Syria’s internet access went down on Tuesday in a move that was likely made by the Syrian government, according to security researchers.
The Middle Eastern nation’s internet traffic cut off shortly before 3 pm EDT on Tuesday. Google reported a drop in the country’s traffic along with Local Coordinating Committees, an anti-government activist group within Syria.
Syria is connected to the internet by four physical cables. Three of them run under the sea while the fourth runs over land through Turkey. In order to shut off all access, outsiders would have to cut all of the cables off simultaneously.
But security experts say that wasn’t the case. Instead, someone with access to the cables dropped a Border Gateway Protocol in a way that caused information trying to enter the country to halt.
Matthew Prince, the founder of CloudFlare, an Internet security firm that distributes large volumes of traffic across the internet, explained, “It’s akin to someone removing all the street signs into Syria.” The same technique was previously used in the country to shut down the internet and cell phone service. That outage happened in November.
Syrian government officials blamed the internet outage on terrorists, though evidence points to involvement from the government. Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer for Umbrella Security Labs, wrote of the Syria internet outage:
“It seems Syria has largely disappeared from the internet. 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.”
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels are less affected by the internet outage than the country’s civilians. Opposition groups have built an alternate system of internet and cell phone connectivity through the use of two-way satellite devices. However, experts have warned the system makes it easier for the government to track their location.
There is no word on how long the Syrian internet outage could last.
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