Sometime around 2:45 PM EDT yesterday, Syria’s BGP routes were severed and the country disappeared from the Internet. Just as quickly as it had fallen, Syria came back online this morning.
In March, the Middle Eastern nation entered the third year of a violent conflict in which the country’s ruling regime, headed by President Bashar al-Assad, is fighting a civil war against the Syrian National Coalition, a hodgepodge group of militias led by the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Syria lost its Internet connection similarly in November of last year.
Umbrella Security reported the outage, saying resolvers belonging to its parent company, OpenDNS, showed a precipitous drop in inbound and outbound Internet traffic. Search giant Google and the Internet monitoring Renesys Corporation would later confirm the blackout. Neither of the top-level domains located in Syria could be reached for the duration of the outage, which lasted just less than 20 hours.
“There have been numerous incidents where access to and from the Internet in Syria was shut down,” Explained Umbrella Security CTO Dan Hubbard. “Shutting down Internet access to and from Syria is achieved by withdrawing the BGP routes from Syrian prefixes.”
Internet traffic routing relies on the BGP, which distributes routing information and ensures that Internet-connected routers know how to connect IP addresses. When and if an IP range goes dark, it is removed from the BGP routes, letting the routers know that those IPs are no longer reachable. During the outage, Hubbard said the usual 70 or so routes into the BGP routing tables for Syria had decreased to just three routes.
The disconnect meant that Syria could not communicate with the outside world. It’s not clear whether the outage disrupted Internet communication within the besieged nation’s borders.
Oddly, as pointed out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, despite the “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” that is ongoing in Syria, the country’s Internet has, for the most part, remained available, offering the world a stark view into a brutal civil war.