Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

My granddaughter Jada gave me this book as a Christmas present. She is aware of my ongoing interest in world affairs. At first I questioned the ability of Mr. Koppel to write such a book. As I finished I was satisfied that he had done extensive research and as a result presented a book that clearly states the threat America faces that cyber-attacks can cause great harm to our country. In fact cyber-attacks are occurring at an accelerating basis. We are all aware of the attack by North Korea on the Sony Co. which exposed many of their e-mails and financial data which caused considerable damage. Another serious breach was the identification of all 2.1 million current Federal employees and an additional 22.1 million retires and former employees. Their personal identification information was revealed. Government sources were quoted as claiming that the intrusion originated in China. Although threats to respond were made by our government nothing has occurred, at least to the author’s knowledge. We are also guilty of cyber-attacks. In concert with Israel we caused great damage to Iran’s centrifuges by causing them to speed up exceeding their capacity all the while the operators had no knowledge it was occurring. The centrifuges were destroyed setting back their nuclear program by several years. Iran responded by attacking Aramco in Saudi Arabia destroying 30,000 computers. He speculates that the intent was to affirm their ability without directly attacking America. While there are many ways to inflict damage on our country, the main emphasis of this book is on our electrical grid system. Decades ago we would not have been so vulnerable but with advent of computers, Internet and digitized records we are vulnerable to having systems breached. Consider the devastation that would result if grids supplying power to whole sections of the country were taken off line for days, weeks or months. People trapped in elevators, people starving as food supplies are used up. Without electricity there would be no way millions could survive. Chaos would be the result as people take action to feed their families. Only rural areas particularly in the West could conceivably support themselves as they did 100 years ago. Major cities would be the most vulnerable. No heat, no cooling, no gas for transportation. The National Guard and the military called out to attempt to control. Another way of crippling our grid would be simply to destroy large transformers which are located all over the country in unprotected places. The time period to replace could be years. The power lines could also be brought down by a small group of determined terrorists. There have been many programs proposed by members of Congress but the staggering cost has prevented many from being enacted. When you add up the cost of security already it is monumental. Just think, it has only been in the last decade that we even thought about security. Now it is centermost in our concern. We are bankrupting ourselves which in my opinion means the terrorists are winning. How tragic that we pretend we are secure with our military might when we can be brought down by a computer program. In the last chapters he describes ways people can prepare to at least provide a few days of supplies. It reminded me of the 70’s when bomb shelters were being placed in back yards. Remarkably the Mormon Church has created enormous warehouses in their communities all over the country. They as a group tithe. These funds have been invested in many ways to protect their people without assistance from government. The one weakness is what happens when hordes of people with guns break into these warehouses. That question was not answered. This is an easily absorbed book which should be read by Congress. Perhaps you may be interested as well, particularly if you want to prepare yourself. Most will not, leaving us to hope that somehow our government will take care of us. As of right now they cannot. Jack B. Walters January 5, 2016

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