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Russia Rehearses War Scenario with Internet Shutdown Test

The Russian government is getting ready for an eventual war scenario, planning a temporary total shutdown from the global internet before April Fools Day. But this test is no joke — it’s really serious stuff.

Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists)

ZDNet reports that for a limited period of time, the test will cut all the nodes that connect the country’s network backbones to the wider internet, re-routing all traffic between Russian computers through government-approved nodes, no matter whether those computer are run by private citizens, power grids or military systems.

The test will effectively isolate the Russian internet — called Runet — from the rest of the world, making it impossible for any foreign country to access computers inside their country. In theory, at least.

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Inside the country, Russian internet service providers will redirect all network traffic to nodes controlled by Roskomnazor, the equivalent of the United States’ FCC.

When that happens, copies of Domain Name System (DNS) directories will kick off, making sure that all internal industrial and financial communications keep working as usual. But anyone trying to connect to the outside world will find a wall.

Getting ready for possible war and censorship

The war-scenario tests are being conducted to inform possible amendments to a proposed new law called the Digital Economy National Program, which was introduced in the Russian Parliament late approved last year. The deadline to introduce amendments is April 1.

Computer experts from Western countries say there is overwhelming evidence of Russian attempts to disrupt global politics, such as by attacking American and European servers to obtain sensitive information to use to Russia's advantage. While the Russian government has denied all such attacks, NATO and some of its members have threatened retaliation.

The proposed Russian law would make sure that the country’s vital information systems can be easily isolated from the rest of the internet in case of a war, either cybernetic or conventional.

The law would mandate creating the necessary infrastructure to permanently reroute all traffic through state-controlled nodes, theoretically setting the stage for governmental control and censorship like it happens in China. Russia's internet service providers aren't sure exactly how that would work, hence the upcoming test.

Right now, the world’s 13 root DNS servers are controlled by 12 organizations, none of which are based in Russia. Ten of those organizations, including three run directly by the U.S. government, are American. The other three are in Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden. The Kremlin perceives this arrangement as a threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.