Cybersecurity has become a national concern for many first world countries. Confidential data, sensitive information, and even as simple as the personal identification of their constituents could be at risk once they are put up on the Internet. These kinds of threats are what Russia is building up for with their planned internal Internet. And with a local version of its own, Russia would be ready to disconnect itself from the global Internet.
As a culmination of years of preparation, Russia began preparing itself to disconnect from the Internet to try to isolate their internal Internet, or the "RuNet." The experiment involved various Russian government agencies, Russian internet service providers, and Russian internet companies. The goal was to see if Russia's national internet infrastructure could continue functioning without access to the global DNS system and the rest of the Internet.
The experiment, which ended a few days ago, was a success, according to the Russian government. Alexei Sokolov, deputy head of the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, confirmed the experiment's conclusion via a press conference.
"...both authorities and telecom operators are ready to effectively respond to possible risks and threats," says Sokolov, as quoted by various Russian news outlets, "and ensure the functioning of the Internet and the unified telecommunication network in Russia."
Originally scheduled last April, the tests were delayed to give the Kremlin more time to pass the "Internet Sovereignty Law," which is meant to justify the experiments and to allow all parties to carry out the tests.
Internet Sovereignty Law
The newly-signed law gives the Russian government the power to disconnect the country from the rest of the Internet. This is all done in the interest of "national security," and once invoked, the Russian government doesn't need to say much more.
The law will command local internet service providers to re-route all internet traffic through strategic chokepoints under the control of Russia's Communications Ministry. This effectively makes RuNet the largest intranet connection in the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that the creation of RuNet is purely defensive in nature, citing cybersecurity threats from foreign elements.
He says that RuNet "is aimed only at preventing adverse consequences of global disconnection from the global network, which is largely controlled from abroad." He continued, "This is the point, this is what sovereignty is - to have our resources that can be turned on so that we would not be cut from the Internet."
Privacy Concerns and Comparisons to China
The Internet Sovereignty Law's strategic chokepoints could effectively cut-off the RuNet from the rest of the global Internet. However, in addition to that, privacy advocates have pointed out that these chokepoints, which are managed by the government, could serve as a way to surveil Russian citizens' use of the Internet.
The very nature of the RuNet has drawn comparisons to China's own internet isolation technology, dubbed globally as the "Great Firewall of China." There have been concerns over censorship of media, especially of political thought, with the advent of RuNet.
As of now, Russia has only successfully proven that its own infrastructure could hold up on its own. However, disconnecting from the global Internet now could only make it bad for everyone in Russia. The country still has to establish its own internal internet infrastructure to provide its citizens with alternative websites to popular internet services.