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Egyptians Find New Ways To Get Online 202

Posted by timothy
from the all-this-stuff-makes-me-want-to-visit dept.
angry tapir writes "Groups like We Rebuild have scrambled to keep Egypt connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country. Although one Internet service provider — Noor Group — remains in operation, Egypt's government abruptly ordered the rest of the country's ISPs to shut down their services just after midnight local time Thursday. Mobile networks have also been turned off in some areas."
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Egyptians Find New Ways To Get Online

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  • Just make sure they stay clear of areas where "fireworks" are going off.
  • Knee-Jerk Reaction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bgfay (5362) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @08:18PM (#35052026) Homepage

    A regime that tries to shut down all means for its population to communicate is one that does not deserve to continue.

    • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @08:22PM (#35052052)

      In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @08:35PM (#35052128)

        In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

        Sensationalist headlines aside, care to point out where the aforementioned bill says anything about shutting down communications? From my reading its about isolating the networks on which high value infrastructure is located, not shutting down anyone's communication. More reading, less rhetoric please.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jcwayne (995747)

          Emergency powers always sound reasonable, even prudent, when the laws enabling them are written prior to an actual emergency. What really matters is who's in power when the Reichstag goes up in flames.

          • by formfeed (703859) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:12PM (#35052350)

            What really matters is who's in power when the Reichstag goes up in flames.

            Or a plane hits a building.

          • Emergency powers always sound reasonable, even prudent, when the laws enabling them are written prior to an actual emergency. What really matters is who's in power when the Reichstag goes up in flames.

            So how can these powers be abused? The president already has emergency power to cut communications under the patriot act without declaring war, and has the power under a martial law declaration. I guess I just don't see where this adds any danger. Now they can declare all communications to be critical and then shut them down under the guise of protecting them? So now they're confusing people by making a claim that it is critical infrastructure and another claim that it is somehow protected now? And this is

            • by Artifakt (700173)

              I'm not sure you have it all right, but let's say you do. Then it follows, the way you've said it, that the President can do certain things only if he is also willing to declare martial law. That sounds like scope would be limited to the area under martial law itself.
              To illustrate, if a hurricane hits New Orleans, the President could declare martial law, and hit the kill switch for the New Orleans area (if that's physically possible). That wouldn't give him the authority to kill communications nationwide, o

              • Then it follows, the way you've said it, that the President can do certain things only if he is also willing to declare martial law.

                Nope. The president can declare martial law or he can do it under the patriot act without declaring martial law.

                The public would probably react pretty strongly to the absurdity of declaring martial law nationwide for a natural disaster in one part of the nation, but might not react as strongly to a communications blackout, particularly an intermittent one or just using the threat of one to censor news coming out of the affected area.

                Are you shitting me? Martial law is some legal thing. Half the country wouldn't even notice he declared martial law nationwide. Shutting down communications nationwide for a natural disaster in one place would cause a much, much stronger public reaction. Mind you, either would be political suicide which is why speculation about these sort of power grab scenarios fall flat.

                ...what happens when the government claims they have dealt effectively with the terrorist attack, but doesn't want to restore communications just yet?

                How is that any differen

        • This is actually something we need to think about at work a "Internet kill switch." What I mean by that is let's say there is a massive amount of attacks coming from all over the net, that we cannot mitigate or shut out. We need to cut our losses until it is over or something can be done, we need to shut down the Internet. Well, just pulling the connection physically would work to some extent, since it is a single building, but actually would result in loss to some pretty critical stuff. We really need to s

        • No Court Review (Score:5, Informative)

          by soren100 (63191) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:35PM (#35052512)

          In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

          Sensationalist headlines aside, care to point out where the aforementioned bill says anything about shutting down communications? From my reading its about isolating the networks on which high value infrastructure is located, not shutting down anyone's communication. More reading, less rhetoric please.

          What you don't seem to get that is that "isolating the networks" is exactly how you shut down communications. How else would you do it, besides pulling the plug entirely?

          Also, the other important piece here is that according to the blll, Judicial Review is explicitly denied [cnet.com]

          A company that objects to being subject to the emergency regulations is permitted to appeal to DHS secretary Janet Napolitano. But her decision is final and courts are explicitly prohibited from reviewing it.

          So if anything can be declared "critical infrastructure" and isolated without benefit of the courts, any communication can be shut down. The attempt to avoid judicial review is on page 403 of the bill, if you care to read it yourself. [loc.gov]

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

            Sensationalist headlines aside, care to point out where the aforementioned bill says anything about shutting down communications? From my reading its about isolating the networks on which high value infrastructure is located, not shutting down anyone's communication. More reading, less rhetoric please.

            What you don't seem to get that is that "isolating the networks" is exactly how you shut down communications. How else would you do it, besides pulling the plug entirely?

            Isolating the networks of critical infrastructure doesn't disrupt communications in general and the people working at nuclear plants on secure networks can go tot he public network or home or to a coffee shop or use their phone. It doesn't hinder communication significantly for the country. The idea that such a thing is a goal is simply unsupported and unsupportable.

            A company that objects to being subject to the emergency regulations is permitted to appeal to DHS secretary Janet Napolitano. But her decision is final and courts are explicitly prohibited from reviewing it.

            I didn't see that in the bill either and how exactly does a law prohibit the courts from reviewing it? They're the courts, if a court refuses y

            • by jhoegl (638955)
              Where have you been for the past 9 years? Our government has wiretapped everyone, illegally, yet legally, put scanners in airports that show off everything, or you get a "friendly" pat down, tapped our ISPs to track everything, and yet you think the law still somehow applies to vaguely written laws?
              Believe me, interpretation is key in law and this one is not specific enough.
              • Re:No Court Review (Score:4, Informative)

                by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Monday January 31, 2011 @05:33AM (#35054588) Homepage Journal

                The tapping of ISPs and other communications infrastructure goes back much more than just nine years. That has been happening almost continuously since the "emergency powers" under the Roosevelt Administration thought it necessary to censor civilian communications during World War II. That was continued during the "cold war" on an extensive basis and the post-9/11/2001 laws were pretty much a renewal of the earlier efforts that told those government agents involved to keep doing what they had been doing earlier.

                Emergency authority, once granted, is rarely rescinded. Even if "authority" to act didn't exist under one particular piece of legislation like the "Patriot Act", there are literally hundreds of other laws, executive orders, and FCC regulations that apply as well to do most of the same thing if some federal agent wanted to act. At least it usually wasn't as brazen as it was under the Roosevelt administration when civilian postal communications (letters) were literally blacked out with felt markers redacting parts of the communication... if the letter was even permitted to be sent in the first place. I'm talking civilians sending letters to other civilians from ordinary towns and not even involving military personnel.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by c0lo (1497653)

          In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

          Sensationalist headlines aside, care to point out where the aforementioned bill says anything about shutting down communications?

          Why does it need to be a quotation from the bill? wikileaks.org suddenly not resolving at a certain moment isn't enough of an example?

        • Indirectly, but it's apparent what the killswitch could mean:

          The internet, through born out of the Cold War, should represent the opportunity for a bright, transparent, safe and exciting future for many. However, its use as a tool of oppression and the ever-flaring battles over privacy suggest a long, rocky road ahead.

          http://www.siliconrepublic.com/strategy/item/20156-us-plans-internet-kill/ [siliconrepublic.com]

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Even the process of setting up "monitoring equipment" can have a substantial impact upon the communications process and certainly acts as a communications delay in a number of cases where the data has to flow through an additional node as all of the data is sorted for "suspicious behavior". That seems to be what the current U.S. federal government approach seems to be, even if the actual shutting down of the communications isn't happening except on an "inadvertent" basis. Some of the major traffic choke p

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        In that case, our government seems to be sending a mixed message by adding the internet kill-switch back into proposed legislation...

        E.g. Winning The Future

      • That has to do in the event of a cyber attack from Russia, Al Quada, or China on our nation's infrastructure. It is not a tool to censor but rather a way to stop something from spreading. If the rumors are true that half our traffic got routed to China so they could snoop up and monitor traffic then this proposed legislation is enacted to stop just that.

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          That has to do in the event of a cyber attack from Russia, Al Quada, or China on our nation's infrastructure. It is not a tool to censor but rather a way to stop something from spreading.

          It would be disingenuous to imply that the US government is on the same level as Egypt, but do you really think that the Egyptian government didn't put forward similar plausible-sounding reasoning? The difference between "censoring protesters' communication" and "preventing dangerous revolutionaries from co-ordinating attacks on the state" is simply one of perspective.

          I'm honestly interested to know, why do you trust the government to only use this power against "Russia, Al Quada, or China"? The patriot act

          • That has to do in the event of a cyber attack from Russia, Al Quada, or China on our nation's infrastructure. It is not a tool to censor but rather a way to stop something from spreading.

            It would be disingenuous to imply that the US government is on the same level as Egypt, but do you really think that the Egyptian government didn't put forward similar plausible-sounding reasoning? The difference between "censoring protesters' communication" and "preventing dangerous revolutionaries from co-ordinating attacks on the state" is simply one of perspective.

            I'm honestly interested to know, why do you trust the government to only use this power against "Russia, Al Quada, or China"? The patriot act was only intended for use against terrorists, and look how that turned out. Hell, just look one story up [slashdot.org] and you'll see evidence of serious and systematic lawbreaking by the FBI. Again, I'm not saying that things in the US are going to be as bad as Egypt, or China for that matter, but I can't possibly see how we can be asked to believe the politicians when they have broken their promises time and again on similar issues.

            "It can never happen here" are some of the most dangerous words ever spoken, no?

            • by Teancum (67324)

              "It can never happen here" are some of the most dangerous words ever spoken, no?

              It isn't like the U.S. government has never been guilty of mass arrests for arbitrary reasons unrelated to criminal acts [wikipedia.org] or even flat out genocide of undesirable groups [wikipedia.org] in its past under the current constitutional government. That last incident is particularly interesting as the commanding officer in that incident was promoted by the U.S. President at the time (Abraham Lincoln) as gratitude for the fact that his men had raped women and killed hundreds of children. It wasn't even covered up but instead wid

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Safe bet the Army switches out the civilian upper echelon.

    • Unfortunately, the same thing happened in Iran in 1979 when a bunch of peace loving citizens decided to overthrow the Sha. Look at what happened?

      We do not know what the new government of Egypt will look like but lets hope it is not an Islamic Fascist.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        It's not exactly strange to expect a local solution to a problem bolstered by excessive foreign meddling. As in your example, the Shah (installed by the CIA & SIS), a brutal dictator, was ousted by a home-grown nutter. If we insist on fucking people over, we shouldn't be surprised when they think it's normal and start doing it themselves. We set the trend, after all.
      • by tehcyder (746570)
        One thing I can tell you is that Egypt's new government will not be quite so keen to kiss America's arse as Mubarak.
    • All governments, as macro pseudo-organisms, sufficiently mimic life that they have their own survival instinct. Any government - every government - when faced with its own imminent mortality, WILL do anything necessary to prolong its survival.

      This is precisely why revolutions are cyclically necessary in human civilization: the Beast has to be killed off every so often because it will never simply retire.

    • by Eivind (15695)

      Keep that in mind, when the US government suggest implementing an "Internet Kill Switch", please.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      A regime that tries to shut down all means for its population to communicate is one that does not deserve to continue.

      What's "deserve" got to do with anything? It just depends how far the US is prepared to go to prop up its puppet. If they cut the strings, he's gone.

  • It would... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @08:21PM (#35052042)

    Be nice if the united states supported the egyptian people.

    Seems we're not really all that big on the whole 'freedom' thing after all... We're still hoping our bff stays in charge of egypt.

    If egypt does get their freedom... I hope they remember we sold the egyptian goverment the weapons being used on civilians right now.

    Sometimes the usa deserves the hate it gets. Ok.. most times... the us goverment anyway.

    • Re:It would... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Monday January 31, 2011 @03:47AM (#35054216) Journal

      For there to be a democratic outcome in Egypt, it will have to be implemented by the people of Egyptian people, democratically.

      Should the US government intervene on behalf of a political faction in Egypt, it would raise questions about the legitimacy of that faction -- even if the US government intervened with the best of intentions. The world in general, and the Middle East in particular, has far too much experience with foreign countries intervening in internal struggles for their own interests, and the US has been the most notorious for doing so in the region since the end of World War II, so suspicions of US government intervention would not be unfounded.

      That's not to say that expressions of popular support by the US people for the Egyptian people is out of line.

      • Should the US government intervene on behalf of a political faction in Egypt,

        Couldn't agree more.

        That's why the US should stop supporting the dictator Mubarak in the name of stability, and immediately stop supplying huge amounts of military and other aid to the Egyptian government. That would be a truly neutral position to take, and far more in line with the ostensible ideals of the US than propping up an ageing dictator after he has his security forces shoot down people in the streets with live ammunition, much of which has been supplied by the US.

        Same goes for all the other dicta

      • Re:It would... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Monday January 31, 2011 @10:35AM (#35056072) Homepage Journal

        I am appalled and perhaps even a touch angry with some of the political pundits in America, particularly those who made commentary on the Sunday talk show circuit over this weekend. Those commentators seem to be completely out of touch with what is going on, yet their "spin" on things is what the American people are getting fed in terms of what is happening in Egypt.

        Sometimes Slashdot is ahead of the curve on geek news compared to the mainstream outlets, but I've never seen a political event where what I've been reading on this site is so far ahead of these mainstream reporters that it seems like two completely different events have been going on.

        I understand that the U.S. government is in a tricky situation where support for the existing government seems to be the implied course of action. One of the things that is of particular note is that the U.S. government is directly financing and supporting the Mubarak government, including the direct training and equipping of the Egyptian Army. It is for that reason especially that the opinion of the U.S. government matters, where switching support to another faction in the Egyptian society can have a huge impact even if the Mubarak government refuses to go away. Some of the direct cash payments come from the Camp David Peace Accords where both Israel and Egypt were given direct cash payments to essentially "pay off" both countries if they agreed to a peace treaty. It was a good deal for America too as it prevented World War III from starting in that part of the world (a long, long story there).

        The problem with the Mubarak government is that they have no mechanism for people dissatisfied with the government to be able to express themselves, or to establish a political faction contrary to the prevailing ones. Essentially the only option available to change the government is violent overthrow of that government. The protesters know that their voice can only be heard in the fashion they are protesting right now, and the "changes" in the government doesn't resolve their grievances.

        While not a perfect analogy, the Tea Party protests in America represented a similar dissatisfaction with the way things were being run, but the net result of those protests is that many of the "leaders" of that movement now sit in positions of real political power and are proposing legislation and making a real difference. That is the benefit of at least some sort of democratic method for change to exist, particularly in an era of modern communications to tie together different isolated groups into something much larger. I'm not saying that Egypt needs to use an identical process, but they need to come up with something, perhaps uniquely Egyptian, for their problems.

        • by RogerWilco (99615)

          The US government supports Egypt for two main reasons:
          - It controls the Suez canal.
          - It was the first and still one of the few countries to have a peace treaty with Israel.
          The second one is especially important as it means they keep the border to the Gaza Strip closed from their end.

          The problem with the USA is that they only support freedom and democracy if it benefits them, otherwise they're just as happy to support oppressive dictatorships, usually making the problem worse in the long run. US foreign poli

        • Yep. Democracy (our modern form of it) was the stuff the French invented to make those bloody revolutions impossible. It works very well, but some people forget why it was created every so often.

      • The US should not intervene. For any side.

        Unfortunately, that is not they like to do, and not what it looks like they are doing now.

    • by pacinpm (631330)

      Be nice if the united states supported the egyptian people.

      US government supports Egyptian government to keep gas prices down in USA. Average American doesn't care about civil rights in foreign country but he cares a lot about cheap gas. So US government does what it has to do to keep Americans happy. "Bread and Circuses".

    • The weapons being used on civilians in Egypt? I've been watching the Al Jazeera live feed (which is rather pro-protester as far coverage goes) and so far the weapons I've seen used are tear gas (cannister to the head killed a few people), water cannons, and maybe rubber bullets. And the police forces pulled out long ago and now the military (who the protesters seem to cheer and like) sit around in tanks and such and look pretty to keep order (they don't seem to attempt break up crowds or anything).

      There hav

    • It's debatable as to whether or not Egyptians will be any MORE free under whoever takes over. The Muslim Brotherhood isn't exactly much better...
  • Couple links (Score:2, Informative)

    Did my own piece on this this morning, got some links of interest in it. http://mobilitydigest.com/preventing-protester-communication-not-so-easy/ [mobilitydigest.com]
  • Wired wiki (Score:5, Informative)

    by De Lemming (227104) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:12PM (#35052354) Homepage

    Wired also has a wiki titled "Communicate if Your Government Shuts Off Your Internet." [wired.com] It has some interesting thoughts on things like ad-hoc networking, satelite, and even packet radio.

    This bit I found interesting: "Apple computers tend to have very accessible Ad-Hoc functionality built in, including a pre-installed chat client (iChat) that will automatically set up an Ad-Hoc "Rendezvous" chatroom between anybody on the network, without the need for an external service like AIM or Skype. Ad-hoc network hosting functionality is built in to the Wifi menu." On Windows PCs, it's almost as easy, but it requires software which is not installed by default.

    • by don.g (6394)

      Yeah, ad-hoc wifi: communicate with people who are within shouting range. Not really that helpful if your government cuts off the internet.

      • Re:Wired wiki (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nemyst (1383049) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @11:12PM (#35053004) Homepage

        A widespread ad-hoc usage could cover entire cities, hopping between all nodes to communicate across kilometers. They can be a valuable tool.

        Yes, I know the latency would probably be horrible and security would be almost nil. But in these situations, you don't care if you have 1500ms ping and 0.1mbit/s speed, so long as you can actually communicate.

      • Re:Wired wiki (Score:5, Informative)

        by he-sk (103163) on Monday January 31, 2011 @10:02AM (#35055744)

        There are mesh networks covering entire cities build on Ad-Hoc mode. In the German speaking world, these are usually operated by Freifunk (free radio) groups and they even link major German-speaking cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Wien, Mainz, Leipzig, ...) in one network.

  • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @09:34PM (#35052492) Journal
    So why aren't we all phoning a random number in Egypt once a day and asking if there's anything they want us to put on the interwebs for them?
    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      So why aren't we all phoning a random number in Egypt once a day and asking if there's anything they want us to put on the interwebs for them?

      Because although I am polylingual, I would not get any information from the other end of an Egyptian phone.

    • by icebraining (1313345) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:10PM (#35052734) Homepage

      Because most of us don't speak Arabic, and (probably) most of them don't speak English?

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      So why aren't we all phoning a random number in Egypt once a day and asking if there's anything they want us to put on the interwebs for them?

      If you actually meant unsolicited calls to random numbers, aside from the language issues, do you really think that in the midst of the violence and suspicion, they'll trust some caller they've never met before?

      If you meant why aren't phones being used in general to pass info to those outside the country, well, they are:

      Groups like We Rebuild have scrambled to keep Egypt connected to the outside world, turning to landline telephones, fax machines and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

  • A communications disruption could mean only one thing: invasion.

  • Directional Wifi (Score:4, Informative)

    by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Monday January 31, 2011 @02:53AM (#35054044)

    The distance record for directional wifi is over 300km. So the answer is to have Isp's fund a mobile relay station (land or sea) that sets up when the network goes down, outside the affected country/area, and then people can tune up their pringle's can antenna skills, or whatever to link up. This would be helpful with unintentional outages, like earthquakes or hurricanes, too. The mobile relay stations could be on call to get set up wherever they are needed rather than each Isp having to buy them.

    • by rdebath (884132)
      That isn't the problem, as far as we can tell the hardware is intact turned on and working. The problem is that key software has been turned off, with a finger on the right keyboard it could be turned back on straight away.
  • If / when Mubarak is taken down, The Muslim Brotherhood will slowly take over, not a pro-Western, pro-freedom movement of the people. We in the West (especially in the US) have this pollyannaish belief that once a tin-pot dictator is overthrown, said country will instantly and permanently become Switzerland or California. This 'Cairo Spring' may well turn out to be a long, cold winter for all the Mid-East and Israel specifically (re-encirclement).
  • A good thing the french have set up a line for the egyptians to use, to offer free dial up...

  • Quick, we need to send them 1.5 million free-trial AOL CDs!

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