Yahoo! was offline for three hours today. An organized group of hackers apparently sabotaged the site this morning. Since it's the most popular site on the Internet, this was a demonstration of how vulnerable anyone relying on technology is, in the end.
We are at the mercy of the ethically challenged geeks who have less regard for their fellow human beings than they do for their capacity to manipulate. They are mesmerized by their own ability to write code that will make the Net do what they want, affecting the lives of millions of people. It doesn't seem likely that they'll stop at this, either. If they did this to demonstrate their power, they've succeeded in getting the world's attention. But to do anything less intrusive as their next stunt would be a step backward, and they'd see it as an admission that they had reached the limit of their ability.
Since this kind of person doesn't think his ability has limits, the next target has to be bigger, and the result has to be more damaging. This is a criminal act that should be pursued and punished as vigorously as any other crime. At some point, lives will be at stake, when power grids go down and hospitals are unable to treat critical patients. The capabilities of these kinds of people are mind-boggling, and their capacity to pull it off, in spite of the destruction they are deliberately responsible for, is frightening.
Let's say I'm wrong. Let's say this was a one-time work of mischief by a group just trying to see if they can do it. (This is highly improbable, but let's say it.) Even if this had been a mere prank, it could easily serve as a challenge to the next group of terrorists, who might have a more sinister agenda. I don't think it's unreasonable or paranoid to say that this kind of behavior is destructive to the fabric of society, which is tenuous enough these days.
There are too many of us, and we must live too closely together, to allow the social contract to be endangered on this level. Look at any high school to see how overcrowding threatens our ability to deal with each other peaceably. Anything requiring that much effort shouldn't be compromised on the whim of an outsider with nothing better to do.