If a bill sponsored by US Senator Joe Lieberman passes, the President would have the authority to suspend the Internet in times of emergency. Referred to as a "virtual kill switch" by The Escapist Magazine on Thursday, the legisl
ation would require internet service providers, search engines and software companies to "immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed" by the Department of Homeland Security at the discretion of the US government, or face a fine.
Thankfully reduced from the 197-page PDF of the cyberbill by the Escapist, the text specifies the formation of a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications with monitoring authority upon privates Web sites, ISPs and all US Internet-related businesses. Companies would be required to share information with the NCCC, implement approved security measures, and otherwise be subject to NCCC command, the latter including those that rely on the Internet, telephone systems, or other US information infrastructure.
Lieberman explains that the Internet can be a dangerous place that accesses personal bank accounts, government infrastructure and industrial secrets. "Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies - cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals."
Senator Susan Collins, co-sponsor of the bill, said, "We cannot afford to wait for a cyber-9/11 before our government realizes the importance of protecting our cyber-resources." Not reported were what events may occur that will trigger this "kill switch," nor by what means the act of deactivating the Internet will assuage the effects of the initial attack.
Opponents have suggested that if passed, this bill would establish far-reaching precedent in the category of information restriction in times of crisis. As quoted in ZDNet on Tuesday, lobby group TechAmerica is concerned with "unintended consequences that would result from the legislation's regulatory approach" and "the potential for absolute power".
In response, the blog True/Slant suggested a "Joe Lieberman Kill Switch."