Filed under: Eastern Europe
Translated from the Russian by S. S. of La Russophobe
While Vladimir Putin is building a "Golden Bunker" through his stand-ins [TN: a $50 million residence known as "Villa Konstantin" which is rumored being built for him in Switzerland], the Kremlin administration has come up with a new way of interfering in citizens' private lives and isolating the country from the rest of the world. In the best traditions of the Cold War, the Special Services will have the exclusive means to deprive all those living in the Russian Federation of the right to read and write.
In a couple of months' time, the horrors of censorship depicted by George Orwell in 1984 will seem like childish pranks compared to the powers granted to the FSB and other security organs in their instructions. Their work will be greatly simplified, and all "dissidents" will turn themselves into "Iron" Felix Dzerzhinsky [TN: First leader of the Cheka, later the KGB] themselves.
According to the Guardian, Russian internet users, will be completely locked off from foreign traffic, which can be used to access the majority of free information, as currently happens in China. Those whose work requires access to foreign sites (ministries, departments and state companies) will have to be approved by the Special Services.
In practice, this will be achieved by the introduction of Cyrillic domain names, which will automatically cut the whole of Russia off from the World Wide Web and the Internet's other services.
"The 'Russian Internet' project will look at the question of how they can best communicate within their own country. The internationalization of domain names will give them the chance to do what is being attempted in China, where three top-level domain names, written in Chinese characters, are used: .net, .com and .cn", says Wolfgang Kleinwachter, member of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance, explaining the technical details.
The key question here is whether Russia's own root servers will use Russian international domain names when deciding where to direct their enquiries on the Internet -- that is will they be autonomous from the already existing root servers of the net, which are mainly based in the USA (5 in the USA, 2 in Northern Europe).
In Kleinwachter's opinion, the worst case scenario would be everyone having to register domain names using the Cyrillic top-level domain .rf. "Then Russian would have its own root name server, and it is much easier to control a top-level domain than a hundred thousand subdomains," says the expert.
The Chinese Model
The FSB is taking a tried and tested route; it's not reinventing the wheel. Russians will end up as isolated as the Chinese.
Furthermore, the Chinese authorities are at the stage of perfecting Internet censorship.
"Now the Chinese side has a choice: to preserve for itself the domain .cn in ASCII code, or to isolate it," explains Kleinwachter, "If they isolate it, then they will be able to build their own individual bridge which will link the Chinese Internet with the ASCII internet. The Russians, like the Chinese, have considered this variant. I'm under the impression that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is more inclined to accept this variant than the Chinese Ministry of Economic Development and Trade."
Specialists aren't excluding one other variant. Every citizen could be given a fixed IP address, which they would have to use wherever they gained access to the Internet.
The Electronic Curtain
"According to the estimates on the Russian side, 90% of the information exchange will take place within Russia and only 10% will go outside," says Kleinwachter. In these circumstances it is this 10% who will feel the difference from the previous situation most of all.
According to Kleinwachter, it has been suggested that people will require a password sanctioned by state authorities to access the global Internet. In this way, the Kremlin will be able to control each citizen's contact with the outside world.
The authorities however assert that this will make tracing "cyber-criminals" easier.
Anyone wishing to read the European press, including the Ukrainian, will now become a dangerous criminal; in the same way as everyone going to a demonstration instantly turns into an "extremist."
Western IT specialists point out that this innovation makes all Russian hackers absolutely untraceable. "This would result in a wall being built being cyber-criminals and their victims" believes Jose Nazario of the company Arbor, who defends the state and corporations from attacks from hackers originating from Russian territory.
"Tracing Russian hackers will become very complicated. Security experts are now only just beginning to understand their methods, and this decision would slow our work down considerably. Aside from this, it is a sign of the increasing strain in the relations between Putin's Russian and the West," emphasizes Nazario.
NOTES: (1) This article has nearly 100 comments attached, for those who read Russian. (2) If you don't read Russian, you can load the web pages linked to above into the Google web page translator and get an idea of what they say.