This is why many major policy decisions should not be made by a populace which, while well-meaning, is ignorant of the basic issues, or by the publicity-seeking politicians who pander to them.
Sixty-one percent of Americans said the President should have the ability to shut down portions of the Internet in the event of a coordinated malicious cyber attack, according to research by Unisys.
“A majority of the American population is willing to grant the President the authority to cut short their Internet access to protect both U.S. assets and citizens, suggesting that the public is taking cyber warfare very seriously,” said Patricia Titus, VP and CISO, Unisys. “Our survey shows that the American public recognizes the danger of a cyber attack and wants the federal government to take an active role in extending the nation’s cyber defense. It will be up to officials in all branches of the federal government to respond to this call to action in a way that is measured and well planned.”
Now, Unisys is in the business of helping “governments around the world” “solve their business problems through systems that optimize the organization and secure the enterprise,” so it’s probably not too surprising that they’d interpret their own poll in a way so conveniently helpful to their core business. The way Unisys phrased the question makes it appear that there was at least some mild push polling at work; however, the “Internet kill switch” is a policy proposal that we have to take and address seriously, if only because many U.S. politicians continue to seriously consider it.
As we’ve written in the past: While proposed in the name of national security, an Internet kill switch would make the Internet more vulnerable, not less, in addition to raising major questions about potential government abuse. In the words of Robert Schneier:
Computer and network security is hard, and every Internet system we’ve ever created has security vulnerabilities. It would be folly to think this one wouldn’t as well. And given how unlikely the risk is, any actual shutdown would be far more likely to be a result of an unfortunate error or a malicious hacker than of a presidential order.
But the main problem with an Internet kill switch is that it’s too coarse a hammer.
Yes, the bad guys use the Internet to communicate, and they can use it to attack us. But the good guys use it, too, and the good guys far outnumber the bad guys.
Shutting the Internet down, either the whole thing or just a part of it, even in the face of a foreign military attack would do far more damage than it could possibly prevent. And it would hurt others whom we don’t want to hurt.