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Censorship Networking Security Your Rights Online

The Countries Most Vulnerable To an Internet Shutdown 94

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "In the wake of Syria's 52-hour digital blackout last week, the networking firm Renesys performed an analysis of which countries are most susceptible to an Internet shutdown, based simply on how many distinct entities control the connections between the country's networks and those of the outside world. It found that for 61 countries and territories, just one or two Internet service providers maintain all external connections–a situation that could make possible a quick cutoff from the world with a well-placed government order or physical attack."
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The Countries Most Vulnerable To an Internet Shutdown

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  • The day the earth did not see pictures of cute cats. The thought alone is terrifying.
  • by hawks5999 ( 588198 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:36PM (#42172137)
    and anyone still in Second Life.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I don't get the way this is measured well, but why isn't China one of the riskiest country ? Are we regularly overestimating the power of the Chinese government on its Internet or his the measure showing something else than "ability to control and shutdown Internet" ?

    • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:42PM (#42172191)

      Because they measured it the wrong way.
      Their measure how many distinct entities control exit and entry nodes. This has no meaning in some cases, such as CHine, as you righteously pointed out. If there are 100 entities controlling such nodes and ALL are immediately listening to a government's order to shut down, then that's worse than a country with TWO distinctly controlled nodes, out of which ZERO listen to a government order.

      Unrelated: My country, Romania, shows as "Resistant".

      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:01PM (#42172377)
        I think this list is concerned with a more specific question. This measure is more useful to which countries could be silenced during a similar uprising, where there is armed opposition. China is unlikely to undergo such an uprising for the same reasons that their ISPs are willing to follow a government's orders. The government enjoys much more popular support with the Chinese than Syria does/did with it's citizens. If there were such a rebellion however, China would stay online longer probably, since presumably some of the entities would join the revolt, would ignore the government's orders, and would not be as easily forcibly shut down because of how many different ones there were. The question wasn't really about general internet censorship, there are other lists and measurements for that.
      • Any entity in control of any links in any country will shutdown their links, if the country's government decides to force them to do so.
      • It is difficult to ignore an order that is delivered from the barrel of a gun.

        Similarly, more independent points of entry are more potential points of failure in an attempt to capture and maintain control for the purposes of a lockdown.

      • CHine?

        China... really, how difficult is it?

        • It was late in the evening when I wrote it, I was at work, I was multitasking at the time. It's a typo, believe it or not. My (very mild) dyslexia kicks in every now and then when I'm tired. Among my typical mistakes:
          - typing "e" instead of "a";
          - releasing the Shift key either too early or too late;
          - typing "ruch" instead of "rush" and "Englich" instead of "English".

          Now you know a little bit more about me.

          Of course, I should have reviewed my text, sorry for not doing it.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        If there's a revolution, if either groups control the node and wish it down, it's down. So more nodes means more resiliency. Your argument is that because China is less likely to revolt against the government, they are less resiliant. By that measure, China is *still* more resilient than the US, where carriers have broken the law to do the government's bidding, multiple times. No carrier would refuse a properly crafted government order, so the number of nodes is irrelevant.

        It's sad when China has more
    • by Sparticus789 ( 2625955 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:44PM (#42172207) Journal

      It's not based on the ability of the government to order companies to shut down the internet. It's merely based on the number of ISPs with connections to foreign countries. Did you notice that Afghanistan and China were both in the 10 to 40 ISP range? Because Afghanistan has so many satellite ISPs in country, each independent company which has a dish there adds one more to that ISP list.

      While the Chinese government has the ability to shut down the internet based on their laws, this was a technical examination of possible network routes in and out of countries. Not a study on the legal/political aspect of an internet kill switch.

    • by AxemRed ( 755470 )
      The map rates how many entities control external connections. China is heavy handed with how they control the internet internally, but they probably have many entities controlling different external connections to the wider internet. The map is showing the danger of how easy it would be for a country to sever its connection to the outside world, not control it.
    • The score is partially based on who (and how many people) owns the physical switches. I would guess In China that would be the state.

      Unlike Kenya or Aruba, who get low scores because they only have limited undersea cable fiber reaching them, and thus are liable to being physically taken out but 1 badly placed anchor.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't realize Greenland was so repressive.

  • What if the government that places the order is the oppresive one of the US? Had done commercial embargos for just not liking a foreing country government, escalating to internet embargo is not something that will happen, unless is more effective to keep the connection up and promote/coordinate/finance local rebel groups using it.

    And is not just for cutting off access. Spying, intercepting or censoring in a way or another traffic is a risk on a country with few internet connections, unless we are talking

  • So if a country has its Internet shut off, what are the reprecussions to the Bitcoin network? Does one side of the partition lose the abilty to make transfers, or can you spend the same Bitcoin twice; once in that country, and again on the rest of the network?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      So if a country has its Internet shut off, what are the reprecussions to the Bitcoin network? Does one side of the partition lose the abilty to make transfers, or can you spend the same Bitcoin twice; once in that country, and again on the rest of the network?

      Well, that'll never happen, of course. Everyone SAYS that sort of thing is an intrinsic flaw in Bitcoin, but if you knew it as well as The Enlightened Few like me do, you'd obviously see that Bitcoin will [HANDWAVE] which can clearly [HANDWAVE] and [INCREASINGLY COMPLEX HANDWAVING] and that's why paper money is the worstest idea ever and my l33t processing rig will make me the almighty ruler of at least ten small tropical nations with all the hot girls. You'll see! YOU'LL ALL SEE!

      • Hmm, your argument is convincing however I think I'm going to stick to stockpiling the one resource that will stand the test of time: gold. And by gold I mean delicious Kraft Mac & Cheese of which I estimate my body is comprised of at least 95%. When the great cataclysm comes, as long as we can grow wheat, and whatever plant / animal / petroleum derivative orange 'cheese' powder comes from then the scientists and engineers of this world will persevere!
        • Hmm, your argument is convincing however I think I'm going to stick to stockpiling the one resource that will stand the test of time: gold.

          Humor aside, I have yet to see one legitimate breakdown of civilization in the modern world -even a short-lived one like during hurricane Katrina- where the ersatz cash wielding citizenry start going around trading gold dubloons. There is of course always some nuance to satisfy any objection but I find the "gold is the answer" trope dubious in the extreme.

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:10PM (#42172471) Journal

    At least i can still play my diablo III in single player mode...

  • by StueyNZ ( 2657297 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:17PM (#42172507)
    The most telling comment from the actual orginal post reads:

    "Ten providers also seems to be the threshold below which one finds significant additional risks from infrastructure sharing — there may be a single cable, or a single physical-layer provider who actually owns most of the infrastructure on which the various providers offer their services."

    How many of the 61 at "severe risk" countries are micro-states in the middle of the ocean with a single cable connecting them to the internet? More than half; so nothing too sinister about the size of the "severe risk" category.

    Oh - it's nice to see that New Zealand has cemented its place in the list of nice countries who are "extremely resistant" by having more than 40 ISPs - unfortunately there's only one organisation that controls the two connections out of NZ on the Southern Cross Cable [wikipedia.org] So the home of that fiendish master-criminal Mr K. Dot Com should rightly be lumped in with Syria, Libya & that famous hot bed of international crime, The Cook Islands.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:10PM (#42172995) Homepage

      How many of the 61 at "severe risk" countries are micro-states in the middle of the ocean with a single cable connecting them to the internet? More than half; so nothing too sinister about the size of the "severe risk" category.

      And most of the rest in the poorer countries of Africa, where the answer to the question "Why do you have one ISP?" would be "Because it's one more than zero". Even with monopoly rent it's pretty hard making business on people that are that poor and probably for the most part don't have computers at all. Anyway, I find the numbers quite meaningless since they don't measure physical redundancy, resistance to government interference or consumer choice. Average number of providers available per person would be interesting though, I bet the US would end up in the "extremely high risk" monopoly/duopoly category. Though I guess after that the researchers can forget asking any ISPs for work...

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        They didn't measure the "better" metrics because that information isn't public. You use what you can get. And the US is bad because I've seen more than one that was nothing other than an AT&T retailer (renting copper pairs from AT&T, aggregating Internet over them, then buying upstream from someone, sometimes even AT&T again). The US was good back when UUNET was spending $1,000,000+ per day on network upgrades, and turning a profit on it. Until evil evil MCI swooped in and Worldcom'd the Int
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      They indicated that the "10 and under" was where cable sharing increased risk, when the NZ Internet essentailly all runs out of Takapuna. There might be some theoretical capacity out of Whenuapai, but none (possible exaggeration) of the ISPs have any gear there and everything is funneled through Takapuna to leave the country. Oh, and the two "diverse" cables run through the same waterway, far apart enough that an accident shouldn't be able to cut both, but a deliberate act could kill both within a few min
  • I expected the article to be about the expected damage a country would incur IF it was disconnected from the internet. Now that I think about it the damage would be difficult to quantify - but I recon even conservative estimates would be high.

    One of the great lessons I got from Nassim Talebs writing is that we should pay attention to seemingly improbable events if their impact is huge. Having no internet would be one hell of a Black Swan event. Another is that the likelihood of improbable events are oft
    • I spelling "reckon" incorrectly as recon, you accidentally implied that you had been there and actually reconnoitered (recon for short) what would actually happen should a country loses connectivity.

      Needless to say, this probably amused both grammar and spelling Nazis alike. I am neither, and yet I am amused, so I thought you might like this pointed out politely before the flamers arrive...

  • Too simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:21PM (#42172537)

    Just basing this on how many connections there are is pretty irrelevant. Are we really expecting there to be many unofficial major backbones crossing national borders? Could you really enumerate them if there were? Even assuming some random people have a line (wired or otherwise) across a border for network access, this is probably not going to route the majority of the country's traffic anyway, and is equally unlikely to be counted in this survey.

    A real measure would be more like "how likely will an entity have to shut down their connection due to government pressure," but for that you need to analyze the legal system, political situation, history, etc. Of course, that's much more work than simple counting, but I suppose "simple counting" is the most we can expect from a pop media source.

  • Wasn't someone asking for an "OFF" switch for the internets just the other day?

    You know, for the sake of the children and national defence and other such fairy tales...

  • by mysticalreaper ( 93971 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:42PM (#42172729)

    Why does Slashdot keep linking to secondary sources, like Forbes.com, when the primary source is so easily available? Laziness would be my first guess.

    Here is the much-better Renesys blog post: http://www.renesys.com/blog/2012/11/could-it-happen-in-your-countr.shtml [renesys.com]

    Questions about their methods of reasoning are the most interesting.

    There may be 5 ISPs, each operating their own logical notwork, with their own IP space, servers, and everything--but they may all share the same physical fibre optic cable out of the country--especially if the country is an Island. New Zealand would be a good example of this: it is about 1500 km from Australia, and 1000 km from Fiji. There are only a few submarine fibre optic cables connecting to the rest of the world. Perhaps Southern Cross Cable [wikipedia.org] and SPIN [wikipedia.org] only?

    The authors acknowledge they were mostly unable to analyse this, and had to guess about the number of physical conduits. They say they will have more to say about the limited physical connections in the future.

    • Thanks. That's just what this individual wanted to see.

      Also the map is one of those stupid ones that shows Greenland as much bigger than Australia (i.e. it is more accurate for distance than for geographical area). I wish people would stop using these maps, it doesn't actually matter if the poles are distorted, but it does matter when people think that Greenland is about as big as South America.

  • Remember that the internet was invented for the specific military purpose of withstanding a nuclear war. Granted a politically motivated attack on the internet would probably be easier since you're actually forcing engineers to go out and pull the kill switch.

    Still the best way to keep the internet running is to build out an extreme number of connections to other parts of the internet. Another thing that would force politics to stay out of the internet is to make business extremely reliant on it. One of the

  • the entire intertubes in the US is controlled by one entity... the MPAA
  • We've already seen quite a few countries are more than happy to pass legislation controlling ISPs. And ISPs tend to be large - and more to the point law abiding companies.

    What exactly is the difference between, say, Uzbekistan cutting off each of their few ISPs with international links and the UK passing laws which give the government the power to demand ISPs shut down all international links on short notice? The only real difference is one of them requires some preparation.

  • I really think that despite the quoted 40 ISP(s) serving the US's borders, the fact that our new "Emperor Obama" publicly announced that he wanted an Internet kill switch should be enough to put us all on notice!

  • Some places in this list are not countries per se: Guadeloupe, French Polynesia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Réunion, for example.
  • Dubiously, Malaysia is in the "Resistant" category. We're such a small county, and I believe we have less than 10 internet service providers. We should be in either significant or severe risk category. Something doesn't smell right.
  • Without zooming in to the pixel level, I can sort of determine that Israel and Lebanon are the same color, I think. After zooming in I can tell they are both "resistant", simply because they are lighter than the Palestinian Authority, which is, in turn, slightly lighter than Jordan, which is big enough to tell what color it is.

    I get this very same problem whenever some !@$#@! thinks it is a good idea to let me choose time zone only by clicking a map. Clicking my location will result, depending on the precis

    • by petman ( 619526 )
      And why are Israel and Lebanon classified as "resistant"? Do they each have more than 10, let alone 40, internet service providers?
      • by Sun ( 104778 )

        I have no idea what is the situation in Lebanon. I do know that Lebanon only has two land bordering countries: Israel, with which I am fairly certain no Internet peering takes place, and Syria. They do have other options, as Syria dropped off the Internet while Lebanon didn't, but, as I said, I don't know what those are.

        My information about Israel's infrastructure might be a little outdated.

        Israel has four major ISPs, with a few minor ones as well. Israel's unique geo-political situation means that no traff

  • Australia would be trivial to excise from the internet. The government would need to make precisely two phone calls. I'm sure they've already prepared the road in terms of that contingency.

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