Friday, December 12, 2014

Lights Out For America

One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning. - James Russell Lowell

History is a vast early warning system. - Norman Cousins

The NSA revealed recently that the US faces an inevitable “traumatic” cyber attack that will be directed at its key infrastructure.  It should be shocking news except for two things:

  1. This is not news – such warnings have existed for years.
  2. No one cares.

The reality of our situation and our dependence on technology that is fraught with security holes that can be penetrated by 15 year-olds, let alone rogue states, should be a call to action for us and those who represent us but it isn’t. 

The US is built upon 18 key infrastructures.  17 of them rely on one – electricity.

If (or when) it goes off, everything stops immediately without warning.  Cell phone towers with one day back-up batteries will die, ending communications.  Water supply systems will be unable to provide clean water.  A cash-less system will grind to a halt as people are no longer able to buy fuel, food or water.  Heating and cooling systems, transportation, security, hospitals, policing, fire control, first responder support and the like will also grind to a halt.  People on life support systems will die but in a way that may be a blessing in disguise as they may be spared from the potential chaos and carnage that results as society collapses.

In one scenario, when a country goes dark including its communication systems, aircraft in the air will have difficulty finding a safe place to land, in a land of complete darkness and out of touch with essential ground-based communication and navigation systems.  Tens of thousands of people will die as aircraft run out of fuel as pilots look in vain for a safe place to land.

And in a worst-case scenario, the US will be more vulnerable to a significant attack as it degrades into total chaos within its borders.

Somewhere in between there is the reality that our major cities rely on a just-in-time delivery system with 3-4 days of food, water and fuel on-hand, leaving us 72-96 hours away from anarchy should anything go wrong.  Such a system provides the opportunity to witness the best and worst of humanity simultaneously.

Few of us are prepared for what would ensue in such a scenario.

But this is all just fear mongering

After all, the security and technology compromises that many of us have been warning others of for years is not real.

Well … sort of … except such compromises have already happened repeatedly and will continue to happen as organizations refuse to invest appropriate levels of time, energy and money into solvable problems.

Then there is the lack of information made available to the public.  For example, there was a report made public a couple of years ago outlining how all 144 nuclear power plants in the US were vulnerable to a cyber attack but the report quickly disappeared from the public eye.  Want a copy?  Drop me a note and I will send it to you.

In recent conversations I have had with major utility players in the US, they agree there is a problem.

Do you know what their answer to the issue is?

They don’t have one.  Maybe you should call them and help them out.

Meanwhile if you want to know what you can do to prepare for an event which the NSA deems inevitable, you could start by asking your local government representative and watch one of five things happen.

  1. Your request will be met with a blank stare
  2. You will be told not to worry about it
  3. You will be told someone will get back to you and they never do
  4. You will be told that such matters are a national security matter and therefore details cannot be shared with you
  5. You will be viewed as a threat for daring to ask the question in the first place.

The difficulty with any of the responses is that you will be unable to prepare your family for what the NSA deems inevitable since you will unable to make appropriate decisions without sufficient information.

Meanwhile, our elected officials go on arguing about pork bills and such that in the grand scheme of things do nothing to serve the people.

But that’s all they can do.  They don’t have an answer to the problem either so it’s better to keep you in the dark …. literally.

I think it’s time we had a real conversation about what matters to us, what faces us and what we can do together to make our world a better and more secure place … while we still have time (something that we may be running out of).

And as you tuck your kids into bed, kiss them good night and turn off the light, imagine what kind of world we are creating for them if the lights never come back on.

Can you protect your children if such an event occurs?

I doubt it.

I think we must do better … now.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



While this post is a departure from my strategy, political, fictional or “feel good” musings, myself and many of my colleagues have grown weary of the fact that there are serious realities facing us that must be addressed and can be addressed if we put our attention to it.

Every once in a while, a cranial defibrillator is needed and thus the reason for my post.

Create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Make a difference.

The world needs your talents, skills, passion and knowledge.

What are you waiting for?

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