cyber-security. you’re doing it very wrong.

Joe Lieberman decided that the best way to tackle cyber-security is by literally shutting off the country's internet on demand with nothing more than an executive order by the president.

Just when I think that politicians can’t be any more disappointing than they are today, and there’s nothing they could do to make themselves look even more clueless and inept, Joe Lieberman manages to come up a bill so utterly brain dead, it’s hard not to shudder in fear that we actually reward this kind of ineptitude with public funds and expect people like this to effectively run a nation. What’s so amazingly ridiculous about Lieberman’s proposal? It would give the executive branch the authority to throttle, filter, and even disable the internet to the entire nation under the excuse of national security. Ever worse, the bill has actual co-sponsors, despite being written by someone who apparently seems to think that the internet is “just a series of tubes,” and you can just yank on a valve and shut the whole thing off. To actually shut off internet access, you’d need to cut all those undersea communication lines shown in a comprehensive illustration appearing on the Guardian

undersea cables

True, you can slow down and even disable internet access by setting up a firewall which could block a search query, or even access to certain sites. But you determine access rights by IP addresses, more specifically, IP address ranges associated with a particular country. Anyone see the weakness in this strategy already? Let me to give you a hint. The data exchange protocols we collectively know as the internet and the web were built on networks originally designed to coordinate military commands. They’re built with redundancy in mind and a blocked range of IP addresses isn’t actually that big of a problem. By manipulating your IP address through a proxy, you could circumvent even a national firewall. Even if all those immense, $500 billion undersea cables traveling to and from your country were cut, you could get still get satellite-based web access and use a proxy to get on the web. In other words, it’s utterly impossible to shut down the internet for those who have a clue as to how computers and computer networks actually work. Any action to slow down or shut off web access is a problem only for casual users rather than the people from whom you’d actually want to protect your assets.

We’ve already discussed how unrealistic it is to militarize the web as we know it to track down a squad of foreign hackers before they strike despite the rosy picture being painted by some defense contractors, and Lieberman’s proposal seems firmly stuck in the territory of misconceptions and ignorance. Maybe if he had a chat with someone with a working knowledge of the networks used by the internet rather than someone like Michael McConnell, he wouldn’t have produced something this ridiculous. Or maybe he would anyway since it seems that while we’re appointing charismatic and talkative know-nothings to leadership positions, they start convincing themselves that they’re actually experts, as shown by studies into the subject, and don’t need the advice of those who actually do understand the technical concepts in question. So now, his bill is being used by an Australian media outlet to justify its government’s own growing interest in internet filters, and being trotted across right wing blogs where the narrative is warped from an example of Lieberman’s, Rockefeller’s and Showe’s collective ineptitude and as another disturbing sign of dangerous ignorance in Congress, into a story of how Obama supposedly wants to censor the web to silence Tea Party activists. I’d say to expect a full on paranoid rant from Glenn Beck on the subject any day now…

My guess is that this bill will die a horrible death without even being considered to be worthy of a vote, but just the fact that it was even conceived to give fodder to conspiracy theorists and took a dip into the territory on par with the rationale behind the Great Firewall of China, should be disturbing. We have a senator who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing writing legislation that could profoundly affect one of the most tech-dependent nations in the world and chairing the Homeland Security committee, and we expect the nation to be safe and adequately deal with real threats? For some reason, I really don’t feel any safer with “experts” like this in charge…

# tech // cyber warfare / cyberattack / internet / military

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