News / Middle East

    Government Cuts Internet Access Across Syria

    This image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News shows smoke after a building was struck in a warplane attack in Homs, Syria, November 28, 2012.
    This image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News shows smoke after a building was struck in a warplane attack in Homs, Syria, November 28, 2012.
    The Syrian government imposed a wholescale Internet blackout Thursday along with severing phone service, leaving Syrians largely cut off from contact with the outside world.

    The Internet outage was confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity and is unprecedented in the 20-month-long uprising against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

    Authorities often cut phone lines and Internet access in areas where government forces are conducting major military operations.

    Internet experts tracked the outage to government-controlled tracer routes. But a pro-government television station quoted Syria's minister of information as saying "terrorists" - the government's term for the opposition - were responsible.

    World notices

    Akamai Traffic to Syria, November 29, 2012 CLICK TO EXPANDAkamai Traffic to Syria, November 29, 2012 CLICK TO EXPAND
    x
    Akamai Traffic to Syria, November 29, 2012 CLICK TO EXPAND
    Akamai Traffic to Syria, November 29, 2012 CLICK TO EXPAND
    Social media websites started buzzing Thursday morning as most of Syria appeared to be offline.

    Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer and co-founder at U.S.-based Renesys, a firm that monitors Internet connectivity, said the blackout is extensive.   

    "It's a somewhat unambiguous situation," Cowie said. "The Internet has simply turned off."

    Cowie told VOA that the data show a clear and sudden drop-off.

    "Almost everything that is owned by Syria - almost all of the IP addresses that they have registered to them - you can't get to," he said. "This morning they went off the air.  They were literally removed from the global table and can't be reached."

    Other Internet monitoring sites, including U.S.-based Akamai, confirm the findings.

    U.S. outrage

    In Washington, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland condemned what she called a desperate move by a desperate regime.

    "The regime does appear to be resorting to cutting off all kinds of communications - cellular networks, land lines as well as Internet service across the country, notably in Damascus and the suburbs as well as in Hama, Homs and Tartus," she said.

    Nuland said that despite the blackout, opposition groups should be able to communicate with the outside world thanks to U.S.-provided communication kits that allow contact through outside proxys.

    U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said in a Washington appearance that the Internet blackout is not entirely surprising. He said Syria's government has long been using Iranian expertise to monitor the web to "track opposition activists, to arrest and kill them."

    Ford said he fears the shutdown is an attempt by the Syrian government to further its brutal crackdown of dissent and keep the world from finding out.

    "In 1982, Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez shut down all communications and the world never got a clear picture of what happened in [a massacre in] Hama,"  Ford said. "We do not want a repeat of that.  A lot of the pictures that you see on the nightly news are from communications equipment that we supply to very brave and to very dedicated opposition activists inside Syria."

    Internet expert Cowie said such a widespread shutdown is very unusual, although not too hard to engineer given Syria's infrastructure.

    "Syria has very few Internet service providers," he said. "Almost all of Syria's telecommunications are handled by the Syrian telecommunications establishment.  There's probably a handful of buildings in the entire country, maybe as few as one or two, where telecommunications really passes through in a critical way.

    "And so by shutting off power or by turning off service at those points, it's actually fairly easy to turn a country like Syria off," Cowie said.

    The last time the world has seen something close to this was last year, Cowie said, when the Egyptian government shut down the Internet in an attempt to dampen enthusiasm for Egypt's uprising.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    November 29, 2012 4:58 PM
    This won't stop a youtube video from eventually being posted of Assads capture. This shows he is so desperate and is losing. It's time the Syrians storm Assads palace and end this war and ruthless killing by Assad.

    Assad can't stop the world from finding out.... Assad claims anyone that opposes his rule is a Terrorist. Of the 40,000 (likely double) of Syrians killed in this conflict 90-95% are not terrorists, they are regular everyday civillians. Assad is a cold blooded killer, you can't kill that many people and expect to "Get off". Justice will be served to Assad appropriately. If we have to wait for his capture video on youtube, so be it.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 01, 2012 9:22 AM
    Ruthless killing is carried out by the "rebels" as well.

    by: qui kar from: usa, florida
    November 29, 2012 4:40 PM
    The internet blackout is from USA, britain, israeli interests, not Syria. The world isn't stupid. Syria wants everything known. Western powers want everything hidden. Western powers need CIA,MI6, and mossad to go in and do their magic without the western people watching. This article looks to be western propaganda.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 01, 2012 9:25 AM
    I agree, this looks like a prelude to some dirty deeds by the "friends of Syria".
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Pasadena
    November 29, 2012 8:41 PM
    Qui Kar,

    Always blame someone else and never take responsibility for your peoples actions. As if secret Israeli hackers cause Assad to slaughter, torture, and rape people. What drivel.
    In Response

    by: Mathias from: U.S.A.
    November 29, 2012 8:29 PM
    qui kar ,you freaking delusional. Why don't you go read more of your RT Today and Sana because you're obviously brainwashed by their propaganda

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.