“I am just a regular cybersecurity engineer by Google”, says Larry to his friend Steve. Steve is 34 years old and has worked a long time for Apple in Cupertino as software developer but he quit his job and is now unemployed. He and Larry studied computer science at Harvard university but they have known each other since much earlier. As children they were neighbors who had together learned how to program a computer. Both were fascinated by computers but in different areas. Larry was more focused on security and Steve on development, this combination should change the future.
“You are the best cybersecurity engineer who I know! And you are a Hacktivist by Anonymous.” responds Steve.
Larry: “Thanks, recently we at Anonymous hacked IS websites and published jokes on them to make them ridiculous. In the future we want to improve our society.”
Larry: “Through the internet. Today almost everyone is in social networks, but these network aren’t social in many ways. The CEOs behind the networks want money, not social improvement and our friends in these networks often aren’t really friends. The biggest issue is maybe the anonymity which allows people to say bad things about others but in real life they haven’t the courage to do this.”
Steve: “That’s right. Messenger is good for communication with known people but these social networks are mostly only time-wasting websites. Some people think they need to publish their whole life for, I don’t know for what, but who cares about what they have eaten?”
Larry: “If you also think so about social networks, you can help to hack them.”
Steve: “Ok, I have nothing to do anyway so I will help.”
Larry: “Great, but it will take a long time to hack all networks. There are Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. The other ones aren’t so bad.”
Steve: “But what we will do if we gained access to these websites? Shut them down? Leave a message? Delete data? We need a good plan. I can ask Sara, she studied social science at Harvard.“
Larry: “Is she trustworthy?”
Steve: “Yes, but we don’t need to tell her our plan.”
Larry: “That’s right. If it’s possible we can meet tomorrow at 10 PM at the beach cafe near the campus and by the way don’t tell anyone about this plan. It’s not legal and we could go into jail for it.”
Steve: “I know, I will send a message if it’s possible. Bye.”
On the next day in the afternoon Larry, Steve and Sara meet at the beach cafe.
Sara: “Hey Larry, are you still working for Google?”
Larry: “Yes, I do. And you?”
Sara: “I have recently written my master-thesis about social networks”
Larry: “That sounds interesting, we want to know more about social networks. How can they be improved?”
Sara: “Social Networks need to be more social. The problem is that humans often aren’t so social as we think. There are many racists, sexists and other -ists. It’s natural that humans with the same opinion act as a group which gave them more power to do things which they never would do alone. Social Networks are perfect to look for like-minded people. This isn’t a bad thing cause you can also find new friends by finding similar people. Many social networks have an algorithm which recommend similar people as friends.”
Steve: “If people communicated more with different people maybe the problem with this grouping would be less strong and humans would be more tolerant.”
Sara: “Maybe, but why should you communicate more with different people? They don’t share your interests and your opinions. That’s a problem of individuality, but if friends weren’t only recommended on the basis of such obvious factors as age, origin and likes and instead according to more personal criteria such as favorite colour or favorite books, a higher randomness would occur but the grouping would be less strong.”
Larry: “That’s right, today the matching of similar people is very good by big networks because of their big data analysis, that’s why no new networks without a good algorithm have a chance to become popular. Google is the leading company of data analysis and their services will become better and better adapted to our personality. Today everyone gets different advertisements because we publish our interests. Mostly this happens indirectly by analysing your browser history or you liked products but intelligent algorithms are so strong today that a like can be associated with many other not so obvious interests with statistics.”
Steve: “That’s very frightening. Before the internet everyone saw the same but with more and more technology everyone would have be limited to their own world. Globalisation also disconnects us from each other. Will we in 20 years with VR and AR still be as open for others as today?”
Sara: “That’s the question we can’t answer. Sorry but I must leave you.”
Larry: “Ok, bye maybe we’ll meet again.”
Steve: “Bye Sara, thanks for you coming”
Sara: “No problem, it was a very interesting discussion.”
Steve: “So now I have an idea what we should do.”
Steve: “It’s very easy. We must shut down the networks and make their data unreadable. At the end we leave a message like: Try to make these great networks better. No more nonsense (stupid comments and posts, foot pictures).”
Larry: “That will be hard to manage.”
Steve: “We should try it.”
The search for vulnerabilities in the networks was hard. Facebook’s vulnerability would allow hackers to take full access of the network, but by Google’s network it was harder to find a leak. Both networks have redundant backups and also an offline backup. The offline backup is written on magnet bands and so not possible to delete. But if the air condition in the warehouse were hacked and the temperature increased to 50°C, the magnet bands would melt.
After one year of preparation and research, the hack is ready to start. Only one button needs to be clicked to change the world. Would you do it?
What will happen without social networks for at least a week? Will the economy collapse?
Larry’s last thought before he clicked the button was, will it really work?
In the next hours the networks have problems with unreadable data, because Larry and Steve had the idea of encrypting the whole network with an unknown key, so that never could anyone decrypt the data again.
After three hours, Facebook, Google Plus and also Twitter wasn’t reachable. Because everyone communicated now on Messenger, services like WhatsApp had problems with the heavy load. Ten hours after the hack the CEOs published the information that they had been hacked and all data had been encrypted and they were working on the decryption. But Larry knew that this would never happen, they had the data encrypted with AES-256, a encryption which was unhackable and would take billions of years to find the key.
After a week, the economy normalized, the Dax and Dow Jones which had lost 50% began again to increase. The networks are now again online and the users seem to hear on the message. But will we choose to be more social, or is it a problem of our humanity?