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Recent Cyberattack

USA today reports that a massive attack by yet unknown perpetrators disrupted the net yesterday:

“If you live on the East Coast and had trouble accessing Twitter, Spotify Netflix, Amazon or Reddit Friday morning, you were not alone.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2016/10/21/cyber-attack-takes-down-east-coast-netflix-spotify-twitter/92507806/

Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, was the victim.

For most of us, if we were affected at all, it turned out to be a minor inconvenience.

However, cyberattacks can cause a lot more trouble than what just occurred.

About a year ago, Emmy and Peabody Award winner Ted Koppel released a new book, "Lights Out: A
Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath."  It’s about what happens when terrorists go
after U.S. power grids.

Koppel knows what he’s talking about, and there’s a lot more to worry about than mere cyberattacks.

Disregarding the damage caused by assholes shooting insulators during hunting season, our power grid, the transmission lines that comprise it, and the massive transformers that supply it are extremely vulnerable to destruction from solar storms.

Solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can cause severe damage, resulting in potentially massive and long-lasting
power outages.

A CME is an unusually large release of plasma from the solar corona. If the ejection is directed towards Earth the shock wave of the traveling mass of energetic particles causes a geomagnetic storm that releases power on the order of terawatt scale. (A terawatt is equal to one trillion watts - the total power used by humans worldwide is commonly measured in terawatts)

The first recorded CME occurred on September 1, 1859, and is now referred to as the Carrington Event, or the
solar storm of 1859.

The storm took down the recently created US telegraph network, starting fires and shocking telegraph operators.

On July 23, 2012, a massive and potentially damaging CME barely missed Earth, according to NASA.

There is an estimated 10-20% chance of a similar event actually hitting Earth within the next 10 years.

A really big CME hitting the earth head on strikes fear into the hearts of U.S. power companies. There’s so much energy dumped on the planet that power lines will heat up and sag to the ground. That energy can saturate the cores of transformers burning out the insulation:  literally welding the innards of railroad car sized electrical equipment into useless scrap. A Carrington-class CME could fry a large fraction of the power grid in as little as 90 seconds. It takes between six months to a year to make one of these main line transformers. The factories that make them are overseas and in a worldwide emergency the U.S. would likely be wait-listed. The sheer number required to repair the grid could mean vast areas would be without power for years.

Protecting key installations is actually very doable. It involves installing surge protectors and what are called “shunts” to divert excess power that keeps the transformer cores from melting down. The U.S. military infrastructure — long ago hardened for nuclear war — is fully protected. Countries such as Russia and China have most of their
grid protected as do a number of smaller nations. The U.S. commercial power grid is not presently so protected.

Why the hell not?


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New Yorker endorsement of Hillary Clinton

I found this endorsement important mostly because it puts into perspective just about everything I can think of that needs putting into perspective. I recommend it especially to anyone still undecided, still angry at Sanders' lost or not voting.



"Hillary Clinton is a distinctly capable candidate:..."

While I am cautious to the point of not trusting the electorate, especially the Christian right, and, I never like to underestimate the Republicans voting power, I agree with you completely.

"The election of Hillary Clinton is an event that we will welcome...greet with indescribable relief." I am totally inline with that.

Typically of The New Yorker articles, this one is super long, so I read part of it, from the standpoint of the "choir" of course, and saved it to my favorites for some nighttime reading.


That which is yet to come

"...our power grid, the transmission lines that comprise it, and the massive transformers that supply it are extremely vulnerable."

Vulnerability and sensitive handling of issues that will affect our future should not be in the hands of an "asshole" like Donald J. Trump.

I admit, the future is not something I have much personal confidence in, but there are generations of people who depend on all that is yet to come.


Closest star trying to influence elections!

I haven't seen any candidate (including the primaries) prove they know anything about technology to any reassuring degree. It would be nice, but they are protected and out of touch with installing anything, or even dealing with customer service. Imagine the highest office holder never knowing what it is like to wait online for customer service.

Their devices must seem like magic to them.

Early reports show that the "cyberattack" was a DNS attack that took advantage of little stupid things connected to the internet - game boxes, DVD players, toys, home security systems, etc to flood a central part of the internet with too much data.. It was done with bots, not humans. And it was possible because of cost-cutting corporations not really caring to be secure.

Trump, it is universally agreed, is an fool. And Clinton wants to overreact and head to war with Russia over her staff emails personally being compromised. That seems as dangerously arrogant as anything Trump might tweet at 3 am, possibly more.

Clinton supporters can pat themselves on the back that they didn't choose Trump for many reasons. She's all but won already. Congratulations! But we shouldn't be fooled into thinking this new president will make good decisions regarding technology.

Big example: Clinton says she's against encryption, but laments staff emails being read by people who shouldn't read them. Proper response - call for more encryption and security. Had they been secure, no one would be reading them now. Instead, "Boo! Russia! They want Trump to win!" It's BS.

I think she and her advisors know better, and are being cynical and dangerous to score political points. I don't hear a real plan.


The story above, though, is all about the sun trying to influence the elections, not hackers, right? Sol wants Trump to win so it will flare and cause an outage? I think we should respond accordingly.


And now for some good news!

Quote: “The U.S. commercial power grid is not presently so protected. Why the hell not?”

Obama must have seen my post. I’m happy to report we ARE doing something about it.

Executive Order -- Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events

The White House October 13, 2016


Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid.

Extreme space weather events -- those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure -- could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation.

It is the policy of the United States to prepare for space weather events to minimize the extent of economic loss and human hardship.

The order then defines agency roles and responsibilities and directs agencies to take specific actions to prepare the Nation for the hazardous effects of space weather.

There’s a lot in the order. You can read it in its entirety here:



Definitions. As used in this order:

Sec. 7. Definitions. As used in this order:

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.




So we're back to square 1, eh?


Doublespeak, with no teeth

I'm afraid so...


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