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How Vulnerable Are We?

Last month, the router in my home died. As a result, I spent nearly a week with no internet access in my home. I had no idea how dependent I had become on this mode of doing business until I was without out it. Moreover, I have limited data on my phone and tablet since I spend most of my life in a Wi-Fi environment. Suddenly I couldn’t check details of an upcoming trip. I couldn’t check my work email. I couldn’t use our printer or scanner. I tried to buy tickets to a dance event that I heard about and couldn’t do so. My list of things to do when I visited my local café (to get Wi-Fi) went on and on.

And then I learned it could be even worse than I was experiencing. At the end of last month, the hacking of Dyn brought much of the internet to a grinding halt in many areas of New England and beyond. Even the New York Times was struggling, not to mention Twitter, Netflix, and other major businesses. It happened via cameras, baby monitors, and home routers (though not mine!). And it turns out it may have been done by amateur hackers, which is even scarier in some ways. So much of what we do now depends on this electronic medium of communication, and yet, it is so vulnerable. Eventually, websites were back up and running. (And back home, I replaced my router.) It was back to business as usual. But what if this were to happen again? What can we do to solve this much larger problem of vulnerability?

The scope of this problem is enormous, as we have seen with recent hacks and cyberattacks on U.S. political organizations this year. Virtually every sector, both public and private, can be affected. With respect to the arts, an area where I spend the bulk of both my leisure and work hours, technology has revolutionized how we conduct business. But how many arts organizations have safeguards in place in case our technology fails? How much do we depend on online platforms for ticket sales and contributions, or electronic communications and social media for marketing? What would you do if the entire system shut down for a day? A week, a month, or more?

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