Sometime around April 19, 2019, Russians will find themselves without internet in an experiment to see the effects of cyberwarfare on the country.
The Russian government is floating the experiment as a way to justify future plans of disconnecting the country’s internet from the global internet. Every country across the globe is connected via the internet, and although some countries strictly censor the information citizens have access to, Russia would like to go one step farther and disconnect entirely.
If the experiment in April is a success, it means that Russia could “survive” being its own internet entity and being disconnected from the world wide web.
ZDNet reports that if Russia were to unplug from global internet access, all web traffic would need to be monitored by Roskomnazor, the country’s telecom regulator, to ensure that all communication stays within Russia and to block any sites or content not approved for internet users in the country.
Russia has been taking strides to protect itself from internet cyberattacks. It introduced the Digital Economy National Program last year, aiming to protect its infrastructure in the face of an attack, and has concluded that remaining its own internet entity would ensure the county remains protected.
In 2017, the Russian site Izvestia claimed that the county was planning on routing 95% of its internet traffic locally by the year 2020. The idea is problematic, and officials are trying to work out solutions to keep internet traffic flowing smoothly.
Many are concerned that Russia is using this as a ploy to keep outside information from reaching citizens, in the same way that China uses its firewalls to track content and censor all information seen on the internet, blocking citizens from any contact with outside world and events.
On the surface, Russia’s experiment is a solution for the very real threat of cyberwarfare, but it has the potential for significant governmental oversight and abuse.