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Users’ Stark Reminder: As Web Grows, It Grows Less Secure

The New York Times, By Farhad Manjoo

It was the computer programming equivalent of misspelling Mississippi — an error at once careless, inevitable and hard for most human eyes to spot.

The bug known as Heartbleed, a flaw widely replicated in the main system for encrypting consumers’ online data, is a stark reminder that the Internet is still in its youth, and vulnerable to all sorts of unseen dangers, including simple human error. Today’s digital systems are complex and penetrate every corner of our lives. It is impossible to lock them down.

“Heartbleed is further evidence that we don’t have our house in order when it comes to Internet security,” said Edward Felten, a computer security expert at Princeton University.

In some ways, the tech world today resembles the chaotic, unruly days of other essential industries, including the meatpacking industry depicted in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and the automobile business portrayed in Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed.” While those industries were made safe by a combination of regulation and industrywide cooperation, progress took time, and it came through trial and error. Read more.