What would happen if the internet stopped?

What if the internet goes down?

What would happen if the internet went down? Many say that our society is far too dependent on the Internet. But only a few have an overview of the full effects of a failure. We explain the consequences of a global and particular Internet failure.

The internet goes down - how likely is that?

Experts estimate the risk of a total internet failure to be very low. This is due to the structure of the internet:

  • The Internet does not have a specific center, but is rather a network of smaller networks. So there is no real core that supplies all the data, but rather many individual servers that are connected to one another by a branched infrastructure.
  • However, the infrastructure always offers a target for physical destruction: Various submarine cables, for example, can be damaged relatively easily; incidents of this type have also occurred in the past. But even such events do not cause the web to fail. The data just takes a different route so that everything still works - but the speed can suffer as a result.
  • The central nodes of the Internet are managed by gigantic routers. Should attackers manage to paralyze all of them, the network would actually fail. Such an attack is considered difficult, but not impossible.
  • However, failure of individual websites - even over a large area - is quite possible. The DNS provider Dyn was the victim of such an attack in 2016.

Internet gone: These major failures have occurred in recent years

Lately there have been minor outages of the Internet or certain services.

  • For example, as already mentioned, the DNS provider Dyn was attacked. This meant that services such as Whatsapp, Spotify and Amazon were not available for several hours.
  • Telekom routers were also attacked in 2016. The attack resulted in around 900,000 Germans no longer being able to access the Internet.
  • With a simple typo, an Amazon technician triggered a chain reaction that also paralyzed parts of the Internet: he accidentally disconnected too many servers from the Amazon AWS service. However, data from larger services and websites was stored on it.
  • In 2012, a submarine cable was separated by an anchored ship. This meant that large parts of East Africa had to get along without the Internet.

Internet gone for several weeks - that can happen

If the internet were actually down for several weeks, it is quite possible that a catastrophe could ensue.

  • The first impact of a global internet outage that you will feel is the loss of communication options. Not only are instant messages sent over the network, SMS and calls are also processed over the Internet by your telephone provider. Even the good old landline will fail you.
  • What you fail to notice, on the other hand, is that the entire financial system will come to a standstill in a matter of moments. All stock exchanges around the world, as well as banks, rely on the Internet.
  • Many traditional companies also have parts of their data stored on the Internet and need them to work. These suffer a heavy loss that can even kill smaller companies.
  • Even supermarkets and pharmacies can no longer work because they order supplies over the Internet. So our health and food supplies are at stake.
  • The power grid is also at risk if the web fails: since many power plants are controlled via the Internet, there will be a power outage. This leads to further problems.
  • With the loss of electricity and the internet, the situation is slowly coming to a head: food can no longer be produced and cooled, fuel can no longer be delivered and supplies are running out. At the same time, hospitals can no longer treat patients, and waterworks no longer work either. The basic supply is collapsing bit by bit: food is becoming scarce, drinking water is in short supply, you can no longer wash and the hygienic conditions are catastrophic.
  • Fortunately, such scenarios are just fiction so far. Such an event can only be prevented by appropriate protection of the infrastructure.

Help with slow internet: How to get more speed

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