U.S. Gov't Seeks Unprecedented Control Over Internet

Dennis Faas's picture

According to reports, U.S. senators drafted legislation aimed at giving the federal government unprecedented authority over the nation's critical infrastructure, including the power to shut down or limit traffic on private networks during emergencies.

The draft of the proposed legislation is allegedly intended to establish cyber-security standards to be imposed on both the government and the private sector, including companies providing software, IT work, or other services to networks deemed as 'critical' infrastructure, as well as mandating licenses for any and all individuals who administer strategically important networks. (Source (PDF): regmedia.co.uk)

Some industry groups are already criticizing the proposed legislation, saying it gives the government too much control over the Internet and the private companies that make the Internet possible.

Providing for Continued Development, Exploitation of Internet

The opening paragraph of the draft says it best:

"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 cyber security defenses against disruption and for other purposes." (Source (PDF): regmedia.co.uk)

The government wants to shut down or limit traffic on private networks during an emergency while maintaining effective cyber security defenses against disruption and for other purposes.

Inevitably, this type of doublespeak can and will lead to all kinds of problems.

Too Much Power, Too Little Oversight

According to The Register, Gregory Nojeim (senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology) says that "this gives the president too much power and there's too little oversight, if there's any at all." The proposed legislation would give the president the power to act in the interest of national security, which has been grossly misused and broadly defined. (Source: theregister.co.uk)

Language in the bill permits the president to order the limitation or shutting down of Internet traffic to and from any compromised federal government or U.S. critical infrastructure information system or network after first declaring a national cyber-security emergency. (Source (PDF): regmedia.co.uk)

There is no doubt that critical infrastructure, including the Internet, is vulnerable to sabotage or criminal cyber attacks. However, looking at the government's track record in defending its own network, it's worrisome that such measures implemented by the state could and would end up making matters worse.

Loose Language Easily Misinterpreted

Last month, the U.S. head of cybersecurity quit, warning of an NSA takeover and the growing role of spy agencies. This type of legislation could make it easier for one of the many spy agencies run by the U.S. to do more harm than good.

As noted by Tom Parker, director of commercial security services at Alexandria, Virginia-based Securicon, there is a lot of good stuff in the proposed bill, but a lot of what it wants to do is easier said than done. His concern about the bill concerns what has not been specified being interpreted and implemented. (Source: theregister.co.uk)

Loose language in the bill has too much wiggle room, leaving it open to being easily misinterpreted.

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