Jan 29, 2011

Internet Kill Switch Bill Back in Action On the Same Day Egypt’s Internet Was Shut Off

After making it through the Homeland Security Committee in December, Senator Susan Collins Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 faded from view during the mid-term and assumptions were that it would stay faded away.

Unfortunately, Wired Magazine was informed by the bill’s sponsor on Friday that Collins plans to reintroduce the “internet kill switch” bill to a Senate committee again. Friday, of course, was also the day that Egypt shut down it’s own internet in a futile effort to stop mass protests. (An action that, if it continues past Sunday, may be significantly damaging to Egypt’s economy.)

The bill itself can be found here (PDF). Collins said of it:

My legislation would provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency…. It would give our nation the best tools available to swiftly respond to a significant threat.

And she of course makes sure to say that the bill would not give the President free reign to shut down every ISP, as has happened in Egypt.

But, there are still some significant worries about the bill. Wired puts it best:

An example, the aide said, would require infrastructure connected to “the system that controls the floodgates to the Hoover dam” to cut its connection to the net if the government detected an imminent cyber attack.

What’s unclear, however, is how the government would have any idea when a cyber attack was imminent or why the operator wouldn’t shutter itself if it detected a looming attack…

…The proposal prohibits the government from targeting websites for censorship “based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Oddly, that’s exactly the same language in the Patriot Act used to test whether the government can wiretap or investigate a person based on their political beliefs or statements.

Of course, this is a bad idea. And since it does violate the first amendment - it'll be struck down. However, that'll take thirty years (See the second amendment vs. Washington DC and also Chicago Illinois).

Most of this story is a cut'n'paste from Geekosystem

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