Iran’s internet blackout reaches almost 72 hours

A country of 80 million people - and practically no way to get online. Iran's internet shutdown has lasted for four days now

Photo credit: GETTY IMAGES

Following Iran protests over a sharp increase in fuel prices in the country, internet blackout began on Saturday night, local time.

Iran internet blackout

On social media, Iranians living or travelling abroad have shared stories of being cut off from their families and friends back home.

Since Saturday, Iran internet traffic has plummeted to 5% of normal levels, according to NetBlocks.

NetBlocks tracks connectivity in countries around the world by scanning the internet for communications devices – routers, servers, mobile phone towers – and keeping a database of those known to be online in each territory.

By periodically sending brief messages over the internet to these devices, a practice called “pinging”, NetBlocks and similar organisations can see when they go offline.

Iran‘s minister of telecommunications Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said that the government had ordered the cutoff on Saturday and promised that it would return “soon,” state broadcaster Press TV reported Monday.
“Internet will return to the life of the Iranian people soon and the government [will] continue to develop it,” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said, according to Press TV. He added that some essential online services had been switched to Iran’s National Information Network (NIN), a centralized national intranet.

However, connections to the outside world in Iran are funnelled through just two entities: the state telecoms firm and the Institute for Physics and Mathematics, which means that authorities are more easily able to block communications in and out of the country.

NetBlocks has been able to detect the disconnection of internet devices with fixed line connections as well as the loss of service at mobile phone masts – which demonstrates that wireless mobile internet is also disrupted.

One Iranian journalist managed to tweet a message to the outside world by connecting to a series of proxy servers – internet devices that are linked in a chain in order to transmit data between networks.

It might also be possible for individuals in Iran to use satellite internet or roaming SIM cards to access the wider internet.

However, these methods are not guaranteed to work and may be monitored by authorities.

Tech firm Oracle’s internet-monitoring service has described it as “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran”.

With Iranians’ access to the internet restricted it’s hard to get a clear image of the situation, but Reuters reported that some videos uploaded to social media in spite of the ban showed protests continuing on Monday night.

 

Most complex internet blackout yet

This is not the first time that Tehran has shuttered online access to stop information from spreading. “After the 2009 presidential election, the Iranian government realized that the internet is key for communication between people not just inside the country, but also outside the country,” Amir Rashidi, an internet security and digital rights researcher at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told CNN.
According to NetBlocks’ data, the switch off itself was so complex that it took 24 hours to complete.

 

India cut off internet access to the disputed region of Kashmir in August of this year, and since that time has axed the region’s semi-autonomous status.

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