Latest in the News: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Sweeps Across the Internet Community 

3 min read
22 March 2022
Beatričė Raščiūtė

The Russia-Ukraine war has permeated the internet. From information battles to DNS weaponization, war is moving online.

Access to many websites is blocked in Russia amid War in Ukraine.

February 2022 will forever be known as the starting point of an active Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although the war began with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia had yet to start a full-scale attack.  

In just a month, the war has disrupted the lives of millions of Ukrainians. According to the UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, 10 million have either been displaced inside the country or as refugees abroad. That’s close to a quarter of the country’s population.  

The Western world reacted to the aggression immediately, and unprecedented economic sanctions were introduced. Of course, the Russia-Ukraine war has reverberated across the globe and across different verticals. Including the internet. 

The internet has become an information battleground, the demand for VPN (Virtual Private Network) has skyrocketed, the global community questioned Russia’s membership in the RIPE NCC organization, and some now fear the weaponization of DNS (Domain Name System). 

The internet has become an information battleground

According to Sheetal Kumar, Head of Global Engagement and Advocacy at Global Partners Digital, the internet became an information battleground when Russia introduced a new law paralyzing independent media and freedom of speech. Based on the new legislation, anyone spreading so-called fake news could be sentenced to 15 years in prison

Although this is not the first war in modern times, how the global community is using technologies is unheard of. Russia blocked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms alike, while many others, including TikTok, started controlling the content coming from Russian users. Kumar believes that this could dictate how social media companies respond to conflicts in the future as well. 

Demand for VPN services increased by more than 2,600%

Unsurprisingly, once Russia banned access to independent news sources and social media platforms, internet users turned to VPN. Simon Migliano, the VPN research expert at Top10VPN, shared that the demand for VPN services peaked at 2,692% on March 14. 

The peak, according to Migliano, correlates to Russia blocking Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s most popular social media platforms. However, even before the official ban, demand for VPN started increasing on February 26 as a direct response to throttling – deliberate restriction of internet speed. 

More on the topic: VPN Demand Surges Around the World  

RIPE NCC addresses the relationship with Russia

Russia is a member of RIPE NCC, one of the five Regional Internet Registries. According to Athina Fragkouli, Chief Legal Officer at RIPE NCC, internet number resources are qualified as an economic resource; therefore, the Netherlands-based organization must comply with the recent EU sanctions.  

As a result, RIPE NCC must freeze the resources that Russia owns and stop making additional resources available. However, the sanctions do not prohibit the organization from providing services or receiving payments from Russia. Furthermore, Fragkouli rejects the notion that RIPE NCC violates the sanctions by extending payment due dates for Russia.  

Access to the internet as a new weapon in cyberwarfare

As reported by Sead Fadilpašić, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has rejected the removal of Russian domains from the internet. However, this request from the Ukrainian government has sparked some heated debates about the potential weaponization of DNS.  

Stephen Shankland, CNET’s Senior Reporter, debates the idea of a splinternet – the division of the internet due to different national rules. Shankland goes as far as to consider the possibility that someone may exploit California-based ICANN to weaponize DNS and, in turn, access to the internet. 

About the author

Beatričė Raščiūtė

Technical Content Writer

Beatričė is a Technical Content Writer at IPXO. Having experience in translations, she decided to test new waters in the tech industry as a writer. While creating content, she dives deep into different internet and networking topics with the goal to present valuable information in the most reader-friendly way.
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