At the beginning of this month, information appeared on the network about the imminent disconnection of Russia from the global Internet. This possibility was announced by specialists of the American financial company Market Rebellion, even specifying the date of the proposed shutdown – March 11. They argue that after that, only those sites whose servers are located within the country will become available to Russians. But how realistic is the shutdown of the Internet in Russia? We understand together with CHIP.
How it all started
As we wrote, the American company Market Rebellion, which did not name the sources of this information, started the rumors. The company only referred to the Runet “isolation” exercises that had already taken place in 2019, during which various scenarios for ensuring the security of cellular subscribers were worked out and the vulnerabilities of smart devices were studied. The shutdown itself took place in a controlled environment on specially dedicated network segments and stands.
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However, despite the dubious nature of the “leak” that was not confirmed in any way, rumors about a possible disconnection of Russia from the World Wide Web spread on the network at the speed of a forest fire, as happens with rumors, gradually acquiring more and more “terrible” details.
This was also facilitated by the document of the Ministry of Digital Development, sent on March 6 to all government sites and services. Although the document itself was rather a reaction to the publication of Market Rebellion.
Document of the Ministry of Digital Development
The document sent out by the department states the need to switch to using DNS servers located within the country by March 11, abandon foreign hosting, remove scripts downloaded from foreign resources from sites, and, if possible, move public resources to the “RU” domain zone. There is no answer to the question of when the Internet will be turned off in Russia in 2022, and there cannot be.
The Ministry of Tsifra explained that this document is designed to protect Russian websites from cyber attacks, the number of which has increased many times since the start of the special operation. And the very nature of the document speaks about this. There are no plans to disconnect Russia from the global Internet.
“We are preparing for various scenarios to ensure that Russian resources are available to citizens. The telegram for government agencies outlines a set of simple cyber hygiene recommendations that will help organize work more effectively to protect our resources from malicious traffic, maintain the operation of services and control over domain names, ”the agency said in a statement quoted by our colleagues from Tjournal.
The next day, the agency issued an even more detailed message, once again confirming the absence of plans to disconnect the country from the global Internet. The possibility of turning it off from the outside also looks unlikely. First of all, due to the fact that the United States itself is not interested in this, which will suddenly lose an effective tool of propaganda and influence on the population of Russia.
Is it possible to disconnect Russia from the global Internet
Will the Internet be turned off in Russia? No one is interested in such a development of events, and from a technical point of view it is practically unrealizable. Some users may have questioned this after learning that US-based Internet backbone operator Cogent has cut ties with Russian clients, including Yandex, VimpelCom, VK, MegaFon and other large companies.
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In reality, this means only a temporary sharp decrease in the speed of access to the American and European segments of the network from Russia. But this decision has already been criticized not only in Russia, but also in the West. For example, The Washington Post noted that it turns a purely technical area into a political tool and threatens the basic principles of the organization and operation of the Internet, according to which the World Wide Web should be equally accessible to everyone. And Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the human rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), noted that it plays into the hands of Russia, blocking the possibility of organizing protests and blocking access to “independent news” for Russians. Can the US turn off the Internet in Russia? No, it is unprofitable for the States themselves.
In addition, even disconnecting Russia from several backbone providers can only cause temporary difficulties. The thing is that the Internet is not only Russia and the West. There are many countries in the world, and if the main channel is blocked in one place, access will be carried out along other routes. The question of the United States disconnecting Russia from the Internet is simply not worth it.
In essence, the Internet is a distributed system that does not have a single “breaker”. Therefore, all cases when the Internet was turned off in some country were connected exclusively with the decision of local authorities. And the rumors that Russia will be disconnected from the global Internet are not true.
The same is said by specialists from ICANN, a non-profit public corporation dedicated to ensuring the safe, stable and fault-tolerant functioning of the Internet. Ukraine has already approached them with a request to separate the .ru, .rf and .su top-level domains, help revoke SSL certificates from Russian sites, and disable root DNS servers in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The answer to this was received quite exhaustively: “Our mission does not include any punitive actions, sanctions and restrictions on access, regardless of the challenges. Unilateral decisions will undermine the credibility of the current multi-stakeholder model that achieves global Internet interoperability.”
What about iron?
Nevertheless, there is a theoretical possibility of disconnecting Russia from the Internet. Is it possible to disconnect Russia from the Internet? Yes. But this can be done not with the help of external infrastructure, but thanks to the hardware that is used within the country. In most cases, the Russian Internet works through foreign network equipment, which in theory can be turned off.
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But now, again, we are talking only about the theoretical possibility of such a shutdown. In practice, no large company like Cisco would take such a step, because it would cause a bombshell effect, and it would take many years to restore its reputation.
The rumors that appeared at the beginning of the month that Russia would be disconnected from the global Internet have no basis, and the letter from the Ministry of Digital Affairs, which allegedly confirms them, in fact, only listed the measures to protect against the increasing cyber attacks.
The Internet has always been and remains a decentralized system without some kind of magic switch that can be used to turn off one or another country overnight. And all the opportunities that foreign companies and organizations have, in fact, can only lead to a slowdown in the operation of individual network segments.
The only way to create problems for the Russian segment of the Internet lies in foreign equipment that is actively used in the domestic network infrastructure. But turning it off will lead to extremely negative consequences for manufacturers of such equipment, and it is hardly worth considering this seriously.
In other words, the answer to the question of whether the United States can turn off the Internet in Russia is unequivocally no.
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