Russia Will Test Its Ability to Disconnect from the Internet

Russia Will Test Its Ability to Disconnect from the Internet, by Patrick Tucker.

Russia will test its internal RuNet network to see whether the country can function without the global internet, the Russian government announced Monday. The tests will begin after Nov. 1, recur at least annually, and possibly more frequently. It’s the latest move in a series of technical and policy steps intended to allow the Russian government to cut its citizens off from the rest of the world. …

The exercises follow April’s passage of the sovereign internet law that will require all internet traffic in Russia to pass through official chokepoints, allowing the government to shut down outside access, block websites that they don’t like, and monitor traffic. …

RuNet isn’t expected to improve the online experience for Russian people or companies. It’s all about control, making the country more technologically independent, and reducing the Putin regime’s vulnerability to popular uprising.

“The Russian government, particularly since seeing the role social media played in the Arab Spring, has wanted over the last decade to exert tight control over the online information space within Russia’s borders,” said Justin Sherman, a cybersecurity policy fellow at New America who studies internet governance and digital authoritarianism. “Free information flows are a threat to regime stability, and they need to be controlled, the narrative goes.”

As the Russian government has built infrastructure that can disconnect Russia from the global internet, it has also worked to limit Russian citizens’ access to sites and services that allow citizens to mobilize and protest. Access to services such as LinkedIn, Zello, and Telegram is limited by a 2006 Russian law (27.07.2006 number 149-FZ) that requires foreign companies to open their software to Russian security services and to hand user data to law enforcement agencies.