Egypt Leaves the Internet

Thanks to all for great comments and questions. Please see below for latest updates on the ongoing Egyptian Internet blackout, including some trace-based analysis and a few words about neighboring countries. After this morning we’ll be closing this post out, and looking for the restoration. Hopefully sooner than later. –jim

Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. 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. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air.


egypt_outages.png

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 Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers.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.

This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map.

What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up. We will continue to dig into the event, and will update this story as we learn more. As Friday dawns in Cairo under this unprecedented communications blackout, keep the Egyptian people in your thoughts.

Update (3:06 UTC Friday)

One of the very few exceptions to this block has been Noor Group (AS20928), which still has 83 out of 83 live routes to its Egyptian customers, with inbound transit from Telecom Italia as usual. Why was Noor Group apparently unaffected by the countrywide takedown order? Unknown at this point, but we observe that the Egyptian Stock Exchange (www.egyptse.com) is still alive at a Noor address.

Its DNS A records indicate that it’s normally reachable at 4 different IP addresses, only one of which belongs to Noor. Internet transit path diversity is a sign of good planning by the Stock Exchange IT staff, and it appears to have paid off in this case. Did the Egyptian government leave Noor standing so that the markets could open next week?

Update (17:30 UTC Friday)

The Internet routing situation for Egypt continues to be bleak, with an estimated 93% of Egyptian networks currently unreachable. Renesys saw no significant improvements or changes in Egyptian international Internet routing overnight.

We have examined the takedown event more closely, looking at the sequence in which Egyptian service providers removed themselves from the Internet. The following plot shows the number of available networks for each of the significant providers, between 22:00 and 23:00 UTC last night (midnight to 1am Cairo time).

All_outages_zoom2.png

Our new observation is that this was not an instantaneous event on the front end; each service provider approached the task of shutting down its part of the Egyptian Internet separately.

  • Telecom Egypt (AS8452), the national incumbent, starts the process at 22:12:43.

  • Raya joins in a minute later, at 22:13:26.
  • Link Egypt (AS24863) begins taking themselves down 4 minutes later, at 22:17:10.
  • Etisalat Misr (AS32992) goes two minutes later, at 22:19:02
  • Internet Egypt (AS5536) goes six minutes later, at 22:25:10.

First impressions: this sequencing looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air. Not an automated system that takes all providers down at once; instead, the incumbent leads and other providers follow meekly one by one until Egypt is silenced.

Update (14:00 UTC Saturday)

The Egyptian Internet blackout continues into its second full day, with no substantive change overnight. The government seems to have put itself in a tough position, as the Egyptian working week begins tomorrow, and with it, incredible disruptions to Egypt’s economy and debt rating from the loss of Internet and mobile communications. With every hour that passes, the continuing comunications blackout is public evidence that they have utterly failed to regain control of the evolving situtation.

nyccai.png

This plot shows the round-trip delays packets experienced between New York and Egypt in the days leading up to the blackout. The blue background shows the number of successful traces that reached their destinations inside the country. There’s some variance in latency ahead of the shutdown, but not more than we’d consider normal for Egypt; that is, we don’t see evidence of throttling or intentional congestion of the national Internet connections before everything goes dark. They seem to have gone straight from plan A (block twitter and facebook) to plan Z (turn off the Internet) without stopping at any intermediate solutions. Iran took the more subtle throttle-and-monitor approach after their dubious elections in 2009.

We’ve also been asked repeatedly whether other countries in the region are readying a “kill switch,” and whether there are already outages in, for example, Syria. The answer, for now, is no. Syria’s Internet connectivity appears to have been quite stable, as have other countries in the region, and nobody else has significant Internet connectivity problems so far.

I predict that Egypt’s “kill switch” experiment will serve as a cautionary tale: the economic and reputational costs of the shutdown far exceed the benefits of regaining total information control.

We would also note that there appear to have been no significant disruptions to other countries’ traffic passing through Egypt on fiberoptic cables such as SMW-4 and FLAG FEA.

As we’ve noted before, the majority of Internet connectivity between Europe and Asia actually passes through Egypt. The Gulf states, in particular, depend critically on the Egyptian fiberoptic corridor for their connectivity to world markets. Commodity traders are already nervous about the potential impacts on oil prices of any closure of the Suez Canal, but the potential risks to global Internet connectivity through Egypt are equally significant, and far less widely understood.

Are the folks at Davos thinking about this? They should be.

191 comments
TechNet Blog Deutschland
TechNet Blog Deutschland

Wie Ägypten den Internet-Stecker zog Im Zuge der Proteste hat Ägypten einen für die Netzgemeinde massiven Einschnitt vorgenommen

blackhatmagic
blackhatmagic

act swiftly for the lesser of two evils, when necessary... As if Lieberman called VISA, etc. and told them to ... you know... laughable.

College Papers
College Papers

Egypt become more crucial state than ever because you cant progress without being disconnected.

MaryRose Mercieca
MaryRose Mercieca

Egypt' revolt and struggle for deplomacy has been televised and broadcast through all kinds of news, radio, internet, twitter, utub, phones, etc all over the world for the last 10 days. Isn't it time for politians around the world, to step in and help them., before there are more casualities and injuries. With all the updates through modern communication through, CNN news, television, radio, internet, utub, twitter, all kinds of applications systems in the phones, are these sufficient enough to bring aid to the Egypians. Or is communication here just a matter of information. It seems that the Egypians are not getting any help from leaders around the world.

jason
jason

internet seems to be back up, and citynethost.com is back up! I don't know if the civilian ISP's are back up, or if this is just allowing international business people to have their access back? Maybe it's the google guy's doing (pure speculation).

mubarak@gov.eg
mubarak@gov.eg

ham radio - how do you use that? in egypt, all radio wave frequencies are owned by the military and needs to get approval from the military intelligence unit. yes, that includes walkie talkies, they are illegal in egypt. if they are being sold it is with the turning of the blind eye.

E R Wagar
E R Wagar

What ever happened to BUY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE and OF THE PEOPLE or am I in the wrong century. I am a writer.

Partners' Blog
Partners' Blog

People of Egypt We Hear You I spent a few days last year in Egypt Cairo and Luxor. It quickly became very close to my heart. Egypt

ron
ron

There is one good point to all this misfortune to the people of Egypt which is that next time they & the rest of the world will be prepared. Forearmed is forewarned any group in the future for or against anything rightly or wrongly if they have any sense will expect this sort of thing to happen. getting CB or amateur radio equipment ex-army radios & maybe aircraft radio equipment & other means of communication, which can be jammed by governments but not so quickly & at the risk of harming their own communications which in reverse could be disrupted in the same way. maybe the next country that has this situation will think carefully about the short term to the long term loss of business which they will suffer, some never to be regained through loss of trust. business will also learn from this & make their own arrangements as will embassies of foreign governments who in the past had high power shortwave radio equipment installed in them. Next time wherever it is should be very interesting if people have learned from this time...

T1
T1

Inventions of The Egypt Revolution: Emergency Internet Shutdown The last, but not the least invention of the Egypt revolution is Country-wide Internet blackout. Local authorities cut the Internet shortly after they realized the way riots were coordinated. Local authorities used their influence to successfully convi...

nagela
nagela

how about the overseas people working there.. i have a friend who works there.. we are all worried here in our place.. they should be transparent on everything that is happening in egypt at this moment..

Christopher Kunz
Christopher Kunz

With four major ISPs in the country, it would be easy to physically disrupt Internet access by just ordering the (probably state-owned) electical company to shut down all sites. How hard would it be to cut off a reasonably well-connected economy (say, Belgium) from the Internet? Is this at all possible without using physical violence?

The Insider
The Insider

Egypt applies 'net neutering' rules! Forget all about net neutrality, we’ve now seen the first real example of ‘net neutering’

AHMED ABULHASSAN
AHMED ABULHASSAN

INTERNET IS BACK ON SLIGHTLY YOU CAN USE TRAFFIC TO CONFIRM A FEW OF MY FRIENDS IN EGYPT HAVE SIGNED ONLINE AND TELL ME SOME OF THEIR FRIENDS ARE ONLINE TOO - BUT NOT EVERYONE! LONG LIVE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

Jason L. Sparks
Jason L. Sparks

I didn't check all eg ASNs, but Telecom Egypt is still down. http://bgp.he.net/AS8452 It appears that Noor continues to be (somewhat) accessible. Thanks James for this blog. I'm looking forward to your next comprehensive update. Best, Jason

derek de jonk
derek de jonk

Good fortune go with you, Dr Hassam, and all Egyptian peope of free mind. Wish I could offer more than good wishes.

Lee Hollimon
Lee Hollimon

Is there no way to contact any Egyptian to offer condolences/help? I'd like at least one Egyptian that I am behind them and would like to help in my most modest way. Thank you, Lee Hollimon

sewa mobil
sewa mobil

Nice article, thanks for the information.

someone
someone

Eh that chart shows 3500 routes to 0 routes, routes are not people, they carry people. Routes are highways or internet corridors that handle traffic. Every time you close a route, traffic has to reroute and packet delivery suffers. If you close all routes, nothing is route able, no traffic moves, it becomes a parking lot.

Smoky
Smoky

Wow. This is just crazy. I will be watching your RSS feed for any news of this event and how it plays out.

tansy
tansy

The first chart is wrong if you want to show that the users went from 3500 to 0.

People Like...
People Like...

Egypt Leaves the Internet Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international conne...

Tiera
Tiera

I've heard that some people have been doing what they can using the wireline phone system and dialup modems (the cellular system is out of service). Also, as an old ham radio operator myself, it occurred to me that there are probably amateur radio operators inside and outside Egypt running information over informal radio nets.

Nicole
Nicole

At some point when the advantages outweigh the threats of violence against laying your own line or building wireless infrastructure, it'll happen. Just not today for most people..

@mymulticast
@mymulticast

What happenned in Egypt should be a reminder to everyone in the world, that we have to create another solution, we has end users have a right right...this should have never happenned...

Mark
Mark

"We need the power to shut off your internet, because of men in turbans across the globe. These are very scary people, you need to give up all your freedoms for your own good." Give me a break. This is what tyrants do when the people threaten to remove them from power. It's part of the chinese model that the oligarchs praise.

Kevin
Kevin

Oh, so that's why Obama needs a kill switch.

Haytham
Haytham

Thank you for this valuable information. Any news if it is up again?

Chris brown
Chris brown

Any news on whether or not this is a long lasting event or if it's more or less just a power move?

Saudi - Riyadh
Saudi - Riyadh

in Egypt, use alternative dns server such as google public dns servers: 8.8.8.8, and 8.8.4.4 or other alternative dns. The real headache if the DNS outbound queries are blocked i.e. port 53 etc. or instead use IP addresses for websites instead of domain names but that also not possible for multi-homed websites / servers. Hope all goes well for Egyptians .. btw details on the google public dns is at this page http://code.google.com/speed/public-dns/docs/using.html

Sox First
Sox First

Egypt flicks the Internet kill switch: could the same happen here? One alarming feature of the upheaval in Egypt is the way president Hosni Mubarek pulled the plug on the Internet,shutting down the country's system and isolating it from the rest of the world. Tech site Mashable has put up...

Codebix.com
Codebix.com

This post has been featured This post has been featured on Codebix.com. The place to find latest articles on programming. Click on the url to reach your post's page.

Blotspace
Blotspace

It's hard to stay in Egypt with this kind of situation. How about the web industry of Egypt? What will happen then?

Thaye
Thaye

It is bad for all who are personally affected by this (i.e. a large part of the egyptian populacy and anyone who had business relationships to Egypt via internet, I realize this), but ultimately the government is paving the way to its own end with this. Which is then again good, considering the government we are speaking of. Egypt will suffer great economic loss if they keep it up for more than just 2 or 3 days, which will lead to arguments and political tension between the government and representatives of the egyptian economy. The government won't be in charge for long any more if that happens, I believe. Always look at the bright side of things, I guess? Sorry, I realize this is a kind of cynical approach.

VJ
VJ

Check out the video of Egypt: A Nation Forced Offline (January 25th, 2011 Protests)

M. Hankins
M. Hankins

I have not read all the other comments, but I feel this action would only take one good email passed along to get this same reaction.

mike
mike

with Oboma the USA might soon turn off the interner along with other freedoms,,,,wake up people !

Steven Michels
Steven Michels

The people of Egypt want and need to be free! They will be free. It just depends on how many people will die to be free!

mubarak@gov.eg
mubarak@gov.eg

other than noor there IS another outside link: microsoft in the smart village, just outside of 6th october city has its own WORKING link.

Leto
Leto

I'm sorry but a cowardly threat from "Anonymous" and their band of juvenile deliquent terrorist is laugable at best. What are they going to do, DDoS an Egyption website that's already offline? itt someone doesn't know what "Anonymous" actually is Anonymous is not a person, nor is it a group, movement or cause: Anonymous is a collective of people with too much time on their hands, a commune of human thought and useless imagery. A gathering of sheep and fools, assholes and trolls, and normal everyday netizens. An anonymous collective, left to its own devices, quickly builds its own society out of rage and hate. Anonymous can be anyone from well-meaning college kids with highly idiosyncratic senses of humor trying to save people from Scientology, to devious nihilist hackers, to clever nerds, to thirteen year old boys who speak entirely in in-jokes on an endless quest for porn...[etc.] Anonymous is not a single person, but rather, represents the collective whole of the internet.