If you’ve been following world news in the last week, you may have heard about the unfortunate incident that happened to Syria. What started as an Internet blackout of an unknown cause was quickly discovered to be an act of the Syrian government. The government decided to pull the plug on the country’s Internet, disabling almost all of the country’s ability to access the world wide web. An act such as this is unsettling, if not utterly terrifying. The fact that a government in our world actually has the power to disable a major, and valuable information source for millions of people that live in a country is very scary indeed. But the question is just how exactly the Syrian government pulled this off, and how likely it is that other countries could experience the same.
To my astonishment, I found out that pulling the plug on the Internet in a country like Syria is actually not that hard of a thing to do. In a country like Syria, you have the situation where there is one major Internet Service Provider, unlike various competitors in the U.S like Verizon and Comcast. All it actually took for the Syrian government to end the Internet in the country was to call the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), which runs all Internet communications. They could have made the call and had all the routers prevented from accessing the global Internet by the end of the day.
“The routers inform the world ‘hey I own these networks, send me all the traffic to them,’ ” Earl Zmijewski said. “If they stop doing that, the routes are withdrawn. It can be done with software, by pulling the plug on the cable or by turning the power off to your facility.”
So with a country like Syria it becomes easy to pull the plug when you have a government run ISP and one big, international connection. But what about bigger countries like the United States?
Well the good news is that it’s very hard, if not damn near-impossible to replicate this method in a major country. As I stated before, we have multiple ISPs and they are not run or controlled by the government. They have basic federal laws that they must follow, but set their own guidelines and restrictions that make them popular to the consumer market. There is no big red button or facility that controls our country’s Internet; more like hundreds. The same can be applied to European countries such as France, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Two things can be concluded from this article. Number 1 is that if you live in a major country, rest assured that you’re relatively safe from an Internet blackout. I also wanted to conclude that if you live in Syria, it really sucks to be you. But its not like any Syrians are reading this article now are they?[SFGate]