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Russia Planning to Temporarily Take Down Its Entire Internet

REG COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

Perhaps by the time this article goes to press, an experiment will have taken place on the Internet, one that network engineers around the world are watching closely. We can hope it does not take place on April Fool’s day, because this is no joke.

The Russian government and all Internet service providers operating in Russia are planning to disconnect their entire country from the Internet for a period of time. This is part of a planned test to aid Internet network engineers in Russia learn more about how to implement a law introduced in the Russian parliament.

A first draft of the law mandates that Russian Internet providers should ensure the continued functioning of the Russian Internet, should circumstances require that all their networks be disconnected from the rest of the world. The intent of the law is that all Russian telecommunications companies have the technical means to route as much Internet traffic as possible inside Russia’s borders. Essentially this means that all the servers handling Russian Internet connections would need to be approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia’s FCC.

During the test, Roskomnazor plans to inspect Internet traffic to see if all interchange between Russian users stays inside the country, and also to get a clearer picture of how much traffic is currently being routed through servers abroad before being sent back to Russia. I suppose another way of putting it is that Roskomnazor wants to be able to say “what happens in Russia stays in Russia.”

It is not entirely clear if the end goal of the new law is for Russian authorities to implement a huge Internet censorship system like China’s Great Firewall or to just ensure that Russia can continue to have a fully functional one-country Internet in case of emergency. It is naive to think that countries lack the means to disconnect from the Internet in the event of a cyber war. Here, Russia seems to be doing the sensible thing by planning for how to make the best of the situation with a minimum of disruption for Russian Internet users if pulling the plug is ever necessary.

And this is not the first time that a country has completely disconnected itself from the Internet. The occurrence that affected the most people was in 2011, when the Egyptian government headed by Hosni Mubarak tried unsuccessfully to put down its country’s popular revolt being fueled and coordinated via Facebook and Twitter. A much more successful countrywide shutdown happened in Ethiopia on May 30, 2017. That was the day when more than a million students took their Grade 10 exams, along with another 288,000 taking university entrance exams. A few of them who brought along their smartphones, planning to share cheat sheets via social media were thwarted when they discovered the entire Ethiopian Internet was shut down without notice for 12 hours during the exams.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com

 

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