Major cyberterrorist attack: Just a matter of time

May 27, 2017

By Eddy Montilla.

In the field of technology, invention and discovery, perhaps we still have a lengthy path ahead, but when it comes to behavior, the way we use to response to critical situations is always the same, as the old proverb says: “There is nothing new under the sun.” That explains why we focus our attention on making progress in the first idea and have already forgotten the second one. We have digitized almost everything, our job is centered around a computer and Internet and, on the other hand, we have forgotten valuable pieces of advice from former generations like this one: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, a mistake we are doing today by depending almost exclusively on computers and smartphones without making paths for other options.

It is almost undoubtedly to say that the change from the analogical to digital era, from paper to screen saves us an enormous amount of time at work and makes our lives easier. Despite this fact, the most recent cyber-attack that temporarily crippled websites in more than 150 countries, affecting more than 100,000 organizations made clear the vulnerability of our apparently safe digital world and showed us the other side of the coin: We are taking the risk of losing all our data and since everything is there, we could be in the future without past and present. We are living in an era of major technical breakthroughs that periodically change their channels to distribute information and their data storage system. There are people who still use CDs or DVDs for that purposes; others opt for USBs and we can find people today who are going for iCloud only. Those different formats, rather than being considered a great help, they may be perceived as “the tower of Babel” that only a computer can decode. The next question seems to be forced under these circumstances: What would happen if our computers, because of a world cyber-attack, lost their capacity of reading and examining data? From our family albums to all valuable information of a company, everything would disappear as quickly as a bunch of cookies in front of a group of children with empty stomachs after school. Scientists and experts on the subject like Eugene Karspersky, for example, have been warning us about this possible chaos on the world’s computer systems. That means we are not in front of a hypothetical case, but in front of something likely to happen

Every time burglars find a way to circumvent a sophisticated security system to enter houses to steal, a new one is invented to make them “their job” more difficult. This situation turns into a repetitive circle. Fortunately, in the field of computers and Internet, it is not the hackers, but computer programmers who are in the vanguard, which gives us more time to be better protected against them. That does not mean, however, that the current situation will continue like that in the future, which has raised alarm bells world-wide once you think about England and Scotland, for example, places where many hospitals where hit by the ransomware cyber-attack, forcing to cancels surgeries and treatments for patients.

What in the past was only a figment of Len Wiseman’s imagination (a massive computer attack on the United States infrastructure in his movie Die hard 4.0) is today some closer than ever to be real. “A mayor cyberterrorist attack is only a matter of time.” as Karspersky said once. We should, therefore, try to find balance between our technological wisdom and popular wisdom, and the way we can do that is avoiding putting all the eggs in one basket, which implies to keep hardcopies of certain documents, to have at least one computer without Internet connection (if possible) and to take other preventive measures like these ones. Include in this group, of course, to have some cash at home because banks use computers too. In normal time, normal people always make fun of the well-prepared, but at the end, during stormy times when the unthinkable becomes massive problems, the well-prepared stay afloat while normal people take only one direction: A race to the bottom.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

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