Russia Unplugging From The Internet To Improve Cyber Defences?

The Russian Legislation has just approved a draft law for Russia to temporarily unplug from the global internet. The draft law, called Digital Economy National Program, is meant to test Russia cyber-defenses in case a foreign cyber attack occurred. These results and feedback are meant to complement and improve a previous censorship law introduced in December 2018.  Although it is not clear when this law will take place, it is said to be sometime before April 1st.

The draft received mixed feelings in the legislation as the bill seemed to propose ‘good goals’ yet raised many concerns of cost and amateur redaction. Andrei Soldatov, a recognized Russian investigative journalist, stated how “This is a destructive path towards isolating Russia as a whole from the internet.” The draft received negative criticism in the Russian media, as many have compared this bill to an online ‘iron curtain’ and a violation of the freedom of speech and press. In the news media, many have shown concern on the “major disruption” this will cause an estimated amount of 90 million internet users. The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs proposed this bill was not worth the implementation of this bill, due to alleged threats from foreign countries.

Although this bill is highly criticized, if executed correctly, this would mean Russia could become independent globally and be unaltered. Relying on Runet (Russia’s internet infrastructure) would give the government power to filter data sent to Russians, and discard the one from foreign computers. The problem with this service is that it raises the question of the increased use of virtual private networks (VPN’s). China, which has taken similar actions of censorship with the Great Firewall, has given prison sentence for using a VPN. From a foreign perspective, this action violates multiple human rights yet from a governmental perspective the Digital Economy National Program might just protect Russia virtually if war were to happen.

Last year, President Donald Trump presented a new cybersecurity strategy emphasizing U.S. response to be ‘strongly and efficient’ to any cyber attacks made. It is thought Russia is considering this bill as it has been threatened to be sanctioned by NATO and allies, due to accusations of hacking and cyber attacks. The defensive measures taken from Russia are thought to be for preparation for war.

As said before this internet ‘global unplug’ could go either two ways for Russia. If implemented well Russia would be able to defend itself and become a self-reliant country yet suffer from a great backlash of oppression of freedom of press and speech. Yet if the program is not implemented well this could be an economic loss, and suffer a backlash from the citizens and government. For approval, the bill still needs two more votes in the lower chamber before passed to the upper house of Parliament, and the next action to be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.