Russia To Test Whether Its Internet Can Be Disconnected From The Rest Of The World

Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner, Getty

Internet providers in Russia are preparing to conduct exercises that will help the nation build a path toward possible internet independence, according to Russian news reports.

Russian news outlet RosBiznesKonsalting reported the tests were set in motion by a proposed law called the Digital Economy National Program, which parliament introduced last December. The tests should help Russian authorities determine if data used by Russian users can stay within the Russian borders. ZDNet and BBC report that the law’s first draft requires internet providers to cut off the internet from the rest of the world so Russian authorities can determine if Russia’s internet network, Runet, can operate independently if it is ever disconnected through a cyberattack. However, it is unclear from the original Russian report if internet providers will actually disconnect the internet in Russia as a part of these tests.

The plan has developed amidst NATO threats to counter Russia’s cyberattacks. In October 2017, NATO secretary general called out Russia for its “reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns.” And the U.S. offered up its cyberwarfare capabilities to NATO, if the organisation chose to counter Russia’s attacks.

But Russia’s path toward an isolated local internet for some time. The country announced plans to launch an “independent internet” in late 2017. Russia has been building its own localised Domain Name System (DNS) for a few years now. An alternative localised DNS would allow Runet to function without access to servers located across the world.

ZDNet, which originally reported the news in the U.S., points out that the experiments are meant to take place before the deadline for Digital Economy National Program law amendment submissions, which is April 1. ZDNet also highlights that under the law, telecom groups would have to install a means to counter a cyber attack threat, largely by rerouting all Russian traffic to exchange points overseen by Russia’s federal communications regulator (and censorship mechanism) Roskomnadzor.

Roskomnadzor would reportedly pay for the installation of whatever tools are necessary under this plan—meaning the Russian government would pay for a new infrastructure that will give it more control over the internet within the country, allowing Russia to get closer to the kind of internet regulation that exists under the Great Firewall of China. 

RosBiznesKonsalting reported that a Kremlin source told the Russian news outlet that President Vladimir Putin supports the proposed law.

[RosBiznesKonsalting, ZDNet, BBC]

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