Hacking Threatens Our Very Lives

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

We all heard about the pipeline hacking that happened about a month ago. Some Russian-based group of hackers did a ransomware attack on our country’s longest pipeline for refined petroleum products. They succeeded in getting 4.4 million dollars from the pipeline operators, for the key to unlock their malware and give control of the computer controls for that pipeline back to the company. During the week it took to get everything straightened out, there were massive shortages of gasoline, aviation fuel and other petroleum products from East Texas all the way across the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard.

This could be seen as an isolated incident, except it has happened again; this time taking over the computers of a company that provides 20% of the nation’s beef, as well as other meat and poultry products. That situation is playing out as I write this, but company officials are positive, saying that they were ready for such an attack. But were they?

My son is a network engineer, specializing in network security for a major petroleum company, so I have an inside source. According to him, most companies cyber-security is a joke. Hackers don’t have any problem getting in, because their systems aren’t up to date.

To be fair to these companies, they’re faced with a difficult problem. Most have a lot of old facilities, with a lot of old computer systems. Upgrading everything for the purpose of making it more secure is an expensive process, as well as being a nightmare for the operations people who depend on those computer systems. The work is usually done piecemeal, so there may very well be some parts done, while others leave a door wide open for hackers to get in.

Right now, it looks like we’re seeing the beginning of a new trend in cyber-crime. With the success that the hacker group DarkSide had in getting money out of Colonial Pipeline, hackers are going to be even more motivated to try their hand at inserting ransomware into corporate America’s computers, taking control and holding those computer systems for ransom.

This may seem like it doesn’t affect you and I, but it does. We are all highly dependent on a massive and massively complex network of supply chains, bringing us all sorts of goods that we use every day. While we can all get by without having to buy a new pair of shoes or watch, we aren’t going to do so well getting by without electricity, gasoline, food or water. Just think how much pressure there would be on your local municipal water authority to pay the hackers if the city water was out in your city.

What this means is that you and I need to be ready for almost anything we depend on coming to a sudden stop at any point in time. Considering that the hackers have the advantage of attack and that most companies and utility providers aren’t as prepared for those attacks as they should be, there’s a good chance that these attacks will continue to be effective. And there’s absolutely nothing that any of us can do to stop them.

I’m sure that companies who are witnessing what’s happening are getting scared and putting their IT departments to work, trying to find ways of protecting them. Even so, that’s an expensive process, as it not only requires buying new equipment, but probably reconfiguring their entire network to work with that new equipment. My son does this all the time and he literally has years of work ahead of him, in order to get his company to the point where they are fully protected. But by the time he can do that, the fixes he puts into place today will be obsolete and need replacing to keep up with the technical advances of the hackers.

Putting that another way; the world just got a little bit more dangerous. But it did it in a way that we don’t have the ability to defend ourselves from. This isn’t the type of problem that can be solved with guns and training. It’s the kind that we have to in others for our defense; and those others will be quick to tell you that they can’t protect themselves, let alone protecting you and I.

That takes us back to having a plan B for when systems fail. Whether the next attack is against our food supplies, water, fuel, electricity or whatever, we’re going to have to be ready to make it through without those necessities. Fortunately, if things follow the same pattern, we’re only going to need to be ready to do without for about a week, before the ransom is paid and things are back online again.

I keep saying we need to keep our powder dry and our survival gear close at hand. Looks like I’m right. But we’d better make sure there’s plenty of food and water in those packs as well.

Dr. Rich

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