As of approximately 20:46 UTC, four hours after this blog was first published, Noor started disappearing from the Internet. They are completely unavailable at present as shown below
As we observed last week, Egypt took the unprecedented step of withdrawing from the Internet. The government didn’t simply block Twitter and Facebook (an increasingly common tactic of regimes under fire), but rather they apparently ordered most major Egyptian providers to cease service via their international providers, effectively removing Egyptian IP space from the global Internet and cutting off essentially all access to the outside world via this medium. The only way out now would be via traditional phone calls, assuming they left that system up, or via satellite. We thought the Internet ban would be temporary, but much to our surprise, the situation has not changed. One of the few Egyptian providers reachable today, four days after the start of the crisis, is The Noor Group. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at them and some of the businesses they serve.
Follow the Money
Noor provides Internet service for a number of Egyptian and international concerns. To name just a few, we see I-score, the Egyptian Credit Bureau; and NTG, the National Technology Group providing IT processing to the aviation, banking and financial sectors. The American University in Cairo also gets Internet connectivity via Noor, as does the Egyptian Exchange. As of this writing, these sites and many others hosted in Egypt are reachable, although access can be very slow.
Perhaps surprisingly, the MCDR (which handles the settlement of equities, corporate and government debt) cannot be reached at present, despite having Noor transit. But the situation is much too volatile to read anything into this.
The Noor Group
Internet routers listen to announcements of IP address blocks, known as prefixes, originating from Autonomous Systems (ASes). By acting on these announcements, Internet routing can function without any centeralized authority. ASes are typically associated with major businesses, Internet providers, or government agencies and are free to buy Internet transit from anyone they like and route their traffic in any way they choose. Unless, of course, as in Egypt’s case, the government intrudes. In terms of ASes and prefixes, we can map out the Noor Group’s connectivity, both to its customers and its providers, as it stands today. The following diagram gives some of the details.
Things are not always as they seem
Remember that the Internet does not respect geography and so interpreting what you see can be very tricky. For example, you might think that the site for The Suzanne Mubarak Science Exploration Center would be hosted in Egypt. The associated IP address belongs to the prefix 18.104.22.168/20, which is registered at AfriNIC to this center and with a physical Cairo street address. But in fact, from our vantage point, the web site is hosted in London. The site also has an online poll that asks “Do you think the regime’s response to the protesters’ demands are satisfactory?”
We’ll continue to monitor Egypt’s connectivity, and we’ll report again when there is any substantive change. We really hope this situation does not continue and look forward to welcoming Egypt back to the ‘net. Trying to ban the Internet in this century is a bit like trying to ban the wheel in centuries past. With each hour that passes, the uncertainty grows over the ultimate economic impact on Egypt’s people of this unprecedented Internet blackout.
Update: (21:00 UTC Monday)
As of approximately 20:46 UTC, Noor is no longer reachable from outside of Egypt.