Part 3: Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks are increasing
In May 2021, there was a shutdown of Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States. The pipeline transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, including home heating oil, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The disruption caused major fuel shortages, and President Biden even declared a state of emergency.
What was the cause of this crippling shutdown? A cyberattack. The attack began when a hacker group identified as DarkSide accessed the Colonial online network. The attackers stole 100 gigabytes of data within a two-hour window. Following the data theft, the attackers infected the Colonial network with ransomware that affected many computer systems, including billing and accounting. After some terse negotiations, Colonial Pipeline paid DarkSide hackers over $4 million to get the decryption key, enabling the company’s IT staff to regain control of its systems. Colonial was able to restart pipeline operations several days later.
This event alone shows how vulnerable we are to cyberattacks. But there have been others:
In March 2011, Epsilon, an email marketing company, was attacked by e-mail with damage ranging from $255 million to $4 billion. This company is one of several that have suffered one of the costliest losses from cyber-attacks in history. Hackers and attackers stole the company’s e-mails, which could be used by criminals to inflict more damage and costs.
In 2010, Iran’s nuclear program was crippled by a malicious computer worm known as “Stuxnet.” This malware was reportedly developed by the United States and Israel. It is estimated that the Stuxnet attack destroyed over 900 uranium-enriching centrifuges, seriously damaging or at least delaying Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb.
As recently as March 2022, the Texas Tribune reported that “Russian hackers have been probing the Texas energy infrastructure for weak points in digital systems that would allow them to steal sensitive information or disrupt operations.” Of all the events we’ve described, this is the scenario that could potentially cause the most chaos in our everyday life: A power blackout.
Ted Koppel, former host of the ABC news program, “Nightline,” felt that the threat of cyberattacks to our power grid is so serious that he wrote the book “Lights Out.” Now, I’m not a big fan of a lot of the mainstream media, but on this point, I’ll give Koppel
some credit. He writes a chilling description of how a cyberattack can paralyze regions, or even an entire nation:
“Emergency generators provide pockets of light and power, but there is little running water anywhere. In cities with water towers on the roofs of high-rise buildings, gravity keeps the flow going for two, perhaps three days. When this runs out, taps go dry; toilets no longer flush. Emergency supplies of bottled water are too scarce to use for anything but drinking, and there is nowhere to replenish the supply. Disposal of human waste becomes a critical issue within days.”
“Supermarkets and pharmacy shelves are empty in a matter of hours. It is a shock to discover how quickly a city can exhaust its food supplies. Stores do not readily adapt to panic buying, and many city dwellers, accustomed to ordering out, have only scant supplies at home. There is no immediate resupply, and people become desperate.”
“Electricity is what keeps our society tethered to modern times. There are three power grids that generate and distribute electricity throughout the United States, and taking down all or any part of a grid would scatter millions of Americans in a desperate search for light, while those unable to travel would tumble back into something approximating the mid-nineteenth century.” (“Lights Out,” by Ted Koppel, © 2015 Random House).
I would only add that searching for light will be the least of peoples’ concerns. The “Golden Horde,” as described by James Rawles, will be searching desperately for food and water in a The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) scenario. Intense hunger and thirst, and the lack of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol will further fuel their desperation. Many normally calm people will no doubt turn into rabid, violent animals, once they are deprived of their normal creature comforts.
What makes a cyberattack particularly dangerous is that it could be accomplished by either a boiler room full of Russian, Iranian or North Korean hackers, or some teenaged geek munching on pizza and sitting in front of his computer in grandma’s basement. A cyberattack could come from anywhere! And if it does, the “usual suspects” can just deny they are the source. It’s called “plausible deniability.” This scenario could be very tempting for an enemy of the U.S.—a country that would want revenge against America or Europe, while avoiding the blame—and retaliatory strikes.
In the U.S., there are three power grids: The Eastern Interconnect, the Western Interconnect and the Texas Interconnect. The Western grid consists of most of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. The Eastern grid power most everything to the east of those states, and the Texas grid covers most of Texas.
Suppose that Russia, angered at the U.S. support for Ukraine, wants to take down one or all of those three grids. All a hacker needs to breach the online system of one of these grids is a username and password. Here are some common ways hackers can not only disable a power grid, but also, get your personal information, which can result in identity theft and unauthorized purchases.
Different types of cyberattacks
Here are just a few of their methods, which can target government networks, corporations or individuals:
1. “Phishing”—The hacker will send out an email blast to various users across the internet. Often the email will look like it is from a legitimate website such as a bank or something to do with Microsoft or Apple. Within the phishing email is usually a fraudulent link that when clicked on will ask you to login to “your account”. So, what looks like a legitimate login screen is fake and its sole purpose is to capture the login and password you enter. The best way to protect against this is to use two-factor authentication, with either a text message or email. You will then get a code, which you then enter to the legit website.
2. “Password Spraying”—Hackers use scripts and software which is loaded up with all the common passwords such as “password,” “12345,” etc. So, if the hacker has a list of usernames for a targeted attack, they can just plug in the username and let the password spraying software do the work. The best way to combat this is to use much more secure passwords, preferably a combination of capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
3. “Credential Stuffing”—This is when a hacker uses a database of usernames and passwords that they have obtained by purchasing it on the deep web or directly from another hacker. Usually, when you hear that there was a data breach of a company this is what they are referring to. Say a hacker was able to obtain a login for something like a credit score site. There’s not much a hacker can do by looking at your credit score. But what they can do is use those same login credentials on various websites such as PayPal or banking websites. A lot of times a person will use the same email and password on multiple websites. So, if a hacker has the login credentials for one website, there is a high probability, they will be able to use it to gain access to others. The best way to combat this is to never use the same login for multiple websites.
Whether the crime is hacking into your personal information or a regional power grid, the result can be disastrous. Take measures now to protect yourself by using different passwords and two-step authorization. If you feel led to do so, contact your local congressman and ask what he or she is doing to protect our critical infrastructure, especially power plants, from hacking. And most importantly, protect yourself by stocking up on water, water filtration, food, meds, a solar generator and other supplies. Be prepared for an extended period of time with no electricity, whether due to solar storms, an EMP, nuke or cyberattack. Prices are going up fast. Many items are getting scarce! Buy now, while you still can!
Final prep check
Though essential prep items have been covered by many articles in the past, check your preps to see if any of the following have been overlooked. Here are just a few:
1. Phototovoltaic power system with inverter.
2. Sunscreen (To protect from intense sunlight in the future)
3. Battery-powered fans
4. Battery-powered lantern
5. Large and small water filtration systems
6. Deep well hand pump
7. Large and small Faraday bags
8. Shortwave radio (place INSIDE Faraday bag!)
9. Mylar bags for beans, rice, oats, etc. and oxygen-absorbing packets
10. Canning jars for canning fruit, beans, grains, etc.
11. Multivitamins to keep the immune system healthy
12. A wide variety of stored staple foods.