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Government The Internet United States Your Rights Online

Is an Internet Kill Switch Feasible In the US? 339

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-need-an-nra-for-this dept.
wiredmikey writes "The 'Kill Switch' bill will introduce legislation that would give the US government power to limit Internet traffic in the event of cyber-security emergency. To recap recent events in Egypt, public political protests reached critical mass on January 25th and on January 27th, Internet connectivity and access across the region began plummeting ultimately leading to a five-day blackout. The question remains: could the same approach be taken in the US?"
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Is an Internet Kill Switch Feasible In the US?

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:44AM (#35151564)
    Wait for the next Comcast outage and then shout "we did that on purpose!".
  • by Nukenbar (215420) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:45AM (#35151576)

    Where do you draw the line between the a large network and the Internet as a whole?

    • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:53AM (#35151672)

      Where do you draw the line between the a large network and the Internet as a whole?

      You draw the line exactly where it actually exists: where the people running that large network make peering arrangements to allow traffic to come and go through other networks and carriers. There is no internet. There are a bunch of networks that have very complex agreements allowing traffic to pass between and through them.

      And of course, it's worth repeating for the thousandth time on this "kill switch" topic: what the administration wants isn't some button to push, but the legal authority to tell various players (service providers, carriers, software/service operators, etc) that they must immediately honor requests to change what they're doing in an emergency. Say we get hard intel that sometime later that day, someone will be using Twitter or Gmail to issue timing commands to a bunch of people ready to drop off backpack bombs on metro trains in half a dozen large cities around the country. The "kill switch" mechanism doesn't shut down the internet. It allows the counter terror people to ask the administration to use that legal power to get on the phone with Twitter and tell them what needs to happen to prevent such use.

      • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:11PM (#35151928)

        And of course, it's worth repeating for the thousandth time on this "kill switch" topic: what the administration wants isn't some button to push, but the legal authority to tell various players (service providers, carriers, software/service operators, etc) that they must immediately honor requests to change what they're doing in an emergency.

        So... Exactly like what was done in Egypt then?

        • by Bucky24 (1943328)
          Pretty much... Except in the case of the US it will be only be used in a real emergency, right? Right?
          • Pretty much... Except in the case of the US it will be only be used in a real emergency, right? Right?

            Of course.

          • Of course. Such as if a member of the Wrong [take your pick] party is elected to public office.

        • by morgauxo (974071) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @01:08PM (#35152678)
          I'm not sure exactly what this bill would allow the government to do for good or bad but how is the GP's example anything like what happened in Egypt? Telling Twitter to block an account which is going to be used to synchronize a terrorist attack or even shutting down Twitter altogether isn't exactly the same as completely removing all internet access (or trying to anyway) for the whole country.
        • "And of course, it's worth repeating for the thousandth time on this "kill switch" topic: what the administration wants isn't some button to push, but the legal authority to tell various players (service providers, carriers, software/service operators, etc) that they must immediately honor requests to change what they're doing in an emergency."

          Give me a realistic scenario where killing the US portion internet is a justified and/or useful action. Yeah, I don't think so. Has the government asked for a way
      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:13PM (#35151942)

        Say we get hard intel that sometime later that day, someone will be using Twitter or Gmail to issue timing commands to a bunch of people ready to drop off backpack bombs on metro trains in half a dozen large cities around the country.

        Or they might do it via cell phone, so you should shut down all cell phones too. Or they might do it by short wave radio, so lock that up. Or they might do it by mail, so get rid of the mail. Or they might even do it by voice, so let's get rid of all that sound-carrying air. Where, exactly, do you plan to stop? You can strip a nation of every single right it has, in the name of terrorism, and you still won't prevent it. However at some point YOU start being the bad guy. It's a big bad world out there. Take your lumps, get used to it, and get the hell out of my face.

        • by socsoc (1116769) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:20PM (#35152020)
          We've already ruined air travel. Might as well ruin our communication methods too. Face it, the terrorists have won, it's just that they are the gov instead of crazy bombers.
          • by Dunbal (464142) *
            I know. And of course this is a completely useless political idea, like all other useless ideas that come from government. As if revolutions never happened in the pre internet or even pre-telephone era. Can't seem to remember Lenin twittering his followers, or Robespierre approving guillotinings by email, or Cromwell governing by Blackberry...
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            the terrorists have won

            Which terrorist?

            McVeigh? He didn't win - he thought he could spark a revolt.

            Bin Laden? He hasn't won - he wanted us out of the Middle East, only to INCREASE our involvement.

            So which terrorist won?

            (Sorry for the combative tone... It's just that I see this phrase a lot on here and for some reason it set me off...)

            • by vlm (69642)

              So which terrorist won?

              The one that said "they hate us for our freedoms"

              • by Bengie (1121981)

                I'm going to remember that quote

                So which terrorist won?

                The one that said "they hate us for our freedoms"

          • by ScentCone (795499)

            We've already ruined air travel

            And by "we," you mean you and the other people who continue to try to blow up airplanes full of people? Yes, that has definitely ruined the earlier, classical experience of havig a hijacker just take you to Cuba for the day.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Take your lumps, get used to it, and get the hell out of my face.

          You realize that, in a democracy, a politician with your opinion could not be elected?

          Since your position is untenable in a democracy, why stick to it?

          I'm not really sure that a "kill switch" is a good idea - I mean, if Obama called Twitter and asked them to pull the plug for the day, they probably would. Hell, if he asked the military to pull the plug, they probably would. So what additional authority is even needed?

          But anyway, preaching against security in the face of terrorism isn't going to win the day.

          • You realize that, in a democracy, a politician with your opinion could not be elected?

            Since your position is untenable in a democracy, why stick to it?

            So you are saying that a democracy is a fancy cloak-and-dagger form of a totalitarian regime where we slowly strip your rights away and build up a police state?

          • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:54PM (#35152494)

            You realize that, in a democracy, a politician with your opinion could not be elected?

            Of course not, because I am an honest man. So called democracies only elect crooks.

            Since your position is untenable in a democracy, why stick to it?

            Non sequitur. What does my opinion have to do with the form of government? Does government dictate opinions now? I am not allowed to think the way I do? No, I will stick to my position because it's my position. We don't have to agree. I don't even have to be right. But government be damned, and the bovine group-think be damned too.

            preaching against security in the face of terrorism isn't going to win the day.

            Terrorism is nothing new. Lock the damned cockpit doors of your planes with a serious lock, and you will never get 9/11 again. But no, the terrorism excuse can be used to fish around in your bank account, eavesdrop on your phone/internet sessions, seize or freeze your assets even when you have done nothing wrong. Because just the "suspicion" is enough. Why on earth would a government want to give up these powers? They are more addicting than crack. But tell me something, is the "war on terror" being lost, that these measures have to be considered? What happened to the "taking the fight to the enemy" excuse for invading Afghanistan (and later Iraq and now Pakistan)? After 10 years (almost twice as long as the second world war) you would think that some progress has been made and the "threat" of terrorism has decreased. Why do you feel you need more "security"? Or is it all just a bloody sham?

        • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:44PM (#35152378)

          Or they might do it via cell phone, so you should shut down all cell phones too.

          You mean, like during the Mumbai attacks, when the guys killing civilians were using cell phones to coordinate what they were doing? Once you find out that's what's in play, do you not see value in being able to direct the carrier to shut down the tower they're using?

          The government already has, and has long had the power to sieze vehicles in an emergency. To compell HAM operators to work with them or to shut down. To take over food supplies/transport. To stockpile and control the flow of things like bauxite or fuel. In an emergency, they've got juice. This (internetworking stuff) is an area in which those powers are not codified. Wouldn't you rather it was clearly spelled out, and there were rules that an executive had to follow, including chain of events, documentation, etc? Those things are already true about other emergency powers.

          • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @01:13PM (#35152758)

            Once you find out that's what's in play, do you not see value in being able to direct the carrier to shut down the tower they're using?

            By the time you figure that out, they've already done what they set out to do. The attacks only lasted about an hour before they barricaded themselves. I don't see how not having cell phones would have saved lives and frustrated this carefully planned assault. Their plan was to kill as many people as they could, not hold a teleconference.

            See the thing is the bad guy always, always has the advantage. The only time you can really prevent something is through careful surveillance BEFORE it happens. When the ball start rolling, there's not much you can do. Sure, cut off the phones. Paramedics and other first responders also use the phone system. Victims also use the phone system. So are you actually helping or making things worse?

            And as for the surveillance issue - perhaps soon it will be possible to eavesdrop and keep records and mine every single data source. Now how do you stop someone from saying "hey, since we have all this data anyway, let's go after other people too"? None of us are perfect. All of us have broken some law or other. We cannot live in a world that never forgives or forgets. And it becomes even worse when some elites have the ability to modify their records and the common man doesn't. And they will - after all that's what power IS.

            As for the internet - they killed the internet in Egypt. Did the problem go away? I am against nonsensical laws, and a kill switch makes no sense and it's proven NOT to work.

          • I am a Ham operator. The government may not force me to transmit on their behalf or shut me down if I don't comply. The only rule I can find regarding this is that I may not cause harmful interference. But this is for all forms of Ham radio communication and not just in emergencies. However, many Hams do participate in emergency communications through two organizations, ARES and RACES. http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=amateur [fcc.gov]
          • Shutting down the Mumbai terrorists' cellphones wouldn't have done much to lessen the attack. Witnesses reporting the shooters' locations to police certainly could have (if the police were coordinated). The government will use its "emergency powers" like its regular ones--incompetently and abusively, only more so.
          • by 0123456 (636235)

            Once you find out that's what's in play, do you not see value in being able to direct the carrier to shut down the tower they're using?

            So, uh, call the phone company and say 'please can you shut down the tower they're using'.

            Only a retard would shut down the entire country's telephone system and even if you're not that stupid you still have to live with the unintended consequences of shutting down phones in that area; imagine, for example, that someone has managed to hide out and is passing information the police about what the bad guys are doing... well, tough luck now you've cut off their cell phone.

            As for shutting down the Internet in A

          • by corbettw (214229)

            Once you find out that's what's in play, do you not see value in being able to direct the carrier to shut down the tower they're using?

            No, because once you do that you've alerted the bad guys to the fact that you know who and where they are. Better to let them keep talking, but monitor it and use triangulation to pick them out for targeted strikes. That would result in dead terrorists much, much more quickly than impeding their ability to communicate, which would just result in them scattering and disappearing into the woodwork. Exactly what happened in Mumbai (one of the attackers was arrested, nine were killed, and an unknown number, at

        • by careysub (976506)

          Say we get hard intel that sometime later that day, someone will be using Twitter or Gmail to issue timing commands to a bunch of people ready to drop off backpack bombs on metro trains in half a dozen large cities around the country.

          Or they might do it via cell phone, so you should shut down all cell phones too...

          Give the man a cigar! You have nailed this scenario right to the ground with a pile driver. Disposable cell phones are how bombings are coordinated and triggered right now. Not "twitters" via the Internet.

          If this is really the problem they want to solve then blanking out all cell phone access is where they should be starting. Since it isn't, one can reasonably suspect that they really don't care about this scenario at all, it is simply a stalking horse, and want the powers for other reasons.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        >>>someone will be using Twitter or Gmail

        To protest against President Agent Smith in the year 2018, and president smith doesn't want that, so he turns them off.

        Or to switch-off foxnews.com and msnbc.com (per the stated goals of a certain congressman). You made a noble attempt to make the "kill switch" sound good, but it really isn't. It's too much power in the hands of too few.

        While congress may have a legit argument to censor the public airwaves (i.e. block nudity reaching children), they have z

        • I have to agree with this. The use case for the kill switch is staggeringly hypothetical and rare, while the potentials for abuse will rival Nixon's attacks on the news agency that was reporting on watergate.
      • a news report will be released with substantial evidence that President X did Y (something bad), and the election is tomorrow. The administration has already has "agreement" (support, blackmail, threat of lawsuits/audits unless they get everything exactly right in their report, etc) from the major news outlets to delay the story 24 hours. But news is going to get out.

        "Reliable" intel may be "found" that an organization will use the internet to arrange to drop of backpack bombs at polling locations around

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          So what you're saying is that it's impossible for someone with government power to use any sort of judgement? You do realize that government officials make decisions every day that include things like closing down highways, buildings, power supplies, etc., right? Neve mind, I know you're trolling.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:46AM (#35151586)

    With the NSA (and others?) having the power to issue National Security Letters, we really don't know what the truth is regarding anything in this matter.

    • by ISoldat53 (977164) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:56AM (#35151714)
      Would this take a Kill Bill?
    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Sure we do.... we know how networks connect. Sure, they can try it... but I suspect that for every hour that the internet is down, hundreds of new connections come online. The damage will be healed, and connectivity will slowly be restored.... it may not be fast, it may not be great, and it make take time, but it will be enough to let the world know what they are doing to us.

    • The 'internet kill switch' used in Egypt was very low tech and consisted of phoning ISPs and sending some guys to others... The ISPs all participated because it was legal by Egypt law so no company dared go against the governments law just because of ethics.

      In the US it is no different *today*, when shit hits the fan the government will claim it's a matter of national security and companies will be required to participate in shutting down the infrastructure. If they refuse key equipment will probably just
  • by KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:51AM (#35151654)

    Giving the same people who would put a man to death for letting someone speak out about what the US is actually up to, the power to shut down communications, is only good for those people, not the rest of the population.

    Free flow of information is a requirement for having a democracy.

    • Exactly. I don't know how these congresscritters can talk about this with a straight face after what happened in Egypt.

      Anyway, to answer the original question, isn't a "kill switch" only feasible in a country that requires all traffic to go through some government-sponsored filtering system? We certainly don't want THAT in this country. There too much traffic for that, anyway.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Anyway, to answer the original question, isn't a "kill switch" only feasible in a country that requires all traffic to go through some government-sponsored filtering system?

        No.
        What we think happened is that Egypt called up the 5 or 6 ISPs in the country and said "SHUT. EVERYTHING. DOWN"
        All this talk of a Kill Switch is just legalese for giving the government lawful authority to order shut downs.

        President Obama could do the same thing tomorrow, he just wouldn't have any legal cover for it.
        I personally find it troubling that so many powers we once gave the government only in a state of war/emergency are becoming part and parcel of normal government operations.

      • There are choke points, nonetheless. The government might not be capable of an absolute shutdown like we saw in Burma or Egypt, but they might be able to cripple the Internet to the point where, for the large bulk of people, it simply won't work.

        That being said, there are ways around it, older technologies like HAM radio, satellite, PPP, UUCP and the like, not to mention newer technologies like mesh networking, that could, while not restoring the Internet as we know it, be good enough to get data in and ou

      • by denissmith (31123) *
        Technically the US Government would adopt rules that require switch manufacturers to include features that would allow the government to assume control in an 'emergency'. Phone companies are required to keep call logs and allow wiretaps, it would extend the same model. In normal day to day operation there would be no filtering. Or maybe only the filtering that the MPAA requested. If the authorities ever felt threatened in a way that was construed as 'national security' they would kick in their control.
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      but... We are the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave... The song says so every sporting event. And the "Kill Switch" Idea came to the front because a Tyrant was doing his best to limit his people's calls for liberty and freedom. Is it just me or do Congresscritters think all Americans are extra special stupid? or. maybe they are right...and they are?
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Excuse me? But who? What? I have heard prosecution but no official call for the death penalty. But then I have heard people say that Bush should have been shot but they where not serious so it was okay correct?

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      I disagree.... I think it will be the biggest threat for authoritarianism.

      There are enough people in the US that know how to setup networks. If they turn on the kill switch, how many people in this country are going to be.... within hours (it not minutes) be working on ways to get new links up and to circumvent it in any way possible? The more they use it, the longer it stays on, the more resistance we build to it.

      Let them use their antibiotic, they will merely pave the way for resistance. Also, how many jo

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Giving the same people who would put a man to death for letting someone speak out about what the US is actually up to, the power to shut down communications, is only good for those people, not the rest of the population.

      There's no "giving" here. The Obama administration claims that they already have that authority under section 706 of the Communications Act. Here is the relevant part, with emphasis added:

      (d) Upon proclamation by the President that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:55AM (#35151704)
    and seeing that this keeps being brought up this is a very bad sign for Democracy. It must not be allowed in the US.
    • by loony (37622)

      I can't remember anyone recently claiming that the US was a democracy... House members voting against what their constituents want, presidents signing clearly unconstitutional bills into law and the supreme court refusing to hear important cases? Just cause the president belongs to the democratic party, doesn't mean our formerly great country is still a democracy...

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Well.... do we really need to review the differences between democracy and republic again? I thought everyone knew that this was a republic, which tends to be a form of aristocracy. It has its pros and cons over a direct democracy, and tends to be a bit better at some areas of protecting fundamental rights... at least the ones explicitly stated in the constitution end up having SOME protection (if not as much as we would like).

        In a simple democracy, you could expect radical changes in policy after every new

      • It's a representative democracy, and intentionally so. The Founding Fathers were learned men who knew that direct democracies could all too easily fall into mobocracy. As much as they wanted to assure the majority will, they were also interested in preventing a tyranny of the majority (which is why, for instance, they created the Electoral College to select Presidents rather than a simple popular vote, to make sure that even in the process of choosing the Executive the will of the majority was tempered).

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:55AM (#35151706)

    She: "Did you do something to the Internet? It's not working."

    Me: "Yes, that's one of my superpowers from the radioactive spider bite and gamma ray treatment. I can turn off the Internet at will."

    Now I can say:

    "Oh, that's just the Obama daughters, playing with the Internet Kill Switch in the White House."

  • Inconceivable! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eggplant62 (120514) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:58AM (#35151764)

    I thought the First Amendment to the Constitution prevented the government from limiting speech in any way, shape or form. I guess not.

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      The Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of speech does not apply to sedition or revolution against the United States or "Imminent lawless action".

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_v._United_States [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio [wikipedia.org]

      • by guruevi (827432)

        That's very funny because I believe the constitution was written up to allow for sedition and revolution against the established governments.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      "Nowhere is liberty spoken of more than in the place where it has ceased to exist. " -- the French Revolution.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Why would you think that? Every discusion of the First Amendment starts off with the limits of protected speech starting with the classic shouting fire in a crowded theater.
      You can not threaten people. For example someone can not send you threatening email or call you constantly. That is called harassment.
      There are limits to how close Right to Life groups can protest to Abortion Provider location.
      Someone can not say that they know for a fact that you rape little children unless they actually do know that fo

  • by Rinisari (521266) * on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @11:59AM (#35151780) Homepage Journal

    I would love to have a trial run of this scenario.

    The goal would be to get an Internet connection from outside the US to a city well inside the US using nothing over which the US government has control. E.g., from Clifton Hill, ON (Niagara Falls) to Pittsburgh, PA. Or somewhere in Vancouver, BC to Portland, OR.

    This would likely necessitate the use of strategically positioned WiFi access points and lots of cantennas or similar directional devices. Exceeding the wattage cap could be considered in-bounds if its detection is difficult or detection of the detection is easy. Multiple routes would be nice, but even a single connection is better than nothing at all.

    This could help the public (eh, mostly geeks) develop a plan to Internet the US if the gov't gets ISPs by the balls or cuts cables. Plausible deniability would be built in later somehow.

    • by wordsnyc (956034)

      This would likely necessitate the use of strategically positioned WiFi access points and lots of cantennas or similar directional devices. Exceeding the wattage cap could be considered in-bounds if its detection is difficult or detection of the detection is easy. Multiple routes would be nice, but even a single connection is better than nothing at all.

      This could help the public (eh, mostly geeks) develop a plan to Internet the US if the gov't gets ISPs by the balls or cuts cables. Plausible deniability would be built in later somehow.

      This just in: "Red Dawn" was a movie. In real life, the Dittohead next door notices the funny thing on your roof and calls Homeland Security. Game Over.

      • This just in: some people are smart enough not to put weird looking things on their roofs. The fact is you don't even need LOS from origin if you have a repeating station close enough that can get LOS without looking weird. Just let the smart people figure it out and go back to playing with yourself.

        (As a complete coincidence, I watched 'Pirate Radio' last night. Those people put a whole transmitter into a suitcase, rigged an antenna into an umbrella, and were microcasting coverage of the WTO protests li
  • I wonder if they'll have to do those emergency tests like they do on television networks. "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system... [10 seconds of beeping sounds]... This has concluded the test of the emergency broadcast system... [20 seconds of beeping sounds]" I can't wait for the internet version.
  • by loony (37622) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:03PM (#35151820)

    To bring jobs back to the US... put in the internet kill switch, use it once, and all those call center jobs will come right back! :)

  • Back in the day it was necessary to give the right to bear arms in order to allow us the needed tools should we ever need to protect ourselves from government?? That's what was needed (a militia) to be able to take back our stuff in the event our gov't no longer served its people. In today's world simply having some guns isn't enough. There is no way we as a people could out-do a coordinated military effort from said gov't without a secure means of communication. We should be adding an amendment guarant
  • If you could physically block the DNS root servers most home system would stop working in a matter of hours. From there you could work your way to main ISP switches and lock out entire sections of the country. One fiber cut in Columbus knocked out almost every school in Ohio. A few key places could make the internet practically useless.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:17PM (#35151976) Homepage Journal
    unlike the Egyptian mob, an American mob will be much more powerful cos we got guns... we can just storm the Comcast offices and turn it back on if they shut down teh interwebs
    • by NoSig (1919688)
      The Egypt situation hasn't turned into a bloodbath because the military has refused to fire on protesters leaving Mubarak few options. Put yourself in a a soldier's place. Would you fire on a relatively peaceful and unarmed mob of your own countrymen, even if you didn't agree with what they were yelling? On the other hand, would you fire on a unit of heavily armed gunmen looking to take any opposition in their path down with gunfire including you? A US revolution would turn out much worse than Egypt has so
    • by jackbird (721605)
      All they'd have to do in response is turn off the elevators [voiceofdetroit.net].
    • by wordsnyc (956034)

      unlike the Egyptian mob, an American mob will be much more powerful cos we got guns... we can just storm the Comcast offices and turn it back on if they shut down teh interwebs

      Bad news, buckaroo: most of the people with guns in this country would be all in favor of taking the govt's word on the necessity of shutting down the internet. All it would take are a few scare stories on the local news about swarthy terrorists planning to bomb the local Target.

      True story: I live in rural Ohio. When we moved here, there was a tiny food store in the nearby small town. It changed owners every few years because nobody could compete with the big stores ~15 miles away. So a few years ago a Paki

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:19PM (#35152002) Homepage Journal

    As much as I'm opposed to the idea, I think we need to put the thing into context. This is being pushed by politicians not in an attempt to block Free Speech (like Egypt did) but because they fear some massive hacking attack.

    Given that politicians are openly saying Hackers might try to hack into Hoover Dam and open the floodgates, killing thousands [wired.com], that's WHY they are claiming they want a kill-switch. Of course, the idea of cutting the internet is actually an unfeasible remedy; we have ISPs already cooperating to help stop DDoS attacks etc.

    • It may not be pushed as an attempt to block Free Speech, but it certainly could be (ab)used that way once in place. As far as prevention of hostile attacks, once it is realized the system has been compromised the damage has probably already been done. Cutting off a major communications infrastructure probably will do more harm than good, causing panicking, lines at gas stations, etc.
    • That article points out that the Hoover Dam is not in fact connected to the internet. I'm actually surprised by that. Why don't we fix this problem by making sure that all critical systems are not connected?
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      In Egypt, martial law was declared in 1967 after the assassination of the President. Now, most people would agree that this is an accepted use of martial law, and a purpose for which it was designed. However, Mubarak essentially extended it indefinitely, using it to silence dissent of his regime and arresting, exiling, or killing political opponents or people he didn't like. Now, this is certainly NOT something that martial law was intended to allow, and it certainly isn't a legitimate use.

      Now, what does

  • Bill of Rights (Score:4, Insightful)

    by woboyle (1044168) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:19PM (#35152014)
    I think it is about time we added a new item to the Bill of Rights - the right to unfettered access to any communication medium (covers phone, mail, any electronic medium including Internet). The ability to communicate electronically is a necessity in this day and age. Any attempt to add a "kill switch" to the Internet should be considered no less that the attempt to stifle free speech via newspapers, posters, fliers, or simple personal contact.
    • With most of the backbones being optical, your amendment would have no practical use. You'd have to remove the "electronic" qualifier. Even that would be easy to get around - just slow the whole mess down to FIDONET speeds. the functionality is still intact, but the utility has gone. Although quite why anyone would bother arguing semantics if the place ever got into such a mess that universal censorship was seriously considered, I don't know.
  • 1. Technically - yes (Egypt does not differ much communication-wise from US)
    2. Practically - no (too much economic negative side effects)

  • by anonieuweling (536832) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 @12:25PM (#35152090)
    Egypt is not a cyber security issue.
    The article confuses things.
    Egypt has a US-sponsored dictator for reasons of 'stability'.
    People don't count.
    This new 'cyber' 'security' issue is a new fake reason to limit peoples' freedoms.
    Now also in the USA and worldwide.
  • I'm sure a strategically placed dot in the right DNS entry would have exactly the required effect. Plus the plausible deniability of a "computer error". After all if China can route a large portion of the internet through it's servers accidentally, just think what could be achieved with a little thought - and the right password.

    If it had the side effect of turning off the rest of the world, too - well ....

  • Seems like if there's a "Cyber emergency", then they should just disconnect and/or turn off the affected systems. Why do they need to shut down the infrastructure itself, or disconnect everything altogether? Why is it an all-or-nothing situation? Clearly the systems that are most important or most at risk should be isolated and managed separately from non-critical systems. Also, why waste time worrying about the non-critical systems when you could isolate, organize, and manage the critical systems by th
  • His arguments just don't hold water unless you assume that all networks are connected to every other network. There are choke points and all the government needs to do is control them. I certainly don't think it's beyond the government to be able to do so. It always surprises me that people either dramatically over-estimate or under-estimate the Internet's resilience. It's tough but not indestructible and it does have some serious weak spots.

  • Pretty sure the protests continued even after Egypt hit their internet kill switch.

    The main message that use of an internet kill switch sends is that the government is in a state of utter panic and is resorting to desperate measures. That kind of message is very informative, but not in the way they might have wished. If anything, it probably emboldened the protesters in Egypt.

  • So the tinfoil hat / "information wants to be free" crowd aside, Could it really be done?

    Are there few enough peering points to actually shut it down from say the rest of the world? Could you effectively isolate the entire US Internet?

    The old story about the pissed off guy at MAE-WEST pulling the plug on Northern Europe for bad behavior aside, could it be done in a manner that would be instant without literally going down to the beach, finding the shore end of a cable and taking an Axe to it?

    I have never

  • Why do people keep ignoring the fact that the President has had the ability to shut off the Internet for almost 75 years now due to the Communications Act of 1934. This bill is to regulate an existing power, not to create a new one.

    This is kind of a relevant detail, but no one seems to care.

  • At least when it comes to such minor matters as subsidies, occupational health and safety, and environmental regulations, the American government has been pretty consistently beholden to the business interests without whose support buying enough TV spots to get elected or re-elected becomes extremely difficult. Democrats are incrementally less overt; but typically spineless and happy to bring home the bacon for their districts. Republicans, for their part, can barely get a sentence out without describing so
  • It's called "NetFlix"
  • --Conversation--
    TOPIC
    (1) Should we? (within ethics, morals, etc.)
    (2) Could we? (within policy, law, etc.)
    (3) How would we? (within constraints of time, money, and complexity)

    --Thought Exercise--
    We did. Now predict:
    (1) Reaction to existence of tool.
    (2) Reaction to use of tool.
    (3) Potential effect of tool.
    (4) Balance of gains and losses for existence and use of tool.

    And the moment someone says something hyperbolic like "immeasurable" or "must", that person is thrown out of the discussion. Most people who say

  • Obama: "Oh what a nice big red button, drool. They have gave my desk a nice upgrade. It's next to the other big red button, but that one i need some freakin ket for... wel. " "Hmm what would happen if I push it.... Uhoh too late. "

    James: "Good day Sir President. Good you are in office.. Some very excited gentleman, with the name something like Brian Moynihan or so, of the Bank of America says... he wants one too??? He was overly exciting I couldn't make up what he was talking about... And then there was

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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