The Internet is a part of modern life, and many people cannot imagine life without it. Yet that is what Russia is going to do, at least for a test, with an intentional and temporary shut down of the Internet planned by the government according to a report:
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week.
The reason for the experiment is to gather insight and provide feedback and modifications to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018.
A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet.
In addition, Russian telecom firms would also have to install “technical means” to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia’s telecom watchdog.
Roskomnazor will inspect the traffic to block prohibited content and make sure traffic between Russian users stays inside the country, and is not re-routed uselessly through servers abroad, where it could be intercepted.
A date for the test has not been revealed, but it’s supposed to take place before April 1, the deadline for submitting amendments to the law –known as the Digital Economy National Program.
The test disconnect experiment has been agreed on in a session of the Information Security Working Group at the end of January. Natalya Kaspersky, Director of Russian cyber-security firm InfoWatch, and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, presides over the group, which also includes major Russian telcos such as MegaFon, Beeline, MTS, RosTelecom, and others.
RBK reported that all internet providers agreed with the law’s goals, but disagreed with its technical implementation, which they believe will cause major disruptions to Russian internet traffic. The test disconnection would provide ISPs with data about how their networks would react.
Finanz.ru also reported that local internet services Mail.ru and Yandex.ru were also supportive of the test disconnection.
The Russian government has been working on this project for years. In 2017, Russian officials said they plan to route 95 percent of all internet traffic locally by 2020.
Authorities have even built a local backup of the Domain Name System (DNS), which they first tested in 2014, and again in 2018, and which will now be a major component of the Runet when ISPs plan to disconnect the country from the rest of the world.
Russia’s response comes as NATO countries announced several times that they were mulling a stronger response to cyber attacks, of which Russia is constantly accused of carrying out.
The proposed law, fully endorsed by President Putin, is expected to pass. Ongoing discussions are in regards to finding the proper technical methods to disconnect Russia from the internet with minimal downtime to consumers and government agencies.
The Russian government has agreed to foot the bill and to cover the costs of ISPs modifying their infrastructure and installing new servers for redirecting traffic towards Roskomnazor’s approved exchange point. The end goal is for Russian authorities to implement a web traffic filtering system like China’s Great Firewall, but also have a fully working country-wide intranet in case the country needs to disconnect. (source, source)
This is an interesting test. On the surface, it is clearly aimed at maintaining a high level of control over the flow of information, effectively working to create an “Internet within and Internet.” It is an example of classical political control in a modern context, and it is a trend that one should expect to see more of. However, there are two more points that should be considered in this which are not being mentioned.
The first one is rise of artificial intelligence. As noted by many, the reason for the rise in “cloud” computing is because the “brain” of artificial intelligence systems runs off of a cloud “hive” mind type system to draw upon information and share with other systems, thus reflecting human-type learning in machines. All of these systems are interconnected throughout the world and across nations around the world, including Russia.
One of Russia’s strategies for survival is self-imposed isolation. Be it economics, religion, politics, or anything else, Russia limits herself to strict geographic bounds and stays within them when she has political or social troubles. While it does not allow for significant economic or internal development in comparison with other nations, it allows her preserve herself and create a “world within and world” just as what happened during the Soviet Union and prior to that, in the days of the Tsars. In the case of computers, it is an attempt to do just this so that with the artificial intelligence systems that Russia is developing, to theoretically “separate” them from those being developed by the Western world both to limit their ability to be manipulated and hacked as well as to function essentially as autonomous units apart from any Western connections. Whether this will work or not is yet to be see, but nevertheless the effort there is being shown by this test.
The other reason for cutting of the Internet, and by far the most important reason, is a test of resilience for the economy and the people.
It is a known fact that the entire world has become “Internet-dependent” in so much that if the Internet is cut, major economic and social functions automatically stop, which also has potential political consequences. The world was not once so before the Internet, and by Russia attempting to “return” to that is an attempt to see that, in the event that the Internet was cut, if she could “survive” or not, and what areas of the country would be most affected. Russia is a very large nation, and it would be easy for any disruption in communication line to affect large areas of the country. It is in her direct interest to figure out how to function both with and also without the Internet. By comparison, this is something that is a major problem for the US because in the event that the Internet was cut, she would experience massive outages that would shut down the country, and due to the insistence upon Internet use the government will be forced and will see to it to forcibly keep all lines functioning regardless of the costs involved.
Russia knows that a war is coming to her, and that the US is heavily involved in this, and that the war has the potential to tear her apart. Russia has survived many conflicts and she intends to do so again. But her strategy will naturally be different from that of the US. She will retreat into herself, and will attempt to overcome the complexities brought by modern technology with oversimplification and redundancy just as she has done for centuries against many other invaders.