When digital convenience becomes a hazard
Computers and cellphones have created a technological marvel for most Americans. While there have been many criticisms about the potentially destructive nature of forgotten emails preserved forever, the recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline has alerted Americans to the real danger we face. Digitally created paralysis prevented the oil company from providing fuel to gas stations in the Southeast. As drivers lined up for miles at empty gas tanks, Americans were able to visualize the imposition of ransomware crime.
The attack on the 2016 presidential election and ransomware attacks on American hospitals and government offices in cities and towns are less dramatic. It should nonetheless be apparent that U.S. electric grids and other technologically managed facilities are unprotected targets. Our country’s international enemies are prevented from a major attack by little more than their fear of retaliation.
Another problem is the power of technology to record everything in perpetuity. There must be some standards to require the information to be published in full at a later time to prevent the inaccurate defamation of individuals. Any such efforts must satisfy the requirements of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
In addition to confronting criminal groups like the Russian gang DarkSide to terminate blackmail ventures, there ought to be a government agency to analyze the various impacts on American society that have been created by digital technology. It is not enough to rely on the magic of the market.