The Future Of The Internet: Emergence Of A Digital Iron Curtain, Divided, Intrusive, Anonymous, Full Of Fake News, Deceptive, Gated, Armored, Camouflaged, Deceitful, Dangerous, Wonderful – Revolutions Will Be Tweeted

Russia And Iran Plan To Fundamentally Isolate The Internet
     Justin Sherman posted a June 6, 2019 article with the title above to the website of WIRED.com. He begins, “for years, countries have spoken in vague terms about creating domestic Internets. that can be isolated from the world,” and the greater Internet as we know it  “Now, were seeing some [countries] begin to execute that vision,” he wrote. “Last month, Iran announced that its National Information Network is about 80 percent complete. And, earlier this year, Russia launched a major initiative to build a domestic Russian Internet — purportedly to defend against cyber security threats — though also likely an expansion on the Kremlin’s desire to control the flow of information within its borders.”
     “With Russia and Iran spearheading a new level of Internet fragmentation,” Mr. Sherman wrote, “they’re not just threatening the global network architecture (cables, servers) or working to allow the government to greatly control information flows and crack down on freedoms; their actions could also inspire others to follow suit, and create geopolitical implications extending far beyond those two countries’ borders.”
     Then, there is China, Mr. Sherman notes, “which has long been the gold standard for censorship.” “Its Golden Shield Project, originally conceived as a surveillance data base to strengthen police control, now manifests in the sophisticated Great Firewall. Beijing filters what information flows into the country, as well as what requests are sent out — using techniques like deep packet inspection, and IP blacklisting.”
     Having said the above, Mr. Sherman contends that “Internet “fragmentation” is [currently] quite superficial — there are alterations to information flows on top of Internet architecture itself. China still relies upon the likes of the global Domain Name System to manage its web traffic. China’s government has yet to permanently cut, or unplug major Internet routing points. The fragmentation is occurring on the surface level of the net, rather than on the lowest levels. In fact, filtering information — rather than handling its flow — is what enables Beijing’s delicate balancing act of content control, with the economic benefits of Internet openness.”
     “Russia and Iran however, are spearheading something different,” Mr. Sherman observes: “pursuit of a much deeper kind of Internet fragmentation, one that may be less reversible and more attractive to countries who want rigid control over online information.”
 
     ‘When Vladimir signed a bill in early May to create a domestic Russian Internet, the law encompassed not just increased authority over Internet exchange points (IXPs) that route global traffic in and out of Russian borders; but, policies like the build-out of a national Domain Name System, which is overseen by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Internet regulator,” Mr. Sherman wrote. Russia/Putin “is aiming at a whole new level of Russian cyber sovereignty.  Further, because the RUnet is meant to operate independently from the global net, this and other measures will likely involve physically cutting, or moving cables and/or altering Internet routing protocols to limit the traffic that comes into, or out of the country.”
     “Iran meanwhile, has reached 80 percent completion of its so-called, National Information Network,” Mr. Sherman noted. ‘Tehran, like Moscow, hopes to its country’s reliance on the global network through one that can be domestically operated,” or controlled. “Censorship, pervasive on the Iranian Internet is already coupled with measures that double the cost of accessing foreign news sites, to incentivize its citizens to use the domestic network — incentives that will only grow stronger should more domestic isolation take hold. As with Russia, claims about defending Iran from foreign cyber threats have also been cited here as justification. Others have argued that sanctions have played a role as well,” Mr. Sherman added, though I do not find that observation very compelling. Iran and the Mullahs want a more intrusive Internet surveillance of their population period; regardless of whether or not there are sanctions against the regime.
     “Russia and Iran’s decision to build isolated, domestic Internets, represents a new form of Internet fragmentation — one poised to be far more physical than what we’ve seen before,” Mr. Sherman argues. “While citizens in these net-censored countries may now be able to leverage Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other tools to circumvent filters, that may become a far less viable option –should their domestic Internets be  disconnected from the global one. In turn, this will only accelerate global crackdowns on Internet freedom, and allow authoritarian regimes to consolidate power. But, there are also significant geopolitical implications far beyond the borders of Iran and Russia,”he notes.
     “For one, this may influence other countries looking for an even more assertive way to control the Internet within their borders,” Mr. Sherman wrote.  Mr. Sherman’s colleagues and his research “on the state of global Internet governance shows that 50 countries — what Mr. Sherman and his colleagues call the Digital Deciders — have yet to clearly align themselves with a ‘global and open’ or a ‘sovereign and controlled’ Internet model. As Internet governing decisions are increasingly shaped at the nation-state level rather than international bodies, these 50 countries’ decisions may influence the future of the global Internet as we know it.”
     “Governments looking to exert ever greater control of their citizens online — such as through limiting the effectiveness of censorship bypass tools — may want to pursue this deeper form of Internet fragmentation,” Mr. Sherman warns. “Altering the architecture of the Internet itself (while a heavier lift) could provide much deeper Internet control than just leveraging Internet content tools. Governments looking to better protect their countries from cyber security threats, meanwhile, may also find reason to pursue the kind of deep Internet fragmentation that Russia and Iran are spearheading; limiting the connection of your country to the globe, under the guise of stopping foreign cyber attacks, is arguably an attractive option for many policymakers around the world.”
     This kind of policy and behavior, “may hasten the extent to which countries are willing to manipulate Internet protocols,” Mr. Sherman wrote, “such as the Border Gateway Protocol that routes global Internet traffic. If a country is largely, or entirely disconnected from the global network, that could arguably diminish reservations about collateral effects of traffic manipulation. It may also limit the extent to which an Internet protocol manipulation could be directed back at the perpetrator, although the centralization of Internet controls could produce vulnerabilities in other ways for these countries.”
     “If Russia and Iran are any indication, the Internet fragmentation we’ve seen today, is nothing compared to what’s to come,” Mr. Sherman concludes. “There are great technical challenges ahead that may impede success, yes, but these pursuits still have wide ramifications,” he adds. “For those looking to balance the Internet’s bringing of economic growth with the need to control the online information space, the Chinese model of filtering on top of the net is still perhaps a better way to govern the Internet. But, for those countries looking to really crackdown on online information, and/or protect oneself from foreign cyber threats, these deeper forms of Internet fragmentation are a less reversible and more powerful [and enticing] solution.”
The Future Of The Internet: Emergence Of A Digital Iron Curtain, Divided, Intrusive, Anonymous, Full Of Fake News, Deceptive, Gated, Armored, Camouflaged, Deceitful, Dangerous, Wonderful – Revolutions Will Be Tweeted
     This is a depressing, sober, and probably accurate assessment of where the Internet is headed as we close in on the 21st century’s second decade. The freedom of, and the access to the Internet and the knowledge it holds, is a threat to regimes such as those in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and and elsewhere. others. One would have to guess that these dictatorial regimes will continue to find clever and devious ways to control their own Internet, and increase their ability to clandestinely surveil what their population, and the individual is accessing, or attempting to. In essence, the despotic regimes are in the process of building/erecting a Digital Iron Curtain.
     Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt upon returning from a trip to North Korea in 2014, penned an article — “The Dark Side Of The Digital Revolution,” “noting that North Korea is at the beginning of a cat and mouse game that is playing out all around the world, — between repressive regimes, and their people.” “While technology has great potential to bring about change, there is a dark side to the digital revolution that is too often ignored.” “There is a turbulent transition ahead for autocratic regimes as more of their citizens come online; but, technology doesn’t just help the good guys pushing for democratic reform, — it can also provide powerful new tools for dictators to suppress dissent,” said Mr. Schmidt.

     While non-democratic regimes will look to control the flow and content of the data on their ‘domestic’ Internets, and enhance surveillance of those who use it, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the entity that birthed the Internet — is working on a totally anonymous Internet. While such a development would likely have some nasty unintended consequences, an anonymous Internet could be a lifeline for those living in oppressive societies; and, a potential way around oppressive surveillance.

     Artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced malware will enable and empower those who practice denial and deception, and super-charge the ‘fake news’ practitioners. There will be algorithms and software that is designed to ferret out fake or deceptive news and articles; but, my guess is that the darker digital angles of our nature will still have the upper hand for some time to come.
     The revolution will be tweeted. The power of the Internet combined with social media is indeed a powerful phenomena; and, at times seems unstoppable. The instant connectivity and availability of the worldwide web has and, is enabling the masses to challenge decades of autocratic rule — hastening a process — that in past history, took years or decades to accomplish. But, the darker angels of our nature in North Korea, Iran, Syria, etc., have had the upper hand in this domain and have used it for sinister means of control and ferreting out their ‘enemies.’ A new McCarthyism in the Internet age is sweeping up those who would oppose or overthrow those tyrants and despots who cling to power at the barrel of a machine-gun.
     Upon asking former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger what is lost when a time-table is accelerated/compress/(Arab Spring), Mr. Kissinger responded, “it is hard to imagine a De Gaulle or Churchill, appealing to the masses via FaceBook. “In the age of hyper-connectivity,” he said, “I don’t see people willing to stand by themselves and have the confidence to stand alone.” “Instead,” he says, “a kind of mad consensus will drive the world, — and few people will be willing to oppose it — even though that is precisely the kind of risk that a great leader must take.”
     “The empowered citizen,” Mr. Kissinger says, “knows the technique of getting people to the square, but they don’t know what to do when they get there. These people can easily get marginalized,” he explained, “because their strategies lose effectiveness over time. Dictators and autocrats, — in the years to come — will attempt to build all-encompassing surveillance states, and they will have unprecedented technologies with which to do so.” But he does add a glimmer of hope. “They can never succeed completely [all-encompassing surveillance states]. Dissidents will build tunnels out, and bridges across. Citizens will have more ways to fight back than ever before — some of them anonymous, some courageously public,” he concludes.
     So, it would seem that we have a burgeoning Digital Iron Curtain being conceived or constructed, as well as a totally anonymous Internet being developed. Add to that a burgeoning off-the-grid movement, denial and deception, fake news and digital mine fields galore, and who knows, maybe even a digital ‘Dr. No’ will emerge. I still believe on balance that the Internet has been a tremendous force for good; and, will continue to greatly enhance our lives. But, it will continue to be a rocky ride, as the darker digital angles of our nature will continue to seek clever and devious ways to disrupt our lives — or worse.
     Will a cyber weapon of mass destruction, that is lethal and can cause significant loss of life — be developed?  RCP, fortunascorner.com

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