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[dupe] Russia to disconnect from the internet as part of a planned test (zdnet.com)
109 points by yread 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

Did they learn this from Egypt?

"Autocratic governments often limit phone and Internet access in tense times. But the Internet has never faced anything like what happened in Egypt on Friday, when the government of a country with 80 million people and a modernizing economy cut off nearly all access to the network and shut down cellphone service."


I think you misunderstand. The Russians are leaving the networks up, just testing how they function autonomously.

The Egyptians turned everything off.

Nah, it's the initial step to create a Great Firewall.

I think the main purpose of this is to force local users to migrate to local services. Right now a lot of services that used by citizens are hosted outside of Russia and cannot be influenced or managed by government. They afraid disconnection as sanction. They have a law that companies should store personal data in local data centers. But most of the foreign companies don't obey it, so that's the lever. I don't think that disconnection could protect from cyber war, viruses and attacks could be easily run from inside.

The main purpose is create their own 'great firewall' (electronic curtain???)

Edit: The BBC article has a bit more detail.

"The test is also expected to involve ISPs demonstrating that they can direct data to government-controlled routing points. These will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians reaches its destination, but any destined for foreign computers is discarded."

Why else would you need to discard outbound traffic?


Every country in the world has become dependent on the Internet. If ever, on the impulse of a poorly-minded president, the United States decides to sanction a country by cutting off its access to the Internet, this country would find itself in a very unpleasant situation. The United States has already demonstrated its tendency to raise sanctions, its tendency to elect unreasonable presidents and its tendency to threaten Russia. I am not Russian, but I think it is quite wise for Russia to be prepared for this kind of eventuality. Si vis pacem para bellum.

For the US that would become self defeating. Because at that point other countries would start looking around for a solution that doesn't involve the US.

See for example, the EU setting up a system to continue trade with Iran.

You are probably right that Russia should be worried on some level. But so far Russia seems to be the main driving force behind cyber warfare at the moment so I'm not really sure they can complain.

Constant firewall cost is too high. It's much easier just to abrupt external network several times to show that foreign services are not reliable. As for me, rather government that does this is not reliable, but that's unlikely that protests will be strong enough. Yes it will be a "test", but a lot of small companies will be worried and will need to find a way to keep their operations up.

> The first example of relatively large-scale citizen journalism online was during the August 1991 coup attempt by eight high-level Soviet officials. There were two days of confrontation between demonstrators and troops, during which all Russian media except Usenet news groups were shut down by the authorities. Usenet, a precursor of today's Internet discussion forums, carried traffic into, out of and within Russia (70 cities) during the days of the coup attempt.


> "Don't worry, we're OK, though frightened and angry. Moscow is full of tanks and military machines, I hate them. They try to close all mass media, they shutted up CNN an hour ago, Soviet TV transmits opera and old movies. But, thanks Heaven, they don't consider RELCOM mass media or they simply forgot about it. Now we transmit information enough to put us in prison for the rest of our life :-). Hope all will turn out well at long last..." -- Polina Antonova


I'm not happy how this is turning out, actually. Though I'm not thinking of just Russia, the situation is too pathetic across the board for anyone to point fingers at anyone. I'm not some kind of old school hacker either, I don't even get advanced math. But just as someone who was fascinated and inspired by "this stuff" since childhood, just by the stuff I saw in .readme files, I think this is true, even I can tell from the sidelines: the precious few ideals that made this all actually worthwhile, maybe noble even, were just quietly dropped by the wayside by too many, and subsequently not even encountered in the first place by even more. And that kinda breaks my heart.

In Thailand the government tried to 'Ban' facebook once. They blocked facebook and netizens DDoSed government sites by going on the site and hitting refresh, on top of that they faced immense backlash on social media. They enabled facebook again with in a matter of a couple of hours. Later they blamed it on the ISP.

Banning / Blocking any kind of internet usually doesn't work well for the government. Especially in a society that has already been relatively free online. The Economy of countries now depend on the Internet. Any government stupid enough to even test this kind of technology will face the consequences.

While I'd like to believe this is true, doesn't China control content unfortunately effectively?

China is also feeling the effect. In Thailand right now there are entire villages / neighborhoods full of Chinese immigrants who have migrated away from China. Once they tasted freedom going back to live just isn’t feasible anymore. So much do the that now the Chinese government have stopped people from moving large amounts of cash out of the country to buy real estate outside of China. They are definitely feeling the effect.

I also know a lot of foreigners who have been operating businesses in China for the past 7 years and are now moving out because they feel their civil / organizational liberties are being invaded.

People find ways of revolting without being killed. Freedom is a powerful force. Blocking and controlling is like a game of whack a mole. There is one of you and billions of moles, the Chinese government and Russian government are fighting a losing battle. Of course none of this is reported because of censorship. But if you read the news and you understand what’s going on on the ground level it all makes sense.

Do you have a link where I can read more?

I'm only finding info on a 2014 block to stop coup protests and a request in 2017 for Facebook to delete 309 items they claimed were illegal.

Nothing about the Thai people DDoSing government websites over a Facebook block.

Russia is trying to follow the Chinese model which doesn't have problem banning websites. Other than Instagram and Whatsapp, Russians don't seem to be interested in other services.

Well, that's not true at all.

Facebook is less popular than VK, but Youtube is very popular, just as many other services be it Twitter or AWS.

This "experiment" looks like a way to enforce DNS / caching services / mail services to store their data inside Russia. Which makes it easier for anyone with just a letter from the court to get it.

more like stopped routing on ISP level.

Now I'm back thinking about my plans to learn amateur radio operation. The internet stops being a way to go to relay information if a bigger government decides to do something horrible to their citizens.

Government would shut down all the amateur radio operators pretty quickly (you’re on a database). Plus it’s not quite as romantic or reliable as it sounds, especially on HF at the moment.

Go do it for sure, but you’ll find trivial confirmations and conversations about declining health and not a lot else.

I only operate CW (morse) myself because that’s more interesting and there is a technical challenge.

Whatever your opinion of Russian politics, from a technical standpoint, aiming for full autonomy of critical services at a national scale, is praise worthy!

If successful, this is also scary, as Russia will be free to wreck havoc on the general internet, without domestic impact

Indeed. I think of all those "Slack is down, everyone can't work" moments when I think of this. They're really trying to remove outside dependencies, and limiting the ability for other actors to use those dependencies against them.

My guess is the US thinks along the same lines, but since most things Internet are US-based to begin with, they're probably less concerned with a dramatic public test.

> since most things Internet are US-based

What is meant by this?

They probably mean that a large percentage of internet services are hosted on US-based servers. As a regular AWS/Azure customer, the regions in which I tend to see provisioning issues makes this seem right, though I'd love to see some numbers.

For various reasons the internet maps much closer to GDP than Population. But, largely it’s a case of smaller economies driving less advertising dollars which supports fewer websites. So it’s also weighted more to consumer spending than raw GDP.

From a practical standpoint, most users in the US are accessing US-shored services.

Yep, there's no aws Russian region but plenty in the US.

Though they now have new Russia focused jobs: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/search?offset=0&result_limit=10&s... Maybe this is not a coincidence.

They obviously have sales there and probably cloud front infrastructure too. Maybe a az in the future, only they know.

Russia has less than 1/12th the US’s GDP. They simply have less demand for this stuff.

That's not really relevant to the point though. Also how about the gdp of Ireland or Brazil or Bahrain or South Africa or Singapore or Australia?

GDP doesn't have much to do with it.

Amazon cares a little about physical location and a lot about network bandwidth for this stuff.

So, they are building a location in South Africa that will cover southern Africa, but their locations in Brazil and Europe actually have good coverage for Africa already and only recently has the demand approached the point to be worth the investment.

The reason for the is under sea Cables provided most of Africa’s backhaul capacity, which relates a little or geography and a lot of economic development.

So your point about gdp isn't relevant?

“Demand” and physical infrastructure have a lot to do with GDP. By Demand I mean the price quality curve people / companies are willing to pay.

Russia has 1/12 US GDP spread over a huge area. They have fairly good network capacity but simply don’t pay for that many servers. Tiny counties with good networks may randomly be chosen, but the odds are low. Where both US and China have the demand to support multiple AWS zones,

I think this kind of exercise and thinking is also pretty ahead of its time, Russia really understands the implications of cyber warfare. Ww3 is really going to take place on the net

Correction: WW3 might start online, but it will end with mushroom clouds.

To the GP Whatever your opinion of Russian politics, from a technical standpoint, aiming for full autonomy of critical services at a national scale, is praise worthy!

Sure, and the Nazis were really organized, why they almost made it to Moscow.

>they almost made it to Moscow.

And almost made it back.

> Russia will be free to wreck havoc on the general internet, without domestic impact

This is like demolishing one’s cities to claim immunity from nuclear attack. There’s no reason the damage couldn’t have been incurred at a later date, only when necessary.

Disconnecting from the world will leave Russia economically, scientifically, culturally and thus militarily poorer. The only reason the decision makes sense is it helps keep Putin and his gang in power.

I guess this should have been expected after Putin's interview with Megyn Kelly

Disconnecting Iran from SWIFT[1], continuing use of export controls [2] even after the fall of Soviet Union etc have demonstrated that non-western powers may not have sufficient room to set foreign policy on their own.

This might improve that situation a little bit for current and future Russian governments

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-iran-sanctions-swift/swi...

[2] https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/regulations/export-adminis...

How exactly did western powers impede Russia? By implementing very modest sanctions against the selected assholes from the mafia state?

>This might improve that situation a little bit for current and future Russian governments

Yeah, a totalitarian militarized state with state propaganda and own internal government-approved network, I've dreamed about that for my whole life.

Are you seriously under the illusion that western powers do not try to impede Russia ? John McCain flew in to support Ukrainian revolutionaries against Pro-Russian government : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/15/john-mccain-uk...

>militarized state


> state propaganda



> own internal government-approved network

From : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_of_America

"From 1948 until its repeal in 2013, Voice of America was forbidden to broadcast directly to American citizens under § 501 of the Smith–Mundt Act. The act was repealed as a result of the passing of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013. The intent of the legislation in 1948 was to protect the American public from propaganda actions by their own government."

> I've dreamed about that for my whole life

Live the dream!

>Are you seriously under the illusion that western powers do not try to impede Russia ?

Again, impede Russian government in what? Murdering and enslaving its people?

The majority of cases in the European Court of Human Rights are from Russia, first sanctions were applied when a lawyer investigating corruption among the officials was killed in prison awaiting trial.

Which positive Russian policies applied for the sake of people and not for the sake of enslaving and murdering its people were impeded by the west?

I am currently writing a microservice application. One of my test cases involves cutting access to internet to ensure that my application can handle that situation. What Russia is doing here is the same. Just on a different scale.

There’s no situation for which “disconnect internet” could be the answer.

That's not "disconnecting the Internet".

It's oddly enough the reverse.

From what it looks like, the idea is to try and make sure that the country's IT infruatructure and its essential public services - email, web, search, etc. - remain functional, should it be ever cut off from the Internet for whatever reason. It's a doomsday thinking, it goes against the very essence of the Internet, but this is something aimed at asserting country's independence.

I'd prefer this would've not been needed, but given the current state of affairs I can't say I'm shoked they are doing this.

Yes, but as is also implied in the article, the practices that allow you to withstand an "outage" are also practices that allow you to temporarily close yourself off on demand.

Without the context, purely infrastructure-wise, what kind of scenario does "Roskomnazor will inspect the traffic to block prohibited content and make sure traffic between Russian users stays inside the country" imply to you?

It's the same scenario that causes severe pushback against Huawei. No country wants their data to flow through other country's infrastructure, period.

It's just that many don't have any say in this and can't do much about it, but most realize this now. This is clearly a concern for both security and control reasons, which are two sides of the same coin. Any control can be abused. For every Roskomnadzor there's the US governement denying SWIFT to Iran and forcing EU to deploy a new system to work with the latter. So to me this looks more about power tugging at a country level with a freebie of a simpler censorship thrown in. Not the other way around.

Cyber war would be such a situation, after first strike.

Or before first strike, and attack from sources outside the country. In which case, seeing Russia go dark would be like an indication of cyber "missle" launch, but with probably milliseconds of early warning.

Makes me wonder if nations have or will have systems to try to detect when another nation is going offline and try to go offline themselves before damage can be done. Perhaps the best attacks will be launched from inside borders (imagine if one nation had hidden missle silos inside another nation's borders).

Then imagine if actual network problems were misinterpreted as a cyber "launch," and caused one nation to "launch" in response. Similar to ICBMs, there would be a window in which counterattacks could be launched, but it would be very, very small in comparison.

It's a fairly good answer "how do you limit dissent when you have easy control of media in your country but do not have it for foreign sources?"

What if the disconnect would happen from outside? You would want to make sure that at least the most critical services continue working. Of course, in addition, the Russian government also wants to control their citizens.

It’s just an Outlook upgrade, nothing to see here...

If something like Starlink goes live, would it possibly be a way for citizens of a country that chooses to nope out of the global internet to stay online?

That's an interesting scenario. Assuming they're completely isolated, I imagine you'd end up with an industry of smuggling the internet—build a tunnel under the border, run some fiber (is there a way to do a high-bandwidth wireless link?), host a VPN accessible from within the county, profit handsomely.

No, because they are short range and require stations on earth to provide internet locally. As far as I know. But I know very little about starlink.

> Russia to disconnect from the internet as part of a planned test

This is precisely what I would do as an engineer if I was responsible for operating such kind of network infrastructure

Interesting. Iran announced the same thing last month but then canceled it due to major backlash from people and enterprises.

I wonder if the two governments were aligned.

Wasn't this already a top news yesterday (BBC article on the same subject)?

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