December 18, 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.