The Russian government recently announced that they are going to take down the Internet in the country sometime before April 1, 2019 as a test of their cyber-defence plans. Leaving aside the fact that most of the cyber attacks needing defending against are allegedly coming from inside Russia, what could taking down the Internet possibly do to prove that the Russian Internet could survive a large scale cyber attack?
If you dig a bit deeper into Russia’s Net Independance plan you begin to see their true intent. Russia wants to take all the Internet traffic routers in the country in-house so the government has complete control of all data coming in and out of the country. What they are really doing is using national security as a cover for oppression, censorship and control of the Russian people.
The Chinese government has always had this type of self-contained structure in place for the Internet in China. The Great Firewall of China, as it is colloquially known, enables the government to censor all Internet traffic allowing them to control what people say and do on the Internet. Activists, passivists writers, reporters and average citizens have their Internet traffic scrutinized by government censors and those that do not tow the party line are quietly arrested and their posts ae scrubbed from existence.
The Great Firewall of China has also had an effect on business as the firewall sheltered local Chinese companies like AliBaba, Tencent, Baidu and WeChat from competition from global tech titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube. This protectionism has seen Chinese Internet titans match or even outpace their Silicon Valley counterparts off the backs of a 1.4 billion person captive market.
It sure looks like the Russian government has taken a page from the Chinese play book and decided that it is time to take further control of their population by isolating them and controlling what they see. This is a dangerous time to be on the Internet in Russia and China and could very well provoke a similar reaction from a reactionary President in the US who has no problem signing executive orders using national security as cause.
Just because the next Cold War may be fought online does not make it any less dangerous.