Russian media has reported that the country is considering temporarily disconnecting from the internet as a test of its cyber security measures.

Russia’s temporary disconnection is designed to test how equipped the nation is to defend itself against a foreign cyber attack but it could also be a precursor to a more permanent severing of ties.

In December, Russian lawmakers introduced draft legislation that would require Russian internet service providers (ISPs) to guarantee the independence of the Russian internet space in case of an international attack. Further, the legislation would mandate Russian ISPs have the capacity to redirect all Russian internet traffic to exchange points either managed or overseen by the national watchdog.

The US has been concerned about Russia’s cyber attacks

The move comes after the White House’s 2018 National Cyber Strategy named Russia, along with China, Iran and North Korea, as being responsible for cyber attacks on US interests.

An intelligence assessment conducted in January 2019 also named Russia and China as major sources of cyber threats and said the two countries were now “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previously condemned the Kremlin’s cyber attacks. In October 2017, he criticised Russia for its “reckless pattern of behaviour, including the use of force against its neighbours, attempted interference in election processes, and widespread disinformation campaigns.”

While Russia is disconnected from the broader internet, it is proposed that Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor will determine whether Russian users can transmit data to each other without the possibility of international interception.

Russia has apparently been making contingency plans for a permanent disconnection

Russia has also made plans to build its own version of the global Domain Name System, a possible forerunner to a sovereign Internet. Back in 2017, Russian officials announced plans to route 95% of all Russian internet traffic through domestic servers by 2020.

The date for the disconnection has not been set but it will reportedly take place before 1 April 2019. The legislation is supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin and is expected to pass through parliament.

The Russian government will provide funding for ISPs to update their infrastructure so they can bypass all international servers.

Speaking at a forum in January, Leonid Levin, Chairman of the Committee on Informational Policy, Technologies and Communication, said that Russia’s disconnection from the internet “is one possible scenario amid the escalation of international tensions.”

Despite President Trump’s contentious decision to meet with Vladimir Putin, Russia has largely remained a pariah state in recent years. In 2018, world leaders issued coordinated condemnations of its involvement in a global hacking campaign.