Will Cyber Criminals Run The World?

World dominance isn't so easily won, but that hasn't stopped the spies and the nerds from waging a bitter war over encryption technology

Picture this scene from the near future: organized crime gets hold of encryption technology so powerful even IRS supercomputers can't crack it. An underground electronic economy emerges, invisible to U.S. tax code. The Federal Government, unable to replenish its coffers, let alone fund a standing army, shrinks until it wields about as much power as a local zoning board. Militias and gangs take over, setting up checkpoints at state borders and demanding tribute of all who pass.

This scenario, in which crypto-wielding cybercriminals take over the world, has become a standard plot device in turn-of-the-century science fiction. I've even used it...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!