Syria Outage Sheds Light on U.S. ‘Kill Switch’ Concerns
Networks in Syria and 60 other countries could be taken down with a few phone calls, but most western nations—including the U.S.—are a different matter.Critics concerned that an "Internet kill switch" could be used to censor U.S. citizens from reaching the world should take heart in the Syrian outage, rather than worry that the U.S. government could manage the same feat, according to Internet intelligence firm Renesys. In an analysis of the weekend outage, the firm found that Syria and 60 other countries are at a "severe risk" of being disconnected from the Internet because a lack of redundancy in their telecommunications connections to the outside world. Hotspots of political unrest—such as Tunisia, Myanmar and Libya—fall into this category, with only one or two outside lines to the global Internet. Other countries fall into two other categories—significant and low risk—while the United States, Canada and many Western European countries fall into a fourth category, "resistant." The analysis shows that concerns that an Internet kill switch could cut people off are unwarranted, said Earl Zmijewski, vice president and general manager at Renesys. "There are a lot of conspiracy theorists who think that [President] Obama is going to be able to shut off the Internet with a 'kill switch,' but the reality is quire a bit different," he said. "Syria is not the U.S., it is not Canada, and it's not Western Europe. There is no way to simply shut down connectivity."
On Nov. 29, amongst civil unrest, Syria was disconnected from the Internet. Government officials claimed opposition forces, referred to as "terrorists," were the cause the outage. Yet, content distribution network and security firm Cloudflare disputed that version of events. Pointing out that the country's Internet connections were systematically disconnected, Cloudflare concluded that a government shutdown was the most likely explanation.