The Internet’s threat is more about national security than the economy

16 08 2020

Washington Post
Opinion by Robert J. Samuelson
August 2, 2020

“To be fair, let’s note that no country has yet suffered a mass cyberattack from a nation or a rogue group that targeted its basic information infrastructure, with the possible exception of Ukraine, attacked by Russia in 2014. Some cyber experts minimize the possibility. It strikes them as melodramatic alarmism. Perhaps they are right.

This is worth repeating: Despite many breaches, none has yet risen to the level of a concerted assault designed to bring daily life to a halt. But the experts could also be wrong. It may be that a mass attack on the United States or some other major target is just a matter of time. What would such an attack look like and feel like? We now have a crude standard of comparison: the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of major parts of the economy and society.

The consequences of a massive cyberattack could make the disruptions caused by the pandemic seem like child’s play. There might be simultaneous assaults on the nation’s power, communication, financial and transportation networks. People would stumble about in a cyber fog with public and private communications channels, from email to cable TV, disabled or overwhelmed.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that breaking up the industry means we are confronting the true threat of the Internet. I have written before that we’d be better off without the Internet — a suggestion that some regarded as a silly attempt at humor but, though unrealistic, was an attempt to emphasize the seriousness of the matter.

My view, then and now, is that all the wonderful things that the Internet allows us to do are potentially offset by the possible costs that it could impose on us. If the industry deserves harsh criticism — and it does — it is for playing down or ignoring the threats posed by this novel and nerve-racking new technology.”

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