Suddenly the Internet is full of chatter about Senator Lieberman (and Collins and Carper) proposing an “Internet kill switch.” It’s the one issue that Huffington Post and Drudge have agreed on in months: there’s a kill switch coming and they don’t like it.
Personally, any time the left and the right get together to complain about government, I reach for my wallet. As I describe in Skating on Stilts, that’s the same civil liberties coalition that screwed up TSA’s passenger screening and then blamed TSA.
And sure enough, this is the same old antigovernment malarkey. Recycled malarkey, actually. The notion of an Internet kill switch was first circulated about an entirely different bill proposed by a different Senator from a different committee. Now it’s become a bumper sticker slogan rolled out whenever anyone proposes doing anything to fix our computer security crisis.
The fact is that our entire computerized economy is balanced on a knife edge (or, if you like, it’s skating on stilts). It could be attacked by many countries today. And there’s evidence that both the risk of attack and the scale of the damage it would cause are growing all the time. There’s an Internet kill switch all right, but it ain’t in Washington. It’s in Beijing and Moscow. And soon in Pyongyang.
The Lieberman-Collins-Carper bill, which might take the kill switch away from our foreign adversaries, will soon have bipartisan support in the House. It gives the President basic authority to respond to an attack on our power, phone, and financial systems.
It’s needed, badly, because the President today has less authority over the vulnerable electronic underbelly of our banks and power grid than he has over deepwater oil drilling. Of course the “kill switch” crowd don’t see the need for any such authority. After all, why would we expect private companies ever to screw up in a way that would hurt the rest of us?
Come to think about it, BP could have saved itself $20 billion if it had just persuaded Congress last year that trying to regulate deep sea drilling would create a crazy Big Government “Oil Supply Kill Switch.”
Nobody wants an Oil Supply Kill Switch.
Until, oops, they really, really do.