A view of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square during a snowfall in January 2019. Russia plans to briefly switch off its internet to simulate an all-out cyberwar some time in the next few weeks.
Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Getty
  • Russia wants to disconnect the entire country from the global internet to simulate a cyberwar.
  • It will redirect domestic web traffic internally, through the Russian government routing points rather than using the global infrastructure on which the web was built.
  • It's part of the Kremlin's plan to make the country's internet independent so that it could survive being cut off by other nations.
  • It comes as NATO countries step up sanctions and cyberattacks against Russia.
  • Having all web traffic within Russia pass through government routing points could also allow Moscow to set up a massive web censorship system, like in China.

Russia plans to temporarily disconnect the entire country from the global internet, in order to simulate an all-out cyberwar on the country.

Under this test, Russian internet service providers (ISPs) would have to redirect web traffic from within the country to routing points approved or managed by the government's telecom watchdog, Roskomnazor, ZDNet reported, citing Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting.

At present Russia, like most countries, allows internet traffic to use global systems to connect with devices all over the world. The temporary disconnection will reportedly take place in the next few weeks.

During the outage, the country's internet would also rely its own version of the Domain Name System (DNS), the directory of web domains and addresses.

The trial run is set to take place at some point before April 1, though an exact date has not yet been set, ZDNet said.

The experiment is part of the country's Digital Economy National Program, a draft law introduced last year which aims to protect the country's digital infrastructure even if other countries cut it off.

The Kremlin's ultimate goal for the program is to wean the country off foreign internet providers and keep the Russian internet independent so it would be protected against potential cyberattacks, ZDNet said.

Russia's Ministry of Communications in 2017 said it wanted to route 95% of the country's traffic domestically by 2020, the country's Izvestia newspaper reported at the time.

Having all web traffic within Russia pass through the government's routing points could also allow Moscow to set up a massive web censorship system, like that in China, the BBC reported.

China's internet censorship system, also known as the Great Firewall, routinely scrubs websites and censors keywords from social media to stop citizens from seeing content unsavory to the regime.

The introduction of the plan comes after NATO stepped up annual cyber war games against Russia. Its exercise in Estonia, on Russia's border, last November involved simulating officers' responses to riots stoked by social media and breaches to network systems that resulted in infrastructure damages, Bloomberg reported.

The US, UK, and EU have also threatened to sanction Russia over recent cyberattacks.

The US imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Russian firms and individuals last year, saying that it was responding to Russian attempts to jeopardize the US power grid and financial system.

The EU last year also said it would "strengthen the resilience" of its member states "in the digital domain" after the Netherlands said it caught four Russian intelligence agents trying to hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog headquarters while it was investigating Russia last April.

A photo of the paraphernalia that four Russian agents used in their attempt to hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague, the Netherlands, last April.
Dutch Ministry of Defence/YouTube

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