Connecticut Senator, and chairman of the Homeland Security committee, Joseph Lieberman introduced legislation last week that would grant broad new emergency powers over the Internetto the federal government. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA) would require broadband providers, search engines, and software companies to comply with emergency orders issued by the Department of Homeland Security under penalty of fine.
In the event of a national emergency, the bill would grant the power to control, and even shut down, large swaths of the Internet to the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), a new office created within the DHS by the PCNAA. The legislation has garnered support from Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe who proposed similar powers last August, but it’s bound to run into serious opposition from tech lobbyists, privacy groups and those who wish to limit the power of the federal government.
Of course, similar legislation was introduced August of last year and that was shot down so maybe I need to take my tinfoil hat off. Still, the idea of a single point of failure for the entire US Internet infrastructure is frightening. If our cyber security is so poor that we need a kill switch for the Internet then how can we be assured that security around that kill switch would be strong enough to prevent hackers, or an unfriendly government, from accessing and using the kill switch?