The Russian government is taking steps to install a digital iron curtain

Cybersecurity expert outlines what it takes for countries to disconnect from the global internet


The crackdown on internet freedom raises questions about how governments go about cutting themselves off from the global web. Daniel Markuson, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, explains how countries could approach World Wide Web isolation and outlines what this move would mean for the socio-economic position of the respective country.

Reports of the Russian government taking steps to quell discontent at home by doubling down on the promise of a digital iron curtain have emerged. The isolation of Russian people from the World Wide Web is typical of authoritarian regimes that aim to control the public narrative and suppress channels of dissent.

“In 2019, Russia started developing what it calls Runet, the country’s national internet network. Russian authorities claimed that this was done to protect Russia from cyberattacks and outside influences. Meanwhile, critics have seen the new regulations as a threat to freedom of information online and a violation of Russians’ right to free speech,” says Daniel Markuson, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.

The prospect of a crackdown on internet freedom raises questions about how governments go about cutting themselves off from the global web and what the measure entails for the socio-economic position of the respective country.


Complete disconnection

Cutting off an entire nation from the global internet is quite easy. However, the consequences are anything but. The entire global economy has come, in one way or another, to rely on international online technologies. This move would push local businesses that depend on foreign digital infrastructure into exile, but what would be even more damaging would be the disappearance of international payment and communication options for public infrastructure, businesses and consumers.

“Take North Korea, for example. By using various digital tools that block foreign signals from entering the country and block internal signals from leaving, the country has completely disconnected itself not only from the global internet but also from the global economy,” says Daniel Markuson .

Therefore, while the prospect of disconnecting from the global internet may be appealing to authoritarians – because not informing people also keeps them compliant – most countries cannot afford the socio-economic fallout. resulting economies.

Selective Restrictions

Instead, most regimes choose to restrict Internet access to specific areas that make sense for their program, but keep it in places that cannot function without resources outside their borders.

The Chinese case illustrates this well, because the only area where China needs access to the foreign internet is international trade. “For many years, China has built its national internet separate from the global. From sophisticated tools for monitoring and automatically blocking IP addresses, to local services and digital infrastructure that are fully functional alternatives to Western solutions, China has succeeded take over the digital sphere at little cost to the economy,” says Daniel Markuson.

However, many countries lack the Chinese advantage, as the majority of their economic and social infrastructure depends on foreign digital technologies. From search engines, email and social media to web servers and cloud services, most countries lack the capacity to insulate themselves from foreign infrastructure.

If they wish to minimize the repercussions, these countries often limit themselves to tools usable with the current infrastructures. “Most often this is done by exploiting the country’s internet service providers, forcing them to give their customers internet traffic data, and blocking the IP range, denying access to websites deemed hostile “, explains Daniel Markuson.

© Korea IT Times 무단전재 및 재배포 금지

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