The president of the US may soon have the authority to shut down internet access during times of emergency. The proposal was rejected by Congress last year, but has returned this year with some new changes. The new updates to the proposal may allow the president to have the authority to terminate internet access without any court oversight. Many argue that the Communications Act of 1934 already allows the government to terminate communication outlets during times of war. The language applied to the revision of the new proposal is subjective as it pertains to cyber attacks.
The issue raises many concerns for residents of the US, especially those business owners that rely on internet access to make a living. The ability of the president to terminate access at the flip of a switch without court oversight can potentially result in heavy losses for small and large business owners alike. In addition, the employees of the organizations that rely on internet access to do their jobs could conceivably suffer a loss of wages if the lack of internet access denies them the ability to perform the functions of their job. The idea that cyber attacks occur and then spread rather quickly combined with the slow response time of the government begs the question of whether or not temporarily terminating access to the internet can even accomplish the goal of spreading a potentially catastrophic cyber attack.
The decision of the president to exercise this power, if the bill is passed, would have to be made with an element of haste in order to minimize the potential damage caused. This would require the switch to be flipped seemingly without any adequate warning. This could cause widespread panic and lack of access to information regarding the reason for the shut down. While the powers that be would be mostly concerned with acting in the best interest of the American people, the ability to act in haste on behalf of the best interest of the country seems like a potentially slippery slope. Increased security of our networks seems like a better route to go as cutting access to the internet in the event of a cyber attack seems as about as effective as disconnecting a stove that has already caught fire.
There have been safety concerns for years now with regard to the security of our power grid. Researchers have identified various flaws in the current system that could potentially allow the network to be hacked. This could allow a virus to cut the power to end users. Back in 2003, there was a power failure that affected the east coast of the US and parts of Canada that caused 55 million people to lose power. Various reports claimed that the loss of power was the result of a “glitch” and others said that it was also in part due to extreme weather.