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September 28, 2010 10:00 PM   Subscribe


 
Accent on former.
posted by lumensimus at 10:03 PM on September 28, 2010


Well, they "turned off" the airports and the stock exchanges for an entire week following 9/11. So, it's not like there's no precedent for this sort of thing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:11 PM on September 28, 2010


This from the guy that brought us warrentless wiretapping.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:12 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does the US still control all the root servers?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:12 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]




Well, they "turned off" the airports and the stock exchanges for an entire week following 9/11. So, it's not like there's no precedent for this sort of thing.


Not quite.
posted by parmanparman at 10:13 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, it's actually really easy. Whenever any CIA agent, former or current, types his social security number into a Facebook status update, the numbers turn to asterisks and the internet shuts down in exactly 120 seconds. Go on, try it. There is no reason to doubt this.

To reboot the internet, just depress the Presidential seal with a giant paperclip for five seconds.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:13 PM on September 28, 2010 [7 favorites]




Does the US still control all the root servers?

If you mean the root DNS nameservers, then no, the US doesn't.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:22 PM on September 28, 2010


Does the US still control all the root servers?

Essentially yes, but there is always the threat of a neckbeard revolt.
posted by peeedro at 10:23 PM on September 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


To what purpose?

I'd would be like shutting down the Interstate Highway system, and as catastrophic for the economy.

The only possible threat this addresses would be a popular uprising, where the internet is used to organize the revolt and to publicize the government's crackdown. A Tienanmen Square, a Velvet Revolution, a screw-the-Stasi-we're-all-going-to-the-West-via-Czechoslovakia.

Otherwise it just doesn't make sense; it's not necessary and it's overkill if your aim is to protect power plants or military networks from "cyberterrorist computer viruses".

Hayden's either a fool (and fools usually don't rise that far), or he's telling us that CIA/NSA/DIA has forecast the real possibility of pervasive civil unrest or insurrection in the near future in the US.
posted by orthogonality at 10:25 PM on September 28, 2010 [24 favorites]


Doesn't make any sense. It would probably be handy in an emergency if the President had the ability to turn people into ducks with nothing but a thought, but he doesn't and I suspect that resources we might use investigating such a capability would be better spent elsewhere.

All he'd be able to realistically do would be to shut down the major US interchange points (MAE East, MAE West, a few others) which would cripple much of the network as currently designed. But it wouldn't shut it down completely. You'd end up with disconnected islands; multiple internets instead of one coherent Internet, but well-designed services like email would still work within the connected parts. There are lots of people with leased lines and direct fiber connections and old, slow backup links to other sites that nobody really thinks about very often. You might not be able to hit Facebook depending on where you are, but that's a far cry from turning the network off.

Plus, the mere existence of such a capability would encourage the rest of the world to build capacity that doesn't go through the US, and which the President would be unable to shut down (short of cutting cables, which is typically regarded as a hostile act, if not an overt preparation for war). While that might actually be a good thing for the network as a whole, I'm not sure this is really the best way for the US to spur backbone investment by other countries.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:25 PM on September 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


In practice, you could "shut down" most of the Internet for Americans by requesting / requiring all the telcos / cable companies / etc to cut off service on a government order. While this would cause disruptions in the rest of the world, it would of course only be a real "shutdown" in the US (and it would be virtually impossible to hit 100%, but you could probably kill an extremely large % of connections this way).

I suppose you could also try to require US companies with overseas data centers / etc to shut those down too (or face penalties).

If you shut down 95+% of ISPs, and all major US internet companies, that would be about as close as I can imagine.

(I am in no way advocating this, and I'm not really clear whether such requirements would be constitutional, but it's interesting to think about what is and is not possible).
posted by wildcrdj at 10:27 PM on September 28, 2010


Essentially yes

How do you figure? Several of them are ran by non-US entities.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:29 PM on September 28, 2010


Hayden's either a fool (and fools usually don't rise that far), or he's telling us that CIA/NSA/DIA has forecast the real possibility of pervasive civil unrest or insurrection in the near future in the US.

I've seen brilliant people who are at the top of their field in many disciplines who fall apart when they try to understand the Internet beyond the web and e-mail. If he's suggesting that the President have the authority to disconnect all US government systems from the Internet, this might make a bit more sense. It's still horribly impractical and not a good idea, but it's much more practical and reasonable than trying to shut down the entire Internet.
posted by Saydur at 10:33 PM on September 28, 2010


MY ENTIRE INTERNET SHUT DOWN LAST NIGHT FOR 4 AND A HALF MINUTES AND I'M NOT LYING!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:39 PM on September 28, 2010 [13 favorites]


Stupid, stupid threat.

It would be pretty damned easy for the rest of the world to fix. Say you're in Brazil, all the Brazilian ISPs simply redirect all your requests to the root name servers to some other Brazilian name server that lives at that IP address.

And it's a threat that could only ever be used once - because after that there wouldn't be any root name servers any more, but regionalized root name servers or local root name servers.

And what do they expect to accomplish by this?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:39 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]




It's funny to see this article here after seeing this "Bill being passed to censor the internet" thing a few places elsewhere.
posted by flatluigi at 10:45 PM on September 28, 2010


It's actually pretty fascinating to think about what it would be like if the Internet was "shut off". I mean, we've all been exposed to post-apocalyptic, mad-Max, back-to-huts scenarios, but I've never really seen an attempt to imagine our normal reality, just without the Internet.
posted by threeants at 10:46 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, FidoNet over Wifi with Pringles-can antenna.

I imagine samizdat CDs with instructions and modified Tomato router software would be disseminated from engineering universities, propagating at an effective 20 miles per day. Everyone would just route through his nearest (physical) neighbor.

It would be slow, but it would work until you had to bridge the Rockies. And then somebody would put up a satellite transmitter bounced off a silvery mylar weather balloon.

And once that genie was out of the bottle, only jamming the 2.4Mhz band, or distributed government honeypots would contain it. No need for ISPs except for a speed-gain, everything copyrighted trading over the darknet.

So basically, unless you also violate the Third Amendment or confiscate anything with wifi, this can happen at most once.
posted by orthogonality at 10:50 PM on September 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm going to play devil's advocate here, but it seems like all of you are solving the wrong problem: In my mind, he would like the President to have the authority to unequivocally halt a cyberattack on US infrastructure or military interests by whatever drastic means necessary. I'm thinking some sort of DDoS on a power plant or military resource. Naturally, mission critical pieces of infrastructure like that should, as a matter of course, never be hooked up to the fucking internet to begin with, making that point moot, but that's the perspective from which I imagine he's coming from.

It's totally absurd still, but it isn't about other countries "fixing it" or still having access; my read is that it's literally about having an "off" switch when things become relentlessly fucked and attack our infrastructure. It still represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how things are configured, how "internet storms" are managed, and what else is involved in maintaining infrastructure security, but I think he just wants the ability to "ZOMG PULL THE PLUG".
posted by disillusioned at 10:52 PM on September 28, 2010


Ah, here: http://forum.concen.org/showthread.php?tid=31433
posted by orthogonality at 10:54 PM on September 28, 2010


"Cyberwarfare" is the stupidest fucking idea and I've come to somewhat loathe science fiction for the ideas it's given people about computers.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:59 PM on September 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


By "shutdown the internet" I'm reading "temporarily isolate the US internet from the rest of the world." I'm guessing this is plausible, but I don't see any reason to assume it's to prevent a domestic insurrection. Inasmuch as we're putting our societal infrastructures online, and inasmuch as we live in a world determined by nationalistic/cultural/religious hostilities, I think it's actually kind of a reasonable idea. That I'm even saying that disturbs me a bit, but there it is. The notion that we're not ALL THAT vulnerable can, in my opinion, only be predicated upon the idea that defenses to a true cyber-warfare attack will emerge as instantly and organically as the latest viral video meme. Maybe I'm turning into a "get-off-my-lawn" curmudgeon, but I just don't see such an instantly emergent form of defense as realistic.

That said, I don't think this guy is not fear-mongering and not raising concerns about situations that haven't already been thought of.
posted by treepour at 11:04 PM on September 28, 2010


I'm pretty sure that the CIA believes the US should also be able to choose others' governments, kill whomever they wish, and acquire whatever resources they wish.

Why should we listen to them?
posted by pompomtom at 11:15 PM on September 28, 2010 [16 favorites]


There aren't that many backbones in the US. Shut them down (they are big enough they kind of can't hide) and that's basically turning the internet off in the US. Sure, you could still do shit like satellite packet radio to routers outside the US and it would be hard to stop *all* network traffic (local networks, ISP regions, etc.) but it's not impossible to stop the overwhelming majority of traffic in the US.

It just seems unnecessary for any reasonable network-based activity it would be legitimate to stop. As someone noted up thread, critical infrastructure (power plants, defense networks, etc.) should be separable from the public internet -- perhaps they still are *on* the internet (at some level) but they should be easily disconnected. The only thing you'd stop "shutting off the internet" that you couldn't easily do in a more focused way is commerce, legal speech, etc.
posted by R343L at 11:16 PM on September 28, 2010


PRESS
posted by clavdivs at 11:20 PM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe all countries should run fire drills in which they see what happens when they restrict their internet traffic to national landlines and national machines. Can country X function normally if other countries deny country X access to their internet resources? Can country X function normally with no internet at all?
posted by pracowity at 11:22 PM on September 28, 2010


I'm having a hard time imagening how anyone could do more economic damage to the US than an Internet shutdown would cause. In this case the cure is worse than the disease.

It would just hand the US' enemies a new strategy to exploit. The reasoning would be "we got them to start a land war in Asia, now let's see if we can get them to turn of their Internets as well".
posted by Harald74 at 11:23 PM on September 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Essentially yes, but there is always the threat of a neckbeard revolt.

And it would be a glorious thing to behold!

(No, seriously, somebody make a book or movie about this! Now!)
posted by Harald74 at 11:25 PM on September 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, like the only reason I could imagine to shut down "the internet" would be if massive numbers of computers were infected as a giant bot network to where most of the internet WAS being used for massive cybercrime.

Of course, it would just be easier and more useful in the long run to:
a) pass laws requiring minimum security requirements from all OS's sold or distributed - with a moving set of goalposts to adapt as security adapts
b) make computer operation and basic security classes available in middle-to-high school levels for all students and free adult classes for everyone else
c) stop aiming legislation at throwing in back-doors into everyone's stuff for Big Brother surveillance wishes.
posted by yeloson at 11:34 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy was Director of Central Intelligence and he appears to have all the Internet savvy of the "I backtraced it, and you've been reported to the Cyber Police!" guy.
posted by planetkyoto at 11:38 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


orthogonality: ...fools usually don't rise that far ...

Er - citation, please?
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:38 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you figure? Several of them are ran by non-US entities.

Follow the IP datagrams, man. That's where you'll get your answer.
posted by peeedro at 11:43 PM on September 28, 2010


ortho Hayden's either a fool (and fools usually don't rise that far)

Whether or not he is a fool I do not know. I do know that he argued with a reporter in 2006 about whether or not the Fourth Amendment contained the phrase "probable cause" (Hayden maintained it did not).
posted by mlis at 11:46 PM on September 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's totally absurd still, but it isn't about other countries "fixing it" or still having access; my read is that it's literally about having an "off" switch when things become relentlessly fucked and attack our infrastructure. It still represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how things are configured, how "internet storms" are managed, and what else is involved in maintaining infrastructure security, but I think he just wants the ability to "ZOMG PULL THE PLUG".

What is the executive need to shut down a distributed network that is designed to not have a single point of failure and why is any of our critical infrastructure on it?
posted by ryoshu at 11:52 PM on September 28, 2010


Threeway Handshake: How do you figure? Several of them are ran by non-US entities.

To be precise, 3 out of 13 (Autonomica, RIPE, and WIDE) are run by non-US entities.
posted by mhum at 12:03 AM on September 29, 2010


I propose a rule that anybody who calls the Internet the "cyber thing" does not get to make the rules concerning its operation.
posted by dudekiller at 12:05 AM on September 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


(No, seriously, somebody make a book or movie about this! Now!)

Been there, done that: Neckbeard Revolt.
It's disturbing how disconnected you new guys are from your own heritage.

Mind you, we are gearing up to do a re-release by early 2100 on punchcard, transholocube, or whatever current media-of-the-month non-archival format you guys are using these days.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:11 AM on September 29, 2010


The only reason, the only reason, to disable the Internet to is to suppress dissent.
posted by Malor at 12:17 AM on September 29, 2010


I could see them trying to implement this...the big guy flips the magical shut off switch, but then two mintues later you hear the cries down the hall..."Heeeeey, the internet is not working! Somebody call IT!"
posted by iamkimiam at 12:18 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


He's right from a strategic perspective: it would be in any country's strategic interests to be able to shut down the internet if it needed to - either as a defensive or an offensive measure.

From a moral, not to mention a technical perspective, not so much though.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:29 AM on September 29, 2010


It's the sentiment of someone who just doesn't trust computers. You can shut off your computer if it gets a virus in the Google or whatever, and the Internet is just a bunch of computers, so if it becomes troublesome you turn it off too.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:29 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, for the life of me, I cannot figure out the strategic thinking here. The threat mentioned is always "attacks on critical infrastructure". This threat is trivial to counter: do not connect critical infrastructure to a public network. Duh. I mean, are power plant control systems even on the internet? Why would anyone ever put a power plant control system on the internet? That would be really, really stupid. Just don't do the really, really stupid thing: problem solved!

The real threat that must be countered is something more along the lines of DDOS attacks on economic activity. Denial-of-service meant to cripple network activity is not properly countered by shutting off all network activity, though. There must be means to selectively shut out the DOS activity. Those exist and are in continual development, right?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:53 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"My personal view is that it is probably wise to legislate some authority to the President, to take emergency measures for limited periods of time, with clear reporting to Congress, when he feels as if he has to take these measures," he said in an interview on the weekend.

"But I would put the bar really high as to when these kinds of authorities might take place," he said.


The current and previous administrations must have been quite tall because they quite gingerly stepped over high bars set for civil liberties.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:54 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Essentially yes, but there is always the threat of a neckbeard revolt.

Worst. Government crackdown. Ever.
posted by Evilspork at 1:16 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Internet pretty much is critical infrastructure these days. The comparison upthread to the US Interstate system is apt.
posted by Harald74 at 2:11 AM on September 29, 2010


I'd predict that an official shutdown of the internet aimed at the root servers would last a few hours, and the long-term impact would be that nobody outside the United States (and nobody inside the United States with an ounce of clue) would use a US-based root server anymore, effectively fragmenting the DNS. The neckbeards would win that one, although American service providers could be compelled by law to use American root servers, I suppose.

The real problem is the physical infrastructure. I'm in Switzerland. My routes to Japan go Atlanta - Houston - Los Angeles (GEANT/Internet2) or New York-Palo Alto (Swisscom). There are a shockingly small number of cable landing points, and if I had to guess I would say that the people who would be most interested in shutting off the internet already have a presence there. There are of course new cables going through the Red Sea or around the Cape of Good Hope, but the US is kind of in the middle of things.

In the event of a long-term US network outage, you'd probably end up with the rest of the world routing around America (with somewhat lower bandwidth -- there is a business opportunity to lay cable in rail right-of-way across Canada here, assuming that the Canadian government isn't in on the shut-off-the-internet game as well), and European activists setting up drastically lower bandwidth routes outside the country for humanitarian reasons. The neckbeards would get you email back, but there would be no cat videos I'm afraid.

I agree, it makes way more sense to shut down the internet for Chinese and Iranian reasons than "to stop a cyberattack" (hint: if someone says "cyberattack" or "cyberterrorism" you can safely ignore them, because they either really have no clue what they're talking about, or they're giving a marketing presentation and hope you have no clue what they're talking about) -- now that we have actual weaponized malware out there, once you notice you've been hit shutting off the internet isn't going to do a damn thing. The only defense against that is focused hardening of important targets (most of which should never be connected to the Internet anyway, but that's another question). The days of flash worms are over, not that you could even react to a phenomenon that spread across the world in two seconds anyway.
posted by Vetinari at 2:26 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Self destruct buttons? They're great but they've got one teeny tiny flaw...
posted by doublehappy at 3:09 AM on September 29, 2010


...and I'm pretty sure their effectiveness was pretty well disproved by Marvin the Martian, among others.
posted by doublehappy at 3:11 AM on September 29, 2010


You do not want to upset the populace by keeping them away from porn or Facebook.
posted by nomadicink at 3:45 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Over my cold dead router!

Actually if they did this, I might get some work done.
posted by chillmost at 4:01 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


U.S. should be able to shut Internet, former CIA chief says

This is where the ambiguity of the English language could really be aided by some better sentence structure.

Is the former CIA chief saying what he wants to see happen—"we should be allowed to shut down the internet without having to ask permission!"—or is he describing current capabilities, like, "Oh, sure, we should be able to shut down the Internet. That's no problem at all."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:35 AM on September 29, 2010


Would most Americans even notice if they were disconnected from the rest of the world?
posted by srboisvert at 4:37 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


They would sure as fucking hell notice if they weren't able to download porn, tweet about who they got a BJ from, or email stuff from FoxNews to each other.
posted by unSane at 5:20 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


All of this is even possible because of the security hole that is user based security. If everything used capabilities instead of passwords, you'd be able to keep the users secure, without the need for firewalls, spyware scanners or virus filters.

I imagine we're still 20 years out before it becomes mainstream, this because most programmers haven't even heard of Capability Based Security.
posted by MikeWarot at 5:40 AM on September 29, 2010


btw, I had a freelancer hand me a USB key to transfer some files the other week and the USB key had a worm on it. The freelancer is an avowed Mac user. Maybe the US can shut down the sneakernet too.
posted by ryoshu at 5:42 AM on September 29, 2010


This isn't about being practical. This is about having the power and/or the authority to do it.
posted by nomadicink at 5:44 AM on September 29, 2010


Seems like if some kind of sooper-dooper stuxnet worm was running around eating power stations, a polite phone call from the head of the FBI to ATT's CEO would turn off the core routers and contain the outbreak way faster than negotiating a court order with all the lawyers and precedents that would create. It isn't like the major telcos aren't already bending over for the various administrations already.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:47 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


pompomtom: "I'm pretty sure that the CIA believes the US should also be able to choose others' governments, kill whomever they wish, and acquire whatever resources they wish.

Why should we listen to them
"

And they have done all of that more than once. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if they already had a way to shut off the internet if necessary.
posted by Memo at 5:52 AM on September 29, 2010


They can take our lives, but they can never take... OUR CAT VIDEOS!!!
posted by fuq at 6:12 AM on September 29, 2010


Neckbeard Revolt is my new band name.
posted by swift at 6:19 AM on September 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thus is funny because the internet was explicitly designed, by the US military, to be resistant to attempts to shut it down in an emergency.
posted by rusty at 6:22 AM on September 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


And they have done all of that more than once.

Touche.
posted by pompomtom at 6:22 AM on September 29, 2010


Further to that: I would argue against the extension of the power of the CIA et al to do such things to include some veto over the internet. I will not expect my opinion, being that of a non-rich, non-US, non-corporation to have any effect on anything. One day, perhaps, these sort of things will encourage people in my position to blow up some Americans, but I'm certainly far too apathetic for that to be the case just yet.
posted by pompomtom at 6:35 AM on September 29, 2010


Metafilter: "'we got them to start a land war in Asia, now let's see if we can get them to turn of their Internets as well'."

orthogonality writes "Hayden's either a fool (and fools usually don't rise that far), or he's telling us that CIA/NSA/DIA has forecast the real possibility of pervasive civil unrest or insurrection in the near future in the US."

I vote fool or at least grossly ignorant. He's probably of the opinion that the internet is like the electrical company and one can just make a few calls and get them to turn it off.

R343L writes "There aren't that many backbones in the US. Shut them down (they are big enough they kind of can't hide) and that's basically turning the internet off in the US. Sure, you could still do shit like satellite packet radio to routers outside the US and it would be hard to stop *all* network traffic (local networks, ISP regions, etc.) but it's not impossible to stop the overwhelming majority of traffic in the US."

Be pretty tough to do that without also shutting down the telephone network.

mr_roboto writes "Why would anyone ever put a power plant control system on the internet? That would be really, really stupid. Just don't do the really, really stupid thing: problem solved!"

So it can be remotely monitored and controlled. So you can outsource monitoring and control to Bangladesh for $2 a day instead of $100K a year.
posted by Mitheral at 6:48 AM on September 29, 2010


While shutting it down is clearly out of the question, I'd suggest that well-placed phone calls to a half-dozen executives who control major inter-city links, business, and residential access could effectively crash it. This would certainly be a bad thing overall.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:50 AM on September 29, 2010


To be precise, 3 out of 13 (Autonomica, RIPE, and WIDE) are run by non-US entities.

And there are even more anycast nodes for the others that would keep running just fine if the US was taken offline. There are more root servers outside the US than inside the US now.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:52 AM on September 29, 2010


Mitheral: Be pretty tough to do that without also shutting down the telephone network.

Certainly, I'm not certain if the people who float these proposals care.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:52 AM on September 29, 2010


Hayden's either a fool...

The US Civil war was so bloody because they were fighting a Napoleonic style war only they now had rifles rather than muskets. WWI was so nasty because they were responding to the US civil war only they now had machine guns and chemical weapons. If you listen to the Tea Party types today, they ultimately believe need their guns to defend against the government doing somethign nebulously sinister, despite the fact that if The Government wanted to bring it's power to bear in some nebulously sinister fashion, it's probably not going to do anything that will map well to Aticus Finch vs. Rabid Dog where you can just shoot it before it bites anyone.

I don't know that Hayden is a fool. He's just part of a long line of people who don't get the topology and tactics of the current battlefield because all their experience and studies have focused on the previous battlefield.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:55 AM on September 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


And continuing my previous line of reasoning, let's look at the CIA....

"I'm pretty sure that the CIA believes the US should also be able to choose others' governments, kill whomever they wish, and acquire whatever resources they wish."

And they have done all of that more than once.


And this has been how successful? Extrapolating from Iran, we should all get down on our knees and thank whatever God we believe in that they didn't manage to take out Fidel Castro.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:01 AM on September 29, 2010


Kid Charlemagne writes "If you listen to the Tea Party types today, they ultimately believe need their guns to defend against the government doing somethign nebulously sinister, despite the fact that if The Government wanted to bring it's power to bear in some nebulously sinister fashion, it's probably not going to do anything that will map well to Aticus Finch vs. Rabid Dog where you can just shoot it before it bites anyone."

Don't the wacky militia second amendment types imagine an Afghanistan type civil rebellion with them as the warlords? It's not hard to see where they might get the idea they could be successful in fighting off the government.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 AM on September 29, 2010


US should be able to defeat the Taliban, too. Why don't you focus on that, CIA?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:22 AM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


My father-in-law managed this at the weekend, he came around with his laptop, all concerned that he'd "deleted the internet".

I dragged the IE icon out of the Recycle Bin and I saved the internet, just for all of you.
posted by hardcode at 7:49 AM on September 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because the Taliban isn't the real threat. Terrorism has never been the real threat. That's why everything that's been done in the name of domestic security has been so ineffective at controlling determined attackers, and so extremely good at controlling the mass herds of people who shuffle through airports every day.

Everything that's been done in the name of security over about the last fifteen years has been to protect against you, to control you. Terrorism is irrelevant.
posted by Malor at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, I shouldn't say EVERYTHING, that's too big a claim, but the vast majority of the sweeping new powers that have been aggregated aren't needed to fight terrorism, but rather are required to control an angry population.
posted by Malor at 7:52 AM on September 29, 2010


In a really fucked up sort of way, I'd actually love it if they "shut the internet down" for a week or two (apart from the economic disaster it would cause), People would be furious and all sorts of clever back up plans would quickly be devised to keep the fragmented networks talking to one another. It would expose all sorts of little flaws that people probably don't even realize but could be exploited, and in the end we would end up with a more robust and secure network that couldn't easily be taken away.

Like said upthread, it could happen at most once, and when done, they'd be hard pressed to stop electronic dissent ever again.
posted by quin at 7:58 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


How can he possibly resist the maddening urge to erradicate history at the mere push of a single button? The beautiful, shiny button? The jolly, candy-like button? Will he hold out, folks? Can he hold out?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:25 AM on September 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


If there isn't already a full protocol on how to effectively shut down the "internet", at least for the States, I'd be surprised.
posted by rmmcclay at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This from the guy that brought us warrentless wiretapping.

Wait, Hoover was in on this too?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:08 AM on September 29, 2010


"Old Man Shakes Fist at Cloud"
posted by gimonca at 10:16 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


quin: "In a really fucked up sort of way, I'd actually love it if they "shut the internet down" for a week or two (apart from the economic disaster it would cause), People would be furious and all sorts of clever back up plans would quickly be devised to keep the fragmented networks talking to one another. It would expose all sorts of little flaws that people probably don't even realize but could be exploited"

...like the secret portal to Outside.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2010


Don't the wacky militia second amendment types imagine an Afghanistan type civil rebellion with them as the warlords? It's not hard to see where they might get the idea they could be successful in fighting off the government.

I think they picture themselves more as joyful fighting companions of the US marines, heroically throwing open the doors marked 'authorized personnel only' at nursery schools up and down the country, where the last sniveling, self-hating liberals have hidden themselves - relying on red-blooded Americans' cautionary treatment of adorable moppets and a misplaced fascist belief in the power of exclusionary signage to coweringly conceal themselves from the Truth Defenders.

It could be a Thomas Kincaid painting. You could hang it on the wall above the commemorative plate. Shipping and Handling to AK and HI may be extra


Also, good luck shutting down the Inter Net and not taking most of the phone system with it, plus all the people who died because their medical history went offline etc. etc. etc. Now that the FCC has just opened up the unused TV channels and the hardware to start building wide-area wireless networks can be thrown together for $5-10k, this top-down mentality will become increasingly anachronistic.

I worry a lot more about...um, never mind.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:47 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for a meeting to start. I could stand up and urinate all over everyone on the room. I have that physical capability and believe me I've drank enough tea today that it might give me a relief. Yet I won't because it's a stupid idea, just like shutting down the Internet or GPS.
posted by humanfont at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2010


"The neckbeards are revolting!"

"You're not so clean shaven yourself!"
posted by Zed at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to play devil's advocate here, but it seems like all of you are solving the wrong problem: In my mind, he would like the President to have the authority to unequivocally halt a cyberattack on US infrastructure or military interests by whatever drastic means necessary.

What I don't understand is: why put critical infrastructure on the Internet in the first place? I realize there might be some benefit in having it accessible anywhere, but would that outweigh the risks?

Rather then giving the government the right to shut down the internet, just create a special network just for critical infrastructure that actually does have stronger access requirements and the ability to remove problematic nodes.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on September 29, 2010


"A Logic Named Joe", Murray Leister, 19-freaking-46
"Shut down the tank?" he says, mirthless. "Does it occur to you, fella, that the tank has been doin' all the computin' for every business office for years? It's been handlin' the distribution of ninety-four per cent of all telecast programs, has given out all information on weather, plane schedules, special sales, employment opportunities and news; has handled all person-to-person contacts over wires and recorded every business conversation and agreement— Listen, fella! Logics changed civilization. Logics are civilization! If we shut off logics, we go back to a kind of civilization we have forgotten how to run!"
posted by Zed at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


that's Leinster, darn it
posted by Zed at 11:54 AM on September 29, 2010


They can never shut down IPoAC!
posted by doublehappy at 12:22 PM on September 29, 2010


It’s Cyberwar! Let’s Play Bingo!
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on September 29, 2010


threeants: "but I've never really seen an attempt to imagine our normal reality, just without the Internet."

Wasn't there a south park episode about this?
posted by pwnguin at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2010


Impossible as it seems to believe, there are people alive today who remember a time before the internet. I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But there it is.
posted by unSane at 4:36 PM on September 29, 2010


I remember it quite well. Which is why I'm not all that keen to go back to it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:42 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nor I. And yet somehow humanity survived without it.
posted by unSane at 8:45 PM on September 29, 2010




Not the point: humanity survived without Interstate Highways, without trucks shipping food to market, without oil, without telecommunications, hell, without agriculture.

But each advance has allowed us to support greater populations at lower marginal costs. Doing without any of these for any length of time would ruin the economy, destroy surplus value, and eventually threaten malnutrition and starvation, whether sooner or later. Because we've come to rely on all these things, internet included.

Sure, cutting off the internet wouldn't case the immediate food riots that, say, running out of oil would. But just like cheap oil, the internet makes getting goods to market cheaper. No internet, higher prices, more spoilage of perishables, less coordination of the economy.
posted by orthogonality at 10:09 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was responding to this:

It's actually pretty fascinating to think about what it would be like if the Internet was "shut off". I mean, we've all been exposed to post-apocalyptic, mad-Max, back-to-huts scenarios, but I've never really seen an attempt to imagine our normal reality, just without the Internet.

I mean, I could imagine someone posting something like this in 2050. But we've had a world wide web for less than 20 years. (I first fired up the TCP/IP stack and Mosaic on my Mac in 1993 and it was like doing brain surgery). The number of adults who have no experience of life without the internet is obviously growing fast, but the idea that life-without-the-internet requires some kind of radical thought experiment is just bizarre.

If we think of the internet-as-we-know-it beginning some time around 1990, that means the last adults who fully remember life-before-the-internet will probably die sometime around 2070-2080. There'll probably be a Ken Burns III documentary about it.
posted by unSane at 4:06 AM on September 30, 2010


My downloaded consciousness will continue to post cranky, unsupported opinions on the Intertelepathynet long past that date, thankewverymuch.

It's an interesting question, though. If the Internet went down it would cause a lot of inconvenience and expense, but modern life would no doubt survive with telephones and regular mail until things got back to normal. But there'd probably be economic shockwaves for a while, with more recessions or even a depression depending on how scared people became.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2010


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