Russia May Disconnect From The Internet

What if the world wide web suddenly went dark? No Netflix? No YouTube? No Facebook? While this may sound like bliss for some, the full extent of our reliance on Internet would quickly become evident and it would be catastrophic.

This may be why Russia has suddenly become so interested in ensuring its Internet is isolated, entirely internal and resilient.

It’s no secret that Moscow has one of the most effective cyber-attack capabilities in the world. It has been blamed for a recent spate of incidents, such as the hack of the US Democratic Party server and sabotage of Ukrainian power plants and businesses.

Recently, four Russian intelligence agents were expelled from the Netherlands after being caught attempting to hack a chemical weapons analysis facility investigating the Novichok nerve-agent attack on the UK city of Salisbury. So it really comes as no surprise that the Kremlin wants to isolate its own internet from the rest of the world. Russia is planning to briefly shutdown their Internet, as part of a testing of its cyber-defences. This is laid out in a new law which was proposed in December with the intention of making Runet, (Russia’s Internet) independent.

The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally and the government wants to test this process by April 1st this year.

How does a Country Unplug itself from the Internet? 
It's important to understand a little about how the Internet works. It is essentially a series of thousands of digital networks along which information travels. It has no central management and it relies on many different infrastructures from undersea cables, and satellites and connecting and sending systems all over the globe. These networks are connected by router points, and they are notoriously the weakest link in the chain.

What Russia wants to do is to bring those router points that handle data entering or exiting the country within its borders and under its control, so that it can then pull up the drawbridge, as it were, to external traffic if it's under threat, or if it decides to censor what outside information people can access.

China's firewall is probably the world's best known censorship tool and it has become a sophisticated operation. It also polices its router points, using filters and blocks on keywords and certain websites and redirecting web traffic so that computers cannot connect to sites the state does not wish Chinese citizens to see.

Major Disruption
The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russia's ISPs to ensure that it can operate in the event of foreign powers acting to isolate the country online. Nato and its allies have threatened to sanction Russia over the cyber-attacks and other online interference which it is regularly accused of instigating. The measures outlined in the law include Russia building its own version of the net's address system, known as DNS, so it can operate if links to these internationally-located servers are cut.

Currently, 12 organisations oversee the root servers for DNS and none of them are in Russia. However, many copies of the net's core address book do already exist inside Russia suggesting its net systems could keep working even if punitive action was taken to cut it off.

The test is also expected to involve ISPs demonstrating that they can direct data to government-controlled routing points. These will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians reaches its destination, but any destined for foreign computers is discarded.

Eventually the Russian government wants all domestic traffic to pass through these routing points. This is believed to be part of an effort to set up a mass censorship system akin to that seen in China, which tries to scrub out prohibited traffic. 

Russian news organisations reported that the nation's ISPs are broadly backing the aims of the draft law but are divided on how to do it. They believe the test will cause "major disruption" to Russian internet traffic, reports tech news website ZDNet.
The Russian government is providing cash for ISPs to modify their infrastructure so the redirection effort can be properly tested.

BBC:       News.Au:

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