The risks of a big man-made IT disaster are on the rise

IT services are but one human error away from a spectacular failure, and there's very little evidence to suggest that we've found a way to stop people from making mistakes.

There's scant evidence that process improvements, security training or technology advances are reducing human errors in IT operations. If anything, the risk of technology disasters is growing, despite the industry's best efforts.

Security breaches and IT outages are getting bigger and they're getting worse: The number of people at risk of being affected by each new incident is on the rise because of our growing interconnectedness.

The Root of the Problem

The common point of failure in just about every incident? Human error. People are responsible in some way for most IT disasters. That has led to increased interest in artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools, among other technologies, in hopes of bolstering security and reliability. But new technologies and methodologies bring new risks. As physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking recently noted: "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

An A.I.-orchestrated destruction of the human race would indeed be the biggest IT failure ever. But given the ongoing and seemingly unstoppable streams of information security failures, that might be a gamble worth taking.

The evidence is stark: In just the past several months, 800,000 records from the U.S. Postal Service were compromised by intruders, a breach of Home Depot's systems put 56 million payment cards at risk, and 76 million names and addresses were stolen from JPMorgan Chase. Oh, and in August, security services provider Hold Security estimated that a Russian criminal gang, the CyberVors, had stolen more than 1.2 billion unique sets of emails and passwords from 420,000 Web and FTP sites.

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