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Egypt Drops Dime, Pulls Plug On Internet

The government of Egypt has acted to cut off almost every form of Internet traffic into and out of the country. Cellphone networks were also disrupted.

Egypt has been trying to contain growing protests that have been fueled in part by videos and other information shared over social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Renesys, a Vermont-based company that tracks Internet traffic, said that just after midnight Cairo time, or 5 p.m. New York time, Egyptian authorities had succeeded in shutting down the country’s international access points.

“Almost nobody in Egypt has Internet connectivity, and there are no workarounds,” said Jim Cowie, the company’s chief technology officer. “I’ve never seen it happen at this scale.”

“In a fundamental sense, it’s as if you rewrote the map and they are no longer a country,” said Mr. Cowie. “I never thought it would happen to a country the size and scale of Egypt.”

In most countries, the points of access to the global Internet infrastructure are many and distributed. But Mr. Cowie said that Egypt was relatively late in widely adopting the Internet, so it has fewer access points. The government can shut these down with “six, or even four phone calls,” he said.

SF fans have been prepared for this possibility since 1975, when John Brunner published The Shockwave Rider. In the story, the government has prepared a way to take down the Internet in the event of enemy occupation.

... the worm that prevents the Fedcomps from monitoring calls to Hearing Aid, and the similar but larger one that was released at Weychopee—Electric Skillet—to shut down the net in the event of enemy occupation: those are designed to lay dormant until tampered with.
(Read more about Brunner's net shutdown worm)

I was also trying to imagine what the Internet feels like when a country-sized piece of its memory is removed:


(HAL-9000 has his memory modules removed)

In a related story, US citizens should read this story on the 2009 Cybersecurity Act.

Via NYTimes.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/28/2011)

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