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Russia will ‘unplug’ from the internet as part of a cyber-defense test

Authorities in Russia are planning on “unplugging” the country from the global internet as part of an experimental test of its cyber defenses. The disconnection will briefly keep all internet traffic inside the country, with no traffic routing through international ports and servers, according to a report from ZDNet.

Though no date for the test has yet been announced, it is reportedly due to happen before April 1. It is all mandated as part of the Digital Economy National Program, a draft of a law introduced in 2018 that’s supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under the legislation, it is required for internet providers in Russia to ensure that the internet (known as the Runet) can function in the event that a foreign country attempts to bring it offline.

According to ZDNet, the process of taking the internet in Russia offline involves routing all internal internet web traffic to government-controlled points managed by Roskomnadzor, a Russian telecom watchdog. All Russian internet companies have since agreed to the law that originally mandates the testing, but several have also shown concern over potential disruptions in overall internet traffic.

Work on this project has been ongoing for a while now, and Russia wants to route most of its internet traffic locally by 2020. As part of that goal, Russia will have to use a Domain Name System (DNS) that was previously tested in 2014. This would allow Russians to connect to the local internet, and not visit any websites linked to foreign computers, once they are fully cut off from the rest of the global internet. This appears to be similar to the system in place in China, which blocks out certain websites in order to censor the internet.

Russia is known to launch cyber attacks against targets across the world, including the United States. Hackers based in the country often leverage phishing attacks that can hide malware in email and more. In fact, a recent strain of malware that specifically targeted U.S. email accounts collected screenshots and other information from the PCs of unsuspecting victims and sent it back to Russian operatives. If Russia were indeed able to fully go offline, it would be hard for countries to launch counter-cyber attacks, which is the goal of a set of principles introduced by a group of NATO countries.

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