Has the internet become a failed state?

Has the internet become a failed state?The internet was once a land of promise, with few fears about crime or privacy. Thirty years on, scammers, thieves and spies have created a place of chaos

By John Naughton

Nov 27 2016


Here are some stories about the world we now inhabit…

• In February this year, Bangladesh Bank was hit by the biggest bank robbery in history when thieves got away with $101m. The heist was accomplished not by tunnels or explosives, but by acquiring the access codes for the Swift global messaging system, which is what banks use to securely pass payment orders to one another. The criminals used Swift to instruct the US Federal Reserve to transfer money to their accounts. Then they cunningly erased their digital fingerprints by modifying the bank’s software.

• In June 2015, the US Office of Personnel Management revealed that its computer systems had been hacked and that the hackers had stolen the social security numbers, names, dates and places of birth, and addresses of 21.5 million people, including some who had undergone background checks for sensitive government posts.

• In October 2015, nearly 157,000 customers of the UK telco TalkTalk had their personal data stolen in a massive intrusion into the company’s computer systems. Police later arrested six teenage boys in connection with this cyber attack.

• In the past two years, hospitals worldwide have found themselves on the receiving end of a vicious type of cyber attack. Medical staff suddenly find that their hospital’s computer systems are locked and inaccessible to them because they have been secretly infiltrated. They then receive a message telling them that their data will be unlocked on payment of a ransom in Bitcoins. The European police agency Europol now reckons that the threat from “ransomware” has eclipsed all other forms of online theft and extortion.