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Egypt Shutdown Also Knocked Spammers Offline

Egypt returned to the Internet on Feb. 2 after an unprecedented government-ordered Internet blackout.

While the resumption of Internet service put Egypt's residents and businesses back in touch with the outside world, it also put the spammers and hackers back in business. While analyzing global spam volumes during the five-day shutdown, SophosLabs researchers noticed that "spam originating from Egypt had nearly vanished," wrote Chester Wisniewski, of Sophos, in a blog post.

With the Noor Group, the country's last internet service provider still online, the amount of spam received from Egypt had dropped 85 percent, according to Wisniewski. Noor Group provided Internet access for an estimated 8 percent of Egyptian users between Jan. 27, when the other carriers went offline, to Jan. 31, when it shut down.

Arbor Networks also noticed a similar drop. By drilling down further onto the city-level, the researchers found that spam traffic from Cairo was affected immediately on Jan. 27 when the telecommunications carriers first went offline. Spam traffic continued to trickle out from the Giza area for a few more hours, the company said.

While "not advocating this as a method to stop the spam problem," the drop in volume confirmed how extensively the Internet shutdown was in Egypt, he said. In fact, he cautioned anyone from thinking that this would have any significant impact on global spam volumes.

Egypt was not on the top 10 list of spam relaying countries in the latest Dirty Dozen report for the end of 2010 for Sophos, and Symantec estimated it accounted for around 0.1 percent of global spam.