Russia has successfully tested a nationwide alternative to the global Internet, its government announced.
The details of what the test involved were vague, but, according to the Ministry of Communications, ordinary users did not notice any changes.
The results will now be presented to President Putin.
Experts remain concerned about the tendency of some countries to dismantle the internet.
“Unfortunately, Russia’s travel direction is just another step in the growing dismemberment of the internet,” said Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey.
“Increasingly, authoritarian countries that want to control what citizens see are seeing what Iran and China have already done.
“This means that people will not have access to dialogue about what is happening in their own country, they will be kept inside their own bubble.”
How would a home internet work?
The initiative involves restricting the points where the Russian version of the network connects with its global counterpart, giving the government more control over what its citizens can access.
“This would effectively lead ISPs and telecommunications companies to configure the Internet within their borders as a gigantic intranet as well as a large corporation,” explained Professor Woodward.
So how would the government establish what some dubbed the “sovereign runet”?
Countries receive foreign web services through submarine cables or “nodes” – connection points where data is transmitted to and from communication networks in other countries. They would need to be blocked or at least regulated.
This would require the cooperation of national ISPs and would be much easier to achieve if there were only a few state-owned companies involved. The more networks and connections a country has, the harder it will be to control access.
Then Russia would need to create an alternative system.
In Iran, the National Information Network allows access to web services while policing all network content and limits external information. It is administered by the state-owned telecommunications company of Iran.
One of the benefits of effectively turning all Internet access into a government-controlled walled garden is that virtual private networks (VPNs), often used to bypass blockages, would not work.
Another example of this is the so-called Great Firewall of China. It blocks access to many foreign internet services, which in turn has helped several home-technology giants settle in.
Russia is already a technology champion, like Yandex and Mail.Ru, but other local companies may benefit as well.
The country plans to create its own Wikipedia and politicians have passed a law banning the sale of smartphones that do not have Russian software preinstalled.
One expert warned that the policy could help the state crack down on free speech, but added that it was not a foregone conclusion that it would succeed.
“The Russian government has faced technical challenges in the past in trying to increase online control, such as its unsuccessful efforts to prevent Russians from accessing the Telegram encrypted messaging application,” thinks Justin Sherman, a member of New America’s cyber security policy. . tank, he told the BBC.
“Without further information on this test, however, it is difficult to assess exactly how far Russia has progressed towards an isolated home Internet.
“And in front of business, it remains to be seen how much domestic and foreign Russia will receive.”
Local news agencies, including Pravda, reported that the deputy head of the Ministry of Communications had said that the scheme’s tests were performed as planned.
“The results of the exercises have shown that, in general, both authorities and telecommunications operators are ready to respond effectively to emerging risks and threats, to ensure the stable functioning of the Internet and unified telecommunications network in the Russian Federation,” said Alexey. . Sokolov
State news agency Tass said the tests assessed the vulnerability of IoT devices and also involved an exercise to test Runet’s ability to resist “negative external influences.”