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Egypt Leaves the Internet

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A Hole in the Internet

January 31, 2011 Comments (15) Views: 1342 Economics, Internet, Politics, Society

Egypt’s Net on Life Support

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As of approximately 20:46 UTC, four hours after this blog was first published, Noor started disappearing from the Internet. They are completely unavailable at present as shown below

As we observed last week, Egypt took the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the Internet. The government didn’t simply block Twitter and Facebook (an increasingly common tactic of regimes under fire), but rather they apparently ordered most major Egyptian providers to cease service via their international providers, effectively removing Egyptian IP space from the global Internet and cutting off essentially all access to the outside world via this medium. The only way out now would be via traditional phone calls, assuming they left that system up, or via satellite. We thought the Internet ban would be temporary, but much to our surprise, the situation has not changed. One of the few Egyptian providers reachable today, four days after the start of the crisis, is The Noor Group. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at them and some of the businesses they serve.

Follow the Money

Noor provides Internet service for a number of Egyptian and international concerns. To name just a few, we see I-score, the Egyptian Credit Bureau; and NTG, the National Technology Group providing IT processing to the aviation, banking and financial sectors. The American University in Cairo also gets Internet connectivity via Noor, as does the Egyptian Exchange. As of this writing, these sites and many others hosted in Egypt are reachable, although access can be very slow.

egexchange.png

Perhaps surprisingly, the MCDR (which handles the settlement of equities, corporate and government debt) cannot be reached at present, despite having Noor transit. But the situation is much too volatile to read anything into this.

The Noor Group

Internet routers listen to announcements of IP address blocks, known as prefixes, originating from Autonomous Systems (ASes). By acting on these announcements, Internet routing can function without any centeralized authority. ASes are typically associated with major businesses, Internet providers, or government agencies and are free to buy Internet transit from anyone they like and route their traffic in any way they choose. Unless, of course, as in Egypt’s case, the government intrudes. In terms of ASes and prefixes, we can map out the Noor Group’s connectivity, both to its customers and its providers, as it stands today. The following diagram gives some of the details.

noor.png

Things are not always as they seem

Remember that the Internet does not respect geography and so interpreting what you see can be very tricky. For example, you might think that the site for The Suzanne Mubarak Science Exploration Center would be hosted in Egypt. The associated IP address belongs to the prefix 213.247.0.0/20, which is registered at AfriNIC to this center and with a physical Cairo street address. But in fact, from our vantage point, the web site is hosted in London. The site also has an online poll that asks “Do you think the regime’s response to the protesters’ demands are satisfactory?”

What’s next?

We’ll continue to monitor Egypt’s connectivity, and we’ll report again when there is any substantive change. We really hope this situation does not continue and look forward to welcoming Egypt back to the ‘net. Trying to ban the Internet in this century is a bit like trying to ban the wheel in centuries past. With each hour that passes, the uncertainty grows over the ultimate economic impact on Egypt’s people of this unprecedented Internet blackout.

Update: (21:00 UTC Monday)

As of approximately 20:46 UTC, Noor is no longer reachable from outside of Egypt.

noor.png

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15 Responses to Egypt’s Net on Life Support

  1. Tom Daly says:

    Hey Earl and Renesys Team,
    Great post! Can you elaborate on the breakdown of eyeball vs. content prefixes impacted? What amount of content may still be accessible in country?
    Thanks,
    Tom

  2. jonathan says:

    my interpretation is that Noor serves vested interests in Egypt and that is why it has been working in 5 star hotels too.
    that´s why the egyptian government did not/could not cut it off.
    it serves the interests of the elite.
    if they piss on their own elite, then they have already lost the game.

  3. Henk Poley says:

    Seems like Noor has been taken offline approx. 20 minutes ago.
    Editor’s Note: Correct. As of approximately 20:46 UTC, Noor started disappearing. Now they are completely gone.

  4. Mauibrad says:

    You can bet this is so transactions to extract funds out of Egypt by Mubarak cronies can continue in these days. Guarantee you Mubarak and his homies do not intent to live a modest life WHEN THEY LEAVE…

  5. Jeremy Hitchcock says:

    You think there is interconnectivity within Egypt between those four networks that still works? Wondering if within country content providers are still able to provide services.
    Editor’s note: Without a way to reach them at present, we cannot comment on current in-country availability of services. However, we have past evidence of a lack of peering in-country, so even if various providers are up, they may not be able to exchange traffic with one another, partitioning the country

  6. V L Gambino says:

    Is this indisputable proof that Noor and all of it’s Egyptian customers are disconnected? Or is it possible that arrangements have been made for selected Noor customers to allow them to VPN to some other CCTLD and enjoy access from there? Considering that the initial appearance was that Noor had been allowed to continue operating because of its many politically-connected customers, it seems a fair question to pose.
    VinnyG
    Editor’s note: Very little about the Internet is indisputable, but we can say with certainty that Noor originated and transited prefixes are no longer seen from any of hundreds of vantage points around the globe.

  7. Eno says:

    They probably blocked BGP within the country …

  8. Gwenda Blackwell says:

    The website mentioned is actually the english language version of ‘Egypt today’ an egyptian newspaper, not the science centre. It is at present up to date, maybe they are faxing out their copy.
    http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/echannel/News

  9. Kevin says:

    Is it possible that the internet shutdown in Egypt is causing slowdowns for the rest of the world?
    I have noticed that most websites have been taking longer to load these past few days, and I’m starting to think that Egypt’s online disappearance may be to blame…
    Editor’s note: A number of important cable systems traverse the Suez, connecting Europe to Asia. But there is no evidence to suggest that they are experiencing problems.

  10. Kevin López says:

    Egypt’s Net on Life Support Officially Dead. :(

  11. Alexander says:

    I am not seeing noor.net reachable at all today. I’d argue that Egypt has figured out the one way to ensure that the network is disrupted – not much rebellion against the order from these companies, surprising?

  12. Edward Dore says:

    We started seeing route announcements from Egyptian ISPs at about 09:30 and it looks like most of them were back by 09:50. The Noor Group AS doesn’t seem to have returned yet though.

  13. maloki says:

    Viva La Revolución – Egypt Tunisia Iran

    Me on Twitter: #egypt is like #iran and #tunisia on CRACK! Seriously, the information, the hacktivism. I love it. Viva La Revolución!!!! ’09 I went through watching how we, Telecomix, helped Iran, during/after their election. We supported them wi…

  14. Hisham Mostafa says:

    Allow me 1st to clarify that all GSM operators and ISPs inside Egypt are under Egyptian legislation which give the authorities the right to give the orders to shut down the services, reference to statement (N0# 67 from communication law (No# 3, year 2003) and all operators and ISPs are obligated to comply, otherwise such operators and ISPs will lose the service license
    2nd, most of the International links(VPN) through Global Carriers were not affected during the recent events

  15. What happened? why is Egypt following China in blocking some of its website like facebook, twitter?What is their aim?

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