According to local news reports, Russia has started testing a national Internet system that would act as a substitute for the broader web. Exactly at what point the country has reached in its project is still unclear, but assuredly the goal of a resilient and perhaps more easily controlled internet is being pursued.
If we talk about the Internet, of course, it consists of the global web of infrastructure that must interface physically, virtually, and more importantly-politically with the countries to which it connects. However, some countries, like China, have elected to carefully regulate that interface, hence controlling which websites, apps, and services can be accessed from the local side of that interface.
Russia is increasingly leaning toward that approach. President Putin signed a law earlier this year, which will enable Runet and would build the necessary infrastructure to maintain a separate internal Internet.
Speaking earlier this week to the state-owned news outlet Tass, Putin explained that this was purely a defensive play.
He said, “Runet is aimed only at preventing adverse consequences of global disconnection from the global network, which is largely controlled from abroad. This is the point, this is what sovereignty is to have our resources that can be turned on so that we would not be cut from the Internet”.
According to BBC, recent reports in Tass and Pravda pointed out that this effort has gone beyond the theoretical stage to the practical stage. Tests were done to check the vulnerability of the so-called Internet of Things. The results could have been disheartening if Russian IoT devices have security practices as poor as US ones. Whether the local net could stand up against “external negative influences” was also tested.
It’s not an easy task, what Russia is attempting here, and while the talk is evidently of sovereignty and robust infrastructure, the tensions between the US, Russia, China, North Korea, and other countries with advanced cyber warfare capabilities are unmistakably a part of it.
It will be non-functional if the Russian Internet is disconnected from the world. Like any other country, Russia constantly relies on resources located elsewhere in the world, and duplication of many of those resources would be essential to make it possible for the internet to work anything like normally, should the country decide to retreat into it’s a shell for whatever reason.
Russia will require a separate DNS system, as well as the physical infrastructure connecting parts of the country directly to the rest. At present, the country must do so through international connections and that’s just to foster the basic possibility of a working Russian intranet.
It’s difficult to resist the idea of a robust “sovereign Internet” should such a thing become necessary, but it’s harder not to think of it as a base for conflict. As it is not a simple investment in national infrastructure.
That being said, what exactly Runet will evolve into and how it will be used is still a matter of speculation until we receive more specific reports of its capabilities and intended purposes.