U.S. Government weighs Internet “Kill-Switch”

Imagine a world without World of Warcraft. It’s scary right? If you think Internet shut-downs, like the one Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak pulled last week to stem dissent in Cairo, are reserved for the underlings of despotic third-world tyrants, guess again.

Legislation that would grant President Obama similar powers was re-introduced to a U.S. Senate committee, oddly enough, on the same day that Egypt’s residents were cut off from each other and the rest of the world.

The next great terror threat.

Sen. Susan Collins told Wired.com on Friday that the bill wouldn’t grant the same power as Mubarak, but rather would “provide a mechanism for the government to work with the private sector in the event of a true cyber emergency.” This sounds benign but the mere possibility of an Internet “kill-switch” in the United States has already spurred strong objections from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who claim that the bill doesn’t adequately define the limits of the government’s power in the event of a cyber threat.

Let’s assume for a minute that this bill is in some way well meaning and won’t eventually become a tool for an all-powerful shadow dictator to quash mental dissent. Publicly announcing that there exists the means to shut down or disable our communication infrastructure will probably just invite more attempts to break that system and use it for ill. It’s like paving the bad guys a nice, scenic road and putting a big neon sign over it that says “BRING IT ON CYBER TERRORISTS!” And bring it they will. Terrorists love a challenge.