Russia Will ‘Unplug’ From Internet to Test Cyberdefenses, Censorship

Russian-FSB

Russia is reportedly planning to run a national test on its own infrastructure as part of an effort to ‘unplug’ from the internet. That’s according to Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting, which made the announcement last week. The goal of the experiment is to provide feedback and gather insight on how the Russian national intranet would perform if severed from the main internet backbone, ZDNet reports.

Russia’s data localization requirements were a topic of some discussion in 2018, after the country passed laws requiring companies that provide service to Russian customers to physically locate their servers within Russia itself. These laws were widely viewed as a means of ensuring the Russian government can seize the servers its citizens’ data is stored on in the event that it wishes to do so.

The formal purpose of the new test is to ensure that the Russian internet can function independently in the event that access is cut off by other countries. There has been talk of increased sanctions against Russia by NATO and the EU, in retaliation for cyber attacks and other online intrusions Russia is accused of carrying out. The network test is intended to ensure that the Russian internet can operate if cut off. But it also is intended to test if all Russian internet traffic can be gathered and routed through a few points controlled by government sources. This is believed to be an early effort to establish a potential censorship system that would mirror the so-called Great Firewall of China. All internet traffic must be capable of being rerouted through exchanges monitored by Roskomnazor (in English: Federal Service for Supervision of Communications).

Symbol of Roskomnazor. Image by Wikipedia

While none of the root DNS servers are located in Russia, copies of the internet’s core “address book” already exist and the law in question calls for Russia to operate its own version of the DNS system that could take over and operate in the event of an internet access cut off.

The government has agreed to provide funding towards these tests and goals, which are not currently scheduled but are meant to take place before April 1. ZDNet reports that corporate support for the project is strong but that there are questions and divisions over how best to accomplish it. Russia publicly stated in 2017 that it wishes to be capable of routing 95 percent of its communication through local services by 2020.

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