Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia, adopted in the first reading on Tuesday a bill aimed to ensure security and availability of Russian Internet (Runet) in the event of potential isolation from the global network.
This means that data from its own organisations and users would stay within Russia, rather than be distributed globally.
The bill’s text warns of the “violent nature of the U.S. National Cybersecurity Strategy adopted in September 2018,” which accuses Russia of alleged hacking attacks “without evidence,” said the law’s sponsors.
Russia has regularly been accused of cyber attacks on other nations and organisations.
The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Programme, makes sure its internet provision can continue to function in the event of external powers attempting to disable the country’s service.
The law’s authors say that Russia will unplug itself in case of a major cyber threat.
Russia will be required to create its own version of the internet’s address system or Domain Name System (DNS), so it can continue to operate if connections to international servers are interrupted.
Twelve organisations are involved in overseeing the root servers for DNS with none of them based in Russia.
The eventual plan is for all Russian internet traffic to pass through these new routing arrangements.
The project has received support from Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
Many commentators believe it is an attempt to set up a mass censorship system similar to the current situation in China. There are no guarantees that Russians will not be switched off the Internet during the elections and that social media platforms will not be blocked.
Critics of the law also said the bill was going to be very costly to put in place. One of the authors of the law, Senator Andrey Klishas, said the project could cost more than 20 billion roubles (€270 million). Telecom organisations are also concerned they will have to pay even more.
Many in Russia are persuaded the government wants to control the internet as China does with the Golden Shield.
“We are categorically against the fact, that the state gains full control over all messages of citizens, as it is written in the draft law, said Sergey Ivanov, a Liberal Democratic Party of Russia deputy.
“That any moment it can check this information for the purposes of ‘operational measures,’ and the telecom operators will not have the right to tell that this information is being verified, and so on. It turns out that freedom of speech and other fundamental freedoms are at stake here.”
Russia said it was planning to disconnect its internet systems from the global network as a test of its cyber-defences. The test is expected to happen before April 1st, but no exact date has been confirmed.
The bill faces two more votes in the lower chamber before it is voted on in the upper house of parliament and then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.