Blackholing of the Balkans could spell widespread internet disaster

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 July, 2004, 12:00am

For years, analysts have predicted the balkanization of the internet as it divides the world into broadband and dial-up users, those with fancy computers and those without, and countries that send spam versus those with blackhole lists.

Well, it seems the balkanization of the internet is about to claim its first victims, and they come - appropriately enough - from the Balkans.

According to, the tiny nation of Macedonia is rapidly heading towards internet extinction. The cause is internet companies in the United States that have begun blocking entire countries in a bid to stop spam and online fraud.

While the US or Russia are frequently accused of the same crimes, they are big enough to defend themselves. But Macedonia's small size and tiny internet population of 90,000 means the country is unable to resist overseas blackholes.

The site says that one unnamed internet-hosting company in the US now blackholes all traffic flowing to or from Bulgaria, Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania and Vietnam.

'This wretched and suicidal policy, if continued, will make internet ghettoes of entire countries,' wrote the despairing analyst. 'It reveals the worst side of the American mind, wracked by paranoia, positivistic, one-touch problem-solving, and a siege mentality driven by greed. If left unchecked, such tendencies will mean an encroaching Ice Age not just for the dinosaurs of defenceless countries like Macedonia but for all other forms of virtual life as well.'

The tone might sound excited to an outsider but the practice of blackholing entire countries is not new. Even Hong Kong has been an occasional victim. And if the spam problem continues to grow, national blackholes could become commonplace.

Most bank robbers plan their escape route down to the last second. They have no need for newfangled technologies such as global positioning systems - they can memorise their plans. Unless they happen to be spectacularly stupid.

Australia's Courier-Mail on Friday reported the case of 21 year-old law student George Youssef, who was arrested after stealing a car and using it in a Brisbane bank robbery. It seems Mr Youssef stole a BMW at gunpoint then headed to a bank, where he withdrew A$10,000 (about HK$55,600).

For his getaway, he simply programmed his family's address into the car's GPS system and drove home.

'He would have to be one of the most inept robbers to be brought before the courts,' said Mr Youssef's lawyer.

Finally, it is about time we ran another Tuesday Timewaster. Our thanks to Henry, landlord of, who wasted our weekend by pointing out Gold Miner. In this game, you play an old, bearded prospector waving a crane in search of gold and diamonds. It may not sound like much but, once you start, its frustratingly addictive. Hosts have enough worthy timewasters on their site to keep you off work for months.

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