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Technical Failure In Armenia Impacts Iranian Internet, Causes VPN Disruption

A man holds a smartphone connected to a Wifi network without internet access.
A man holds a smartphone connected to a Wifi network without internet access.

The global Internet watchdog NetBlocks on Thursday said Internet disruption in Iran on Wednesday was caused by a technical failure in neighboring Armenia which had a knock-on impact on Iran's connectivity and indirectly caused disruptions similar to filtering traffic.

Iranian users on Wednesday reported serious disruption in Wi-Fi as well as Rightel and Irancell mobile Internet in various parts of the country and said VPN services were seriously affected.

According to NetBlocks, data corroborate the explanation supplied by Iran's Telecommunication Infrastructure Company (TIC), indicating that there has been no intentional internet blackout but rather a power-cut and internet outage in Armenia resulted in a knock-on loss of international connectivity in Iran. Iranian networks depend on peering arrangements with neighbors for international routing.

"Wednesday’s reported failures and network timings indicate that the outages impacted gateway networks that serve parts of Iran’s state filter or “filternet” causing DNS queries to fail as well as resulting in modest impact to overall connectivity levels and manifesting in latency spikes on several ISPs for over five hours," NetBlocks said about the impact of the Internet disruptions on the functioning of VPNs.

In a tweet on Wednesday following reports of disruptions, Sadjad Bonabi, Deputy Director of the Board of Directors of TCI, said that extensive outage outside Iranian borders in Turkey and Armenia had caused the disruptions. In a sequel to his tweet he reported that the paths had been redirected to the south and the network had been stabilized. Bonabi also said that some service providers had reported DNS disruptions which were being investigated.

Internet access in Iran is usually subject to disruptions and limitations which are due to extensive filtering by various security and communications bodies. At least one major VPN provider, VPN Makers, has in recent days informed its subscribers that it will cease providing VPN services from Friday due to "major recent problems and restrictions".

The Islamic Republic has for years tried to implement a plan to separate the national network from the global Internet by creating an alternative (interanet0 called Iran National Information Network (ININ). With the ININ, Tehran hopes to cut the country's dependency on international cyberspace.