Russian Experiment Tried — And Failed — To Block Citizens' Access To The Rest Of Internet

from the in-Russia,-the-Internet-disconnects-you dept

For some time, Techdirt has been reporting on Russia’s efforts to control every aspect of online activity in the country. But it seems that the authorities there are still worried that its citizens will find ways around these measures. As a result, The Telegraph reports, the Russian government carried out a rather interesting experiment recently:

Russia’s ministry of communications and Roskomnadzor, the national internet regulator, ordered communications hubs run by the main Russian internet providers to block traffic to foreign communications channels by using a traffic control system called DPI.

The objective was to see whether the Runet — the informal name for the Russian internet — could continue to function in isolation from the global internet.

The blocking part failed for an interesting reason:

Smaller providers account for over 50 per cent of the market in some Russian regions, [and] generally lack the DPI technology used by the larger companies to implement the blocking orders, and often use satellite connections that cannot be easily blocked.

It’s not clear why DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) was needed if it was simply a matter of determining the destination of traffic. But in any case, if lack of DPI capabilities and satellite links are the problem, a fix would be to “encourage” smaller, regional ISPs to consolidate so that they could hook up with the main Internet backbones in Russia and acquire the necessary DPI kit.

Russia denies that anything took place, but according to The Telegraph story, a similar test took place last year:

security agencies including the FSB [Federal Security Service], the defence ministry, and the interior ministry collaborated with the national telephone operator to see if a national intranet made up of the domain names ending in .ru or .рФ could continue to operate if cut off from other parts of the Internet.

That test was reportedly ordered personally by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to assess the Russian internet?s ability to continue operating if Western countries introduce sanctions cutting off the country from the internet, and resulted in a decision to build backup infrastructure to ensure the Runet’s continued operation.

Despite the denials, that no-nonsense approach is consistent with the way Mr Putin tends to do things, so it seems likely that the tests did indeed take place. It also means that the attempts to create a system that allows Runet to be cut off from the rest of the Internet are likely to continue until they succeed.

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Comments on “Russian Experiment Tried — And Failed — To Block Citizens' Access To The Rest Of Internet”

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29 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DPI ?

Then it would behoove you to not use any of the major carriers in the U.S. either. DPI is more prevalent than is generally known.

DPI is a firewall term. It means looking at datagram payloads, (not just protocol information) before switching a packet. It is the data version of wiretapping, but it is quite a bit broader than that because DPI can be used to do many more things than just just look at the data.

I would regard DPI as switching based on any layer above OSI layer 3. MANY U.S. carriers switch at OSI layer 4. Some switch at even higher layers.

DPI is a prerequisite to content injection. It is also a prerequisite to many of the practices that certain carriers were trying to normalize, that ended up being shot down the FCC’s network neutrality regs.

So yes, this is being done broadly in the U.S. Yes, it is being done for commercial purposes. Yes, it does violate your civil rights. Yes, it is the people your thinking of who are doing it. Yes Congress is aware. Yes, you are right to be pissed. No you aren’t the only one who is. Welcome to the party.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: This is why we need . . .

Da, comrade. Or perhaps we should consider the possibilities of mesh networ…

[six months later]

Consolidation of internet services to quarantine our glorious Runet is the only way to protect our society from the decadent Western influences that poison our national discourse.

Do you know Siberia has many beautiful natural geographical resources, and a wealth of wildlife in a pristine environment?

Anonymous Coward says:

DPI – it sounds like they’re probably attempting to prevent people sending each other links to ‘undesirable’ or ‘subservice’ URLs eg links to photos taken off demonstrations, war zones, police beatings, retweets etc etc. If the recipient never receives the intended link there is less traffic to filter. This probably says something about their confidence that they can filter all traffic if something big is happening and people are attempting to spread information via social media, so they’re taking a 2-pronged approach.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let me get this straight: a zero-level Techdirt minion knew wouldn't entirely isolate Russia from the world, but no one in Russia did?

Clearly the test was not to isolate / censor, but for some other purpose. Network engineers do network tests because it’s what network engineers do. Perhaps was testing backup comms. Who knows? — We certainly can’t rely on The Telegraph to do anything other cast it as nefarious but inept plot, a propaganda two-fer.

Sheesh. You’re a nitwit merely re-writing anti-Russian propaganda from The Telegraph. But your motive for running with this is probably no more complex than desperate for a safe topic. Let’s see a piece on your prec-ious Google’s Android security, m’kay?


Have to click to see comments these “free speech” advocates censor?

Get all the text and none of the ads with the new Techdirt Lite!
https://www.techdirt.com/?_format=lite

UniKyrn (profile) says:

Be a good neighbor and solve the IPv4 address shortage

If Russia wants to disconnect from the rest of the planet, well, why not help them? Compile a list of every IP allocation going into Russia, block them from passing over the links into Russia, return the allocations to ARIN for reallocation.

They get their own Intranet, the rest of the planet gets large IP allocations back for use.

Win-Win 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Be a good neighbor and solve the IPv4 address shortage

A much much better solution is to switch to IP V6, as the enormous increase in IP addresses makes scanning the whole Internet in a reasonable time almost impossible. It would certainly slow down the bad guys who use port scanners, and it would require taps on all the backbone links for the spies to find every site on the Internet.

Robert says:

Internet Wars

There will likely be all sorts of internet experiments all over world based upon the idiot internet wars launched by the NSA.
How to keep your internet going while crippling everyone else’s internet.How to launch your super damaging viral payload hacking the world whilst protecting your own network.
Yes, it was the US who on their own started playing internet wars and set the pace for everyone else.

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