On Monday a key initiative undertaken by the Russian government for over the past year to establish a 'sovereign internet' will face a major test. That's when the country and its information systems will be intentionally disconnected from the worldwide web, according to Russia's communications ministry.
Russia aims to ready its own web to both survive a global internet shutdown and defend against foreign cyber-attacks and intrusion on its data infrastructure.
The test is based on the recently passed “sovereign internet” bill into Russian law, which requires “all communications operators, messengers and email providers [to] participate in the tests, as well as state-run institutions and security services,” according to a summary of the law by Reuters.
Essentially it means all Russian internet traffic will be routed to exchange points approved by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), Russia's federal executive body responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.
These hubs will filter traffic in such a way that data sent between Russians internet users should work seamlessly, simultaneously rejecting any communication with foreign computers. The test will evaluate “the possibility of intercepting subscriber traffic and revealing information about the subscriber, blocking communication services,” according to an internal government document.
However, the ministry noted it shouldn't significantly impact regular individual internet users and is to take place in stages on Dec. 23.
President Putin actually addressed the 'sovereign internet' initiative this week at his annual year-end press conference, saying in response to a journalist's question, "Free Internet and sovereign Internet — these notions do not contradict each other." He was responding to criticism from activist groups which say it's a dramatic and dangerous step toward complete government censorship and total information control.
He continued, "The law you have mentioned 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 TASS.
The law says that in case of threat or major cyber-attack from abroad, the country's comms watchdog Roskomnadzor can take complete control and centrally oversee of the country's network.