Russia may test cyber defences with internet 'unplugging' test

Lamar Ellis
February 13, 2019

Russian Federation is making preparations to detach itself from the rest of the world by temporarily disconnecting from the internet, as it prepares for future cyber warfare. It will keep all the data that are circulating between the citizens and organisations in Russian within the borders of the country instead of passing through worldwide routes.

The date for the disconnection has not been set but it will reportedly take place before 1 April 2019. The Russian parliament submitted a bill about this at the end of previous year.

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russia's internet service providers to ensure they can operate if foreign powers attempt to sabotage them. None of the 12 organizations that police the root servers for their net's address system (DNS) are in Russian Federation.

The test would involve temporarily unplugging from the global network and routing all data within the country instead of through worldwide servers. That way the communications regulator could block content and keep traffic between Russian users inside the country, where it cannot be intercepted by global actors.

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

Experts have said developing such sweeping capabilities, if not impossible, would be very expensive and could lead to major disruptions in the functioning of the internet. It is essentially a series of thousands of digital networks along which information travels.

In the short term the planned disconnection is largely meant to assuage the fears of domestic internet service providers that the draft legislation could impose huge costs on them and harm the reliability of the Russian internet. All internet traffic must be capable of being rerouted through exchanges monitored by Roskomnazor (in English: Federal Service for Supervision of Communications). China cracks down on them from time to time and the punishment for providing or using illegal VPNs can be a prison sentence.

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.

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