Last month, the world seemed to end as Twitter and Netflix were shut down for almost a full day. Cyber-terrorists launched a DDoS or “Distributed Denial of Service” attack. Without going into technical details, the terrorists were able to block these websites from getting onto the Internet/World Web Wide, so no one could access them from their PC or smartphone. Think of a tree falling down and blocking the drive-through window at a fast-food restaurant, so no one can pick up their breakfast coffee and Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s. So how did they do that? That is where things get interesting and a little scary.
As you can imagine, Twitter and Netflix have lots of different ways, to ensure that their sites are operational and on-line. These cyber-criminals however, hacked and took over hundreds of thousands of individual webcams, that were connected to the Internet from a PC, Nanny Camera and/or home security system. The cyber-criminals then turned every single webcam (using this same driving analogy) into a “tree” that blocked the site. It took about a day to remove the trees, but there are some important lessons.
First, our lives are critically dependent on a robust and always-on Internet. But if bad things happen – which they will – remember to keep hard copy backups of your vital records. It may sound old-fashioned but sometimes paper works very well.
Second, in the very near future all of us will live in a smart home, with cameras, lightbulbs, air conditioners, locks and cars connected to the Internet – controlled from your smartphone. This so-called Internet-of-Things or “IoT” phenomenon can make your life much easier, but increases the risk of identity theft. Just about everyone knows to install an anti-virus program on their home PC; but now do you have to worry about anti-virus for your lights or refrigerator? Not yet, but that is why you should keep old-fashioned paper records, containing all your personal and financial data. So if your identity is stolen, then you can easily re-create it based on these hard copies.
So while technology is great, exciting, cool and rapidly changing, keep using paper in case something goes wrong. And it will….