Notpetya ~ a cautionary tale

Posted 9.18.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | I stood for some time behind a couple paying for two coffees -- with a debit card. Next, a guy pulled out a fiver and paid for his in under two minutes.

Did that couple really not have a few bucks between them? That seems a stretch, cashless out in the world, or maybe with a cell phone to make a payment.

We've all stood in a grocery lineup while someone digs around for their card, fiddles with the device, taps in each number, then waits for approval and, finally, their receipt printed out. The next line over four shoppers have gone through, using cash.

Complaining? No, this is what we do. People rarely see cash. They're paid directly into their bank account, they pay with a card, and they love it.

That couple ahead of me on the road would likely go on to buy their lunch, fill up their BMW with high-test, maybe pay for over-night accommodation -- without touching a dime. "Cool, eh?" my traveling friend's son remarked.

We've all heard of, but never seriously considered, possibilities for this sytem to crash. Last year's massive solar flare would have engulfed Earth had it been blasted in our direction. It didn't -- but could it seem a warning shot across our bow?

Corona ejections already have damaged satellites, telecommunications, radar, and other functions -- in the early years a flare did hit the Earth and actually melted telegraph-key devices. They burst into flame. The continental US lost its telegraph services.

That was years ago, and surely we have fail-safe measures now built in. That's what we think. It isn't true, however, since there's no fail-safe for a mass ejection of solar mass. Like the "inevitable" tectonic plate shift which will see the entire West Coast slide into the sea, a mass solar ejection will never happen. Never. That's a modern religious tenant.

Think of a solar flare that can kill all communciations across our military and security systems, world banking systems, our telecommunications, electricity grid, air safety system -- all at once -- forget about paying for a coffee.

And, yes, this is a statistical game, so a flare or earthquake may never hit, ever.

WIRED<./i> magazine has just published an excerpt from a new book, Sandworm, by Andy Greenberg: an account of a new Russian bug, Notpetya, which stopped the entire Ukranian government in its tracks several years ago, and spread to the world's largest shipping company, a major bank, Big Pharma, and innumerable American, British, French, Indian and others' national systems (of various capacities). This has just been revealed. Hacking the US election was peanuts compared to this, in immediate effect.

Concludes Greenberg, "NotPetya" reminds us, distance is no defense. Every barbarian is already at every gate. And the network of entanglements which have unified and elevated the world for the past 25 years, can, over a few hours on a summer day, bring it to a crashing halt." So keep that fiver in your wallet, and give all this some thought. NotPetya showed us it's no longer statistical.


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/9.18