Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shutting Down Egypt's Internet: A Responsible Act?!!

I've been posting about the meltdown in Egypt in another blog: Apathetic Lemming of the North. That's because this blog is about the war on terror, or whatever we're supposed to call it these days, and not so much about over-age-in-grade permanent presidents. The 'terrorism' angle wasn't as definite as the 'freedom of speech' aspect - and the Lemming is very concerned about freedom of speech. Also interior design, cosmology, and - today - making shiny spheres from dirt. ("Dorodango!" (February 10, 2011)) It's a sort of 'eclectic' blog. Like the inside of my head - and that's yet another topic.

I've also been letting news articles about what's happening in Egypt and elsewhere pile up, until today I've got enough for a post here. Mostly about freedom of speech. Several posts, actually.

I've said this before: I think freedom of speech is important.

Very important.

That's why I was - "impressed" might be the word - by an assertion in this article:
"The Egyptian government shut down most of its country's internet not by phoning ISPs one at a time, but by simply throwing a switch in a crucial data center in Cairo.

"That according to a February presentation to the Department of Homeland Security's Infosec Technology Transition Council, obtained by

"The presentation - made by Bill Woodcock, research director of the Packet Clearing House - argues that the Egyptian Communications Ministry acted quite responsibly in the procedure it used to cut ties from the net, after the shutdown was ordered by Egypt's much-feared intelligence service.

" 'Most of the outage was effected through a breaker flipped in the Ramses exchange, and the rest was phone calls and arm-twisting,' the presentation says. 'Ramses exchange' refers to a central building in Cairo where Egyptian ISPs meet to trade traffic and connect outside of the country, a facility known as an Internet Exchange Point...."

"...Most media, including, reported that government officials contacted individual ISPs and told them to shut down their networks, under threat of losing their communications licenses.

"But the document (embedded below) contradicts that narrative, providing new details on the outage - largely laying the blame on Egypt's internal security service, while describing the 'flip-the-switch' shutdown as a 'politically liberal' choice by the Egyptian communications ministry.

"That's because turning off the internet at the center exchange made it very easy to switch it back on, prevented surveillance, made it clear to everyone what had happened, and prevented spyware from being placed on the networks.

"Compare that to Tunisia, where Facebook login pages were manipulated - presumably by the government - to grab the passwords of Tunisian activists in order to delete their accounts and protest pages.

"The presentation suggests the weeklong shutdown had severe effects on Egypt's economy, in the short term from loss of commerce, and in the long term from a likely plummet in tourism, and an exodus of call centers from Egypt...."
(Threat Level, Wired (February 10, 2011))
In my considered opinion - I don't have enough information to have a considered opinion on just how "responsible" shutting Egypt's people off from the Internet was.

Or, rather, trying to shut them off. Google and Twitter came up with a workaround. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (January 31, 2011)

One thing that seems to be true about the Information Age is that it's not like the 'good old days.' Can't say that I'm sorry about that. That's because I lived during part of the 'good old days.' And have a pretty good memory. McCarthyism? Political correctness? I do not want to go back.

And that isn't another topic.

Finally, on the 'responsibility' displayed by Egypt's ISPs: under the circumstances, maybe letting the establishment cut Egypt's people off from the global community was the best they could do. Looks like it may be a bit rough on Egypt's tourist and tellecommunications industry: but so was having the same president since 1981. In my opinion.

More of today's posts:Related posts:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.