Opinion

Arbor Networks shows online impact of Egypt crisis

Arbor Networks Egypt visualisation.jpg

Massive civil unrest in Egypt - prompted by the recent Tunisian uprising - has been hitting the headlines in recent days, and once again, the role of the internet in the developing situation has come under scrutiny.

In its attempts to quell the uprising, the Egyptian government has been blocking social networks such as Twitter, which played a key role in the Iranian election crisis of 2009.

The above visualisation of internet traffic into Egypt yesterday evening comes courtesy of network security firm Arbor Networks, and clearly shows the moment when the country literally fell off the internet.

As 'Scope's finest are speculating right now, it's possible that someone just went and knocked the plug out...

But the graph more likely reflects both widespread panic within the Egyptian government as the government tries to close off the uprising's lines of communication.

We must also consider the impact of the online collective known as Anonymous, a group known for its commitment to a free and open internet, which has played a key role in the Wikileaks scandal and wants to punish the Egyptian authorities for censoring online speech.

Anonymous invites users to download a tool known as a Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) that enables their PCs to form part of a collective botnet and bombard targets with junk traffic in a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack.

Although completely illegal - several users who took part in the Wikileaks attacks using the LOIC were arrested just this week - the growing wave of attacks by Anonymous highlight an interesting point; that when governments or companies attempt to restrict internet usage it invariably rebounds on them.

People will always find a way to either get round the problem; Egyptian net users have resorted to proxy servers and third party applications to communicate with the outside world; groups like Anonymous have taken matters into their own hands.

But both paths are risky and fraught with security holes.

This was first published in January 2011

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