Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 - Blackout


I keep chatting with people on the net about what we can do to affect some resistance to the Orwellian new society being ushered in under our noses. So many say, 'Use the net to spread the word'. Well that is what this blog is about.

Query: what can we do without the net? That may be the question we ultimately face because 'these ARE the good ole days' on the net. Internet surveillance and control by government is advancing at an alarming rate; indeed, the net is too powerful a tool to be left in the hands of people. For example, a law concerned with copyright infringement is being considered in the Senate which allows access to all electronic devices, S92A Copyright Blackout - Video.

Now there is another bill in Congress to shut down the internet in times when the president deems a 'national' emergency is present. Never heard of these laws? Well they will surely become law before the end of the year, as so many other curtailing civil liberties which have been passed right under the noses of masses of panicking herds of citizens worldwide. This is not just an American problem: there is clearly a global synchronicity to this plan to shut down the internet for the use of people.

So....Query: what can we do without the net? Well at least have a laugh.

Federal Authority Over the Internet?
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009
by Jennifer Granick
April 10th, 2009
There's a new bill working its way through Congress that is cause for some alarm: the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF summary here), introduced by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill as it exists now risks giving the federal government unprecedented power over the Internet without necessarily improving security in the ways that matter most. It should be opposed or radically amended.

Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many of our critical infrastructure systems (banks, telecommunications, energy) are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government. This is a potentially dangerous approach that favors the dramatic over the sober response.

One proposed provision gives the President unfettered authority to shut down Internet traffic in an emergency and disconnect critical infrastructure systems on national security grounds goes too far. Certainly there are times when a network owner must block harmful traffic, but the bill gives no guidance on when or how the President could responsibly pull the kill switch on privately-owned and operated networks.

Furthermore, the bill contains a particularly dangerous provision that could cripple privacy and security in one fell swoop:

The Secretary of Commerce— shall have access to all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access…

In other words, the bill would give the Commerce Department absolute, non-emergency access to “all relevant data” without any privacy safeguards like standards or judicial review. The broad scope of this provision could eviscerate statutory protections for private information, such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Privacy Protection Act, or financial privacy regulations. Even worse, it isn’t clear whether this provision would require systems to be designed to enable access, essentially a back door for the Secretary of Commerce that would also establish a primrose path for any bad guy to merrily skip down as well. If the drafters meant to create a clearinghouse for system vulnerability information along the lines of a US/CERT mailing list, that could be useful, but that’s not what the bill’s current language does.

A privacy threat still in the cocoon is the provision mandating a study of the feasibility of an identity management and authentication program with just a nod to “appropriate civil liberties and privacy protections.” There’s reason to fear that this type of study is just a precursor to proposals to limit online anonymity. But anonymity isn’t inherently a security problem. What’s “secure” depends on the goals of the system. Do you need authentication, accountability, confidentiality, data integrity? Each goal suggests a different security architecture, some totally compatible with anonymity, privacy and civil liberties. In other words, no one “identity management and authentication program” is appropriate for all internet uses.

Whether the bill is amended or rejected, the question remains what kind of actions would help cybersecurity, and what role the federal government has to play. As security expert Bruce Schneier has pointed out, the true causes of government cyber-insecurity are rather mundane:

GAO reports indicate that government problems include insufficient access controls, a lack of encryption where necessary, poor network management, failure to install patches, inadequate audit procedures, and incomplete or ineffective information security programs.

The Cybersecurity Act is an example of the kind of dramatic proposal that doesn't address the real problems of security, and can actually make matters worse by weakening existing privacy safeguards – as opposed to simpler, practical measures that create real security by encouraging better computer hygiene. We’ll be watching this bill carefully to ensure that it doesn’t pass in its present form.


Bloggers: 1 step from censorship?


p said...

Hey, Sheila - your commitment to amusement about all things dark and dismal is appealing and here I am again to offer some tidbits concerning my reactions to your posts. This time - Internet blackout and controls.
Some friends of mine here in Seattle have been actively pursuing, with varying degrees of effort, a free wireless network. A city-sized Intranet with many gates to the Internet, but not reliant upon it for information sharing. Gobs of direct messaging has occurred over the free wireless waves and bridges have been attempted to neighboring cities as well. It's a living, changing thing and keeps connectivity in the hands of citizens committed to public freedom.
Just thought it might spark a thought or two for you.
I'm becoming a fan of your blog, it reminds me of my center after a day of diving hostile waters. Keep up the good work!
Cheers from Seattle!

Sheilanagig said...

P. You warm my heart.

Thank for taking the time to say this. It is comments like yours that keep me going.



All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.