By Komando Staff, Komando.com …..
There’s a cyberattack coming, and it’s going to be a big one. Whether it’s an attack on the power grid, air traffic control, the stock market, a weakness we haven’t found yet, or all of the above, you can count on serious confusion and chaos to result.
Just so we’re clear, I’m telling you this so you can prepare, not panic. That way when a digital Paul Revere starts yelling, “The hackers are coming! That hackers are coming!” you won’t be taken by surprise.
First, let’s talk about the scope of the problem. We’ve known for years that America’s infrastructure isn’t as robust as it should be.
Back in 2003, for example, a large portion of the American northeast and some of Canada was blacked out thanks to a minor software bug at an electrical station. Combine that with older hardware across the board and lax security, and a hacker could easily knock out power stations at will.
In fact, back in January, the Department of Defense accidentally released an 800-page document on the Aurora Project. It was a detailed analysis of how hackers could take down the U.S. power grid and water systems. It wasn’t very comforting, especially combined with the report that an attack on the power grid could cost the U.S. up to $1 trillion.
It isn’t just the power grid. Over the past few years, hackers have been amping up their game by targeting the companies we use every day.
Retailers, hotel chains, restaurants, hospitals and other health care facilities, credit card companies and many other types of businesses are getting hit by hackers. These hackers seek vulnerabilities in the organization’s network, and then exploit their customers’ personal information.
Beyond major corporations, hackers have also exposed several vulnerabilities within systems tied to government agencies. Just this past June, around 154 million voter records were stolen through a breach. That’s on top of the 191 million voter records that were stolen and released online earlier this year.
Cybersecurity issues have also been identified within the networks of local police departments, which is extremely concerning when you consider that these are the people who are supposed to keep you safe
And the list keeps growing. Plans are already in motion to upgrade the U.S. air traffic control system, but that brings with it some problems that a hacker can exploit. If you want to know how bad that could be, last year, a short-term glitch in United Airlines’ computer system grounded 4,900 flights and delayed travel across the country.
At the same time, an update-gone-wrong shut down the New York Stock Exchange for four hours and brought trading to a standstill. And you can believe that hackers are busy trying to replicate that kind of situation.
I think I’ve proved my point about the various ways hackers could launch a cyberattack that causes major disruption. However, there are two more surprising avenues that you might not have considered.
Back in 2014, hackers knocked a radio station in Louisiana off the air, which is worrisome since radio is one of the fallback ways to get information when everything else goes down. The radio station in question was running the unsecure Windows XP computers, so it made the hackers’ job easier. However, it’s still evidence that hackers can get to just about anything.
If hackers can’t attack electronically, they might stoop to something a bit cruder. There’s been a rash of instances where hackers have cut internet cables manually. San Francisco had an internet outage last summer after vandals broke into a secure vault and cut a major internet backbone cable.
Since we’re talking about hackers taking down the power grid and other electronics, the way you protect yourself isn’t actually very high-tech. In fact, you’re going to be better off going low-tech.
Be sure you have an advance plan set up with family so everyone knows what to do if you can’t communicate. Designate a safe spot for everyone to go as soon as news of this or any disaster hits. Write it down, along with other emergency tips for younger children or grandchildren, or anyone else who needs it.
If cellphones go down, you’ll need a way to communicate. Pack a set of two-way radios or walkie-talkies into your emergency kit and prearrange a primary channel and a backup in case your main channel gets clogged. Make sure everyone in your family, and even friends, know what channels to use.
For long-distance communication, you might think about keeping a landline and a phone that doesn’t rely on power. Landlines tend to be fairly bulletproof in disasters. Here are some more reasons to keep a landline.
Of course, you’ll want to stockpile standards like canned food, water, spare batteries and first aid items. Your home emergency kit should be enough to get you through at least 30 days. You should also have a portable emergency you can take with you if you have to relocate in a hurry.
Make sure you have important documents, like your passport, and some cash, since credit and debit cards might not work for a while. If you have important documents saved as digital files on your computer, print them out and store them in a safe location. You might not be able to get to them in a crisis.
You’ll want to keep up with what’s going on, and radio is the most likely thing to be working. Most radio stations have backup generators, and there are thousands of private operators who will be broadcasting as well.
Keeping a battery powered radio handy is good, but you can also grab an emergency radio that includes a hand crank, solar charger, and the ability to charge other gadgets.
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