Maysoon El-Ahmad on May, 2018


The digital era is well and truly upon us, we are all digital, the eldest of the digital generation most commonly known as the millennials are about to enter their fourth decade, we are no longer transitioning to a digital world, we have arrived.

Unlike previous era’s, digital technology means that our world and lives are now increasingly dependent on elaborate networks and systems. From power grids, the cloud, tech platforms, finance systems and so forth, any major threat to these has potential to cause immense havoc.

We have become so reliant on these systems that any breakdown will paralyse and bring countries, cities and companies to a halt. These breakdowns can be caused by technological glitches, cyber-attacks or even simply damage to the undersea cables that supply the world with the Internet.

In the last few months alone we have witnessed these threats play out: 

  • In early April this year, the Commonwealth Bank experienced an unprecedented technical outage that stranded their customers at cash registers. The outage saw credit card, bank transfers and BPAY bill payments disabled for over 24 hours.
  • Also in April, Woolworths stores around the nation shut down during afternoon peak hour for a short period of time after their check out systems experienced a ‘glitch’ and stopped working.
  • In March this year the government of Atlanta was forced to shut down the city due to a crippling cyberattack. This saw their courts close down and people unable to pay their bills online.
  • And one of the worst cases to date occurred in March this year – Mauritania was taken completely offline for two days after a 17K submarine internet cable was cut. This meant Internet access was partially or completely cut off to residents of Sierra Leone and Mauritania and affected surrounding countries in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Gambia, and Benin. While there is no evidence of sabotage, this incident echoes one of the biggest global concerns.

These examples – occurring in the space of 2 months – give us a glimpse into how our modern lives now hang by a delicate thread (or cable) and how vulnerable our world is becoming.


  • Without us noticing, our lives have been placed in the hands of computer systems that ought to be a lot more reliable than they are.
  • There is no question that we need to be better prepared for further outbreaks. Just as fire drills are commonplace, we expect ‘cyber-attack’ and ‘system outage’ drills to be introduced to schools and workplaces – giving rise to ‘cyber-brigades.
  •  While the threat of nuclear weapons has occupied headlines since WW2, the risk of Internet cable sabotage could almost be as frightening. 
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