What if the Internet never existed?

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This article is derived from a random thought I had during a presentation at the AusCERT2019 conference at the end of last month. The presentation was by Mikko Hypponen about security – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Firstly, Mikko is a funny guy and I loved his presentation but that isn't why I am writing this article. During his presentation, he said something that resonated with me and sparked this article idea in my head that I have not been able to shake since. He was discussing a holiday/road trip he planned in college to a lake in Europe (I don’t remember the exact place) and he was discussing how at that time internet wasn’t a thing at all. He couldn’t remember how he would have planned such a trip without the internet, hire car, flights, accommodation and just planning where to go. All without the internet. 

I know to most of us in today's society that is a completely alien idea and I honestly think most people would be lost if suddenly we were all disconnected or if the internet had never been built in the first place. Firstly, my job as a security engineer may not even exist, there probably wouldn’t have been much need for it. It’s a mind-boggling thought really, what would have I become if that was the case, what would our world be like, how would we communicate? Oh, wow we may actually talk to each other instead of being all cut-off and isolated in this virtual world many of us live in. I wouldn’t have a need to write this article either as this CSO website wouldn’t exist(that would be just devastating if you ask me 😉). Let’s really break this down and think about how life could have been like then maybe do a bit of reflection on how we could probably be in our day to day lives.

I am going to go down one of my hypothetical rabbit holes now that I am sure most of you are getting used to with my articles.

Its January 1st, 1983 and ARPANET did not adopt a TCP/IP which I believe was the starting point of the modern Internet. Jump forward 36 ½ years approximately and I am working in a mechanical garage back in my small home town in NSW. I would have never moved to QLD to pursue a career in IT/Cyber (it doesn't even exist as an idea), I love cars, so I think I would have been pretty happy in this career following in both my father and uncles footsteps. I believe without the technological advancements that were helped along by the internet, modern cars would be very similar to what they were like in the mid or early '80s. I would only hope that some of today's modern styling has come through but honestly, you really can beat some of those old classics from '60-'80s (Love the old school mustangs myself).

This hypothetical business could be a father-son setup and been running for 20 years or more now but if there is no internet, customers would only be able to find us by either using the phone book (yes they still make these – I got one a month or so ago) or they will need to actually drive the car to the garage to book in a job. No online booking forms or email requests. The phone would still be something that we just use for talking on, we might have mobile phones, but they wouldn’t be the smart devices we have today in which our whole lives revolve around.

Traditional mail would be the primary form of communication and is how handwritten bills for works carried out would be sent out to the garage’s customers. Payments would be all made in person in probably cash or maybe checks that banks would manually record. Internet banking would not exist so there isn’t any other option. At least we wouldn’t have those pesky email phishing scams that are plaguing pretty much every business in the world right now.  

This kind of world which in some ways would be much simpler but I feel it would also make our world we live in much smaller as well. Without the internet, I may never have become a writer as I am today (My first book will be published soon), I started with writing these articles for CSO which helped me become the writer I am today. If we didn’t have the internet maybe CSO would have been a form of magazine we got in the mail or from the newsagents. With no internet though what would I write about? Think about it really what would you all have become if there was no internet?

Our lives would be so different. I think the internet is awesome and glad it was invented but I actually remember what it was like before it came to be, and it really wasn’t all that bad. I don’t think I even had a computer of my own until the end of high school, yes, I had used them at school and I had a natural talent for them, but they were a very expensive item back then. They were also not a necessity so not something that warranted being purchased in my father’s mind.

What about social media and all the good and bad it brings? It makes me think of the first girl I asked out, I know this will be a shocking revelation to some of you, but I actually talked to her face to face and asked her to go out with me. When I wanted to talk to her I would need to go to a pay phone or call from the phone hanging in our hallway (a slightly embarrassing situation with your father listening in on my conversation). In the internet world we live in now they would send a message on social Facebook or snapchat or whatever is the latest fad. No direct contact, reduced risks, minimal social skills being developed/used. I have concerns about what it will be like when my children are of that age when they will be using whatever platform is cool at the time, privacy will have completely eroded, and people might not even physically talk to each other anymore.

The internet has certainly changed our entire world and how we live in it. I think the developments will continue to move forward at light speed and the internet we know of today will be a relic that will be talked about in museums (they will probably all be a virtual reality within 20 years as well) in the years to come. I love security and I am thank full for my experiences in it but it’s a shame that something that has so much potential to make our lives even better is filled with so much hate and crime that my job is even needed in the first place. If we truly think about it though crime has always existed in some form so even without the internet criminals would still find a way to do what they do best.

The internet is a perfect place for crime though with no physical evidence like fingerprints or DNA. Just pieces of a digital puzzle that are getting harder and harder to piece back together. It’s a troubling world we live in but one that is also filled with great opportunities, so I think it’s time I stop talking about hypothetical what if's and get back to do what I do best and trying to make this world with the internet intact a safer place for as many as I can. I am not alone in this fight with so many great people out there doing what they can, we just need to come together as one unyielding front against the cybercriminals and make it so hard for them they find a new platform to try and do their dubious activities. 

Sounds simple right (we should have done it by now if it was), we all wish it was as simple as that but none the less we need to try. So, with that said, let's make it happen, lets come together and meet this threat head-on. Together we have a chance but alone we will fail that is for certain.

As always, please comment and maybe tell me some stories of when you were young before all this technology. I think it will be good to be a little nostalgic for a while. Till next time…

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