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Creating a Russian No-Cyber Zone

In response to Russia’s horrific invasion and war against the Ukrainian nation ordered by Dictator Putin that will live in infamy, an array of nations, organizations, and companies have responded to shun and shut off Russia in every possible manner. The actions include no-fly zones, removal from ICT network services, and essentially universal declarations of condemnation. For the first time ever, all Russian proposals to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) quadrennial standards body plenary known as the WTSA have been “bracketed” as nations worldwide condemned Russian actions in the Ukraine, including the destruction of communication facilities.

Actions among the TCP/IP internet bodies have ranged from potential individual autonomous actions to doing nothing. The former includes the powerful CA/Browser Forum in response to a plea from the Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation “to revoke all SSL, Code Signing, s’mime, PDF certificates issued for Russia and put Russia in a ‘black list’.” The do nothing group includes the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to “revoke ... the domains .ru, .pep and .su among others issued in the Russian Federation, revoke…associated SSL certificates, and shut down DNS root servers situated in the Russian Federation” and the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) “to withdraw the right to use all IPv4 and IPv6 addresses by all Russian members of RIPE NCC ..., and to block the DNS root servers that it is operating.”

Both ICANN and RIPE pontificated by sanctimoniously claiming neutrality—they were above the world’s problems through self-anointed noninvolvement, seemly scared lest they face a threat to their monopoly service provider status. Their supporters argued that ordinary Russians would lose the perceived benefits of ICANN and RIPE name resolver and connectivity services, notwithstanding the enormous domestic controls imposed by the Russian Administration on freedom of communication. No one even considered the adverse effects of those same services that enable Russia’s launching large-scale cyber and disinformation attacks worldwide that were raised at the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency in 2007. See https://circleid.com/posts/20180804_internet_as_non_kinetic_wmd

The creation of a Russian No-Cyber Zone is long overdue. Russia’s engagement with the outside world has been parsimonious at best, and what does occur is limited to hostile pursuits of the interests of its leaders and oligarchs to the detriment of everyone else. Russia today is cyber-toxic, and steps should be taken through multiple institutions and initiatives to create a kind of technical and operational containment bubble until fundamental leadership and policy change occurs.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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