Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ghosts in the machine

By Carl

Two stories surfaced while you were sleeping that ought to help open your eyes as you stumble around for a cup of coffee:

Item 1:

The FBI is investigating whether counterfeit routers and computer hardware from China installed in U.S. government computer networks might provide a secret gateway for hackers to tap into secure government databases.

Sources told ABC News the counterfeit hardware could represent a major breach to national security. An FBI PowerPoint presentation, which somehow ended up on a Web site, lays out the concerns and the breadth of what has been a far-reaching investigation.

Friday afternoon a somewhat miffed FBI released a statement that read: "At the request of another federal government agency, on Jan. 11, 2008, the FBI's Cyber Division provided an unclassified PowerPoint presentation and briefing on efforts to counter the production and distribution of counterfeit network hardware," said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Finch. "This unclassified briefing was never intended for broad distribution or posting to the Internet."

Finch goes on to talk about Operation Cisco Raider, which "targeted illegal distributors of counterfeit network hardware manufactured in China and included 15 investigations across nine FBI field offices and the execution of 39 search warrants."

According to Finch, the FBI "disrupted a large distribution network and recovered approximately 3,500 counterfeit network components with an estimated retail value of over $3.5 million."

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, outsourcing!

Item 2:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls, the newspaper said, citing current and former U.S. national security officials.

[...] Officials said water, sewage and other infrastructure systems also were at risk.

Ahhhh, nostalgia! Hearken back to a time when Boris and Natasha...and now Li and Guangmei... would drop microfilm canisters off in a tree stump on the Appalachian Trail...

Granted, these are nations with means and resources (and in the former instance, incredibly easy access, bordering on the treasonous) to implant the software necessary to spy on and perhaps disrupt American society.

It may not sound like much, to hit our electrical system or our water and particularly our sewer systems, until you realize just what would happen: we've had regional blackouts, one as recently as August 2003, that crippled half the country and affected the rest with flight delays, food shortages, and so on. Imagine that on a national scale.

Imagine turning on the tap in any location where water is distributed and pumped mechanically or electronically, meaning basically every place west of the Rockies and south of Oregon and most of the Midwest and farm country.

Now add to that a massive sewage backup (since treatment plants would be the likely target of a cyber attack), and murky brown water that begins to spurt out of your drains.

Yeah. That bad. With no place for all that crap to go, because storm drains would be the first to back up.

You want a disheartened nation? Tell 330 million people they have to shovel shit for a few days, nevermind weeks. In the dark. Without fresh water to bathe in, even if they could clear enough of their drains for the waste water to flow down. Probably in the middle of winter, just make things really horrid.

I can almost hear Limbaugh now: "My friends! Shoveling shit builds character! Why, it's no worse than spreading manure on your gardens! I shovel shit every day and look at me! I'm filthy rich for it!"

I say Limbaugh will support this because quite simply, the Russians and Chinese aren't going to do this on Barack Obama's watch, but should some idiot Republican (and it always seems to be them, don't it?) get us into another useless war, even a cold one, with Russia AND China, they won't hesitate. They'll trigger the "S" bomb.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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