Cybergeddon - It's Virtually the End of the World

The world is coming to an end! Civilization as we know it is on the verge of collapse! Society, government and law and order will shatter to pieces amid riots, looting, murder, pillaging and Lord knows what else! What can be done to save us?

Really… probably nothing. People have predicted the end of time since it began, as if their imminent death is the only thing keeping them alive, and so any words on the topic should be taken with more than a pinch of salt (perhaps a shovel-full?).

R.E.M. guessed it would all come crashing down “with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane” but it’s nothing as dramatic or metaphorical. Certainly not as organic anyway. No, it’s a man-made creation that’s going to harm us irreparably.

The combination of technology and end-of-the-world portents make convenient bedfellows; a case exhibited by the latest findings from the Pew Research Center. The survey group, after consulting approximately 1,600 IT professionals, came to the conclusion that the human race will endure a wide-scale and damaging cyber attack that will cause “widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself.” Well, 61% of those surveyed believed we were heading towards disaster. The remaining 39% weren’t so convinced. Democracy in action, ladies and gents!

Those who harbor such fears believe that hackers, governments or simply rogue elements who seek no personal or monetary gain (and therefore become the most dangerous quantities), will seek to cause trouble by hitting banks, military facilities, businesses or simply domestic connections. One missing link the chain could cause serious damage everywhere else. It’s an indication of how, despite assurances that tech will improve and make our lives easier, the deal struck between man and machine means trouble is always potentially around the corner.

…and as Pew are keen to highlight, even in the past decade we have seen increased activity in cyber warfare and crime. Stuxnet, the alleged collab project between the USA and Israel, left something of a big, if unwanted, impression of Iran’s nuclear research facilities, while this year alone has seen insane compromising of personal and national data: The Fappening rocked the boat, while the great bear of Russia shook off its sore head long enough to be accused of trying to hack NATO and Ukraine in a spying scandal… and that’s just this year alone!

With the appearance of The Internet Of Things, and the soon-to-arrive Internet Of Everything, those in the know fear attacks on infrastructure such as dams, power stations and, just like the Iranians, nuclear facilities. In a world that is pushing to introduce driverless cars and other advanced modes of transport, will the potential for mischief increase even more? Where’s John McLane when you need him?

One of the survey’s respondents, Garland McCoy, president and founder of the Technology Education Institute, believes such doom-laden scenarios are not realistic and thinks we are walking into another Cold War situation. “Mutually-assured destruction worked then, works now, and will work in cyberspace” he said.

Garland McCoy may be right. We’ve seen what individuals, collectives and nations are capable of doing, so what’s the hold up? Life could soon become just like the hilariously dated but no-less-fun Hackers. The concept of mutually-assured destruction appears to be in place. M.A.D. is a perfect way to put it.

So while a Terminator-style rise of the machines, or at least the people who guide them for nefarious purposes, might not be on the cards, it’s a reminder to keep it simple, stupid. Try not to worry about nukes being launched remotely from a bedroom in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s all about your own passwords, bank details, visits to porn sites that not even Google Incognito can hide. You know, the important stuff!

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