The mistrust and animosity between Russia and the West is now threatening the core internet infrastructure. Of course, cyber battles between both powers have been fought for several years. But now Russia has announced its looking for new ways to protect its internet, and they’re not alone. Other countries are also considering ways to protect their internet.
The Russians feel that the US online dominance, US government and a handful of corporations working under US jurisdiction, have too much influence on the internet. The US have practically monopolized the entire global IT system, and controls the critical elements of the internet.
Many countries are working on technical solutions that would protect national segments of the internet from a possible external destructive action. They are creating backup infrastructures which respond to a disruption – intentional or accidental – and prevent national segments from being blocked. So it seems they are building parallel infrastructures that are beyond control of the US and its large commercial players.
The issue is for Russia not theoretical. As part of the US-imposed sanctions, several American companies suspended their services in Crimea after its secession from Ukraine. Washington called the secession illegal, and targeted individuals and some sectors of the Russian economy with sanctions for it. Google, Apple, PayPal and others cut Crimea from their services too. Crimeans could no longer update the software for their phones, buy apps, use electronic payments for online products and do other basic things.
Russia has a track record itself in disturbing other nations’ internet. In 2007 Russia was accused of unleashing a three-week wave of massive cyber attacks to disable Estonia after the country announced the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, an elaborate Soviet-era grave marker, as well as war graves in Tallinn.
So what will be the implications for us all? Further fragmentation of the Internet could be a blessing in a grim disguise. The outcome could be an even stronger, more resilient Internet, with many more branches, subnets and backup routes, and a less dominant control by the giant ‘Oligarchs of Internet’, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and the like. When one party is wanting to switch their part of the Internet off – or is legally forced to do so – other segments will stay alive and keep the data traffic going. And that’s exactly the concept of Internet: ensure the transmission of data under the worst circumstances.
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