Editor’s Note: Russia is preparing a nation-wide experiment where the whole country temporarily disconnects from the global internet to see if the country can rely on Runet alone. The following three article extracts share information, insight, and possible implications of this intriguing proof of concept to demonstrate Russian independence from the internet.
Russia is Preparing to Disconnect the Entire Country from the Internet
Extract from an article by Peter Dockrill (Science Alert)
In a sensational test of technological independence, Russia is making plans to cut off its internet from the rest of the world, with a giant ‘unplugging’ experiment that will affect over 100 million Russian internet users.
The action – which the nation has boasted of doing for years – would be a temporary test, designed to see if an isolated Russian internet can function ‘offline’ in the event of a cyberattack that forcibly disconnects it from foreign servers.
“We are talking about the protection of critical infrastructure, which should be located in the territory of Russia,” German Klimenko, the former internet adviser to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said in 2016.
“There is a high probability of ‘tectonic shifts’ in our relations with the West. Therefore, our task is to adjust the Russian segment of the internet to protect [it] from such scenarios.”
That kind of thinking is now in the process of becoming law, with a draft bill first introduced in December receiving tentative approval from Russian lawmakers last week.
Under the draft legislation, Russian internet providers must execute technical measures in their networks to counter potential threats from foreign aggressors – in effect, insulating the Russian internet (sometimes called Runet) from the rest of the web, and ensuring all traffic is carried on the country’s internal systems.
Russia to Disconnect from the Internet as Part of a Planned Test
Extract from an article by Catalin Cimpanu (ZDNet)
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week.
The reason for the experiment is to gather insight and provide feedback and modifications to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018.
A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet.
In addition, Russian telecom firms would also have to install “technical means” to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia’s telecom watchdog.
Roskomnazor will inspect the traffic to block prohibited content and make sure traffic between Russian users stays inside the country and is not re-routed uselessly through servers abroad, where it could be intercepted.
A date for the test has not been revealed, but it’s supposed to take place before April 1, the deadline for submitting amendments to the law –known as the Digital Economy National Program.
Distributed Web Not Ready for Runet Cutoff from the Internet
Extract from an article by Daniel Aleksandersen (Ctrl Blog)
Russia is preparing a nation-wide experiment where the whole country temporarily disconnects from the global Internet to see if the country can rely on Runet alone. The effort is supposed to help Russia prepare for potential digital warfare against the nation, but some analysts are also speculating whether this is the first step towards deploying a nation-spanning censorship machine like “the great firewall of China.”
This will likely cause major disruption to online services in Russia. However, I’m more interested in looking at how prepared the distributed web is for such a cut off and whether these networks will even remain operational.
The promise of the distributed web (dweb) is that it will make us less dependent on just a few huge internet infrastructure companies and enable anyone to publish globally available resources. Every person who downloads a resource also makes it available for upload to other interested users; akin to how BitTorrent and peer-to-peer file sharing works. However, neither the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) nor the Dat project will continue to function properly inside of Russia following a Runet cutoff from the global Internet.
Dweb clients inside of Russia will not be able to reach outside clients, but their distributed networks should still mostly work for users inside the country. However, centralized components in current dweb deployments will still lead to service outages.
- Dweb: Building Cooperation and Trust into the Web with IPFS
- Cloudflare’s New Interplanetary File System (IPFS) Gateway