.eg gone in the blink of an eye

January 31st, 2011

Over the past week, Egypt has been in an almost state of anarchy due to protesters calling for the resignation of the Egyptian president and government reform. Like most major protests, it has turned into the citizens vs government complete with teargas, riot gear, and car torches. Just like the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests, protesters started turning to the Internet to organize by using sites such as twitter and facebook. These sites were fairly quickly blocked by ISPs.

As the cat and mouse game takes effect, protesters start leveraging tools to get to services that have been blocked and Tor becomes a common tool for communicating across the Internet. The government was not happy about this so what do they do? Well last night, Egyptian ISP’s withdrew 3500 BGP routes. The effect of doing this was to blackhole 88% of all traffic to and from Egypt. Arbor Networks created a very good graph of internet traffic to and from .eg a little bit before and after the routes were removed.

This is very staggering and very scary as the US government has been lobbying to be able to do the exact same thing. There is a current petition online aimed at battling this “kill switch” here. I am very curious about what would happen if the US government ever decided to drop all Internet connectivity. I imagine it would only make whatever civil unrest even more of an issue.

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