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How the killswitch really works

Renesys report how Egypt went dark. They have worked out a way to tell which countries are easiest to cut off from the Internet and which are harder.

How many phone calls does it take to kill the internet? It seems like an odd question to ask about a network once thought to be strong enough to withstand a nuclear attack. However, first-strike mushroom clouds aren’t the biggest threat to the internet anymore. Just ask the citizens of Libya, Egypt and Syria: nations whose connections have been recently severed, albeit temporarily.

But if you think that the internet’s most vulnerable regions correspond to autocratic regimes or civil war zones, think again. Following the Syrian blackout in late 2012, Renesys, a consultancy that specialises in monitoring and mitigating risks to connectivity, created a map ranking every country’s “risk of internet disconnection”. They found resilience has little to do with the presence or absence of jackbooted thugs: Belarus is at “significant risk” of internet disconnection, while China – which blacked out the entire province of Xinjiang for ten months in 2009 and 2010 – is rated at “low risk”.

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