Business as a whole is moving to the digital realm, but this movement has some serious drawbacks related to technology failures. Shortcomings have been exposed in electronic systems, and it does not appear that the world is ready for a complete transformation to virtualized transactions and communication. 

Specifically, the stock market and health care providers have recently experienced several of the detrimental effects that often come with exclusively digital platforms. As personal data is stored in the cloud in increasing volume, it becomes more susceptible to being hacked or lost forever. 

NYSE shuts down for hours due to computer failure
On July 8, the New York Stock Exchange was forced to shut down for about four hours in the middle of a business day due to technological issues, The New York Times reported. The source questioned the apparently delicate nature of automated systems in the business world, as they continue to replace people who previously completed their functions. Though virtual trading has offered new opportunities to stock brokers in terms of efficiency and speed, there is no doubt that these kind of technical issues can hinder the market – and possibly slow the economic growth that has emerged in recent years.

The Times recalled other such failures – for example, a technical problem kept United Airlines flights from taking off for two hours on the same day as the NYSE setback, the Nasdaq stock market had a similar software bug in 2013 and was nonfunctional for three hours, and in 2012 and a software glitch at Knight Capital Group caused losses of $440 million in one day. 

A person familiar with the happenings told The Times that NYSE employees expressed fear that they had lost control of the automated trading system as the events transpired, though these worries were later quelled when the software was restored. However, the system did require a complete shutdown due to a bug that could not be corrected while it was running, compromising the ability of the stock exchange to function with any sort of regularity. 

Traders who had been in business for decades told The Times that despite the supposed increase efficiency afforded by virtual trading, shutdowns due to technological failures simply never happened before the system had been implemented. Indeed, in-person trading is seemingly the only way to guarantee the absence of computer-related issues, though it appears highly unlikely that the NYSE would ever consider returning to its formerly dominant platform. 

Health care data breaches are on the rise
Forbes contributor Dan Munro warned that an increasing number of hospitals, doctors' offices and nursing homes, among other health care facilities, are using the cloud to store important medical records. This development that was intended to provide flexibility and ease of use to doctors and nurses has completely backfired, and now patients' information is at risk. Munro pointed to the 96 million records that were stolen in three recent highly-publicized cases alone over the course of a year as evidence of the lack of security surrounding cloud-based data. 

He elaborated on the risk at hand for those whose medical records are being stored in the cloud, arguing that hackers often have inherent advantages over security teams. While attackers can target one specific vulnerability and exploit it to open the floodgates of data theft, those attempting to protect the files have to be constantly monitoring every facet of the security strategy. To make a long story short, the defenders often do not know where an attack will occur, meaning hackers have the strategic upper hand in the form of the element of surprise. 

Munro further lamented that some of the more advanced hacking techniques do not simply try to make a breach, which will alert the security team. Rather, he said, they use sophisticated tools to gain access to authorized account information, and infiltrate the system from the inside. It is a complex and, at times, undetectable approach that has caused great pain in the health care sector to this point. 

The worst part, Munro suggested, is the sheer number of cloud solutions that health care providers employ. Each organization uses 928 different cloud services on average, and almost 93 percent of them are either considered high-risk or medium-risk, according to a statistics from Skyhigh Networks that Munro cited. 

Computers have aided the business world in a multitude of areas, but in some facets, they seem to have caused more harm than good. The inherent security risks that come with virtualization are proving to not necessarily be worth the upsides, as medical records are being stolen frequently and the stock trading industry has experienced technological failures that have caused shutdowns for hours at a time. This wasted business time can lead to severe revenue loss, putting the economy as a whole in a compromised position. The theft of data from health care providers should be very alarming for patients and families alike, as their personal information could be at risk.