As weird and scary as it sounds, there may be a time when you'll be able to blame your server going down on the current U.S. President instead of your internet provider.
A new U.S. Senate bill known as the "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset" Act, would enable the president to access a "kill-switch" that would essentially allow him/her to pull the plug on portions of the internet in a cyber security emergency. According to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), "…we cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realizes the importance of protecting our cyber resources."
What portions of the internet would this affect? That's up to Homeland Security, according to a report on the proposed bill from CNET. Essentially, any company that "relies on the internet, the telephone system, or any other component of the U.S. information infrastructure" could be required to operate under the command of the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), a new division of Homeland Security that would be put into operation if the bill passes. These companies would be required to keep their security measures up to NCCC standards. If they chose not to abide by the emergency shut down procedures put in place, they would be subject to a fine.
For online gamers, this may seem to be an attack on our recreational time. In many cases, we are paying for the online services we utilize, such as Xbox Live or subscription games. In turn, we rely on them to run ‘round the clock (with the exception of regularly scheduled maintenance periods). If these networks were to all of a sudden go down for a lengthy period of time, would we get our money back? If we were at a pivotal point in our game, would our items and status at the time of the shut down be returned upon the server's revival?
It would be a nuisance more than anything else, especially seeing as many online games cannot be played offline (such as WoW, EVE, Guild Wars and EverQuest ). A compromise mentioned in the bill states that companies would be reimbursed for money lost while their networks were forced to go offline. However, in the midst of whatever crisis has caused the internet be shut down, the game networks themselves may lose subscribers, which would affect business in the long term.
Roping online game networks into this group of internet outlets that could be involved in a security breach if hacked may seem unfair, seeing as online gaming networks really don't leave their users room to store potentially valuable data, aside from perhaps credit card information (unless you count an item that drops .001% of the time that you desperately need to complete your gear set). Sure, they're social networking outlets as well. I suppose you could see a group of orcs or gnomes hanging out and argue that they could be real-life terrorists planning an attack, but it's unlikely that your speculation could be proven true. Gaming networks are not where the threat of national security compromise lies. People log on to them to play a game-to socialize, and nothing more.
The idea of disconnecting all of our nation's servers seems like a knee-jerk reaction, and perhaps too much power for one person to hold. A better idea might be to beef up security on the sites that truly do have sensitive information, allowing the plug to be pulled on those sites in the event of a "cyber emergency."
My only questions are what exactly could be considered a "cyber emergency" and what is the likelihood that such an event will actually occur?