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.

Filed Under: censorship, control, internet, russia, splinternet, surveillance, un


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:53am

    '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.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 3 Jan 2020 @ 2:34pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2020 @ 7:21pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:36am

    Ah yes, just what the Internet needs: Russia getting control of it~.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:38am

    This is going to seriously effect the ability to scapegoat them

    I mean, who can I blame for everything that goes wrong now? Racists?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:42am

      You’re a fool if you think the Russian government would cut itself off from the broader Internet and give up that specific attack vector.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:50am

      Re: This is going to seriously effect the ability to scapegoat t

      Start with all the right-wingnuts including, yes, the racists. (Which would still include the Russian power structure so, win-win-win.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Adam, 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:52am

      Re: This is going to seriously effect the ability to scapegoat t

      My first thought when reading this, was that now it would be easier to directly tie any Russian hacking to the government rather than individual citizens, but you go your way...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:44am

      Re: This is going to seriously effect the useful idiot market

      You know bro they actually pay people for what you do for free.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Indeed, 9 Jan 2020 @ 4:16pm

      Re: This is going to seriously effect the ability to scapegoat t

      Massagerists! TransAtlantiphobists! AntiShemitisticlisms!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:12am

    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....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bobvious, 3 Jan 2020 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Russia starts its own InterNYET

      Commandeering The Use Of Information And Communications Technologies, For Criminal Purposes

      Fixed that for ya.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:13am

    In Russia, the internet uses you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:15am

    Well... they're not wrong, dubious motivations aside. Gated communities tend to be more secure, and being able to monitor all Internet traffic flowing in and out of your country would certainly make fighting cyber-crime easier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:21am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Dan (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re:

        I tend to agree AC. We grab everything and it does little.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:59am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 2:21pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2020 @ 6:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            What's funny about open borders? I've always thought North America should have some kind of cooperative economic zone, with free travel, like the EU. Canada, the US, and Mexico have a lot to offer each other.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2020 @ 5:15am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:30am

      Re:

      It also shows a government that fears the people that it is ruling. As ever crime is being used as an excuse to extend control over the people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2020 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re:

        I assume their fear of the general public originates in their knowledge of their nefarious activities and how those activities would be viewed by the general public.

        Also, not everyone in 'the government' fears the general public as some of them are not career criminals (aka politicians)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:39am

      Re:

      I wonder how long until those gated communities want to get in on the internet control act too.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 2:23pm

        Re: Re:

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

        LOL

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 3:37pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            bob, 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            They don't need any more ideas. HOAs already are terrible

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2020 @ 6:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "you can move if you don't like it"

            I'm sure that is the bullshit some will spew, however - it is becoming more difficult to find housing that is not part of some HOA silliness.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 2:04pm

      Re:

      Well yeah if they can keep all the russian cybercriminals and their state and quasi-state actors off the wider internet. Then that leaves only a few major centers of shady internet shennanigans. But, you know, ecological niches tend to get refilled.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2020 @ 6:41am

        Re: Re:

        "that leaves only a few major centers of shady internet shennanigans"

        Only a few?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2020 @ 5:16am

        Re: Re:

        "Well yeah if they can keep all the russian cybercriminals and their state and quasi-state actors off the wider internet."

        No...this just means the russian state actors will be the only ones to easily access the internet.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:38am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2020 @ 6:46am

      Re:

      I suggest that the Russians call their new fancy firewall something fitting in the 21st century but pays tribute to the old russian hammer and sickle.

      idk ... how about The Iron Curtain

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:56am

    I for one see nothing wrong and I'm sure it won't be abused in any way for political reasons /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dan (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:05am

    When the largest country in the western world does it, why not?

    No moral high ground for the U.S. here, unfortunately. We would have done it ourselves already, if not for the global info need of our intelligence community.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:21am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 5 Jan 2020 @ 12:35pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Irv Rubins Porn Stash, 5 Jan 2020 @ 4:07pm

        Re: The net is...

        teams of computer user group supergeeks ready to usher in the new age of enforced anonymity

        As I demonstrate repeatedly here at Techdirt, starting with mods who target specific bad thoughts and their associated flag brigades.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 11:57am

    It's already being done a lot of places. In the US someone is doing parts of it and have been lobbied into the Islamic State due to atrocities against civilians.

    Your governments at work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 12:24pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 1:11pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2020 @ 5:20am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 1:41pm

    Broadcast access is a thing, yes?

    So if I were some human-rights minded cyber-mischief-makers in Ukraine, I'd arrange for a broadcast-access portals slightly behind the Ukraine-Russian border.

    And that's assuming the Soviet Un- that Russia did what it claimed and built the Great Firewall of Rus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2020 @ 11:43am

    Russia’s goal all along for the UN thing was to have something to give them and Russia’s allies an excuse to censor online dissent without getting in trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2020 @ 4:35pm

    General assembly resolutions are only good for calling for the UNSC to pass a resolution or negotiate a new treaty in this kind of matter anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TRX, 6 Jan 2020 @ 2:51pm

    Sooo... the dirty Rooskies are doing... the same thing as Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, not to mention dozens of minor countries that only have minimal and therefore easily controlled connectivity anyway.

    Terrible. Just terrible...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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