You go to cash out your stocks, only to find the New York Stock Exchange hit by a “technical glitch,” lasting nearly four hours and costing millions. You try to find out what’s going on through the Wall Street Journal’s website, only to find that site and many others down too.
Ready to board a Delta flight out of Heathrow, you soon find out that you aren’t going anywhere. The global fleet of the world’s second largest airline is grounded thanks to a power outage in Atlanta six hours prior. Over 5,000 flights are cancelled in an hour, and a backlog is set in motion that could last over a week.
Sound like apocalyptic doomsday scenarios? Every one of these scenarios has taken place in the last decade. The more we integrate the internet and automation into our daily lives, the more vulnerable we become. Nefarious hackers, power outages, and software glitches turn localized inconveniences into global crises in mere minutes. Just imagine the damage a coordinated attack of outages could inflict. The security of the online systems we count on every day needs to be seriously re-evaluated.
The frequency of these crises has been increasing. In the past year, the airlines United, Southwest, and Delta have all suffered crippling outages, grounding up to half a million people each time. Data integrity has also been severely challenged. In May hackers stole $81 million dollars from the Bangladesh Central Bank. Last April, a Target credit card breach cost the company $252 million.
State actors have been the longstanding perpetrators and targets of international hacking. China, North Korea and Russia attempt to hack into American computer systems thousands of times every single day. North Korea notoriously hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation of the release of the film The Interview which mocked North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. In March the Philippines’ Commission of Elections was hacked by the rouge group Anonymous – The list goes on and on. More than that, inter-connectedness is jeopardizing the very core of our republic: Our right to vote.
So far both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have been victims this election cycle. Three top-ranking DNC officials have had to step down over leaked content, with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange promising more hacked emails released this October. This is a terrible precedent that we must take seriously. We must protect the Democratic process, ranging from our candidates’ data to the voting machines themselves.
The interconnected world of today provides us all with great convenience – but at what cost? Why must convenience be a tradeoff with our nation’s security, stability, and core Democratic rights? We must demand the prioritization of the security of our global internet-connected systems.