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Egyptian 'Net Killed By Intimidation, Not a Switch

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the break-that-router-or-i'll-break-you dept.

Censorship 126

jfruhlinger writes "In the wake of the Egyptian revolution of the past weeks, much tech buzz has focused on the 'kill switch' that Mubarak's government used to try to stop Internet-based networking. The New York Times gives the details. As blogger Kevin Fogarty points out, the process involved less high-tech derring do and more intimidation of tech workers by regime thugs."

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Not Surprising (4, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243170)

You don't need a kill switch when you have people with guns. Anyone who's willing to stand up to that is already in the streets protesting, not standing around maintaining the network.

Re:Not Surprising (3, Insightful)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243184)

Perhaps there are personnel working at those telco's that understand that information is more powerful than a brick thrown at a police officer.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243298)

That information is only powerful if people are willing to stand up for it. One or the other is pretty useless on its own, as the rioters presumably ended up being quite uncoordinated, and the ISPs seem to have been easily shut down. If the rioters protected the ISPs then it could have been quite effective.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243354)

One million tweets is more powerful than a brick. The best thing that the telco personnel could have done for Egypt is do their job, not head to the streets with a bat. That's what I said, if you disagree with that statement, then your comment should respond to what I said and not the straw man of "information is useless without the threat of force."

Re:Not Surprising (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243742)

It is directly related to what you said and not a straw man argument. You may disagree with it, but that doesn't make it a straw man response.

Information is useless without action. We can all know that a meteor is going to crash into the earth, but if we don't take any action (even if it is just to prepare ourselves) then that information was useless.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243878)

Everybody plays their part in any communal enterprise. This is one reason that terrorists do not wire up the bomb-maker or forger with a suicide vest. Those with specialized skills are most valuable in the execution of those roles which no one else can fill. How are you going to get the internet back up after rioting if all the network techs are recovering from concussions and burns?
It is a straw man, 100 people does not make a difference to a million-man riot, but those 100 people can make a difference in maintaining internet connectivity. I am not saying that everyone should just tweet. I am saying that people with specialized network maintenance skills should not be in the street chucking stones.
Networked information is powerful because it rallies support from much greater numbers than would otherwise be possible, and at a higher rate than is possible through word of mouth.
Of course it is implicit that information is powerful because it causes action.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245366)

To put it more simply, action against an existing regime is useless without organization. Organization depends on information. If you cut off the flow of information, you disrupt the organization, resulting in action that has minimal effect.

Therefore, maintaining/controlling the communication infrastructure is key -- ALL modern governments know this.

Using the GP's example, we can see a meteor approaching earth, but by ourselves, there isn't much we can do about it; any action we may take is useless. However, working together and communicating (with some people dedicated to facilitating that communication), we CAN deflect/destroy/protect ourselves from it.

This is why the argument is a straw man -- we need BOTH information and action; saying that the information facilitators should be out protesting is just as wrong as saying ALL protesters should be working at the ISPs to make sure the Internet service doesn't go down.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245982)

Amen.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35246096)

To put it more simply, action against an existing regime is useless without organization. Organization depends on information. If you cut off the flow of information, you disrupt the organization, resulting in action that has minimal effect.

Euhm, have you been following the news ? This "disorganized" action had quite a bit of results ... (not that there's one hair on my head that believes these revolutions weren't planned for years, but for the sake of argument...). So organization ... pffft. Doesn't really matter. It's just a nice story "confirming" how "words are more powerful than the sword".

Action against an existing (non-democratic) regime is useless without violence. Violence on a large enough scale, mostly against innocents, people who have nothing to do with the government. That's what brings change. The terror the protesters bring, and the support that terrorizing anonymous strangers always seems to bring for any cause in our media.

The question that flows is simply "who can destroy more ?". In Egypt the answer was "the people", in Iran it wasn't the people.

And there's been more [telegraph.co.uk] than [almasryalyoum.com] enough [eitb.com] of that.

Of course, this is much less sexy than "protesters/internet/twitter/bloggers overthrew the government" ...

And frankly, people seem to think that the revolution is over. This is shortsighted in the extreme. "Another victory for democracy" seems to be scheduled for tomorrow's headline, but this is far from certain : In Egypt, as in Tunisia, however the situation is different. Nobody cares for freedom, or at least, it's nowhere near the top of the priority list. The real cause of the "revolution" is low wages, massive unemployment (muslim nations make detroit's numbers look positively stunning), combined with rising food prices. In other words, the failure of the Mubarak government of providing the "bread and games" required to appease the populace. Of course, America is going to massively raise food aid to the Egyptian government in response to this, so that the new democratic government actually has a fighting chance. But there are huge conflicts waiting to be fought : most of all the muslim brotherhood vs ... well "sane Egypt" for lack of a better word. It mostly means everybody else. But this is a battle that still needs to be fought, and as soon as this party, and it's armed wing, Hamas, find out that they have nowhere near the support they think they have ... well, these guys are *not* known for handling rejection well, just ask the Palestinians.

The most stupid thing to do is to think that this revolution is about internet, freedom or any of that stuff. If we're really, really lucky, the American government might make it so that this is what gets written in the history books. Let's all pray the lie becomes the truth, for the entire middle east. But if Obama drops the ball even once ... there will be wars for decades and all there is to say is "God help us all".

Re:Not Surprising (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35246240)

Did you read the response that nitrogensixteen was responding to? somersault made the exact point you are making and nitrogensixteen argued that it was a strawman

Here it is for you

That information is only powerful if people are willing to stand up for it. One or the other is pretty useless on its own, as the rioters presumably ended up being quite uncoordinated, and the ISPs seem to have been easily shut down.

Both somersault and I were stating that both are needed to be useful.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243798)

When "their job" is to shut themselves down then I don't quite agree with what you're saying, no.

Re:Not Surprising (4, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243826)

One million tweets is more powerful than a brick.

First of all I think that's highly debatable if not flat out false. I think we like to believe that because that's what we see over here, and that's what stirs a lot of passion over here, but at the end of the day, even when the internet WAS shut off, it's the people with piles of bricks holding the square and responding to low-tech alarms of clacking two steel rods together to cause people to rush to the defense in order to continue to hold the square that won the day. If tweets were more powerful then bricks then justin beiber (sp?) fans would be running the world. But the truth is the tweets are only as powerful so far as their ability to incite, organize and deploy said bricks. In that they have a use, but there are other methods to do such things.

I think the problem with your statement that the revolutionary telco employee should stay to defend the networks comes down to basic force deployment strategy. Not every member of the telco is going to be willing to fight. If he makes his stand there alone he's just going to get locked up or shot because chances are every member of the police force or group of thugs that show up to turn the internet off WILL be willing to fight. Therefore he's far better abandoning his indefensible location and banding together with the handful of employees from every other teclo and business across the city thereby concentrating their forces into a size large enough to hold ground and force change. If the telco is truly THAT important it would be easy to convince the larger force to move in and defend it. It seems however they decided the main square was far more appropriate.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243932)

The Egyptian people won nothing. The same regime is in charge.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245026)

And how do you figure that? You can't just say something like that out your ass, you need some substance.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245966)

All the torturers and spies still have their jobs. The army was in control before, and they are in control now.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35245892)

If a SWAT team geared with assault rifles from Homeland Security shows up at your ISP's office headquarters and indicates in the interest of National Security, Patriotism and all things American and/or Free that you WILL shut down all of your customer's connections until further notice... You would shut it off and keep it off until they told you to turn it back on, you wouldn't have a choice at that point. That's the way these things work.

And, in fact, ICE & Homeland Security have already done this here in the U.S. just as I described. DNS hosting providers were held at gunpoint with warrants to shut down services regarding alleged pirate websites, most of which turned out not to be illegal sites after the fact.

Also, on a related note Walmart's are starting to put in HDTVs in various locations at the checkout counters with a video of Janet Napolitano United States Secretary of Homeland Security telling you to report any suspicious behavior of your fellow citizens in the store immediately to Homeland Security.

And, they are looking at your naughty bits in airports because they CAN, unless of course you're rich and then you get to go in the expedited line that doesn't have to be frisked or deep scanned. It's like we're living in a book set somewhere in the middle of the 1980s where the government has become a sort of big sister watching over what we do and say and think. In fact, the rich in the book 1984 could turn off the cameras in their homes when they wanted to for added privacy, whereas the rest of the poor and middle class population were not allowed to.

And, now, when they don't like the words in a book because they're worried about "the children", for example the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, they've rewritten the book and republish them with redactions or modifications. This kind of thing is going on right now, for real.

On top of all that, if that weren't enough, politicians and pundits have been calling for outright illegal assassinations of journalists who don't hold the same views as them regarding the wars we're in, for example Assange.

It's a scary time we live in.

It is also worth noting, we've always been at war with Eastasia. If that's any comfort.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245476)

Information security && encryption != freedom of speech. As long as the ones in power have the option to torture you, no encryption scheme in the world is a long-term solution to your problem.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35246054)

Encryption does not protect against water torture.
The torturers still run Egypt.
:tf: there is no long-term solution to Egypt's problem.

Re:Not Surprising (1, Insightful)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243750)

>>>That information is only powerful if people are willing to stand up for it.

There are many Egyptian Telco workers who think, 'If the government tells me to shutdown the ISP connection, I will obey, because the government knows best.' - These are the same types you find in the EU or US who say it's okay for the SA officers to stick hands down passengers' pants (i.e. grope penises) and touch women's breasts.* They think it's okay if the government does it.

*
*Pour-out baby's milk in the trash.
*Lock people in glass cages.
*Have men remove urine/feces bags & dump contents on the floor.
*Ask women to remove mastectomy bras. And on and on.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243996)

Someone give this poster some +1s.

Re:Not Surprising (3, Insightful)

BCGlorfindel (256775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244630)

There are many Egyptian Telco workers who think, 'If the government tells me to shutdown the ISP connection, I will obey, because the government knows best.' - These are the same types you find in the EU or US who say it's okay for the SA officers to stick hands down passengers' pants (i.e. grope penises) and touch women's breasts.* They think it's okay if the government does it.

Your experience in a free country doesn't translate quite so well to a dictatorship. The Egyptian Telco workers also think "If the government tells me to shutdown the ISP connection, I will obey, because the government will jail or possibly kill me and my family if I don't".

Don't marginalize the position and plight of those under repressive dictatorships by pretending it's akin to your own struggles in a free country. By all means fight to keep your country free. By all means point out measures in your free country that can lead to suppression and tyranny. By all means stand up against those measures. Just don't do it on the backs of those like the Egyptians fighting a very different and much harder conflict.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35246930)

>>>"I will obey, because the government will jail or possibly kill me and my family if I don't".

And this is different from refusing a search in the EU or US - how? I don't know about Europeans, but I've read about several Americans jailed for refusing to assent to a search, or changing their mind and trying to leave the airport, or refusing to open their car trunk at random police stops (et cetera).

You act as if we somehow have more "freedom" just because we elect our dictator (sorry - Mubarak calls himself "president").

Re:Not Surprising (1)

awshidahak (1282256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243622)

Perhaps there are personnel working at those telco's that understand that information is more powerful than a brick thrown at a police officer.

Perhaps there were people working at the telco that knew that Mubarak shutting off the internet would fuel the protests.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243780)

A razor:
1) They complied with orders to shut down the routers because AK-74's were pointed at them.
2) They complied with orders to shut down the routers because they believed that would in fact aid the rebellion.
You decide.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

judoguy (534886) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243234)

Well, you can have a kill switch or a "I'll kill you" switch. Both work well.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

rockfistus (1445481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244326)

There's a potential internet kill switch coming up.... if you're interested.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243242)

Actually, the gun is the kill switch, literally and figuratively.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35243312)

well literally, the kill switch is the trigger on the gun...

Re:Not Surprising (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243424)

No, I think that's 'technically'. Plus, the trigger doesn't actually cause the bullet to leave the chamber and travel down the barrel, it only starts the process. It also doesn't make the kill, the bullet does. Or, it at least causes the loss of blood that eventually leads to the death. Even then, the 'trigger assembly' is the sum of the many parts that cause the action of the bullet making its way to the victim, but at that point you may as well say 'gun'.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244198)

You don't need a gun to kill. You only need your bare hands or a well-placed kick. QED it's not the gun or knife or blunt instrument that kills - it's the owner of the hands/legs

People kill.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35246194)

You don't need a gun to kill. You only need your bare hands or a well-placed kick. QED it's not the gun or knife or blunt instrument that kills - it's the owner of the hands/legs

People kill.

You don't need a person to kill. Animals and acts of god can kill without the person, the only constant is the person being killed. QED it's not the person that kills, but the victim.

Re:Not Surprising (2)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244426)

For Egypt?

No. The kill switch is two boats dragging a plough on the sea floor. One in Alexandria bay, the other one in the Red sea. In fact the Alexandria bay should be enough.

It has happened unintentionally a few times. So if someone wants to do it intentionally it is not that difficult. The areas are clearly marked on maritime navigation maps.

It will also take out most of the Middle East and drop most of the capacity to India and Pakistan to a trickle as a side effect.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243272)

Yeah, exactly. If I recall, Vodafone also reported that Mubarak strong-armed them into sending out mass text messages to pro-Mubarak supporters, police and other government workers to get them to go out and beat up the protesters in Tahrir Square those two days. That's why the counter-demonstrators showed up suddenly and then disappeared suddenly two days later.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243676)

Or as we used to say in the 80s:

"Well..... Duh." I already knew this. The Egyptian government shutdown the ISPs the same way governments have shutdown Newspaper companies in the past --- by issuing threats.

In fact our OWN government did the same thing to get Amazon and Paypal to stop accepting donations to wikileaks.com.

But I guess it's necessary for Reporters to *document* these events rather than just guess (like I did).

Re:Not Surprising (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35246206)

It was pretty widely reported that the government used a threat of not leasing time on EC2 to get Amazon to quit accepting donations, not sure what they did to paypal but I'm sure it was something like threatening to regulate them like a bank.

Re:Not Surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35243822)

I find it _amazing_ that the networks there coped with the pressure at _all_, keeping them running at all on purpose is a feat when you have such flooding of people into a place where they weren't planned to be.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243946)

You don't need a kill switch when you have people with guns.

Isn't the trigger a kill switch?

Re:Not Surprising (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244410)

That's not really giving it enough credit. Sure, one of the uses is "kill". But you can also use it to "maim", "wound", "destroy" (equipment) or just "intimidate" (fire a burst into the ceiling).

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but I suspect the modern combat rifle pwns them both (and the intarweb as well).

Re:Not Surprising (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245050)

That's not really giving it enough credit. Sure, one of the uses is "kill". But you can also use it to "maim", "wound", "destroy" (equipment) or just "intimidate"

That's a Spanish gun, it's main use is to kill, and maim , It's two main uses are to kill, maim...and wound, three, it's three main uses are to kill, maim, and intimidate! etcetera etcetera.

That's why the inquisition was so surprising.

Re:Not Surprising (1)

flyingkillerrobots (1865630) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244124)

Or wrenches [xkcd.com]

Re:Not Surprising (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244432)

I wonder, should we redefine "rubber hose cryptography" to "wrench cryptography"?

Isn't a gun... (1)

gwolf (26339) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245178)

Just a portable kill-switch?

Re:Not Surprising (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245540)

I don't get why more people don't understand this. A country can physically control the Internet. Why? Because they can break the telco with axes.

What's the difference? (2)

kwenf (1531623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243186)

Same thing, different name.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243260)

Same thing, different name.

The difference is only one of who was involved in the planning. If you involve the telcos/isps/etc then they can plan for it. Otherwise, the "plan" is a list of telco sites and some guys with automatic weapons in jeeps.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244458)

To be more exact the telcos are mandated to plan for that. In most countries. Including some of the ones which are erroneously referred to as free western democracies.

Kill switch it is... (2)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243230)

Still sounds like a kill switch to me - whether Obama presses a physical red button under his desk or he makes a phone call to threaten corporate employees with jail or physical harm or else, still a kill switch to me. This is semantic bullshit.

Re:Kill switch it is... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35243264)

But he still has the nuclear briefcase with the red button to blow Russia into outer space?

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243308)

This is semantic bullshit.

I understand your viewpoint, but disagree. I think it is better to have the discussion and set the ground rules for when such action should be taken. Maybe the answer is "never", but it's better to hash that out now rather than after it is used.

To put it another way, if we collectively refuse or restrict to grant the government use of a "kill switch", it becomes very difficult for a future president to take such action without risk of impeachment. If we don't talk about it and set ground rules, then future use might be more tempting.

To say nothing of minimizing the effect of the use on companies - simply pulling the plug at gunpoint cannot be a "graceful shutdown" :)

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243388)

If someone threatens to kill you, it doesn't matter much what the law says.

Re:Kill switch it is... (2)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244052)

What I find funny about the so-called "kill switch" is this - if there was an Actual Emergency (omg, the hackerz are coming), and the freakin' President calls you up and says "we need to turn off the connections right now"... who *isn't* going to do it?

The job still commands some respect during emergencies.

(If you're feeling less charitable, substitute "Presidential phone call" with "Secret Service/FBI agents", and you'll get the Egypt-equivalent. Folks forget that even if you take your principled stand, they can just move you out of the way and do it themselves. Or arrest/detain/shoot you and ask your co-worker to do it.)

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244568)

Exactly.

1968. Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. 15 minutes before the special transports cross the border a group of men in civilian clothing enters each and every airport air traffic control station across the whole of Czechoslovakia. The controllers are left standing facing the wall with one knucklehead holding a gun to their heads. In the meantime the other "gentlemen" which come after the knucleheads sit down at the workstations and continue to guide all aircraft which are traversing the Czech and Slovakian airspace while bringing in special forces transports to land. Not a single pilot flying over Czechoslovakia notices. By the time anyone notices all airports are under control and heavy transports are landing every 2 minutes bringing in tanks and troops.

So if you think that your job is irreplaceable, that you cannot be moved aside and a guy from a suitable agency will not sit down in your place in a case of emergency - think again.

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244176)

If someone threatens to kill you, it doesn't matter much what the law says.

“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
-Dalai Lama
(Seattle Times, May 15, 2001)

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244616)

If someone threatens to kill you, it doesn't matter much what the law says.

No argument there. What I'm saying is that, at least in the US, I would hope that the President would at least consider existing rule of law before threatening someone's life. Prior to the "kill switch" discussion, there was nothing in place. Now at least there is a bill being considered which sets up rules and a process that a President would, in theory at least, have to follow.

IMHO, this is a *good* discussion... not only does it force the government to be a bit more transparent and predictable, but it is much better than having the conversation AFTER the fact. That some agree and some disagree with the law is a byproduct of democracy :)

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244152)

I understand your viewpoint, but disagree. I think it is better to have the discussion and set the ground rules for when such action should be taken.

That conversation has happened, and the answer is "whenever the President feels like".

Re:Kill switch it is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35243316)

Why do everybody assume that a internet kill switch would be a big red button?
Why not a knife switch or maybe a reed switch?

because Staples has good lobbyists (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243548)

repression... that was easy!

But in the USA it's more then 1 place that will (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243322)

But in the USA it's more then 1 place that will need to be shut down and even then how many web sites in the usa will still be up as you will need cut off alot of data centers to trun the net 100% off in the usa.

Re:But in the USA it's more then 1 place that will (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243852)

Arguably, it's not necessary to go that far. There's only a handful of tier one carriers, if you can force them to stop routing all traffic within the US, you may not shut down the Internet in the US entirely but you'd definitely cripple it.

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243600)

In our country, that will never happen. The moment legislation comes up that says, "The US can unilaterally order commerce shut down for X reason" is the day that our entire corporate structure goes into attack mode. It will be fought on every level from lobbyists up to Supreme Court assaults for decades.

Re:Kill switch it is... (2)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243660)

Maybe you are right, but did anyone every thought to see the day when the Department of Homeland Security would have the authority to take over dns zones without warrants or explanation?

Don't say "never" when it comes to government censorship and coercion. If they have the power, they will use it.

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243782)

Yes, the same as you and me and corporations. The difference is that the corporations can and will be able to afford to sue the government to back them off as they will have a horse in that race.

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243606)

Still sounds like a kill switch to me - whether Obama presses a physical red button under his desk or he makes a phone call to threaten corporate employees with jail or physical harm or else, still a kill switch to me. This is semantic bullshit.

Indeed.

If the law gets passed here in the US to allow a killswitch, they aren't actually going to install a big red button anywhere. It's simply going to make it legal to do exactly what they did in Egypt.

And when the decision is eventually made to hit that killswitch, nobody is going to reach for a big lever to pull. They're just going to place some phone calls to some ISPs. And those ISPs will do what they're told to, or law enforcement will show up to make them do what they're told to. Just like in Egypt.

Re:Kill switch it is... (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243632)

Also, don't forget that Obama already has statutory authority to do this under section 706 of the Communications act:

(d) Upon proclamation by the President that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States, the President, if he deems it necessary in the interest of the national security and defense, may, during a period ending not later than six months after the termination of such state or threat of war and not later than such earlier date as the Congress by concurrent resolution may designate,

            (1) suspend or amend the rules and regulations applicable to any or all facilities or stations for wire communication within the jurisdiction of the United States as prescribed by the Commission,

            (2) cause the closing of any facility or station for wire communication and the removal therefrom of its apparatus and equipment, or

You don't have to wonder what Obama would do if he had that power. It's right there in black and white that he does. There's absolutely no reason to believe he wouldn't use it.

Re:Kill switch it is... (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243738)

"There's absolutely no reason to believe he wouldn't use it."

If they have the power, they will use it; history asserts this with 100% certainty.

Re:Kill switch it is... (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245732)

whether Obama presses a physical red button under his desk

Hmm, I'm imagining it now:

"My fellow Americans,

I sincerely apologize for shutting down the Internet. You see, I asked them to put the Internet killswitch on the left side under my desk, they accidentally put it on the right side, right next to the trap door button. The ambassador from Bulgaria was in the oval office, and I don't know if you've ever met a Bulgarian, but I'm pretty sure they are all assholes. Anyway, he said something about Chicago, and that really pushed my button so I decided to push his button, amirite? Ahem... Well, suffice to say, I pushed the wrong button, I sincerely regret this incident."

Oh, come on. (1)

mikkelm (1000451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243268)

Is this the third or fourth article explaining exactly the same thing to make it to the front page? How many more "stories" featuring rearrangements of previously reported circumstances are we supposed to sit through?

Re:Oh, come on. (1)

jcwayne (995747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243986)

42

P.S. Congrats on finally figuring out the question.

Is anyone surprised ? (3, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243280)

Is anyone really surprised by this ? However, I don't think it was just as simple as sending over a bunch of goons - or even a "Brooks Brother's Riot."

The Egypt Internet cutoff was technically done by stopping the BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) announcement of most Egyptian address blocks. BGP itself was not taken down, and the circuits themselves did not alarm. This was most likely not achieved by cutting cords or unplugging routers (which would have downed BGP, at the least). Pulling the plug, any general can do, but most generals don't know anything about BGP.

My guess is that there was a contingency plan for this (maybe as a military defense measure), that that plan took some thought by a technically savvy person, but, having a plan, it probably wasn't much more than a few phone calls to execute it. This can be compared to Burma (which really did just pull the plug - the link light was lost at the other end).

Re:Is anyone surprised ? (1)

buchanmilne (258619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243764)

The Egypt Internet cutoff was technically done by stopping the BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) announcement of most Egyptian address blocks. BGP itself was not taken down, and the circuits themselves did not alarm. This was most likely not achieved by cutting cords or unplugging routers (which would have downed BGP, at the least).

Most likely the internet-facing interfaces on the routers were shut. Technically, it wouldn't be hard to make it possible to do this remotely (via and SNMP set, or ssh/telnet scripted 'conf t;int gig0/1;shut').

It's hardly rocket science, and I wonder about all the people who wondered "did they stop the BGP process on the routers?", or "did they hack the BGP protocol" or similar.

Re:Is anyone surprised ? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245372)

Sure, it's not hard to do, if you have a little knowledge and have enable to the right routers. Again

- the internet facing interfaces remained up and
- BGP remained up.

I would expect if it were just threats (shut down tonight or else) different ISPs would do it different ways. This seems to reflect centralized planning to me.

Re:Is anyone surprised ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35244466)

I've been told that certain ISP refused to cooperate because they have high profile clients, so the authorities simply pulled the plugs themselves.

Re:Is anyone surprised ? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245708)

Pulling the plug, any general can do, but most generals don't know anything about BGP.

That's the thing - generals don't need to. That's what staff officers are for, the general says "I want this done" and the staff figures out how to make it so - or tells the general that it can't be done, or at least not exactly what he wants.
 

My guess is that there was a contingency plan for this (maybe as a military defense measure), that that plan took some thought by a technically savvy person, but, having a plan, it probably wasn't much more than a few phone calls to execute it.

Precisely.

Craftsmanlike... like a wrench. (2)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243290)

It was individual, craftsmanlike, one-intimidation-at-a-time thuggery, plain and simple, according to HRF.

How appropriately used...

Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com] .

C'mon (1)

Exitar (809068) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243296)

Did anyone really believe that Mubarak had a red button labeled "Kill Internet" in his office?

Re:C'mon (2)

jcwayne (995747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244026)

Yes, and I've got photographic evidence [pbase.com] .

Re:C'mon (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244190)

You have the wrong picture. here it is [thenewnewinternet.com] .

Re:C'mon (1)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244370)

Well, he might of, but all it did was page his resident tech guy.

Of course (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243304)

Even the mob has figured out that an unspecific threat is more effective than killing people. The more control you have the less you actually have to do.

If you have control, you just have to ask politely - like for AT&Ts phone data.
One step up: you just hint at things and companies get the cue.
And better yet: Let the businesses figure out, what is good for them.

Quick, supress this story! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243326)

"It was individual, craftsmanlike, one-intimidation-at-a-time thuggery..."

We don't want to give corporate management any ideas.

In Other News... (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243328)

Duh.

Did anyone think differently?

*ring*
Mubarak "Turn off your internet, or I'll send a bunch of thugs to do it for me, and beat you, and torch the place. k thx bye."
*pushes power button*

Re:In Other News... (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243420)

Duh.

Did anyone think differently?

*ring*

Yes, I thought there was a huge double-pole throw switch mounted on the wall over Mubarek's desk labeled "Internet. On. Off."

Maybe ... (1)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243396)

... it was a motion-detector switch and when it detected any instability in the country it turned off access to the internet! :-)

In other words, a "hardware" solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35243430)

As in a threat to use equipment obtained from a hardware store on the people running the networks.

Aww (1)

pcgfx805 (1750684) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243432)

There goes the image in my head of a giant red lever.

What the hell? (4, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243570)

OK, somebody stop me if I say something out of line.

It seems from the article that a journalist actually thought that there was a big red button somewhere labeled "INTERNET KILL SWITCH - DO NOT TOUCH". This graduate of the college of communications then makes the connection that phone calls were made instead. Really? You think so? He then makes reference to "This morning's New York Times" and then links to an article published three weeks ago. Next, he accuses this unassailable beacon of journalistic accuracy of being wrong. As a crowning achievement, he then gives valuable pagerank to a "Human Rights Defenders" website that openly states that it only exists to lecture Europe, America, and Russia about anti-Muslim crimes without speaking a single word about persecution of religious minorities in Egypt [wikipedia.org] .

I'd say that journalist Kevin Fogarty is a winner all around and represents his profession^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H occupation well.

Re:What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35245506)

I once had a job where there was a big (~ 1 foot diameter) red button that was the electrical kill switch for the entire computer room floor (the area had halon fire suppression, and the idea was you would push it as you were rushing out the door to avoid asphyxiation).

One fine day a high ranking military officer came through making an inspection, and wanted to see if the big red button worked. It did. It took several days to bring all the machines back up and get everything working again.

Obama must be stupid too (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35245962)

It seems from the article that a journalist actually thought that there was a big red button somewhere labeled "INTERNET KILL SWITCH - DO NOT TOUCH"

Yeah? And? Obama seems to think that he actually needs a kill switch to protect his country.

Canada didn't need a kill switch [www.cbc.ca] .

Once the attack was detected in early January, Canadian government cybersecurity officials immediately shut down all internet access at the Finance Department and the Treasury Board, in an attempt to stop stolen information from being sent back to the hackers over the net. In an earlier attack, Defence Research and Development had to shutdown access to one of its servers for two months.

Obama looks about as smart as said journalist right now, and he's running the country. And the media are wetting their pants with their new "cyber terrorism" buzzword. This is all evidence that we need some serious education on the subject in this country. At every level. Seriously, wtf?

NYTimes Link is to old story (2)

chalker (718945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243836)

The NYTimes link in the summary is to an older story about this. Here is the correct link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/technology/16internet.html?sq=egypt%20internet&st=cse&scp=3&pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

Re:NYTimes Link is to old story (1)

Kernel Krumpit (1912708) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244168)

thank you. Finally the OP makes sense...

OT: tags? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35243956)

Where the hell are the tags? I was going to tag this story "xkcd" but there are no tags anywhere on the page. What happened?

In a similar vein, the scores for comments aren't showing consistently. What did the Slashdot gang break this time?

From the article (1)

Tolkien (664315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244032)

Bloody-minded independence and an inherent inability to follow orders: What the Internet is made of.

+1

The kill switch is not a mechanical apparatus (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244156)

It's a legal/bureaucratic apparatus.
In case anyone, like the writer of the article, is still confused.
The specific implementation is irrelevant.

Point Missed (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244172)

by the media, yet again.
The flip of a switch or the threat of a beating; it matters very little which means is used to shut off communication. In the U.S., it's arguably impractical to send the brute squad out to every ISP, so our dictators want technological solutions. The result is the same.

Nothing changed in Egypt. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35244194)

The Egyptians replaced one military government with another military government. It was a military coup by the people. Onto which I can only gaze in total astonishment.

In that case, it'll never happen here. (2)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244200)

The US government can't intimidate ISPs, it's usually the other way around that happens.

Jeeze! (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244306)

Has anybody figured out yet that the internet "kill switch" is a figure of speech, a metaphor? for ordering all the ISPs to shut down? Damn! It's like the Bible. People take everything too literally.

Eben Moglen (3, Interesting)

Gnaythan1 (214245) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244348)

Is trying to make software preventing this kind of thing from happening again. http://lastonk.blogspot.com/2011/02/freedom-box.html [blogspot.com] by using wall wart servers and routers.

If there was a software app that allowed handheld devises with wifi to create ad hoc networks... the people in Egypt may not have even noticed when the ISP's were shut down... they would have been able to continue talking to each other via short link wireless networks.

Side note, Egypt used "environmental" rules first (3, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35244422)

My used electronics company tears down and recycles most (77%) of the computers etc. turned in to us. But of the 23% we refurb or resell for repair and reuse, and by far the lions share during the past decade went to Egypt, either directly or indirectly (after being re-manufactured to new-in-box in Asia, resold in boxes in Egypt with arabic lettering). In 2008, three of our sea containers of working Pentium 4s and display devices were seized by Egyptian customs and declared "e-waste". Having visited in person with our partners in Egypt on many occasions, I knew this was not an environmental concern, and they told me that it was part of the government's effort to put the internet genie back in the bottle. The NYTimes also reported that these "geeks of color", and not the Muslim Brotherhood, have emerged as the leaders. I have been documenting the Geek vs. Goliath battle for 2 years, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/4b4yw9j [tinyurl.com] and http://tinyurl.com/24ypbf4 [tinyurl.com] , if anyone is interested. Kenya and Pakistan also tried using environmental laws to clamp down on affordable PCs (CRT displays for $5 last 20 years and still sell like hotcakes).
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