Is Your Critical Infrastructure Safe from Attack?

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Even though the news was slow to reach the surface on the details surrounding the attack of a central California electrical substation, by now most of you have heard the news. For those who haven’t, an unknown number of people, armed with rifles only, attacked and disabled Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation back on April 16, 2013. Firing around 100 shots, the attackers knocked out 17 transformers forcing officials to reroute power to avert a blackout. It took them 27 days to repair the damage.

We may never know who was responsible for this event and this article isn’t going to go into the potential reasons or motivations behind the people who conducted this highly successful act of sabotage. The news did make me reflect again on how relatively simple it would be to knock out power to millions and if the efforts were concentrated enough, seriously disrupt power for a very long time. It isn’t only armed men with weapons, computer viruses like Stuxnet which was used to disrupt the Iranian nuclear facility back in 2009 show that you don’t even have to fire a shot to take out someone’s capacity in a meaningful way. Lose power and we go caveman really quickly.

In thinking about this issue of the fragility of our nation’s infrastructure, I started going down the usual list of items that we hear about as potential targets for attack. Power Stations, Nuclear Plants, Banking Institutions, Water Treatment Facilities and as we saw so powerfully on 9/11, our transportation system. These all would seem to be valid targets, but I wonder how many of you have given the same type of thought and attention to your own critical infrastructure. Is your critical infrastructure safe from attack from forces trying to harm you?

Cyber Threats

This to me seems like one of the most likely places you could be attacked and not know it. If the revelations from the NSA are to be believed (and I for one do), there is little you can do about it. For those of us who aren’t currently under close scrutiny though, you can take steps to protect your internal connections and prevent others from gaining access too easily.

  • Make sure your home wireless network is secure. – I would additionally caution you to change your password if you give it out to friends when they are visiting.
  • Make sure you have the most up to date Virus protection software. There are lots of options and I have used Norton Antivirus.
  • Back up your important files – I like to back my files up in two ways; first with an external hard drive and secondly with an online backup service like Carbonite or Mozy. You can also use DropBox. Does either of these methods guarantee your files will be secure forever from the NSA? I doubt it, but it should keep your important information safe if a Tornado goes through your house.
  • It is also generally a good idea to have the most current patched version of your software installed. Don’t get me started on Microsoft…
  • Stay away from shady sites – I know this one is more difficult because they have gotten so good at hiding things, but the safer your browsing habits, the safer you are from viruses in the first place.

Financial

There are several components to this threat, but I will boil them all down to the big three items below.

  • Losing Your Money – This can happen from simple theft such as a home break-in or more complicated to explain, but more prevalent theft like inflation, money printing and fleecing of your country to pay off too big to fail interests. Deposits can be held, investments can be outright taken to fulfill other debts. Money can easily be taken away when it is out of your control.
  • Not being able to make any money – The loss of a job or other circumstance that prevents you from working could happen. As much as possible, it is wise to reduce debt to nothing and save your money to weather life’s little storms.
  • Not being able to get your money – Just like the power outages above, if the bank can’t use their computers you can’t get your money. If the ATM loses power, you can’t get your money. Additionally, what if there is a run on the bank and the money you deposited is simply withdrawn by everyone else? Make sure that you have some stored away from the bank safely so that you aren’t 100% at the mercy of these two factors.

Drinking Water

  • What if the water is shut off or undrinkable? – It wasn’t too long ago we had the chemical spill in Charleston and there have been at least two others since then.  Make sure that you don’t find yourself in the same situation the people in WV did when they could not get water out of the tap for a few weeks. Even now that the water is flowing again, no one can say positively that the water is safe. If you are looking for options on how to reduce your dependence on municipal water sources in times of emergency, you can read our article here.
  • What if you aren’t anywhere with a working tap? – What if you are stranded on the side of the road due to a freak winter storm? What if you are stuck in traffic for days because of a planned evacuation? Make sure you carry water with you at all times to avoid falling into this trap.

Energy

You don’t have to be running a power substation or a Nuclear power plant to have to worry about losing power. Run of the mill, average weather events like winter storms, high winds or tornadoes happen all of the time. Unfortunately, vehicles slam into power poles and disrupt power. Make sure you have alternate sources of power and you will be less likely to be affected by disruptions that can last for days.

You don’t necessarily have to have a 14KW whole home generator to check this box off. A simple 1000 Watt Inverter hooked to your car’s battery and plenty of safely stored fuel will give you minimal power and could make life a lot better.

Family

Why am I putting Family in this list you ask? I believe above all else your family is the most critical infrastructure you have to worry about. If you are reading this, it is your job and sacred duty to take care of them. Your goal with prepping should be to ensure safety and calm in situations where chaos and destruction may be ruling the day. Your family needs to have a strong bond to make it through difficult times and when all else is lost, they will be the one comfort you can cling to. Make sure your family is healthy, loved and safe above all else.

I don’t know your politics and I am not trying to persuade you to any particular religion but I do think most people will agree that families are always under attack either literally or figuratively from a number of directions. The work you put into making your family whole and healthy now will pay off when the stress level is through the roof and lives are on the line.

These were just some of the things I thought of as my own critical infrastructure. What comes to your mind?

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Talib
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Talib

It is much more secure to have Linux OS instead of windows on one’s desktop/laptop.

Emily
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Emily

I’d add homeschooling materials and general education materials in hard copy form. I must admit I’m very reliant on the Internet for worksheets and research, both for myself and my kids. In the case of a huge disaster, the schools and Internet will not be available, and your kids are going to need to keep learning, as are you, and you need the tools to do that.