Will Russia say goodbye to the internet?

Author
Juha Saarinen - NZ Herald,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Thursday, 12 July 2018, 10:56AM
This tourist won't be able to share her photo on social media until she's out of Russia if the country's plans for the internet go ahead. Photo / Getty Images
This tourist won't be able to share her photo on social media until she's out of Russia if the country's plans for the internet go ahead. Photo / Getty Images

COMMENT:

Russia is out of the FIFA World Cup and at some point soon, off the internet?

No, seriously, that is what Russian officials are threatening and preparing for.

Talking to state-run news service TASS, the cyberthreats director of Russia's ministry of foreign affairs Ilya Rogachev said the country's Government is sick of Western double standards when it comes to censorship and hacking allegations.

If Western nations continue to impose such double standards, well, Russia will red card the global internet and create one of its own.

The internet is said to be able to route around damage, but technology moves on and Russia could probably remove itself from the global internet if it wanted to.

Laws are being drafted that would force Russian networks to use specific traffic exchanges only, to pass data between themselves and the global internet.

Such exchanges could then act as chokepoints.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of root or top level servers for domain name resolution (the technology that translates, for instance, www.nzherald.co.nz to an internet protocol address like 104.109.52.112) that are independent of the current US-based service used worldwide.

The root DNS service would be for the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — and is supposed to go live next month. By controlling the DNS, Governments in those countries can filter out internet sites and service providers they consider undesirable.

And the authorities are mulling the creation of a registry that tracks IP addresses and domain names. Russian internet providers are also facepalming en masse over a new law that requires them to store user communications.

Doing so would require enormous amounts of digital storage and possibly a ban on strong encryption.

Ironically, Western cybersecurity experts would probably heave a sigh of relief if "Runet" went live and the country disconnected from the global internet, stemming the malicious traffic said to be emanating from Russia.

But Russia cutting itself off the global internet would most likely be a huge own goal and Rogachev was quick to point out that nobody wants it to happen at this stage.

Instead, the proposed measures are likely publicised to shake down internet businesses and intimidate users.

If they were to come into effect, today's technology enables a digital Samizdat dissident movement that would be hard for the authorities to clamp down on.

Fear of freedom of expression is what repressive Governments want, and technology is helpful there as the Chinese authorities have discovered.

China has built a frightening networked panopticon to suppress minorities, featuring intercepted internet traffic, facial, gait and voice recognition of individuals, and DNA sampling.

This apparatus of oppression reaches dissidents around the world, thanks to the internet.

In that scenario, removing access to the global internet would hamper surveillance of people within and outside a nation.

In other words, Russia is unlikely to say "do svidaniya" to the global internet and continue to suffer the imposition of Western double standards while keeping a watchful eye on its population.

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