Josephine Wolff in The New York Times: “Our Internet Isn’t Ready for Coronavirus”

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted employees and students across the globe. Offices, universities, and public schools are closing as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread. As more people choose to work and learn from home, residential broadband networks, video conferencing platforms, and VPNs will face an enormous strain. This is a critical issue for those relying on such technologies to replace in-person contact, conduct classes, and maintain efficient workflows. The speed, reliability, and performance of the internet will likely suffer as networks become increasingly crowded.

Coronavirus’ impact on the internet goes far beyond network reliability. Josephine Wolff, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Policy at The Fletcher School, believes the issue can jeopardize more than just workplace productivity:

Just as our public health system appears unable to cope with the spread of the coronavirus, our residential broadband, video conferencing platforms and VPNs are about to face unprecedented strain. That strain will have serious consequences, not just for the performance of our broadband networks but also for student access to education and the security of corporate data and networks.

On top of performance concerns, there are also new online security issues, including phishing campaigns that appear to come from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with malicious attachments purporting to contain important information about the spread of the coronavirus.

More generally, the increase in remote work may create new opportunities for hackers to infiltrate corporate networks, especially since the growing number of remote connections will make it harder for companies to detect those intrusions when they occur. 

Josephine Wolff, “Our Internet Isn’t Ready for Coronavirus”, The New York Times

Wolff points out that improving the quality and availability of broadband isn’t something that will happen overnight. In critical times like these, we must rethink how technology can be used to more effectively support remote work and education. Wolff states that this means “relying less on the potential of video conferencing technologies to recreate in-person classrooms and meetings, and instead exploring how lower-bandwidth, asynchronous technologies– such as message boards, emails and recorded lectures — can be used more effectively.”

Could the future of working from home be more low-tech than we had previously thought? Read Josephine Wolff’s article in The New York Times:

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