Putin approved a drastic plan for Russia to cut itself off from the internet as a last-ditch defense from an all-out cyberwar


Russian President Vladimir Putin

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a bill which gives government the go ahead to develop a unique isolated internet only accessible within the country.
  • Russia wants to develop a new domain name system (DNS) to protect it from cyber-attacks and make it independent of the world wide web.
  • The bill says the government will “exercise centralized control over the communication network of general use.”
  • Rights groups fear the plans could see Russia follow China into implementing a highly censored internet which is also used to surveil citizens.
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Russia has taken a major step in it’s ambition to cut itself off from the global internet and create closed network only accessible inside the country.

President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on Wednesday which gives government agencies the go-ahead to develop a “sustainable, secure, and fully functioning” Russian “sovereign internet.” The move is part of the Kremlin’s plan to isolate its internet usage as a means of defending against external cyberwarfare.

Few details as to the nature of the proposed new system are mentioned in the bill, but state news outlets report Russia will attempt to develop a unique domain name system (DNS) to shed dependence on the universal world wide web.

Yandex, Mail.ru, and Vkontakte are the biggest internet services in Russia

It will also see state-owned enterprises protected via encryption, according to media reports, and see Russia’s three internet domains merged into one.

Read more: Russia has banned fake news, while also being one of the world’s prime exporters of fake news

The bill says the government will “exercise centralized control over the communication network of general use.”

On April 8, Putin assured Russians that the internet will always remain free in Russia.

But he caveated: “At the same time, it is also important to counter the risks and challenges of cyber crime and the spread of illegal content, which poses a threat to people’s rights and the state’s interests.”

If successful, the Kremlin says the isolated internet will make Russia more secure in the face of cyber attacks.

Critics warn the law may see Russia emulate China, where the internet is vigorously censored and used to monitor society through a social-credit system.

TheRussia’s move toward a closed internet network comes as major global powers move to defend themselves from external cyber attacks. The US imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Russian firms and individuals in 2017, saying it was responding to Russian attempts to jeopardize the US power grid and financial system.

The EU last year also said it would “strengthen the resilience” of its member states “in the digital domain” after the Netherlands said it caught four Russian intelligence agents trying to hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog headquarters while it was investigating Russia’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal last April.

Russia’s Ministry of Communications first hinted at the move to an isolated internet in 2017, when it said it wanted to route 95% of the country’s web traffic internally by 2020, the country’s Izvestia newspaper reported at the time.

The project will initially cost $38 million, Russia’s financial watchdog said, according to the MIT Technology Review, but some involved in the plan expect it to cost more like $300 million.

Read more: Russia’s top Orthodox bishop says the internet is a tool of the Antichrist

In February Russia announced it would be simulating an all-out cyber attack by switching off the whole country’s internet for one day, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting reported.

It was planned for April 1, but it is not known whether the simulation happened. 

Over 50% of Russians said they were against the new internet proposals, the state-funded VTsIOM pollster found.

The legislation will roll out on November 1, 2019.

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