Daily Archives: January 29, 2011

An Unprecedented Action Occurs

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Today’s blog is powered by current events; that being the dissatisfaction of the citizens of Egypt with their opportunities, living conditions, and the fact that the unemployment rate is over 20%.  CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and networks all over the globe, are covering the crisis in real-rime, 24 x 7.  As it is in Egypt, concerning an ally of the United States for 30 years, in the mid-east, etc., etc., it is worthy of our following.  Surely as day follows night, this crisis will affect you, your family and your wallet.  There is nothing that happens in the mid-east that does not affect your wallet!
As an Information Technology Professional (CCP), I was struck by the ease by which authorities were able to take Egypt off the grid.  Four phone calls and the deed was done.  Of course, the land was prepared by Egypt passing legislation to require the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to ‘pull the plug’ on demand.  I am sure that all governments are either going to pass a law to do so, or have that capability today.

According to InfoWorld. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), has proposed a bill called the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, that lays out in 196 pages his plans to give the government the right to order ISPs to cut off service in a national emergency and make them pay heavy fines if they refuse to comply. The bill also sets up a sub-bureaucracy under the Department of Homeland Security called the National Center for Communications and Cybersecurity (NCCC). Sen. Lieberman explained that other countries have been enacting legislative systems that allow for such a ‘kill switch’. “Right now China, its government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war, and we need to have that here, too.” 

There is significant opposition to the bill, but on December 15, 2010 the bill was placed on the legislative calendar of the US Senate.

As an Information Technology professional for 38 years, and as one of the pioneers during the birth of the Internet (connected Goodyear in 1991) and as a practitioner of virus ‘Experimentation’ (1982), I can tell you one thing.  Whether this bill passes or not, the United States HAS this capability and will use the capability, in the interest of national security, ANY TIME THAT THEY WANT!

So, on to a great story; my great appreciation goes out to Kyle VanHemert for writing it!

 How Egypt Turned Off the Internet

By Kyle VanHemert

Yesterday, something unprecedented happened: Egypt turned off the internet. A nation of 80,000,000 instantly disconnected. So how’d they do it?

Kill Switch

There was no giant lever or big red button involved, but in reality it was almost as easy: the Egyptian Government simply issued an order for ISPs to shut down service.

“Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it,” Vodafone Egypt explained in a statement shortly after. Along with Vodafone, Egypt’s other three major ISPs, Link Egypt, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr, all stopped service.


The internet monitoring firm Renesys saw the effects immediately. Some 3,500 Border Gateway Protocol or BGP routes—the places where networks connect and announce which IP addresses they are responsible for—disappeared in an instant:

At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers. Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide.

But Stéphane Bortzmeyer, an IP communications whiz, surmised that Egypt pulled the plug on the net literally: “BGP is the symptom, not the cause. The cables have simply been unplugged.”

Withdrawing BGP routes (or just unplugging cables) is a much more effective way of blocking the internet than, say, turning off DNS, in which case users could use DNS from overseas to access the internet. Compared to Tunisia, where certain BGP routes were blocked or Iran, where internet connections were simply throttled, Egypt’s disconnection is a severe one.

Disconnected (Almost)

As of last night, Renesys estimated that 93% of Egyptian’s networks were unreachable, with only one service provider, the Noor Group, still serving its customers. It’s unclear why they’re the only ones who didn’t get turned off.

Still, reports from Egypt are suggesting that citizens might be able to use dial-up to access the internet, and LifeHacker has the nitty gritty on how to do it. It’s not going to be fast, but it seems like for a vast majority of the Egyptians, it might be the only option. [Renesys, DomainIncite]

Stay Warm my friends! You are being protected, and protected, and P….