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What if the Net shut down for a few days

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 03, 2013 11:01 AM
When spammers attacked Spamhaus, a European spam-fighting group in what was billed as the "biggest cyber attack in history", they managed to temporarily slow down the internet. But what if dedicated attackers succeeded in shutting down the internet for a longer time, maybe a few days? What would be the potential impact of such a scenario in a world where crucial data is stored on emails, most financial transactions have shifted online and an entire generation has grown up not realising what life without the web could be like?

The article by Atul Sethi was published in the Times of India on March 30, 2013. Sunil Abraham is quoted.

"The thought itself is frightening," says Vijay Mukhi, president of the Foundation of Information Security and Technology and co-founder of the Internet Users Community of India. "Most people use their email or cloud computing to store their data. What happens when you can't access your crucial information? Also, financial activity in the absence of the internet will come to a standstill since there would be no money flow happening between banks or transactions in the stock market. The implications are huge. And I'm not even thinking of the withdrawal symptoms that many youngsters are going to go through when they can't log on. "

However, contrary to the horror that this situation might elicit from those whose lives revolve around the web, the impact on India, at least, should not be much, says Sunil Abraham, director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society. "An internet blackout in India can at most be compared to a bandh. Life becomes uncomfortable but it still goes on. This is because in India, the internet is used by just about 20% of the population. At the most, one can argue that since this 20% also constitutes the elite of the country - bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen, media, etc, any disruption in their work could also affect the remaining 80% of the country indirectly."

Even though complete shutdown of the internet is believed to be virtually impossible - since it is made up of thousands of interconnections which ensure its infallibility - hackers haven't stopped trying as the latest cyber attack shows. Internet security consultant Ankit Fadia points out that the only way somebody can bring down the internet is if a few million hackers combine together as part of a sustained project. "Even then, it's a remote possibility that they can pull it off," he says.

If it does happen, though, remember to polish up your letter-writing skills and go over to your friend's house if you want to chat.

ASPI-CIS Partnership


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