No internet for Syria

Nicole Perlroth: "Syria’s access to the Internet was cut on Tuesday. The most likely culprit, security researchers said, was the Syrian government." [NYT]


  1. The ‘net interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it … except when it doesn’t.

    The original goal of the ancestor of the Internet was to offer robust, damage-resistant communications … for the government. The (presumed) actions of the Syrian government are a reminder that repressive governments have no interest in seeing citizens enjoy the same facilities. Which is why it’s more than ever time for us to come up with inexpensive, secure tools to build a “people’s Internet” on the fly.

    1. There are really two issues at work: One, as you note, ARPA wasn’t exactly building a tool for anarchists when they designed a resilient command and control network for the feds to use when Ivan dropped the bomb.

      Two, economics and commercial incentives haven’t done the decentralized topology of the internet any good at all… Dumping 100 strands of fiber into a ditch or undersea cable enclosure costs nearly the same as dumping 1 strand(glass is pretty cheap compared to labor and disruption on trenching operations), and the vast majority of internet users are under the thumb of a relatively small number of ISPs, most of which are practically joined at the hip to the state regulatory apparatus.

      There might still be some facilities(central junction points, serious datacenters, military facilities) that are still willing to pay the premium for genuinely being part of the ‘net’, rather than just being a node at the end of a single strand; but much of the expanded internet was built to be cheap, not built to be redundant.

    2.  All this really means is that the standard channels for Internet as managed by the national internet registry for Syria are down. That doesn’t mean no one in Syria might have some form of access to the Internet, especially around border areas… Someone might have satellite, someone might have a cantenna pointed at a Jordanian Starbucks, who knows. Just like there are those people in North Korea that do have some idea of what is going on in the world, such as people who attend international schools, people with shortwave radios hidden inside their toasters, and so on.

      Only the official, sanctioned infrastructure is blocked — and that’s the one that is internationally marked as Syrian.

  2. Border Gateway Protocol?  Really?  Like they make packets show their papers when crossing international borders? Why would the internet include a protocol like that – isn’t it an open invitation to censorship?

    1. Not that kind of border(though, for organizational reasons, it isn’t uncommon to find that the AS or set of ASes using BGP to chat with the rest of the internet are confined along geographic/political lines.)

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