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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

April 22, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Our virtual vulnerability

Unlike my colleagues who cover technology, I had never heard of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack until last Thursday. That was when one hit Typepad, the hosting service owned by Say Media. Typepad is the service I use for my personal blog, Rogue Columnist. So for several days, Rogue has been spotty — and down completely since Monday.

I mostly write Rogue for my former readers in Phoenix, focusing on Arizona issues and history. Readership has been growing nicely for more than six years, but it’s pro bono work. The many Typepad sites that depend on the service for their businesses are losing money. I suspect more than a few are sweating out their survival.

A MarketWatch story reports on a new survey of DDoS attacks: They’re getting worse, taking more time to address and becoming more sophisticated. And this is only one of the hacker tools available to bring down the Internet, whether for blackmail, political reasons or pure vandalism.

This is also one more impediment to the much heralded “gig economy,” where “everyone is an entrepreneur.” Maybe with intergenerational wealth. Universal health care would be a big help, too. But if you’re on a shoestring, your one big shot could be brought down by a hacker in …

Consider how much of our lives are affected by the virtual sphere — bank accounts, power grids, hospital records and even procedures, EMS communication systems, the technology to operate water systems, the 10,000-mile supply chain, the world financial system — and the issue grows from annoyance or individual ruin to societal threat.

No wonder the Pentagon is focusing on the virtual aspects of the next war — including preparing (or, in the case of the Stuxnet worm deploying) cyberweapons. Meanwhile, the White House is considering moving the President’s Daily Briefing (e.g. “bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”) to tablets. What could possibly go wrong?

Years ago, I wrote about a company in San Diego that still made vacuum tubes for the Defense Department. They were less vulnerable to the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) given off by a nuclear detonation. An EMP would fry semiconductors. I’m sure things have advanced since then. Or not.

Days like this I miss my old leather-bound Franklin Planner and the dream that if I really made it big, I could buy my own IBM Selectric.

But this is the brave new world (he writes on a virtual blog).

In the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath, railroads were tangible things that could be made safer and regulated. With the Internet, we haven’t even had the equivalent of a big train wreck. But it is coming.

And Don’t Miss: Every weekend could be four days long if the will was there | The Conversation

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Why is Earth Day here?

Pollute the global commons

For profit daily

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @jontalton

Comments | More in Tech economy

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