Serving the Global Consumer: Learning from WhatsApp

The $19B WhatsApp acquisition brings Facebook what they desperately need: 250M daily users in high-growth international mobile markets, many of them in the key under-20 demographic. But how do you design a service delivery infrastructure that can reliably reach the far corners of the earth to keep all these mobile eyeballs connected to each other? […]

Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine: Internet Under Fire

Renesys is headed to RightsCon next week, to bring some data to the discussions around evolving Internet localization, the economics of infrastructure diversification, and the role of the private sector in strengthening and stabilizing Internet service delivery worldwide. When we talk to our customers about Internet instability (international service providers, multinational enterprises, cloud and content […]

The New Threat: Targeted Internet Traffic Misdirection

Traffic interception has certainly been a hot topic in 2013. The world has been focused on interception carried out the old fashioned way, by getting into the right buildings and listening to the right cables. But there’s actually been a significant uptick this year in a completely different kind of attack, one that can be […]

Iraqi Government Tries, Fails to Shut Down Internet

In an attempt to impose sanctions on its own ISPs over their failure to follow its pricing guidelines, the Iraqi Ministry of Communications last week resorted to an unorthodox regulatory tactic: shutting down the Internet at the GBI cable landing in Al Faw (Basra), and across the border with Jordan. Media reports suggest that the […]

Will Iran Follow Sudan in Leaving the Internet?

As Iranian President Hasan Rouhani addressed the United Nations for the first time this week, people all over the world took to the Internet to hear and discuss his message, many for the first time. They saw a statesman exercising what Ayatollah Khamenei has called “heroic flexibility” — the will to consider all possibilities for […]

Tension in Turkey

We’ve been asked all day to comment on the potential for Internet shutdowns in Turkey.    At this point, Renesys observes no significant changes in Turkey’s Internet routing, no significant outages affecting the routing of Turkey’s networks, no reduction in the number of inbound active measurements to Turkish hosts within the country from our infrastructure […]

Syrian Internet.. Fragility?

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Update (15:26 UTC, 15 May): Routes to Syrian networks have been restored, at 18:26 Damascus time. Outage duration: 8h25m

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Update (14:20 UTC, 15 May): Plot of latency measurements to Syrian hosts from various locations, indicating that replies stopped returning shortly after 7am UTC, aligned with the withdrawal of routes to Syrian networks. (Click image for details)

Update (07:30 UTC, 15 May): Syrian Internet down again since 07:01 UTC (10:00 Damascus time), Wednesday, 15 May 2013. Syrian news agency reports that they’re working to fix. Potentially related to forthcoming UN decision today?

Update: Syrian Internet has returned. Outage lasted 19.5 hours, from 18:45 UTC May 7th to 14:13 UTC May 8th.

As we write, the Syrian people are still disconnected from the global Internet at the most fundamental level, nearly all of their paths withdrawn from the global routing table. Since 18:45 UTC on May 7th, Renesys hasn’t seen a flicker of activity. We haven’t been able to successfully send a ping or a traceroute to any host inside Syria. Government websites, universities, domain name servers, core infrastructure routers, banks, businesses, DSL customers, smartphones: all silent.

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As I look back at what we’ve written about Internet outage over the years, I see a sort of evolution in our perspective. We’ve covered Internet failures due to war, politics, censorship, central planning, earthquakes, hurricanes, cable cuts, business disputes, terrorism, undersea mud volcanoes, and (perhaps) cyberwarfare.

In the early days, we reported each outage breathlessly, shocked that the Internet could fail in such spectacular ways. If you look around the web this morning, you’ll see a lot of that same shock-and-awe reporting from companies who are just discovering the fragilities visible in Internet data.

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Gulf States Turn to Iran, Russia for Internet

Sometimes, it takes a real disaster to create something genuinely new. March 2013 was a month of disasters in the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East African Internet, with major submarine cable cuts affecting SMW3, SMW4, IMEWE, EIG, SEACOM, and TE-North.

One of the “genuinely new” Internet traffic paths that emerged in response is a counterintuitive terrestrial route, linking the ancient Indian Ocean trade empire of Oman with the Internet markets of Western Europe, by way of Iran, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Caucasus. As we’ll see, its effects are now being felt across the region, from Pakistan, to Gulf states like Bahrain and Oman, to Kenya.

epeg-homepage.png The EPEG (Europe-Persia Express Gateway) consortium was actually born in June 2011, as an alternative to the congested, politically uncertain Suez transit corridor. EPEG links together existing fiber routes from the Iranian, Azeri, and Russian incumbents, connected to Cable and Wireless’s network to approximate a Great Circle route to Frankfurt. With the aid of one final submarine hop across the Strait of Hormuz to Muscat, EPEG promised to deliver a major new low-latency, high-capacity terrestrial route to carry the Gulf states’ traffic to Europe.

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Restoration in Syria

Renesys confirms a largely complete restoration of the Syrian Internet this morning, starting at 14:32:10 UTC (16:32 local time in Damascus).

Transit providers for the full prefix set do not appear to be significantly changed, with Internet service being provided post-restoration by Telecom Italia, Tata Communications, Turk Telecom, and PCCW.

Here’s a view of live Syrian prefix counts during the outage and restoration, from 29 November to 1 December: SY_reachable_Nov29-Dec01.png

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Could It Happen In Your Country?

{Updated; see below for lists of countries for easier reference, and a special offer for WCIT attendees. —jim}

How hard is it to disconnect a country from the Internet, really?

That’s the number one question we’ve received about our analysis of the Egyptian and Syrian Internet blackouts, and it’s a reasonable question. If the Internet is so famously resilient, designed to survive wars and calamities, how can it fail so abruptly and completely at the national level?

The key to the Internet’s survival is the Internet’s decentralization — and it’s not uniform across the world. In some countries, international access to data and telecommunications services is heavily regulated. There may be only one or two companies who hold official licenses to carry voice and Internet traffic to and from the outside world, and they are required by law to mediate access for everyone else.

Under those circumstances, it’s almost trivial for a government to issue an order that would take down the Internet. Make a few phone calls, or turn off power in a couple of central facilities, and you’ve (legally) disconnected the domestic Internet from the global Internet. Of course, this level of centralization also makes it much harder for the government to defend the nation’s Internet infrastructure against a determined opponent, who knows they can do a lot of damage by hitting just a few targets.

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