Russia is Cocooning: What Russian Internet Users Think of Parliament’s Upcoming Internet Killswitch Law
Duma, the Russian Parliament, is considering drafting a law called the Digital Economy National Program. It mandates technical changes needed for Russia to operate independently from the rest of the world. This means two things: routing data through data exchange points placed in Russia and controlled by the Russian government, and creating a new net address (DNS) system. Right now all 12 organizations that control DNS root servers are located outside of Russia. The government is concerned about new sanctions and cyber attacks that could follow in their wake, and is seeking ways to defend the national Internet. Or so the official communique says.
However, the web community in Russia doesn’t buy it. Vladimir Putin has been ruling the country for 18 years now. The opposition is wiped out, and the Duma is in his pocket. Internet has become the last vestige of freedom that helps consolidate other political forces. Allegedly, Putin is computer illiterate, can’t surf the Web or use any gadgets, and is deathly afraid of the Internet. His sweetest dream is to install a killswitch.
The test disconnection is scheduled on April 1, and experts predict havoc that day in the Russian segment of the Internet. Actually, Russia boasts one of the fastest and cheapest Internet networks. Fiber-to-the-building is the most common technology for home Internet, while wireless carriers offer 4G almost everywhere. Monetary transactions, traffic lights, and public utilities are all controlled via the net, and many Russians use Google and Apple services at home and at work. ISPs have about eight weeks to redesign the routing points grid. Russian information agencies claim that the government will sponsor the project—but money or no money, it’s an impossible goal to accomplish.
Russian users are still optimistic. The Digital Economy National Program is the third anti-Internet law enacted by the government. The first law mandates blocking sites with “illegal content.” As a result, websites cannot mention suicide or gay rights, or criticize official politics. The Russian State Internet Security Agency Roskomnadzor blocks the websites by IPs, and such blocks are easily bypassed via VPN. Blocking IP pools also fails, because sites and messenger owners change their IPs at random several times a day. The Telegram messenger survived severe cyber attacks from Roskomnadzor and never crashed, but many financial, ticketing, and smart home services did.
The second law, the Yarovaya law (named after one of the MPs) orders ISPs to monitor subscriber activity. Providers also have to log and store ALL their subscribers’ traffic for three years, so that law enforcement can have instant access to them. Even if Russian providers bought every single hard drive on the planet, they wouldn’t have enough. No one knows exactly how providers cope with the issue, and whether or not the traffic is really stored. Nevertheless, ISPs raised their prices and made users pay the added cost of the expensive monitoring equipment.
Considering its background, the “Killswitch” law will not only fail to protect the digital economy, but will likely ruin it.
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Why Russia Aims to Create a ‘Sovereign Internet’ [Video]
Video uploaded by Bloomberg Technology on February 12, 2019