Tue, 05 Dec 2023

The extraordinary step was part of an annual domestic network security check-up

Russian authorities had temporarily disconnected the country from the global internet, the media outlet RBK reported on Wednesday, citing sources within the telecommunications industry. The move was part of a legally mandated test to assess whether domestic networks can handle operating on their own.

The "international Internet was turned off" at one point between Tuesday and Wednesday, as the media regulator Roskomnadzor checked the performance of Russian sites and network-dependent services in case the country is disconnected from abroad.

"The exercises were successful," a Roskomnadzor representative told RBK, adding that the Sovereign Internet Law of 2019 mandated such a test at least once a year. He would not say what the drill was meant to accomplish.

"During the exercise, they could check whether RuNet would really continue to work after such a shutdown. Bulletproof vests are tested in much the same way, when they are put on mannequins and then shot," one telecom executive told the outlet.

Sitronics Group executive Alexander Dvoryansky noted that Russia needs to take into account the possibility of being disconnected from the global network, since the root servers are controlled by the US. Tests to determine whether RuNet will continue to operate if cut off from the rest of the world are "absolutely expedient," Qrator Labs founder Alexander Lyamin agreed.

The 2019 law envisioned creating Russia's own national DNS system, which would store all domain names and corresponding IP addresses and provide cryptographic data protection. It also allowed Roskomnadzor to install special equipment on network nodes in order to override routing. The technology has since been used to target platforms and contents outlawed in Russia, but multiple officials have insisted it will never rise to the level of the "Great Firewall of China."

"No one is proposing that we separate ourselves from the whole world and use [online] gateways as it is being done in China," Aleksandr Khinshtein, the chair of the State Duma's Information Policy and Communications Committee, told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month. "I'm confident that it will not happen for various reasons."

Executives who spoke with RBK, however, noted that many Russian businessmen believed it unlikely that the West would block payment processing systems or Russian banks' access to SWIFT, both of which ended up happening last year.


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