Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Obama 'Internet kill switch' plan approved by US Senate panel

President could get power to turn off Internet

Article comments

A US Senate committee has approved a wide-ranging cybersecurity bill that some critics have suggested would give the US president the authority to shut down parts of the Internet during a cyberattack.

Senator Joe Lieberman and other bill sponsors have refuted the charges that the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act gives the president an Internet "kill switch." Instead, the bill puts limits on the powers the president already has to cause "the closing of any facility or stations for wire communication" in a time of war, as described in the Communications Act of 1934, they said in a breakdown of the bill published on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee website.

The committee unanimously approved an amended version of the legislation by voice vote Thursday, a committee spokeswoman said. The bill next moves to the Senate floor for a vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

The bill, introduced earlier this month, would establish a White House Office for Cyberspace Policy and a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications, which would work with private US companies to create cybersecurity requirements for the electrical grid, telecommunications networks and other critical infrastructure.

The bill also would allow the US president to take emergency actions to protect critical parts of the Internet, including ordering owners of critical infrastructure to implement emergency response plans, during a cyber-emergency. The president would need congressional approval to extend a national cyber-emergency beyond 120 days under an amendment to the legislation approved by the committee.

The legislation would give the US Department of Homeland Security authority that it does not now have to respond to cyber-attacks, Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said earlier this month.

"Our responsibility for cyber defence goes well beyond the public sector because so much of cyberspace is owned and operated by the private sector," he said. "The Department of Homeland Security has actually shown that vulnerabilities in key private sector networks like utilities and communications could bring our economy down for a period of time if attacked or commandeered by a foreign power or cyber terrorists."

Other sponsors of the bill are Senators Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat.

One critic said Thursday that the bill will hurt the nation's security, not help it. Security products operate in a competitive market that works best without heavy government intervention, said Wayne Crews, vice president for policy and director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulation think tank.

"Policymakers should reject such proposals to centralize cyber security risk management," Crews said in an e-mail. "The Internet that will evolve if government can resort to a 'kill switch' will be vastly different from, and inferior to, the safer one that will emerge otherwise."

Cybersecurity technologies and services thrive on competition, he added. "The unmistakable tenor of the cybersecurity discussion today is that of government steering while the market rows," he said. "To be sure, law enforcement has a crucial role in punishing intrusions on private networks and infrastructure. But government must coexist with, rather than crowd out, private sector security technologies."

On Wednesday, 24 privacy and civil liberties groups sent a letter raising concerns about the legislation to the sponsors. The bill gives the new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications "significant authority" over critical infrastructure, but doesn't define what critical infrastructure is covered, the letter said.

Without a definition of critical infrastructure there are concerns that "it includes elements of the Internet that Americans rely on every day to engage in free speech and to access information," said the letter, signed by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups.

"Changes are needed to ensure that cybersecurity measures do not unnecessarily infringe on free speech, privacy, and other civil liberties interests," the letter added.



More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


Person said: I pretty sure that Obama didnt actually read the constitution he probably just skimmed it Letting us Americans take advantage on the poor guy

Americonst4 said: obama wants to control any political opposition

Arthur Johnson said: Im so tired of my fuckin government I just am And Im tired of fighting them I had long nails earlier this year however Im SICK and TIRED of dealing with our hell-hearty government and the OFEMA camp lazlo thats run by a re-run moose yea a bunch of toonsAm I the only one who is SICK and TIRED of hearing those ampamp LIIIIIES that seems to have the fastest internet connection to our brainsill stop here

1776 said: Congress is specifically FORBIDDEN from making laws like this as is written in the constitution The first amendment says Congress shall make NO LAW abridging the freedom of speech the press or the right of free association This Bill violates all of those The Constitution also states that the Constitution is the highest law of the land Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion Press Expression Ratified 12151791 NoteCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion orprohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or ofthe press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition theGovernment for a redress of grievancesAlso from the Constitution Amendment 14 Section 33 No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress or elector ofPresident and Vice-President or hold any office civil or military under theUnited States or under any State who having previously taken an oath as amember of Congress or as an officer of the United States or as a member ofany State legislature or as an executive or judicial officer of any State tosupport the Constitution of the United States shall have engaged ininsurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to theenemies thereof But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House removesuch disabilityThis bill is a rebellion against the Constitution and Lieberman and his cohorts need to be tried for treason

Vic Burrack said: If this doesnt convince the internet-using voting crowd to vote out these turkeys out of political office nothing will Goodbye more of our personal freedoms hello another newly added governmental office for so-called protections we dont need We continue to travel the road to becoming just another socialist nanny state You must vote people if you care about your future while there is still time to check this intrusive stupidity and other stupidities Remember this will affect most communications including your iPhones also

Lucid_transition said: Speech

Lucid_transition said: Free speach wtf is that Did we have that in America at one time or something

Amac_oct1388 said: Hannah you must be the most dillusional person ever to born if you htink for a second the governemnt would not lie to us then you might as well shoot yourself in the head lets completely disregard the fact that there are NUMEROUS well documented cases of the government lieing to use and acting solely in their own interest you should go to the nearest gun supply store purchase thge most expensive gun there to help that buisness out and then blow your own brains out

Jack said: OMG Hannah didnt really say that did she How many more poor souls out there who honestly believe our government has our best interests at heart

Hannah said: for the life of my I just CANT understand why so many people are worried about their freedoms being taken by the government the government exists to help you it always has if they think that the internet needs to go away for while than we just need to sit back and say OK i know your looking out for our best interests ill go out and do something in the real worldthe government is not some evil entity dont you think national security is more important than your personal freedoms

Pedobear said: So what if we take a break from the internet for a while at least I can think of better things to do Like parents you could always take your kids to play at the park Im sure theyd like that

The Vigilant said: Keep in mind folks That if this passes Obama has the power to shut down websites like Yahoo Google and Youtube Not only from Americans but the world This is for the world now not only us in the States Speak up Write letters to the government Start petitions and protests Tell your friends and family about this Spread the word Anything you can do to inform the masses and your fellow manWe are stronger in numbers Its time to take action

The Vigilant said: contWe need to protest and petition this plan before we end up like Egyptwith blackouts and outages across the countryThe problem with America is that we take the things we have for granted We have to wake the hell up and fight before were next Weve been silent for far too longPres Obama if these plans are set in motion then prepare for riots in the street and anarchy I guarantee that these will occur nationwide within the first two weeks of it passing

The Vigilant said: Obama is a damn fool if he thinks this will be put into action The internet blacklist has been pushed up on the ballot twice and they have both burned as far as I know In 2009 we had the Digital Strip Search which was under the Obama Administration Google for more informationThis was over two years ago And its happening all over again Our rights are being taken away and were way too comfortable with the idea of that cont

Fredi125 said: Well from another point of view if the US Gov ever decides to cut off internet theyll be facing millions of people who got cut from their 1 occupation with now lots of free time to get angry and protest

Dr. Nowell said: Didnt Obama condemn the Egyptian govt for cutting off the internet last week Something doesnt pass the smell test here

Shabalabooby said: Did you guys not read the article Blind all of you VVVV

Slick said: The president can already declare martial law whenever he sees fitI see this bill as one in the same

Anonymous02 said: MaxDS the only thing I see is that the World Wide Web IS the internet Cybersecurity The internet has been around for decades and never has a killswitch been necessary You Max are buying into the sugar-coated excuses that the government is using to supress civil liberties WAKE UP

MaxDS said: Especially since the majority of the chat and information sites accessed in the US are US based This Bill seems to have our personal freedoms and this Countrys interest in mind If this Country does not allow an OFF switch to the rest of the World than we remain at other Countries mercy Where is are FREEDOM then

Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *