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Egypt's Net Ruled By Phone, Not Kill Switch 102

Posted by timothy
from the so-when-you-shatter-some-of-the-tubes dept.
schliz writes "Judging by the time it took for Egypt to go offline and back online, the Internet Society speculates that the country's connectivity is controlled by a 'series of phone calls', rather than a 'kill switch'. The Government-imposed internet blackout lasted five days, beginning last Friday, and ending on Wednesday."
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Egypt's Net Ruled By Phone, Not Kill Switch

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:29AM (#35101328)

    WTF is the damn difference? What BS is this statement trying to make? Am I supposed to feel better about the pending 'Kill Switch'?

    • by grcumb (781340)

      WTF is the damn difference? What BS is this statement trying to make? Am I supposed to feel better about the pending 'Kill Switch'?

      It actually does make a difference, because it means that the Mubarak regime was able to keep each ISP scared enough to intimidate them into doing exactly what they said, even when that meant effectively cutting off their business. The timing of the calls -a little more than 13 minutes total- tells us that there was no hesitation from any of the ISPs. The only exception was the Noor group, who somehow managed to evade this order and remain online for days after the others had disappeared.

      The fact that a gov

      • And you think it would be different anywhere else in the world? If the US government called Sprint and Comcast and told them "cut the power OR ELSE!" they wouldn't do it?

        Think about it: They know exactly that the government can't do that for more than a few days. Else the economy is crippled beyond repair. Facebook, Google and all the other precious data mines would have left the country before you can say "relocation". Oh, they might even keep the workers. What's the problem with them working in the US, co

        • "And btw, you have been selected for a random IRS audit. Long version"
          or even worse the "Deep Forensics" version
          because you know that they will find something you are not correct on.

          Dem Treasury Boys iz a ruff bunch y'all dunna want to mess with dem.

        • "If the US government called Sprint and Comcast and told them "cut the power OR ELSE!" they wouldn't do it?"

          I imagine they would, for a time. But with the amount of lost revenue, they wouldn't comply for long unless legally compelled.
          • by tverbeek (457094)
            Which is pretty much the same scenario that just played out in Egypt.
            • Yes, given how the Dept of Justice has shown how they will interpret existing laws w.r.t. torture, detaining terrorist suspects, violations of how NSL's must be used, rendition of non-combatants, etc..., there is 100% likelihood that they [as in, the command structure under the President] already have a legal opinion saying they already have the power to order any and/or all parts of the internet shutdown.

      • Modify physical layout of the connections. Every house, block and street to have multiple links to each other, and proper routing in place. Servers should be distributed and virtual, no addresses. Attempts at censorship would become hard.

        Data communications deserve total freedom of expression, just like in-person and voice communication. No central should have any controls.
        • And who would pay for all this? Technology could be a big help, but it's going to take something more sophisticated than that.
          • I have given some thought to this in the past. My current thoughts are towards some sort of shared-storage for blocks, exchanged wirelessly. Everything from PCs to mobile phones could take part then. Want a file? Maybe your neighbour has a piece, or your co-workers, or the person you pass in the street with the software on their mobile phone. A moment of contact, and the pieces are transfered. Latency would be pathetic, but it's an interesting concept for things where time isn't a factor. It might function
            • by dave420 (699308)
              And when are they going to set this up? Who is going to maintain it? How will they afford it? Will these people have enough time left over to live their lives?
              • As with any other open-source project. Code is cheap, and needs only a few people to write it. So long as it runs off-the-shelf, common, affordable hardware. Might see a lot of interest from pirates, eager to escape transfer quotas.
            • enable "local peer discovery" in your torrent client... Seriously though, it would be nice to have some open source firmware for wireless devices that had mesh support that could be configured as always on or to turn on discovery when the wan connection dropped.
              • We're thinking along the same lines, yes. Only I'm thinking local as in physically local - broadcasting a 'I want this bit of data frame' at intervals, and seeing if any devices in the vicinity are running the protocol and have it in storage.
        • Vendors won't cooperate with this. They want exclusivity to their customers. They don't have the same ideology.
          • Like TCP/IP? UDP? Multicast? NetBios? QoS (802.11p etc)? Good thing all those protocols used to talk between devices are manufacturer specific. Oh wait, they aren't.
            • The educated technicians that try to implement this will find their networks shut down in other ways. The average Joe won't use such a network because it's not the default and they don't understand the technology or its implementation. The moment they have trouble with anything it's a reset to vendor-specific settings. The traffic will be shaped because it can be shaped at whim by the ISP; there is no Net Neutrality. So how does this idea succeed?

              Idealism is great until it meets reality. That's not saying
      • The fact that a government functionary can pick up the phone, say, "Shut down your network" and be complied with without the slightest hesitation doesn't say a thing about technology, but it teaches us a lot about the nature of government, and perhaps makes it a little clearer to those of us in the outside world just what the pro-democracy protesters were willing to risk their lives for

        +1

        This is another example of why I get p1ssed off when people refer to the USA as a "police state" (I'm Canadian). Peopl

    • Am I supposed to feel better about the pending 'Kill Switch'?

      You're not. But the kind of people who make these sorts of phone calls will be delighted.

    • Timothy had nothing better to write about on this day, then to try and speculate what real story look like.
      Goes the same with the editors that let this story pass

    • by tverbeek (457094)
      This is an example of people not understanding the difference between a metaphor and literal statement. When we talk about the president of the US having his finger on the button of a nuclear arsenal, we don't mean that there is a button somewhere that he would actually push with his finger. In fact, if he chose to launch nuclear missiles, he would make a phone call in which certain protocols would be followed, which would prompt additional phone calls and other communications to be made according to esta
      • by kryliss (72493)

        That is incorrect!! According to Monsters Vs. Aliens. It's a huge red button on the wall.. right next to the identical huge red button for coffee. :)

    • by uncledrax (112438)

      You don't think that the Fed's couldn't do that in the US now?
      The only good part is there are more then a few ISPs out there, and most of the big ones would ensure they have lawyers involved. I'm sure the situation can, and has, come up where a smaller ISP shuts themselves down because some Federal agent has showed up with some paperwork. I know it's happening to web-hosting companies now...

      Anyone that thinks the 'kill switch' would be some jolly-red button like in the end of 'Land of Confusion [youtube.com]' button is j

    • WTF is the damn difference? What BS is this statement trying to make? Am I supposed to feel better about the pending 'Kill Switch'?

      Technically, there is a difference.

      It means that an internet outage could be averted by a preemptive phone outage!

  • by outsider007 (115534) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:35AM (#35101350)

    I think some people are imagining a light switch. Next to a red nuke button and a bat phone.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well it would be cool if it was a light switch, then some staff-member could accidentally turn it off before going home for the night.

       

      • by sir1real (1636849)

        This is a common misunderstanding. It's a giant pull switch with the word INTERNET spelled out in big letters on top. You have to break the glass panel that surrounds it before pulling the switch.

        • by Rick17JJ (744063)

          I had visualized it being a toggle switch with a flip up safety cover (instead of having to break glass). The safety cover would be there to prevent someone like a janitor from accidentally mistaking it for a light switch.

          In addition to the "Internet" label, a warning sign for visitors would say something like "Please do not flip this switch to see what it does."

          • You obviously have no experience of janitors in server rooms.

            They somehow feel the need to lift the glass and remove the dust from inside. (Since they don't normally read English, the warning label does not help.)

            Yes I did work in the lab where the cleaner unplugged the Vax (mainframe) to plug in the (Vax) floor polisher. Sure there was a sign saying "Only for Vax", but just when you make something foolproof, God makes a bigger fool.

      • by monktus (742861)
        That happened to me you insensitive clod! My connection went down for about a day last year and when I checked my ISP's status page when it came back up, it turned out someone at BT had accidentally disconnected them from BT Wholesale while testing a circuit.
    • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandywinehund[ ].org ['red' in gap]> on Friday February 04, 2011 @04:16AM (#35101490) Journal

      Exactly, the law wants to legalize in the US exactly what happened in Egypt. It will be a series of calls still. Currently though, if the President calls Level 3 and says, stop your series of tubes from flowing, Level 3 may or may not do it, and is not obligated to.

      The law would give the president the same power here as in Egypt (with regards to the internet that is).

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        mubarak wielded total power for 30 years, it's not like his system needed a law for those calls. he didn't need any law for anything he did. a sham system for 30 years with disputable beginning and no scripted end.

        if there was "need" then obama could do it overnight too, in practical sense though he would need to get everyone else to do what he says to achieve that. he's got direct access to military so _if_ he had good reasons he could cut most of landline internet inside 24 hours(into slowly repairable st

        • by MobyDisk (75490)

          True, but there is a big difference between "Shut down or I will send tanks to your building" and a legal request. It takes a lot more guts to send the military, and tends to provoke the people. When you hide behind the law, it seems more legitimate.

      • Big problem is that there are many avenues open to go around the Kill Switch, such as private network tunneling into Canada and Latin America, where the information just flows. If the non-USA ISPs don't belong to the KILL Switch party, then a kill switch for the USA will result in a global Kill Switch. I suppose it would kill all the dot coms.
    • by arunce (1934350)
      Like the red phone at White House.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, it's cool to think that someone has a big history eraser button that's hardwired to do exactly that.

      judging from the chaos in egypt, it wouldn't have been a wonder if large parts would have just gone down simply because technicians etc weren't coming to work because they couldn't reach(and the foreign techs were the first to leave and even those who stayed behind are now being evacuated).

      the internet killing didn't do much for the protests though, maybe even escalated them, as people who wanted inform

    • Well, yes, they are, but really thats a lot more palatable isnt it? Its a lot nicer to think that we can hold the internet being taken down on a single jackass with an itchy trigger finger. Realising that it takes many many people working in concert to intentionally remove the ability of a large segment of the population from communicating, and realising that that is what just happend, is wholly depressing.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Yeah. If Egypt had turned off all their overseas connections, mass 'net disruptions would've occurred (remember when those undersea cables kept getting severed?).

      Instead, Egypt just killed routing for packets destined to Egypt - packets transiting through Egypt were unmolested and send on their merry way. Otherwise significant amounts of connectivity would be lost and there would be far more political pressure on Egypt to restore connectivity.

      If the US did the same, it'll be easier since a good chunk of tra

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a stupid, stupid article. The internet just doesn't disappear if you tell it to do so in a stern voice you know...

  • I first noticed the following two phrases "time it took" and "series of phone calls" the first thing that popped in my head was "WTF they still have dial-up"? Which made me do a double take and read part of the article and waste some time.
    • by necro81 (917438)

      WTF they still have dial-up

      well, how else are the remote administrators supposed to access the routing centers and turn the internets back on?

  • ... when both the intent and result is exactly the same.

    • by Kokuyo (549451) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:58AM (#35101440) Journal

      What it does mean is that the discussion about a kill-switch is moot. In most countries, only a handful of organizations run international backbones. Just about every country could take the net down in such a fashion.

      A literal kill-switch might just work a bit faster.

      • by grcumb (781340)

        What it does mean is that the discussion about a kill-switch is moot. In most countries, only a handful of organizations run international backbones. Just about every country could take the net down in such a fashion.

        In most other countries, even the government would have to get lawyers and judges involved. In most functioning democracies, they wouldn't succeed, except perhaps in wartime.

        A literal kill-switch might just work a bit faster.

        Mostly because it would remove the role of lawyers and judges...

        .., and Democracy.

        • by Thing 1 (178996)

          In most functioning democracies, they wouldn't succeed, except perhaps in wartime.

          Welcome to perpetual wartime.

      • by beaviz (314065) *

        What it does mean is that the discussion about a kill-switch is moot. In most countries, only a handful of organizations run international backbones. Just about every country could take the net down in such a fashion.

        In my country it would go like this:

        Head of state dials up a very large backbone provider:
        HoS: "Hello, will you please turn off your routers?"
        VLBP: "No."
        HoS: "Ahem. I don't think I've made myself clear. Turn off your routers."
        VLBP: "No."
        HoS: "Listen. Either you switch them off NOW or I will make sure that you will NEVER get any business from the state EVER again and I will make sure you get the FULL audit for the last 50 years of accounting."
        VLBP: "Ehh... Maybe we could have a little "accident" knocking out

  • Um, duh?

    Did we really except Egypt to have organized enough to have a big red button for him to push? A lot of people communicate these days by phone, especially when you can't email them.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday February 04, 2011 @04:26AM (#35101540)

    The Government-imposed internet blackout lasted five days, beginning last Friday, and ending on Wednesday.

    ...and the economic damage will last much longer. What company would want to have its operations in Egypt when it might have its net connection broken for days at the whim of the ruling power?

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Friday February 04, 2011 @07:12AM (#35102058) Homepage Journal

      internet connectivity is the least of the worries of the companies with professionals in egypt right now.

      the business implications from the internet drop are also minimal compared to the revolt in total, it's not like they could have worked anyways. economically that affect is also quite minimal when contrasted with the fact that cairo is pillaged and looting has been widespread and people are in a general strike, or would be if they had the option of going to work(those with jobs to begin with). "sorry I'm having trouble taking your call because bricks are being thrown at the window".

    • Fear not: Egypt's government has hired Hill and Knowlton to promote the country "as an outsourcing location." Uh, money well spent, I'm sure now that Egypt is a case study in why not to outsource. (source: the US Foreign Agents Registration Act database, which is searchable online. https://twitter.com/Integrilicious/status/31803089807740928 [twitter.com] )

      All of this can change if Mubarak leaves and he country really opens up. Give it a few years: a timezone near Europe, a large English-speaking population, and a lot of

  • You don't expect that president of Egypt personally was calling providers, do you?
    He flipped a switch. A big sign "SHUT DOWN INTERNET NOW" lit up in a special room, and well trained officials called ISPs with instruction to turn off that internet thingie. And ISPs said "Sure, no problem! Done!"
    Killswitch :)

  • Pictures from Egypt (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skylinux (942824) on Friday February 04, 2011 @04:31AM (#35101558) Homepage

    Check out these links for some truly cool pictures. These pictures speak to me and show me the pain and suffering of the Egyptian people.
    But they are also some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen because they show people fighting to change their lives.

    Feb 03 http://totallycoolpix.com/2011/02/egypt-protests-anti-mubarak-vs-pro-mubarak-riots/ [totallycoolpix.com]

    Jan 30 http://totallycoolpix.com/2011/01/the-egypt-protests-part-2/ [totallycoolpix.com]

    Jan 28 http://totallycoolpix.com/2011/01/the-egypt-protests/ [totallycoolpix.com]

    • by Canazza (1428553)

      A friend of mine is over in Cairo covering the protests. He's in the main square with the anti-government protesters, so far he's been gassed twice, bricked once and nearly mowed down by a truck, all while on air.

    • by bvimo (780026)

      It's nice to see the Egyptian males out and about.

  • Oh Egypt... a land where your words were lost but for a small stone
    with three versions take heart.

    Take pictures, document them. 8.5x11 glossy with a
    PARAGRAPH of writing on the back tells us the truth
    as you see it. Small pictures well selected are good.

    Do not listen to CCN or FOX...
    For one that twit Pierce what is his name is getting tiresome in his
    bias and bating of "guests". Guests that may now feel
    abused and more hostage than guest.

  • Spam (Score:4, Funny)

    by talsemgeest (1346555) on Friday February 04, 2011 @04:59AM (#35101646)
    In other news, spam out of Egypt almost completely ceased during the internet blackout!
    • In other news, spam out of Egypt almost completely ceased during the internet blackout!

      In related news, anti-Mubarak protesters were heard shouting, "We want eggs, baked beans, democracy, and spam!"

      • Don't they prefer eggs, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, democracy, and spam?
    • by Frekja (982708)
      Gah. My company's IT security policy is exactly like this: if you can't use your computer, you can't get viruses, right?
  • Stupid people! Why would you think it's a button ?!
    It's Egypt after all (Pyramids, Sphinx etc), surely it has to be a hand lever or something similar.

    • by oztiks (921504)

      Or some sort of ancient sudoku puzzle where if you get it wrong poison darts are shot at you or the room fills up with quicksand and you die instantly.

    • by kryliss (72493)

      Nope.. all you have to do is remove a small golden statue off of a pedestal. Weight changes and the pedestal drops.. This will in turn cut off the internet but you had better move out of their fast as the large 50 ton stone ball rolls towards you.

  • Since there's only like 3 ISPs here, generally ran by incompetents. TEData I'm looking at you -- specifically.

At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer you will find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.

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