Hurricane Matthew a Reminder to Us All

This past week Hurricane Matthew roared along the east coast of the US wreaking havoc across numerous southeastern states. Despite the loss of property and lives, Matthew does leave a silver lining to a very dark cloud. The good that comes from the storm is a reminder that bad and unexpected things can and do happen and we need to be prepared for emergencies - natural and manmade.

We learned once again from Matthew the total reliance we have on technology in our modern culture. Take away our electricity and we are in big trouble. With no electricity to power our computers, lights, home appliances, street lights, HVAC, traffic signals, gas pumps, coolers at grocery stores, radios, televisions, cell phones, emergency services and most importantly our critical infrastructure, we rapidly degenerate into a helpless mass of humanity. Bear in mind that Matthew only struck a small regional area in the southeast which permitted aid to come from outside the area. But...what if there was no 'outside' area? What if there was no warning, no preparation time...what if the disaster struck right NOW?

A catastrophic event like this may seem fictional, but those with a vested interest in the cybersecurity and protection of our critical infrastructure, and in particular the energy sector, are very concerned that in the near future science fiction may turn into fact. For some time hackers from foreign powers have been probing our cyber defenses seeking inroads into controlling the SCADA systems of our energy sector.With each passing day their probes become more aggressive and the knowledge they gain and archive is ever increasing. Some compare these probes to the military terminology of 'mapping the battlefield' in preparation for a future event.

Despite reassurances that our critical infrastructure is safe, there are increasing and disturbing reports that are to the contrary. Viebeck (2015) warns "U.S. infrastructure will suffer some very bad incidents before officials double down on cybersecurity". Ellyatt (2015) notes "A cyberterror attack on vital national infrastructure such as power facilities, transport networks and the financial sector could be imminent—and international governments are ill-prepared, cybersecurity experts have warned" and Armerding (2016) writes that some officials "some of them top government officials – who have warned that a cyber attack on the nation’s critical infrastructure could be catastrophic, amounting to a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Natural events like hurricane Matthew highlight our vulnerabilities should a regional disaster occur, but what if the event was on a national scale...and manmade? That is something we cannot effort to find out about. We need to invest, and invest heavily in technology, improved policies/procedures and in the effective training and education of the workforce in our critical infrastructure. To do less borders on negligence in the defense of our nation's well being.

References

Armerding, T. (2016). How much at risk is the U.S.'s critical infrastructure? Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.csoonline.com/article/3024873/security/how-much-at-risk-is-the-uss-critical-infrastructure.html

Ellyatt H. (2015). Cyberterrorists to target critical infrastructure. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/27/cyberterrorists-to-target-critical-infrastructure.html

Viebeck, (2015). Cyber expert predicts ‘very bad’ infrastructure attack. Retrieved from the Internet at http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/235249-expert-predicts-very-bad-cyberattack-on-critical-infrastructure

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