Last night Syria disappeared from the internet just after 21:00 local time (18:00 GMT). It is not only the internet that went down, however, with phone service also cut to a number of towns and cities including Damascus and Latakia, and a complete power outage also occurring in Damascus.
Technology and communication companies were the first to report how how connections from Syria had dramatically tailed off:
Internet Syria just went down! Starting 18:45 UTC pic.twitter.com/o9RqrjFp93
— BGPmon.net (@bgpmon) May 7, 2013
Renesys confirms loss of Syrian Internet connectivity 18:43 UTC. BGP routes down, inbound traces failing. @geeknik
— Renesys Corporation (@renesys) May 7, 2013
— StateOfTheInternet (@akamai_soti) May 7, 2013
— Matthew Prince (@eastdakota) May 7, 2013
The data was confirmed by net activists Telecomix
It seems like the Syrian internet just went down at a nation-wide level. More information to come. #Syria
— Telecomix Syria (@TelecomixSyria) May 7, 2013
Hacker Frederic Jacobs created a video showing how the various data routes in and out of Syria rapidly fell dark. It appears that someone systematically withdrew the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routes from the country’s border routers, following a similar pattern to the last blackout in November.
It’s impossible to know for sure who caused the internet outage, for what reason, and whether it is connected to the phone and electricity blackouts with which it coincide. However, whilst damage from explosions could cause some of the damage, how the internet was taken out so completely so quickly, it is likely that this was an ordered shut down by the Assad regime.
Those with satellite phones are still able to communicate with the outside world, and traditional ham radios are also being utilized to spread information, but these resources are tight and the information has been slowed to a trickle.
Fears that Assad shut down the lines of communication to launch a major military offensive overnight appear to have been unsubstantiated.
UPDATED 16:07 GMT
Syria’s SANA state news agency is reporting that
“Internet services back to normal across Syria after repairing optic cable malfunction”