The threat of cyber attacks is greater than ever these days as the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline and resulting chaos exemplifies. And the thing is: it could have been so much worse than it was.
So much worse.
Technology is amazing. It is! It makes our lives so much easier and allows humanity to accomplish achievements never before seen in the history of our species. Think about it. There are multiple probes and rovers operating on Mars right now, including the first helicopter flown on another world. We can video chat with people on the other side of our planet and watch movies on our smartphones.
Computerization is also integral in the infrastructure of modern life. The power grid, water systems, air traffic control, the internet, financial institutions, the healthcare system, and national defense are just a few examples in which technology and computers are absolutely vital for safe and proper operations.
Now imagine the potential devastating impacts that could occur from a severe enough cyber attack on any of these systems.
Think about it for a minute
Imagine hackers shutting down air traffic control operations at a major international airport, or even region of the country. Consider what that could entail. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport saw an average of 300,000 people passing through every day in 2018. At the very least, you’d have the chaos of massive flight cancellations and interruptions of people’s travels, and at the worst, you could have horrible plane crashes with terrible loss of life.
Another frightening possibility would be hackers taking control of a major hydroelectric dam’s computer systems so that they could shut down its power generation and worse, potentially create a devastating flood that could kill hundreds if not thousands of innocent people living downstream.
Or consider this terrifying scenario: what if hackers seized the computer controls of a nuclear power plant.
Cyber attacks are perpetrated by individuals, criminal organizations, terror groups, and other countries. The damage they can incur is downright scary.
We as a society need to take this threat much more seriously than many have been so far. Improving cyber security is no easy matter especially when you consider that different people, companies, organizations, and governments vary as to how seriously they take it and what measures they may be implementing to protect themselves. And being a democracy, there are limitations in what the government can do because while we need better cyber security, we also must maintain people’s rights and freedoms. It can be a delicate balancing act with no easy answers.
But seeing that we are facing serious cyber threats, like it or not, will have to grapple with finding better ways to protect ourselves while also maintaining our cherished way of life.