The US Government could get its very own internet ‘kill-switch’, should the proposed cybersecurity bill be passed.
President Barack Obama would be granted emergency powers to shut off the country’s internet connection, according to a bill soon to be presented to lawmakers. The ongoing internet blackout in Egypt provides a chilling backdrop to the news. In a matter of days, 60 million people have been virtually deleted from the internet, demonstrating how a government feeling threatened could take away the key tool to organise the opposition.
While the US bill remains under consideration, it will be very difficult for the US to criticise the Egyptian government for its draconian approach. In a vaguely-worded statement, the Democratic party claimed the bill would be necessary ‘to safeguard critical infrastructure, including the electric grid, military assets, the financial sector and telecommunications networks’. The bill is rumoured to be introduced ‘soon’.
Supporters of the bill say the threat of cyber warfare justifies the bill. ‘Cyber war is going on in some sense right now,’ Democrat Senator Joe Liebermann told CNN. ‘We need this capacity [to disconnect] in a time of war.’
There is some logic in having the ability to shut down remote access to air traffic control towers or water reservoirs, to protect vital services in case of tampering. But such wide-reaching powers to close down all internet traffic leave a bitter taste in the mouth. What do you think – should the government have the powers to close the internet in case of emergency? Or is the risk of abuse just too great?