Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Internet Kill Switch

Seven people from around the globe now “hold the power to restarting” the internet in the event of a “catastrophic event.” It is unclear what the phrase “catastrophic event” means, but one can assume that in case of an emergency, such as a major security breach or a terrorist attack, these people would be called upon to restart the web using a DNSSEC (domain name system security) root key. Each of the seven persons has been given a “key,” or a smart card, which contains only a portion of said root key.

The keys were distributed to seven individuals, from the UK, the US, Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, China, and the Czech Republic, presumably to prevent a single person from having the absolute power to shut down the internet. It is not known how these people were chosen, or what qualifications they have to be given such a huge responsibility. And since most of the data we find on the internet comes from privately owned servers, it is uncertain how exactly the reboot is supposed to work, if any data will be lost at all.

There is something vaguely dramatic about the whole situation. PopSci has taken to calling the group the “Order of Seven Global Cyber-Guardians.” This isn't some epic fantasy tale, but it is amusing to imagine the seven keyholders, flanked by members of the US Secret Service, being transported to a top secret military base, while a soaring Ennio Morricone score plays in the background.

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