News has been going around the web with hacker group Anonymous threatening to wipe Israel off the internet with an "Electronic Holocaust." But is this really possible to wipe off a country from cyberspace? Let's examine that possibility.
The only possible way to remove all country related content from cyberspace is to know the credentials to all servers on the planet. Then to write automated software that scans existing and any newly uploaded web pages for particular keywords and deletes all content associated with them. This type of virus would need to be completely undetectable and widespread. This of course is very unlikely and unrealistic. There are several major factors which need to be considered before determining the answer.
The Deep Web
The Deep Web is the part of the World Wide Web that is inaccessible to everyday users. Content from the Deep Web is not discoverable by the means of standard search engines. The Deep Web usually involves the use of Tor which can display ".onion" websites that standard browsers can't access.
"When you surf the Web, you really are just floating at the surface. Dive below and there are tens of trillions of pages -- an unfathomable number -- that most people have never seen. They include everything from boring statistics to human body parts for sale (illegally)."
– Jose Pagliery, The Deep Web you don't know about, CNN Money
There is a colossal amount of unknown content in the Deep Web ocean. How can you delete something if you don't know it exists?
Cached Pages and Archives
Chances are that your favorite browser stores contents from web pages on your device known as cache to speed up page loading next time you visit the site. Cache can be stored temporarily or archived for years. Besides your device, there are three major players in the web cache game. They are Google Cache, CoralCDN, and Archive.org.
To view a cached page in Google, copy and paste this link:
<website> with the name of the site you'd like to view. Go ahead, try it for yourself or use cachedpages.com as a handy tool.
Archive.org not only caches pages but keeps them saved over time. Pages can go way back as decades. There are 456 billion saved web pages at the moment.
"But where is that data stored?" you might ask yourself. Here's the response on the Archive.org Faqs page:
All data created using the Archive-It service is hosted and stored by the Internet Archive. We store two copies online and are working with partners to have redundant copies in other locations. Partners can also request a copy of their data for local use and preservation to be shipped either on a hard drive or over the internet.
Copies of data can exist in many locations without network access. There are more than 2 billion people using the internet everyday. Who's to say that a percentage of them are not storing cached content related to a country? This brings us to the next point.
Backups and External Media
Companies usually backup all of their data periodically to prevent data loss in an event of hard disk failure. While there are many forms of backing up data, tape backup is one of the preferred methods. These tape cartridges can be safely stored in locations without being hooked up electronically. There is no way of knowing what content might be on them.
If anyone can save a web page for offline access, anyone can save it to external media such as flash drive, microSD card, hard drive, or CD/DVD media. This raises several questions. Take a CD/DVD media for example. How can you know what's on the CD/DVD without reading it? How can you read it without being in possession of it? How can you be in possession of it if you don't know where it is? If you don't know where it is, how can you delete the contents from it?
External media can be stored anywhere including your own private home or inside a safe. It's not possible to remotely access the media to check if its contents are country related. These backups can simply be reuploaded to cyberspace anytime. There is always a chance that there will be encrypted and password protected content stored on backups and external media.
Encrypted and Password Protected Content
Sites have password protected content which is inaccessible without a login. Take your email account or Facebook profile as an example. Web developers can password protect directories to prevent unauthorized access to specific parts of a site. Encrypted content can also be stored anywhere in cyberspace including the Deep Web. It can be archived and located in backups and external media.
The credentials would need to be acquired in order to check if the contents behind the encryption are related to a country. With the amount of digital data in the universe, it is just not possible to bypass all encrypted and password protected content especially if it is stored in an unknown location.
Now that we've examined the possibility, what do you think? Can a country really be wiped off the internet? Share your thoughts in the comments section.