Network Monitor

Network Monitor — July 2020

Iran's internet experienced a number of intermittent and unexplained disruptions, as well as one localised near-total shutdown when in Behbahan as anti-government protests broke out. 

In July, the internet in Iran experienced a number of intermittent disruptions and unexplained traffic shifts, as well as one localised near-total shutdown when anti-government protests broke out in a number of cities nationwide. 

This shutdown incident was limited to the city of Behbahan in Khuzestan Province, where authorities later claimed that a number of people had been arrested in relation to the protests. The shutdown was interesting for a number of reasons: firstly, for its isolation to mobile networks – landline connections were unaffected – and secondly, for the fact that affected users weren’t just cut off from the global Internet, but the National Information Network, as well.

Filterwatch also detected a number of other short-term disruption incidents throughout the month.

Major Incidents

  • On July 8, based on OIM data, AS29049 (Delta Telecom) became the main traffic source of at least eleven major providers in Iran. Sadjad Bonabi, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Telecommunication Infrastructure Company (TIC) later claimed on Twitter that the cause of this disruption was “a wide range of Internet outages outside of Iran’s borders, especially in Armenia and Turkey.”
  • On 14 July, during a huge online campaign against death penalty, we face a internet disrubtions. Yet, none of Iranian officials provided any explanation for the outages.
  • On July 16, in response to a protest in the southwestern city of Behbahan, the security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters. The protest started at 8PM local time and almost 45 minutes after that at 9:45 all mobile data was cut off from the internet around 9:45PM Iran local time, in neighborhoods where protests took place. Unlike in November 2019 that the domestic sites were accessible during the internet shutdown, this time mobile data was completely cut off.

Our day-by-day analysis of key disruption incidents in July follows.

July 1 – Datak ISP experiences ongoing disruptions

OIM showed that AS25124 (Datak) was suffering from major disruptions. The cause of this disruption remains unclear, and the ISP Datak have so far failed to provide any explanation for the outages.

Ongoing (reported July 8) – Major traffic shift to Delta Telecom, and widespread disruptions 

On July 8, AS29049 (Delta Telecom) became the main traffic source for at least eleven major providers in Iran. These traffic shifts caused significant disruptions, prompting a response from authorities. Sadjad Bonabi, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at the TIC claimed on Twitter that the cause of this disruption was “a wide range of Internet outages outside of Iran’s borders, especially in Armenia and Turkey.” Delta Telecom is an Azerbaijan-based ISP.

Based on OIM data, the eleven providers which were affected by this disruption are:

  1. AS433754 AsiaTech Inc., 
  2. AS31549 Aria Shatel Company Ltd, 
  3. AS12880 TCI, 
  4. AS59441 Telecom Feed Iranian Co., 
  5. AS16322 Pars Online PJS, 
  6. AS25124 Datak Internet Engineer, 
  7. AS1755 Siraz Hamyar Co, 
  8. AS50810 Mobin Net Communication Company, 
  9. AS48309  Ariana Gostar Sepada (PJCS), 
  10. AS57497 Faraso Samaneh Pasargad Ltd, 
  11. AS44244 Iran Cell Service and Communication Company

The visualisations below show the period of dependence on AS29049 (Delta Telecom), which started in late June and continued throughout much of July. Some of this dependence on Delta Telecom continues into August (for example, as visible on AS43754 AsiaTech).

July 10 – Service outage caused by ‘severed cable’ 

According to Peivast, the severing of a cable between Milad Tower and the Telecommunication Infrastructure Company (TIC) caused a major service disruption on July 10. As a result of this damage, the AsiaTech data center in Milad Tower was disconnected, and all websites hosted on this data center – including Peivast – were unavailable.

OIM data showed that AS57497 (Faraso Samaneh Pasargad) experienced a brief shutdown on the same day. It’s not clear if this was a side effect of the cable damage, or if this was caused by a separate incident.

July 16 – Research Center of Theoretical Physics & Mathematics goes offline for second month running

The network of the Research Center of Theoretical Physics & Mathematics (IPM) went almost completely offline for the second month running.

IPM was previously cut off from the internet twice, on both June 17 and 18. Neither IPM, nor any Iranian officials provided any explanation for the outages.

July 16 – Localised internet shutdown in Behbahan

On July 16, in response to a protest in the city of Behbahan in Khuzestan Province, Iranian security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters. The protest started at around 8pm local time. Around 45 minutes later, users in the neighborhoods where protests took place found that their mobile internet connections had been cut off. Unlike in November 2019, when domestically-hosted sites and services remained accessible during the internet shutdown, this time mobile data was completely cut off.

Screenshot of a message about protests circulating on WhatsApp groups in Behbahan.

Unfortunately, no network measurement tools were able to show any sign of this shutdown. Filterwatch was able to confirm this shutdown through field research, and through information provided by a third-party technology company, which shared its information with us on the condition of anonymity.

From July 11, a message was circulating in WhatsApp groups in the city of Behbahan, inviting people to come out and protest in response to “the high cost and poor living conditions of the people and the transfer of Kish [Island] and the country’s oil resources to the Chinese government” on Thursday at 8pm local time. The original source of this message is not known. 

 

 

The internet was restored by midnight, after the protest had concluded. Based on reports from sources based in Behbahan, the internet was fully functional for users located just 2km away from the protest site at the time of the protest.

Iranian officials did not acknowledge the localised internet shutdown in Behbahan.

July 18 – Three Hour Network Disruption Reported by NetBlocks

According to NetBlocks on 14 July disruptions were observed across ”multiple networks” at around 9.30pm local time, lasting approximately three hours. The timing of the reported disruption coincided with the #DontExecute (اعدام_نکنید in Persian) trending on social media.

July 24 – Cloud service and CDN provider ‘Pars Pack’ experiences outage

AS20631 (Pars Parva System) was almost fully disconnected from the internet. The company ‘Pars Pack’ provides cloud services and content distribution networks. Neither Iranian officials nor the network provider offered any explanation for the service outage.