What will you do when the Internet collapses?

Are you ready for the Big One - a collapse of the cyber-levees, leaving the whole world in communication darkness? Bruce Levinson has some thoughts about what real contingency planning looks like.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

You may remember about 10 years back to when the Web was just starting to send Internet usage rates skyrocketing. And this was really before the explosion of streaming media, peer to peer, etc. Back then, there were fairly regular warning that the Net couldn't sustain this level of growth, that the whole thing could collapse. Of course it didn't happen.

Comes  now Bruce Levinson of Cybersecure.US, a project of regulatory watchdog Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, to warn that as with levees, it's only a  matter of time before the Big Net goes down Big Time. Writing in CIO Magazine, Levinson says:

The Internet today is in the same position as New Orleans was before the hurricane, a heavily fortified resource of incalculable economic and cultural value whose protections will one day inevitably fail. ...

Just as the world was shocked by the devastation of New Orleans, a scenario that has been predicted for decades, so too will the globe be staggered by the failure of the Internet. There are still many people and institutions who don’t appreciate just how intertwined the Internet has become in virtually every aspect of modern society.

New Orleans will eventually be rebuilt in some form. The internet will most likely be repaired much more quickly. However, the consequences of each failure will reverberate long after working infrastructures have been restored.

How should you prepare for the Big One? Levinson offers two core ideas.

First, select an official at each location who would be in complete charge of the situation and fully authorized take whatever actions they deem necessary—including those that are not in any plan. ... Pick someone who is good at improvisation and knows how to lead.

 The second phase involves solid, multidisciplinary thinking:

A forum should be instituted that includes representatives from industry, academia, think tanks and all levels of government. The goals of the forum should be rather modest. Attempts to set standards or develop common Internet-failure plans would only result in the promotion of narrow institutional interests.

Instead of seeking “solutions,” the forum should focus on ventilating ideas. Irrespective of whether any consensus emerges, the very process of discussing concerns, views and suggestions would prove valuable to the participants.


Editorial standards