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Syria 'disappears' from the Internet, security firm says


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Internet traffic to and from Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war, appears to have dried up.

At around 18:45 GMT Tuesday, “OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet,” Umbrella Security Labs said in a blog post Tuesday.

Data from Google seemed to confirm some sort of disruption to the country’s Internet services. As of 2 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday, all Google’s services in the country had been unavailable for about two-and-a-half hours, Google said on its transparency report website.

Routing on the Internet relies on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which distributes routing information and makes sure Internet routers know how to get to certain IP addresses, Umbrella explained. “Currently there are just three routes in the BGP routing tables for Syria, while normally it’s close to eighty,” the company said.

While traffic to and from the country appeared severely disrupted, Umbrella said it was unclear if Internet services within Syria were still available.

“Effectively, the shutdown disconnects Syria from Internet communication with the rest of the world,” the company said.

Syria has been embroiled in civil war for three years, with rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict has escalated in recent days, with accusations of chemical weapons use, and on Sunday Israel launched air attacks on the Syrian capital, Damascus.

“Although we can’t yet comment on what caused this outage, past incidents were linked to both government-ordered shutdowns and damage to the infrastructure, which included fiber cuts and power outages,” Umbrella said.

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Sudden exit from Internet routes are a sign of government shutdown.

At about 2:45 Eastern time (18:45 UTC), Internet traffic in and out of Syria came to a sudden stop, as routers stopped propagating routes to the country's block of Internet Protocol addresses. The suddenness and completeness of the disconnection is indicative of another government-directed shutdown—the first since a two-day outage last November.

All but three entries in Border Gateway Protocol routing tables "were definitely just dropped," said Dan Hubbard, CTO of Umbrella Security Labs, the research branch of security firm OpenDNS in a phone interview with Ars Technica. "There was no degradation or packet loss beforehand. It was either a government action or a full cable cut (of Syria's three outbound connections)."

The last time Syria disappeared from the Internet was on November 29, 2012. But unlike the last outage, today's wasn't preceded by smaller interruptions in network traffic. Since December 1, when Syria's Internet was restored from the first shutdown, "there hasn't been anything notable going on with [syria's] traffic," Hubbard said.

While there are still three routes being broadcast for Syrian IP addresses, the same was true of the last outage—and many of those addresses were actually being hosted outside of Syria over Indian telecom provider Tata's networks. Domain name resolution for all domains in the .sy top-level domain has been cut off. Google has also reported the Syrian outage as a service disruption for all its products.


Google's services status shows all products down in Syria due to outage.

Update: In an email to Ars, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince said that it "looks like it happened right at 20:00 UTC (last few requests coming through at 20:01, then basically dead)." Cloudflare has posted a video of the BGP routes being dropped in realtime, as captured by its network operations center.

Activist Internet provider Telecomix has posted dial-up Internet access numbers for Syrians trying to bypass the outage.


Syria turning off its Internet, as witnessed by BGP routes monitored by CloudFlare.

Source: Ars Technica

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