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Control the Internet, Control the Narrative

February 22, 2015

By Frederic Jacobs

If you’ve been following the Syrian conflict for almost the last 4 years, you’ve heard about the intermittently working Syrian Internet. Especially in the early days of the revolution, internet disconnection rhymed with fear of massacres for activists. The Assad regime has repeatedly disconnected [1] regions from the Internet before doing an assault to control the narrative of the events.

Yesterday, as Turkish soldiers entered Syria heading to the Suleyman Shah tomb, the Internet peering that connects Northern Syria with Turkey was offline. It came back in the morning around 8:40 AM UTC.

Slice 1

The Aleppo region and most of Northern Syria is connected by a network (technically called AS for Autonomous System) operated by the Syrian Computer Society. Interestingly, Northern Syria is not directly peered with networks operated by the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment. Instead, the Syrian Computer Society has a single peer, Turk Telecom. It means that information control in Northern Syria is very easy. If that single peering is disconnected, the whole region goes offline.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 20.18.33

It could be a coïncidence but given the track record of Turkey regarding Internet censorship and timing of events that is very unlikely. If you have any more information about how the peering was dropped, feel free to reach out on Twitter.

[1] : Although the regime was to blame for almost all internet disconnections to date, the November 2012 instance was attributed to NSA as their elite hacker team failed to hack a core-internet router resulting in nation-wide disconnection.

Frederic Jacobs

Frederic is a security researcher working on encrypted messaging and censorship resistance.

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  1. Rob

    Thanks, Bellingcat, this makes sense.
    In fact, the servers of any particular area being up or down can be a great source of information for other open-source investigations as well.
    I’m thinking of MH17 and if the servers in Luhansk were up on the early morning of the 18th, when the MH17 Luhansk video was taken, or not.
    Specifically, where can we find which server was up or down at any particular time ?
    Great work, and thank you for your work !

    • FTWMan

      that’s almost impossible, because video was likely uploaded via 3g or 2g, there are some providers working still, but you can expect never to get any info from them

  2. fruitally

    Iraqi forces announced that they had shot down two British planes that supplied weapons the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS). This was announced on Monday the Iraqi MP Hakem al-Zameli.

    The killing of the two British aircraft took place on Monday in the western province of Al.Anbar, an area that the US would prefer to keep as a secondary courtyard of the conflict around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

    The exponent Iraqi MP said from this area, which is characterized by wide open spaces, get information every day by the local people who denounced the overflight of aircraft in the UK and the US that carry weapons intended for groups of the Islamic State ..

    The same A-Zameli also assured that her parliamentary committee has pictures of these British aircraft shot down and urged the authorities in London that awareness.

    Last Sunday the Iraqi Defence Minister, al-Obeidi Jaled, had warned that the Army of Iraq would bring down airplanes that will provide aid ISIS. “Any aircraft that try to help or replenish the Islamic State will be a legitimate target for Iraqi forces. No matter in which country it belongs, “he stressed. See: Iraq derriba 2 aviones británicos armas para que llevaban EIIL ‘

    This past August 8, the US and its coalition allies anti ISIS, had begun air strikes in Iraq, with the aim of annihilating this terrorist group. At the end of September have expanded operations in Syria.

    On repeated occasions the fighter planes of the US-led coalition launched large quantities of arms and ammunition to elements of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, justifying then that it had been a mistake.

    On other occasions they were seen coalition aircraft to land in areas controlled by ISIS, such as in the city of Samara, download and weapons and equipment intended for terrorists. See: The US provides weapons ISIS in the city of Samara

    Political analysts are calling into question the objectives of Washington in this new fight against terrorism in the Middle East, are a reminder that extremist groups such as the ISIS were born with the help and financial support of countries such as the USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    The double game of Washington and its allies with the Islamic State was highlighted recently also by the statements of the former US General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO forces, who declared that “the terrorist group dell’SIS (Islamic State) was created by the friends and allies of the United States to fight against the Islamic Resistance Movement in Lebanon (Hezbollah). “.

    Now, this is what s called investigative journalism

    • Mikhail

      Yes indeed, this is what I look for in a website. Both sides of a story must be told. Perhaps Belling-cat would give you a space to present your investigative articles.
      I have looked into the affiliations of this site and they all resort to anti- Russian propaganda. Not saying all stories are not factual, but would like to something about the other side here, like the Western Ukrainian pull back of heavy weapons and where are the mercenary battalions like Azov?


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