The world depends on the internet. Communication, supply, mobility: If there were a digital blackout, society would also be paralyzed. But how likely is that anyway? And what can be done about it?
It is estimated that around 3.5 billion people are connected via the World Wide Web. If the Internet went down, almost half the world would be affected – and in all areas. Whether communication, supply or mobility: an entire society would be paralyzed.
There are more frequent failures of individual networks, such as the WhatsApp messenger app on Tuesday (October 25). The app was online again after two hours – in the meantime, the world of the intelligence service had come to a standstill. This short period alone showed how dependent many are on digital media and the Internet. A total failure would be tantamount to a horror scenario.
Total internet failure: What is still working, what is standing still?
The devastating thing about it: It often hits people completely unexpectedly and without preparation. Suddenly everything comes to a standstill. Similar to a widespread power failure, the blackout, a total internet failure causes big question marks for many. Above all, the question: What is still possible? what not anymore
No big surprise: In the event of a digital blackout, global communication comes to a standstill first. That fact alone could terrify an entire generation. Others would remember more old-fashioned ways of staying in touch. For example, classic letter mail. But even that reaches its limits in the event of an internet failure. After all, Swiss Post also works with the worldwide network. So the only thing left is the carrier pigeon?
Digital Blackout: These horror scenarios could happen
According to experts, only a few people would have an overview of the full extent and effects of a global Internet failure. Especially if it lasts for several weeks. However, there are still some horror scenarios for the Internet meltdown. Because in addition to the loss of means of communication, many other areas of our society would be massively affected.
Our transport network alone would fall into sheer chaos within a very short time. Traffic lights, flights, rail traffic: almost everything is controlled via the digital network. It would then be almost impossible to cover long distances. The economy would also quickly come to a standstill. At the Heilbronner Voice, a cyber attack recently provided a foretaste of how powerless whole companies can be without the internet.
Economic crisis, stock market crash and power failure: This could happen without the Internet
In addition to the economic failure, there would also be a crash on the stock exchange. Banks could not handle their business – private individuals would no longer have access to their own money. But would they even need that? Because even shopping for food and medicine could be more than difficult. After all, food companies such as Kaufland, Lidl and Co. also order their supplies online.
And another piece of really bad news: the electricity and water supply is also dependent on the Internet in many areas. The dependency of the power plants on the global grid could also result in a far-reaching power failure. However, things are looking a little better when it comes to water: In such extreme situations, emergency supplies come into play. Usually only the quality can no longer be meticulously checked.
Internet blackout: That’s how likely the scenario is
In short: without the Internet, an entire society would be on the verge of collapse. What can you do about it? Taking precautions is difficult, according to an expert forum. First and foremost, you can do what you can do in the event of a power failure: make preparations to get by without electricity, create an emergency list and stock up on food.
Fortunately, such scenarios are largely fiction so far. In addition, some experts consider the risk that the Internet could come to a standstill all over the world to be very low. This is mainly due to the underlying, decentralized networking: The Internet should therefore not be understood as a large, entire network, but rather consists of many smaller networks.
“An internet blackout is not a question of if, but of when”
It therefore does not have a real core that supplies all the data, but countless smaller servers. So if there were physical destruction, such as damage to a submarine cable running in the ocean, the data could simply take a different route. A detour, so to speak, which then simply takes a little longer.
At the same time, however, there are other views on such scenarios. “An internet blackout is not a question of if, but of when,” risk researcher Edwart Oughton once said. The danger would still be underestimated, especially in scenarios that are not so improbable, such as strong solar storms, cyber attacks or ransomware attacks by criminals.