of me but I have past experience of setting up ad-hoc internet connections and that has proven invaluable in the current crisis. I never travel anywhere without my trusty Commodore 64 and, combined with some string and sticky tape, I have set this up as an internet hub giving access to the rest of the world. Like people everywhere, the Egyptians just want to download

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @10:46AM (#35042428) Homepage Journal

    Does this mean we can get their IPV4 addresses back?

    Just 'sayin

  • I wonder if they've physically shut down the networks (down, down) or if they just did something like kill the DNS servers? Even in a small network like what Egypt has it would still take a while to get all the network links, towers and DSLAMS, etc. completely off. Even if it would be a little more difficult there are plenty of resourceful people who could get IRC servers and other services up even without the links to the outside world. Most people would consider a DNS failure an outage and it's relatively

    • by kent_eh (543303)

      I wonder if they've physically shut down the networks (down, down) or if they just did something like kill the DNS servers? Even in a small network like what Egypt has it would still take a while to get all the network links, towers and DSLAMS, etc. completely off. Even if it would be a little more difficult there are plenty of resourceful people who could get IRC servers and other services up even without the links to the outside world. Most people would consider a DNS failure an outage and it's relatively quick and easy (and just the thing to be sneaky if you have a revolutionary mind).

      I doubt they's go to the effort to shut it down at teh customer edge. Moch more effifient to do it at the CO/ISP office.
      Could use several methods to actually accomplish this. Perhaps disable DHCP or DNS or authentication, or route all traffic to a static "out of order" page, or shut down the ports to upstream providers, or to international gateways.
      Or probably a blend of the above.

      And, I have also been wondering, how hard is it to set up wireless mesh nodes using off the shelf consumer hardware?
      I'm w

    • by jimicus (737525)

      IIRC it's already been figured out - their top-tier ISPs (presumably under orders from the government) have stopped advertising the addresses they provide routes to at the border routers.

    • Word on the street is that they've blocked outgoing BGP advertisements
  • Perhaps this suggests that some of that 'old tech' should be kept working and around just in case... I probably have a modem in a basement somewhere and I'm equally sure I've thrown a bunch out thinking that they'd never be need again

  • The will be happy to broadcast any videos, pictures and comments, and put them up on the internet as well. If you are familiar with Cairo, just look at the live coverage that they are broadcasting, and figure out where they are. If they have satellite video access, they certainly have satellite internet access as well. And they love to put up stuff where they can say, "CNN exclusive!"

    Now, if the Egyptian starts blocking CNN . . . oh, well. Try Al Jazeera.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Nah apparently the protesters have been beating reporters. Including CNN, BBC, etc. Something to do about the reporters filming the MAS(aka Muslim Brotherhood) inciting people, and them not wanting it to get out.

  • I heard Jennie runs her own ISP now too....
  • According to an article appearing in the online technology journal MicroScope.co.uk, here [microscope.co.uk]:

    "...we rang the Egyptian Embassy for an explanation. We're not sure who we talked to, but they said that possibly a cleaner might have unplugged the Internet by mistake."

  • That's at least one thing the French do right at the moment.

  • by Simon80 (874052) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @03:06PM (#35043910)
    Mark Stephens and InfoWorld parted ways acrimoniously, and one of the results of that is that they both still use the Robert X. Cringely name. The InfoWorld Cringely is NOT the same author as this one [cringely.com].
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @05:22PM (#35044622)
    You have now seen an Internet Kill Switch in action. Anyone at all still think that it's a good idea to give this president one too?

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