Home > Cybersecurity News > Egypt’s Web Disconnect Spurs US Cyber Debate

Egypt’s Web Disconnect Spurs US Cyber Debate

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 | 11:17 AM Leave a comment Go to comments

As news of Egypt’s unrest continues to roll in, for many in the nation, it seems web and mobile services continue to remain out.

And just as quickly as the word spread across the globe, at home in the US, the tech world couldn’t help but to sync up those three, little hot-button words that help bring meaning and debate to the issue at hand.

Cue the ‘Internet kill switch.’

The often-disputed American idea of giving the president the power to shut down the Internet in the event of a major threat to national security has forced its way back into the spotlight as cybersecurity experts weigh in on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to disconnect his people from communicating with each other and the outside world.

The kill switch, coined from a measure within Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act proposed last June, also reared its head on the Hill this week, as Sen. Collins said she plans to re-introduce the bill to the 112th Congress.

According to The Hill, Sen. Collins’ announcement came just in time to be criticized as a preemptive measure for the US to tackle potential issues similar to those in Egypt, despite the senator’s efforts to note otherwise.

But the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), where Sen. Collins sits as ranking member, is backing the senator and the proposal and is putting its foot down to discredit the correlation.

“Any comparison between Egypt’s actions and the Senators’ bill is specious,” Leslie Phillips, communications director for HSGAC Chairman Lieberman told The Hill. “Senators Lieberman, Collins, and Carper are trying to give the President the tools he needs to protect the country and the American people from external attack. In Egypt, the government is trying to restrict access to the Internet to protect itself from internal opposition.”

Meanwhile, noted tech columnist John Dvorak, in an article published by PC Magazine yesterday, warned that a potential kill switch in the US “would do more harm than good.”

“The most specious reason for this mechanism is that if some evil worm or attack on the National infrastructure –a.k.a. ‘Cyberwar’– would be underway, the Internet would need to be shut down to prevent further damage to the country, which apparently can no longer function without the Net,” Dvorak predicated.  “This is kind of a weird tautology. The country can’t function without the Net, so we need to secure it, which includes having the ability to shut it down. But with the Net down, how can the country function?”

While there may be no right answer to Dvorak’s question, it is sure to arise again as Sen. Collins prepares to revive the cyber bill containing the kill switch concept.  And whether or not Collins’ decision to re-push the legislation was spurred by the conflict in Egypt, it’s apparent now that as the divide and disconnect continues in the Arab nation, here in the US the debate for cyber freedom is just heating up.

Additional cybersecurity news headlines follow:

Officials: US better at finding cyber attackers (Associated Press)

Einstein 3 deployment to begin in 2011 (GovInfoSecurity)

Cyber raids threaten British, US stock markets (AFP)

Napolitano: New threat-detection software for agency networks coming (ExecutiveGov)

DHS: $40M to research next big thing in cybersecurity (Threat Post)

Navy short of tools to detect, nab cyber-intruders (National Defense)

Q&A: Cybersecurity Coordinator Schmidt working to protect online security (MSNBC)

US Cybercom analyzing web traffic on gov’t, military networks (ExecutiveGov)

US still lacks some basic essentials for cyber defense (Defense Systems)

Cybersecurity is a top global ‘risk to watch’, says Davos confab (InfoSecurity)

Stuxnet: Beware the cyber war boomerang? (ABC News)

Mobile apps a cybersecurity concern for 2011 (Federal News Radio)

Cybersecurity: A priority or passing fad? (NextGov)

Site names most influential in gov’t cybersecurity (ExecutiveGov)

NM attorney general stressing online security (Associated Press)


FBI executes search warrants in probe of pro-WikiLeaks cyber attacks (CNN)

UK police arrest 5 in WikiLeaks cyber attack probe (Yahoo)

FBI search tech freshman in cyber attack investigation (Patch: AOL News)

US, British Govts Keep Pressure on WikiLeaks (The New American)


London Stock Exchange ‘under major cyber attack’ during Linux switch (ComputerWorld)

Russia: Cyber attack on Iran could be risky (Associated Press)

Threat of cyber attacks on Canada on the rise: Experts (Toronto Sun)

Czech power group loses 700,000 CO2 permits in cyber attack (Reuters)

‘Anonymous’ and Tunisia: A new cyber warfare? (Switched: AOL News)

Turkey to mobilize against cyber-terrorism (Today’s Zaman)

Estonian MoD proposes cyber defense unit (Defense News)

Trinidad Express editor, reporter under cyber attack (Trinidad Express)


Facebook CSO Joe Sullivan joins National Cyber Security Alliance Board (Press Release)

EnerNex releases smart grid cybersecurity guidelines for utilities (Renew Grid)

SRA forms partnership to boost cyber products; Pat Burke comments (GovConWire)

And a final FYI for my Washington followers:

In Washington, revival of the technology scene (New York Times)

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