Hacking the Internet

HackersThe sun is up and has been slowly but steadily boiling the air in my living room, and yet I have no desire to spend time outside today. Despite the sun it´s cold outside, and the wind bites when it’s cold. So I’ve been spending a lazy Sunday afternoon watching TV. I came across an “old” classic in our movie collection:  Hackers. Fun, fun,fun! I watched it, snickering now and then at the ridiculous things they added to the movie to make the hacking business look more visually entertaining for the non-computerized person, instead of showing just the dry and dark reality that I know hacking was, and is. But as I watched, I had some strange ideas.

I started thinking about the Internet in our modern times, and how much we depend on it. I tried to imagine the future, perhaps 100 years from now. How much will we depend on the net then? How much should we really depend on it now? Because, unfortunately, it’s mostly a very fragile network, and people can take advantage of it – do take advantage of it – to their own gain.

The modern normal Internet user might think hackers to be a thing of the past, because we don’t see many real viruses these days. By virus, I mean a computer program that goes from computer to computer and causes destruction of files or computer systems. But there are many, many, many of them out there, and they just keep growing. They’ve simply become less visible to the normal Internet user because they’ve moved past the aimless destruction of a layman’s computer files, and moved on to greater goals. Breaking into big, well-protected computer systems, like google, and facebook. They do other things too, but I’m actually not that familiar with the modern hacking world. These are just the few things I know.

Now, my thoughts of the dependencies of the Internet moved to a point where I had a very crazy thought: what if someone erased something from the Internet? Just completely and utterly erased it?

To clarify what I mean, lets take an example. Say someone decides they don’t like Charlie Chaplin, and decides to erase him from the Internet. It would be difficult, and take a long time, but I think a talented hacker could do it.

Of course there are a lot of people out there who know who Charlie Chaplin was, and there have been written many books about him, not to mention all the films he made. But none of this knowledge now exists on the Internet. It’s in hard copy books (because the hacker would, of course, erase all e-books that mention him), hard copy films (actual films, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and all that) and in the minds of many people.

But imagine now a fifteen-year-old teenager hearing his or her grandfather talking about Charlie Chaplin, and wanting to know more about this crazy-sounding person. What does he or she do? Well, google him, of course. And what is found? Nothing. Nada. Empty. Might then try imdb.com, but same story. Gone. Vanished. No-such-movie-connected-person. Wikipedia? Nope. You Tube? No video found.

Hmm, seems like this guy wasn‘t such a big deal after all, since the Internet has no information on him, the teenager would think. And he or she would move on and forget the whole thing, thinking their grandfather is just going senile. Old people do that after all, right?
And eventually, with time, Charlie Chaplin would be lost. He would exist in some books, which nobody would read because everything is online now, and some movies, which nobody watches because they too are online now.

Goodbye Charlie Chaplin.

Now, you might laugh and think this is impossible. And you’re right, to a point. Firstly, anybody really succeeding in erasing something from the Internet on this scale is probably impossible. Probably. I can’t actually be sure on that. And secondly, even if somebody succeeded, the information could be put back. That is, if someone notices that it’s gone.

As I write this I realize what I’m talking about is the modern version of book-burning. But I can probably give it another name. Internet censorship.

I now make a full-fledged confession. I once tried to find an illegal version of a new book I really wanted to read. Now I didn‘t do this because I was cheap. It was mostly because of impatience. I couldn‘t get the book in my country yet, and waiting for it to arrive from an Amazon order would have taken two weeks. I couldn‘t wait two weeks! So I googled it. And I found something. But I soon discovered that every link had already been severed by the publisher. Boo, hoo for me, but I think I actually bought an e-book version very soon afterwards.

The point of this little story is that even though the copies were illegal, it simply proves that Internet censorship is very, very possible, and is being very actively used by many companies, such as publishers sweeping out illegal material (I do find them justified, but I comment severely on the fact that many publishers deliberately wait to publish the e-book version of books to sell more of the “analog” version. If I could have bought that book online at the time, I would have). Another example is TV-networks, like CBS. I got really excited when I discovered that they have all the old original Star Trek episodes online. But, nooooo, I don’t live in the U.S.A., so I don’t get to watch them for free. Why? Probably some stupid distribution rights issue. But I don’t know if I can buy them in my country, anyway. I would probably end up buying them from Amazon … from the U.S.A! How would that benefit any European distributor?

The world is getting too small for regional distribution rights.

And I’m ranting now.

Perhaps I’ll just stop. But I think I’ll make a backup of my database and keep it in a safe place, just in case somebody decides they don’t like graceperla.net.

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