Russia is reportedly preparing to turn its internet into a nationwide intranet to thwart hacking attacks and similar aggression from the West.
The rather odd decision by Vladimir Putin's country to temporarily shut off internet links with the outside world as and when necessary comes amid the emergence of what news agency RosBiznesKonsalting* (RBK) described as a new draft law "on a sustainable Runet".
The official Duma news feed (translated from Russian) said the proposed law on a sovereign Runet (the Russian term for the internet within Russia's borders) would isolate the country from the global network in the event of "targeted large-scale external influence". In other words, if the nation is menaced by a cyber-assault or some other form of aggression, the Kremlin will order the, er, cyber-drawbridge be pulled up. The draft law is undergoing its second reading.
Network providers will also be under orders to route internet traffic entering and leaving Russia through Russian-controlled gateways.
Technical detail is sadly lacking from the various Russian and English-language reports on precisely how this will be done, though the Russian state is reportedly reimbursing ISPs for the cost of extra infrastructure needed to make it happen.
An experiment to test Russia's ability to disconnect itself from the rest of the planet will also be carried out, it appears.
So far Russia has built sufficient DNS infrastructure to allow its internet to keep working if Kremlin officials pull the plug on connectivity to the rest of the world.
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"It will be necessary to complete the teachings and formulate proposals by April 1," reported RBK, which added that the project is being overseen by Natalya Kasperskaya – co-founder of Kaspersky the antivirus company and ex-wife of Eugene, that company's CEO. She is now president of a data loss prevention outfit called Infowatch and heads up the Russian ISPs' working group tasked with implementing the new law once it is passed.
"Also through this equipment, Roskomnadzor will block resources prohibited in Russia (now operators do it themselves)," RBK reported.
"All participants in the discussion agree that [it] has good goals, but the mechanisms for its implementation raise many questions and disputes," Kasperskaya told RBK. "Moreover, the methods of its implementation have not yet been precisely defined. Therefore, they came to the conclusion that market participants need to organize exercises or something similar in order to understand how this can all be implemented in practice."
Potential sources of the online foreign aggression that Russia evidently fears so much are not hard to find: only yesterday British defence secretary Gavin Williamson announced in a speech that the UK will be spending more of its defence budget on "offensive cyber capabilities" (otherwise called "hacking"), while NATO has not been shy of publicly confronting Russian aggression, online and offline, with similar moves to improve what could be called its cyber-deterrent. ®
* Despite the English transliteration of its name, RBK is a business news wire and not a consultancy.