With protests growing, Egypt cuts links to Internet

88 percent of network routes in Egypt suddenly vanish; government is blamed

By , IDG News Service |  Internet, Egypt

An Egyptian anti-government protester prepares to throw a burning object at the Suez Fire Station at the port city of Suez, about 83 miles east of Cairo, January 27, 2011. Police fired rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators in the eastern city of Suez, on a third day of protests calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30 year-old-rule, a witness said.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

As protesters continue to clash with police in anti-government demonstrations, Egypt has pulled the plug on the Internet.

The cut-off happened just after midnight, local time, according to Internet monitoring firm Renesys, when the largest Internet Service Providers operating out of the country stopped providing the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing information used to connect the rest of the world with computers in the Egypt.

Internet access isn't the only method of communications hit by the Egyptian government's blackout. It has ordered mobile phone operators to suspend service in some areas, according to Vodafone, which runs a network there. "Under Egyptian legislation, the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply," the company said.

Egypt is experiencing its worst civil unrest in more than 30 years, as citizens have taken to the streets demanding an end to the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

Similar widespread outages have been blamed on cuts to undersea fiber-optic cables, but that doesn't seem to be what happened this time around, said Paul Ferguson, a researcher with security firm Trend Micro. An outage on a cable would not just effect Egypt, it would cut off all of sub-Saharan Africa." he said. "This is apparently a deliberate blackout."

Renesys agreed.

"The Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet," Renesys said. "Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now. But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world."

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