For the second time this month, the civil war-torn nation of Syria lost its connection to the Internet this morning before emerging from the Internet blackout several hours later, according to information provided by Arbor Networks.
Google’s Transparency report webpage revealed that at around 2:56 AM GMT, Syria’s connection to the outside Internet disappeared. The Internet then appeared to return at around 11:12 AM GMT. Google warns however, that these data points are still being finalized and should be interpreted with caution. Arbor’s Threat Level Analysis System expressed no such uncertainty.
If Syria did fall offline again, it would be the third time in seven months. Thus far, there have been no clear answers on how or who is responsible for the outages. Earlier this month, researchers at Umbrella Security, a subsidiary of OpenDNS, linked the outage to an issue with border gateway protocols (BGP), however, it was unclear then and remains unclear whether the BGP problems caused the outage, or whether the outage caused the BGP problems. Either way, the Internet has played an integral role in this conflict like none before.
A hacker-collective of pro-Bashar al-Assad lackeys known as the Syrian Electronic Army has launched opportunistic and seemingly random attacks against apparent Syrian rebel sympathizers. The SEA first made a splash in the U.S. after hacking into and defacing a Harvard University site. They have also claimed responsibility for successfully compromising Twitter accounts belonging to the Onion and the Associated Press.
There has also been a healthy dose of controversy surrounding and condemnation toward western security firms accused of profiteering by selling Internet monitoring technology to the Syrian regime. Since the beginning of the conflict in the Mediterranean nation, there has been a consistent flow of reports accusing the Assad regime of using malware, keyloggers, and other sorts of cyberattacks to spy on and impede the work of pro-rebellion activists and dissidents.
On the other side too though, activists in Syria and around the world are playing a part in the cyber-arms race by developing new tools and ways of circumventing government surveillance attempts.