Cries of protest, censorship greet news of cybersecurity bill

Communism, Fascism, treading on liberties, censorship and other political cries greeted the news of proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate that would give the president power to disconnect the Internet.

While many Network World readers thought the story on a bill introduced April 1 in the Senate concerning cybersecurity was an April Fools’ gag, it was not.

"This was an April Fools, right? Please say that it was," one reader wrote.

The bill was introduced by West Virginia Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine.

The sweeping legislation included a provision to give the president the power to “order the disconnection of any Federal government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks in the interest of national security.”

Critics of the measure said the provision needed to be more clearly defined, but expected the Internet, along with telecommunications and banking systems, to fall under "critical infrastructure."

Many Network World readers said the bill gives the government too much power and liken the scope of its provisions to China and other communist countries or regimes.

And many criticized President Obama for abuse of power even though he had nothing to do with the bi-partisan legislation that would pertain to any sitting president.

"This guy is taking over banks, auto and now the internet. Is it time to move to a small deserted island in the Pacific until this madness runs it's course." wrote one anonymous responder.

Still others said that cybersecurity is a serious issue that will take some difficult decisions to combat.

"…Some good may come off the mere existence of this idea. As for security standards: It can be something sweeping, or something as basic as “Use of a hardened OS is required," which is loose enough to permit variety,” said reader N. Secure.

Some were put off by the ill-defined reference to national security that was part of the bill.

"You would be amazed at what the government can consider 'national security.' Let's see... A report about black water goes public on CNN. Government feels report undermines its authority... Next thing you know, CNN is disconnected from the world due to “National Security,” said G3iMacMan, on Network World’s Web site. “This is government censorship. That is what is happening in China. Do you know what to do in the event of a cyber attack? You unplug YOUR OWN network cable. And you ADVISE others to do the same. This is a VERY BAD IDEA."

The references to other forms of government were a recurring theme.

"The walls keep getting closer. Regulation keeps increasing while the opposition is targeted by name. Welcome to fascism," wrote one responder.

"Hello Comrads! Welcome to the United Socialist States of America. We have become them...we just don't know it yet. Any co-incidence that every position filled by Obama is aptly named 'czar'?" wrote another.

A poster called Spee said, “We already have the new GM, aka Government Motors. What's next? Government approval of internet services? Yeah, great, let's imitate countries like North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia.

Others said the bill just needed to die.

"I like Obama, as a rule, but this legislation has got to die on the vine," said an anonymous poster.

Despite the questions, concerns and complaints some saw good in the bill’s intent

"If such a crisis should ever happen then fine give the president the authority to 'pull the internet plug' on all government owned systems and systems that must connect to government systems. But to shutdown the internet for the entire country and everyone is a scary thought," responded an anonymous poster.

And some thought that congressional time could be spent better in other areas.

"There are already policies and procedures in place in government IT departments to shun traffic at the router in the event of an attack, whether it be worm/botnet related or any form of DoS," said an anonymous poster. "For the most part, government networks are monitored and administered by capable and competent government IT professionals or contractors. Congress would spend it's time better by looking at how our current defense stance could be improved, and allot funding for upgrades and infrastructure redesign. There is no need for a law that gives the executive branch such autonomous sweeping power."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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