What a Cyber Attack Could Mean to You

related: Intel Chief: U.S. at Risk of Crippling Cyber Attack

February 4, 2010
By Holly Deyo

How clever is cutting border security when:

1. We already have millions of illegal immigrants pouring through the borders
2. History shows terrorists do enter through both U.S. borders and
3. In the last three days, headlines scream that it's a 'certainty" we will be hit with a new terrorist attack in '3-6 months'

They climb fences, swim the Rio Grande, walk through open-fence border areas and pay coyotes to truck them across. Some crawl through southern border tunnels, some use water routes and others, as in the case of Ahmed Ressam, simply drive into Washington through Canada.

Can opting for security laxness be anything but a deliberate act of letting down of the guard? Surely 20 million illegal aliens is evidence enough that we need more border security – not cuts.

Money consideration is a poor trade-off for national security. Government can find big $$ to send Congress to Copenhagen and waste millions on pork barrel issues and countless other spendthrift endeavors. Surely in Obama's trillion-dollar budget, he could find a few million to beef up border security.

Most of us are not looking forward to this next – and known – terrorist attack. It seems like the administration is trying to facilitate disaster instead prevent it. Not all, but some in positions of authority are treating our futures with thumb-to-nose disregard.

This should put a clear face on what's been elected to office. It's yet another reason – on an already lengthy list – to vote the bums out.

Transparency – for a Change

Have you noticed prior to Saturday's revelation how government officials danced around news of another terrorist attack? It's months or years later we hear about numerous thwarted attempts.

Today is different. There is no minimizing the threat. No brush-off of information. Even as prepared as Stan and I are, goosebumps pricked my body in trepidation.

IF terrorists perpetrate a cyber attack, you might feel like you'd be better off than in a WMD strike. Thoughts of an unknown bug contaminating our food supply, contracting some horrible disease or being paralyzed by a nerve agent is scary enough. Frankly, a nuclear detonation would be more tolerable than a "crippling" cyber attack. A nuke's painful effects would be more manageable and less enduring, ground zero aside. Fact.

Probed Like Tender Meat

For years now, we've had warning that a cyber attack might one day morph into reality. Hackers have tested utilities and caused blackouts in Central and South American and Mexico. They've already embedded malicious code in our power grid and trial runs have plagued foreign utilities. As expected, China and Russia are at the heart of U.S. power grid probes. In other arenas, China has detailed plans to disable the U.S. aircraft battle carrier fleet.

Countless millions have been stolen in banking hacks along with personal records. Part of this problem stems from people using too easy passwords like "12345" or "password".

Two years ago the Pentagon was penetrated resulting in the banning of using external hard drives and the White House suffered an "unprecedented" cyber attack. Last July the New York Stock Exchange and White House were targeted with malware. And today, Google enlisted the NSA to fight cyber attacks. China has already hacked Google's email accounts – not quite as big a drama as infrastructure, but this company is savvy to what hacking can do.

We've had more than ample warning. A cyber attack is our "unprotected back door". We've already experienced just the tip of the 'berg with denial of service (DNS) attacks and very slow internet traffic. (Part of this traffic may be attributed to heavier Net usage since more people are unemployed.)

Any of the above scenarios paints a horrible scenario, but taken together in a "crippling attack"... it's unthinkable.

What a Cyber Attack Means to You

Nearly everything you do and use each day has some connection to computers and cyberspace. Computers run all facets of banking, store inventories, check approvals. Without computers every purchase would be cash only transactions WHILE product was still available. This assumes clerks can make change without the aid of a cash register.

People depending on monthly social security or dividend checks would have a very difficult time. If you think unemployment numbers are rough now, just wait.

Internet business would be crushed. So would many brick-and-mortar establishments. No power, no product, no business.

Gas and diesel from source to station would cease. ALL utilities - zapped. You'd have no lighting, no heat, no air conditioning, no water. Garbage would pile up and sanitation - a fond memory. Most treatment plants only have enough chlorine to purify water for 5-7 days. Its automated chlorination system would shut down. Hospitals would be severely handicapped. How long would it be until medications and antibiotics were unavailable?

Police forces would be overrun with criminals and panicked people alike. Without question, martial law would be enacted immediately.

If you haven't purchased a firearm, it would be too late. Gun sales are all predicated on computer-driven background checks.

You wouldn't know what happened because there'd be no TV, no radio. Maybe there's a power outage? you wonder.

The penny drops as military troops invade every city. What's wrong? Wondering changes to dread. Something horrible has happened.

The most dependable source of information is ham operators with battery- or generator-powered units. Information would pass neighborhood to neighborhood, from other individuals that had workable receivers.

Heed the Warning

This is just a quick overview of the misery involved in a "crippling" cyber attack. Repercussions were glossed over by media in these recent announcements, lumped together under "infrastructure" targets. No one outlined how all-encompassing and devastating this is.

For your own safety and well-being, these are things you must consider . You've got a few months to get ready. This is one of these rare disasters when you get advance notice. Make the most of it.

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