Earlier this morning, Wired released a report which suggests that the Internet blackout in Syria, which took place over the course of two days back in 2012, was not the result of dissenting terrorists as the government had told the world, but rather the act of the NSA, according to statements from none other than Edward Snowden himself.
The true reach of the NSA has shocked, stunned, and scared much of the population who’s kept up to date with their many misgivings over the past year, but no one could have expected they’d be capable of something like this.
Shutting off the Internet for an entire country sounds like science fiction, but here we are, reading about it like it’s just another stroll through a privacy-busting park.
It appears the act was not intentional, though. Apparently the NSA had been trying to force their way into the main networking hub for the country with the help of their Tailored Access Operations Unit, owned by a company known as the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, but screwed up somewhere along the line and inadvertently shut down the whole system for the country’s 4.5 million users.
“…something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable,” Wired wrote. “The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the internet – although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible.”
On 29 November 2012, the analysis firm Renesys reported that 92 percent of the routed networks providing Internet connectivity for Syria, 77 of them, had gone dark. At the time of the incident, almost all major media outlets and popular publications believed the act had been one of backlash on behalf of the Syrian government and the Assad regime, however it was only after closer inspection of the trace routes that many professionals in the industry began to question just how much each entity had to do with it at all.
Cybersecurity company Cloudflare was the first into this fray, suggesting that although the government had exhibited a number of questionable tactics in the war against the rebel uprising within the country, supposedly the Syrian Telecommunications Company would have been the only ones capable of actually shutting down the system. As a neutral party, Cloudflare then went on to imply that the whole ordeal must have been the result of a botched router update, and that any connections to Assad should be taken with a grain of salt until more concrete solutions came to light.
“While we cannot know for sure, our network team estimates that Syria likely has a small number of edge routers. All the edge routers are controlled by Syrian Telecommunications. The systematic way in which routes were withdrawn suggests that this was done through updates in router configurations, not through a physical failure or cable cut.”
And so, it turns out that for all their tax dollars, thousands of employees pulled from the top schools in the nation, and enough supercomputers to beat every chess master in the world at ten games simultaneously, it seems not even the mighty NSA is free from the plague of human error. Hubris is a fickle mistress, and when you tempt fate as often and forcefully as they have, sometimes the strings bite back.
Despite months of denial that they had anything to do with it, it’s become clear that the NSA is capable of mistakes just like the rest of us, and their monolithic establishment isn’t the infallible beast of bureaucracy we’ve all made it out to be in the wake of the leaks which continue to stun the nation, and the world.