Yesterday, EWeek published an article about a Presidential Internet Kill Switch, that would provide the power to the President of the United States to shut down the Internet whenever the President felt there is threat to strategic national interests. This provision was included in the original Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S. 773) and was introduced by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. They drafted this legislation in response to post-9/11 complaints that the neither the private sector nor government was doing enough to protect the nation’s critical cyber-infrastructure.
This seems like a lot of power for any one entity to have. The ability to shut down the whole Internet in one place. This is the first I’ve heard of it and it should be a bit unsettling to people that it can be done. The article doesn’t explain how it would be done, but I imagine it may have something to do with ICANN since they have control over how website domains are operated. If they were to shut down their database, I suppose then no web sites would operate or if all major ISPs were to shut down their internet access with a call from the President that would work for here in the states at least. It would be interesting to know exactly how they would do it.
However, it would seem that during the time of a national emergency, this would be the time that you want the Internet running at full capability so that the citizens can communicate effectively and determine what steps they should take in response to the national emergency. Of course a major benefit of having this power as President is that you would be able to hide and/or prevent information from getting public too fast. Of course this ability would make an excellent target for a terrorist to be able to hijack and activate. I think this kind of power available all in one place could be quite dangerous for these reasons. It seems that from the comments on this article most internet professionals do feel quite uneasy about this as well.