The Russian government is about to begin testing its own internal Internet in order to determine whether the country’s information-sharing networks can be isolated from the World Wide Web. The first phase of testing is scheduled to take place in November, and will see the regular global Internet temporarily replaced with a national system known as RuNet.
According to Defense One, a recent article published by D-Russia reports that further tests will be carried out at least annually, with the exercise being designed to “ensure the stable, safe and holistic functioning of the Internet and public communications networks in the Russian Federation.”
The controversial bill that will allow Moscow to cut off the Internet from foreign servers if it chooses was passed back in April (when the initial test was scheduled to take place), paving the way for the bill to become law on November 1.
Ostensibly, the government claims that the project will provide greater protection from cyberattacks, although critics point out that cutting citizens off from global communication networks will simply increase the state’s control over information flows and censorship.
Samuel Bendett of the American Foreign Policy Council told Defense One that the Russian authorities see their reliance on foreign IT as a major weak point, and are therefore keen to increase their level of control over the information that is shared using this technology.
While connected to the World Wide Web, Russia remains vulnerable to external threats, but “in the event of what the government sees as outside influence affecting RuNet, the state can act — hence the annual exercise,” he explained. If this went ahead it would mean Internet service providers would have to disconnect from any foreign servers using www and use an alternate domain name system (DNS) instead.
Of course, this also means that the state can choose which “outside influences” it wants to eliminate from its network, giving it the power to block any websites it wants to and restrict and monitor all communication.