As reported by Russia’s TASS news agency on Wednesday, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the law on providing stable operation of the Russian Internet (Runet) in case it is disconnected from the global infrastructure of the World Wide Web.”
Under the legislation, assuming it actually works in practice, the government would deal with “threats to the stable, safe and integral operation of the Russian Internet on Russian territory” by centralizing “the general communications network.” Put more simply, the law sets in train plans for an alternative domain name system (DNS) for Russia in the event that it is disconnected from the World Wide Web, or, one assumes, in the event that its politicians deem disconnection to be beneficial. Internet service providers would be compelled to disconnect from any foreign servers, relying on Russia’s DNS instead.
Russia’s state media regulator and its leading technology companies have expressed support for the move, although what’s actually thought away from the glare of (publicly controlled) media is hard to tell. One can assume this is more rhetoric than realpolitik and will be significantly harder to effect that has been suggested by politicians.
The new law would provide for central control of all internet traffic, and in essence, remove the need for data to be sent to and received from overseas servers. This control would clearly introduce traffic monitoring and stark censorship of sites that could be visited by Russian users.
According to the Moscow Times, “Russia reportedly carried out drills in mid-2014 to test the country’s response to the possibility of its internet being disconnected from the web… The secret tests reportedly showed that isolating the Russian internet is possible, but that ‘everything’ would go back online within 30 minutes.”
The Financial Times commented that “the bill, which goes into force on November 1, requires internet service providers to filter all traffic through special nodes under the control of Roscomnadzor, the Kremlin’s internet censor. The Kremlin will compel ISPs and other communications services to test the system at an unspecified time later this year.”
The law, first touted late last year, is seen as a response to the U.S. strategy of clamping down on national bad actors in cyberspace. There are already significant restrictions for internet users in Russia, with many websites blocked and the use of VPNs prohibited.
Freedom On The Net 2018 reported that “internet freedom declined in Russia for the sixth year in a row, following the government’s efforts to block the popular messaging app Telegram and numerous legislative proposals aimed at restricting online anonymity and increasing censorship.”
Russia and China are often lumped together when it comes to the analysis of cyber threats, well now Russians are worried that their country is heading down the same path that China has taken towards censorship and isolation. According to media reports, the majority of Russians oppose the ‘Sovereign Internet Bill’.