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 covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More