A bit of a storm whirled over the Internet the other day. ZDNet reported that Russia will conduct an experiment where they want to disconnect Russia from the Internet, preparing for a scenario where their services would possibly be under attack from abroad. I for one am truly excited by this experiment.
The experiment is part of a draft law that mandates ‘Russian Internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian Internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the Internet.’ Now, you can argue about the political side of this – which undoubtedly will happen – but for me that is not the interesting part. I am looking at the technical side of this experiment. Closing national borders on the Internet will have a lot of implications, and Russian ISPs are warning against them. They believe it will cause ‘major disruptions to Russian Internet traffic’.
The test goes to the core of what the Internet was made for: setting up a meshed network to share data between local devices rather than go through some kind of “central backbone”, therefore making sure that in case of disruption, parts of the Internet would still function. But the reality is that most traffic flows uses international services anyway. With the experiment, Russia wants to find out if they can still continue locally, while keeping threats from across the border outside.
Personally I don’t think they can do it. I’m sure a lot of the services and websites that Russian citizens use, run on servers in Sweden and Finland or at least go through Frankfurt, even the ‘truly Russian services’ like VKontakte and Mail.Ru – since this is cheaper than keeping the services inside the Russian Federation. In addition, I’m sure that thousands of servers, even those belonging to the Russian government, will have a Google DNS server configured. These days, why would you try to set up local DNS servers, each with an individual and hard to remember IP address, if you can go through Google and you only have to memorise 18.104.22.168?
As a thought experiment, for The Netherlands I’m sure this would also become a disaster. There are only a few truly Dutch service providers that could cut their international connectivity without issue. Only a small percentage of the traffic stays inside the country, and even vital government services connect to international servers all the time. And believe me, we are not alone in that. Sure, there are Google servers in Groningen and Microsoft servers in Middenmeer, but if they are disconnected from the rest of the world, who do we connect with?
When the Russian disconnection experiment will take place, is unknown but most likely before April 1. I hope that there will be some reporting on how the experiment went. I for one would really like to know how this will go!