NetBlocks said that Iran is in the “midst of a near-total national internet shutdown”.
The United Nations has explicitly identified government-led internet shutdowns and censorship as a human rights violation.
The drop-off in connectivity began Saturday night, as Iran’s government cracked down on political unrest stemming from fuel shortages — unrest that has now spread to more than 100 cities across the country.
Confirmed: #Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7% of ordinary levels after twelve hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests continue #IranProtests ?
? https://t.co/1Al0DT8an1 pic.twitter.com/u6bVsfvOOm
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) November 16, 2019
Iran, one of the countries most strongly identified with the rise of cyber terrorism and malicious hacking, appears now to be using an iron fist to turn on its own. The country has reportedly shut down nearly all internet access in the country in retaliation to escalating protests.
Users first reported outages in Mashhad, which has also seen drop-in connectivity beginning on the evening of Friday 15 November. The disruptions have increased in extent and severity as of 21:15 UTC Friday (12:45 a.m. local time), continuing as of 00:00 UTC Saturday, with impact also visible on overall connectivity charts.
Iran’s largest mobile network operators including MCI, Rightel, and IranCell subsequently fell offline as of 6:00 pm (14:30 UTC) Saturday amid worsening internet shutdowns as the protests intensified.
Alp Toker, the director of non-partisan connectivity tracking group NetBlocks, says it took Iranian authorities about 24 hours to completely block the nation’s inbound and outbound traffic—leaving it hovering at about 5 to 7 percent of typical connectivity levels.
NetBlocks’ Toker says that perhaps Iran‘s internet slowdowns in the lead-up to the full outage were the result of telecoms working on behalf of the government to essentially defeat their own system reliability protections.
“The internet blockade comes as the regime prepares itself for a brutal crackdown on the protests.”#Iran#IranProtestshttps://t.co/1VxNWjUJK6
— People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) November 18, 2019
“To shut down a country’s access to the internet, it takes a lot of preparations. We are talking about software and hardware layers, and regulatory frameworks,” says Lukasz Olejnik, independent security, and privacy adviser and research associate at the Center for Technology and Global Affairs at Oxford University. “The more networks and connections a country has, the more difficult it is to cut access for good. And the question also is whether you want to cut in-country network access, too, in addition to flows between the country and outside world.”
Increasingly over the past decade, the Iranian regime has focused on building out a centralized national “intranet.” That allows it to provide citizens with web services while policing all content on the network and limiting information from external sources. Known as the “National information network” or SHOMA, the effort has centered on the state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran, which is run by a number of former government officials