A World Without the Internet

How would your firm be affected without the ability to utilize the internet for some extreme length of time? We’re not talking hours, we’re talking days, maybe weeks. Ok, before you answer, think about your clients being in the same situation, and your vendors, and your colleagues. What cascading long-term effect might that have? And now for the #1 question, what has your firm done about including contingent plans in your Disaster Prevention and Recovery Plan?

Fortunately for us, our country has never experienced a massive Internet outage, but a coalition of dynamic chief executives believes that the nation must do more to prepare for this prospect. This coalition includes 160 corporate members from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems, General Motors, Home Depot and Coca-Cola. All told, the group’s membership counts $4.5 trillion in annual revenues, more than 10 million employees, and nearly a third the total value of the U.S. stock market.

At a recent Business Roundtable, this august group pondered the likelihood that a “cyber Katrina” will occur, and the potential impact it might have. Their conclusion? Without proper planning, myriad industries–from health care to transportation to financial services–could face devastation if a natural disaster, terrorist or hacker succeeds in disrupting Net access.

The resulting Report from the Business Roundtable calls on the government to do a number of things, including the following:

• setting up a global advance-warning mechanism, akin to those broadcasted for natural disasters, for Internet disruptions;

• issuing a policy that clearly defines the roles of business and government representatives in the event of disruptions;

• establishing formal training programs for response to cyber-disasters;

• and allotting more federal funding for cyber-security protection.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT, which bears primary responsibility for coordinating responses to cyber-attacks, receives on average $70 million per year, or about 0.2 percent of the entire U.S. Department of Homeland Security budget, the Report noted.

Although experts disagree on whether a cyber-Katrina might happen, all agree that adequate coordination between government and the private sector is essential to recover, should such an event occur. And all agree that the government should be much more active in taking and coordinating security measures to prevent such an event.

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