Computers are risky, but don't get 'carried away' with fear, experts say

Artificial intelligence

Whether computers break down or are broken into, chaos often follows.

A month ago, on July 8, all trading on the New York Stock Exchange was halted for three hours. Virtually at the same time, United Airlines grounded all flights worldwide for two hours. Although many feared hackers could be the culprits, both events were blamed on computer glitches.

In an interview with CNBC, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Andrew McAfee says while people were right to worry about data security, people shouldn't always fear skulduggery—even in a turbulent and hack-prone world.

"Let's not get carried away," McAfee—co-founder of MIT's Initiative on the Digital Economy—told "On the Money." He added that "complex interdependent systems fail. They always have and they will continue to do that."

Yet there is little doubt that hacking fears are justified, with data theft increasing and breaches multiplying. According to digital security firm Gemalto, 1 billion data records were stolen in 1,500 attacks in 2014. That's a 78 percent increase in the number of records compromised from the previous year. Meanwhile, a recent study estimated that hacking costs at least $375 billion a year.

McAfee, however, said it is part of the trade-off between convenience and data security. He said that you "can't make a completely reliable computer system. These crashes are the price we pay for having these systems. I think that's a price worth paying."

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