Let’s face it: technology has taken over. We spend countless hours in front of our computer screens social networking, doing homework, doing real work, playing games and keeping entertained. I work on a computer at least eight hours a day, followed by a few more hours programming, streaming Netflix to my TV and flipping through digital ebooks. As much as I love classic entertainment elements of entertainment of my old records, my paperback books and my typewriter, there is no escaping the fact that soon our entire lives and everything that defines us will exist on a microchip.
Dr. Gordon Moore, founder of Intel Corp., predicted back in 1965 that every 18 months, the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit will double. So what does this mean? About every two years, all of our technology becomes twice as powerful and half the size and cost.
As our performance, network and storage capabilities improve, technologists will find ways to digitize even more aspects of our lives. We’ve already begun placing our media onto computers in the form of audio, movies and books. That is only the beginning.
Keep in mind other assets of ours are also spread throughout the Internet, including financial data, copyrighted materials, geolocation data, etc. Other assets of our lives compiled in server farms (data storage networks) are the countless pages of profiling information about us. Anyone with a Netflix, Facebook, or Twitter account can already witness this phenomena of information collection.
Take, for example, the suggested movies and TV shows that you receive on Netflix, the perfectly chosen websites and advertisement deals that pop up on Facebook or the suggested followers on Twitter (yes, even our computers are even telling us whom to be friends with). These suggestions are all formed using algorithms that output data about you based on input you give, including things you “Like,” interests in your Facebook profile, locations you travel to and sites you visit.
All of these assets mentioned thus far make up something I like to call our digital personality, a version of ourselves defined by what we do on our computers and throughout the Internet.
Inevitable improvements in our technology will not only influence the way information about us is collected and stored, but also how we reach and interact with that information. These assets of our digital personality will no doubt be stored out of our hands in the Cloud. For those of you wondering what the Cloud is, it’s nothing more than a series of interconnected data servers that will communicate, compile and process all of our information so that we can reach it and interact with it from anywhere at any time. Don’t become caught up in the imaginary concept that the Cloud is this invisible floating bunch of information out in cyberspace. Just like the Internet, the Cloud is actually a physically existing entity that resides somewhere on the planet in the form of networked servers.
Speaking of the Internet, if you’re one of the Vanguard’s online readers, you probably waited for that little circular progress icon to spin as this page loaded. Anyone who has used a computer can relate to that. Imagine a world where information arrives instantaneously. Just think, the microsecond you click your mouse, information loads. That’s what you can expect from future processors and networks. No more waiting for programs and web pages to process information: It will all happen in the blink of an eye.
To many of you, this probably sounds cool. We will have our own virtual existence, incredible mobile devices and light speed Internet connections to access data anywhere and unimaginable processing power.
But for those of you who put all of this together and said, “Whoa, wait a minute, that’s not necessarily all a good thing,” thank you for paying attention. There are people out there who aren’t just using technology to check Facebook and listen to music: they are out there to steal your financial data and make your world a living nightmare.
Malicious attackers, not to be confused with ethical hackers, will also gain all the technological advantages, including improved abilities to rob us blind and completely destroy our digital existence.
In the eyes of a computer security professional, placing all of our assets online is the worst possible thing we can do. There is no telling what this information could be used for. It’s already bad enough that we are blasted with ads and spam email based on our existing online profiles, but we want to place our entire virtual lives at stake? No thanks, I’ll pass.
Hopefully you understand why I like my records, paperback books, and my typewriter so much. It’s pretty difficult to maliciously attack a typewriter.