We have all had that feeling of needing to unplug from social media. Russia seems to want to take that feeling the extra mile and is experimenting with disconnecting the whole country from the internet. The country understandably wants sovereignty over the internet (before freedom warriors freak, all countries ideally would like to have that control). As a result, Russia wants the ability to shut out outside traffic during times of cyber war.
Telecoms companies do not know how to achieve the goal
It is expected that a bill permitting the establishment of that type of infrastructure will eventually become law. At the moment Russian telecoms companies do not know how to implement such a measure but will try disconnecting the country from the internet over the next few months. The proposed cyber defence law will require Russian telecoms companies to create the so-called sovereign internet.
Protecting the country during cyber war
The government wants the ability to isolate RuNet (Russian internet infrastructure) from the world should there be a cyber attack that hits the country that could cripple it. In practice this means should another country attack Russia’s online infrastructure, in theory the country could simply flip a switch and disconnect from the worldwide web and continue to have a functioning internet and online service such as banking and social media within the country.
Routing all traffic within Russia
In order to achieve this goal, the telecom companies would have to route all internet traffic through points within the country that are controlled by the Russian state instead of through servers hosted internationally. To do that means Russia would have to construct its own national Domain Name System (DNS) which is used to translate web addresses into IP addresses of the servers the sites are hosted on. Not surprisingly it is already being dubbed the “online iron curtain” and human rights groups are warning that the legislation with threaten internet freedom within Russia.
Questions surrounding implementation
The working group which is headed by Natalya Kaspersky says whilst the law does have good goals there are many questions surrounding its implementation. Some say the idea will be impossible to execute because of the constantly changing and expanding nature of networks. Despite that, advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin still think the idea is doable, however the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs says the legislation is more of a risk to the country than the threat posed by foreign countries.
Increasingly stricter laws surrounding the internet
Russia has exerted increasing stricter internet laws over the last half decade. Search engine must delete certain search results and messaging services are required to share encryption keys with the security agencies, whilst social networks have to store user data on servers within the country. Russia like many other countries including Australia does censor the internet through a blacklist of banned sites. Russia can block online communication without a court order, has banned virtual network providers and famously outlawed and tried to block Telegram the messaging app.
The botched Telegram block
Blocking Telegram was next to impossible because the regulator blacklisted IP addresses associated with it. Millions of IP address were banned many of which belonged to Amazon and Google’s cloud hosting platforms causing havoc with internet traffic in Russia as everything from online banking, and Viber voice calls begun to fail forcing the regulator to backtrack and unblock the addresses. Telegram remains unblocked despite officially being banned.