Posted by: Christian Verstraete | February 4, 2011

Is the Internet becoming our Achilles Heel?

This week I got an message pointing out that our Egyptian colleagues are unable to work due to the fact they have no more access to the Internet. Indeed, they are unable to access their E-mail and our companies systems that are located in the United States. Indeed, Egypt has cut off most internet and cell service, in an effort to limit the spread of anti-government protest.

My objective with this blog post is not to comment on what happens in Egypt, but look at the impact of such moves to the enterprises working in the country. In today’s world where everything is connected, such move stops the economy in the same way than the truck strike in France a couple years ago. Actually it is even more effective as repercussions are felt even faster.

IT departments increasingly use the internet as the backbone network of their operations. They move applications to consolidated data centres, they limit what employees can do off-line on their mobile devices in an effort to allow platform choice by employees. Aren’t they putting the company at risk?

Internet filtering and ban is nothing new. Researching for this entry, I found articles back to 2006 on the same subject. It puts the future of global politics in question. But I’m astonished that, despite this, companies increasingly rely on that same internet to be the backbone of their communication and their operations. And one finds little about the question on the subject. No pushback, commenting or discussions on the subject. Are enterprises ostriches? Do they put their head in the sand? Do they believe it will not happen within the geographical areas they are present in?

That could be true from a governmental/political perspective, but what about cyber terrorism? We saw some glimpses of that during the latest Wikileaks campaign.

The internet is a horizontal, democratic environment where everything is possible. There are really no rules. It might make sense to put some structure in place, to establish redundant communication links, to set-up a central governance body. But that would require world politics to come up with an agreement, which, as we all know, is rather remote. This leaves companies having to establish recovery scenarios in case the unthinkable happens. And they better start quickly to look at what the alternatives are.

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