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Friday, May 4, 2012

How connected are you?

I've been reading a few books on cyber security lately (don't ask), specifically Cyber War by Richard Clark, and it has really got me thinking about how vulnerable the peoples of the United States are against a major network failure or attack. What I'm talking about is of the information kind - meaning the Internet and everything connected to it. And I'm not just talking about web content and whether or not you can satisfy your Pinterest jonesin'.

The impact to daily 21st Century living would be intense. All our banking, payments, gas pumps, food distribution and much of our information and jobs depend on the Internet and its various parts. The Department of Defense, the NSA and other government agencies are working to protect government information and networks (and, for that matter, exploit other nation's vulnerabilities), but aren't doing much by way of protecting commerce and citizens.

Does your job rely on connectivity? How do you buy food, pay your bills, etc? Just protecting your immediate network won't matter much if the whole shebang is attacked. Even if you use cash or checks, the underlying bank systems are impacted.

Anyway, I'm just curious as to how much, if any, thought you've put into these vulnerabilities. I know we discuss a lot about getting off the grid, but unless you own your own home outright and grow your own food/stockpile it, you are impacted whether you like it or not.

For us, we use the web for online banking, we use credit cards for every purchase, we get all our entertainment from the web (Netflix, etc.), we get all our information from online (all newspapers, magazines, etc.) and our jobs are 100% dependent on it. How about you?

Finally, how vulnerable do you think we are? And how crippled would we be if attacked (say, by North Korea)?

4 comments:

Rivenfae said...

I have thought very hard about just this subject, so considering we do live out in the woods we have been backing up important info on paper. All of my canning recipes are getting put into a special binder. We have about 5 oil lamps and have oil for them. While if the "network" did go down the method of how we receive our money every month will wind up having major issues as like most people our money gets direct deposit.

I think the people hardest hit with that will be people like my partner Silver who have disability and don't get their money in a paper form anymore. Also how many people out there have you seen almost NEVER carrying actual cash?

I was at a garage sale once and I saw a person who had stopped by complain that they could not use their credit card because they never carry money.

It is a little scary to think that every important bit of info including the money people buy their everyday needs with could go poof in an instant.

Greenpa said...

Great minds, etc. In March Sharon had a longish post in this direction; with abundant comment, some entertainingly rancorous.

http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2012/03/ok_so_maybe_it_is_gridcrash_th.php

My personal guess is we're much more likely to have the satellites, etc, fried by a major solar ejection than by a spitball from North Korea. But- it really isn't a matter of IF; but WHEN. Just like that Richter 9 quake coming to Seattle- some day.

:-) Frabjous day!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpaps - Well, I'm not talking about a loss of electricity or a gridcrash of that nature. I'm talking about taking out the Internet backbone or otherwise disrupting or damaging the network system.

Sure, you still have power, but the data packets go nowhere or servers are overwhelmed. And, North Korea (along with China and Russia) are working quite diligently at cyber warfare.

For example, in 2009, North Korea launched a distributed denial of service attack against U.S. and South Korea sites, crippling government sites as well as the NYSE, NY Mercantile, WA Post and NASDAQ sites for several days.

Damaging? No, just disrupting. But it got our attention and gave them some critical info as to what level of botnet attacks are needed to take down those sites.

Greenpa said...

Crunchissima; guess I just leapt to my main conclusion there- which would be that the power failure scenario would be the most likely way for the net to really fail.

You're right; there are plenty of gremlins staying up nights trying to figure out how to bollix everything; but the counter-gremlins are working at about the same pace- so far. To me, because of the truly huge redundancies built in, that kind of attack seems unlikely to succeed for very long. You work in that field, though, so it does worry me that you're worried.

But; the other scenario of grid collapse- seems likely to be inevitable, once you put solar mass ejections into the equation. Just no way to predict when, at all. It's just that, like asteroid impacts, we know they've happened before; and all the things necessary for it to happen again- are right in front of us.

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