Snowden: The NSA Turned Off Syria's Internet

By Ashley Feinberg on at

Remember when the Syrian governmentshut down the entire country's internet a little under two years ago? Well, thanks to Edward Snowden's recent Wired interview, we now know that's not quite what happened. In fact, it was the NSA who flipped the switch.

In the midst of the Syrian civil war, the NSA was looking to find a way into the country's main (and virtually only) internet service provider. As Time magazine points out, "setting up that backdoor would have given the US unparalleled access to nearly all digital communications within Syria, a major intelligence advantage".

Unfortunately for the NSA, things didn't go quite according to plan. So much so, in fact, that whatever the agency was doing managed to brick the router, which in turn caused the entire country of Syria to lose its internet connection. Wired goes on to explain:

Inside the TAO operations centre, the panicked government hackers had what Snowden calls an "oh shit" moment. They raced to remotely repair the router, desperate to cover their tracks and prevent the Syrians from discovering the sophisticated infiltration software used to access the network. But because the router was bricked, they were powerless to fix the problem.

Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation's internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage. Back at TAO's operations centre, the tension was broken with a joke that contained more than a little truth: "If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel."

Thus far, the NSA hasn't made any comment to Wired regarding the Syrian outage or the agency's purported role in the blackout. But it's hard to imagine the agency could say anything that would repair the damage done with this kind of damning report. [Wired via Time]