How Important is Cyberspace

Cyberspace has become as essential to the function of daily modern life as we know it, as blood is to the function of our bodies. And I don’t believe that’s an overstatement. If the Internet suddenly vanished, there would be deaths as a result.

Our dependency on the Internet has long since passed the point of turning back, and I think we’ve made a mistake in that approach. Fortunately, it’s extremely unlikely that the Internet will go down entirely.

The U.S. and most other developed countries are thoroughly electrically and digitally dependent. Critical infrastructures, including drinking water, sewer systems, phone lines, banks, air traffic, and government systems, all depend on the electric grid. After a major successful attack, we’d be back to the dark ages in an instant. No electricity, no computers, no gasoline, no refrigeration, no clean water. Think about what happens when the power goes out for a few hours. We’re stymied.

Wired op-ed by Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute and Bruce McConnell, a Senior Counselor at the department, points out that no single individual or entity has the capacity to protect the Internet, not would we want to rely on one entity. They stress the necessity of collaboration among, private citizens, corporations, and government.

The most important part:

While America is deeply reliant on cyberspace, the health of this critical ecosystem is itself a work in progress. Indeed, tomorrow’s threats and defensive capabilities have probably not yet been invented. Government must engage: to secure government systems, assist the private sector in securing itself, enforce the law, and lay the policy foundation for future success. Where industry lags, policy change can incentivize key actions. Today’s environment does not, for example, adequately incentivize companies to write secure software. This must change.”

What this is saying is, essentially, “This ain’t no dress rehearsal.” This is the time to act, particularly for those companies that are engaged in commerce or in support of our critical infrastructures.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to iovation, discusses the possibility of an Internet crash on Fox Boston. (Disclosures)