Cyber ​​borders locked?

Imagine this situation: you leave the office and go to the store, but you cannot pay for your purchases with a bank card, which, as you absolutely know, contains more than the required amount of money. You leave the store and go to the nearest ATM, but you cannot withdraw a penny from your card. You want to write about all this disgrace on your page in a well-known international social network, but all of a sudden you find that you cannot enter it either through the application or through the browser. You want to call a taxi, but you see a message that you can only pay for the trip in cash. You have to trudge to the bus stop, and, lo and behold, the driver announces that the ride is free! Finally, you reach the ATM of the bank that issued your bank card, but it does not work. Hungry and unhappy, you just take the bus to your bank branch without paying a fare to withdraw at least a little cash, but at the bank there is a huge queue of people just as unhappy, angry and hungry as you are. In completely upset feelings, you suddenly remember that somewhere at home is lying a pack of pasta. Here it is, salvation! You come home, cook pasta and, to while away the evening, launch your laptop with the operating system Windows to run around with a virtual gun across the virtual spaces of the United States. But as soon as you get into a rage, the computer suddenly restarts, after which it cannot start from the words 'never at all'. You want to call your well-known computer master, but your iPhone for some reason also stops working, and the wired phone in your apartment has long been gone as unnecessary. You run out into the stairwell, but there you find only people who are as frightened and confused as you are.

Do you think this is all a Hollywood horror script that has the same relation to reality as Eurovision does to good music? Then I have two news for you: bad and very bad. The bad news is that our current dependence on digital services is colossal. Digital services are found in industrial control systems, transport control systems, communications systems, law enforcement agencies, computers, smartphones – everywhere. Information technologies make it possible to increase the efficiency of work in all areas of human activity with minimal costs, as well as provide services that are maximum in terms of ease of use and at a low cost. The very bad news is that information technology, which is mainly used now in Russia, is in reality controlled by several centers of competence located in one country – the United States of America – and subject to local regulators in the form of judicial and administrative instances. And if the court or Congress passes a verdict that American companies need to deprive one or another country of access to technology, then this decision will be carried out – Americans are quite law-abiding.

This has already happened in the history of the USSR, when the country was deprived of direct access to American technologies with the help of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. This amendment was adopted in response to the restriction for Soviet citizens of the possibility of leaving abroad for permanent residence in 1974 and was canceled in relation to the Russian Federation, which is the legal successor of the USSR, only in 2012. Under these conditions, the USSR was forced to develop its own stack of digital technologies , including methods of industrial espionage and technological theft. But if earlier the central processor for a personal computer could be cut into layers and reproduced, now this trick will not work because of the extremely small size of modern transistors. And there will be a problem with reproduction: semiconductor production in Russia lags behind modern production by several generations. A new semiconductor plant with the most advanced lithographic equipment costs fifteen billion dollars, construction will take several years. During this time, lithographic technologies will go ahead along the path of progress. And another good question is whether the most advanced semiconductor production lines will be sold to Russia, because this means creating another competitor. The Chinese, for example, would be happy to buy state-of-the-art semiconductor production lines, but a de facto technology embargo is in force against China. The most modern semiconductor plant in China is built by the company Intel and manufactures memory in a 65 nanometer process. China, like Russia, will have to work on old factory lines for a long time, for the reason that no one will sell new ones.

Companies with American jurisdictions produce the most modern central processors, almost completely control the entire market of operating systems, and are leaders in the business of manufacturing ATMs, information security systems, search engines, instant messengers, social networks, and money transaction processing systems. Only South Korea and Taiwan can compete with American centers of excellence in the field of semiconductor production, where there are modern lines for technological technological processes from 7 to 14 nanometers, but these countries are almost completely dependent on the United States in the military field: South Korea is threatened by its northern part, with which Until now, a peace treaty has not been signed, Taiwan is under constant pressure from the mainland Middle Empire, which wants to return the rebellious province to its fold.

China's strategy of exchanging cheap mass skilled labor for the latest technology has not worked very well in this area. This happened due to the fact that no one would share with a potential opponent what could help him win. All countries of the world, partly with the exception of China, are highly dependent on American digital competence centers. On the one hand, reliance on these centers makes it possible to implement projects in the field of information technology quickly and with minimal costs. On the other hand, this increases the dependence on the decisions of the American courts and administrative authorities.

In 2015, Visa and MasterCard, by the decision of the US Treasury Department, disconnected banks operating in Crimea from their processors. This led to disruptions in the system for processing transactions on plastic cards. Russia was forced to create its own center of competence in the field of digital transactions, the NSCP, on the basis of which domestic processing centers were created, as well as the MIR payment card. At the same time, the MIR card operates on the basis of the EMV protocol, which is the intellectual property of MasterCard, and the processing centers of the NSCP are built on the basis of the software of the same company. If Russia had to create its own stack of information technologies for processing plastic card transactions, it would have to be created much longer and more expensive. Also, Russia is building its own interbank payment system to replace the similar American SWIFT system.

Russian government companies have long been trying to migrate from a commercial Windows made by an American corporation Microsoft to an open operating system Linux. For some reason, it is believed that Linux is better protected from software bookmarks, since the developers of the program code for this operating system are developers from all over the world. The problem is that, like Windows, Linux is de facto controlled by American companies, since the main producers of software code for this system are now such companies from the USA as Red Hat, Google , IBM and … Microsoft!

The United States of America is the largest consumer and manufacturer of information technology systems, the oldest digital competence center in the world, as well as the largest market. Around this center are concentrated countries that build their own processes based on the technologies of the American competence center, which reduces the cost of production and the introduction of digital services and services for each of the consumers. This is because it is extremely costly to set up your own national IT competency center. And if the national domestic market has a small volume, then investments in production will never return with a profit. This means that local manufacturers are forced to either enter the global market with their high-tech products by registering a head office in the traditional jurisdiction of the United States or Europe (for example, Kaspersky Lab and Yandex went this way), or create a national digital competence center on government money with the attendant risks of corruption and low efficiency (for example, the Sputnik search engine). But even the globalization of the national center of competence does not save from sanctions, which fell, for example, Kaspersky Lab – one of the Russian centers of competence in the field of cybersecurity. The second path was chosen by China, but it requires a colossal volume of the domestic market, and even then – the disconnection of ZTE from the supply of chipsets to the American company Qualcomm has de facto destroyed ZTE's center of competence in the production of mobile laptop computers known as 'smartphones'.

Conflicts in the modern world are increasingly occurring not in the form of military clashes of multimillion-dollar armies, but in the form of trade wars. It is possible to make a decision to turn off American digital services in any country of the world through a court or by a decision of a minister within 24 hours, spending several thousand dollars on this. The negative effect on the economy of the country in which the company is based, which fell under the millstones of the trade war, will amount to millions and millions. It is this colossal difference between costs and total damage that makes trade wars such an effective means of influencing unwanted countries. Moreover, regardless of the name of the aggressor country and the victim country.

The boundaries in the world of cybernetic systems have become reality; they run between several centers of digital competence. China, fenced off by the Great China Firewall from the rest of the world, is successfully creating its own central processing units, memory, operating systems, payment systems, cyber defenses and cyber attacks. China has both a large domestic market for the consumption of high-tech products and government support in building its own digital competence centers. And let the illusion of the Chinese cyber border do not deceive you: in peacetime you can freely walk through it with the help of proxy servers and VPN, in wartime it will be locked, the keys to which will only be held by the highest functionaries of the CCP.

And this war is already flaring up, though not 'hot', but commercial. If the United States disconnects China from its digital competence centers, and China disconnects the United States from its own, then the only thing that will become in large deficit in China will be x86-based central processing units. The Middle Empire is able to fully provide itself with all the other high-tech products and services, although not everywhere at once. For example, Huawei will have to quickly ramp up the production of chipsets for mobile technology to replace similar ones from Qualcomm and MediaTek. American companies, on the other hand, will have to look for a replacement for the retired production facilities: for example, Apple will have to move the assembly iPhone and Mac to other countries, and Intel will have to look for additional lines for packaging their central processing units. In general, not fatal, but unpleasant.

In Russia, the government recently conducted a technical test of its own cyber border control system. Under the pretext of fighting encrypted chats in the Telegram messaging system, Roskomnadzor officials tried to block the transfer of data between Telegram servers and client applications. However, it quickly became clear that Telegram data exchange technologies are strongly tied to American digital competence centers, on which many other Russian technological systems are based. The blocking of a stack of IP addresses from Google and Amazon has led to disruptions in the functioning of many other Russian digital services, the work of which is based on the server infrastructure of these American companies. As soon as Russia hangs the lock on its digital border now, many important and valuable services will immediately stop working.

Russia is now in a strange position. On the one hand, if the United States completely blocks the access of Russian companies to its technologies, this will mean that Russia will have to either create the entire stack of digital competencies on its own, or reconfigure to other digital competence centers. In the first case, one cannot do without the participation of the state, since the volume of the internal market for digital products in Russia is small. It will turn out to be something like the project of the national search engine Sputnik, but only on a larger scale and with an inevitable lag behind the leaders of the global market. In the second case, Russian companies will have to reconfigure their infrastructure for centers of excellence from the countries of Southeast Asia, primarily China. Moreover, who will pay the costs incurred? Of course, the Russian consumer of digital products and services in the form of taxes or increased payments.

Therefore, if Russia wants to become one of the centers of digital competencies in the world, the country needs to develop, first of all, its internal market. Without this, any innovative activity will be of a point-like, unsystematic nature. At the same time, the state can help in the creation of national digital competence centers, but at the cost of the colossal inefficiency of the activities of officials in this field.

So at the moment, only two countries in the world can keep their cyber borders locked: the United States and China. Only they have a full range of all competences in the field of information technology that exist in the world, at the national level. All other countries base their national digital systems and services on the basis of technologies of those digital competence centers, which they trust, opening their cyber borders. Yes, technologies are new, and the foundation – trust – is the same as at the dawn of mankind. This is because technologies come and go, but humanity does not change.

Ilya Rabinovich

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