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Is an Internet Kill Switch Feasible In the US?

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the we-need-an-nra-for-this dept.

Government 339

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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Just take credit. (5, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151564)

Wait for the next Comcast outage and then shout "we did that on purpose!".

What is the internet verses a network? (2)

Nukenbar (215420) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151576)

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

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (5, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (5, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151938)

Pretty much... Except in the case of the US it will be only be used in a real emergency, right? Right?

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152092)

Pretty much... Except in the case of the US it will be only be used in a real emergency, right? Right?

Of course.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152144)

Inability to cower the population on your part does not constitute and emergency on ours.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (0)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152114)

If it came to the situation that is going on in Egypt do you really think the government would require legal authority to make it happen? The law would be passed the instant the people in Washington believed it was needed to maintain order. The government almost certainly has equipment at every major ISP already for FBI, NSA, and CIA investigations, the only question is whether or not that equipment has the capability to block traffic or simply monitor. But then again, even if all they can do is monitor, it would be pretty hard to defend against an attack that comes from machines that are already on your network and that have backdoor access to a depressing number of your systems so I doubt it would matter anyway.

So I'd argue that if the US government wanted to shut down the internet they already have all the equipment in all the right places that they would need to do so. And from a legal standpoint it wouldn't matter because either the law would be passed by congress within hours of significant unrest or it would be done through some kind of executive order that no one in a position of authority would have the cajones to argue against until much later.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152236)

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

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (4, Insightful)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152082)

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...

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152220)

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...)

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152172)

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.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152254)

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?

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (3, Insightful)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151962)

>>>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 zero legitimacy to censor private websites, fed by private cables, into private homes. It's a private matter that should be handled at the level of the customer Not the hands of a few oligarchs.

Re:What is the internet verses a network? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152164)

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.

Can't say no definitively (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Can't say no definitively (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151658)

That is true, who knows how much control they already have over the US version of our "internet"

Re:Can't say no definitively (4, Funny)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151714)

Would this take a Kill Bill?

Re:Can't say no definitively (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152154)

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.

Re:Can't say no definitively (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152258)

If the companies who have the peering arrangements comply and decide not to peer with you... Not really, in fact not at all. You'd need to run your own fibre to make that work, and good luck with that. A company like L3's more inclined to listen to the government, no matter how retarded they're being, than risk serious criminal charges for disobeying and opening new peering routes.

Re:Can't say no definitively (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152162)

For reference (though as I'm posting anon for this, it's not going to get read anyway):

National Security Letters can be issued by the Department of Justice (FBI), various DoD investigative agencies (DIS), CIA (SIS), Secret Service, and DHS (ICE), as well as a smattering of smaller agencies which have never actually used the ability.

The NSA, while constantly condemned as the bogeyman of government secrecy, specifically doesn't have this ability. If they want something taken down, they'll have to call buddies at DIS or SIS to do it.

Can say YES definitively (2)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152204)

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 be confiscated under anti-terrorism laws instead of letting the case appear before a judge (the terrorism card always trumps justice). An internet kill switch will only allow them to respond in seconds instead of hours... Make no mistake, the laws for the 'Egypt-style slow kill switch' without the need for a judge are already there...

cyber-security needs to be defined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151588)

If they do it cyber security must mean from an outside or foreign source. It cannot mean social unrest and it cannot be used because the ones in power are afraid of losing said power. Selling it to us under the guise of "national security" but using it for "paycheck security" are two completely different things.

The kill switch would be the biggest threat (5, Insightful)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (3)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151722)

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.

Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151992)

Stop calling them "critters". We are not talking about harmless stuffed animals. We are talking about the people holding the special right to employ ***physical force*** (or threat thereof), against you and me, as a business model. These are the people who expand the business of government, year after year, both in revenue and power over the people, never willingly or permanently reducing the scope of their powers.

Governments are the most dangerous organizations in the world, not only in theory but in practice -- and thousands of years of war, death, destruction, and injustice have proved it. The last thing we need is a cutesy feel-good term to describe the people that run this business.

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152096)

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.

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152106)

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 out. I'd love to see someone develop a mesh network or better ad hoc standards on top of the new WiFi standards, that you could link up to any available backbone. Yes, you might kill getting large amounts of data outside the United States, but the government couldn't simply shut down the whole show. Remember, the underlying protocols were designed to route around closed doors. You might kill THE INTERNET, but you couldn't kill Internets.

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151880)

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?

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151888)

You suggest that our corporate overlords want something as inefficient as a functioning democracy in the U.S., perhaps? You, sir, must be an optimist!

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151910)

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?

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152198)

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and ex-Pentagon official KT McFarland were among those claiming the guilty party should face execution for putting national security at risk by leaking the inflammatory information.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8172916/WikiLeaks-guilty-parties-should-face-death-penalty.html
  maybe learning to use a search engine would help.

Re:The kill switch would be the biggest threat (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152234)

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 jobs require networks and the internet to be functioning? Many! The longer it is on, the more people in the streets!

So I say.... bring it on! Lets see how quickly they can go the way of Tunisia! Sic Semper Tyrannis!

I sure hope not (1)

chargersfan420 (1487195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151676)

Speaking as a non-American, I'd be pretty choked if my access to sites hosted in America were cut off. How would I get to read /.?

In all seriousness, could anyone give me an example of why a kill switch might need to be used in America for practical purposes? The only scenario that comes to my mind is one which involves a corrupt government attempting to cling to what little power they have left in the midst of a revolution, not unlike how things are going in Egypt.

Re:I sure hope not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151838)

I guess there's the scenario (plausible or not) that the US claims that a foreign nation or terrorist group is "Cyber-attacking" the US.

Re:I sure hope not (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151840)

I could see it happening if there was an all out attack on military, financial and government networks from overseas addresses.

The government(s) here in the US are too large and distributed in my opinion to ever have to cling to power.

Look at recent history, G.W. Bush the most reviled president since Nixon, who had the cabinet of arch villains in the eyes of many people, he stepped aside when his term was over, as did Cheney. Hell Nixon gave it up without a shot fired.

If individuals like LBJ, Nixon and both the Bushes go without a struggle, what corrupt administration would ever stay on through chaos so bad they need the internet turned off?

Re:I sure hope not (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152124)

That is the big difference between "US" and "THEM". We stage mini-revolutions every couple of years and have term limits that limit the top guy to 8 years. And since at any given moment half the population hates the current president it is pretty safe to say that one declaring himself supreme leader for the rest of his life is pretty slim.

Re:I sure hope not (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152276)

Even if we had a three party system, it'd still be 30-30-30 with 10% swinging around deciding the election.

Difference between the US system and a parliamentary system is - when we have a Republican Revolution, Democrats taking back Congress in '2006 or the rise of the Tea Party in 2010, it doesn't throw everything up into the air for three or four or six months. For example, does Belgium even have a government formed yet?

Re:I sure hope not (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152284)

Adding to my own post...

The very fact that we even CAN discuss this and protest against it before it has even become more than a glimmer in some nutty congressman's eye is another reason why we are different. These things are openly discussed in other countries.

The other thing that distinguishes is our diversity. Even with the crazy tea party religious fanatics taking some seats there is only so far they can go before the sane people start pushing back. In some countries - the religious fanatics are the only party available.

**By "we" I mean not just the US but all "free" nations. Some are even better that this than we are and I admit that openly.

Re:I sure hope not (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152240)

I tend to agree. In reality, however, it's never those kinds of leaders you have to worry about. The reason Brutus and Co. were freaked out about Julius Caesar wasn't because he was such a shitty, evil autocratic leader, but because he was an incredibly competent, popular autocratic leader.

I'd be more worried about some future FDR than I would about a GWB or a Nixon. The latter type of leader always self-destruct one way or the other. The popular, charismatic leaders, those are the dangerous ones.

Still, despite the bumps and exceptions, by and large the United States is a nation based on the rule of law. It truly is inconceivable to imagine a president trying to hang on or give himself the kind of powers that Mubarak has (or had, he seems to be pretty impotent now). In large part that's because the Founding Fathers, being almost peerless political scientists, created a competitive system. Sure, Congress will kiss Presidential ass (and visa versa sometimes) during national crises real and imagined, but do you actually think Congress would just hand anyone, even a man who wears the same sweater as the majority of them, unlimited power? No way, and not because they would want to preserve democracy blah blah blah, but simply because many of them in their own way are as power hungry as any given president.

Re:I sure hope not (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151954)

Elmer Fudd might become president(he meets all the criteria + we already had Bush v2.0) and Bugs Bunny uses social media to convince everyone that its rabbit season. Daffy Duck, his VP of course, might call a foul and shut down twitter and xanga games for all US citizens.

Re:I sure hope not (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151964)

err....duck season!

after seeing what happened in Egypt (2)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

loony (37622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151852)

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...

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

cforciea (1926392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151946)

House members voting against what their constituents want

You do know what a representative democracy is, right? Hint: it isn't the same thing as a direct democracy.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152140)

You do know what a representative democracy is, right?

Yes. It's a catchphrase that Republic governments use to sell the idea that they haven't become outdated.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151958)

You are correct. The US is a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152098)

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 news story. Most people really don't pay enough attention to have a really useful opinion. However, this obscures the fact that many issues are so complicated that nobody actually has a really useful opinion. I think this is a larger problem, since... well... thats the situation where the bureaucrats really flourish.

My thoughts tend to run like this.... the US has a good.... lets say.... first draft. There are some rights that have been well protected. I regularly spout off about overthrow of the government, and nobody has come knocking on my door yet (well this one democrat did, but she was just stumping for the governor... and boy did she leave unsatisfied)

Direct democracy could probably be implemented and work in very small scales. A community level, or a commune level, or household, or whatever you want to call it. However, its only democracy if its actually voluntary. If I can't effectively leave (lets face it "leave the country" is of big enough scope and has enough issues to be a ridiculous remedy to suggest, but, "move to another town or city", is way more reasonable). A captive democracy just degenerates into the tyranny of the 51%.

Democracy really works best when all of its participants are interested and involved. That ONLY works at a level that has a relatively small scope.

Republics work at a much larger scale and, with proper limits on their power, can do much better at protecting the minority rights. As someone said "the liberty to do what everyone approves of is not liberty". The problem that I see is that they were never limited enough, and have way overstepped their intended role to the point that they have become a sort of limited tyranny.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152278)

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).

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151952)

Unfortunately, you just need a good portion of people in a democracy to think it is a good idea. I see it as very easy for politicians to gain support from their constituents. Even Mubarak has his supporters, and I guarantee that many of them saw the internet being shut down as necessary to keep stability and peace.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152048)

I think you mean control.

Re:after seeing what happened in Egypt (1)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152132)

Don't get me wrong, I call it control. Supporters for a controlling party never really think of it as control. Things are just going their way. From their perspective, they are protecting whatever lifestyle they are used to.

My girlfriend accuses me of doing that once a day (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#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."

No, this will not happen in the Land of the Free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151708)

...oh, never mind.

SHOW ME JULIE CHRISTIE'S TITTIES !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151710)

Don't Look Now garners number 1 spot on UK's Best of the Rest movies.

The little goblin lady was quite a let-down to be sure, and the whole so much over-rated it only leads this th'lesbian to wonder how off those Brits are.

Egypt would only be a taste (1)

SethThresher (1958152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151738)

I think that if the US government shut down the American internet, then what happened in Egypt may be rapidly eclipsed by the way things would break down across the country. So many critical systems rely at least somewhat on the internet, I can hardly imagine the sheer outrage of the people most affected by the loss of critical systems, to say the least of the mob rage of all the people who can't surf tv tropes et all.

Re:Egypt would only be a taste (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151908)

States would see that as a failure of the Federal Government and there would be another succession movement.

The mobs wouldn't be about the TV, it would be the mobs who expect and need Federal services.

Up here in Alaska, we'd be easy to cut off, cut the undersea cable connections on the Oregon and Washington coast and kill the satellite data links. GCI and ACS probably would be able to jump on Pacific and Asian satellite links though.

Re:Egypt would only be a taste (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151948)

Businesses would come to a halt.

Internet goes down... you would have mullions that first call their ISPs 1-800 number, but because the ISP outsourced their customer service, the 1-800 number isn't working because that company has no internet for VoIP, looking up case numbers, access to e-mail, access to critical customer databases, etc.

It would be a endless spiral downwards as more and more people realize it was shutdown by the government.

Inconceivable! (4, Interesting)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151764)

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

Re:Inconceivable! (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151960)

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]

Re:Inconceivable! (2)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152250)

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

Re:Inconceivable! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152000)

"Nowhere is liberty spoken of more than in the place where it has ceased to exist. " -- the French Revolution.

Re:Inconceivable! (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152018)

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 for a fact.
And you can not broadcast music or commercials over an Amateur radio.

Exactly which of these limitations do you have a problem with?
Usually this is covered at around the 5th grade level civics class but at least by high school.
I really do wonder about the people that post on Slashdot.

Re:Inconceivable! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152166)

I have a problem with all of them.

Re:Inconceivable! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152044)

You can march on Washington DC which is a form of free speech. The government still holds the right to close all the roads, stop all the flights, and stop all the trains to Washington DC without impeding your free speech.

Re:Inconceivable! (1)

gewalker (57809) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152064)

Well, you were certainly deluded or disingenuous. This country does not allow you to yell "fire" in a crowded theater for jollies, engage in libel or slander, publish child pornography, fraudulent financial statements, or classified information. etc -- You will find no evidence that these things were intended for protection in anything written by the founders.

The primary original intent of the free speech clause was to protect freedom political speech. Religious, Economic, Literature, etc. were also intended based on other writings by the founders. It was not intended as carte blanche for all conceivable forms of expression. Recents courts have historically taken an encompassing view of the free speech clause, but clearly not all-encompassing (i.e., the exceptions I stated above)

The "Kill Switch" bill (0)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151772)

Also known as the Kill Bill switch...

Re:The "Kill Switch" bill (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152084)

Care to explain?

Re:The "Kill Switch" bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152186)

Care to explain?

It's a stupid joke referencing a satirical movie.

Connection from afar (4, Funny)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151780)

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.

Re:Connection from afar (2)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151900)

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.

Emergency Tests (2)

Nailer235 (1822054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151816)

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.

Would be a great way... (2)

loony (37622) | more than 3 years ago | (#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! :)

Neutral Internet should be a right. (2)

stcdm33 (1942322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151832)

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 guaranteeing us just that. The right to a secure means of communication so that at such a time we as a people need to refresh our government we could feasibly do so. An internet kill switch does the opposite, we lose the one way we really have to coordinate things at a national level. This should be a right, kill switch puts the power in favor of gov't (lets hope they are never corrupt people or anything :) )

pointless (1)

Nihn (1863500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151876)

If America is having violent protest like those in Egypt the internet is the last thing politicians should worry about.

Re:pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151924)

umm the protesters aren't all that violent, it is the Mubarak supporters.

Re:pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152190)

If America is having violent protest like those in Egypt the internet is the last thing politicians should worry about.

The US military under the orders of the corporate government will fucking kill you and the rest of the protesters.

no (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151912)

no. I just don't think we should give any entity the chance of having that level of control over us. while it may be unlikely that any official would ever use it for population control/censorship, the mere fact that they could is a bad thing IMO.

The root of the problem (1)

randomErr (172078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151920)

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.

it's ok we have guns (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151976)

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

Yes. (1)

cyberfr0g (2812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151984)

See Above.

Look at the intentions (2)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152002)

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.

Re:Look at the intentions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152152)

One wonders if it wouldn't be easier to just have a light switch that shuts off power to the room which allows the Dam to be foolishly connected to the internet...

Re:Look at the intentions (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152182)

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.

Re:Look at the intentions (2)

cvnautilus (1793340) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152280)

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?

Bill of Rights (3, Insightful)

woboyle (1044168) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Bill of Rights (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152210)

How about we rewrite the whole damn document? There's a lot of improvement to be found. We could reconsider the Electoral College, we could mollify all the folks who claim one thing or another is not in the Constitution by adding it, and we could even set a 50 year period for a convention to hold to reconsider it. Heck, we could even explicitly decide whether or not to allow nullification by states.

Easy to weasel out of (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152242)

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.

good idea (1)

homes32 (1265404) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152026)

I'm sure all the business (banks, insurance agencys, stock brokers, hospitals/clinics, law enforcement, etc) and government agencys (fed reserve, irs, BSA, etc) that use vpn tunnels and web based applications won't mind being cut off from business critical services for an unspecified period of time. remember people; the internet isn't just webpages like facebook and youtube, its all traffic!

but you know, we did it for your own good ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152038)

but you know, we did it for your own good ...

Question is two: practical and technical (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152060)

1. Technically - yes (Egypt does not differ much communication-wise from US)
2. Practically - no (too much economic negative side effects)

Re:Question is two: practical and technical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35152194)

I disagree. While the percentage of people who have various other types of Internet connectivity is a tiny part of the populous, it is not numerically insignificant. Whether it be satellite based (BGAN, Thuraya, etc.) or low bandwidth radio modem, completely cutting it off would require a massive signal jamming effort. There's no way they could blanket the entire CONUS in this fashion. They could get 98%, but that last 2% would be next to impossible. I also believe that you would see mesh networks popping up faster than you could knock them down.

The article confuses things. (2)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Target the backbones (1)

JimDarkmagic (1339257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152104)

Doesn't all the traffic in the US go through a relatively small number of backbone providers at some point? Set up a deal with all of them so you can pull the plug with a phone call. Chances are all the major consumer ISPs use the major backbone providers, so you can quell disruptive thoughts there. Protecting your local power stations depends on if their ISPs use those backbones, too.

Political suicide. (1)

Toasterboy (228574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152150)

It's a stupid idea.

Besides, the economic impact alone from breaking the internet in the US for any period of time makes "pushing the kill switch" political suicide anyway.

Also, it's exactly the same power as "we want to shut down the phone system so you can't communicate or call 911 during a revolt, or whenever, you know, some politician feels like it".

Re:Political suicide. (1)

ChasmCoder (1818172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152212)

I agree, the thought of the Government having the power to kill the internet for the masses is unacceptable. The government needs to be knocked down a few pegs and reminded that "We The People" are Government and those we have running it are OUR employees. We are their masters, NOT the other way around. This continuos unhindered growth of government control and power will only lead to negative outcomes.

Just hit DNS (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152158)

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 ....

Nevermind feasable, do we even need one? (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152248)

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 themselves much more easily?
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