Egyptians Use Low-Tech Gadgets to Get Around Communications Block

Egyptians armed with low-tech electronic gadgets like dial-up modems, landlines and old-school satellite phones are finding ways to get their message out, despite efforts by the teetering government to block communication.

Those who had been using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to distribute images and video to the outside world have had to come up more creative ways to communicate after the Egyptian government blocked Internet and cell service, a move that many are calling unprecedented.

Click here to see a video of a massive protest on Kasr Al Nile bridge.

"The Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet," Renesys, a U.S. Internet monitoring firm reported, on its blog. "…every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world."

Vodafone also issued a statement saying, "All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it."

"This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow," the Renesys blog said. "The Egyptian government's actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map."

Chris Weber, managing partner at Casaba Security, called the Egyptian government action "pretty scary," but says there are things even they can't block.

"If Egypt's shut down their main pipeline to the Internet, the Internet is designed in such a way that it's a mesh, so even if the main pipeline is down there are still other ways to get in," Weber told

One way: Satellite phones that communicate directly with satellites rather than cell towers.

"Satellites are owned by different countries and those are valid ways to connect to the internet and it's a great way to get out," he said. "It's completely wireless, there's no known or easy way for the government or anyone else to stop that from happening."

Satellite Internet services are much more expensive than wired Internet access.

But fixed telephone lines, which reportedly remain largely operational, aren't. With the help of an old 28K or 56K modem they can be used to communicate with a dial up Internet service provider outside of Egypt's jurisdiction.

"It would cost them a long distance phone call," Webber said.

Based on countless messages sent over Twitter it appears that's exactly what's happening.

"Egypt can use this number for dial up: +33172890150 (login 'toto' password 'toto') - thanks to a French ISP (FDN) #egypt #jan25," one message read.

FDN stands for the French Data Network, a small independent ISP that sets up free accounts to promote free speech on the Web. It has helped WikiLeaks in the past.

"Internet at @DailyNewsEgypt office working thru Nour. someone suggested connecting thru Nour using dialup 0777-7770 & 0777-7000 #jan25," another message said, presumably referring to Tarek Nour Communications, Egypt's largest communications services.

"We are now providing dialup modem service at +46850009990. user/pass: telecomix/telecomix (only for #egypt, respect that please!)," the Telecomix, a European news agency that stresses telecoms issues wrote.

Residents near the border also may be able to piggyback cell phone service from surrounding countries, particularly from Internet-savvy Israel.

PC World even reported that an accounts manager for an IT company in Amman, Jordan, received a text message from a contact in Egypt that was sent through Etisalat, a carrier based in the United Arab Emirates. The message read, "We r at war here pray4 us," the magazine reported.

"It sounds like what Egypts done is shut off what they control within their jurisdiction, which is going to stop a lot of people," Weber said. "But people who have a little bit of Internet savvy will be able to use these other means to get around."