Today’s date is recognized as 12-12-12 in many parts of the world. To those who are superstitious, this happenstance — along with the fact that this will be the last sequential date of this century — indicates a variety of potentialities. Some are celebrating the date; others are fretting over it. Twitter’s list of trends currently includes several variations on the 12:12:12 theme, including (at the time of my writing this) the phrase “Happy 12:12” as being one of the most-mentioned topics, and the tag #Best12 at the top of the tags list. There’s even a #Brady121212 tag currently within the top ten trends in the US. Who would’ve guessed that an NFL football quarterback would be associated with perhaps the most significant sequential date of our century?
Then there are the less superstitious — folks like me who usually find all the End of the World chatter entertaining some days while absolutely annoying on others. I’ve on occasion enjoyed listening, as I lay in the dark drifting off to sleep, late night talk radio discussions about the upcoming “apocalypse.” But honestly, I can’t even remember if it’s the Aztecs or the Mayans who have a calendar resetting this month, and from what I understand, the indigenous peoples of South America feel we’re all being a bit silly about the simple business of their calendar resetting. (They see the calendar as ending its current cycle, only to to begin anew. They don’t see it as The End of Time — at least, not in the way the fearmongers among us would have us believe.)
I have to admit, however, that the year 1999 was an interesting one. All the talk about the Year 2000 problem (more commonly referred to as Y2K, which is more ominous sounding) had me a bit more concerned, because there seemed to be an actual possibility that the stuff was going to hit the fan. I didn’t believe it was going to be the end of the world or anything, but I did think we might see far more network downtime and computer-related mishaps than we actually did end up experiencing. The turning over of digital clocks from one millennium to the next was an actual issue that perhaps hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of people worked on resolving. The issue was a real one; the notion that the end of civilization would come with it turned out to be far exaggerated (though some would still argue that the only reason we didn’t see a more disastrous outcome is because we worked on resolving the issue enough to avoid a catastrophic outcome).
Today, at 12 minutes and 12.12 seconds past noon far out in the Pacific Ocean, in the final timezone that generally recognizes today’s date as 12-12-12, a group of notable hackers who have in the past demonstrated their proficiency at wreaking havoc are promising to unleash a swarm of destruction upon all the major “clouds” that contain our data, including the ones run by Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Dropbox (as well as a number of other less widely used services). The hackers have promised to destroy a considerable portion of the data stored by users like you and me — data we’ve come to rely upon in our daily dealings with the Internet. Many of us who’ve come to rely and trust the Web servers operated by companies we’ve come to trust with our data are using them as our exclusive means of backup, preferring to have our music, our videos, our family photos, and tax records and finances stored to remote servers rather than on our home networks. In a world in which the majority of computing devices are now portable, it’s simply much more efficient (and fun!) to be able to access and manage our data from wherever in the world we happen to be on any given day.
The scenario I’ve presented in the preceding paragraph is fictional. To my knowledge, no capable group of hackers has announced its intention to hack or damage any of the services I’ve mentioned in any way. Yet imagine this had been a real threat; would you have made any attempt at protecting your data as the promised event approached? Would you have backed up your data locally (and offline), just in case the hackers’ pronouncements turned out to be true? Would you have stored your data in more than one location offline — say, one backup of all your data on a drive stored at home, another stored in a vault somewhere offsite — in order to ensure your data was safely preserved?