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Say No To a Government Internet "Kill Switch" 433

GMGruman writes "In the name of national security, the feds are considering a law that would let the government turn off the Internet — or at least order broadband providers and ISPs to disable access. InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder explains why this is a bad idea. Does the US really want to be like China or Iran?"
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Say No To a Government Internet "Kill Switch"

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  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:18AM (#32677416) Homepage is this any different than radio and TV? Do we not already have the emergency broadcast system that can barge in and essentially "turn off" radio and TV services?

  • Yea.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:22AM (#32677472)
    Because something like this would neeeeeeever have the potential to be abused...
  • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:39AM (#32677756) Homepage

    The emergency broadcast system has become a farce in many locales. It's often used, at least here in southeastern Pennsylvania, to announce severe thunderstorms may be in the area. To be clear, I'm not talking tornadoes, but simple, run-of-the-mill, thunderstorms being used as the pretext to interrupt broadcasts.


  • Re:Better plan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:40AM (#32677780)

    Because it's easier not to. Physical separation of networks makes the work a lot harder.

    I work at a company that builds digital speed cameras. And I can connect to any them, even the ones that are live, sending out tickets. I just need to go trough 2 routers, which have firewalls but easy admin passwords. Of course our office has VPN access, and Internet. So basically I could tap into the cameras from anywhere. Removing tickets if I wished, or even implanting fake ones. Of, if you love your privacy a bit better, I could just get ALL photos, not just of speeders.

    I've expressed my concern about this, but nobody seems to care. It's easier to maintain like this.

  • Yes you are correct (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:47AM (#32677878) Journal

    Same as the powers that be can turn of electricity, water, gas and the phones if they need to under certain situations. This is NOTHING abnormal. And if I am working as the gas station and the firebrigade tells me to shut of the gas to a certain area I will have to do so or they will do it for me.

    This is very reasonable, the fire service obviously wants to be able to shut the gas of if there is a risk. Just as the police can close an area or force me to donate my goods to the common good. Only nutcases (americans) protest against this, a person is burning to death but this is MY water hoose and the state does not have the right to confiscate it damn it!

    The problem with this is that these nutters have a point. The internet is more then just a product shipped to the end-user and the emergencies are far less clear. I can smell a gas leak, but how do I check that their is a internet security risk demanding immidiate action?

    The police has the right to shutdown utility services in for instance hostage situations to apply pressure to a hostage taker. But what about shutting down utilities to rioters? To trouble some areas? To districts that voted for the opposition?

    And what is an emergency on the net? An embarrising video? Of US soldiers slaughtering unarmed civilians perhaps?

    The EBS is from a different era when we "trusted" our government to only use it in a real emergency. We don't trust our government that much anymore. How are we going to know in this era of black-ops everywhere whether the emergency was real?

    Part of this proposal reads simply as a suggestion to give the same control over the internet as over other essential services so that its continued operation can be ensured when the shit hits the fan. But to the paranoid mind, there might be a hidden agenda. And these days some people really do seem out to get you.

  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#32677908) Journal

    Actually, one quarter (49/200) of the root DNS servers are in the US. I checked last Friday, after this discussion came up elsewhere. The remainder would be congested, but probably able to stay upright.

    Regardless. shutting down "access at the ISP level" is pretty much a meaningless statement. Specifically, it says, "private companies -- such as "broadband providers, search engines, and software firms -- immediately comply with any emergency measure or action"

    Search engines. That means that google and yahoo will shut down--worldwide.
    Broadband providers. ISPs. Companies that aren't ISPs buy their access _from_ ISPs. This isn't just Joe down the street and Susie's Bead Shoppe, it's major oil companies and banks.

    What about international shipping companies that coordinate through the internet? Trains? Airlines? Stock markets? All of it will grind to a screeching halt, with massive economic damage over the next weeks or months or years. The rest of the world _will_ survive a 'loss of the US' on the internet, although not without collateral damage.

    As for DARPA's invention giving them the authority to do this, it's no different that Canada saying that because of Bell inventing the telephone, they have the right to shut down the worldwide POTS network. It's silly - the genie left the bottle decades ago, and the US is now a player, not the owner. Besides, any organization that has that degree of power or authority also has a responsibility to others it would harm.

  • R.H. suffers from the "reductio ad absurdum" logical fallacy.

    In fact that quote is a great example. So, there is nothing that should be kept secret?

  • by goobenet ( 756437 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:09AM (#32678226)
    In a word, GTFO. They're already trying to do this with radio and the fairness doctrine, and now trying to regulate reporters and journalists. I guess the only way to control the masses is to silence the masses. Though it could happen, the US is home to 7 (3 of which are at military installations?) of the 13 root servers. Pretty easy to just shut those down. Anyone feel like china/north korea yet?
  • by conspirator57 ( 1123519 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:22AM (#32678436)

    So, there is nothing that should be kept secret?

    Not nothing, but as little as possible. And given the amount of information that is kept secret at present you fall victim in your rhetorical question to the same fallacy as you accuse the GP of.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:53AM (#32678826) Homepage Journal

    Or to be used to stop a DOS attack on government or news servers or to shut down attacks on other vital services.
    The anti-government fear can be a bit much at times. It is good to question the government's polices but it is not good to be extremely paranoid.
    This like everything else can be used for good as well as bad things. Just tell me what public utility doesn't have the ability isolate parts of it's network to control damage?
    In many ways this is as outlandish of a fear as the government shutting off electricity, water, gas, or phone service to it's political opponents.
    Heck if the government was going to take out some server like that they would just use some botnet to do a classic DOS attack that couldn't be traced back to the government flipping some big red switch!
    Please if you are going to be a complete paranoid at least keep your fears some what plausible.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:11PM (#32679088) Homepage Journal

    By "we" I mean we nerds. We need to come up with a new network of wi-fi mesh that does away with ISPs and cell phone providers. On first thought it seems simple, until you start to consider the security aspects. Anyone?

  • Re:Isn't it obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chris mazuc ( 8017 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:43PM (#32679600)

    Have you been asleep for the past 6 months?

    By a narrow 48 - 45 percent margin, voters disapprove of the job Sen. Joseph Lieberman is doing and give him a negative 43 - 49 percent favorability. Republicans approve 75 - 20 percent. Democrats disapprove 70 - 21 percent and independent voters split 48 - 46 percent.

    By contrast, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal gets a 79 - 12 percent approval rating and 71 - 13 percent favorability rating. Republicans approve of the Democrat 66 - 25 percent. Democrats approve 85 - 6 percent and independent voters approve 81 - 10 percent.

    If Sen. Lieberman faces Blumenthal in 2012, the Democratic challenger has an early 58 - 30 percent lead. Republicans go with Lieberman 67 - 23 percent while Blumenthal leads 83 - 9 percent among Democrats and 55 - 29 percent among independent voters

    He will be crushed in the next election.

    Latest poll []

    Poll: Lieberman Hated By Everyone In Connecticut After Health Care Debates []

    Poll: Lieberman Would Lose 2012 Re-Election In Landslide []

  • by htdrifter ( 1392761 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:51PM (#32679718)

    What is your opinion on the government being able to turn off the phone system in case of emergency?

    The phones can be shut off under martial law. It's been done many times. The National Guard shutoff phones in Portage and Summit counties Ohio in less then 10 minutes after they shot the students at Kent State (May 4, 1970). They also closed all East/West highways between the counties. I heard the shots as I was going out the driveway. I pulled into a Lugans and tried to call dispatch from the phone booth. The phone had a recorded messge to the effect "by order of the government the phone service has been suspended". or somthing like that. I went into the restaraunt and asked to use their phone. Same message.

    For the record I was Sr. Field Engineer tech specialist assisting on a machine in Taylor Hall when I and the FE that I was assisting were forced to leave the building at gun point by a NG officer. I drove to the hospital, in Ravenna, since I was sure the pathologist, who I knew, would allow me to use his phone. Arriving in Ravenna I was faced by cops with Thompson pointed at me. At the hospital the pathologist told me I could use the phone but first he wanted me to go in the morgue and make sure one of the 4 dead students wasn't his daughter. She wasn't one of them. That done I was able to make phone calls since the emergency phones were not affected.

    This all traspired in less then 30 minutes. It got worse as the day wore on, but that's another story.

    Freedom can be taken away faster then seems possible.

  • by Intron ( 870560 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @01:03PM (#32679922)
    Except your representative won't read the bill, a staffer will show it to a lobbyist who will help him rewrite it. You won't recognize it when its done. And it will have a special exemption which allows government traffic to take precedence "to send important messages on behalf of the candidate" "to protect children" "to fight terrorists", yeah that's it.
  • by iamhigh ( 1252742 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @02:55PM (#32681736)
    Do you know how much arguing goes on about *exactly* what "bear arms" and "speech" mean? The reason bills are long now is that we relize that me must be precise, or leave it up to interpretation.
  • I'm English so I'm not so up with the Net Neutrality debate, but its always struck me that it rules out some benefits that people might want. If it is just that "an ISP may not prioritize or filter Internet traffic based on source or destination" then am I (were I a US resident) not allowed to purchase some kind of premium service that prioritises comms between my home and my office, or between two of my offices?

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @04:20PM (#32682952) Homepage Journal

    Here's the way regulation works. Private business tries something, people hate it. Customers can't get the companies to change their ways because all of the companies are doing it - there's no competitor to jump to. So now the government has to put a stop to it.

    Write the bill and send it to your Congress critter.

    It's quaint and charming when my friends tell me how writing a thoughtful letter to their elected representatives will accomplish something. Even intelligent people believe that.

    Lobbyists know the system better than you or I ever will, they have contacts, but most of all they have money. They can contribute tens of millions of dollars to the Dem and Republican parties, and to individual candidates. That money can make the difference in paying for enough attack TV ads to bring a candidate over the top in a close race.

    You, on the other hand, can send no more than a few letters, and if you're really charismatic you may be able to organize a dozen or a hundred of your friends to do the same. Meanwhile, you can't pay the millions of dollars for campaign costs which your elected official really needs.

    There was a book that one a political science prize called "The Congressman," written by a former congressman turned political science professor, who said that the first priority for an elected official has to do is get re-elected. Otherwise they won't be an elected official any longer.

    No matter how well-meaning, your congressman will either do whatever it takes to get re-elected, or he won't be a congressman. And it takes tens of millions of dollars.

    Getting between a congressman and his millionaire contributors is like getting between a grizzly bear and her cub.

    The example I understand best is health care reform.

    According to the polls, the American public supported a single payer system (like other countries with better health care systems have) by over 50%, in multiple polls. They like Medicare and (by majorities) they wanted Medicare extended to people under 65.

    During the Democratic primary, I saw a rundown of campaign contributions from the health care industry. Recalling from memory, it was:

    Hillary Clinton $8.8 million

    Barak Obama $8.4 million

    Dennis Kucinich $40,000 (from the California Nurses Association).

    Kucinich supported single payer.

    As soon as Obama got into office, he broke his promise to support a single payer system. He came up with a compromise (public option), then a compromise of that compromise, and finally threw government-funded health care under the bus. The current plan is the same private insurance system, with subsidies for the private insurance industry to prevent it from collapsing immediately.

    All of the touching letters to Obama didn't make any difference. He followed the interests of his financial contributors rather than the interests of the people who elected him. Now we're paying twice as much for health care as the next most expensive country, for care that isn't even always as good. [] []

    The best explanation I've seen for this was at Bill Moyer's Journal. [] Moyers said that Obama never *wanted* a meaningful reform. He never *wanted* single payer. He *wanted* to cut a deal with the insurance industry.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @06:13PM (#32684620)
    That is ultimately the problem with "Net Neutrality" legislation. It either answers your question "yes" and thus becomes something that stifles innovation, or it becomes complicated and easily subverted into something that allows the government to regulate the content of the Internet (and probably stifles innovation).

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine