Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cyber Survival

It seems like almost every day the news media report on cyber attacks against America. Recently, the Associated Press reported, "hackers accessed the credit card information of North American customers, in an online security breach affecting about 200,000 accounts." And that's only one incident. Millions of people have been left vulnerable to identity theft and other crimes against their finances by hackers from all around the world.

As bad as it is for citizens to be under attack from hackers, consider the damage that can be imposed on the government by computer criminals who figure out how to break passcodes and gain access to sensitive defense information. In 2010 alone, the U.S. government was hit by more than 300,000 separate cyber attacks against its infrastructure. According to reports from government officials, more than 100 attempted break-ins were conducted by foreign governments, trying to infiltrate our military and defense plans. And 2011 is shaping up to be a record year for cyber espionage. Attacks are coming from China, Russia and a variety of locations in the Far East.

Once hackers break into a system, they can take control of it and manipulate it any way they want. They can take money from your bank account, they can order a new credit card in your name and start using it, they can make long distance phone calls billed to your account, they can buy plane tickets in your name (using your identity) and travel the world, they can do things that will get your name placed on a "watch" list as if you're a terrorist.

Even if your own personal identity is never stolen, you might still be victimized by cyber attackers Consider these questions and how they might pertain to you:

  • What if the banking system, ATM and checking accounts are hacked, draining money away and into the hackers' hands, leading to a digital banking collapse?
  • What happens when the power plants and electric grid, railroads and nuclear power plants become subject to cyber attacks — shutting down the power, disabling water supplies, disrupting transportation and communication systems?
The degree to which we are personally dependent on modern technology will determine the severity of these cyber attacks on us as individuals. For example, if you live without a cell phone, you won't even notice when the cell towers cease to function. If you don't use ATM, you'll never feel the hit when hackers take it down. If you don't use credit cards, nobody can steal your credit card number and run up a huge bill on your tab. You get the picture. 

Urban survival in this era, when the enemy hides behind the anonymity of electronic weapons, means we need to analyze our lifestyles and make adjustments that will take us off the digital battlefield. Some of you have already done that; some are in the process, and some haven't even begun yet. 

To be safe, we need to live under the radar, out of the line of fire of cyber attackers. Be prepared to do without a public water supply, a power utility, a grocery store visit every day. The more prepared you are to be independent, the safer you will be. 

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