Weekend Gedankenexperiment - The Kill Switch

Fred Baker fred at cisco.com
Sat Feb 5 08:43:14 CST 2011


On Feb 4, 2011, at 9:49 PM, Hayden Katzenellenbogen wrote:

> Not sure if it has been said already but wasn't one of the key point for
> the creation of the internet to create and infrastructure that would
> survive in the case of all out war and massive destruction. (strategic
> nuclear strikes)

Urban legend, although widely believed. Someone probably made the observation.

> Does it not bode ill for "national security" if any party could take out
> a massive communication system by destroying/pressuring a few choke
> points? 

You mean, like drop a couple of trade towers and take out three class five switches, causing communication outages throughout New England and New Jersey, and affecting places as far away as Chicago?

Nope. Couldn't happen.

More seriously, yes, one could in fact take out any connectivity one wants by withdrawing routes (which is reportedly what Egypt did), and if you hit enough interchange points that could get serious.

At the risk of sounding naive and pollyanna-ish, we have a few more of those interchange points in the US than they have in Egypt. In theory, yes. Making it actually happen could be quite an operation.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: JC Dill [mailto:jcdill.lists at gmail.com] 
> Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 11:39 PM
> To: NANOG list
> Subject: Re: Weekend Gedankenexperiment - The Kill Switch
> 
>  On 03/02/11 10:38 PM, Paul Ferguson wrote:
>> 
>> And as an aside, governments will always believe that that they can
> control
>> the flow of information, when push comes to shove.
>> 
>> This has always been a hazard, and will always continue to be so.
>> 
>> As technologists, we need to be cognizant of that fact.
> 
> In the US, by accident (surely not by design) we are lucky that our 
> network of networks does not have the convenient 4 chokepoints that the 
> Egyptian network had, making it easy for the government to shut off the 
> entier internet by putting pressure on just 4 companies.
> 
> Where we *really* need to be fighting this battle is in the laws and 
> policies that are producing a duopoly in much of the US where consumers 
> have 2 choices, the ILEC for DSL or their local cableco for Cable 
> Internet.  As theses companies push smaller competing ISPs out of 
> business, and as they consolidate (e.g. Cablecos buying each other up, 
> resulting in fewer and fewer cablecos over time), we head down the 
> direction of Egypt, where pressure on just a few companies CAN shut down
> 
> the entire internet.  Otherwise we end up with a few companies that will
> 
> play Visa and PayPal and roll over and play dead when a government 
> official says "Wikileaks is bad" - and equally easily will shut down 
> their entire networks for "national security".
> 
> If you *really* believe that the TSA is effective, you would be in favor
> 
> of an Internet Kill Switch.  If you understand that this is really 
> security theater, and despite all the inconvenience we aren't really any
> 
> safer, then you should equally be very concerned that someone ever has 
> the power to order that the internet be "shut down" for our safety.
> 
> jc
> 
> 
> 





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