back to article Syria cuts off internet and mobile communications

Network monitors are showing that Syria has gone dark for internet traffic and mobile communications as rebel forces fight their way into the capital city of Damascus. Syrian data traffic dropped off a cliff at 10:26am UTC, according to internet inspectors Renesys, with 77 networks representing 92 per cent of the country …

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Unhappy

I wonder if there is any activity from radio amateurs - although I guess they're rather keeping their heads down.

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He forgot to pay his bill...

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Anonymous Coward

"activity from radio amateurs"

"I wonder if there is any activity from radio amateurs"

Even if there are folk brave enough to have a go, the licenced amateurs have got to cut through any wideband RF splatter from unlicenced and unlicenceable powerline Ethernet adaptors (at sending end and at receiving end) before they can get their signals heard or seen.

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Devil

They really thought this over!

That's what Iridium is for... but it's also banned in Syria.

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Anonymous Coward

Good luck, and [insert relevent diety here] bless.

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Alert

Cell service disrupted as well

I saw a report that cell service was similarly cut off, though I can't find a definitive source.

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Joke

Re: Cell service disrupted as well

well, maybe you can send your contacts an email just to be sure ;)

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Meh

Proper Rebellion

Relying on the Internet to underpin your rebellion is just stupid. Guns and enthusiasm may get you a win, but having access to Facebook or Twitter doesn't have much weight in the overall scheme of things. Email isn't safe and BBM is spied on by every technology competent country in the world. You can buy two way radios on eBay for less than dial-up anyway. WWII proved that inexpensive radios are the communications way to a successful fight. If people want to help they should donate those instead of bitching about lack of Intertubes.

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Gold badge

Re: Proper Rebellion

Information and propaganda are vital to any revolution. That's why the 20th Century revolutionaries always seized the Radio and TV stations. Or the regime put it's last ditch defence there.

So much of any revolution is about hearts and minds. Persuading people that you're right is important, but what gets you supporters and defectors, is persuading people that you're winning.

In the old days it was only the capital city that really mattered. Because there was no way to get information round. France had lots of regional trouble in the 19th C, but it was only when Paris rose up that the government fell, which happened plenty of times. Then information could travel on 2 legs.

Radio is probably less secure than the internet. Although you use it if you have to. The problem with cutting everybody off now, is it looks like the act of a doomed regime. Perhaps if they'd done it before when they were obviously still militarily dominant, it might have worked to bugger up rebel communications. Now it just looks desperate.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Proper Rebellion

I really don't think that the gov't cutting of internet access had much to do with squelching the rebellion, though that is a side benefit, I suspect it has much more to do with trying to keep the rest of the world from knowing exactly what is going on.

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Stop

Re: Proper Rebellion

You don't really understand either secure communications or propaganda, do you?

Two-way radios are laughably insecure, their location easily detected, they are easy to jam, and require distinctive kit which will traditionally get you tortured and shot if you're found to own. Resistance radio operators in WW2 France lived short lives, on the whole. Hand-held ones are *very* short-ranged in urban environments, and larger, ruggedised ones are not so easy to get hold of, expensive and require hefty batteries.

Internet communications are less easy to pick out due to the sheer number of devices and hard-wired infrastructure. Whereas two-way radio frequencies are relatively 'quiet', monitoring all internet traffic is a monstrous chore. And owning an iPhone probably won't get you shoved against the wall and shot if you're found with it, either.*

Furthermore, Email traffic can easily be secure via use of one-time codes, or innocuous code-words (assuming you don't trust PGP and the likes). It's much more secure than commercially available radios.

"You can buy two way radios on eBay for less than dial-up anyway."

How do you do that if you don't have the internet? And I'm sure that when a package heads your way containing radio gear, members of Assad's security services won't be taking an interest.

There's a lot to be said for using text or email in both tactical and strategic environments. In many ways, civilian mobile communications technology has outpaced military technologies.

"but having access to Facebook or Twitter doesn't have much weight in the overall scheme of things."

Yes it does. Getting word out is crucial. Wars are fought by a tiny fraction of a population, but they need the backing of a majority in order to win. Hearts and minds is where it's always at. In the case of this particular revolution it's also helping them recruit, winning international favour and sympathy, and turning others against the establishment.

High on the priority list for any successful Junta is to seize the TV and Radio stations and tell everyone that you've won already.

"Email isn't safe"

One-time pads are always safe, so long as the pads are secure. Combining that with methods to make their use look innocuous and it's VERY secure.

*Though come the revolution.....

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Everyone's assuming...

That it's the government pulling the big switch, and this seems the most plausible explanation. But I suppose it is also possible that this just the result of a critical piece of infrastructure getting hit by something nasty and explosive.

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Holmes

Re: Everyone's assuming...

Nope, I'm wrong

Here's a very informative blog showing how the shutdown proceeded: http://blog.cloudflare.com/how-syria-turned-off-the-internet.

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Re: Everyone's assuming...

"Nope, I'm wrong"

It was a plausible thought and had value in that respect, even if it was mistaken..

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Pint

Re: Everyone's assuming...

Syria's last gasp... was somewhat desperate, as the porn page failed to load.

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Unhappy

syria so depressing

I predict much more bloodshed before Assad is gone. Even after what then? Is it going to be like Egypt where another strong man takes over but this one even more crazy religious? We in the US have no idea how lucky we were to have as our first new government some of the greatest thinkers out of the Age of Enlightenment. Most of the rest of the world doesn't get that luxury.

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Re: syria so depressing

And despite such a beginning, the US still only delayed the internal struggle for power by less than a century ...

Although funny you should mention crazy religious rulers taking over a country ....

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Re: syria so depressing

They are openly saying to Turkish Allawi community (who are secular) that they are "next" after they "deal" with Syrian ones.

This is the "good guys" which we are supposed to back.

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Very interesting read on the cloud flare blog. Thanks for sharing!

I hope the nets are restored soon

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How do we know who did what?

Syria has been an anarchic state for a long time now and contrary to what you hear, there are no "good guys". Battle between secular dictator vs Muslim brotherhood/Al Queda. Pick your side if you can...

Btw spare your keystrokes, Al Queda is basically being used as "bad guerilla" by good (!) guerrillas named Muslim brothers, one of the most sinister Islamic organisations who basically tookover middle east. They are just clever to keep their hands clean.

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Gold badge

Re: How do we know who did what?

So having derided others for oversimplification, by complaining about people talking about 'good guys', you then go on to do an awful lot of it yourself. I doubt there are many people silly enough to think this is a simple battle between good and evil.

I think almost everyone would agree that the Syrian regime is a pretty nasty one, by any standards. The massacres around Homs in the 80s, their various interventions in Lebanon, and that's before we mention their unhelpful interventions in Iraq and the Palestinian question (where some people might disagree about their justifications). And the current mass killing of civilians of course. The only thing going for the regime is they've been able to keep the country together in the past, and avoid an ethnic civil war. Although that's much less of an excuse now. To say this regime are the only thing holding Syria from a bloodbath of years of ethnic conflict looks pretty damned silly when they're causing a bloodbath with a side-order of ethnic conflict.

Rather like Iraq. The civil war after the toppling of Saddam was apparently our fault. Because it was only happening a bit, under Saddam's tyranny, when we toppled him and unleashed it somehow it became our baby. Well it was bound to happen anyway. The Iraqui Sunnis wanted to continue to rule the majority Shia. Eventually they were bound to lose their grip, and vengeance would have been had. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the invasion of Iraq - that civil war was a virtual certainty. As is one in Syria. Dictatorships are less stable than (even partially successful) democracies in the long term.

Btw spare your keystrokes, Al Queda is basically being used as "bad guerilla"

Al Qaeda are separate from the other Syrian rebels. Almost everywhere that they've operated, AQ have become a scurge eventually repudiated by their allies. Strategically Al Qaeda are a busted flush, because their ideology (what they have of one) is so horrible. The Sunnis called them in in Iraq, and had to kill hundreds of them to get rid of them, even taking alliance with the US - because they realised that Al Qaeda were killing more of them than either Americans or Shia. Mullah Omah in Afghanistan (admittedly as part of peace overtures) came out and said that supporting Al Qaeda was a mistake, and they should have driven them out of the country. The Bosniak muslims feared the few units of AQ 'allies' as much as the Serbs did - they were pretty undiscriminating when it came to a bit of mahem. There were several armed confrontations with Saudi Jihadis linked to AQ. The Libyans in Benghazi chucked a bunch of AQ guys out, after they decided to attack the US consulate. They're a weapon that turns in the hand, as the Pakistani 'intelligence' agency (an oxymoron given their horrific incompetence) discovered...

A lot of those Al Qaeda guys are there, near the Iraqi border, because the Syrian government let them in. It was convenient to have them causing trouble in Iraq ten years ago. Now they're turning on their old sponsors. Nothing new. Many of the rebels recognise this. But seeing as we won't arm them, and they're not trained, there's not a lot they could do about it, even if they were in a position not to need the help.

As for your comments on the Muslim brotherhood, I suggest - again massively simplistic. The Egyptian lot moderated themselves decades ago, and they've historically been the trend-setters. It may be they'll moderate affiliated groups like Hamas (it may not). Turkey are another possible moderating influence. Middle Eastern politics is terribly complicated. There's also been so much repression and government propaganda that it's impossible to know where most populations stand, and given how little true information they've seen - they probably don't know themselves yet. The Syrian opposition aren't a united force, and therefore it's foolish to claim to understand their motives.

Although not being murdered or tortured by your own government is one of them, and it's a just motive which we should support and understand. The West has been too willing to take the short-term easy option, and support nasty dictators for 'stability'. That is unlikely to ever be a good long-term solution, and makes us look bad. I'd argue it's also often immoral (for what that's worth in international relations). The Cold War is long over, which wasn't always a good excuse for that kind of policy anyway.

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Thumb Up

Re: How do we know who did what?

"So having derided others for oversimplification, by complaining about people talking about 'good guys'..."

Upvoted and kudos for having the patience to try and explain the reality to someone disconnected to it, and who probably isn't going to pay a blind bit of attention anyway.

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Re: How do we know who did what?

Thanks for the explanation,I agree to all except the term "moderate". There is no such thing,I used the term "sinister" for a reason.

They may look modern, polite and even somehow tolerant but it is because they have not reached the "lets invade Poland" level yet.

Don't be fooled by their smiling face.

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Gold badge

Re: How do we know who did what?

I wouldn't give up hope on the Muslim Brotherhood yet. They're a broad group, with lots of internal opinions just inside Egypt. Goodness knows what they'll be like as a force across the whole Middle East. That's assuming that the groups that affiliate to them are even vaguely related to them in reality.

Also, if they go too far (at least in Egypt), they'll struggle to hold power. There are a lot of people there who do want a more moderate system. They've brought down a scary military dictatorship already (and also the second, politer, incarnation of the same), and they can bring this government down if they so choose. Particularly as the Muslim Brotherhood don't have the support of the Egyptian military.

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Syria allows amateur Radio and is a member of IARU Region 1 along with the UK, The only 2 countries I know of that ban it are North Korea and Yemen, Syria does not Possibly because those in power don't consider "geeks" a threat.

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Mushroom

Geeks are always the threat.

I seem to recall that a few "geeks" (nerds, actually)in the UK whomped up a little kit called RADAR. Let's throw in missile guidance systems and all manner of smart munitions. It may be the more brawny of the clan at the front line delivering headaches to the enemy, but the pasty little wonks in their sheds are more dangerous.

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We don't like them, so we'll kill them

A country the size and strength of Syria is destroyed in a few months. And we talk about it being some demonstrators who have brought this about.

Bollocks - it's a surefire military action. Whole swathes of the country are now controlled by "insurgents".

Damascus airport and environs seem to be out of government control.

This is not the result of "demonstrators" or your pissed off rebels, this is military intervention by an experienced force who have finance behind them. So who would that be ? Who benefits ? Well there's one world super-power who has been calling for regime change for a long time, the same super-power who would benefit greatly in the upcoming war by removing Iran's strong friendly neighbour.

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Re: We don't like them, so we'll kill them

A country the size and strength of Syria is destroyed in a few months. And we talk about it being some demonstrators who have brought this about.

Bollocks - it's a surefire military action. Whole swathes of the country are now controlled by "insurgents".

Perhaps you might want to remove that tinfoil hat for a minute. It seems to have slipped down over your eyes, and obstructed clear vision...

Read some history. Massively stronger governments (with actually effective armies) have fallen far quicker to mobs in the streets. Egypt only lasted a couple of months, and there wasn't much more than protests (the army refused to shoot). Libya would have lasted longer without Western intervention, but they'd have gone all the same. The difference was the Egyptian army refused to shoot the crowds because they were a professional force with power and training. They kicked out the leadership instead, and took over. Gadaffi didn't allow a professional command structure (as a threat to him), or much in the way of training, so his army wasn't really up to taking the country back - once the job went beyond shooting demonstrators.

Syria is halfway between. It's got a professional army of 200,000 odd. But they're a bit crap. However, they can't actually use it. If they let the ordinary soldiers out of barracks, they'll defect. Maybe not all, but enough clearly did that they only used a few trusted units. By all accounts only 2 divisions of the best trained, most loyal troops, plus smaller units, and then Alawite militias, and probably a few Hezbollah fighters.

Once they didn't even try to retake Aleppo the regime was doomed. They didn't do it because they didn't have the ground troops they dared trust. As they cleared out Damascus in quick time, they could have sent everything spare to Aleppo, and cleared it out in days. They didn't really try. They've been trying to hold the country from small forts, which the rebels simply go round. Now the rebels appear to be taking them in massed attacks. I'm sure they've got Western special forces advising them on the ground, but they've not had much in the way of help with weapons. Or all the journos, and all their Youtube videos have missed it.

By the way, the US probably doesn't want Syria to erupt into permanent civil war for the next decade or 2. It'll spill over into Iraq and Lebanon and probably Turkey due to the Kurdish separatists. That's quite a lot of pain, for the gain of making it harder for Iran to support Hezbollah...

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