The Kremlin announced plans to temporarily disconnect Russian internet users from the global internet infrastructure. All internet traffic will be re-directed through internal Russian state routing points and servers managed by Roskomnazor, the government’s federal communications service.
Russian news agencies indicate this is a move intended to prepare the nation for potential fallout of a future conflict fought in cyberspace.
The exercise has legitimate security implications for the Russian government, which is clear about its preference to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign internet providers, as well as elements of web infrastructure that fall under the purview of foreign governments. This action allows the Kremlin to identify any potential issues with severing ties with the global internet, and help ensure Russia’s internet continues to run domestically even amid times of conflict. The effort includes building Russia’s own address routing system that could replace the international domain name system (DNS) if and when global lines are cut.
However, doing this opens the door for another, more nefarious, objective many believe the Kremlin has in mind: establishing a stranglehold on internet usage within the country’s borders. By routing all Russian web traffic internally, the government can lay the groundwork required to create a censored version of the peoples’ internet, similar to what China already employs.
Russia’s strategy to shift the vast majority of its web traffic to government-controlled routing points is projected to be operational by the early 2020s.
This announcement follows another internet censorship revelation. Multiple news outlets within Russia report internet giant Google already censors search results of the country’s citizens, based on a list of banned content provided by Roskomnazor.
Google aiding the Russian government in content censoring and internet availability may have once come as a surprise. But multiple stories in recent months indicate the company is increasingly willing to work with national governments seeking to limit their citizens’ access to the free flow of information. Google employees raised numerous red flags late last year with the revelation that the company developed a censored search engine specifically for Chinese markets.
This endeavor didn’t receive nearly as much outcry as a different Google/government partnership: a program mounted with the U.S Department of Defense aimed at helping analysts sift through intelligence data.