Internet service restored to Syria

Story highlights

  • Internet access in Syria was restored Wednesday after a widespread outage
  • The Syrian government had vowed to repair the problem
  • U.S. official: Syria has shut down its Internet in the past
  • Technology has become a key weapon used by both sides of Syria's civil war

Internet access in Syria was restored Wednesday after a widespread outage that lasted more than 19 hours.

Renesys, an Internet-monitoring company, updated a blog post Wednesday saying that Web service was back in the war-torn country. Other Web-monitoring groups said the same thing Wednesday, including Google, whose Transparency Report documents Internet accessibility around the world. Google removed Syria from its list of countries where service disruptions were ongoing.

The Syrian government had said earlier it was working to repair the outage -- something opposition activists suspected could be an ominous sign.

Internet connections across Syria went down Tuesday night, according to several global monitoring sites.

On Wednesday, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said an optic-cable malfunction caused the outage.

A repair was under way to restore services "as soon as possible," SANA said, citing communications official Bakr Bakr.

Google reported that its services became inaccessible in Syria around 9:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m. ET) Tuesday. The Renesys, Akamai and BGPmon Internet tracking companies also reported the loss of Syrian Internet connectivity at that time.

    "It seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet," Dan Hubbard, chief technology officer for Umbrella Security Labs, wrote in a blog post about the apparent outage.

    For a while, the website for Syria's state-run news agency and several government websites were not accessible.

    At one hotel in the capital, employees said the Internet was down "in the hotel and all of Damascus."

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    Opposition activists said the communications cutoff could be an ominous sign.

    The Local Coordination Committees of Syria said the activist network would put "all responsibility on regime forces for any violation or massacres against civilians."

    Hubbard said Syria has a history of Internet outages.

    "Although we can't yet comment on what caused this outage, past incidents were linked to both government-ordered shutdowns and damage to the infrastructure, which included fiber cuts and power outages," Hubbard wrote.

    After a similar situation in November, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said Syria had shut down the Internet in the past.

    "The Syrian government has been monitoring (the Internet) for years," he said. "They have been using the Internet with Iranian assistance to track opposition activists, arrest and kill them."

    "That is the reason why our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, we put a special emphasis on communications equipment precisely to help the Syrian people tell the world what is going on inside Syria," he said.

    Technology has become a key weapon used by both sides of Syria's civil war to fight for their cause, with opposition activists using social media to report violence and a group of pro-Syrian government hackers known as the Syrian Electronic Army targeting major news organizations and activists.