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Dated: Apr. 22, 2013

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Modern metropolises can’t function without computers and the Internet. Water supply and electricity, mobile and telecommunications – all function with the help of the Internet. What would happen if it terminated? If the computer network or a system server failed, that would lead to devastating consequences for people and the economy, writes "Deutsche Welle". The hint of that outcome happened in 2011. During the Arabic spring, in Egypt, the regime disabled the Internet for a few days, to weaken the opposition. But, the main victims were companies that numbered loses in billions. That system drop can out of nowhere hit society and that can happen without a revolution and a political crisis. The dangers of virtual space are threatening everywhere, experts are warning.

5 Greatest Threats Today

Many are, writes the DW, unaware that viruses and Trojans can endanger certain computers or delete user information. But, the threats are more difficult to detect, especially the so called bot-nets that give experts headaches.
 
Bot-nets are secret networks that are being used by criminals. The install a computer program on a server that later multiplies on other computers that aren’t protected well. There are big and small bot-net networks, with a hundred or even a million infected devices. The smaller the bot-net network, the harder it is to detect. Especially the “sleeping” networks that show low activity, but in a key moment they become active and wreak havoc. Although it is not familiar in what way people earn something by doing that, one thing is certain – it is a business worth billions.
 
According to some estimates Internet crime brings more profit than drug related crime. Threats from the virtual space can go much further than home computers or work place computers. Possible attacks can disable entire areas of society. Then the bank machines don’t pay out money or the safety mechanisms on airports stop working and then passengers can’t get on planes.
 
Internet ThreatsOne challenge for virtual security is the introduction of the expected “Smart Grid”. That is an intelligent controller for electrical networks that take care of thermal power plants, making sure that they always produce electric energy when it is needed. They are managed through the existing Internet. As tens of thousands of producers and consumers in the future will depend on the network, it could easily be attacked.
 
If the electric networks were discontinued through a virtual attack, there would be drastic consequences, because all aspects of public life depend on electric energy. We can’t depend on generators because they are only for a short term. Mobile networks and landline phone would also fail.
 
Even the toughest areas are not immune to virtual attacks. That is proven by the computer worm Stuxnet. It has attacked the centrifuges in the Iranian nuclear power plant Natanz, and it also destroyed many by overheating them. A particular thing is that it was able to penetrate a completely protected area. It overcame obstacles that were insurmountable.
 
First of all, writes DW, is that it managed to infect controllers – small controller chips- that are used in many devices, from wrist watches to industrial robots. Malicious programs don’t have to get into computers through the Internet only. Even during production, a worm can be there – in a chip. "In western society we often use the computer. That is completely fine, but we should know that you can hit yourself in the finger with a hammer, and in that way a computer can do us harm, if we are naive", warns a safety expert. Sometimes we really have the feeling that we are very naive when using computers.

M.B.

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