The internet became unavailable across Syria just after 13:00 EST yesterday. A tentative report from the BBC suggests that the country’s citizens can now access the internet once again, though there is still a lack of explanation about what caused the blackout in the first place. The news that the internet had been cut in the country led to fears about the safety of its populace, who have been locked in civil war for more than two years.
According to the BBC report, monitoring company Renesys saw signs of a return of internet traffic in the country at about 9:30 EST on Wednesday. If the internet is back online, the blackout lasted for about nineteen hours. State Media in the country reported that the cause of the outage was damage to one of the country’s fiber optic cables, but that explanation has many detractors.
According to internet maps, three separate underwater fiber optic cables serve Syria’s data needs. The complete destruction of one of those cables is unlikely to have caused an internet blackout through the country. The Syrian government blamed the shut down on terrorists, but experts seem to have reached the conclusion that the government itself had ordered the shut down of internet service.
Syrian rebels have been using the internet to organize troop movements and to get information about the ongoing conflict out to journalists in the West. The Syrian government may have had a motive to turn the internet off, and if it was carrying out a large maneuver, nineteen hours may have been all the country needed for support.
There is no evidence to suggest that Syria’s government troops carried out a major offensive during the period in which the internet was switched off. There is also little evidence to suggest there was any particular information they wanted to keep a lid on. It seems likely that the government ordered the shut down, but there is nothing toexplain a motive at this time.
During the internet blackout it was reported that telephones, including mobiles, were still functioning properly, and a small number of people in Syria had access to the internet through satellite links. Satellite links are almost impossible to block because of their connection with earth orbit communications satellites.
Syria’s war is likely to continue for some time, and the internet is a vulnerable system. This is probably not the last we’ll hear of problems from the country.