1. Computing
Wendy Boswell

Is there an "Internet kill switch"?

By June 23, 2010

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On CNN's "State of the Union" this past Sunday, Senator Joseph Lieberman discussed the idea in a recent bill of an "Internet kill switch". Basically, this means that under an emergency situation, the government would have the power to shut down parts of the Web. Here's a direct quote from the transcript:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you on a couple of other subjects in our final minutes here. First of all, you have an Internet bill, it has been called the "kill switch bill" that would allow the president to seize control or shut down portions of the Internet if the U.S. was under some sort of cyber attack.

LIEBERMAN:No way, and total misinformation. I don't know whether people are intentionally pedalling misinformation. Here is the fact. Cyber war is going on in some sense right now. Our civilian infrastructure, the Internet that runs the electric grid, the telecommunications grid, transportation, all the rest is constantly being probed by nation states, by some terrorist groups, by organized criminal gangs. And we need this capacity in a time of war. We need the capacity for the president to say, Internet service provider, we've got to disconnect the American Internet from all traffic coming in from another foreign country, or we've got to put a patch on this part of it. The president will never take over -- the government should never take over the Internet. Listen, we've consulted, Senator Collins and I, who are proposing this bill, with civil liberties and privacy experts. This is a matter of national security. A cyber attack on America can do as much or more damage today by incapacitating our banks, our communications, our finance, our transportation, as a conventional war attack. And the president, in catastrophic cases -- not going to do it every day, not going to take it over. So I say to my friends on the Internet, relax...

Now, I know that at first reading this sounds pretty Orwellian, but take a look at the actual bill. If I understand it right, it does not actually permit the government to take control of the Internet; rather, just to take specific portions of the Internet offline that are crucial to the country's infrastructure and are under attack; plus, Congress has to give their consent. Perhaps we ought to find another name for it that's less dire than "Internet kill switch?"

What do you think of the "Internet kill switch" idea?

Comments
June 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm
(1) Mike says:

On that show, Lieberman’s justification for wanting this was, “…because China has this and it makes sense for us to have it too.” Not sure about the rest of you but I thought China’s control of information and internet access has always been a bad thing. And since when do we do something because China does it?

June 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm
(2) Wendy says:

Interesting point Mike, and one that I agree with. China isn’t exactly known for its diplomatic way of handling things internally!

June 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm
(3) Tonatiuh says:

Any cent spent on national security is like flushing money down the toilet. The powers to be just want to create fear that maybe one day we wake up and our bank account is not there anymore. They only want to control us. They want to be able to cut the internet if we are getting to know too much or if we are organizing against them.

June 25, 2010 at 8:49 am
(4) ratman says:

If there ever was a cyber attack by a foreign entity, would the Government actually have time to react before there was catastrophic effects?

There is so much “fear mongering” that one just absolutely cannot go thru a day without something being said negatively about something!

June 25, 2010 at 9:27 am
(5) ahmedhafiz says:

that’s no strange that the united states is the real who Owens the right laws, publishing and exports it to the other parts on this world with right2keep to herself the privacy policy for the internet, so was my first questions2u (web search guide): “has any country has the same network like the internet can be race with it in other countries”that’s all .

June 25, 2010 at 9:40 am
(6) NightOwl says:

I tried clicking on ‘actual bill’ three times and all that I got was a page saying, ‘…page has timed out…try again…’, I could not read it.

June 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm
(7) Wendy says:

NightOwl, try this link:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s3480/text

The original link seems to be only for one pre-determined session, which is weird.

June 27, 2010 at 6:04 am
(8) Don says:

The biggest problem is that nobody trusts the government to do what it says it will. If this legislation was passed everyone would be afraid that it would turn into something other that what it was thought to be used for.

I think the basic idea is good. However, our government is notorious for screwing up about anything it does and thatís just what the incompetent people would do. I would probably turn into a joke or a nightmare of control.

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