GridCrash: Instant Chaos, Just Add Code

With all the recent attention about cyberterrorism flowing from the popular media’s kitchen sink approach to journalism, I computer virusthought it an appropriate time to address the very real possibility of an instantaneous GridCrash. And what makes a GridCrash so frightening is that it can happen without any warning, under a clear blue sky, in the middle of any day, and carries with it an unlimited supply of unpredictable downstream events. One second there is power and water and information. Then next second you’re Dark, Dry, and Dumb.

By Doc Montana, a contributing author of Survival Cache and SHTFBlog

What Normal Is

Today’s “normal” is housed in little more than a constant stream of ones and zeros that every computer everywhere consumes at a record rate even if the source of the numbers is highly questionable.  Add to that the massive arrogance and overconfidence held by those at the top of the computing food chain and you can easily see that this recipe for disaster is already in the oven baking away on broil.  The magnitude of this threat is so mind boggling that the shear weight of the implications are paralyzing to the point of indifference.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are so far down this rabbit hole that even if it does not cave in on us through malice, it will cave in under its own weight no matter what.

Sony’s recent woes are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but they are also a useful wake up call to prepare for the most massive computer crashsudden kind of crash that produces no sound. Even worse, a crash might actually be a safer stop than what is likely to happen where we are terrorized first then we crash. The vast underestimation of North Korea’s cyber-capabilities, regardless of who is truly behind the wheel, is evidence enough to worry that this current ‘beta test’ is a dry run for all potentially malicious digital actions whether directly related or not.

Data breaches like those of Target, Home Depot, AOL, the US Government, and just about everyone else whether you were informed about it or not, are child’s play in the big picture. Got a pile of SS numbers and bank info? Well goodie for you. Lost personal data is like graffiti.  But when the keys to modern civilization’s kingdom go missing, we know it’s not a drill.

The Scary Parts

First, like identity theft the only way cyber trespassing is detected is after it happened. I can rattle off a pile of statistics, but since you are the likely recipient of  letter informing you of a data breach involving your personal information, you already know this is both real and out of control not to mention seemingly without any punishment to those who collected and then lost our data.

Second, if you heard about it, then its no longer internally contained and thus raging so far out of control that the PR nightmare and stock price drop will no longer deter the silence.

Third, the victim is at the mercy of the criminal’s word when it comes to the extent of the damage, and there is no way the criminal is going to show his complete hand. Instead, that fist full of aces will be thrown down over time and as needed. All we can do is watch and wait.

Consider North Korea’s threats. If they pulled off the biggest cyber-coup since the dawn of the microchip, then pretending their Field Salesthreats are idle is foolish at best.  Strange thing about N. Korea, it is so far behind in all our measures of progress that of all the places on this planet, it is the one that seems the most contradictory when it comes to cyber-crime. It’s almost as if the mild mannered owner of the local burger joint runs the biggest meth dealership west of the Mississippi.

And forth, the downstream implications of a massive and malicious cyber-takeover are literally unimaginable due to the infinite number of combinations of outcomes. The forest of fault-trees has never been logged so we have absolutely no idea how this will play out. And no doubt the sugar coated outcomes delivered to Congress have made this sound like a vote-able choice was involved somewhere.  Making matters worse is that those who are paid the big bucks to think about this stuff have won’t share much info with us peasants. Not that it will make much difference, but it would certainly help.

Also Read: Lights Out

Remember the big push to outfit all Americans with duct tape, bottled water, and plastic sheeting?  Well, that list should have Doomsday Prepperincluded some additional items like tax breaks for preppers, survivalist literature displays at the post office and DMV, city council meeting updates on public survival education and supply channel backups, and most importantly, a candid and honest assessment of the risks given our current infrastructure. Since we are all relying on each other to do the job right the first time, and we know that rarely happens, we should build into our GridCrash plans the fact that things will be much worse much faster than what the red three-ring binder sitting on the shelf would lead you to believe. This will not be a slow whimper into darkness. It will be an instantaneous cyber shock wave that will leave everyone with their mouth open and their ears ringing.

So take a moment right now and think Boom! It’s over.  It’s not an EMP so your car will run through the gas you have on hand. Anything not relying on the water/electric/gas/financial/communication/medical/logistics grid will continue to function for a while, but that’s only the stuff you can touch with a 10-foot pole.  The rest is gone.  Vaporized.  Or worse.

The physical world is still here and just the same as two seconds ago.  What is different is that our modern society is not only held together with ones and zeros, but so much of our collective knowledge base is kept in those weightless digits as well.  The announcement from the White House stating that the Sony data breach is a national security issue means we are officially one small step behind North Korea, and one giant leap away from being able to do anything about it.

Well of course its a national security issue. What isn’t? But this is so much different than a traditional physical threat. This current “issue” is like a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. The time for threat is gone. That ship sailed when Sony sin’s went public. The truth is we have no idea how, where, when, exactly who, why, and the biggest question of what. Chasing hope in a crime scene is not encouraging.  So on to plan B.

Regret Will Be Expensive

Make no mistake.  This is big.  When cell phones and computers go dark, we will be shocked and confused.  When water, Computer Virus Attackpower and food stop flowing, we will be scared and angry.  When the bullets start flying, we will be on our own. Remember all those good intentions of forming a neighborhood network of like-minds, all those survival items sitting in your Amazon shopping cart, all those additional cans of food you were going to buy soon?  Guess what?   You blew it. Yup, you screwed the pooch. May I ask why? Not that it matters now, but I’m just curious. Did you really believe that you would have any more of head start on this then you do now? The alarms have gone off. The lights are flashing. The doors are slowly closing. And its all in the headlines.

Look in the mirror. And then fish or cut bait. If you are waiting for someone to tell you what to do, well then I will right now. Follow this simple list:

  1. Get scared.
  2. Get food.
  3. Get water.
  4. Get protection.
  5. Get a clue.

This website and Survivalcache.com are jam packed with advice, gear, perspectives, solutions, and of course clues for unfriendly times.  But none of it matters if you don’t pull your head and your family out of the sand and do something. Anything is better than nothing, and you are much smarter than the average bear since you’ve read this far.  Its time to do some serious preparation.

Let’s, for a moment, let our imaginations run amok with near-Sci Fi scenarios of cyber-terrorism that, unbelievably, are actually already in play.  Consider for a moment what would happen if many of the cheap home wireless routers, internet TV appliances, and cheap no-name computers had malicious code baked into them at point of manufacture. Hardly a stretch. In fact there are cases where network devices were contaminated right out of the box.  The moment it was plugged in, it began its nefarious activities.  Now consider how many consumers could care less where the electronic device came from as long as its cheap or a Black Friday blowout sale.

Or how about data storage devices with on-board malicious code that automatically writes bad stuff to any media inserted into it. Or the very media (CD, DVD, USB, Etc.) that are shipped infected.  Maybe the code is dormant until a certain date, or maybe personal info is captured and sent to who knows where, never detected for years.  Even if we suddenly wanted to protect our grid, we can’t. That train left the station the moment you plugged in the cord.

Finally, imagine if a black market outpost was not full of arms dealers, but instead packed with a clean-cut suit-wearing business types selling stolen and mutated computer viruses.  When a virus, worm or operating system vulnerability is created or discovered, it could be worth millions of dollars. But unlike actual weapons made of molecules, digital weapons can be shared instantaneously all over the world, and an infinite number of perfect copies can be made from just one.  What if one AK47 could be instantly transformed into thousands or millions of AKs.  All you need is one gun and you can outfit an army. Oh, and that AK can be emailed.

Given the swift response the US made to N. Korea, I imagine that much of our current grid and network protection comes from a old-school MAD mentality rather than perfect security.  MAD, if you recall is a nuclear annihilation model where you assure the destruction of your enemy if they are so stupid to annihilate you.  Perhaps those in the top-floor offices believe that nobody is dumb enough to destroy another country’s grid because it will result in the immediate destruction of their own grid.  Hmm.  I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for that to work very much longer.  Finding a digital-suicide bomber is only a matter of time.

However, if it’s any consolation, I offer this one-time opportunity to our readers.  Should you find yourself in a GridCrash, just head Montanaward and make sure to identify yourself as a SHTFblog.com reader or a fan of Survival Cache.  Should you happen to stumble upon my land, I will welcome you with open arms.  You see most of the essentials of modern life are still just interesting conveniences out here in wild Montana.

Photos By:
Danie Merwe
Robert Benner
Leif K-Brooks

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24 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle February 4, 2015, 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the kind invite Doc,
    but I’d never make it there. Pennsylvania is stuck with me for the duration. why have I waited too late to give up armchair survivalism,
    and get truly prepared? it’s mostly the money.
    Living paycheck to paycheck is just too thrilling…
    what would I do with all that peace of mind you’d have from being prepared? I’m sure I’d get bored.

    Reply
    • Doc Montana February 4, 2015, 4:08 pm

      Hi irishdutchuncle

      Thanks for the read. Don’t forget that my offer goes for your family and friends as well.

      Odd twist however. Seems Montana is second only to Alaska in most iPhone users per smartphone capita. Weird since we only got 3G here a year or two ago. And our cell phone coverage maps look like a chess board at best. Maybe it is just our inbred desire for high quality. Don’t bother it it ain’t proven, I guess, even if you cannot use all the features.

      Reply
  • Odd Questioner February 5, 2015, 1:23 am

    One thing to consider (devil’s advocate time, please be kind, but…)

    Look up SCADA. Exactly as I typed it.

    Good news: it tends to weed out the uglier parts of cracking and all of the network-borne intrusions.

    Bad news: not all utilities implement it uniformly, and it doesn’t stop inside-jobs, social engineering, or the occasional infected USB geek-stick.

    Reply
  • messenger February 5, 2015, 2:10 am

    You are one scary dude! Thanks for the article and it did me a lot of good. I have about three grand to spare before going below my savings limit this month and was thinking about just sitting on it and increasing my bottom line. Not now, come daylight I’m off for some more prepper supplies. Thanks again and Christ bless.

    Reply
    • irishdutchuncle February 5, 2015, 4:40 am

      cash in the bank is great, but, sometimes you really do need to spend some of it. I have nearly all of my assets in tangibles. but I can’t do it all myself. sometimes it’s better to pay someone else for his services… carpenters, electricians, plumbers, or a good, honest mechanic, come to mind. get a job that needs doing, done right, done now. (while the cash is still worth something)

      Reply
  • Pineslayer February 6, 2015, 1:48 pm

    Which would be worse, an immediate crash or a slow decline that never stops? I ask myself this question a lot. Either way, I try and get a little more prepared everyday.

    Is it possible to get the majority of Americans to at least consider the possibility of a crash, without sounding like a doomsday prophet?

    Reply
    • Doc Montana February 6, 2015, 6:23 pm

      Hmmm, good question; to be boiled slowly or dropped into the fire?

      Either way I think the personal psychology of most folks would place the comprehension of a true collapse far beyond anything they would want to prepare for. Kind of like those who would rather face a bomb blast head on then make a diving leap behind even a mild form of protection.

      I think there is an element of Darwinism in play but there is plenty of historical precedent as evidence that others’ bad decisions can destroy the best made plans of others.

      Doomsdays, until it arrives, is all in the delivery. I expect that it’s not the message, but the messenger since there are plenty of well-respected high-ranking professionals who share the doomsday prep message, but it goes mostly unnoticed because the worries are not expressed in a voice full of panic.

      I’m doing my part. You’re doing yours. What else can we do?

      Reply
    • irishdutchuncle February 7, 2015, 4:34 am

      they will notice, when the TV goes blank.
      there is nothing more we can do for them. Try to be out of town before the local crash. (we’re already in that decline)

      Reply
    • Odd Questioner February 7, 2015, 10:42 pm

      According to history, most collapses tend to sneak up on Joe Citizen, until one day…

      – …stuff simply stops working (think utilities here.)
      – …an invading army comes charging in towards your home from the horizon.
      – …a panicked government official is on the evening news, spewing soothing propaganda while his peers take control of vital industries.

      …or many other things. Rarely is it a sudden bomb-going-off type of catastrophe.

      My own plan is to pay off all debts (down to just one now), and turn my little semi-remote patch of Heaven into something that can be self-sufficient. Next (simultaneous) step is to help my neighbors become the same way (it didn’t take much convincing).

      Reply
  • whatevz February 8, 2015, 12:55 am

    … would’ve appreciated more positive ideas and coherent paragraghs in the article, & less snarky/snide/smartazz cheeseball verbiage that really didn’t say much of anything…

    C’mon SHTFblog- sometimes you just gotta’ pass when you get these low-grade, all flash-and-no substance submissions.

    Sheesh.

    Reply
    • irishdutchuncle February 8, 2015, 4:18 am

      Doc was merely speaking a word to the wise.

      your own “positive ideas”, we await breathlessly, as there is no single solution to these problem…
      we’re not going to tell anyone else what to do. Doc Montana can’t do your thinking for you. we are engineering possible ways to mitigate for ourselves, the sewage dump that is coming. snark is just an added benefit for the regular readers. we are all dead serious about what we need to prepare for.

      Reply
      • irishdutchuncle February 9, 2015, 4:56 pm

        … er, well, yeh I tell people what to do, all the time. (and my analysis is worth much more than I’m getting paid for it, IMHO)
        but, YOU need to become your own expert. you wouldn’t be looking beyond “mainstream” websites, if you were satisfied with the information you got there. the best advice I got from the mainstream: prepare as YOU would for a winter storm. (per the Red Cross)
        it’s great advice, but they won’t discuss which shotgun you need, or how to ventilate your duct tape and plastic safe room.

        Reply
  • Redstone February 8, 2015, 11:34 am

    Most people think that could never happen here. They likely haven’t looked at, and don’t want to know, just how fragile our civilization really is. Any one of these four interdependent systems fail and it’s game over; energy (grid and vehicle fuel), transportation, communications, and finance. It might never happen, or might happen later today… so I see prepping as insurance.

    Reply
  • BamaMan February 9, 2015, 10:29 am

    Good point on North Korea being the only country being “low tech” enough to want to pull off something like this. Outside of them and terror groups everyone else would be almost as bad off as the US b/c our technology runs the world…..what happens when Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc…all go down and the countless software programs around the world that US companies support and maintain.

    Reply
  • Re February 9, 2015, 11:33 pm

    One thing to add, the depiction in Lights Out and One Second After of ALL electronics and modern vehicles not working after an EMP attack is not accurate. Many, maybe even most vehicles won’t work, but a lot will. A lot of electronic devices will also work, especially if not attached to the grid with hit with a HEMP. I know that’s not the direct focus of this post on the grid, just throwing that out there. I’m not a nuke effects expert, but I have had the opportunity to grill them on occasion.

    Reply
    • irishdutchuncle February 11, 2015, 4:47 am

      Redstone:
      I’d wish you good luck with your new website, but coming from me, that’s practically the kiss of death…
      the readership of SHTFblog are a quality group. it says a lot: people with their own websites, choose to read, and comment here. Thanks to everyone for allowing me to hang out here.
      Keep up the good work.

      Reply
  • PrepperKayty February 17, 2015, 4:59 pm

    I watched the 2003 blackout of most of the Eastern US from a place in Ohio which still had power…then got to live through about three days with NO power some years later due to a Midwestern ice storm. Here’s what I learned:

    In ’03 I wasn’t a prepper. But I did have some 2-liter water bottles filled…which saved us the inconvenience of having to go out and try to find water when the pumps and the water towers ran out toward the end of the crisis, about 3 days in.

    What saved us during the Ice storm was two things: Our fireplace for heat and our gas stove for cooking. We also have plenty of candles on hand. Since then I’ve invested in solar flashlights, a small propane burner stove, in addition to a larger one for camping. Folks in winter climes are going to want to consider what to do to keep warm if the lights–and the heat !–goes out for a few days.

    As far as communication, Does anyone remember good ol’ RADIO ???? Many stations have backup capability for some amount of time. When the power goes out around here due to storms or whatever, the radios come out. If nothing else it’s nice to hear someone else’s voice in an uncertain situation

    Reply
    • Chuck Findlay February 19, 2015, 3:57 am

      Yea the 2003 blackout was strange in that I live in the city where it started and yet our power went of for only a few min and came back on. But most other places suffered hours to days of no power. Weird…

      Reply
  • Marian April 11, 2015, 10:57 am

    To those who complain of “paycheck to paycheck” as a reason not to prep…
    I feel ya. I’m there,too. But I refuse to be helpless and roll over like a pillbug. Every time I go grocery shopping,I buy 2-4 extra things as my budget allows. Two more cans of beef stew. An extra roll of toilet paper. A gallon of water. And I forgo the take out coffee,the fast food lunch,the drinks at the bar on Saturday. Not saying all of you do these things,but if you do you have a financial resource to redistribute. If you don’t,then just buy one extra can/gallon/roll when you can. It adds up. A year later, I’ve got a comfy little emergency pantry with rations that are rotated regularly,enough for two weeks for my husband,my dog and me as well as a bug out bag that is very well stocked. The key is to buy extra of things you already eat and keep expiration dates in mind. It can be done. It just takes longer. But,hey.. it’s better than nothing.

    Reply
    • Watchdog April 19, 2015, 11:49 pm

      Way to go, Marian. Good for you. Ditto for me. The longest journey begins with the first step. Nobody said that it would be easy. But then again, dying of hunger is a lot harder. ;-)

      Reply
  • Watchdog April 19, 2015, 11:49 pm

    Way to go, Marian. Good for you. Ditto for me. The longest journey begins with the first step. Nobody said that it would be easy. But then again, dying of hunger is a lot harder. ;-)

    Reply
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