Now and then, something happens that should remind us all that we should not tether our lives — and our bank accounts — to the internet.
It seems like every month there’s news about a huge hack of the database of a big retailer or health care company or credit card company, with hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of individuals’ personal information stolen for who knows what nefarious purposes.
We are reminded at those times that our personal data might not be secure on the web.
And then there was Wednesday morning, when one of the biggest cloud computing companies in the world, Amazon Web Services, unexpectedly went offline. Kablooey.
If you tried to log into any number of company websites, check your airline reservation with Delta or Southwest, or even pay electronically for parking in Boston, you couldn’t do it. If you wanted to rent a bike for an hour from Bluebikes, the bike-share business in Boston, you couldn’t do it. The McDonald’s app didn’t work. Neither did Venmo, Kindle and Roku.
In short, large and unexpected slices of the internet world had gone dark. Even Alexa devices went silent because of the AWS server crash.
Here at the newspaper, editors lost access to current Associated Press stories and photos for most of the day.
No doubt there are some readers scratching their heads and saying, “Venmo? Cloud computing?”
But for a sizable portion of the wired world, losing access to things they had become accustomed to accessing with the touch of a finger, this was a catastrophe.
Cash for a large latte at the coffee shop instead of Venmo? Who has cash? What do you mean I can’t access Disney+? And the McDonald’s app? For some people, life was at a standstill.
But seriously, the teachable moment here is that we all need to realize this will happen again, probably at a time and with a breadth we can’t imagine. Humans need to think seriously about how it can be risky to depend so completely on something that can break, literally in the blink of an eye.
Large latte, anyone?