1. Archive


The statement

"There are mechanisms in place to shut down the Internet privately."

Andrew Napolitano, June 28, on the Glenn Beck show

* * *

The ruling: HALF TRUE

Several readers have asked about the claim that President Barack Obama may soon be able to use a "kill switch" to shut down and take over the Internet. The notion is tied to a pending bill that would allow the president to implement "short-term emergency measures" to protect the country from a cyber attack.

On a June 28 segment of the Glenn Beck show, guest host Judge Andrew Napolitano, called the bill a "power grab" and said private companies are more than capable of fending off cyber attacks. "There are mechanisms in place to shut down the Internet privately," he said.

Do private Internet providers really have it all under control? We wondered.

Shutting down the Internet is just one way to respond to a cyber attack, and it may not be the best way. Michael Locasto, a computer security expert from University of Calgary, said that in most cases, eliminating the Internet infrastructure "would be the absolute worst course of action," since it would make it harder to coordinate efforts. A better option would be to filter traffic deemed harmful, said Mark Rasch, a technology expert and a former Department of Justice attorney.

The core Internet infrastructure is largely controlled by a few Internet service providers. If they stopped routing traffic or dropped connections, we'd see major disruptions in connectivity. But there are a few caveats.

Experts disagree on how hard it would be for them to coordinate. Some said putting large segments of the Internet offline would likely require some political and military involvement, not to mention corporate approval.

Also, government agencies and the military use private networks under strict contracts. Cutting those would almost certainly involve the government. Regarding Napolitano's claim that "there are mechanisms in place to shut down the Internet privately," experts said it is technically possible for providers to severely limit Internet connectivity. But they disagreed about how hard it would be for them to coordinate and whether the government would have to get involved. Clearly, the government would have to participate to shut down its own networks. We rate this Half True.

Edited for print. For more, go to