TL;DR: Moscow-based RosBiznesKonsalting (РБК) reported ongoing discussions about cybersecurity in the Russian Federation, amid growing fears about foreign attacks, are leading toward plans involving what international media are terming a temporary “disconnection” from internet to the outside world by April. It’s a kind of stress test of the Russian internet (RuNet). In 2014, the country’s Ministry of Communication simulated what was referred to as a “switching off” from global net connectivity, using its own backups to keep world wide web functionality.
Russia Plans an Internet Disconnection Exercise
“The calls to increase pressure on our country being made in the West oblige us to think about additional ways to protect Russian sovereignty in cyber-space. Russia’s disconnection from the worldwide web is one possible scenario amid the escalation of international tensions,” chair Leonid Levin of the Duma Committee on Informational Policy, Technologies and Communications, told a conference last month.
In 2018, the Russian parliament began legislative proposals to compel internet providers (IP) in taking steps to avoid shutting down altogether should hostile powers attempt cyberattacks. Their worry was prompted by the increasing bellicosity of US politicians, who often site the Federation and its allies as public enemy number one with regard to outside hacking.
Indeed, foreign countries such as Russia are suspected by the United States to ramp up hacking attempts, threatening “both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways—to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” Dan Coats, Director of US National Intelligence, stressed to Congress in January of this year.
Roskomnadzor, a government oversight agency, during the proposed experiment would then test how Russian users are treated digitally, and whether they’re sent to foreign servers rather than having online exchanges and information remain domestically. Various reports make it appear the country is building something like an intranet where it controls information entering and leaving its ecosystem, and Putin apparently has signed off on such an idea.
Anecdotal evidence for the claim of a Russian-controlled internet includes Domain Name System (DNS) assignments, and how the Federation is building an alternative to such a universal directory.
Under the proposed exercise, the re-routing of all traffic through exit nodes would be under the management of Roskomnadzor. Telecom companies would be obligated to essentially filter all the prohibited and banned content. Companies have agreed to the project goals, but have actively criticized the way it is being handled. However, the Russian government, agreed to pay for all costs needed to make the test a reality.
If this proposal’s logical extension appears to function similar to what’s known as the Great Internet Wall of China, controlling all the information getting in and out of the country. And, as an addition, Russia would have a working internal network in case of an external attack. For this objective, they have been testing a series of replacements for services provided by foreign companies.
They have created and tested a substitute for the DNS system that has already been tested several times. With cyber attacks going on here and there the government feels the need to have this kind of data to see how their systems will react. Russia looks to be preparing for the kind of skirmishes happening between the US and North Korea.
The test is expected to be held before 1 April 2019, and the government has not announced the actual date when the test will happen. No word yet as to preparations, if any, the Russian cryptocurrency community is making.
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