Built on Rotting Foundations: CyberInsecurity

July09_0124barn_480Now that I’ve lost you with the very title, let me say as little as possible so as to move onto other things.

I’ve been interested–and concerned–about the fragility of our way of life that, like it or not, has come to depend on the interwebs for commerce, finance, communications, strategic defense and essentially every aspect of life in the more advanced parts of the world.

The latest buzz is on the legitimate need for increased cybersecurity with a long list of corporate and governmental and utility hacks gaining entry (and stealing data and leaving behind various minor to major malicious bugs) that probably has impacted one or more of you-whether you know it yet or not.

But if increased cyber-security is all we focus on, the future of e-commerce, banking, all the rest of it: is crusin’ for a bruisin’.

Our existing rickety and incompetent digital infrastructure has its physical counterparts in the rotting bridges, foundations, water mains and power grids of the nation.  And we have continued to pile quick fixes for new major system functions on top of ancient code foundations and patches that will not forever support what is being placed on top of them.

When the wind blows, the cradle will fall. Last week’s simultaneous “hardware glitch” that variously impacted United Air, WSJ  and the NYSE seemed too much to be a coincidence. But it was. Probably. And if it was, it paints a disturbing picture of our nearsighted construction of a digital skyscraper on top of a chicken coup.

Not to draw the threat of cyber-attack with too fine a brush–take a look at the Norse Attack Map (which they say only shows about 0.01% of the actual exchange.

Further reading:

Computer glitches struck the stock market and United Airlines on the same day. Here’s why you didn’t believe it was a coincidence. – The Washington Post

Why the Great Glitch of July 8th Should Scare You – The Message – Medium

Cybercrime Blackout Would Cost U.S. $1 Trillion, Report – Fortune

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I totally agree with you, Fred. Our digital-everything society is frighteningly fragile. And virtually everyone is in a state of major denial about it. I don’t know what it might take to get our so-called leaders’ attention, since they have their heads equally stuck in the sand about climate change with all its attendant dire consequences.
    You want a frightening scenario? The North Koreans put a single nuclear warhead into low earth orbit and explode it somewhere over Nebraska. The resulting electromagnetic pulse would wipe out virtually every digital device in North America. We’d be back to the 19th century in the blink of an eye.