Anxiety unveils itself when the outcome of an event is uncertain.
On Friday Dyn, a company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, was attacked causing sites like Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, PayPal, and others to shut down.
A distributed denial of service (DDoS) flooded its system.
What does that mean?
To limit the nerdiness, imagine Dyn is the US Postal Service.
If someone wanted to shut down USPS, they would get thousands of people to stand outside of every post-office, each holding thousands of pieces of mail. They would continue this for days upon days until mail began collecting in piles ten-feet tall all over the post office. Eventually, the workers get too stressed from overwork and just quit and the USPS mail system would cease existence.
This is what the DDoS attack on the Dyn server was. Hackers sent a bunch of information requests to their servers until they overheated and stopped working.
The good news is that like USPS, there are many other servers (UPS, FedEx, etc…) throughout the country and overseas powering our internet. The bad news is that these are under attack, too.
These attackers want to disable everything. Companies like Dyn are being targeted nationwide in an effort to stop internet access throughout the entire country.
Don’t believe me?
You can literally watch cyber warfare live right here, and see where attacks are coming from and who is being targeted.
While we don’t know who is responsible for the attacks and why they are doing it, we can only imagine an apocalyptic scenario of life without the internet. Here’s what I picture it to be:
What would life be like without the internet?
In between a meeting and a call with a client, you are looking at your stock portfolio when the screen goes blank. Right before it went blank, you noticed a sharp drop in the Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P 500. You reset your computer and the router, but that doesn’t help.
The whole office seems to be having the same problem, so you wait around for an hour, but nothing changes. People are trying to make calls, but are thwarted by the buzzing noise of a disconnected line.
You decide no more work is getting done today, so you head home. Trying to call an Uber, you are stopped by an error message. Without a car, you walk to the bus stop, on the way noticing all the traffic lights are out and the roads are packed with angry and confused drivers…
An eery feeling passes through your body.
Hours have passed and there is no news on what is happening. It’s not until a neighbor fires up an old radio that you hear the internet is down and will be back up shortly. Broadcasters tell you to remain calm and to stay home.
An entire day passed and broadcasters continue to tell you very little. Fearing the worst, you head over to the grocery store to stock up on food, only to run into 500 hundred other people with the same idea. The manager of the store is yelling, “You must present cash at the door. We aren’t accepting any cards.” The tension of scared civilians is thick when all of a sudden a car drives through the window of the store–it’s the tipping point the crowd needed to burst into the store. Chaos ensues. People fight over rice and water.
Police and paramedics are slow to respond because of the lack of communication. Hospitals are filled with injured looters, but the treatment process is extremely slow since medical records can’t be accessed and supplies can’t be accounted for.
Small crimes happen all over your city for a few days until stores are empty. People have retreated into their homes, huddled around radios to hear the latest news. Day after day broadcasters addressed you with the same empty tone and the same disappointing message. The ambiguity is too much to handle for some, and others are forced to ponder what the rest of the world is experiencing. A week passes before the President finally delivers good news.
It will be several days before basic internet function is restored and months before the infrastructure is back to normal.
There are discrepancies over the money in your bank account since entire systems were wiped clean and no paper records are present to cross check. This digital blackout caused US stock markets to crash, company valuations to plummet, and international trade to come to a standstill. It will take years for the US economy to recover.
The only thing that can’t be fixed is the memory implanted in people’s heads of the animalistic instincts that took over the masses, fearing the next time the internet goes down.
Yes, this sounds like the beginning to an apocalypse movie, but it’s the harsh reality of what the initial days of life without the internet would be. With the exponential takeover of internet connected devices, digital security is vulnerable to large-scale attacks that can cripple the nation.
Cyber war is much different than previous wars some have witnessed or have heard about. This isn’t about using weapons to take lives. It’s about disabling digital infrastructure, causing panic and havoc. The same digital infrastructure that has allowed this beautiful country to grow and amass a fortune is the very thing that can bring it to its knees.
The financial, healthcare, and energy industries are among some of the weakest in terms of digital security. For example, the Target hack in 2013 resulted in over $300 million in damages to Target, credit unions, and community banks. Recent reports show that 47% of Americans’ medical records have been hacked in the past 12 months. Not to mention, hackers have numerously breached our energy companies and planted malware, making it easy to shut off our power grid at any given time.
Worst of all, though, the hacks of the DNC email database released on WikiLeaks are influencing politics and possibly deciding the election. Between WikiLeaks and Friday’s attack on Dyn, many people are pointing fingers at Russia. Whether they are responsible or not, these events have triggered an onslaught of worldwide cyber warfare, much to the degree which Pearl Harbor made us get serious about WWII.
This may all sound like fear mongering, but it’s the truth. A cyber war is happening right now and there is really nothing you and I can do about it.
After hearing all of this, it’s easy to have anxiety over the future of the internet. But, don’t lose sleep over this because there are a lot more people being paid big bucks to create fail-safes in case this does happen than there are bad people trying to take it down.
Aside from the future of the world, anxiety persists in our work and is a large inhibitor of creativity.
Anxiety shows its face right when we are about to start projects such as coding an app, making a presentation, writing a poem, or crafting a sales pitch. As a result, our energy and focus shifts to the unknown and begins to worry about the result. To combat this we often revert to a familiar process of creating, which is actually the antithesis of creativity since we are just doing what’s been done before.
The best way to overcome anxiety is through preparing your mindset and creating the right environment. Tell yourself the finished product isn’t required to look a certain way. Instead jump right in, allowing your mind to run free. Also, make sure you prepare your environment by making it comfortable and eliminating all distractions.
In short, preparation is the steering wheel that prevents anxiety from turning down the slippery slope towards fear.
Whether you are in healthcare, finance, tech or marketing we all struggle to prepare our mindset for optimal creativity.
That’s why I started Quick Theories, a brief, weekly newsletter of creative insights that’ll help you unleash your most creative self. If you feel like you aren’t living up to your creative potential, you can sign up here: quicktheories.com.
Everything We Know About the Cyber Attack That Crippled America’s Internet
Digital Attack Map