Monday, 18 February, 2019

New Russian internet bill 'just another layer of censorship', says tech expert

Jeannette Daniel | 12 February, 2019, 22:57

Russian authorities and internet providers will conduct a test to make sure data passing between its citizens and organizations can stay inside the country rather than being routed internationally, ZDNet reports.

In addition, Russian telecom firms would also have to install "technical means" to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia's telecom watchdog.

The bill proposes that all internet traffic to users be routed through servers in Russian Federation - making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective.

The test is planned for sometime in the coming weeks but the exact date is unknown.

The official Duma news feed (translated from Russian) said the proposed law on a sovereign Runet (the Russian term for the internet within Russia's borders) would isolate the country from the global network in the event of "targeted large-scale external influence".

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Natalya Kasperskaya, the president of the information security working group that has recommended the experiment, told RBC that the law "has good goals, but the mechanisms for its implementation raise many questions and disputes".

Russia has tried, so far with extremely limited success, to block Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging service, but its use continues to be widespread, including among some senior Russian government officials who are reported to use VPNs to circumvent the ban.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has said the bill poses more of a risk to the functioning of the Russian internet segment than the alleged threats from foreign countries that the bill seeks to counter.

The test would involve temporarily unplugging from the global network and routing all data within the country instead of through worldwide servers. This is similar to the Great Firewall of China, but with the ability to maintain independence with an isolated intranet if needed.

Ongoing discussions are in regards to finding the proper technical methods to disconnect Russian Federation from the internet with minimal downtime to consumers and government agencies.

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