Russia May Cut Itself Off From Internet

John Lister's picture

Russia may briefly disconnect from the Internet as a cyber-defense exercise. It's being billed as an attempt to see if the country could keep the benefits of the Internet without having to interact with the rest of the world, though critics suggest it is nothing more than political censorship.

Russian officials are said to fear that other countries may be taking measures to block its country from the Internet. On paper there does not appear to be any such proposals, though NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has threatened some form of sanctions over alleged cyber attacks by Russia - including alleged Russian spying through Kaspersky antivirus backdoors.

The temporary shutoff is designed to explore the viability of a proposed Russian law that would require Internet providers to make sure Russia's section of the Internet would still operate if there was a "cyber blockade" against its country. If the test does go ahead it will likely be before April 1st, 2019 - the deadline for making amendments to the proposed law before it continues in the legislative process. (Source:

Major Technical Changes Needed

Russian Internet providers have reportedly backed the idea of the law, but say current proposals on how to enforce it would be extremely disruptive.

What Russia's trying to do would require two major technical changes. The first is to create its own version of the Domain Name Service (DNS).

Sometimes called the "telephone directory of the Internet", DNS is the system used to translate a website address into the IP address. The machine associated with the IP address (somewhere in the world) hosts the web page and other files, which are then downloaded to the user's browser to create the web page (for example). At the moment, none of the servers which house special DNS records are currently located in Russia.

The second change is to take control of routing points through which Internet data travels. At the moment, data going between a Russian user and a Russian website may still pass through routing points outside the country - that's because most web pages on the Internet contain multiple repositories of data and content. Russia wants to create enough routing points within its borders to keep access running efficiently.

Censorship May Be Real Goal

Critics say the Russian plan may be more sinister than the purely "defensive measure" it's being billed as. As part of the test, all Internet data will need to pass through a routing point controlled by the government. That's so officials can examine the effects of filtering out any traffic that's going into or out of the country, then translating it to only pass on its "internal" traffic.

Many fear however that the real goal is to create the ability to censor foreign content and limit Russian citizen's access to the Internet, particularly when it comes to political opposition to the country's government. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you concerned by such tests in Russia, or do you believe it is not a problem for the rest of the world? Would blocking a country's access to the Internet ever be an acceptable sanction? Should other countries make sure they could still keep internal online communication if they were cut off from the wider Internet?

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Focused100's picture

Most East Bloc countries and many Mid East countries do this. As a practical matter it doesn't concern us in the West unless we're trying to reach someone in the affected places.

jimain's picture

Looks like anyone with business or government interaction with Russia could be subject to official interference in their internet communications, email or website. Don't believe here would be any impact on me.

ehowland's picture

No real opinion on this (seems fine though. All .ru communication I have ever seen, in 15+ years, has been spam/virus/hack attempts)

Wouldn't a "burner phone" data connection circumvent this proposed cut off (or a satellite phone data connection, although I suspect that would be VERY pricey)?

Dennis Faas's picture

Cell phones / smartphones actually run off of radio towers (on land) when sending and receiving data. I'm sure Russia would interfere with this as well. You can use a satellite phone to circumvent this (which goes direct to the satellite) but most plans don't have a data connection. Even if they did it would be insanely expensive, most likely incredibly slow, and not worth the effort.

ehowland's picture

My thought was there will be some folks (granted very few) on the very close Russian perimeter who would smuggle and or get access to a burner phone and connect to cell towers JUST outside of the country. It would be a TINY percentage but unless the Russian government put up scramblers to defeat/block bordering areas, this would happen.

Now I agree, Satellite would be crazy expensive and crazy slow, but maybe someone in RU would text or tweet on it?

Satellite can have data, but it's slower than early dial up!