C. Warren Axelrod

Storing Books against Digital Disaster

Also, it is difficult to envisage an event that would wipe out or corrupt all digitally stored data in a single sweep. The only one that comes to mind would be a huge electromagnetic pulse, which could be a natural event or a targeted attack. One might also envisage a hacker attack of huge magnitude and effect against a major developed country, although it’s not clear how that would eliminate all data since storage is across many nations and in the cloud.

It is also possible that hard copies of books of all types will be published, distributed and read electronically. In which case, we would stop producing and reading physical books. If a digital catastrophe were then to occur, I could see that a whole new generation would not recall how to actually use books, much as young folks today would probably be mystified with mechanical calculators, rotary-dial telephones, manual and electric typewriters and carbon paper. If that were to occur, then there might have to be a training effort to teach younger generations to read books along with technical support, as depicted in this hilarious video on “Medieval Helpdesk …,” which you can find at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

Nevertheless, there is indeed a serious and ubiquitous concern that is highlighted by Kahle’s project. Our increasing dependency on electronic data, as well as on the storage of so much information and so many documents online, does leave us vulnerable to irretrievably-lost data. Much will not matter, but certain critical documents do need to be preserved on a universal medium, and a medium that fits the bill is indeed paper. After all, availability is a key component of security’s CIA triad, isn’t it? So as information security professionals we should be interested in, and concerned about, the phenomenon against which Kahle is so diligently working.

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