What Egypt's Internet Black-Out Means for the US

By January 29, 2011
Computer behind blinds

Cybersecurity kill-switches, US corporations profiting from Middle-East cyber-spying, and Human Rights whistle blowers all are in the news due to this huge country's drop-curtain on digital communications.

When Egypt's government made the decision to disconnect its citizens from the Internet, it established a precedent for the rest of the world. In the United States, it also made a piece of legislation seem less like reactionary fringe fear-mongering, and instead just less unrealistic. This legislation was introduced last June by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. If this bill were to pass, it would give the federal government the power to turn off civilian access to the Internet if a "imminent cyber threat" was identified. This would keep government and military networks less likely to be infiltrated, according to Wired's coverage of the bill.

 In addition to shifting perception of potential governmental powers within the country, corporations are seeing room to profit on Egypt's recent events. TheFreePress.net pointed out a Huffington Post article that describes how Boeing-owned, Sunnyvale, CA-based Narus has sold Egypt "'Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment that can be used by the regime to track, target and crush political dissent over the Internet and mobile phones."

The Egyptian government first began to shut down social networks that were allowing protesters to organize. Only after this initial effort did the administration sever connections with more general Internet and cell phone networks. It was able to do so comparatively easily since Telecom Egypt is a state-run phone and Internet service provider, as Timothy Karr in the HuffPo explains. In addition, Egypt's government can spy on traffic on these networks, aided significantly by Narus DPI tech.

Other countries that use this product include Pakistan and Saudia Arabia, and these three countries mentioned do not score high on the Human Rights Watchlist. The article continues: "'Anything that comes through (an Internet protocol network), we can record,' Steve Bannerman, Narus' marketing vice president, once boasted to Wired about the service. 'We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on; we can reconstruct their (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calls.'"

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