Internet Legislation in the Era of Digital Warfare

Ever since the inception of CYBERCOM (a newly created branch of the US Department of Defense that deals with cyber strategy, security and networking for the military), there has been a noticeably heightened sense of awareness here in the US due to the increased attention given to a number of cyber attacks sustained by the government and civilian networks over the past two years.  These attacks range from hacktivism (like the DDoS attacks on Paypal),  to espionage (like the Chinese cyber attacks),  and even fraud (like the recent bitcoin scams).  However serious all these attacks may seem, the most serious of them cross into the realm of cyber terrorism (examples include the successful disabling of government networks, and multi city blackouts caused by hacking).

If the increased number of proposed legislative bills are any indication, the US government is trying to be proactive in answering a very serious question – how can it protect itself and the nation against cyber attacks, especially attacks targeting critical infrastructure. While some proposals (like the Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2010) suggest the improvement of cyber security technical standards, other proposals are more controversial. Take for instance, the proposed amendment to the Homeland Security Act, which would give the president almost limitless power to restrict internet access to protect national interests in the from of a figurative ‘internet kill switch’.  And even though the idea of using regulatory power to restrict communication or access is not new in the United States (see the Communications Act of 1934), the fact that it could now be applied to the open landscape of the internet has inspired many arguments for and against proposals to apply regulations on internet use. With all this being said, it makes me wonder – do people fear the government abusing this power more than they fear the outcome of an actual attack or vice versa? Could that fear, whatever it’s origin, result in a far less open version of the internet as American’s now know it?

Whatever the case, government officials are closer than ever on coming to a consensus on these issues.  The only thing Americans can hope for is that the measures being put in place today help mitigate the fallout of possible attacks in the future, and create a more capable cyber security defense for American networks and infrastructure.

To learn more about new legislature or to track the progress on proposed legislature, please visit http://govtrack.us.

*The Image in this post is bring used for educational purposes, and is owed by Ars Technica.

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One thought on “Internet Legislation in the Era of Digital Warfare

  1. I do fear the internet being used to organize terrorist attacks (or any type of attacks) against the US (or anyone) but it is a difficult thing to say whether or not stopping internet access will even work much less prevent these types of attacks. My first thought is that it would certainly make communication more difficult but it still would not prevent attacks from happening. I can’t say for sure however because I’m not sure how it would even work at all. Plus shutting down communications between potential terrorists would close a way of tracking them too. I just don’t get how it can happen and still be beneficial toward its purpose…after all look what happened recently in Egypt, Syria and Libya. Closing the internet helps stop some people, but where there is a will there is a way; there are just too many ways to communicate. So my real thought is that the people that would be hurt the most are the innocent people that use the internet for proper communication and legitimate commerce. The problem with lots of legislation is that it seems like a good idea at the time. But often the true purpose for the law is never fully realized and after time someone finds a way to use it to gain an unfair advantage. So to answer your question…my fear is more about the abuse than it is about the attacks it may (or may not) prevent.

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