On the EDge: Recent cyber attack is a warning

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OPINION – The greater part of the United States was all atwitter Friday when an unknown entity launched a cyber attack that had a crippling effect on several sites.

If you are of a certain age, you may not recognize the difference between a Tweet and a Snapchat, but to many, the interruption of services to Twitter, Vox, Redditt, Etsy, Netflix and Amazon was more than an inconvenience.

It is also a chilling warning that the threat of cyber-terror looms.

There are enough safeguards in place to where the upcoming election is not in any danger of hacking that could influence the outcome, despite the paranoid braying of those who are already trying to discredit the election and our whole process.

Besides, making a mess of the U.S. landscape would be quite simpler.

Interfere with our primary communications systems – which, of course, are all wheeled off of the internet – and rock a couple of economic sources, and the job is done.

That sort of interference would wreak havoc on a public that cannot manage to take three steps without glancing at their iPhones, tablets or other electronic devices.

The email scandal and all that WikiLeaks business, as we have seen, is irrelevant. We have learned that many other leaders, both appointed and elected, have exposed or expunged far more emails, and WikiLeaks, save for a few embarrassing comments, has proven nothing.

But try to mess with somebody’s cat pictures or their excruciating postings that range from their blathering of what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner to the sophomoric political postings of the uninformed and, well, you’ve crossed a serious line of no return.

And rightfully so.

We have become so totally dependent on the internet – particularly services like Twitter and Facebook that break stories with unprecedented speed – that any disruption is a major event.

I can recall a time when radio was the fastest source for news.

Television came along with its bulletins and now, breaking news broadcasts. Nobody really listens to terrestrial radio any longer, and TV cannot keep pace with Twitter and Facebook.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, most of us get our news through social media. The study revealed that 62 percent of those in the United States go there for news, as opposed to 49 percent just four years ago.

That’s a radical departure from the days of rip-and-tear news when a breathless announcer would share the bulletins over the air.

There is a danger to this, of course, in that some suspect outlets are more concerned with getting the story first rather than getting the story right. And unfortunately, we are inundated with a number of disreputable websites that have nothing to do with the truth but are propaganda tools whose job is to conflagrate our emotions rather than inform our sensibilities.

I have no use for any of them, regardless of their message, regardless of whom they support, regardless of how “fair and balanced” they claim to be.

But whether you go to The Drudge Report or Daily KOS doesn’t really matter. If you tried to dial in your favorite sites and suddenly, they weren’t there, a sense of panic would ensue.

And if you discovered that your PayPal account was in risk of being compromised or your needful things were no longer available on Amazon, your lifestyle would be disrupted, not to mention the impact of your financial institution going offline.

We really don’t need to worry about airplanes flying into buildings or white, powdery substances being sent through the mail or troops invading our shores; there are other, more sinister – and less labor-intensive ways – to interfere with and disrupt our lives.

I mean, why hassle with messy, nuclear weapons when you could have your sophisticated IT team nuke your enemy’s financial structure with a few keystrokes?

If I was some beleaguered head of state, my army would have more fingers on computer keyboards than boots on the ground.

Why fight a war with bullets and bombs when you can do it with bytes and bits?

It’s a lot less messy but equally as lethal in a grander sense.

I know people who disavow Facebook, Twitter and social media in general, even though they may have only five minutes of experience with it. That’s fine. Go back into your cave and paint on the walls while the rest of us embrace a technology that may be frustrating at times but is a marvelous advancement of our state-of-the-art communications tools.

We may not understand it fully or easily grasp the enormity of what is at our fingertips, but we get it, at least to the point of making it a useful extension of how we do business, how we keep abreast of world events, how we relate to each other.

Yes, it can be impersonal but only if you allow it to be.

Yes, it can be confusing. Most new things are.

Yes, it can be frustrating. Change usually is.

But like it or not, it is not going away.

So even if you do not “do” social media and could not care less about Facebook, Twitter or any of the other spokes of the new media, you’d better respect it and understand its power and impact.

Otherwise, you’ll be left in the dark, cyber attack or not.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Ron October 24, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Strange article Ed. About the only “semi-worthwhile” things I got out of it were:

    1. Wikileaks releases untrue things about Hillary and her campaign people.

    2. About the “white powdery substance….”, Ed would quickly whip out a $20.00 bill,
    roll it up and try to “snort” it.

    Other than that Ed, there are many more people than you think that could and happily would, live without the technology that you so love.

  • NotSoFast October 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Ed, you come out with a worth while article about 75% of the time. This one was a good one. Stay sober, get your sleep and pump them out.
    ps. Remember to send the agreed upon check for the compliment.

    • Bob October 24, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      nah, i’d say more like 20%, if that.

  • Bob October 24, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    ok i read thru the article. it sounds like a bunch of tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.

    • .... October 24, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Well conspiracy theories is right up your alley you and Ed should hang out 2gether

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