Russia is testing its disconnection from the global internet

Cybersecurity exercises were conducted, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersantwhich evokes the scenario of a defensive initiative decided by Moscow or that of a measure imposed from outside.

Correspondent in Moscow

In the context of the war in Ukraine, and therefore of increased penalties but also the multiplication of cyberattacks, Moscow is preparing for its possible disconnection from the global internet, whether it is a defensive initiative decided by the Russian authorities or a measure imposed from outside.

An isolation of the Russian Internet from the rest of the world was considered by the Kremlin last March, after the outbreak of the “special military operationin Ukraine, according to the newspaper Kommersant. It also reveals that several cybersecurity exercises have been carried out this year with the participation of banks, telecom operators and the largest internet companies to test the ability of the Russian network to operate autonomously.

Traffic redirection to Asia

Exercises justified by the geopolitical situation, analyzes the Kommersant. Quoted by the newspaper, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernychenko says the number of cyberattacks has increased by 80% this year. “If last year, the financial sector was the main target, this year it is the public sector that is targeted”, emphasizes Dmitry Chernychenko.

Faced with these threats, an Internet disconnection plan was considered in the spring by the Russian operator Rostelecom, indicates the Kommersant which states, quoting an expert, that “If Russia is cut off from European exchange points, it will redirect Internet traffic to Asia”. Several times evoked by Vladimir Putin, the project of an Internet “sovereignhas been overshadowed in recent months by restrictions on access to certain sites (Twitter and Instagram, in particular). A digital isolation of Russia, insofar as it is feasible, would also risk accentuating state control over personal data and individual freedoms, some experts and human rights defenders fear.

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Bypassed Constraints

From outside Russia, several Internet traffic access providers (such as LINX) have already disconnected their services from Rostelecom or MegaFon. Conversely, “US cloud provider Clouflare has refused to work in the Russian Federation and the State Department has urged not to disconnect Russia from the internet”, Write the Kommersant. For the major state actors, and in particular the intelligence services, the possibility of obtaining information remains preferable to the absence of data…

As early as last March, the Russian authorities took measures to protect state sites: all websites, in particular those of public services, were ordered to switch to Russian domain names, to abandon hosting abroad and strengthen their password policy. But six months later, these constraints are proving to be largely circumvented, in particular by regional state sites which continue to use codes downloaded from abroad, notes the Kommersant. With as explanation, continues the newspaper, the fact in particular that the fines envisaged remain minimal, around 5000 rubles (83 euros approximately at the current price).

Furthermore, the disconnection of the Russian segment of the Internet from the World Wide Web would have consequences for the connectivity of the entire global network, explain the experts, such as Ivan Begtin, who underlines, for example, that “Traffic from Kazakhstan and parts of Asian countries passes through the Russian Federation”. Even if closed models of the Internet exist, in Iran or in China, this specialist judges a “shutdown(closure) of Russia unlikely, leaning more towards a “internal hardening and access restrictions”.

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Russia is testing its disconnection from the global internet


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