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Egypt Shut Down Most of Internet Service by Pulling Single Switch in Cairo

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February 10, 2011

Egypt Shut Down Most of Internet Service by Pulling Single Switch in Cairo

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

As the people of Egypt and the world wait to see who will be leading the historic nation after weeks of revolt, it is being reported that when officials wanted to shut down Internet service last month – they did it the easy way: They pulled a single switch. says that the Egyptian government shut down most of the Internet service by pulling a switch in a data center located in Cairo. It had been speculated Egyptian officials had called ISPs, one after another.

Word of their approach comes from information presented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Infosec Technology Transition Council.

In a DHS presentation, Bill Woodcock, research director of the Packet Clearing House, says, “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,” reports.

“Most of the outage was effected through a breaker ?ipped in the Ramses exchange, and the rest was phone calls and arm-twisting,” said, citing information from the presentation.

Ramses exchange is located in a building in Cairo, “where Egyptian ISPs meet to trade traffic and connect outside of the country,” according to It is referred to as an Internet Exchange Point. says that turning off the Internet at the Internet Exchange Point made it easier to turn it back on, was more secure, and kept “spyware from being placed on the networks,” said.

In Tunisia, Facebook (News - Alert) login pages may have been “manipulated” by government agents to delete accounts and pages belonging to political activists.

Given the millions of dollars it cost the economy, while the Internet was turned off, the presentation concluded that it will be “unlikely that Egypt’s communications ministry will ever be asked to ?ip that switch again.”

Forbes magazine estimates it cost the Egyptian economy $110 million. Vice President Omar Suleiman estimated that the impact on the tourism sector was “at least $1B.”

In details obtained by, it showed that on Jan. 25, the State Security Intelligence Service ordered the blocking of Twitter. On Jan. 26, the State Security Intelligence Service ordered the blocking of Facebook. By Jan. 28, all of the large ISPs were offline. By Feb. 2, Internet service was restored. By Feb. 5 all SMS services were restored.

In a related matter, TMCnet reported that after Internet service was restored in Egypt, hackers targeted government websites causing them to go offline, according to a report from the Associated Press (News - Alert). The attacks were apparently coordinated by the loosely-organized group calling itself, "Anonymous," The AP said.

TMCnet also reported, on Feb. 2, that Google (News - Alert), Facebook and Twitter helped to provide at least some of the anti-government protesters access to the Internet.

Social media played a key role in causing and continuing the revolt, observers have said.

Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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