February 8, 2008

Internet Apocalypse and Enterprise Architecture

It is the 21st century and we are a nation dependent on everything internet. We rely on the internet for communications, like email, text messaging, and even voice over IP. We also use the internet for getting news and information, social networking, storing and sharing blogs, videos, music, and photos, accessing various applications, shopping, and conducting financial transactions.

What happens if the internet is attacked or otherwise fails us?

This is the question asked in ComputerWorld, 21 January 2008: “If the internet goes down will you be ready?”

ComputerWorld states: “It’s likely that the internet will soon experience a catastrophic failure, a multiday outage that will cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars. Or maybe it isn’t likely. In any case, companies are not prepared for such a possibility.”

The Business Roundtable says: “The threat is ‘urgent and real.’ There is a 10% to 20% chance of a ‘breakdown of the critical information infrastructure’ in the next 1o years brought on by ‘malicious code, coding error, natural disaster, [or] attacks by terrorists and other adversaries.’”

What will be the effect of a major internet interruption?

An internet meltdown would result in reduced productivity and profits, falling stock prices, erosion of consumer spending, and potentially a liquidity crisis.” It would disrupt our everyday ability to communicate, get and share information, work and conduct transactions. And let’s not forget the effect on the human psyche—there would be chaos.

Why have we not prepared ourselves adequately?

The Business Roundtable says that “business executives often fail to realize how dependent they have become on the public network—for email, collaboration, e-commerce, public-facing and internal Web sites, and information retrieval by employees.”

Where are we most vulnerable?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says that “the Internet is pretty robust at the physical layer. There are just too many alternate paths available. But the Internet is not so robust at other layers.” Hence, the risk of operating system failures, penetration by worms, and denial of service attacks.

Is there any reason for optimism?

The CIO of Yuma County, Arizona, reminds us that the Internet “having been based on the Arpanet [from DoD] and designed to keep functioning when pieces are broken, it seems less likely that the entire Internet would stop working.”

What can enterprises do to prepare for the worst?

Of course, all organizations need to fully address security concerns in terms of managerial, operational, and technical controls.

They need the best and brightest security personnel.

Additionally, they need to perform regular risk assessments, vulnerability testing, intrusion detection and prevention, back-up and recovery.

They need to have strict access controls, security awareness training of employees and contractors, and an IT security policy.

Our organizations need a comittment to continuity of operations planning (COOP).

ComputerWorld points out that the financial services sector is out in front in making preparations Here’s some of the architectural preparations that financial companies have undertaken:

  • Dedicated networks—“set up dedicated networks independent of phone companies.”
  • Guaranteed diverse routing—“negotiate more aggressively with communications companies to guarantee diverse routing.”
  • Geographic dispersal—“separate data centers and communications centers more widely geographically.”

In general, enterprises need “diversity and redundancy” of communications.

Most importantly, we need to recognize the risks out there and prepare, prepare, prepare.


No comments: