Does internet dependence make us vulnerable?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by rawbone8, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. rawbone8

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    It has been a long while since there has been a massive interruption of internet access and/or damaging viruses on a large scale adversely affecting us. I wonder how much of our world's economies and security have become overly dependent on one thing – the uninterrupted functioning of networks and systems that comprise the internet.


    Is there a critical weakness at present in our security that we have adapted to so much dependence on the systems and technology that support the internet? Banking, trading, the stock markets, credit cards, e-commerce, business communications, personal communications, military communications, telephony etc.


    Has this reliance made us complacent? I know I'd have a much more difficult time conducting business if I had to go back to faxes and telephone calls, presuming that even that technology would be available in the event of the other systems going down. I'd have to book more couriers (they'd be all running late and costs would escalate), allow for more travel and meetings. I'd have to print and distribute more documents. My productivity would nosedive, as would my profits. I'd adapt by going back to older technologies, but at a significant cost increase. I do the work of 2-3 people these days compared to what could be accomplished back in the 1980s and 90s, but my charges to clients have not really increased much, or even kept up with inflation. I would be struggling mightily to keep up. If it persisted for a long period I'd need to hire assistance (again cutting my profits) or I might lose business as a result.


    Could our enemies or perhaps some bored yet malevalent hacker exploit a software or hardware weakness to "cripple" us or wreak mass economic havoc?
     
  2. dong20

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    Yes. :smile:
     
  3. rawbone8

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    Okay, then. Time to lock this thread.:biggrin1:
     
  4. dong20

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    Do I get bonus points for pith? :smile:
     
  5. ClaireTalon

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    The internet is a system that is built on one of the strongest principles: Redundancy. After all, that's what its great-grandfathers had in mind when they started storing military relevant data not on one single big computer, but divert it to many smaller computers which are linked among each other through a communication network. So, one single strike surely couldn't do as much damage from a technical point of view. Especially since there are other networks present to jump into the breach: Postal, telephone, faxing, etc.

    My concern is that the internet dependence is a mental affair, and this is the actual vulnerable point. The internet is a very comfortable and fast way to gather and exchange information, so comfortable after all that it makes the users eventually forget that there are other possibilities. I have seen people go haywire when their internet access failed and they didn't know how to do their banking stuff (handwritten transfers). There is something about this, since when my Internet connection had broken down once, the service staff at the call center gave me the advice to download the software anew! How's that for a doom loop?
     
  6. rawbone8

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    dong20, you might want to fix that lisp. Would you like a referral to a good speech therapist? :rolleyes:
     
  7. dong20

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    Indeed, but any attack worth its salt, i.e. the sort to which I (and I assumed Rawbone was alluding) wouldn't attack a single point a single time.

    I've heard that before. :smile:
     
  8. dong20

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    Are you taking the Pith? :biggrin1:
     
  9. jason_els

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    I worked in internet tech support for one of the largest ISPs in the country. Oh yes there are vulnerabilities! The commercial ISPs have very lame back-up trunks. They simply don't want to spend the money on the chance their network will go down. We had several fiber cuts and when the fail-over network was brought on line it came right-up. The back-up line was a T3 and while that sounds good, we serviced nearly all of New York City and most of the Hudson Valley. The T3 just couldn't handle the traffic and effectively brought all service to a halt. Technically the network was still online, but practically nobody could access anything.

    We're not alone. If our main provider out of Manhattan failed, then all of Manhattan couldn't get online. This happened regularly and effected not only private accounts but commercial accounts as well.

    Redundancy is great, IF you're willing to pay for it. A few strategic fiber cuts and someone could bring down all internet services for a major city with little effort. It takes a lot of time to find the damaged line and repair fiber as each strand of fiber has to be manually connected to its correct mate. It's not easy, rather like performing microsurgery.
     
  10. SpeedoGuy

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    On the days our network servers go down, just about all routine operations come to a standstill. I get a lot of supplemental reading of trade journals and research publications done on those days but if the outage goes on for more than a few hours things get backlogged and messy fast.
     
  11. montanaguy

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    I am reminded of a computer printout that was made with the following quote back in the late 1970's when I was taking computer programming in high school. I don't know who said it, but it wasn't me, however it is still quite true.

    "To err is human, but to really f*** things up, REQUIRES a computer!"
     
  12. earllogjam

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    I always thought that the internet is organized like a rhizome, a root system that is ever growing with multiple root servers and redundant connections growing by leaps and bounds with no organized direction nor order. It is organic in that sense. A terrorist or hacker can take out a node or two but never destroy the whole thing. There are also multiple connections sites and modes of connecting like wifi, cable, dsl, dial up...etc. Since it is not organized in a hierarchy but rather a horizontal interlaced network it is less likely to be completely shut down by any one force.

    The internet has made instantaneous file sharing, communication, working across country lines much easier in our office. We have grown dependent on it just as I have with my cell phone. Couldn't imagine working without it now. But if pressed we could work without it but it would be awkward and cumbersome like having to start your car by getting out to crank it or doing your laundry with a washboard in a stream.

    Some industries have more to loose than others when their IT systems go awry or are hacked, but they know this and I would hope they have adequate secruity measures in place. The database holding all worldwide VISA transactions is guarded heavier than Fort Knox and probably staffed with an army of IT people checking each other ensuring transparency from fraud.

    One thing which IS worrisome is as the technology becomes more and more advanced and complex there seems to be fewer and fewer people who actually control and understand IT security and safeguards. Checks and balances don't work without enough people with that knowledge. It leaves the door open to unchecked abuse and vunerability.
     
  13. JustAsking

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    I think the Internet is not unlike other networks we rely on in the USA. We are a very "centralized" society, relying on all kinds of distribution systems. I live in Ohio, but I could easily find myself drinking a glass of milk that came from New Jersey.

    Our economy depends on shipping stuff all over the country, and it makes us vulnerable to all kinds of sabotage of our infrastructures.

    If we were all mostly buying local, we would be decentralized enough to any kind of terrorist attack. The Internet is just one example.

    Also, the Internet going down would suck because I won an Internet business.
     
  14. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    Of course there are some vulnerabilities to global trade and commerce because of our dependence on the internet, just as there are similar vulnerabilities because of our dependence on telephones, air traffic, gravity and the sun. Some of those things are more likely to fail than others. The entire global network of the internet is not very likely to fail. Viruses may disrupt commerce here and there, but overall the people we have working to prevent such a failure are doing better than the people out there attempting to cause such a failure. I believe that human civilization's dependence on oil is far more troubling than our dependence on the internet. When oil runs out, and it will, there's not much currently in place to curtail worldwide economic collapse. Without oil: power plants will fail, air traffic will stop, shipping will stop, millions upon millions would die from starvation, heat, cold, and illness. Without a viable alternative civilization as we know it would completely change.

    The internet is definitely important to how the contemporary world works. But we could get by without it. When I worked at the Emergency Department of a major area hospital, we had down time procedures for whenever our computer systems failed that we had to use every once in a while. It was tedious and a lot more paperwork but we were still able to get patients registered and treated using the back-up system. Other hospitals, air-traffic control, major power plants, etc. all have similar back-up systems and are prepared for their computers to go down. We could function without them.
     
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