June 28, 2017

The Mother of All Cyber Attacks

From time to time, I write an article giving a possible scenario and ask you to consider what you would do in that situation. I then give my thoughts on what I would do in the comment section. I do this for a few reasons; first to help bring to light some of the “signs of the times”, and also to use this type of article to give you an idea of how I would respond. However, my favorite reason for this type of article is that some of you will share how you would respond!

Cyber-attack is a topic that has been on my mind for some time, and with the recent discovery of the Heartbleed vulnerability, I decided it would be a good time to cover it. While the types of attacks I’ll bring up are from my imagination, I do not think they are too far out of the realm of possibilities.

 
The Mother of All Cyber Attacks

While you are waking up, you turn the TV on to the local news, only to hear about a new cyber-attack that started taking place at roughly 2:00am. In that short amount of time, it is being reported that this attack coined “The Black Death” is reported to have affected 30% of all internet enabled computers and this number is rising quickly.

Once a computer becomes infected with the electronic plague, it installs backdoors into several well-known and trusted programs. Then the computer begins to replicate to any computer with a shared or network drive. The plague then sends infected messages to everyone in your email address book and all of your contacts in various social media on a continuous basis, re-infecting already infected computers, with a virus under a new name.

Interacting with infected programs will run executable programs that tax system resources so heavily that it will take up to ten seconds for any keyboard or mouse click to be recognized and responded to. Rebooting the computer flashes the system BIOS and the computer will only load the blue screen of death.

It is later discovered that this was just one prong of the Black Death, that the main focus of the attack was the internet itself. All infected computers join in a coordinated attack on various ISP’s and DNS servers in the largest denial of service attack in history.

The Black Death also takes advantage of a previously unknown vulnerability on switches, routers and other networking components of one of the world’s most popular brands. Routing tables that tell the router where to send information are deleted, causing the data to just drop.

As the days unfold, it is revealed that Russia and China have spent the last 10-15 years training computer programmers. Many of these well trained programmers have been hired in some of the leading IT companies. They used their position to hide malicious code in some very popular and widely used programs. Others created back doors enabling security breaches and vulnerabilities never thought possible.

Russia and China had a cyber-army waiting for these breaches to be exposed. Once they were, the very infrastructure of America was the target. The electric grid, water treatment facilities and various communications systems were all targeted with varying levels of success.

Between the denial of service attack, and corrupted routing tables, the internet is badly damaged in some places and completely broken in others. To stop the damage from spreading, the White House institutes the “Internet Kill Switch”.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

I’ll admit my scenario is a bit “out there”, but it doesn’t take something so dramatic to bring the Internet down. During the Arab spring there were countries that shut it down to stop the communication on social media sites. Many countries have very strict restrictions on it.

Aside from electricity, the internet is the single most used resource in business today. Many companies have their inventory tracking, databases, cloud storage, ordering systems and many more functions and features either hosted on the internet or communicated through it. There are some companies that would no longer exist if the internet was brought down.

How many things in your life rely on the internet? My job would be very difficult to do. This site and all others like it would not be reachable. Much of my entertainment is internet based; games, Netflix and so on. I honestly don’t know how much of our modern news is integrated with the internet. If the grid and water treatment centers were attacked, I’m not sure we would be able to tune in and watch the news.

The scenario described wouldn’t be a TEOTWAWKI event, but it would take some time and money to fix. The question becomes, how bad will things get in the interim?

See the comment section for my thoughts.

Comments

  1. Chris Ray says:

    In all honesty, without knowing exactly how far reaching the problem is, it is hard to know how to respond. If this is reported as a technological emergency, I would probably shut down the cable modem and WIFI and disconnect each computer from the home network.

    Like I said above, my job would be very difficult to do without the internet, but not impossible. I would have to head in to work to see how our IT group was handling it.

    We would see what stations were available on the TV and radio and get as much information as possible.

    I was unemployed last year, and had to request my check online each week. My guess is that other government programs are tied to the internet in some fashion as well. There could be delays to welfare and other programs.

    I do think we would see a spike in crime during this time. We live far enough away from areas that concern me, but we would keep our eyes peeled.

  2. Once a week I backup all new prepper files to a thumbdrive. I number the drive so I know what’s on it. I have an old machine with XP on it that is not connected to the internet or to my current computer. I also download to a thumbdrive all my Kindle books and computer games.
    I think if a mass virul infection is used then banking will be shut down, online trading will shut down and even Wall St. itself will shut down. Also all ATMS will shut down and banking records could be corrupted so much that the only way to restore our banking would be to rebuild from paper records. I really think by then our money would be worthless. I think the dollar would collapse.
    Medical records would also be affected.

    • donald r. simmons says:

      How do I back up my kindle books ?
      Don in Colorado drsimm@juno.com

      • Carl Rooker says:

        I got “lucky”, and was able to get a new Kindle for free. The old one I keep in an insulated and grounded metal can (with a few other things) to protect it. I just have to take it out an update it and charge the battery once in a while. If you are just worried about the ebooks on it, you can get one of the older models fairly cheaply and do the same. A solar charger for it would be a help as well.

      • Plug your Kindle into your USB port and open it like an external drive. You can find where all your ebooks are located. Find the folder on your hard drive where all your Kindle books are located. You can copy your ebooks between both devices.
        To copy your Kindle books onto a flash drive find the folder on your computer with all the Kindle books, plug in your flash drive and then copy all the books on your computer to your flash drive.
        If you have Windows 8 or 8.1 be advised that Kindle reader for windows is all messed up with both Amazon and Microsoft both claiming the other is at fault and neither one seems to be fixing the problem. There are a ton of complaints to both companies.

      • SlowBro says:

        Only some of your Kindle books are on your device. Most are stored on Amazon’s cloud servers. Don’t believe me? Look up the specs on your device and see how much internal storage your device has. For example, the brand-new Paperwhite only has 1.5GB of internal storage available for books. If you have more books than storage, they swap them out over the internet. Thus, if their servers or the internet goes down, or their servers are unreachable, there goes any of your books that aren’t stored in internal memory. If they ever take away your access or there’s a problem with your account (these things have happened), there goes _all_ of your books.

        I use a combination of the free Kindle reader app for PC, Calibre, a Calibre De-DRM and a Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader, which has been rooted so it’s a full Android. When I buy a Kindle book, I open the Kindle reader app on my PC and wait for the book to download. I then load the file that was downloaded into Calibre which has the De-DRM plugin so that it can remove the encryption and read the Kindle book. Then I convert the format to plain Jane PDF and copy to a micro SD card to plug into my Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader. I have five micro SD cards so I have oodles of storage space for my ebooks and other files.

        It’s a pain but worth it; Now all my books are backed up and always available to me. This method requires some geek knowledge, but I’ve proven it’s do-able. I currently have about 1,100 Kindle books, all converted to an open PDF format. If I wanted to I could then share those files with anyone, but I don’t share my books, for God says not to steal :-)

  3. Most of my/our prepping is not www or computer based. So we’d be mostly OK, except we’d lose some articles on our computer that were not copied & some prepper books on my kindle. But our food, water, security/weapons, & misc supplies would not be affected.

    However, our society would be be drastically altered. I suspect some com’s would consider turning off their computers, hoping a correction/patch could be soon found. Almost all retail businesses reply on computer-based cash registers. Thanks to Obamacare, all US med providers now have patient records online.

    The overall effect would seem similar to an EMP, but non-computerized & non-www electronics would be OK. Thus most solar systems, emergency radios, non-computerized med equipment, etc would not be affected. Not sure about vehicles w/ computers.

    • What would I/we do?
      First call loved ones out of our area. Pray. Get more cash from bank/ATM. Buy extra tarp (to collect rain water), extra water containers & kerosene in camping section of walmart, Prepare for possible grid down.

      I think I’m going to make a list of ways to prepare for grid down. This could be crucial.

      • Red:
        You may want to get your stuff now. All the things you listed: phones, bank, atm, stores, are all computerized, networked, and tied to the same grid that is being shut down.
        The first thing to close is your debit and credit cards. “For your safety afterall.” Do you have cash?
        There may not be electricity because the electric grid is computerized and networked. That means: no gas pumps, no lights in stores, no cash registers, no way to order inventory, no water pumped, no sewage pumped, no natural gas pumped (thanks to the new EPA regs), no 911, deliveries will stop as each truck runs out of fuel. no hospital services like xrays, mri, ct scans, life support, no tv, no refrigerators/freezers, and on and on.

  4. As a network security professional, I would say that the possibility of something like this is inevitable. One more reason to make sure you are prepared.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I come from a networking background as well. I have seen hospitals unable to send imaging data to be read because of a local internet blip.

  5. I think I need to start practicing living without computers at least one day a week. Then practice the same with electricity. My hope is to be in my bug out location before the bad stuff hits. Then I will have my food stores, wood heat, and water stored to ride it out. I still buy books, real ones to have a library, no electricity means no reading ebooks. Keep it old school!!!

    • It doesn’t take much of a solar setup to charge my Kindle or run a computer or to keep a freezer running. I have almost 2000 books on my Kindle/computer and about 200 in print. Though I know there won’t be a lot of leisure time living off the grid and if it’s a total collapse everyone will be living off grid before long. I’m sure anyone waging a cyber attack out take out the power grid.

      • Dan:
        The scenario actually seems realistic considering the technology and IT knowledge today.
        It states: ” They used their position to hide malicious code in some very popular and widely used programs. Others created back doors enabling security breaches and vulnerabilities never thought possible…”

        This would include laptops, pads, smart phones, kindles, nooks, and other portable devices that were regularly connected to the internet and updated daily with “new updates and patches” It would be easy to install a kill switch in all portable devices set to the same time or next time the machine is turned on.

        Unless it is on paper, it does not exist.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Since most municipalities have facilities using remote reporting capabilities to determine status (sanitary pump stations, water stations), it would not be long until those stations shut down due to non-communications. What would not be far behind is the rioting of city folks.

    And when the registers at Walmart go down, the inability by most, to count change manually will triple the register lines… :-)

    • LOL, it just isn’t wallyworld cashiers that can’t figure out change. I worked a second fullfime job for awhile as a night manager at a convience store and it was hard to find people who could even count their cash drawer correctly.

  7. IMHO, This is going to be very similar to an EMP. Except a lot of electronics will still work if you can use solar. My assumption is the electric grid is a primary target. It is Very old, very vulnerable and will be down also. How long? Hard to guess. It would not be a simple or easy task to go back to the old analog and mechanical system. Those components have probably been discarded or recycled. They keep the system together with duct tape, spit and bailing wire now. They don’t keep spare parts on hand. Certainly no spare computers or hard drives. The parts are built in other countries, not here. Even if they were built here, the factories will be down too. If they are doing anything to prevent this, they certainly are not advertising it.
    I made a list of what I would recommend to do now before and then after. I was not sure if anyone wants to read it.

    • Rosanne Dover says:

      Would love to see your list..please

    • I would be interested in reading your list. Would you please consider posting it here?

    • MY List:
      NOW BEFORE it happens:
      Download, and PRINT instructions and learn to do:
      1. How to make a composting toilet and deal with human waste.
      2. How to collect, filter and purify water.
      3. How to compost and garden.
      4. What to do in a pandemic and their cycles and how to quarantine (there are 3 spikes in deaths). Because of #1 above, we are going to see the re-emergence of diseases we thought were gone. Cholera, typhoid, chicken pox, small pox. Things treatable now will be deadly.
      5. Learn 1st aid and how to suture.
      6. Consider getting animals for food (chickens, rabbits, goats, etc)
      7. Learn to hunt, trap, and fish
      8. Learn basic self defense and tactics
      9. Learn multiple ways to start a fire.
      10 Learn multiple ways to cook without a stove.
      11. Learn to preserve food without refrigeration. dehydrating, canning, smoking, curing,
      12. build a root cellar.
      13. Get a solar system to run basic stuff like the refrigerator.
      14. Keep at least one computer off line and off network. Back up data.
      15. Learn, get licenced and get a ham radio.
      16. Learn to make homemade: toothpaste, laundry detergent, soap, etc.
      17. Get and learn to do things manually without electricity. i.e. laundry
      Many More

      IMMEDIATELY AFTER
      1. if plastic cards still work, spend spend spend until they stop. Then join a looting club. :-) Although if this started at 2:00 a.m. by the time you wake up, they may be cancelled already. **
      2. fill the tub or waterbob and every container with water. Before water pressure drops.
      3. Stop using the toilet to prevent back flow of sewage into your house from all pipes.
      4. Get armed and stay armed.

      SHORT TERM
      1. cook, can, dehydrate, smoke, cure everything you can from the fridge and store in your root cellar. Unless you can keep it running.
      2. Form a neighborhood watch.
      3. Use a ham radio for real news, not propaganda.
      4. As sanitation and hygiene declines, diseases will become rampant. Avoid close contact and physical contact.

      ALWAYS
      Pray, witness, hand out tracks and Bibles. (Something else to stock up)

      ** List of things with short shelf life to get at the last minute: bleach, fresh fruit and vegetables, OTC and RX drugs, cooking oil, peanut butter, yeast, wine and beer, chocolate, dog food dry, fish antibiotics, ice.

      Can you think of more?

  8. mariowen says:

    Well, you have managed to hit on yet another of my big fears! Good article here, and very thought provoking. I think if this happened, it would be too late to go to the bank or probably the store. Worthless money? Well, I suppose not at first, but things would crumble fast and soon it would tank. That may sound negative, but I don’t think it is anything but realistic.

    This economy is sitting very precariously right now. It would hardly take a breath of wind to topple it. This scenario would very likely be enough of a breath of wind to do it. So, if I need something from the bank or the store, I better get it now while the getting is good. Endless money would see me going to get truckloads of food for my livestock and pets – and the family, of course. However, endless money isn’t what I have.

    What I think would likely happen is that the government would take over all communications that remained and all you would hear would be propaganda. They would use the crisis as a means of total control over every facet of our lives. Better batten down the hatches!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Catherine says:

    I know a lot of people who have their businesses connected to the internet, and even more who have their phones always online. I think they would all go into some kind of shock and keep thinking that somebody would fix it. They would be lost, and probably be in a daze for a good while. The internet is great, but people need to learn to function without it. Not just individuals, companies and municipalities, too. I’d bet none of them have alternative set-ups. Kinda of scary, and sad, to imagine how crazy things would get without it.

  10. Think of the 104+ nuclear reactors that are operating right now.
    They have up to two weeks fuel to run operations and cooling pumps.
    Some few have mechanical pumps driven by residual steam so they will
    stay *mostly* safe for a while, I have no idea how many have been fitted
    with these non electric pumps.
    Same with hospitals, minimal operations up to two weeks on backup.

    That all aside, it would be an interesting experience if the CONUS
    isn’t irradiated.
    I keep a back up HD and spare laptop stored in a metal cabinet.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I’ve mentioned this a few times and you are spot on. in a prolonged grid down scenario, we could see many meltdowns.

    • A couple people asked me for my list, I think they was referring to the reactors that are set up for residual steam function after power loss.
      I don’t have any list, I emailed the plant in Minnesota and questioned them and the plant
      in eastern wisconsin as they are my most direct concerns but everyone
      should know any of them are a potential nation killer, for those that don’t understand
      look op: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
      the only thing they were lucky about is that that mess wasn’t located further inland.

      Back on 5/5/11 my questioning got this response to safety concerns.

      Both Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear generating plants have a series of backup systems to provide cooling water to the reactors and spent fuel pools indefinitely were the plants to lose power from the grid. Each site has two independent sources of power from the grid. In the unlikely event both sources were lost simultaneously, each reactor has two emergency diesel generators capable of supplying all the safety needs for that reactor. Each generator has enough fuel to supply all of the unit’s safety-related needs for at least a week, and we have sources available to replenish fuel if needed.

      In the unlikely event external power was not restored to an affected site within a week and we were unable to deliver additional diesel fuel to the site or if the diesel generators failed, we have battery backup systems, steam-driven turbines and stand-alone diesel-driven pumps to provide water to the reactors and pools. Monticello has at least eight independent ways to get water into the reactor core in an emergency. Prairie Island has nine different components on each unit to get water into the cores in an emergency.

      We also have extensive emergency preparedness plans and conduct frequent drills at both sites involving local, state and national emergency management officials. While Dodge County is far from our emergency planning zones, the state of Wisconsin is involved in our drills for the Prairie Island plant. Information about Wisconsin’s nuclear emergency preparedness is available at http://emergencymanagement.wi.gov/REP-GIS/ .

      Here are additional contacts if you have more questions:

      Perry Manor at Wisconsin Health Services: Perry.Manor@dhs.wisconsin.gov .

      Lisa Olson-McDonald at Wisconsin Emergency Management: Lisa.OlsonMcDonald@wisconsin.gov

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