The Federal Cyber Grab

Friday, August 28, 2009
Posted in category Surveillance State

Our man in cyberliberty, Declan McCullagh, on the Rockefeller bill to get control of the Internet under the guise of a “national emergency.”

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

Another powerful reminder of what your government fears most: you and the power of your ideas, with the ability to inform others. This is the same government, by the way, that can’t get its own cybersecurity straight.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security earned failing marks in an annual computer security report card released Thursday by a congressional oversight committee.

That means the federal agency tasked with principal responsibility for the nation’s cybersecurity has now received a grade of “F” from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform for three straight years–in other words, every year of its young existence.

It’s not alone. Of the 24 departments on the scorecard (click for PDF), seven others, including Energy, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, State, and Defense, also received failing marks for 2005. The scores for both Defense and State had hovered above passing– at D and D+, respectively–in 2004. The overall grade across all government agencies was D+, unchanged from last year.

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3 Responses to The Federal Cyber Grab

  1. John says:

    August 29th, 2009 at 3:10 am

    Another day, another potential Orwellian nightmare. Critical infrastructure or not, private servers and private data are private property. Is this concept now meaningless? What the hell is wrong with these people?

  2. Irritable Farmer says:

    August 29th, 2009 at 6:13 am

    We’re living in the Twilight Zone…

    When the insane are in the majority [political oligarchy] then the sane must go to the nut house.

    WELCOME to the nut house known as the United States of America. Your sovereignty means d-ck. And I don’t mean quack quack.

  3. liberranter says:

    August 29th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I think this is actually less ominous than it sounds, from a technical standpoint. For all of the Obamunist’s (and the rest of the Power Elite, for that matter) desire to “seize control of” the Internet, the fact remains that trying to “control” the Internet is like to trying to “control” or “ration” ambient oxygen in the atmosphere. “The Intenet”, people tend to forget, is an amorphous, decentralized, uncontrolled “network of networks”, most of which is completely outside the control of the United States Government. Just one example: Of the fourteen top-level domain name servers that serve the world-wide web, only SIX are located inside the United States. Of these fourteen, there are multiple redundant instances of each and every one of them, scattered across the globe and controlled by different physical infrastructures owned by a variety of entities, most of them, again, beyond the control of the USG. A failure in one of these is seamless and transparent to end-users of any ISP or hosting service, since each of the DNS host sites has a fully vetted and regularly exercised contingency/continuity of operations plan that ensures failover to backup servers in the event that a primary goes down. Over six years ago, some rather sophisticated hackers attempted to compromise several of the top-level domain servers with the intention of “shutting down the Internet” and actually managed to bring (I believe) three of them down. HOWEVER, since there were multiple failover instances of these servers in operation, this Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack failed. Internet operations world-wide suffered only minor service degradation, but certainly not the catastrophic shutdown the attackers had hoped for.

    In the short term, the Obamunist and his Establishment cronies might succeed in shutting down things for a short while, mainly due to ISP customers’ reliance on either a few nation-wide service providers or local providers with only a few isolated local nodes with limited backup capability. However, I also predict that within a relatively short time workarounds to this will be found, probably through “appropriation” (a nicer word for “piracy”) of unused bands of the frequency spectrum (“frequency hopping” is a common way of exploiting this) in a wireless environment. Either way, the flow of free communication won’t be stopped.

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