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Internet Kill Switch Silliness

This is an outrageously bad idea!

The “kill switch”, at least today, is technically impossible. The internet was intentionally and effectively designed to make sure that there is no single place or device that can stop traffic. In order to enable central control, traffic routing devices at ISPs will need to have a back door enabled. Talk about opening Pandora’s box!

What the politicians mean by “kill switch” is executive power to order ISPs to block particular traffic. In theory, this is not a bad idea. The problem is in the execution. It is one thing for the President to have this power. Some argue he already does. But in reality, if the bill under discussion passes, the President will delegate this power to some bureaucrat in the Department of Homeland Security. And this is where it gets worrisome, for three reasons.

The first worry is that bureaucrats have incentive to act on any perceived issue,  particularly when the action is easy for the bureaucrat. We see it time and time again. Do we really want the Feds crying wolf every time some script kiddie tries to hack a bank?

The second is that this will quickly become a standard Federal cluster f**k.

The third is that this power, like every other Federal power, will beg to be used politically, to control access, punish opponents, or keep us in the dark. Am I the only person that can see a  “national security issue” used to shutdown,, Facebook or after some embarrassing item is published? Am I the only person that can see the Feds shutting down Twitter to shut up the opposition just before a big speech?

Finally, the Feds are simply not competent in quick response endeavors, which is when this power is supposed to be needed.  Deepwater Horizon anyone?

The federal government doesn’t need this power, and should not get it. In a serious military emergency, the Executive power is basically unlimited today. But overall, the private companies and organizations managing the internet are far more capable of dealing with “cyber-warfare” than the government, particularly cyber-warfare directed at private institutions.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Internet Kill Switch | TJ Systems linked to this post on July 19, 2010

    […] The term “kill switch” is metaphorical. Having a single point of control on the internet (or even the US portion) is at this moment technically impossible. The legal construct winding it’s way through Congress gives the President power to order ISPs to act against particular internet activity in response to a threat or crisis. From a political point of view I don’t care for this law, but that is a discussion for another forum. […]

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