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Russia mulls disconnecting from internet in test of cyberdefenses

Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. (The Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia is planning to temporarily disconnect from the global Internet in the coming weeks as it tests its defenses against cyberattacks.

Russian media reported on February 11 that the test, which will cut off all data routes connecting Russia to the outside cyberworld, will occur before April 1, though a firm date has yet to be set.

A bill was submitted to the State Duma on December 14 on the need to ensure the autonomous operation of the Russian segment of the Internet if there is no access to foreign servers.

Once approved, the legislation will require the local Internet, known as the RUnet, to pass through exchange points managed by Russia’s telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor.

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A note attached to the bill explained that the draft amendments to the Law on Communications were worked out “taking into consideration the aggressive nature of the September 2018 U.S. national cybersecurity strategy,” in which “Russia directly and without any evidence is accused of cyberattacks.”

Once in force, the system will protect Russia in the event of cyberwar while also filtering Internet traffic to the country.

According to the bill, “technical devices” will be installed in the Russian segment of the Internet to locate traffic sources.

Those “technical devices” will be used when necessary to limit access to online resources with banned information,” the bill says.

Russia will also establish its own national domain-name-server (DNS) system — a decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network, which will help to identify computers from which data is being added to the Internet.

Interfax reported on February 11 that a bill on the steady operation of the RUnet has been included in the February 12 agenda of the State Duma session.

In March last year, Putin’s then-Internet adviser, German Klimenko, said Russia would be prepared with its own segment of the Internet should Western countries seek to punish it by cutting off all access.

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Russia has been accused of carrying out cyberattacks and of using the Internet — particularly social networks such as Facebook and Twitter — to attempt to sow discord and interfere in elections in the West.

In response, social networks have been aggressively seeking out so-called “troll farms” which use deceptive accounts to spread false information.