We take for granted Chinese assaults on our computer systems and work to improve our security, both for government and corporate users. But the Chinese have no interest in a full-fledged attack on our system; as a state actor, they are dependent on the United States for trade and even as a shelter for their investments.
But someone who is truly fomenting an attack on the United States would not harbor any compunctions about bringing the entire Internet to a screeching halt. Al Qaeda and, even more so ISIS, are becoming computer literate and manipulate social media for an organizational advantage. But, as they learn more about our system, what if they carry out an overarching plan to bring it all down?
Without the Internet, business communications would become impossible. Phone calls represent a last-decade model, and we rely on email to transmit our work product and opinions in the most convenient way possible. How much time and money would be lost if we were continually interrupted by phone calls?
Moreover, small business and their owners, the backbone of the American economy, could no longer telecommute. With no way to transmit documents, commerce would grind to a halt.
How about all our bank accounts? How would the banks know how much money we had in order to facilitate withdrawals? How would debit cards function? Even a temporary hiccup in the Internet would cause major disruptions. An attack on the Internet would be every bit as virulent as an attack on our physical infrastructure embodied by those jetliners flying into the World Trade Center.