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The Looming Digital Meltdown


In the New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci writes that internet security breaches, malware, and identity theft will continue to be a growing problem in the coming years unless we fundamentally rethink computer design. The basic architecture of computer hardware and software, she writes, was established a long time ago, when computers were used mainly by specialized professionals. But now that computers are ubiquitous, that architecture is proving to be extraordinary vulnerable. Read an excerpt from Tufekci’s piece below, or the full text here.

We have built the digital world too rapidly. It was constructed layer upon layer, and many of the early layers were never meant to guard so many valuable things: our personal correspondence, our finances, the very infrastructure of our lives. Design shortcuts and other techniques for optimization — in particular, sacrificing security for speed or memory space — may have made sense when computers played a relatively small role in our lives. But those early layers are now emerging as enormous liabilities. The vulnerabilities announced last week have been around for decades, perhaps lurking unnoticed by anyone or perhaps long exploited …

Modern computing security is like a flimsy house that needs to be fundamentally rebuilt. In recent years, we have suffered small collapses here and there, and made superficial fixes in response. There has been no real accountability for the companies at fault, even when the failures were a foreseeable result of underinvestment in security or substandard practices rather than an outdated trade-off of performance for security.

Image via NY Times.