Russian Federation moves to isolate itself from global internet

Frederick Owens
February 12, 2019

The ultimate goal is to be able to isolate the Russian internet, known as Runet, on command so that in the event of a foreign attack, the net would still remain fully functional.

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 overseas, where it could be intercepted.

Russian media reported on February 11 that the test, which will cut off all data routes connecting Russia to the outside cyberworld, will occur before April 1, though a firm date has yet to be set.

This is reportedly being done to protect Russia from potential cyberattacks, but it could also be used to more closely censor the internet use of Russian citizens.

The experiment is part of preparations for a potential cyber war with the U.S. that could see President Donald Trump shut down Russia's internet access.

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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its allies have threatened to sanction Russian Federation over the cyber-attacks and other online interference which it is regularly accused of instigating.

Supporters say the proposal is necessary in case Russian Federation was to be cut off from the global internet, but opponents fear the measure would lead to widespread censorship. Agora, a Russian human rights group, said in a report this month that Russian internet freedoms had fallen fivefold in the past 12 months.

He added that it will be hard for them to shut down all the outside router points if they want to carry out the test, since they have to attack different servers from hundreds of providers, while only some of the providers are Russian companies.

The Russian government is providing cash for ISPs to modify their infrastructure so the redirection effort can be properly tested.

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. This is similar to the Great Firewall of China, but with the ability to maintain independence with an isolated intranet if needed.

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