The open nature and volume of information available today on the Internet, might not be availed tomorrow, thanks to new cyber threats doing round, on the verge to paralyse the whole world security & functioning.
We’re in a period of ubiquitous Internet usage that extends far beyond the casual Web browser who checks the news, e-mail, and a few social media sites. Today we control our home lighting and utilities, carry out bank transactions, and undergo consultations and routine medical procedures with our doctors all over the Internet from our smartphones.
Utilities control parts of the nation’s power grid, banks move money and alter interest rates, and the military orders food and ammunition for the troops, all via transactions conducted over the Internet. This is the golden age of open information, convenience, and control over the Internet.
However what are looming in the shadows are the dark clouds of cyber warfare and computer hackers, threatening to transform today’s digital paradise into scorched-Earth cyber desolation.
We’ve all heard about hacker and cyber-attacks on fast-food restaurants, retail stores, and government agencies that could result in the theft of people’s identities. Still, all we know about the cyber threat today may be only the beginning; things may about to get a lot worse.
News informs that a computer hacker group called the Shadow Brokers may have stolen cyber warfare tools made by the creators of the sophisticated computer malware programs called Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame. Stuxnet is considered one of the most advanced computer worms ever created, and helped to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.
These cyber tools and malware may have been stolen from a group with connections to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) — one of the most secretive and potent government agencies responsible for cyber security, encryption, and cyber warfare.
Is the NSA itself under cyber threat? Has that agency been compromised? If the NSA has fallen to cyber warfare hackers, then who’s safe?
Those accounts may not be true at all; it all may be one big hoax. It’s something to think about, though.
Let’s consider what could happen if terrorists, hostile nations, criminal organisations, got their hands on cyber warfare tools like Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame.
Would electric utilities be safe? Could we trust our food and water supplies? Would our bank and retirement accounts still be there tomorrow? Could we count on accurate weather forecasting on critical times?
What about the military? Would our strategic reconnaissance satellites still work? Could we trust our intelligence data? Would our weapons-targeting systems still be reliable?
Now let’s bring it back to the individual. Today we count on the Internet to bring us much of the information we need to conduct our lives every day. What if that was to go away?
Coordinated and sustained cyber-attacks resulting from a future war could dissolve the Internet into segregated and unconnected information ghettos – some more reliable than others, some more dangerous than others, and none of them with information accurate enough to stake one’s life on.
In this cyber reality, digital worms and viruses lurk around every corner. Disinformation is rampant to confuse, distract, and instill fear. The institutions we trust — from the government to the supermarket — either turn on us or disappear altogether.
There was a time when nuclear bombs were the biggest threat, caused all kinds of anxiety, and even encouraged some to dig fallout shelters in their backyards in many nations.
Maybe today the biggest threats aren’t nuclear bombs, but cyber bombs. Could a big cyber-attack bring the world we know to an abrupt halt?
It’s really the most pressing matter of the time.