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.