The Russian government is planning to cut the country off from the global internet as part of a test to ensure that it has total control of ‘Runet’ – the Russian internet area.

The plan is part of the Russian government’s Digital Economy National Programme (DENP), which it claims will help protect the country from aggressive cyber attacks from abroad. If Russia was subjected to a major cyber attack, the idea is that Runet would be able to continue functioning normally even if international internet connections were severed.

The practical effect of the Programme will also be to enable Russia’s government to isolate the country in the same way as China’s ‘Great Firewall’.

The test will be carried out on 1 April this year.

Russia’s DENP will cost as much as one trillion rubles (£11.9bn) over the next five years, with funds spent largely on infrastructure and education, according to the news agency Tass. Some reports, though, have suggested that the costs could exceed 3.5 trillion rubles (£41bn).

Russia’s government has indicated that it will compensate Russian ISPs and communications companies for the cost of achieving compliance with the Programme, which may require investment in new routing hardware. The results of the test will be analysed before the Programme is fully implemented.

Last April, Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor attempted to shutdown the encrypted communications app Telegram, used by an estimated 13 million people in Russia, after it refused to help Russian authorities to decrypt messages sent using the app.

After acquiring a court order, Roskomnadzor ordered IP address ranges corresponding to Telegram to be blocked.

However, after Telegram shifted its IP addresses to the Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, and Roskomnadzor added IP address ranges corresponding to the two US internet giants to its blacklist, it caused widespread disruption across Russia.

In response, Russian’s government stepped up demands that major internet companies such as Google and Apple must keep the data of Russian businesses and citizens on servers within Russia.

Russia’s DENP comes as the country faces the risk of sanctions over cyber attacks amid claims that state-sponsored Russian hackers have been behind a series of cyber attacks on Western governments.

Russia’s government has also been accused of being behind a series of cyber attacks on the infrastructure of neighbouring Ukraine, which is currently fighting a five-year civil war against Russian-backed separatist rebels. Ukraine has also accused Russian state-backed hackers of being behind the propagation of the NotPetya ransomware in 2017, which also caused widespread damage across the world.

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