Sunday, January 30, 2011

Internet Kill Switch Is A Misnomer

Of late lots of people are using the term “Internet Kill Switch”. But is it possible to kill Internet altogether or is it possible to completely turn off Internet in a big country that is highly dependent upon computers and Internet?

While Egypt has proved that a complete shut off of a national portion of Internet is possible but this does not mean that a single country, even United States of America, can shut off the entire Internet. So Internet kill switch seems to be a “Misnomer” to me. No body has a complete and centralised control over Internet at the International level.

If it is a simple case of restriction of access to certain sites, use of proxy server can circumvent the same. But when there is no Internet at all, proxies cannot work and online communication comes to a halt.

So how does a regional or national Internet segment is shut off? The technical requirements to shut off a portion of Internet are not complicated at all. All the authority in control need to do is to make a simple change to the instructions for the companies' networking equipment. The router configuration file is changed by this command and upon executing the command, the relevant portion of Internet is shut down.

But is it possible to shut down Internet absolutely even within a small area or country? I do not think so. We can cut off almost all International connectivity, but there are lots of ways to get out onto the Internet: satellite phones, obscure ISPs in Canada and Mexico, long-distance phone calls to Asia, says Bruce Schneier.

Even in Egypt people have turned to landline phones, fax machines and ham radio in order to communicate messages out of the country. Similarly, people can call a number to reach a modem available in another country which directs them with access to the outside world. In fact, satellite modems and phones are entering Egypt in order to bypass Government controlled telecommunication companies to connect with the United States or Europe.

Meanwhile, USA has decided to enact a law that empowers the President of America to use Internet kill switch. However, the bigger question remains whether USA can actually use this kill switch with thousands of internet service providers (ISPs). Egypt was able to shut down the internet because there were very few ISPs that are closely regulated by the Government. The same is not possible for USA even for commercial, technical, Constitutional and Other Reasons.

As a matter of fact, even if all the countries of the World decide to shut off the Internet, people would form their own Internet and communicate through the same. Instead of wasting resources upon initiatives like kill switch, countries must concentrate more upon securing critical infrastructure and sound cyber security and this applies to India as well.