Blackout: Syria vanishes from Internet

An outage at 10:26 a.m. UTC, or 5:26 a.m. ET, shut down all Syrian access to the Web. Phone lines also appear to be down, and airlines are canceling flights.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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A Syrian ducks while passing through a dangerous part of Baba Amr in Homs, Syria. CBS News
Syria, ravaged by a vicious civil war, has now lost contact with the outside world.

The Middle Eastern country has been experiencing an Internet outage for several hours, and many people on Twitter are reporting that phone lines are down as well. In addition, some airlines are canceling flights to Damascus.

According to Renesys, which operates a real-time grid that continuously monitors Internet routing data, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet. The outage started at 10:26 UTC (12:26 p.m. in Damascus or 5:26 a.m. ET), and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight.

The site initially said that 92 percent of the country's routed networks were offline, but the remainder also eventually disappeared. Renesys said it's "investigating the dynamics of the outage and will post updates as they become available."

Renesys' latest update said that traceroutes, or the paths taken by packets across an Internet Protocol network, into Syria are falling, exactly as one would expect for a major outage.

The Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, which is affiliated with the Syrian government, is the primary autonomous system for the country, and all of its customer networks are currently unreachable, Renesys said.

However, a few Syrian networks are still connected to the Internet, are still reachable by traceroutes, and are still hosting Syrian content because the originator of the routes is actually Tata Communications, the site said.

"These are potentially offshore, rather than domestic, and perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria," Renesys said. It added that the "five offshore survivors" include the Web servers that were implicated in the delivery of malware targeting Syrian activists earlier this year.

We've reached out to Tata and will update when we hear back.

Syrian Internet access was shut down today. Renesys
Meanwhile, Akamai, one of the world's largest content delivery networks, also confirmed the outage. Following reports of an Internet blackout in Syria, the company investigated real-time traffic levels for Web traffic to end users in Syria, a spokeswoman said.

What it found is that just before 10:30 a.m. UTC (consistent with Renesys' report), traffic from the Akamai Intelligent Platform to users in Syria dropped to zero. That supports claims that Internet access to the country has been disrupted, the spokeswoman said.

The following chart gives a pretty good glimpse into what this traffic drop looked like:

Just before 10:30 a.m. UTC, traffic from the Akamai Intelligent Platform to users in Syria dropped to zero, supporting claims that Internet access to the country had been disrupted. Akamai
Shutting down Web and phone service is a tactic increasingly pursued by countries to limit the spread of information both within the country and to the outside world. Egypt and Libya switched off Internet access early in their own uprisings last year, but Syria hadn't taken the step despite being embroiled in a bloody war for many months now.

The move today could signal even tougher times ahead for Syria and could limit efforts by rebels to coordinate actions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Airlines also are canceling flights to the Syrian capital of Damascus, Reuters reported. That includes EgyptAir and Emirates, with the latter airline noting that "the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised."

Here's are some of the recent comments on Twitter, via #SyriaBlackout:

(Via AllThingsD)

Updated at 10:10 a.m. PT with updated Renesys information and information from Akamai.