Not if but when the Internet goes down, then what?

January 21, 2021

By Thomas Tass

 The following is not new. It is part of an advertising blog that was published three years ago by a radio manufacturer as part of its sales pitch to sell its products. It is so much more relevant today. To make it relevant given our current global economic and social environment I have refocused its observation points.


The Internet is about 20 years old, yet we depend on it as if it was a Human Right under the UN Charter and various national constitutions. It has given a quantum leap in knowledge and communications to millions and millions of people around the world. Like many I am concerned about content, speed and how it changes all facets of our lives. It has become a ungoverned technocratic pillar that has now more impact on civil society than any government in any country in the world. The pace of change has been driven by unbridled corporate technocratic leadership primarily to garner profits and by extension in some countries political power.  


Let’s review one historical fact.


Ukraine and Russia have been in an undeclared war for seven years. Three years ago, Russia released a fast-spreading malware called “NotPetya” along with a penetration tool called “EternalBlue” ironically created by the NSA. Maersk, one of the top shipping companies in the world, operates in 130 countries was an unintentional victim when it spread to their computers: “I saw a wave of screens turning black. Black, black, black. The digital phones in every cubicle too, had been rendered useless . . . stopped to refuel his car and found that the gas station’s credit card payment system had been taken out by NotPetya too. . . “They couldn’t get their containers in and out of the gate . . . Soon hundreds of 18-wheelers were backed up in a line that stretched for miles outside the terminal. . . The result was more than $10 billion in total damages . . .” as reported in Wired Magazine.


What will happen when the Internet crashes?


A significant segment of the population will go into a catatonic state until it is fixed. No Netflix, no gaming, no on-line shopping. GPS systems will go down. We are now so dependent on that technology that aircraft will be forced to land, and car drivers will get lost. All systems associated with a computer network will experience a failure. The intentional destruction of an adversaries assets has been part of the history of war for thousands of years. The next war will be centered around hacks, viruses, and destruction of the Internet and satellites. COVID19 in tech form but thousands of times more potent.


We can safely assume that hacking isn’t limited to one country. The United States,  European and many more tech advanced countries aside from Russia, Iran and China are quite talented when it comes to manipulating the Internet and its dependencies. The technological equilibrium for lack of a better description is wobbly.


Do you have a plan if the Internet goes down?