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Syria Drops Off the Internet As Turmoil Spikes 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the syrias-problem dept.
CWmike writes "In what appears to be the latest bid by a government to throttle access to news and information amid growing civil unrest, the Syrian government Friday shut down all Internet services. Internet monitoring firm Renesys reported that starting around 7 a.m. EDT today, close to two-thirds of all Syrian networks were suddenly unreachable from the global Internet. In just 30 minutes, routes to 40 of 59 Syrian networks were withdrawn from the global routing table, Reneys' chief technology officer James Cowie said in a blog post. The shutdown has affected all of SyriaTel's 3G mobile data networks as well as several of the country's ISPs, such as Sawa, INET and Runnet. Also down are the Damascus city government page and the customs web site. The only networks that appear to be somewhat reachable are a handful of government-owned networks such as one belonging to Syria's Oil Ministry, Cowie noted. 'We don't know yet how the outage was coordinated, or what specific regions or cities may be affected more than others,' Cowie wrote. 'If Egypt and Libya are any guide, one might conclude that events on the street in Syria are reaching a tipping point.'"
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Syria Drops Off the Internet As Turmoil Spikes

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  • 20 bucks says Syrian protesters will attempt a Tahrir Square.

    10 more bucks says some concessions will have to be made.

    Unsure about revolution.

    • by isorox (205688)

      20 bucks says Syrian protesters will attempt a Tahrir Square.

      10 more bucks says some concessions will have to be made.

      Unsure about revolution.

      Does Syria have oil?

      • Yes. It's not one of the huge oil producers like, for example, Russia or Saudi Arabia. But it's still a significent exporter.
    • This will be bloody.

      • by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday June 03, 2011 @03:34PM (#36333438)

        It's already bloody. Several thousand dead at this point. It looked like the Regime was winning until the pictures of the dead kids, in particular the one with the mutilated genitals hit the internet and basically fanned some new fire into the resistance. My guess is the regime is trying to prevent their own people from accessing the imagery of the kids, though it's likely that everyones already seen it or has copies. They made a serious error in judgement on the effect mutilating a child would have. My guess is they thought it would inspire fear, they were very very wrong.

        • Re:Calling for bets (Score:5, Informative)

          by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Friday June 03, 2011 @03:53PM (#36333566) Homepage Journal

          Not only do they already have these images - Today was "Children's Friday" demonstration - where kids marched in the streets, carrying placards with the images of Hamza Al-Katib.
          http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/20116392427645443.html [aljazeera.net]

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/syria-internet-services-shut-down-as-protesters-fill-streets/2011/06/03/AGtLwxHH_blog.html [washingtonpost.com]

        • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday June 03, 2011 @04:23PM (#36333746)

          They made a serious error in judgement on the effect mutilating a child would have. My guess is they thought it would inspire fear, they were very very wrong.

          Psychology is a funny thing. That kind of terror repression scares people into submitting right up to the point it scares them into rebelling. I think it works on a base, emotional level that defies any kind of rational consideration. It's like when the reporter is talking to someone who just did something crazy to save someone else, they'll say "I don't know why I did it, I wasn't thinking at all. I just saw and did and was through it before my mind caught up."

          The Libya thing surprises me. I thought we saw the collapse of Qdaffy coming and it just stopped in mid-collapse. It's like watching a failed demolition where the building defiantly stops collapsing halfway through.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwGE92upfQM [youtube.com]

          I bet a lot of the high-level people who defected thought they were safely jumping on the bandwagon and now it's months later and where's this revolution we've been hearing about?

          • Re:Calling for bets (Score:4, Informative)

            by gtall (79522) on Friday June 03, 2011 @04:53PM (#36333900)

            Insightful comment you made. Just to hopefully add a bit, I think the success of a revolution depends upon the proportion and status (in a very ill-defined sense) of the people the regime has bought off to the point where they depend upon the regime for survival (pick yer survival: religious, political, economic, etc.).

            In Syria, the minorities have a stake in the government because the overwhelming majority of the people are Sunni whereas the regime is Alawite which a branch of Shi'ism. The Christians and other religious sects and the Kurds and other ethnic groups believe the government protects them from Sunni domination. Saudi Arabia's emphasis on Sunnism make the division sharper, just as they f-cked up the situation in Bahrain (there was no hint of Iranian involvement but those Saudi saw an Iranian behind every grain of sand). So the Syrian regime gets support it doesn't deserve, they cannot protect their minorities except through violence which will only make the Sunnis think of the minorities as ill-deserving of protection.

            In Libya, the sects aren't a problem, it's the tribes. The Q. Dolt has been playing them off each other for decades. That kind of suspicion won't disappear overnight. Nor do the tribes feel any sort of common purpose, the tribe comes first. So the opposition has been diffuse. And the oil revenue has be paying for a certain segment of the population. That segment won't willingly give up.

            The militaries in both countries depend intellectually and financially on the central government with no outside influence. With Egypt and Tunisia, there was Western influence. The consequence was the latter could see an existence separate professionally from the State. Syria and Libya's militaries can see no existence separate from the state because the State is their sole reason to exist.

            • Re:Calling for bets (Score:5, Informative)

              by Kyusaku Natsume (1098) on Friday June 03, 2011 @05:30PM (#36334126)

              Also, the fact that the libyan rebels are killing left and right black people just for the crime of being black has planted the seed for a long lasting conflict not only among libyans but between the libyans and their neighbors that are not that happy with the establishment of a new apartheid regime in North Africa.

          • Re:Calling for bets (Score:5, Interesting)

            by shutdown -r now (2226722) on Friday June 03, 2011 @06:02PM (#36334346)
            The reason why the Libyan uprising failed was because it wasn't exactly a people's revolution, where elites are swiped away. It is an uprising against one faction of the Libyan society against another faction - a civil war - and it cuts across the social strata. There are plenty of genuine Qaddafi supporters in Libya, and not just in the army - early on they've been telling us that everyone is deserting him and he only has foreign mercs to fight for him, but by now it's obvious that it's not true. So the whole thing in Libya will drag on until either side will gain the upper hand, and make no mistake - either way it'll be a massacre for the other sides. Rebels aren't really any better than loyalists in that regard - we've already seen summary executions, public torture and mutilation documented on their side as well (plenty of vids on YouTube if you care to look). Not exactly surprising, given that the rebel faction is an unstable alliance of liberals, monarchists and Islamists, and liberals don't exactly have the upper hand. Then there are Black Libyans, who are between the rock and the hard place - loyalists want to conscript them to fight, and rebels (the majority of which are strongly racist) shoot them on sight when captured, as "mercs". Truly a mess.
        • by Smauler (915644) on Friday June 03, 2011 @05:16PM (#36334034)

          I'm personally very wary about individual cases inciting revolt.

          Firstly, the revolutionaries in Libya have already committed acts of questionable legality and morality. Individual cases there have been worrying.
          Secondly, individual incidents can often be blamed upon rogue individuals.
          Thirdly, though I do not claim this has happened here, it is possible to stage individual events. Propaganda is massively effective.

          However, the biggest problem I have with individual events that hit the news is that there are thousands that don't, that we are ignoring. Torture, violence, unjustified incarceration and repression are systematic in plenty of countries that we call our allies. Until recently we were happy to accept all these things with Syria (as one of a number of examples). It's only now that Syria is in crisis that we condemn their actions.

        • by bryan1945 (301828)

          Somehow I missed this facet of the conflict/uprising (the kids). That's just some level of sick I can't comprehend. I don't have kids, but I have a niece and nephew, and... it makes me literally feel sick.

  • (Lolcat)
    Cuz I am in ur revolution and you can't stand it.
    Long revolutions are long.
    (/Lolcat)

  • Really bad case of 503 unavailable today.

  • ... I've just installed an "Internet kill switch" in my house. Now - I just need to wait for the next time my wife or kids piss me off. Internet Nazi says, "NO INTERNET FOR YOU!"
  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday June 03, 2011 @03:30PM (#36333424) Homepage Journal

    Part of any future protest movement is going to be managing international communication in the face of government-enforced information-blockades.

    Part of any future totalitarian regime is going to be anticipating these and taking care of it.

    --
    On an unrelated topic, there are two ways to successfully run a totalitarian regime:
    * Through fear and intimidation
    * Through running it like a cult and silencing people at the slightest hint that they don't worship you.

    Most regimes try use the first approach and some do so successfully. North Korea - the self-proclaimed 2nd happiest place on Earth [theweek.com] - approximates the second but I'm sure they use the first when needed and they've been successful at staying in power for decades.

    • I have one.

      Encoded sales transaction.

      Go to any participating store and order X items according to a chart you carry with you/memorize.

      It's like a substitution code, and thanks to Kurt Godel only your partner knows what the coding is. So what if you buy 12 boxes of cheerios and not 4, 3 nail clippers, 17 tissues, etc.

      Then the wholesaler/etc blogs the coded message without saying what sale it came from.

      • But how do you negociate the code beforehand? Or know you can trust the store? And how does the info get out if the internet and international phone service is cut?

        With proper use of encryption and anti-tracing measures, it is possible at least to force the government into an all-or-nothing action like shutting down the internet access for the country entirely, which further angers the people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    CWmike writes

    "In what appears to be the latest bid by a government to throttle access to news and information amid growing civil unrest, the Slashdot website Friday shut down all Internet services and gave out 503 errors.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday June 03, 2011 @03:43PM (#36333488)

    I get so sick of hearing people say that the internet can't be censored (usually with some "The internet is *designed* to route around any censorship" crap). If a government wants to stop you from posting pics of you beating kids on the old internets, they don't have to develop some elaborate firewall that you and your hacker buddies can figure out how to bypass. All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

    • by Gordo_1 (256312)

      Of course in the case of many of many middle eastern dictatorships, it doesn't hurt that there are only a handful of state-owned Internet entry points into the country in the first place.

    • All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

      Not entirely true. While countries can make "the tubes" a hell of a lot slower, it's almost impossible to cut anyone off completely from the grid. Look at North Korea as an example. There's almost no internet access in the entire country itself, but we're starting to get more pictures and information from inside the country than ever before because people are more and more easily able to send information outside of the country by other wired, wireless, or even physical means (such as hurling DVDs or memory

      • by satuon (1822492)

        Also, a lot of people who live near the Chinese border in North Korea can make phone calls to the outside world because there is cell phone coverage coming from China that extends a few miles across the border.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So they are cutting off all international calling as well?
      They are shooting down satellites?
      Checking all travelers at borders for any device which might contain data?
      You could get a lot of tweets on a microsd card.

      • by Graymalkin (13732)

        They can easily do all of those things (save shoot down a satellite). Even with a satellite transceiver unless the average citizen had one before the fighting started along with an active account to be able to use it, most people don't have satellite internet access. Of course someone with such a transceiver could send messages for people but there's a pretty big danger there as the government might not have any qualms about putting a bullet in their forehead if they get caught.

        Effective alternate communica

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          A microsd card is small enough it could easily be swallowed. I doubt they are opening all the mail, one could just be placed in a birthday card.

          Sure they are, but the protesters know when the protests are. This means they can setup the channels ahead of time.

          • by Graymalkin (13732)

            So they are cutting off all international calling as well?
            They are shooting down satellites?
            Checking all travelers at borders for any device which might contain data?
            You could get a lot of tweets on a microsd card.

            You're asserting in your original comment that Syria somehow hasn't blocked off access to the outside world because they haven't shot down Inmarsat satellites or that you could shove a MicroSD card up your ass and pretend it's the internet.

            Syria can effectively but their population off from the ou

            • i just was futzing around with the wikipedia article about it.

              they can't read your memory but they can tell your skin temperature, pitch of voice, eye movements, etc, and plug it into a computer to 'analyze' your veracity.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          Hard to do a satellite transceiver in a country that is blocked on most technology export lists.

          I suppose you could pay 2x for one and get it smuggled in, but 2x for an already expensive piece of equipment is a lot. Plus you need to find someone that will provision you without asking too many questions. A US-based provider would not do it for Syria again because of prohibitions on doing any business at all with Syria and people in Syria.

          I suppose you could find someone in Europe that would ignore or pay of

      • I'm Lebanese but currently residing in Syria, so I can tell you that yes, they're doing quite a bit of those.

        Border controls have really been tightened, you are searched more than once. You could probably smuggle microsd cards, but you probably won't be able to travel back and forth without much delay and arousing a lot of suspicion(which means thorougher searching). Also, the whole point of things like tweets and the like is the fast access to information and ability to coordinate which is more than offset

    • You've heard of IP over shortwave right? Its always possible to connect.

      • all they have to do is to have a good relationship in someone whose own country runs satellites (or other SIGINT) spying on shortwave signals and then they basically track the internet back to the home station

    • I don't understand what you're getting at, it looks to me like Syria's failing here was precisely in being able to censor the internet. Since they didn't have any way of stopping people with internet access from getting the information, so they had to cut everyone off from the internet. But the internet is still going, and anyone on it can still get the information. So, yes, the internet routes around damage, and treats censorship as damage. That doesn't help much if you're in the damaged section, but i

    • I don't understand what you're getting at, it looks to me like Syria's failing here was precisely in being able to censor the internet. Since they didn't have any way of stopping people with internet access from getting the information, so they had to cut everyone off from the internet. But the internet is still going, and anyone on it can still get the information. So, yes, the internet routes around damage, and treats censorship as damage. That doesn't help much if you're in the damaged section, but if th

      • the question is this. what if there were a worldwide sort of police state?

        the internet architecture depends on certain nodes being up, and all of them are run by big corporations and/or government authorities.

        if you go back to paper, or back further, to spoken word and oral history, you decentralize.

    • by Smauler (915644)

      All they have to do is show up at the handful of ISP's in the country with rifles and tell them to cut you off. No connection to your house, no internet for you.

      Two words for you : Sattelite phones.

    • by grcumb (781340) on Friday June 03, 2011 @07:25PM (#36334730) Homepage Journal

      I get so sick of hearing people say that the internet can't be censored (usually with some "The internet is *designed* to route around any censorship" crap).

      The Internet is designed to route around censorship. It's the physical networks [imagicity.com] that have choke points.

      And no. this is not a distinction without a difference. As long as there are multiple routes to a destination, TCP/IP manages very well indeed, and allows the opportunity for all kinds of hard-to-track activity. But the vast majority of physical networks are built in the traditional telco format: Small pipes aggregating to big ones that pass through a single gateway, which is typically where the telco installs its toll booth and the government its censor. This topology is really the opposite of an end-to-end network, which is typically how we define the Internet.

      The Internet is useful for two important things during an insurrection: To win the sympathy of the outside world, and to coordinate action. Ad hoc mesh networks would address the latter moderately well [imagicity.com][*] (in urban areas) and smuggling high density media would work for the former. There is hope for the Internet yet, but it's not going to be realised as long as we leave it in the hands of telcos and governments.

      --------------
      [*] Of course, I'm not talking about typical North American consumer Internet. I'm talking about having any ability to communicate at all in the face of overwhelming censorship..

  • Maybe there's a lower level protocol that can be used somehow. Even if it's only 1 way, can you broadcast across a router without needing to know the next hop? you could spoof a mac in the ARP request to send a message eg: 20:00:56:DE:AD

    • ARP generally isn't a routable protocol, thus unless deliberately configured, the routers aren't going to pass an ARP packet. You've got a better chance of abusing ICMP to do what you want.

    • There may be some way to sneak a packet through using source routing, but even if that does work all it'd do is result in the government physically unplugging the cables. You won't be routing through that.
    • The routers were physically unplugged, I think. At first I could connect over DSL but couldn't even ping the gateway. However, later on, all I got from my DSL modem was 'link down' and that was that. It's working again today, as of about 4hrs ago.

  • Now that Syrians and journalists don't have the internet to inform them and keep in touch, they will pour down to the streets to do that. They will pull a Tahrir Square. Good for them!

  • ARIN announced that IPv4 addresses haven't run out after all...

  • From: U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right [wired.com]

    The report, by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, comes the same day an internet-monitoring firm detected that two thirds of Syria's internet access has abruptly gone dark, in what is likely a government response to unrest in that country.

    Full report, dated 15 May 2011: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue [ohchr.org]

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      That doesn't mean shit. The UN is the same group that puts countries that are most responsible for the oppression of women, leading womens rights councils, and countries that are the most oppressive against other religions to lead religious freedom.

      The UN? Is a sick, perverse, fucking joke, and quickly heading towards a second league of nations. I haven't quite figured out yet if it'll take another world war to do it yet though.

  • . . . . because this worked sooo well for Egypt!

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday June 03, 2011 @05:27PM (#36334100) Homepage Journal
    If you are a dictator, reasonably smart and been paying attention to current events, the following points should be occuring to you:

    1. Be like Mike... er, I mean China.... be proactive about the interwebs. Put in a nationwide firewall, slowly censor the net so that stuff like twitter, facebook, gmail, etc. are not accessible to most of the normal population (i.e. non-geeks). This helps you avoid having to shut off the whole thing off later when the riots in the street reach epic levels.

    Encouraging domestic, tightly-regulated and spied upon alternative companies, like China's Baidu and Renren, to substitute for the blocked USAsian sites is a bonus.

    2. Never relinquish power, and be ruthless. Your only other option is imprisonment or death.

    Nice guys like Mubarak who voluntarily give up power and refuse to annihilate protesters with cluster bombs end up getting arrested for (insert reason here). Kadaffi seems to have learned this lesson well.

    3. Get nukes, and get them fast. If you don't, you can be bombed, invaded and arrested by USA/NATO at their whim. North Koreans and Iranians know this. Saddam didn't, and look what happened to him. Kadaffi is finding out right now the hard way.

    This last one is a shame, and wouldn't be necessary if our leaders took to heart the founding fathers' plea about avoiding entangling alliances, not getting involved in the territorial disputes of Europe (and by extension the Middle East which is like 18th century Europe squared), be a friend of liberty everywhere but guardians only of our own. But noooo, Dubya had to avenge his father's wimpy mistake and prove to the world his dick size, and Obama had to... well I have no idea what motivates him but he is diving headlong into the Mideast and proving himself a clone of Dubya.
    • "... to substitute for the blocked USAsian sites is a bonus."

      I stopped reading the moment you used that ridiculous, immature term referring to people that live in the USA.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Friday June 03, 2011 @05:43PM (#36334196)

    The name that worries me is Hama. It's a city in Syria where there was an uprising nearly two decades ago.

    Hafez Assad (the father of the current president Bashir Assad) ordered the city of Hama to be put to the sword in 1982. Low estimates of the death toll for that one are 10K, with regime members boasting of much higher totals.

    The Syrian regime has the advantage that the people in the regime and in control positions of hte military are largely Alawites, unlike the majority Sunnis. Thus, they'll be less likely to shy away from attacking the populace than say, the Egyptian Army was.

    I'm not sure Bashir Assad will feel he has all that much to lose if the uprisings have indeed reached a state that seriously threatens his regime. He may resort to a family tradition.

    Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre [wikipedia.org]

    • It may repeat but it's highly unlikely. Right now the two cities that were involved in the 1979-1982 unrest, namely, Hama and Aleppo have been mostly calm(Hama only yesterday started to figure in the news). Victims usually have good memories.

      If Aleppo and Hama do rise up however, chances are that the regime will fall apart but it will not be able to repeat its 1982 massacre. In '82 the world was still bipolar with Syria firmly in the USSR's sphere of influence, also, 1982 was a year of considerable unrest i

      • by Hartree (191324)

        I agree with much of what you say. The current unrest hasn't reached a level that's a big threat.

        My point is just that the previous actions in Hama provide a precedent. Some of those involved are still in the government. If things go sour for the Syrian regime, officials can point to Hama and say that it was fairly successful, had limited international fallout, and that it may be an effective option once again.

        The Muslim Brotherhood was smashed by the Hama massacre and so wounded that for 20 years it wasn't

  • Like father, like son. The apple didn't fall too far from that tree.
  • Since Egypt I've been wondering about the feasibility of ad-hoc mesh networks. With plentiful wifi nodes and smartphones it seems like it would be somewhat possible to have them relay packets to maintain connectivity. You'd need to implement discretionary throttling for the individual owner of the wifi node / smartphone so their personal usage doesn't suffer too much.

    But as long as you have enough people within typical cell tower range of an international border beyond which the regime has no repressive c

  • Religion has been a controversial, deadly, and dividing issue throughout history. In the western world, we had the Lutheran split from the Catholic church. Later on in the US the KKK was once based on religion more than racism. There are still anti-Jewish sentiments abounding, i.e. "The Jews planned 9/11." And of course we still have the wacky religious nuts, such as the Westboro picketing nuts and that guy who predicted the 'Rapture.'

    The thing is, Christianity hasn't really gone all genocidal (religiou

    • by Bongo (13261)

      This is very controversial, but I'll post it as a pointer rather than because I know it to be true. You can split any view down into whether it allows questioning and reinterpretation, and whether it doesn't. A lot of people from various faiths will say that you have to read the texts and interpret them to find something good in them. You might look for the spirit of something that was written two thousand years ago in different life conditions and which has been messed up my multiple reinterpretations sinc

    • by Pentagram (40862)

      Syria's government isn't really based on religion. The governing regime is from the same minority religious group (Alawite), but that's more to do with corruption and cronyism than any strong religious belief.

      Syria is a pretty free country so far as religion goes. It is a culturally Muslim country so women can't sit in the front of taxis/wear bikinis etc. but there's no problem if you want to go to church or be an atheist (even Jews living in Syria is acceptable, at least in theory).

      There are religious tens

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