Facebook Google Plus Twitter LinkedIn YouTube RSS Menu Search Resource - BlogResource - WebinarResource - ReportResource - Eventicons_066 icons_067icons_068icons_069icons_070

The Big Red Button and the Kill Switch

I have no idea if I had a role in the "Internet Kill Switch" debacle, but it's possible that I was one of the pushes that got that particularly horrible ball rolling. Back in 2002, when I was between jobs, I did a talk at CSI in Chicago, about the need for organizations to be better able to react to attack, especially if they were part of critical infrastructure. At the time, I was concerned particularly with denial of service attacks; I had been thinking about them and had concluded that it's never going to be possible to completely prevent such attacks. "Well, that has big implications for anyone who wants to rely on public networks," I thought.

It's one thing if we're talking about a web retailer - it's their business model that's at stake. It's another thing if it's a system with high reliability requirements such as smartgrid systems, chemical plant control systems, etc. I don't need to care if Amazon or eBay is down, but I do care if my power goes off because someone gambled on my behalf that they could get cheaper bandwidth by tunnelling over the Internet, and lost.

My talk concluded with what I thought was a pretty good (I still do) - the idea of "The Big Red Button" - that an organization deemed critical infrastructure or dangerous if interfered with, had to have the ability to operate standalone, and to test that ability on a regular basis. You have to remember that this was 2000, and the "cyberwar" drums were beating furiously. There were a lot of wild conjectures being made publicly about enemy powers crashing electric grids, etc. So, the idea would be that, if a country was attacked, The President (or whomever) would tell all the organizations that had been flagged as critical to push the Big Red Button and operate offline for a while until the attack was over.

The other piece of my proposal was that organizations flagged as critical would have to periodically test to see if they actually could function in the absence of the Internet. Do organizations that are running critical systems do a good enough job of taking into account whether their systems will continue to function without patches, or without being able to check with Internet-based licensing systems? You can't really say that you know you can survive without the Internet, unless you try it every so often!

From an electronic government standpoint, The Big Red Button also means maintaining some system capability for operating in a reduced mode during an attack. As we saw during the Estonia cyberattacks, a government that is too online can be taken offline. I don't mind if the Internal Revenue Service is offlined for awhile, but what about Social Security? These are serious questions and I am concerned that in the rush to embrace Internet, some bad judgement calls may be being made.

Fast-forward a couple years and I hear about the Internet Kill Switch and it doesn't sound anything like my idea, so it takes a while to sink in. Is it? I don't know. I hope not. But I've had a couple journalists ask me, "what do you think of the Internet Kill Switch idea?" and suddenly I'm being all dodgy and saying, "I really don't know... It sounds like it could be a good idea, if it was implemented right - but it almost certainly won't be." Meanwhile, is anyone confident that we would be able to respond in a coordinated and effective way, if we were attacked in a coordinated and effective way?

mjr.

Related Posts

Subscribe to the Tenable Blog

Subscribe
Try for Free Buy Now

Try Tenable.io

FREE FOR 60 DAYS

Enjoy full access to a modern, cloud-based vulnerability management platform that enables you to see and track all of your assets with unmatched accuracy. Sign up now and run your first scan within 60 seconds.

Buy Tenable.io

Enjoy full access to a modern, cloud-based vulnerability management platform that enables you to see and track all of your assets with unmatched accuracy. Purchase your annual subscription today.

65 assets
Try for Free Buy Now

Try Nessus Professional Free

FREE FOR 7 DAYS

Nessus® is the most comprehensive vulnerability scanner on the market today. Nessus Professional will help automate the vulnerability scanning process, save time in your compliance cycles and allow you to engage your IT team.

Buy Nessus Professional

Nessus® is the most comprehensive vulnerability scanner on the market today. Nessus Professional will help automate the vulnerability scanning process, save time in your compliance cycles and allow you to engage your IT team.

Buy a multi-year license and save

Try for Free Buy Now

Try Tenable.io Web Application Scanning

FREE FOR 60 DAYS

Enjoy full access to our latest web application scanning offering designed for modern applications as part of the Tenable.io platform. Safely scan your entire online portfolio for vulnerabilities with a high degree of accuracy without heavy manual effort or disruption to critical web applications. Sign up now and run your first scan within 60 seconds.

Buy Tenable.io Web Application Scanning

Enjoy full access to a modern, cloud-based vulnerability management platform that enables you to see and track all of your assets with unmatched accuracy. Purchase your annual subscription today.

5 FQDNs
Try for Free Contact Sales

Try Tenable.io Container Security

FREE FOR 60 DAYS

Enjoy full access to the only container security offering integrated into a vulnerability management platform. Monitor container images for vulnerabilities, malware and policy violations. Integrate with continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) systems to support DevOps practices, strengthen security and support enterprise policy compliance.

Buy Tenable.io Container Security

Tenable.io Container Security seamlessly and securely enables DevOps processes by providing visibility into the security of container images – including vulnerabilities, malware and policy violations – through integration with the build process.

Learn More about Industrial Security