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Digital vulnerability


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What has been concerning me for some time is how dependent our critical infrastructure is on all of this. Everything is connected to the Internet.

Interesting article by Bruce Schneier here:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/09/someone_is_lear.html

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses.

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I've read posts, I don't think on this forum but on others, of younger people arrogantly boasting that they don't use cash at all and suggesting that people who use cash are either very old or very stupid.

And then the card readers go out and they can't buy their Red Bull and MaccyDs  :D

But as Sasquatch says it's a lot wider than that and in so many areas there are no decent physical back-ups.

The recent US election shows what happens when people blindly trust computer systems to do things without understanding or checking what they are doing.

When I started in accountancy computerised accounting systems were not routine.  Elements of the process may have been but there was often a physical paper ledger as control and reference.

I used complex business planning software but I always checked the cash outputs of each object to ensure that the tick boxes did what I thought they were going to do because I see it as a programme and they have bugs.  A younger person grown up on smartphones and tablets tends to be more trusting.

At one workplace we had new server software installed and it became hit or miss whether the workbook that you opened in the morning was the one that you had saved the night before; initially people were blaming themselves for not saving them but then it was realised that that couldn't be everybody.  Then you are in the position of not knowing what you have done in the workbook and what you haven't done.

 

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14 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

When I started in accountancy computerised accounting systems were not routine.  Elements of the process may have been but there was often a physical paper ledger as control and reference.

Yes, the currency was big stone wheels and conch shells.

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26 minutes ago, MrLibertyRedux said:

What has been concerning me for some time is how dependent our critical infrastructure is on all of this. Everything is connected to the Internet.

Interesting article by Bruce Schneier here:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/09/someone_is_lear.html

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses.

all eggs in one basket...I do worry too.  I can remember the 80's vaguely and the internet not being a thing.  I can't imagine not having it now though.

Building resilience is so important and just thinking about the above reminds me to rehearse the inevitable, IMO, in when the internet may go down for longer than a few minutes.  Sure resilience and redundancy should be built alongside these systems but as per thread title we seem to be going down the opposite route.  Not much one can do, that's why on an individual level maybe good time to prepare or expect it to happen.   

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17 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

I've read posts, I don't think on this forum but on others, of younger people arrogantly boasting that they don't use cash at all and suggesting that people who use cash are either very old or very stupid.

And then the card readers go out and they can't buy their Red Bull and MaccyDs  :D

But as Sasquatch says it's a lot wider than that and in so many areas there are no decent physical back-ups.

The recent US election shows what happens when people blindly trust computer systems to do things without understanding or checking what they are doing.

When I started in accountancy computerised accounting systems were not routine.  Elements of the process may have been but there was often a physical paper ledger as control and reference.

I used complex business planning software but I always checked the cash outputs of each object to ensure that the tick boxes did what I thought they were going to do because I see it as a programme and they have bugs.  A younger person grown up on smartphones and tablets tends to be more trusting.

At one workplace we had new server software installed and it became hit or miss whether the workbook that you opened in the morning was the one that you had saved the night before; initially people were blaming themselves for not saving them but then it was realised that that couldn't be everybody.  Then you are in the position of not knowing what you have done in the workbook and what you haven't done.

 

A few summers ago, probably 10 as I was in my old garden for much of it, there was a powercut for 11.5 hours locally. Just brief enough not to trigger compo payments. Sainsbury's was shut. Local shops operated by candlelight and baseball bat. Cash only.

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1 minute ago, Yadda yadda yadda said:

A few summers ago, probably 10 as I was in my old garden for much of it, there was a powercut for 11.5 hours locally. Just brief enough not to trigger compo payments. Sainsbury's was shut. Local shops operated by candlelight and baseball bat. Cash only.

I only have cricket bats. Do you wave them over the cashpoint dispenser?

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1 minute ago, Dogtania said:

all eggs in one basket...I do worry too.  I can remember the 80's vaguely and the internet not being a thing.  I can't imagine not having it now though.

Building resilience is so important and just thinking about the above reminds me to rehearse the inevitable, IMO, in when the internet may go down for longer than a few minutes.  Sure resilience and redundancy should be built alongside these systems but as per thread title we seem to be going down the opposite route.  Not much one can do, that's why on an individual level maybe good time to prepare or expect it to happen.   

 

I think there are things that you can do to protect yourself.  Holding a store of cash and buying a bit of physical PM for starters.

When I was shown one of those gee whiz new internet bank apps where you can click on a transaction to see where you made your most recent unnecessary purchase I do wonder what happens if the database becomes corrupted and the back up fails.

I receive monthly paper statements so I can demonstrate how much I have in the event of meltdown.

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1 hour ago, Sasquatch said:

A topic often on my mind. Deep down I'm a bit of a luddite.

We had a phone based mortgage application yesterday. The day before I logged into my business bank account (Co-op) to download the latest bank statements. 

But I didn't because I just saw a message saying 'online banking is not currently available'. This is not the first time this has happened. Fortunately I was able to gain access later in the day. 

The bank's "please bear with us and use alternative forms of contact" statement was totally hollow. A lot of the branches have closed and this closure programme will continue apace. Getting through on the phone is a soul destroying experience on the best of days. On the day of an outage it's impossible.

The customer is therefore left in a vacuum. Nothing can happen.

As the world moves inexorably towards digital this, digital that, I don't see progress, I just see every increasing vulnerability.

It's another weapon in the hands of governments and big institutions. Maybe even terrorists (or perhaps freedom fighters depending on your point of view)

It's possible to avoid tech in many walks of life but if you want banking and investments (other than owned PM), the internet is vital. I don't see my funds in the bank or in my HL isa or in my SIPP as being totally safe. And I'm not debating the value of fiat here, just the fact that the 'money' is 1's and 0' in a bank's computer.

I'm reminded of Patrick Tilley's novel 'Fade Out' from 1975. I first read it in the early 80's and have read it 2 or 3 times since.

https://www.tzerisland.com/bookblog/2018/2/16/fade-out-by-patrick-tilley.html

An interesting read on the impact of a loss of electricity/tech on the human race (at least from a US centric view with obligatory outdated views to get the woke brigade in a fizz)

I'm old enough to remember and work in a pre internet world. A lot of what I see before us now is not an advancement of the human race, it feels like the last hurrah to me before we are all looking at a blank screen, literally and metaphorically.

Indeed, the response to covid would have been quite different 30 years ago.

Discuss.

That's what puts me off bitcoin, I may be wrong, but think there's no way to get at your money if the internet went down or there was no power. 

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44 minutes ago, MrPin said:

The Internet will never go down completely. There are always a few outages. A nuisance, and nothing more.

The internet’s robustness and ability to interconnect systems is both a strength and weakness since the very interconnected nature of business is one of the main vulnerabilities .  In addition the monoculture of Cloud providers such as Azure or AWS which host many of the key applications and databases now means a significant outage of multiple core systems is possible if they are compromised.

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2 minutes ago, MrPin said:

I'm only interested in smut and shopping @Virgil Caine

Where do you think your smut and shopping is hosted ?

In my IT career I have seen computer systems move from big iron mainframes on dedicated networks to distributed systems connected over the internet and now increasingly centralised system running on the internet.  In first two options the risk was largely manageable. I am not so sure about the third set up.

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I've been thinking for a while that a concocted 'cyber virus' could be the next big thing for draconian governments.

Spread rumours of a terrible virus from China/Russia/Syria/insert pariah state of choice that wipes all your files and replaces them with kiddy porn and cleans out your bank accounts. Tell people it affects 'unregulated' websites, ie those that don't have some 'officially virus free' stamp from the government. Give governments powers to shut down any unregulated sites as a 'risk to other users on the internet.

Hey bingo, all public forms of expressing dissent wiped out almost overnight.

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2 minutes ago, Virgil Caine said:

Where do you think your smut and shopping is hosted ?

In my IT career I have seen computer systems move from big iron mainframes on dedicated networks to distributed systems connected over the internet and now increasingly centralised system running on the internet.  In first two options the risk was largely manageable. I am not so sure about the third set up.

Yes, I think I have said before that if this lot comes tumbling down I'm going to give the CFO from my last place a call and just shout "The Cloud, The Cloud, The Cloud" repeatedly down the phone at him until he hangs up or has an embolism.

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47 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

 

I think there are things that you can do to protect yourself.  Holding a store of cash and buying a bit of physical PM for starters.

When I was shown one of those gee whiz new internet bank apps where you can click on a transaction to see where you made your most recent unnecessary purchase I do wonder what happens if the database becomes corrupted and the back up fails.

I receive monthly paper statements so I can demonstrate how much I have in the event of meltdown.

A store of cash, some secreted PMs, a couple of weeks of food and beer, and knowledge about where's good locally to forage... If the shtf fill the bath with tap water asap :)

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1 minute ago, Stuey said:

A store of cash, some secreted PMs, a couple of weeks of food and beer, and knowledge about where's good locally to forage... If the shtf fill the bath with tap water asap :)

Have all of that but I need to buy a big water container and refill it on a regular cycle; I think by the time I'm filling the bath with water I won't be the only one.

 

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41 minutes ago, MrPin said:

I agree. Watch what happens with Bitcoin. I'm not invested in it, as I don't understand it.

I'm not interested in it as I'm not really at the investing stage, well, ok- skint.

My wife read about it rising in price and wanted to throw a wee lump at it, I thought it too risky though, and suggested buying useful things instead. 

I like the idea of money which isn't controlled by central banks appeals to me though.

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2 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

Have all of that but I need to buy a big water container and refill it on a regular cycle; I think by the time I'm filling the bath with water I won't be the only one.

 

I dug my own little well about 20 years ago and fitted a handpump, however ground water is very corrosive and eats cast iron so the pumps only last about 6 years.

12V electric sub pumps can also be problematic, especially if they are cheap i.e. don't have stainless steel fixings'n'fittings.

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18 minutes ago, MrLibertyRedux said:

Yes, I think I have said before that if this lot comes tumbling down I'm going to give the CFO from my last place a call and just shout "The Cloud, The Cloud, The Cloud" repeatedly down the phone at him until he hangs up or has an embolism.

A couple of years ago I was given a presentation by IT in a very big firm, about how everything was moving to the cloud and how fantastic it was.

I kept asking 'where is the data held, and where is it imaged/backedup'.

"No, Sir, it is in the cloud"

In the end they confessed they didn't fucking know. I explained that some of the data was very sensitive and if it crossed the wrong international border, the Directors could go to jail pretty fucking fast.  Cue panic looks.

The Cloud is just someone else's computer.  

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