Government officials did it by locking out fiber optic cables that connect Egypt to the rest of the world via the Suez Canal and underneath the Mediterranean Sea, according to Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project, a Walpole, Mass., group that provides censorship-busting software.
"We're still trying to figure out what's going on," Lewman told Discovery News. "They shut off all the routing protocols so nobody knows where they are or how to get them."
The Geneva-based Internet Society estimates that 90 percent of Egypt's Internet traffic is down. French and Swiss-based telephone companies are providing Egyptians some Internet service though old-fashioned telephone dial-up modems, technology that certainly isn't fast but does provide a link to the outside world.
The problem is that some of these telephone calls may be routed through government channels, and opponents say that means they could be recorded.
Lewman said that a few days prior to the crackdown, he saw a big spike in Egyptians downloading Tor Project's software, which allows users to encrypt their messages and have them distributed through servers provided by volunteers across the world. The project has also been active in Iran and China in recent years.