Oopsie: Pakistan Government Breaks YouTube

Dennis Faas's picture

Pakistan's government appears to have blundered big-time in an attempt to block its citizens viewing videos on YouTube. The state-run Pakistan Telecom attempted to perform what amounted to a hijacking of YouTube's web server addresses. The idea was that anyone attempting to access the site through a Pakistani Internet provider would automatically be re-routed to a different address.

Unfortunately, it seems the technical detour was mistakenly copied to a Hong Kong server. From there, it was automatically repeated to all connected servers and, given the nature of the Internet, was almost instantly received across the entire world. This meant YouTube was inaccessible to all Internet users for around two hours. It appears this was a genuine mistake rather than a deliberate attempt to sabotage the site. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Some conspiracy theorists have said Pakistan was testing tactics for cyber warfare. That seems pretty unlikely, considering that this type of 'attack' would hit Pakistan just like any other country. Indeed, this specific incident hurt Pakistan more than anyone. With the entire global traffic for YouTube suddenly being re-routed via Pakistani servers, the country's Internet services came under immense strain. (Source: nytimes.com)

Some sources believe the country-wide ban related to controversial Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. However, the Association of Pakistani Internet Service Providers says the government told them the ban was because of a trailer for an upcoming Dutch movie which negatively portrays Islam.  Same idea, really.

Whether governments should ban entire websites is a controversial issue; it goes against the principles of the Internet, but some see it as a local political debate. However, it's now clear attempts to block sites in the way Pakistan attempted are pretty perilous, as even countries sympathetic to religious sensitivities won't be happy suffering a global blackout.

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