Russia is following the footsteps of China by restricting their internet. Back in May, President Vladimir Putin signed Russia’s “sovereign internet” law, which took effect on November 1st.
The law gives the government of Russia the power to block access to the content from either outside or inside the country under the case of any emergency. The motive behind the step taken by the government is to prevent any cyberattacks and to keep the internet running if the West cuts the country’s access from the net. For this to happen, the internet providers need to install deep packets inspection equipment to track and reroute the traffic.
These types of equipment will allow Russia’s telecommunications watchdog, Roskomnadzor to block access to content that the government believes a threat. Also, the law will give the government the legal right for mass surveillance.
“Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why,” says the HRW deputy Europe and Central Asia director Rachel Denber, ” This jeopardizes the right of people in Russia to free speech and freedom of information online.”Source
The “sovereign internet” law is not the only move by Russia to ramp up the balkanization of the technology and infrastructure. According to a recent law signed by President Putin, the sale of devices without any pre-installed Russian apps are now banned in Russia.
Today, Russia also announced the successful testing of a countrywide alternative to the internet. According to the Ministry of Communications, the users across Russia didn’t notice any alterations while using the web in it’s testing phase. Runet, Russia’s project is said to follow suit, which will allow the government to filter the content. “The results of the tests have shown that on the whole, both authorities and service providers are ready to effectively react to emerging risks and threats and ensure the reliable work of both the internet and the single telecommunication network,” said Alexei Sokolov, the deputy communication minister.
He further added that such drills would be held in the future. For the testing of Runet on Monday, four different telecoms operators took part, and 18 different attack scenarios were simulated.
The infrastructure that the government is working on will make it difficult for VPNs to access any blocked content. As the functioning of Russia’s own network is unknown, it is rather difficult to conclude how successful the test by Russia was or far is Russia from building its Great Firewall.
The senior director of Internet Research & Analysis at Internet Society, David Belson, believes that it would be a tough task for the Russian government to get all the internet providers to install and deploy tracking software, as well as filtering the content.
However, the steps by the Russian governments were not received well by internet rights activists. Concerns about online isolations and resulting tightened censorship are being raised continuously. In March, thousands of concerned people protested against the project Runet in Moscow while chants “hands off the internet” filled the air.