On Wednesday, various computer glitches resulted in the cancellation of more than 800 flights by United Airlines, as well as delays of hundreds of other flights, the closing of the New York Stock Exchange for roughly four hours, and similar problems at the Wall Street Journal. While three such occurrences in one day appears to be unprecedented, it should hardly come as any great surprise.
Our technological world runs on computers, and almost every business of any size is hampered, if not brought to a halt, by anything that crashes its computer system and online/internet communications. Equally to the point, all too many businesses do not to have back-up plans/systems because: (a) they can’t or don’t want to spend the money; (b) back-ups aren’t technically feasible, usually because alternative access to the internet isn’t available; or (c) no one even considered the necessity.
Most of these problems get back to money. As I noted before, several years ago, one backhoe in the wrong place knocked out fiber-optic internet access for much of Southern Utah for over a day. Did anyone even think about a parallel line? Hardly.
Then add to this the continual changes and upgrades to computer systems. Some companies can barely keep up with upgrading one system, and if the back-up systems aren’t upgraded and maintained as well, then they’ll soon be useless as well.
And what about all that data? Is it backed-up and stored elsewhere? Just how reliable and accessible will it be if internet connections are disrupted? Yet, if it’s onsite, that’s a different vulnerability. What tends to be either overlooked or minimized is that the world wide web not only maximizes opportunities, but also maximizes vulnerabilities, and minimizing those vulnerabilities takes time, resources, and money… and those measures don’t always work, as Wednesday’s events just proved.
Good computer systems can multiply advantages, but those systems are anything but as cost-saving as too many individuals and businesses seem to think. Cyber cheap is courting disaster…but I’d wager that lesson will be lost on too many CIOs and corporate managements.