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The Incredible Scale of the Internet

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Unread 01.03.12, 12:48 PM
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The Incredible Scale of the Internet

On 01.03.12 12:00 PM posted by Paul Rosenzweig

Sometimes my friends and colleagues wonder why I fixate on cybersecurity and the Internet. I tell them all the time that it is the single most important and misunderstood problem in the world today, but often I don’t think they understand the scale of the problem.

So it was fascinating to see this end-of-year summary of the incredible things that happen on the Internet every minute. It isn’t often that we get a good understanding of just how BIG the Internet really is. So, consider: Today there are more than 2 billion Internet users—that’s nearly 30 percent of the world’s entire population connected to each other. No other human endeavor has ever been this big.

And those users are busy. Every single minute of every day, they conduct 700,000 Google searches and 11 million IM (instant message) conversations and post 1 million Facebook status updates. Every single minute, they create more than 1,800 terabytes of new information and data. How big is a terabyte? Well, according to the Library of Congress, the approximate amount of its collections that are digitized and freely and publicly available on the Internet is about 74 terabytes—so every minute of every day, we add 24 new digital Libraries of Congress to the world’s storehouse of information (granted, some of it isn’t worth adding, but that’s another story). In other words, more content is posted to YouTube every month than the combined output of all U.S. television networks since their inception in the 1940s.

And with the growth of information also comes a growing threat to our security. Every minute, more than 168 million email messages are sent. That’s 88 quadrillion messages every year—and each and every one of them is a potential threat vector and source of a malware intrusion. The scale of the vulnerability is exactly as great as the scale of the Internet.

How do we manage something this big? How do law and policy possibly keep up with something this large? That’s why the scale of the Internet is daunting. There is simply no way that any human institution can manage anything this large.

Last year, we presented 10 Conservative Principles for Cybersecurity Policy. These are as relevant now as ever.

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