Russia Disconnects Itself From The Internet, Asks UN To Let It Have More Control Of Internet Usage Around The World

from the hey-if-it's-good-enough-for-state-sponsored-cybercriminals... dept

The Russian government has successfully disconnected itself from the world. “Internet sovereignty” is the term the government prefers. That’s what the Russian government actually calls the law signed into effect in May.

The idea is to isolate the Russian internet from the internet the rest of the world uses. It’s not to protect Russia or Russian internet users. It’s to force all Russian internet traffic through Roskomnadzor servers, which will allow the government to surveil its citizens’ internet use, presumably to facilitate censorship efforts and prosecutions.

Lots of experts doubted the plan was feasible. At best, it would subject all Russian internet traffic to government surveillance. At worst, it would cause critical systems to fail. The plan was to pull the plug in April. It didn’t happen until December. According to the Russian government, this extreme Balkanization of the internet went off without a hitch.

“It turned out that, in general, that both authorities and telecom operators are ready to effectively respond to possible risks and threats and ensure the functioning of the Internet and the unified telecommunication network in Russia,” said Alexei Sokolov, deputy head of the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, as cited by multiple Russian news agencies [1, 2, 3, 4].

That’s the only source we have, so trusting this narrative means trusting the Russian government — a government that is claiming it’s essential to seal off its internet to protect it from threats when all it really wants to do is control narratives, perform mass censorship, and hunt down citizens who color outside the lines.

Russia wants to make its policy an everywhere policy. Its proposal — currently being considered by the United Nations — pushes for more internet sovereignty everywhere. Again, this tool of censorship and control is being portrayed as an anti-cybercrime tool meant to secure nations, rather than censor citizens.

It seems harmless enough in Newspeak:

The representative of the Russian Federation, presenting the draft, said cybercrime threatens entire sectors and is a crucial national security priority. Despite the importance of the issue, there is a lack of an instrument to tackle it, and until last year’s resolution 73/187, the General Assembly had not addressed the need for a unified conceptual framework. While inclusive international dialogue has commenced, its geographic scope is “limited”, and there is a clear need to bolster international cooperation, he said. Stating that the draft complements similar initiatives — including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime — he said it must also take on board work done by the Expert Group to Conduct a Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime in Vienna. He pointed out that the draft resolution “does not cost much, at less than $200,000”, and fosters a more just, balanced world order in the digital sphere by ending “club-based” agreements.

A draft of this proposal [PDF] has already been approved by the UN. Maybe the UN should have looked a little closer at the parties behind the proposal — all of which already engage in strict control of internet services and engage in mass censorship.

Belarus, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Russian Federation and Venezuela

The proposal says things about “cooperation,” but the only cooperation being asked for is assistance in making it easier to run country-specific versions of the internet.

The resolution — Countering The Use Of Information And Communications Technologies For Criminal Purposes — would create a new cybercrime treaty written by Russia, a country analysts have said is cracking down on Internet freedom at home to stifle opposition to the Kremlin.

“The Russians clearly are interested in pushing their vision of what the Internet should look like in the future, and that’s conflating this idea of cybercrime with cybersecurity and cyber controls,” a State Department official told media on December 19.

Russia wants “a form of lockdown on information” over the Internet and a “curtailment of those freedoms” that the United States stands for, the State Department official said.

There’s also the attendant irony of Russia leading the fight against misinformation and the use of the internet for criminal purposes. The countries in agreement on this proposal routinely engage in state-sponsored attacks on foreign government entities and Russia is internationally infamous for its interference in the last US presidential election. Russia wants all the best foxes to guard the internet hen house. That the draft passed with plenty of support indicates the world is loaded with foxes who see only an upside to taking control of the internet their citizens have access to.

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Comments on “Russia Disconnects Itself From The Internet, Asks UN To Let It Have More Control Of Internet Usage Around The World”

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72 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Now that we've stabbed our citizens in the back...'

Given I don’t believe for so much as a second that Russia gives a damn about the security of other countries I can only imagine that the reason they would be pushing the idea of other countries likewise cutting themselves off from the internet in order to control what is said and known is to cover their tracks.

If they are in the minority of countries to make a power-grab like this then more attention will be paid to them for doing so, but if multiple countries start doing that, and even the gorram UN backs the idea, then the blame is likely to be spread out more, and any accusations can be deflected with a simple, ‘hey, we’re just one of many doing this.’

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bob says:

Re: '... lets get all our enemies' eggs into one basket.'

Another thing to consider is attack points. If each country has only a small handful of centralized control points which route all the traffic, you only need to disrupt those few sites as opposed to all the different connections winding into, around, and out of the country. Then when the central control points are down you have effectively neutered a target from spreading information efficiently.

The control of information is much more important today than just having weapons. Newer weapons rely on some kind of information input to reach a target. Leaders need information to know where best to place those weapons, and leaders must be able to tell the operators of those weapon when to use them.

If you control where the info goes or what info is received you can easily cripple a country during a war.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Now that we've stabbed our citizens in the back...'

Call it what it is: Government Censorship of it’s citizens.

The whole point behind it is to prohibit easy communication of "sensitive" (embarrassing) information to third parties, regardless as to whether those parties be foreign or domestic.

Generally speaking there’s no requirement that a country be hooked up to the Internet. Nor is there a requirement that their internal networks be allowed to communicate with those on the outside. It’s a network of networks. You don’t have to be a member.

The major issue that comes without membership however is that it’s easier to censor or filter out information designated as unwanted by an authority. Which is exactly what these groups want. The lower classes being able to communicate freely has historically lead to the destruction of the ruling classes, and if you haven’t been paying attention to the populist movements springing up around the world, those ruling classes have a reason to be limiting communications.

If anything I’d view this to eventually become a regular norm: During times of little political threat to the rulers, internet access will expand worldwide, but when the heat turns against them expect even democratic countries to start massive censorship and disconnect campaigns.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve never seen the Russian government be so blatant before:

Countering The Use Of Information And Communications Technologies For Criminal Purposes

I mean, we all knew they wanted to counter the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes, but to make a resolution with that in its title….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"Gated communities tend to be more secure"

  • For whom?

"being able to monitor all Internet traffic flowing in and out of your country would certainly make fighting cyber-crime easier"

  • As if that is not being done presently and how would it magically become easier to find a needle in the haystack?
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

For whoever wants to secure them. Walls and gateways can work. They don’t even need to be perfect, just effective enough to control the majority of traffic moving in and out.

I’m not in favor of border controls in general, but if a government’s priority is security and success of the ‘State’ (and by extension its ruling party) regardless of the cost to the citizenry, then it makes perfect sense to control Internet traffic. Securing a country’s digital borders is no more outlandish than securing its physical borders.

It’s not like Russia even pioneered this idea. China has been very successful with their Great Firewall and internal Internet. It’s huge now, and they’re able to just openly copy whatever they want from the rest of the world, so there’s Chinese versions of every popular site and app out there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"For whoever wants to secure them."

  • Point was, one person’s ‘security’ is another person’s lack of rights

"I’m not in favor of border controls in general, but … "

  • LOL

"if a government’s priority is security and success of the ‘State’ (and by extension its ruling party) regardless of the cost to the citizenry,"

  • The citizenry is a part of the state, you kill it and the state dies too. Not sure why so many fail to see this.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I’m not in favor of border controls in general…"

…but you are all in favor of having freedom of speech abolished in order to control said border?

That’s basically your argument – that "because bad people" we can’t afford democracy.

"Securing a country’s digital borders is no more outlandish than securing its physical borders. "

Yes it is. One allows information, the other allows bombs and drugs. Your argumental logic means a detective novel of a murder story should be held as criminal as murder itself.

Now, Ivan, here’s a few hints for you – next time you want to present state censorship in positive light maybe not be as bluntly open with the applause of China’s Great Firewall.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Hahaha – I can imagine the HOAs drooling over the thought of requiring community members to install the HOA app on their phones !

Yeah, the only way to open the gate will be to use the HOA app on your phone. The same app that will track you 24/7. But it will be totally voluntary, of course, in that you can move if you don’t like it.

Anonymous Coward says:

What Russia is trying to do is no different to the majority of countries. All want yo have continuous, worldwide access to everything imsginable but they dont want other countries to have access to their internet snd therefore their information. More importantly, none of them want their own citizens hsving access to their own countries info and definitely dont want them to have access yo info from the world. And it’s all to protect certain high profile individuals who are running not just countries but the Planet!

ECA (profile) says:

The fight begins..

Who controls the net?
Who is going to regulate it?
How far will they go to restrict anything going and coming into their National servers?
Corps, People or the nations? Who gets to watch and control and regulate..

Iv suggested many times that the internet Has to become another nation unto itself, or it will be regulated and stomped on by others.
But who gets to do it,. who will they be responsible to, and HOW will the big nations deal with it?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: The net is...

A social phenomenon.

If the nations try to control it, the net will be driven underground and all the people who want to look at porn and cats will meet all the nice child-porn / terrorist groups / China dissenters who already figured out how to communicate quietly.

So long as we have an open net tolerated by the states, all the radicals stay quiet in their darknet cubbies. Once the states decide they have to censor the net, the public starts going to the darknet cubbies, and guess who’s there to befriend them and teach them how it’s done.

Remember way back when the internet worked by banging together flint and iron, and we had USENET. The alt hierarchy was named for anarchists, lunatics & terrorists and was where we went to talk about sensitive subjects and not be moderated. And alt. became the biggest USENET hierarchy by far.

We already have teams of computer user group supergeeks ready to usher in the new age of enforced anonymity, teaching the masses how to access the darknet safely and convey illegal information without being traced. Right now they’re happy in LUGs and MUGs but are willing to go pro at a moment’s notice.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Bobvious says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The normal authorities for that designation.

You forgot Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Social Media platforms silencing identity groups

They already have a plan for that, and do to radicals what they do to LGBT+, just put them in an Identity Group Bubble.

Those who are so flagged can talk to each other openly, but are otherwise invisible to those who are not flagged. So to them the whole world is Gay / Conservative / Misogynist / Muslim / whatever.

Data, it’s not just for targeted advertising anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

The easy fix is to give them what they claim to want.

Cut them off from the internet entirely. There can’t be more than 1500 or so backbone connections into Russia. Those could be switched off.

This would protect Europe and the US from all sorts of different cyber attacks that must be staged from Russia for bandwidth/personnel reasons. You can’t just send two agents to a hotel in Hungary to pull off the sorts of coordinated social influence actions they are accused of doing.

Instead, what Russia is doing is the opposite of this… protecting themselves from the same sort of attack, but allowing Russian agencies to continue to attack the rest of the world (they’ll have unfiltered access to the global internet after all).

Let their economy choke to death if that’s what it causes. And it likely would.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: To control a populace first control what they know

Instead, what Russia is doing is the opposite of this… protecting themselves from the same sort of attack, but allowing Russian agencies to continue to attack the rest of the world (they’ll have unfiltered access to the global internet after all).

I suspect the ‘threat’ they are concerned about is less military and more ideological. It’s much harder to control what people think, know and say when there’s an entire planet worth of people sharing ideas and news not under the control of the government, either of which might lead people within the country to notice that what they are being told isn’t true and they are being lied to.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: To control a populace first control what they know

"I suspect the ‘threat’ they are concerned about is less military and more ideological. It’s much harder to control what people think, know and say when there’s an entire planet worth of people sharing ideas and news not under the control of the government…"

Exactly this. The actual reason behind China’s "Golden Shield" project – keeping foreign cultural "contamination" from spreading among the normal citizenry.

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