While in social isolation, technology has allowed people to work from home and share a virtual salut with friends.

But what happens when the technology fails? We weren’t prepared for the shock of a pandemic. Our now total dependence on technology will make the next shock unbearable, and early signs of network strain are alarming.

A significant increase in Internet usage  — more than 70 percent during business hours — led Telstra CEO Andy Penn, to urge Australians to practice Internet rationing… a near futile request in the age of social isolation.

The crash of the MyGov website showed the real-world damage caused by unprecedented demand surges.

Perhaps such a crash was unavoidable, but this incident highlights the fragility of our virtual dependence and created a potential health hazard.

Although the government’s claims of a cyber-attack causing the crash were unsubstantiated, security concerns — especially as we increasingly live almost entirely online — are not unfounded.

Privacy issues and security problems have plagued the now ubiquitous video conferencing site Zoom. Security experts have warned the platform’s existing encryption technology is insufficient, and defence personnel are now banned from using Zoom.  

Cyber-attacks on the World Health Organisation have doubled during the COVID-19 crisis, and an Italian social security website fell victim to hackers.

Assurances from telcos that they are preparing are meaningless, because the preparation has started after the crisis — which is too late.

Those who can work from home are lucky — for now. But are we prepared for a massive network failure or hack? Given how reliant we are on technology is it possible to be prepared?

We do not notice things when they function well.

We do not praise a secure, and fast internet when our meditation coach seamlessly live-streams our latest mindfulness practices — we only curse it when the video buffers after we were told to breathe in.

COVID-19 is an insidious, invisible force that woke us up to the threat of pandemics. A failure of our technology could wake us up to the fragility of our entire lives.

This article was first published by the Centre for Independent Studies, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.

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