If You Ask The Question In A Certain Way, 61% Of Americans Say They Support An Internet Kill Switch

from the but-you-gotta-read-the-question dept

Slashdot points us to a story claiming that 61% of Americans “support an internet kill switch.” Of course, this is a topic that’s been hotly debated lately, with some attempt at passing laws that aren’t really a “kill switch,” but merely a coordinated way to reroute internet traffic in the event of some sort of “attack” (broadly defined) from a particular country.

That 61% number certainly sounded pretty high, and I was doubly skeptical when I read that the study came from Unisys, a security company who clearly stands to profit from greater “worries” about the still apparently bogus concept of “cyberwar.” And, of course, people always point out that you can get a survey to say pretty much anything you want, depending on how you ask the question. So I went digging to see if I could find exactly what question Unisys (and its partner Lieberman Research Group) used to get this result. It took a bit of searching, but here’s the question:

If there were clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure, should the President have the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet to mitigate a crisis?

First of all, that’s a big, big “if” right at the beginning there. Second, all of this assumes that an attack on the military, the government, the electrical grid, the financial system or other “critical infrastructure” could actually come via the internet. This isn’t a reason to support an internet kill switch. It’s a reason to get people to ask more reasonable questions, rather than broadbased scary questions, without highlighting the corresponding concerns, civil liberties issues and other worries. If you make any question “scary” enough, you can get people to agree with you, but that hardly means that people would actually want such a kill switch if they understood (a) the likelihood of such an attack, (b) what such a “kill switch” would actually mean, and (c) what alternatives there are.

In other words, this is pure propaganda from Unisys, rather than any bit of meaningful data.

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Companies: unisys

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Comments on “If You Ask The Question In A Certain Way, 61% Of Americans Say They Support An Internet Kill Switch”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:


Question: If the fate of the entire human race was in jeapordy and the only way to save it was to reanimate the bodies of Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolph Hitler, and Charlie Chaplin, and then have them peform an around the world orgy on three thousand defenseless baby kittens dressed up as nuns, and to then have those kittens ground up into hot dog (get it?) meat and served intravenously to a panda bear, would you want that to happen?

Result: 94% of people think feeding molested kittens to black and white quadripeds is okey-schmokels….

Yay! Surveys are fun!

Jay (profile) says:

“If we were about to plunge into chaos and terrorists were about to use our own nuclear missiles to blow us to smithereens and the only to stop complete destruction of civilisation as we know it was to turn off part of the internet would you support it?”

39% of people said no… They can take my life and my liberty but they can never take my tweets!!

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The original survey at least sounds like a reasonable scenario“???

If there was “Clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack (Using the Internet) by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure. Do you honestly think we would have enough capability left to USE the Mythical Internet Kill Switch?

I think you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do You feel lucky? Well, do you?

Alatar says:

let them do it, and let us do it too

Question : if hundreds of millions of poor people were about to die from grave diseases, and some corporation was doing everything to destroy anyone who tries to bring them affordable medication, would you agree to do something to prevent that?”

Yeah, 100% of the American are supporting the abolition of the patent system!

ECA (profile) says:

That is a LOADED question..

Lets understand something FIRST..

1. international internet servers farms? How many? 8-12-16? locations?
2. A SECURE system. WHO in hell would give access to a computer Via internet, for a SECURE SYSTEM. an IDIOT.
3. What part of the question REALLY deals with the problem? Access to gov computers??(see #2)..
Corps? WHO cares. remember that the electric corps arnt government.
Infrastructure? roads?? I dont think so..
WHAT infrastructure has access to the NET?

NOW, critical attack?
wow, that sounds like SPAM to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh yeah totally plausible

Statistics don’t prove anything you didn’t already know except that everybody in the universe has 2.4 legs and owns a hyena – Douglas Adams

8 out of 10 owners who expressed a preference said their cats preferred it – Wiskers cat food ad

98.63% of statistics are made up on the spot

Don’t you love surveys done by people with a vested interest in the answer? And yet so many people buy into the answers (because they want to?).

Actually I remember China tried something like this – re-routing a significant part of the internet down a specific path. They totally snarked it up.. and I mean totally. Created a large routing loop I think. As I understand the structure of the interent, I’m not sure this is even possible to acheive correctly. Still I’m sure that won’t get in the way of a good bit of fear mongering and consultancy fees…..

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, and just for the hell of it...

… exactly where does the President of the United States get “the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet”?

Large potions of “the internet” are outside of the U.S., connections to bits of it in the U.S. are probably in places that are effectively foreign soil – wouldn’t messing with either of those things constitute causus belli for the country(ies) so “threatened”?

Seriously? Nukes aren’t bad enough? You want to give a position sometimes occupied by a buffoon or someone bought and paid for the ability to p*ss THAT much of the world off at once? Does anyone in the U.S> imagine the rest of the world would actually buy into this?

darryl says:

In the real world

Yes, here what Mike says, everyone (almost) just blindly follows..

Mike, why dont you frame the question a new for us ?

How would you spin that question to get the result that you want. .

And what is your problem with IF.

IF it did happen would you agree to this, yes or no.

How would you ask the question ?

It would be interesting to see how you would spin such a question to get your desired results ?

So go ahead….. but otherwise, what are you trying to say, that there is no possibility, and never will be any possibility of a cyber type attack on US infrastructure ?

Im so glad you are not responsible for my computer or personal security.. You dont have a clue do you !!!..

That is more scare than the US Govmnt seeing a problem and reacting to it, you cant even see a problem !!.. OMFG.

Are you sure your on the same planet or internet that everyone else is on ?

In the real world….

darryl says:

PORTIONS --- know what that means Mike ?? anyone ??

If there were clear evidence of a malicious cyber-security attack by a foreign government against our military, civilian government, electrical grid, financial systems, or other critical infrastructure, should the President have the authority to take control of or effectively shut down portions of the Internet to mitigate a crisis?

Do you know what “PORTIONS” means ??? Mike..

THat word makes your headline a lie, no one said they agreed to an internet KILL SWITCH.. that is pure FUD..

read the question again Mike, and pay more attention next time..


Anonymous Coward says:

This one’s very cute and demonstrates once again of being careful what you ask for.

The supposition that we would “know” the source of an internet attack has been demonstrated over and over again to be very difficult with grey net, spoofing, bot nets, and willing countries to assist in aiding such an endeavor who view us as a threat but wish to avoid an all out declaration of war.

I have knowledge of industry practices that allow remote control/monitoring of facilities sometimes hundreds of miles from the facility location where physical processes may take place. These are usually engineering departments where it is necessary to monitor present conditions in near or at real time. Most of them also have provisions for remote shut downs or even changing the parameters of safety devices. It is done through special programs often requiring dongles on the computer to activate access and are strictly controlled as to possession of one.

The majority of the time it is handled through the internet on as near secure channels as possible.

Trust me when I say, I know they exist, I’ve used them.

What this appears to me to be is the initial attempt to seal the borders of the net under something similar to China’s great firewall by unnamed parties in the government. To redo the internet into a clone of the great firewall would mean a total redesign of the internet and all pathways into the country. The US was never designed to be the same. The net grew haphazardly here and the design was not to route the “pipes” if you will into narrow necks to be monitored easily but rather it was designed to reroute to prevent failures.

This is FUD, pure and simple, trying to influence and gain support to do something no one in their right mind would really wish, if you wish choice and freedom. The saber rattlers will be sure to disagree.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I can understand this..
I can understand the protections NEEDED, and hopefully USED..and they arnt hard to put into place.
A dongle to hold a 512 character passcode using upper/lower case, Numbers and special characters, would take years to crack..
Code for the router
Code for the relay server
Code for the machine..
Then an Upload to your system to verify, and BACKTRACK..and if it dont run or is blocked from returning ITS SYSTEM LOCATION, a trip wire is sent.

Then have an OFFSITE, warning/trace system.
The laptop/desktop, ANY time it connects to the net, sends a PING/email..”here I am”

abc gum says:

If there were clear evidence of outrageously bad decisions by government, military, corporations, utilities, financial behemoths, or other fools, which authorized the connection of critical systems to the public internet … should the President have the authority to take them out behind the shed and effectively open a can of whoopass?

Evostick says:

Yes Minister

Humphrey: You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don’t want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: ” Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Do you think they respond to a challenge?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?”
Bernard: Oh…well, I suppose I might be.
Humphrey: “Yes or no?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told her you can’t say no to that. So they don’t mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.
Bernard: Is that really what they do?
Humphrey: Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren’t many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.
Bernard: How?
Humphrey: “Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Are you worried about the growth of armaments?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: “Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?”
Bernard: Yes
Humphrey: There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.

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