Congress is considering legislation that could give the President power to shut down large swaths of domestic Internet traffic, should he perceive a threat to national security.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 would give the government increased oversight in areas of “critical” Web infrastructure like banking, energy and telecommunications. The latter industry encompasses most private Internet service providers, meaning that officials could use the legislation as a kill switch over privately-owned networks. The bill is being introduced concomitantly with a second bill that would create a cabinet-level cybersecurity post in the White House.
Ironically, the nation’s increasing need for cyber-vigilance is partially a result of new plans to make other infrastructures more advanced. Digital health records, smart electric grids and smarter traffic-management systems will all pose new security threats once brought online.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an editorial condemning the legislation, saying that the biggest weaknesses in government cyber-security–lack of encryption, poor network management, and insufficient auditing–are far too “mundane” to warrant legislation of such wide scope.