IT experts: Can the government shut off the internet...?

IT experts: Can the government shut off the internet...?

This is a discussion on IT experts: Can the government shut off the internet...? within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; I was talking to someone about the Iranian election chaos and how the Iranian government shut off the internet, but they could not shut off ...

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Thread: IT experts: Can the government shut off the internet...?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array PointnClick's Avatar
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    IT experts: Can the government shut off the internet...?

    I was talking to someone about the Iranian election chaos and how the Iranian government shut off the internet, but they could not shut off Twitter. The discussion turned to China, and how they prevent access to sites the government does not approve of, and the tight restrictions during the Olympics...

    I'm no IT expert, to be certain... but I thought the internet was too de-centralized to "shut down" like that...

    So... in time of crisis, could the US government shut off the internet, or selectively restrict any site more controversial than Disney.com...? I'm not questioning the legality or constitutionality of that action, I am talking about the physical ability to shut it down...
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    Member Array Tombstone55's Avatar
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    Of course they can. Our current government is not bound by any restrictions. We are a socialist nation right?

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    Member Array albundy's Avatar
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    Yes.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Read this: S.773, CyberSecurity Act of 2009. Introduced on 4/1/2009, ironically.

    As for control-ability, here is an overview of DNS "Root" Name Servers: click.

    Review various articles about ICANN and its relationship to the U.S. government's oversight ability: click.
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    Distinguished Member Array GWRedDragon's Avatar
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    There are two ways of restricting internet connections: whitelists and blacklists.

    With whitelists, you create a system where people can only go to sites on your list. All other sites are blocked. Using this technique, assuming that all of your whitelist sites are well-chosen and managed, you can control all information. A whitelist-only system is vulnerable only if one of the whitelisted sites has a security breach, and only if that site is not itself subject to the blocking area. As far as I know, nobody has done this yet.

    With blacklists, you block people from visiting certain sites or using certain protocols, but allow them to visit all other sites or use all other protocols. This technique is used all the time and is effective in blocking non-determined users. However, anyone who is willing to put in some effort can connect through a 'proxy', an anonymous address someplace where things are not blocked which relays information to the blocked area. If certain protocols/ports are blocked, the proxy can either communicate over another protocol or port. If data is scanned in transit and blocked based on content, it can be encrypted and/or transformed so that such blocking is impossible. You can always defeat a system of this type if you are sufficiently motivated, but it is effective at stopping grandma from going to a site you don't like.

    And of course, the government could always just raid all of the backbone providers and turn off the internet completely. It would probably also have to shut off phone service, though, to prevent dial-out with modems.
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  6. #6
    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    YES! and very easily at that.
    It effectively started back in what...'91ish? i think that's when the WAN critical infrastructure definition was made. Basically(from my own memory...may be slightly erroneous)... the bill the FIRST Bush passed defined any WAN with nodes numbering greater than 1000 or any infrastructure capable of carrying emergency information as a critical infrustructure to the US.

    With that definition said, anytime they give POTUS the power to shut critical infrastructures...that would be it. All they have to do is call the backbone carriers like ATT, Verizon, L3, 360, etc... and they would have to cut their circuits. What some folks don't seem to realize is that the bulk of your internet carriers really rely on a FEW backbone carriers that actually own the long haul/cross country lines. So in reality all they have to do is kill the major backbone carriers and bubye internet.

    If I remember right, there was a Senate bill introduced in April of this year to do just this, but it got dumped to committee and hasn't moved since.
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    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GWRedDragon View Post
    And of course, the government could always just raid all of the backbone providers and turn off the internet completely. It would probably also have to shut off phone service, though, to prevent dial-out with modems.
    what he said
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

    "Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the crap out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
    -The Mist (2007)

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    VIP Member Array miklcolt45's Avatar
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    They do it in Cuba.

    I have to assume the gov can do it here.
    And cell phones and radios...
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    Two separate questions being discussed above. 1) does our government have the legal authority to shut off the internet; 2) do they have the technical ability to do so.

    I think the answer to both is a big question mark.

    Regarding the first part, I have no idea what legal authorities if any exist. But, I do know that there is one heck of a lot of military use of the internet through the .mil domain servers and system. Would taking down the phone companies also shut down much if not all of the .mil network? What about the .gov portion of the internet. I know for sure most of that runs through the regular phone lines.

    So, as a practical matter simply taking the phone companies off via some order won't do it. It would make a mess for our government as well.

    Then, how do you technically distinguish between phone lines and internet?
    Almost any Mac can be turned into a web server; and local networks can be quickly created. WHat's to stop radio amateurs from hooking computers together communicating with broadcast signals instead of through the phone lines?

    And I haven't even commented on the cell phone companies, 3G etc. which aren't dependent on physical lines. And, there are ways to transmit from one site to another over the electric grid; not popular but it has been done.

    I think things could be badly disrupted, but not shut down.

    And I think that even if Uncle had the legal authority, attempting to shut it down would take the .mil and .gov system apart as well, rendering our government unable to function.

    So, while this is an interesting set of questions, I think there is no practical concerning reality to the questions.

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    Member Array oldogy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopyard View Post
    Two separate questions being discussed above. 1) does our government have the legal authority to shut off the internet; 2) do they have the technical ability to do so.

    I think the answer to both is a big question mark.

    Regarding the first part, I have no idea what legal authorities if any exist. But, I do know that there is one heck of a lot of military use of the internet through the .mil domain servers and system. Would taking down the phone companies also shut down much if not all of the .mil network? What about the .gov portion of the internet. I know for sure most of that runs through the regular phone lines.

    So, as a practical matter simply taking the phone companies off via some order won't do it. It would make a mess for our government as well.

    Then, how do you technically distinguish between phone lines and internet?
    Almost any Mac can be turned into a web server; and local networks can be quickly created. WHat's to stop radio amateurs from hooking computers together communicating with broadcast signals instead of through the phone lines?

    And I haven't even commented on the cell phone companies, 3G etc. which aren't dependent on physical lines. And, there are ways to transmit from one site to another over the electric grid; not popular but it has been done.

    I think things could be badly disrupted, but not shut down.

    And I think that even if Uncle had the legal authority, attempting to shut it down would take the .mil and .gov system apart as well, rendering our government unable to function.

    So, while this is an interesting set of questions, I think there is no practical concerning reality to the questions.
    I pretty much agree with the way you put it. However, legality? This administration has shown it will do pretty much darn well what it wants, legal or not. That is scary.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Array Barbary's Avatar
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    No, because AL Gore invented the internet and owns the copyright, royalties, etc.

  12. #12
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    Is this a trick question?

    If not, yes, the government could shut things down quite tightly. OMO
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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I'd like to see them shut down my internet between my 2 tin cans and string
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    VIP Member Array NC Bullseye's Avatar
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    The net and GPS, what a great way to ruin a good weekend.

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    Ex Member Array JOHNSMITH's Avatar
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    The government doesn't need the ability to explicitly shut down the internet. All they need to do is call the few telecom companies in the US, and simply ask them. They'll comply without batting an eye.

    Also, the bulk of internet and telephone traffic is mirrored from ATT and other data routing centers to the NSA already. Privacy is a fake notion.

    So, the answer is, unfortunately yes. The efforts to create a central internet "switch" under the control of the Federal government is just an effort to more easily do this. It is a power the government should not ever have. There isn't even a need.

    All the explanations (by both R's and D's who sponsor such legislation) so far are ridiculous, based on false fear, and reflect a profound misunderstanding of the way the internet works.

    The reason it is so "scary" is because it is one of the last mediums that is at least somewhat free. This scares the elites.

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