Posts Tagged ‘Emergency Services’

Cyber Attack on Morgan Hill?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

This is really weird for a number of reasons:

A Cyber-Attack on an American City

The long and short of it is that an unidentified group of people cut 8 fiber cables in Morgan Hill, CA (my hometown) on April 9th and basically everything went down.  Internet, phone, ATMs, emergency services, burglar alarms…

The most disturbing hing about it, I think, is that this is the first I’d heard of it — 2 weeks after the fact.  I partly paid attention because I’m from there.  But still… shouldn’t this have been reported by someone?  Like, maybe, CNN?  Or at the very least, the fearmongering FOX News?

Equally disturbing is the fact that they don’t know who did it.  It seems like they needed to have been fairly familiar with the city’s communications grid to do it.  But I bet a bright high school kid could get the paperwork he or she needs to do that.  Then all s/he’d have to do is organize a group of friends from Live Oak to all cut the wires around the same time.  It wouldn’t take much.

On the more mildly disturbing front (but still fairly disturbing), one of the casualties of the attack on the city’s fiber cables was the hospital’s local network.  Their local network!  Which is a pretty essential thing to have up and running at a hospital, don’t you think?  Who’s idea was it to make a local network in the hospital that was entirely dependent on its connection to the internet?  Is this the only hospital like that?  Or are there a lot more whose network engineers weren’t looking at the bigger picture?

On a mildly entertaining (and fairly educational) note, what did not fail is CB communication.  In order to relay radio calls for emergency services, they woke up the president of the local ham radio club and he and his buddies basically made up for the missing communication services.  This is a good lesson to learn — that it’s good to have a healthy relationship with a fair number of ham radio folk.  They may be the only way people can communicate in an emergency.

Look.  I’m not one to play into doomsday scenarios.  I don’t believe the premise of the latest Die Hard movie, or Fight Club’s ending, is actually realistic.  But I definitely believe we’ve gotten lazy — relying on technology working flawlessly and very seldom exploring possibilities of selective or total system failure.

I would hope that, with the changing of the guard in Washington, that we’d take a bit of time to explore our telecommunication system’s vulnerabilities and the ways that we can compensate in emergency situations.  I’m not saying that we need armed guards at every manhole, but we should definitely have a plan if someone were to stage an attack like this on a larger scale.  Morgan Hill has a population somewhere around 30K (and, all things considered, they seemed to come out reasonably unscathed).  If someone were to stage a similarly coordinated attack on New York — or New England — it would be a big, big mess.

Once again, I’m not saying we should be cowering in fear.  But we should definitely take a hard look at what happened in Morgan Hill and do some serious thinking — and planning — about what we would do if something like this happened on a larger scale.

It’s obviously a possibility.

UPDATE: As my friend Paul pointed out (also a Morgan Hill native):

a) actually this attack was in South San Jose and its effects stretched as far out as Santa Cruz (where Paul lives)

b) Perens’ characterization of Morgan Hill, with all of its ‘brokerages, and investors in the very wealthy community’ was… to be nice… maybe a little bit off the mark.  Anyone who’s been there will tell you — MH is literally 3 freeway exits between San Jose and Gilroy.  If you’re driving south on 101 and you sneeze, you miss it entirely.  And while it’s a town with a healthy upper-middle class, we’re no Los Altos Hills.

So I don’t imagine the attackers would’ve gotten very far trying to ‘manipulate the stock market’ from Morgan Hill when the wires were cut.  I’m sure they could’ve done more damage with an iPhone and a tethered laptop from an uncomfortable booth at Lyons.