The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 Could Shut Down Your Internet

The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 is currently under consideration by the US Senate. It was introduced by Senator John Rockefeller and co-sponsors on April 1st of this year.

Take a look at this abstract describing the Cybersecurity Act of 2009:

A bill to ensure the continued free flow of commerce within the United States and with its global trading partners through secure cyber communications, to provide for the continued development and exploitation of the Internet and intranet communications for such purposes, to provide for the development of a cadre of information technology specialists to improve and maintain effective cybersecurity defenses against disruption, and for other purposes.

The Act should be seen as an interesting first attempt at a very real problem. The "Internet" is the name for a bewildering array of public and private networks that provide a vast array of services. Besides web surfing, it also serves as the means for implementing a number of essential services: traffic control, emergency response, public utility monitoring and upkeep, and of course all of the US telecom providers - and that hardly scratches the surface.

Recent efforts that have succeeded in bringing down parts of the Internet or disrupting service bring the problem into focus. We're dependent on the 'net for a lot of important services, and threats to these services should be taken seriously.

As written, the Act would provide the President or his designees with a lot of authority, particularly in terms of shutting down all or parts of the Internet. Take a look at these key provisions:

The President--

...may declare a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from any compromised Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network;

...shall designate an agency to be responsible for coordinating the response and restoration of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network affected by a cybersecurity emergency declaration...

...shall direct the periodic mapping of Federal Government and United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks, and shall develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of the mapping process;

may order the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks in the interest of national security;

Note that this gives the federal government the authority to shut down privately owned Internet networks; for example, any portion of the networks or cable systems owned by large corporations like Comcast or ATT.

As far as I'm concerned, this discussion started in the mid-1970's. The first time I heard about the idea of having a way to shut down all or part of the public data netword was in an sf novel. In his 1976 classic The Shockwave Rider, John Brunner writes about a special tapeworm developed to bring down the 'net under defined circumstances:

Not for nothing is a tapeworm called a tapeworm. It can be made to breed. Most can only do so if they are fertilized; that's to say, if they're interfered with from outside. For example, the worm that prevents the Fedcomps from monitoring calls to Hearing Aid, and the similar but larger one that was released at Weychopee—Electric Skillet—to shut down the net in the event of enemy occupation: those are designed to lay dormant until tampered with. That's true of all phage-type worms.

As far as I can tell, nobody has made an effort to see how the President - or anyone - could shut down all or part of the Internet. Would it be implemented in hardware or software? Can it be done with current infrastructure?

In the novel, Brunner introduces the idea of computer tapeworms, a special kind of self-sustaining, self-directed software program that could be set loose to run through the 'net, accomplishing the purpose of its author. Private individuals could use them for any number of (even nefarious) purposes. As Brunner puts it:

According to recent report, there were so many worms and counterworms loose in the data-net now, the machines had been instructed to give them low priority unless they related to a medical emergency.

The novel's main character, Sandy, even writes a tapeworm that cannot be deleted even by entirely shutting down the 'net. The purpose of this "mother and father of all tapeworms" was to ferret out every last bit of information squirreled away or hidden by the federal government or by private corporations - and make it public for anyone to look at.

Do we want the President (or anyone) to have the authority to control the public Internet? Should anyone be able to cut off the part of the Internet that you sit on, thereby restricting your ability to find out information on the Internet?

I try not to editorialize, but I'd be curious to know what you think.

Read the full text of the Cybersecurity Act of 2009.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/17/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Computer ")

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...' - Stanislaw Lem, 1965.

Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.' - Isaac Asimov, 1941.

Illustris: The Next Generation Of Universe Simulation
'This digital device was ... A machine able literally to contain the Universe Itself...' - Stanislaw Lem, 1965.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.'

Inspired By Japan, Nap Pods For Hajj
It's always a good time for a nap.

Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.'

How Do You Put An Asteroid Into Earth Orbit? Carefully!
'...she would have to be coaxed by another series of pats into a circular orbit.'

PD Aerospace Space Plane By 2023
'The sleek, tapered space shuttle lay immobile upon the private landing field...'

Foldimate Folds Your Clothes Perfectly
Look ma, my room is clean! I can hear you now.

Robots Help People Get Dressed, As Predicted In 1931
Yes, people of the future, robots will dress you.

International Space Station Leak Plugged - With Finger
'These tag-alongs search out stray leaks.'

Robot Snake Flies, Fights Fires
Just a prototype, but still amazing.

IPAL Chinese Robot Babysitter
'But Nanny is different...'

ZKZM-500 LASER Assault Rifle
'The Iranian reached back into the locker and got a pair of laserifles.'

LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'

Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.