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America’s Dangerous Internet Delusion

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A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand in May 2017.

The unmistakable lesson of recent years is that the Internet is a double-edged sword.

Credit: Symantec/Reuters

The United States may have escaped most digital damage from this month's unleashing of a global "ransomware" virus, though cyber-experts fear more attacks. One possible explanation is that the malicious software ("malware") harms older versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which most Americans have replaced. Perhaps many users in other countries haven't. Whatever the explanation, this is not the end of Internet threats.

The unmistakable lesson of recent years is that the Internet is a double-edged sword. Despite enormous benefits — instant access to huge quantities of information, the proliferation of new forms of businesses, communications and entertainment — it also encourages crime, global conflict and economic disruption. The drift seems ominous.

The Russians, it is widely agreed, hacked into the computers of the Democratic National Committee, raising fears that the U.S. presidential election was compromised. In Dallas, hackers turned on the city's emergency sirens for more than an hour. Cyberthieves stole $81 million from Bangladesh's central bank, though some of the money has apparently been recovered.

We are dangerously dependent on Internet-based systems. All these incidents threatened the social fabric of the victimized societies. If the Russians hacked the Democrats, who might be next? Could whoever triggered Dallas's sirens turn off the traffic lights or the local power grid? How safe are electronic financial transfers?


From The Washington Post
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