Ukraine wants to disconnect Russia from the Internet by suspending the .ru domain. It is not a good idea

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Much of the world is taking action against Russia. Added to the economic sanctions are all kinds of extrapolitical actions that make it clear that this conflict should never have occurred, but not all ideas to make things difficult for the Russian government are good. We have an example in the request of Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister of Ukraine, who has basically requested that we disconnect Russia from the internet. As experts point out, the flashy proposal, which might seem like it makes sense, doesn’t.

What is that of the TLD domains? The Internet works with a system of domain name servers that allow “human” addresses (such as xataka.com) to be translated into equivalent IP addresses (52.85.187.40). In this system, each human address has several fragments, and one of them is the Top Level Domain (TLD), the highest domain category. Thus, .com is a TLD, as is .org or .es. So are the TLDs used especially in Russia, such as .ru or .su.

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And ICANN? The Internet is a decentralized organization but it depends on several organizations that guarantee its proper functioning. In the case of domain names and those TLDs, the one in charge is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known by its acronym, ICANN. If new TLDs appear, they do so with the blessing of this body.

ICANN please disconnect Russia from the internet. It’s basically what they have requested Andrii Nabok, representative of Ukraine in ICANN, and the aforementioned Fedorov. The idea is to disable the .ru and .РФ TLDs used in Russia, but also to revoke the SSL certificates that help ensure that those websites are secure.

Fedorov went further and asked another body, the RIPE NCC, which is responsible for validating domain registration in much of the world, to disable Russia’s ability to use the IPv4 and IPv6 addresses of its domains. This is unprecedented, and is very different from a country voluntarily disconnecting itself from the internet as in fact already made russia at the end of 2019.

Bad idea. Bill Woodcock of Packet Clearing House explained in a thread on Twitter why is this a bad idea. For starters, it would make it impossible to send mail or access other websites from Russia. The internet connection would be erratic in that country, but not for the government and army —Putin has been promoting RuNet, his own internet for some time— but for ordinary citizens. It is likely that Putin and government agencies were precisely prepared for an eventual “disconnection” of the Internet.

In addition, systems that protect the routing of information in Russia would be deactivated. For Woodcok, these actions “would make civilian users much more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” and would also disconnect these people from international sources of information and resources.

ICANN and RIPE NCC want to be neutral. Erich Schweighofer, Professor at the University of Vienna and participant in the ICANN community, explained that “ICANN is a neutral platform that does not take positions in this conflict but allows states to act in accordance with it, for example by allowing all traffic from a given country to be blocked.” Christian Kaufmann, President of the RIPE NCC, toward a similar claim by saying that “it is crucial that the RIPE NCC remains neutral and does not take a position in reference to domestic political disputes, international conflicts or wars”. Others they do not share that point of view: Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Top Level Domain Holdings, asserted that “neutrality in response to assassination is not neutral.”

Image: Miguel Alcantara

Much of the world is taking action against Russia. Added to the economic sanctions are all kinds of extrapolitical actions…

Much of the world is taking action against Russia. Added to the economic sanctions are all kinds of extrapolitical actions…

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