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English Detective #80 Could the Internet fail? 3-14-17
March 14, 2017

Could the internet fail? Experts disagree, but several warn of various dangers internet users (and the whole internet community) need to consider.

We’ve had several internet outages at our house in the past month or so. I remembered a TED talk from 2013, warning that we need a “Plan B” to avoid major disruptions— or worse—if something or someone prevents the internet from functioning for a longer time. I wondered what had been done since then to provide backup internet protection.

What I found was not encouraging. At least one expert answered that talk by reassuring people that there were good back-up systems in place, but others say we are still unprepared and quite vulnerable.

Here are three discussions about it, one from Business Insider, then an article on a short outage that suggested businesses could cope with a few days offline from the BBC, and another longer and much less optimistic BBC article called How to Break the Internet.

Most of these articles are long but not difficult reading. Wired offered a much shorter summary of the original TED talk immediately after it was given.


To practice basic Internet vocabulary, see 24 basic terms. Besides the definitions with pronunciation, Quizlet has several games to match words and definitions.

Some less common words, or words especially important for understanding this newsletter’s reading selections, are defined below.

ddos (distributed denial of service attacks) – a huge number of messages sent to particular servers with the purpose of overloading them so they cannot provide services (send messages) as they were designed to.

disruption- an interruption or disturbance that prevents smooth functioning

disseminate- to spread

huge, enormous, or massive- very, very big

malware- malicious software designed to control or damage computers

network- a group of connections

outage— a loss of power

ransomeware- malware designed to hold personal data or photos hostage— to force people to pay a ransom to get them back

route- a path or way to get from one place to another; router- a machine that directs traffic onto the best paths

secure- protected, safe

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