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No Internet “kill Switch” For Australia 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the always-open dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Well, it looks as though at least some Governments have a backbone. Egypt switched off its internet to stop protests over the past few days, and the US Government is considering legislation that will give the President 'kill switch' powers over the internet as well. But in Australia, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy — best known for his attempt to filter the country's internet for child pornography and the country's flagship national fibre broadband rollout, says such a scenario couldn't occur."
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No Internet “kill Switch” For Australia

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  • Weather (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:18AM (#35088182) Homepage Journal

    With the weather they have I don't think they need one.

    • Re:Weather (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:36AM (#35088240) Homepage Journal

      Funnily enough a lot of people on the coast where the cyclone hit are reporting fair 3G coverage and usable internet access. Its probably less vulnerable than power because it is either buried cables or wireless. Queensland is tropical and the weather there is often quite wild. The teletext service used to (maybe still does) operate out of channel 7 in Brisbane and it was always going down due to massive electrical storms.

      • Its probably less vulnerable than power because it is either buried cables or wireless

        ... until it floods.

        • I take your point but back in my traffic signaling days I had a lot of sites flood and we got through it. The phone cables in Melbourne are called the secondary storm water system by the techs who see the pits and pipes flood regularly. I have seen the concrete floor in a computer room with 10cm of water over it. You just had to lift a tile and there it was. We had 250VAC in cables tacked to the concrete but the wet stuff stayed out and the systems stayed up. The floods in FNQ [wikipedia.org] are coastal anyway. Associated

          • I guess if it rises high enough it'll find something that's not "hardened". But anyway, with all the shit you've had recently I think you only need an earthquake to compete the set.

            Then there's the cricket...

            • Here in Melbourne we are getting the southern fringes of the Queensland cyclone. We went out for Pizza an hour ago and the weather was exactly what we would expect in Malaysia. 29 degrees C, 90% humidity. Just as we finished up we got a tropical downpour. Gutters overflowing, minor flooding all over the place. I got soaked running 20 metres or so to the car. The water tank in my garage filled to overflowing in a couple of minutes. Welcome to the greenhouse....

      • The towers are built to "cyclone proof" standards, and many of the towers are on backup generators. Coverage is expected to get worse before it gets better because the backups only last 8-12 hrs. But I think those backup generators will be pretty high up on the emergency service todo list.
        • The towers are built to "cyclone proof" standards, and many of the towers are on backup generators. Coverage is expected to get worse before it gets better because the backups only last 8-12 hrs. But I think those backup generators will be pretty high up on the emergency service todo list.

          Ten years ago when I was in vic roads we were giving up our UHF channel space and using cellular phones. Keeping cellphones working will be as important as keeping ambulances on the road I reckon.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:20AM (#35088186) Homepage Journal

    The current Government barely made it back in to office at the last election. They need every cheap shot they can think of to boost their popularity ratings. I assume the algorithm in use here is that Conroy scans the Daily(tm) on his iPad(tm) at the start of the week, picks a bit of news relevant to his constituency which looks bad, and composes a speech saying he won't do that. Repeat next week and so on.

    • by bug1 (96678) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @05:16AM (#35088376)

      Conroy was asked the question by a journalist, it wasnt a press release or something.

      Judge for yourself here is the clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-Gn4SjNY3U [youtube.com]

      If you wish to be fair, how about a critical response to the oppositions approach to the Internet.

      • If you wish to be fair, how about a critical response to the oppositions approach to the Internet.

        Its a fair question.

      • Ok, let's be fair. Journalist asks question. Politician standard program:

        1. Calculate support gained when answering pro: In this case, nil. Who'd be interested in the government shutting down the internet?
        2. Calculate support gained when answering contra: In this case, slim. A few geeks would like it.

        Slim > nil, hence answer is "No kill switch in Aussieland".

        Politicians could be replaced with a pretty small script, thinking about it...

        • Switching off the NBN will switch off the Internet.
        • by bug1 (96678)

          Pretty small script yea, but the backend needs a supercomputer to number crunch the "calculate support gained when ..."

          • You mean, like, we already have now?

            You don't think any politician makes a statement without being briefed first how this would affect his votes, do you?

            • by bug1 (96678)

              I wasnt actually being serious. So no, i dont think politicians have supercomputers calculating what makes them popular.

              A politician with any chance of success has to be able to instinctively know the right choice.

              If a politician cant do impromptu stuff like talk-back radio, live tv, face pesky reporters etc then they have no chance.

              • That's why politicians are master in the "yes, no, black, white" game. Know that one? Where, no matter what, you may never say those four words. Watch your average politician closely, they'll NEVER say those four words unless it's from a scripted source.

                Impromptu talk for a politician usually means "talk a lot, but don't make any statement".

    • by arivanov (12034)

      This is because nobody told him that fiber lands in less than 10 points around Australia.

      Not that it is any different in other places. There are not that many areas around the coast of a coastal nation which are geologically stable and have no fishermen. Most have to actually legislate them and and mark the relevant zones as no-anchor/no-fishing.

    • Meatloaf can help.

      "I would do anything for gain, but I won't do that".

  • So if the USA government is planning to implement an internet kill switch in the future
    Then I need to be planning a way to get around it when it gets shut down
    • by Spad (470073)

      Wi-Fi "bucket chain" from Canada or Mexico.

      • Amateur satellites or maybe high altitude balloon or UAV based links. Pirate cellular services from aircraft, packet switched TCP/IP for the satellite services. Maybe you could build an ad-hoc store and forward messaging system with weather balloons. Each unit collects data and dumps it when contacted from the ground. Units can replicate data when they contact each other. Data is lost when they crash.

        Use a CDMA like protocol to pack data into frequencies below 50Mhz. Ionospheric propagation, particularly at

        • by jack2000 (1178961)
          There's already enough dumb pipe satellites in orbit, the kind that are unlikely to be removed. You can just leech off of those. You'll just need enough nodes that are connected to a wireless mesh that have sat uplink to those.
          • Do you mean normal comsats? Don't you need some sort of key to use them?

            • The vast majority of commercial satellites are just simple repeaters - nothing stops anyone from aiming a signal up and getting a good downlink other than cost of equipment. It's not nearly as expensive these days, though still not cheap. From time to time you do see unwanted signals, mostly it's accidental though, uplink forgot to switch off at the end of their contract, maybe didn't pay their bill on time, operator typed the wrong frequency in to the up converter, etc. One fairly effective way to deal wit

            • by AHuxley (892839)
              "The Great Brazilian Sat-Hack Crackdown" http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2009/04/fleetcom [wired.com] some are open for all :)
    • by PatPending (953482) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:42AM (#35088266)
      Well, RFC 1149 worked for Egypt
      • Yes. Try RFC 1149 [ietf.org], otherwise known as IP over Avian Carriers [wikipedia.org] (IPoAC). You might need to substitute a more common discrete winged media though, say, bat or bumblebees. Just make sure you train them well (or use some strong pheromones), or you'll be getting massive packet loss.

        (The RFC actually describes the sending of datagrams written on slips of paper strapped to the leg of the carrier pigeon. A more practical method would be to load the carrier with a flash drive containing gigabytes rather than bits of

    • Egypt got around the internet blackout with dial-up BBS's and the likes of UUCP
    • by somersault (912633) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @05:44AM (#35088470) Homepage Journal

      Why are people letting the US govt away with this? An internet kill switch sounds an awful lot like a violation of free speech, especially if they're thinking of using it in the same way the Egyptian govt did. The constitution is starting to look like a bad joke.

      • The constitution has already been reduced to a bad joke, get over it. The only thing left is the 2nd, and it's only 'cause it really doesn't matter whether you have a gun as long as the army has bigger ones and more.

        • The constitution has already been reduced to a bad joke, get over it

          I'm not American for one thing. I found the "land of the free, we're awesome" stuff quite tiresome even before it did start becoming a joke, but now it's worse. I don't want to get over the fact that such a previously vocal group is now letting the government shit all over them, but often still pretending like the US is number 1 in every way. I want people to get a grip.

      • The constitution is starting to look like a bad joke.

        I got news for you buddy, The constitution gets no respect from people in the congress that are supposedly representing us but taking payoffs from corporate or private interests. In fact the only people in this country that seem to believe in the constitution are the little guys like you and me that actually need some protection from the other group of assholes. What rock have you been living under anyway?

    • Enter the return of Sneakernet and the Avian protocol.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      The US government isn't planning one, the Obama administration claims it already has that authority. Here is part of Section 706 of the Communications act of 1934 (my emphasis):

      (d) Upon proclamation by the President that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States, the President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of the national security and defense, may, during a period ending not later than six months after the termination of such state or threat of war and not later than suc

  • by Angostura (703910) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:39AM (#35088258)

    OK, I'll stick my head above the parapet, because I'm interested in getting opinions.

    Let's assume for a second that the kill-switch proponents are acting from the best of motives. They are worried about the potential for a huge, effective, external Internet attack on critical infrastructure, that could do the worst things - cut power, stop water , turn all the traffic lights red - you've seen the movies.

    They are concerned that it such an attack occurs the population will be screaming "Why didn't you plan, why don't you stop it, how come you can't turn external connections off, you bozos?".

    So they are planning and worrying - as they should.

    What is wrong, in principle with a killswitch, if the correct checks and balances are in place? What is a better solution?

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:49AM (#35088290) Homepage

      Take responsibility for the security of the services you host on the internet?

    • by JustOK (667959) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @05:04AM (#35088344) Journal

      because they are setting up an attack vector, where none existed, that could be used to bring down the internet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why do services such as power, water, and traffic lights have to be on-line? Wouldn't it make sense not to have any sensitive services connected to the Internet in the first place?

      • Why do services such as power, water, and traffic lights have to be on-line? Wouldn't it make sense not to have any sensitive services connected to the Internet in the first place?

        Well okay but consider that I have been involved in supporting air traffic control systems around the world. None of them are connected to the Internet but the people who manage them are absolutely reliant on the Internet to exchange information about the systems they manage.

        • None of them are connected to the Internet but the people who manage them are absolutely reliant on the Internet to exchange information about the systems they manage.

          In which case turning OFF the Internet would accomplish... what?

          • None of them are connected to the Internet but the people who manage them are absolutely reliant on the Internet to exchange information about the systems they manage.

            In which case turning OFF the Internet would accomplish... what?

            It would make those people unable to keep the infrastructure they manage working correctly.

        • by Noughmad (1044096)

          That's reasonable, but a kill-switch would only hurt the communications, not help them.

        • This is correct. But there are still other means of communication that could be used to work around the problem until the internet can be brought back. It would certainly lead to a few more traffic jams, but we're a far cry from the meltdown of civilization as we know it.

          Not to mention, as has been said before, that shutting down the internet would not really help if the problem is that the internet has become unavailable.

      • Power companies lower their prices by instantly selling excess, and instantly buying extra power rather than fire up backup natural gas generators that are less efficient (in the US). The communications links used for this would be too expensive to build as new stand alone links. They really should be through VPNs or better yet, hardware AES links or something.

        Water has few if any excuses that I know of.

        Traffic lights have the best ones. To manage city-wide traffic there has to be communication between p

        • Power companies: Shutting down the internet would not solve their problem of buying/selling. They could still not buy/sell, because the resource used to do it has turned from crippled to unavailable. That does not improve anything. Quite the opposite.

          Traffic lights: I know not a single traffic light system in any city I have had the honor of working for that relies on the internet to connect their traffic light systems. Either, if they really need to adjust them in real time, they have their own cables (sin

          • by Ash-Fox (726320)

            Traffic lights: I know not a single traffic light system in any city I have had the honor of working for that relies on the internet to connect their traffic light systems. Either, if they really need to adjust them in real time, they have their own cables (since they dictate who digs where and when, they can very easily and cheaply drop a cable here or there), or, like most, they have more or less clever sneakernet solutions that coordinate through synchronized times. I was quite amazed myself, but it work

            • I know a few solutions that even use a "real" network (networked computers controlling the traffic lights, either connected by cables or WiFi), but none of these solutions have any connection to the internet.

              Technically, it would be possible to invade those networks and do a "hostile takeover". But you'd still have to be on site, it's nothing you could launch half a planet away. Also, the damage you could do is fairly limited, confined to a usually very small area (less than one town).

        • You don't need to keep the commands to the lights secret; you just need to authenticate them. Each light having a copy of a single signing key and digital signatures on the messages will suffice.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @05:10AM (#35088358) Homepage Journal

      Egypt shows that the killswitch can't be used for more than a week or so because business and Government both complain that they need it to do their work and keep things running. If it lasted a week in Egypt I reckon it would last a day in the US. At the same time people are good networkers and they know how to get the word out. An intranet can be a wifi card and a copy of mediawiki, though I am sure the solutions used in Egypt were pretty low tech. In short the kill switch does more damage than good. It can't be used for any length of time and it is pretty easy to work around. You may as well switch off the water and see how far you get.

    • Actually, I think that the idea that the NSA doesn't already have one in place is pretty far-fetched. The real question, to me, is: what would cause them to actually use it?
      • Actually, I think that the idea that the NSA doesn't already have one in place is pretty far-fetched. The real question, to me, is: what would cause them to actually use it?

        A leak which they couldn't stop in time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just how critical is your "critical infrastructure" if you can render it unusable (i.e. take it offline), at a moments notice, and would prefer to do so as an alternative to it being destroyed?

      The only difference between taking it offline and destroying it, is that it (might) take longer to bring back online afterwards, if it's destroyed.

      It's like saying "enemy bombers are about to bomb our city" and responding: "to prevent this, we'll burn the city down!".

      What you should have, as your counter-strategy, is

      • "The only difference between taking it offline and destroying it, is that it (might) take longer to bring back online afterwards, if it's destroyed."

        Systems control is a mature field, I don't think the engineers who built such "critical" infrastruture would make it relaint on the internet without some sort of contingency.
    • by dutchd00d (823703) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @05:25AM (#35088394) Homepage

      Secure the infrastructure that you expose to the internet. Make sure that no evil-doers can get in. If there *is* an attack and it all goes horribly wrong disconnect the infrastructure. No need to pull down the entire network.

      If you want to stop burglars you put a lock on your door, you don't dig up the street that they use to get to your door.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      What is wrong, in principle with a killswitch, if the correct checks and balances are in place?

      Because the guy with his finger on the button is judge, jury, and executioner. Checks and balances are fine until the government grants themselves "special powers" and does whatever the hell it was going to do anyway.

      But apart from that, no, nothing is wrong with it.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      What is wrong, in principle with a killswitch, if the correct checks and balances are in place? What is a better solution?

      The correct checks and balances do not exist. The "kill switch" is to contact the ISP and ask them to stop routing traffic. If the ISP is not a common carrier and fails to do this immediately, hold them accountable for the traffic. If they are a common carrier then give them some time to get it dealt with. The legal system exists to handle this already.

      • The correct checks and balances do not exist. The "kill switch" is to contact the ISP and ask them to stop routing traffic. If the ISP is not a common carrier and fails to do this immediately, hold them accountable for the traffic. If they are a common carrier then give them some time to get it dealt with. The legal system exists to handle this already.

        The carriers in the US have already demonstrated the willingness to cooperate with even illegal government requests - and then showed that they have the lobbying muscle to get Congress to pass retro-active immunity and get the President to sign it.

    • by Nazlfrag (1035012)

      So in your scenario they plan for an attack. What's the worst an attack could do - I'd venture it's to shut the entire internet down. So at the first sign of attack they will skip straight to the worst-case scenario? Under what conditions would a full scale takedown be less destructive than an attack?

    • First of all, forget everything you've seen in the movies. EVERY SINGLE THING.

      NO single piece of critical infrastructure is accessible through the internet. Not a single one. If it is, unhook it. NOW! Not when the big DDoS strikes, do it now and find a solution around it. The internet is in its current state NOT a reliable, tamper and fail proof means of communication. Funny, that's what it was designed to be. Unfortunately, it evolved past this, has become commercial and it is by no means as resilient anym

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        So please give me a scenario where an internet attack could actually do some damage to any kind of infrastructure.

        Hows this one [securityfocus.com]?

        • If nuclear plants have a connection to the internet, your problem is not an internet kill switch but this security hazard altogether.

          NO security critical system should be allowed to be connected to a potentially hostile network (and I think I need not argue that the internet is way beyond "potentially"). That's basic common sense.

          Have the CISO along with the CTO fired and replace them with people who can do their job.

    • by Joehonkie (665142)
      " cut power, stop water , turn all the traffic lights red - you've seen the movies." There is no reason for ANY of those things to be connected to the internet.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Because you can never ensure that the checks and balances will always be in place. Any power that can be abused will be abused, it's just a matter of time. NEVER assume that the government is acting from the best of motives.

    • turn all the traffic lights red

      Dr Evil would have turned all the traffic lights GREEN.

    • by citizenr (871508)

      cut power, stop water , turn all the traffic lights red - you've seen the movies.

      .....

      So they are planning and worrying - as they should.

      Look - the terrArtists want to turn off power. Quick! Lets use our emergency plan number one, turn it off ourself!

    • by Rakarra (112805)

      Let's assume for a second that the kill-switch proponents are acting from the best of motives. They are worried about the potential for a huge, effective, external Internet attack on critical infrastructure, that could do the worst things - cut power, stop water , turn all the traffic lights red - you've seen the movies.

      Yes we have, and so have the legislators. That's the problem.

      The problem is working from the assumption that the "nightmare scenarios" in the movies are likely, or even possible.

  • That's nice. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enter to exit (1049190) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @04:40AM (#35088260)
    If any government is facing a threat it will do anything it needs to protect itself, regardless of laws. Having or not having a law will not make the slightest difference in the face of a real emergency.
    • by jack2000 (1178961)

      The only problem is people aren't pissed off enough to do the sensible thing. Why riot and protest, just equip enough snipers and snipe top ranking officials.
      1. Dictators giving you the blues? Snipe away.
      2. ?
      3. Instant freedom.

      • by Stooshie (993666)
        4. instantly replaced by a even worse despot who ...
        5. ... profits!
        • Dunno, byt the GP wording, it is more like
          4. Instantly replaced by a even worse despot who...
          5. is snipped away shortly after.
          6. ???????
          7. Civil war.

    • by craznar (710808)

      However in a Australia, whilst it would be fairly easy to shut down the cell phone network, there is so many leaky holes out of the country for internet (much of international bandwidth is in the control of Universities etc for example) that I don't think the Government would be able to do it.

      They can't even implement an internet filter that is their policy, let alone shut it off.

  • Until such time as they see fit to pass 'emergency' legislation to grant executive powers to do so. As John Gilmore identified though "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."... the data will flow... somehow.
  • NBN rolled out with almost all traffic traveling over a backbone controlled by ine entity is a kill switch.

    A single point of failure with one control system and a major control interface?

    Who needs legislation when you control the router tables?

    All the other isps will interconnect. That just leaves the very few submarine cables and satellites to manage.

    A big Hi to the people at DSD.

  • Do NOT trust Stephen Conroy. This is code for "we are studying it, probably have it, and legislation is due to be tabled within weeks"
  • I understand that the internet was invented/evolved as a robust distributed system that allowed communication specifically even when subject to attack or damage. Having a 'kill switch' is completely against the core purpose. as mentioned earlier, you just introduce an attack vector that was engineered not to exist. just get enought leverage against the killswitch operator and you can cause major damage.

    I speculate that this is a major reason behind tiered internet. the kill switch can shutdown only th
  • A kill switch lets people know that it has been flipped. Things stop functioning entirely, and the net "routes around it".

    Why not instead use a "congestion switch" to slow down traffic to a point where government created misinformation can be spread in real time to achieve whatever goals the government wants?

  • You think that by now some wifi router setups would be able to great local micro-inter nets with some data caching so local communities could hope over the local wifi grid.

    Handy for publishing local papers on what colour pants your neighbour has and how often they do or don't wash them.

    Could possibly do similar with parked or moving vehicles (though Doppler may be an issue, should be overcome-able).

    big gaps could be crossed with two men and some flash lights stood on top of hills, or the phone network etc..

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Really stupid communications regulations to sustain a monopoly killed most attempts at wireless mesh networks in Australia. Anybody who connected their node to the internet while being part of a wireless network ran the risk of very large usage bills, losing their internet access and paranoia about getting accused of being a pedophile if somebody misbehaved on the wireless network.
      As for an Australian internet kill switch - three backhoes would get just about everything at once because not much bandwidth i
  • No kill switch? Ha. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wizarth (785742) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @07:08AM (#35088732) Homepage

    This is the same government that wants to be able to blacklist any URL secretly.

    The EFA AU said it best: http://www.efa.org.au/2011/02/03/conroy-not-fooling-anyone/ [efa.org.au]

  • Thank the gods! Otherwise we wouldn't be seeing this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOab8lYI2H8 [youtube.com]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obmP9UuOn-4 [youtube.com]

  • ....if you are unable to speak?

    Or put another way: what use is internet access if the site you want to visit is on the secret blacklist?

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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