Sons of Anarchy

Syrian War Goes Digital

The fighting in Syria moved online last month, for several days the plug was pulled on the internet.  For the opposition it meant a huge blow to the communication networks they had build up via forums, Facebook and Twitter.  However it also halted the upload of YouTube videos and other methods of showing the world the atrocities being committed by the government against the Syrian people.

It also affected aid work as their communication networks also relied on the internet to exchange information.  The rebels only started to push forward when the internet block was lifted although there is obviously a very real threat that the blackout will happen again.

When the internet was closed down many tried different methods to bypass it.  Traditionally activists have used methods like VPNs and proxies like these - however these are only effective via content filters and firewalls.  When the plug is pulled there is very little you can do to circumvent other than try and use alternatives like land lines.

Google actually started up an old service which was used during the Egyptian uprising.  It was called Speak2Tweet and enabled people to dial a number outside Syria, record a message which would be posted automatically on Twitter.  Unfortunately it was of limited use mainly because it was actually very difficult even to make landline calls to anywhere outside the Syrian borders.

People tried using satellie phones if they had access to them however even these had limited success.  Noone is quite sure what the problem with these were, but it appears some sort of jamming was being used at least in strongholds of the government.  Similar problems were reported by aid agencies and journalists who routinely used this technology.

The cyber war continued when the internet was restored to Syria – a series of malware attacks hit the activists.  Basically a remote access trojan was concealed in a widely distributed file.  This file purported to list all the people wanted by the Government in Damascus, but was merely a trick.