back to article Ivan to be left alone: Russia preps to turn its internet into an intranet if West opens cyber-fire

Russia is reportedly preparing to turn its internet into a nationwide intranet to thwart hacking attacks and similar aggression from the West. The rather odd decision by Vladimir Putin's country to temporarily shut off internet links with the outside world as and when necessary comes amid the emergence of what news agency …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Airgapped

    The is one big 'airgap' there, Ivan. But I can see Ivan's point. If Western spookhausen cannot get in or out they cannot get juicy tidbits for Ivan. Extreme but possibly effective.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Airgapped

      Then, maybe the rest of the world should airgap Russia first. Same for China. Seems here in the West we get daily reports of both countries misdeeds.

      Disclaimer... the West isn't innocent in this either.

      1. Carpet Deal 'em
        Trollface

        Re: Airgapped

        But if we airgap China, how will we get our low-priced, breaks-if-you-look-at-it-wrong garbage?

        1. Waseem Alkurdi
          Joke

          Re: Airgapped

          From Hong Kong I guess?

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Airgapped

      Or Ivan disconnects from the net, there's a huge cyber attack on a western country, Ivan connects, Putin appears on RT and says, "What's happened here? We weren't connected. lol".

    3. PacketPusher
      Devil

      Re: Airgapped

      The problem is that airgaps only work if the hacker is on the other side of the airgap. Hackers can bring in computers to a rented office to wreck their havoc from inside the country.

  2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Coat

    This will be good for my self-esteem...

    Honestly, I was getting a little insecure when confronted with all those videos of authoritarian alpha-dude Vladimir Putin always appearing shirtless and surrounded by beautiful women, while wrestling tigers and punching out polar bears. This should stymie Vlad's public displays of testosterone, at least a bit.

    (That's my shirt hanging on the hook over there.)

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: This will be good for my self-esteem...

      Should be a relief then to know that they are going back to good old Comrade Tractor Operator's Monthly porn.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This will be good for my self-esteem...

      “authoritarian alpha-dude Vladimir Putin always appearing shirtless”

      You don’t need to be insecure about it - Vlads just building up to coming out of the closet and appealing to the LGBT+ community in the next election.

      It’s hard work being democraticly elected...

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Go

        Re: This will be good for my self-esteem...

        True, it may be that Vlad is compensating for some self-loathing around deep-seated longings to express his more feminine side.

        You can come out of the Kremlin closet, Vlad! We won't think any less of you!!

    3. fung0

      Re: This will be good for my self-esteem...

      I find it depressing that half the world has defined the leader of a major nation by a single photograph. So the guy rode a horse with his shirt off, once. So what?

      Regarding the Russian airgap: it sounds not like an over-reaction to minor incursions, but rather a last-ditch contingency plan should Russia experience a large-scale 'cyberwar' attack. Given the unhinged rhetoric coming out of Washington (and other capitals), having such a plan in place seems only prudent.

  3. hellwig Silver badge
    Joke

    Clientside Loopback Protection.

    When I'm worried about hackers, I just unplug my main NIC from the router and plug it into another NIC on my PC. This keeps data flowing while not being worried about external interference. I haven't been hacked yet. Although I'm typing this at work because I can't seem to access El Reg (or any internet) at home anymore.....

    1. Waseem Alkurdi
      Trollface

      Re: Clientside Loopback Protection.

      I can't seem to access El Reg (or any internet) at home anymore.....

      Who needs the ISP's filthy internet when you have your own, all to yourself, courtesy of a couple of servers on your very own Linux server?

    2. theblackhand

      Re: Clientside Loopback Protection.

      Lucky you used the joke icon - I wasn’t sure if this was humour or a desperate plea from an IT management-type for help with their latest cunning plan.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clientside Loopback Protection.

        theblackhand,

        It wasn't an 'IT management-type' because the Ethernet cable wasn't 'plugged/forced' into the USB port !!!

        ;) :)

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Clientside Loopback Protection.

          You can't jam an RJ45 connector into a USB socket, however, I have had to deal with users who've managed it the other way around.

          A USB type A plug is almost perfectly sized to fit into an ethernet socket, try it!

          1. M.V. Lipvig
            Trollface

            Re: Clientside Loopback Protection.

            "You can't jam an RJ45 connector into a USB socket, "

            Sounds like somebody needs a bigger hammer.

  4. Scott Broukell

    Maybe we (the rest of the connected world), should all pretent to be out when they reconnect to the global net. Just a thought.

  5. LordHighFixer

    Doesn't every country

    Have some kind of similar plan in place?

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Doesn't every country

      Doesn't every country major country

      Fixed.

      Some countries can't be bothered, because the Internet to them is purely for entertainment, no gov't business depends on it.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Doesn't every country

        Some countries do it routinely whenever there's a general election. Can't see it happening in Blighty though...

  6. Waseem Alkurdi

    Can anybody explain this?

    So far Russia has built a local DNS copy to allow its internet to keep working if local officials pull the plug on connectivity to the rest of the world.

    Assuming it's a copy of all DNS entries, both Russia and outside, why is a copy of (non-Russian) website DNS entries necessary for a Russian intranet?

    I think there's something more to this.

    Can't "unknown" websites w/o suitable DNS entries be simply returned with a HTTP 503 Temporarily Unavailable?

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Can anybody explain this?

      They will be talking about root servers, the zone files. There isn't even a "copy" of all dns entries, it's a hierarchical lookup system.

      It's possible they might have tried to lookup and cache some entries though - remember, a site in Russia doesn't have to be within the .ru domain

      A 503 on non-existant addresses will require a wildcard dns entry, which in itself can cause other problems. It would also have to point to a bank of servers to serve all of the requests, which would be huge - it would also screw up non-web systems, as web services use the A/AAAA records, and not SRV records.. Much better to let dns request, or the connections themselves to fail..... as it was designed!

  7. Waseem Alkurdi

    From the article:

    * Despite the English transliteration of its name, RBK is a business news wire and not a consultancy.

    I don't speak Russian (though I really wish I did), but couldn't be like an English newspaper called "The Consultant"?

    Well, thinking of it, it's like El Reg itself. A Russian may go like:

    Despite the Russian transliteration of its name, The Register is a tech news wire and not a CPU register.

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Idea for a cleaner internet...

    Just curious - if all traffic into russia must go through russian government controlled servers, then I'm assuming all outgoing traffic must also pass through those servers. So if we simply block those servers, that should cut out all of those russian hackers, scammers, and phishers right? Well until they add in some vpn tunneling or what not, but it would at least take care of the lazy ones... Thoughts on a postcard...

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Idea for a cleaner internet...

      I initially agreed, but there's China.

      All traffic into China passes through Chinese governmental servers (Great Firewall).

      Yet the traffic to the outside doesn't, though traffic to the outside is monitored as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Idea for a cleaner internet...

        hay !!

        dont forget murkia and oz, sure the other eyes do it to

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can anyone bother to explain

    why Russia shouldn't freak out at the perspective of foreign interference ? Everybody is doing it and nobody loses sleep about it. US and allies have infested Eastern Europe with missiles and radars but when Russia does this within their borders it is viewed as a clear act of aggression.

    In case your reply might include words like democracy and human rights, forget it and just go straight to down vote button.

    I'm not Russian and my native country had its fair share of suffering at the hands of Soviets/Tsarist Empire but, let's face it, all countries have always been governed by interests and not by principles.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Can anyone bother to explain

      Is jumping off a skyscraper justified because everybody is doing it?

      US et al and their missiles might've "done wrong", but does that justify doing another "wrong"?

      all countries have always been governed by interests and not by principles.

      Depends on the interests and principles involved, but I agree to a certain degree.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can anyone bother to explain

        US et al and their missiles might've "done wrong", but does that justify doing another "wrong"?

        Yes, unequivocally. You know that saying that "two wrongs don't make a right", well it is bollocks, according the Ledswinger's Conjecture.

        Mathematicians have yet to completely prove the case, but that just shows their methods are flawed, idle bastards..

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Can anyone bother to explain

          It's unreasonable because they're completely disingenuous. This isn't to protect sensitive systems from outside intrusion; if they're afraid about those, they'll have airgapped some and built special networks for the rest already. That's what you do if you don't want people to get into your systems--you disconnect *those* systems. This is so they can, at will, cut off access from general citizens to specific sites (all through the runet firewall) or everything if they're feeling paranoid. Essentially, they looked at China and said "if only we had been in power when things were being set up, we'd have a system like that. Let's try to build one now.", then emitted some garbage about how the terrible hackers need to be blocked from Russian network activity.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Can anyone bother to explain

      Russia is quite easy to understand if you just know a bit of its history. It has been invaded many times so while it would like to be at peace with the west and be just another nation it has to keep its guard up. Our own enmity towards it is difficult to explain; its never posed much of a threat to us except as a clash of Empires (the British were concerned about clashes with Russia over the North West Frontier -- Afghanistan -- and used to refer to Tsar Nicholas as "The Bad Boy of Europe" before Kaiser Willie took over that spot).

      Managing a nation's Internet is a logical step. The global Internet that we know really isn't Global, its American -- it started out life as a DARPA project and its been largely developed in and managed from the US. This didn't matter much in the early days but now its a critical part of a nation's infrastructure its only natural that it will get defended like any other part of the national infrastructure. Its also natural to assume that it will be -- has been -- weaponized by both private and national interests so it will spawn a whole slew of defensive and offensive mechanisms. I'd expect this trend to continue with not just the infrastructure but also the applications running on it -- the Americans, in particular, have weaponized commerce and banking with their wholesale use of sanctions regimes so its natural that other nations will take defensive measures that include making their own regimes that are beyond US control.

      (I'd suggest this is no different from any other new technology. Powered flight took a few years to morph from an interesting toy to something that needed to be managed at a national level.)

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Can anyone bother to explain

        Certainly. You can argue all you like that country X is being unfair to country Y, and I'm likely going to agree with you. That doesn't change the facts I mentioned. If any country tries to funnel all of its connections through a government-controlled system, they aren't doing it to deal with foreign interference because that wouldn't work.

        Imagine what would happen if the Democratic Republic of A and the People's Republic of B did this. A is worried that B will attack them, so they funnel all their connections through one system so they can turn off their network at any time. B is also a country, with a lot of power, so if they are planning to attack A's systems, they will put a computer inside A that can be controlled by an agent of B. They could do this by:

        1. Use an international phone line to control the system if the network gets cut.

        2. Use a satellite connection that they can control to uplink data to the machine.

        3. Use a radio transmission to control the system.

        4. Put a spy in front of the computer to do the work for them.

        5. Run a wire across the border and don't tell anyone (this works better if A and B share a border, and requires the machine to be close to the border).

        6. Just use another method to take out whatever they want to take out.

        You couldn't stop anyone that way. Sure, cutting off the network would prevent some international attacks from criminal groups that happen to use that way to get in. In the same way, cutting all the electrical lines and having people run their own generators if they really need electricity would protect them from a malicious party delivering a much higher than expected voltage to their building and frying things. However, cutting electricity is more likely to be a method of repression, and the same is true of cutting network.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Can anyone bother to explain

        It has been invaded many times

        To be fair, France (or Italy) has been invaded about as much as Russia has. And Russia has done it's fair share of invading others..

        Our own enmity towards it is difficult to explain

        Other than the whole capitalist/communist thing for most of the 20th century of course. Other than that, I don't recall us actually being at war with them other than the whole Crimean War thing (and that was part of a larger set of conflicts going on in Europe at the time - and one that allied us with France of all people!)

        So no, we don't have a particularly bloody history with Russia - and we have allied with them in the past too (WW2 - once they'd decided they didn't want to cuddle up to Germany any more on account that Germany had invaded them - mind you, Russia was busy occupying Finland and parts of Poland at the time..)

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. MonsieurTM

    Well look at it this way: if "the west" decides to cut links to Russia, they will naturally want their part of the internet to keep working. So that their business can still operate, albeit internally to Russia. Big deal. What us the ahick-horror value of this. No "naughty Ivan" here. Surely most states consider this as a disaster scenario. Given the current McCarthyite, anti-Russian hysterial this seems Luke a logical response for the Russian Parliament.

    Do please recall that our own ISPs keep records of our own digital communications for 7 odd days as part of their legal obligations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1914. (Which would include this post.) This permits the UK government to review all communication in time of national crisis. (Think war.) So are we, in the UK, not subject to governmental oversight too? Yet we are apparently happy to be subject to that oversight.

  12. fredesmite

    Bone Spurs is wishing for the same thing

    That damn free press is a pain in the orange asshole

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    temporarily shutting off its internet links with the outside world

    Well that's half the world's porn gone missing then, and probably a good third of the spam as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: temporarily shutting off its internet links with the outside world

      "Well that's half the world's porn gone missing then, and probably a good third of the spam as well."

      Don't worry when it comes back on everything will catch up ....... the spam will be a few hours late and 'videodownload helper' will 'help' a few more 'late night/early morning' customers stockpile 'essential educational material'. !!! :)

  14. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Kasperskaya and ruexit

    Is the lady in charge still on speaking terms with her ex, or does she utterly loathe him?

    We need to know whether anything she does might be motivated by revenge there! Disconnecting would of course do huge damage to Russian companies whose legitimate business has an online component.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Kasperskaya and ruexit

      Kaspersky (the company) may have Russian origins, but I'd wager they have offices and servers in other countries as well by now.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Kasperskaya and ruexit

        Indeed, but being cut off from (one imagines) a big part of the team would surely hurt. They'd no doubt make ruexit provisions - probably without even the kind of fiasco we've seen with non-ferry-companies or lorry parks - but that might not be how a sufficiently-bitter divorcee thinks about it.

        Other Russian-centred projects - like nginx - are of course heavily reliant on connectivity, as much as Russian users of worldwide stuff.

  15. Queeg
    Trollface

    Maybe...

    The Americans can hold an election while the Russians aren't looking.

    Still looking for that sarcasm icon El Reg.

  16. Time Waster

    April fools?

    This must be some kind of elaborate joke. How does the bear-chested one think anything is going to work following this move? Does Russia not use credit cards? Or international banking (they sell oil, how do they get paid for this)? In fact, are Kaspesky themselves not rather reliant on connectivity to their millions of international customers (updates / cloud AV)? Or is the real plan to simply cut the plebs off from the outside world?

  17. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    If they have a cyberweapon capable of rapidly destroying all the net, it makes sense for them to test prior strategic disconnection... shortly before someone practices hitting the big (presently inactive) red button

  18. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    This won't likely be that effective as were I another nation state, I'd have Easter-egg cyber-attacks pre-seeded within the target network, updating as required and triggered by local agents upon a certain (say radio) message. Then it comes down to an Easter-egg hunt! [Wasn't meant as a joke.] I'm quite sure someone has already done this unless they are a collection of idiots (don't go there).

  19. aregross
    Mushroom

    Agree... something's coming!

    BOOM!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    гориллы канала

    Does anyone know if the Gorilla Channel (гориллы канала) is operated out of Russia?

    Asking for a friend....

  21. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Let them.

    Shrug...

  22. ianmcca

    Would it work?

    Even if all connections to the outside world were severed and the now-intranet stayed up would it stop cyber attacks? There are probably thousands of compromised servers on Russian (and every other country's) territory right now. If I were serious about launching a cyber attack on a country I'd keep any servers under my control armed and ready to launch the attack as soon as they could not contact me.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the irony..

    The UK government did basically just that in the late 90s.

    Of course, after that they installed Microsoft and invited Google slap bang in the middle of HMRC, but the principles were there.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    smart move

    (I'm not trolling) The world is increasingly re-polarised and the internets have become a critical element. So, for any regime, ability to de-engage is appealing, and particularly so, when they can happily ignore whining about "democracy" and "human rights". Not that it makes much sense, presumably, if such disengagement is becoming a standard defence, the attackers will immediately change the vector and devise ways to attack the system from within, AND in a completely new way. But then, in the meantime, it gives gospadin Putin ways to control the plebs, both on an ongoing basis (hey, our Chinese friends already "monitor" what the citizens do, why can't we), but also, in case those plebs get violent against their masters, take to the streets, murmur about workers' soviets and re-distributing wealth, etc. I bet this development is being watched by the masters in advanced democracies too, and not exactly because this might make them lose the ability to launch a cyberattack against Russia. After all, which democratic government wants rioters chasing down ministerial limos?

  25. blue-eyes

    It to control the masses

    The air gap will only be there to stop the masses interacting with the West. You can bet that:

    a)the government

    b) the military

    c) the porn industry

    d) the cyberwar industry

    e) the cyberfraud industry

    will still have access to the Internet.

  26. astounded1

    If A Russia Disconnected The Internet In The Forest...

    Would anyone know it?

  27. M.

    Missed Opportunity on Title

    I can't believe your especially studious headline writers missed this opportunity!

    The headline should read - "Ivan to be left alone: Russia preps to turn its internet into an inter-Nyet if West opens cyber-fire"

    Otherwise, fine business and carry on!

    - K

  28. DCFusor Silver badge
    Joke

    How much of the rest of the world will crash

    Because badware is hung in a loop trying to find some Russian C&C server?

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