Egyptian Protests Lead To Internet Shutdown

Dennis Faas's picture

For most of us, it's hard to imagine life without access to the Internet. But since late last week, that's been the reality for most people in Egypt.

As part of crackdown designed to disrupt organized protests against the government currently in power, almost every connection between Egypt's Internet service providers (ISPs) and the rest of the web was cut almost simultaneously during the evening of January 27th.

Any suspicion that this might be a mechanical failure was soon eliminated when it became clear that network traffic was still passing through the country. The major set of fiber optic cables in the region provides an Internet "backbone" connecting Europe to Asia.

Referring to a graph of Internet network traffic of Egypt, James Cowie, chief technology officer of Manchester, N.H.-based Renesys said that "[The sequence in which the major Egyptian Internet networks were shut down] looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air." (Source:

Face-To-Face Communication Revival

Aside from one Internet provider, which only has about an eight per cent market share and appears to have been left online as it mainly serves those in the financial industry, Egyptians have had to use now-uncommon ways to get online -- particularly considering most major cellphone operators have also been forced to shut down networks. There are reports that many users are resorting to dial-up connections to get online via foreign Internet. (Source:

Reports say that some people are also connecting via fax networks. There's even been a return to a purely human form of social networking, with reports that some protestors are gathering during daily prayers as this allows messages to be passed on to large groups of people at once, who can then distribute them individually.

The Internet crackdown follows an ongoing series of protests that began last Tuesday and were partially organized via social networking sites, with Twitter users attaching the phrase #jan25 to messages to make it easier to track the plans.

Unclear When Situation Will Change

As of the start of this week, it was unclear whether the Internet blocking could continue even if the existing government remained in power. Major businesses and services were already starting to feel the effects of their websites being offline. Egyptian sites are not only blocked to locals, but the disconnection means they aren't available anywhere else in the world.

And it's not just the legitimate users of the Internet that are suffering. Security firm SophosLabs notes that spam coming from the country almost disappeared overnight and is still at only around 15 per cent of normal levels.

| Tags:
Rate this article: 
No votes yet