Jun 102013
 
An example of a car prowler opening a car with a mysterious electronic device.  No-one yet knows how.

An example of a car prowler opening a car with a mysterious electronic device. No-one yet knows how.

We’ve written before about the vulnerabilities and threats to our society posed by hackers wreaking mischief on our nation’s computer-controlled infrastructure.

The problem that exists is visualizing and comprehending the open-ended nature of such threats.  Any computing device, no matter how simple, or ‘safe’ it might seem, including devices that we don’t even think of as being computers, is/are vulnerable to hacker attack.

It is one thing to guard against known threats and risks, but the open-ended concept of computer ‘exploits’ requires the people protecting and defending the computers to be as creative and imaginative as the attackers.  Although we have some very clever people involved in helping our society become less at risk of computer attack, it is impossible to think of every form of computer attack.

Let’s look at another form of computer attack that, happily, in no way risks destroying our society and plunging us into the depths of a Level 3 situation.  But we offer this to you as an example of how computer vulnerabilities can appear in unexpected areas, and in every area.

Specifically, here’s an interesting story about how common ordinary car prowlers across the nation are now making use of an unknown device that ‘zaps’ the computer control systems in some vehicles, causing them to unlock themselves.

The really interesting aspect of this is that both the police and computer security experts have no idea at all what the device is or how it works.  Which is a polite way of saying that they also don’t know how to close the loophole that this mysterious device is exploiting, and for now, all they can lamely say is ‘never leave valuables in your car’.

The learning points from this real life example are :

  • Even the most unexpected devices (car door locks) have computers operating them and are vulnerable
  • Even the simplest of computers have security vulnerabilities
  • Most astonishingly of all, even if the experts know a vulnerability exists; they might not know what it is or how to fix it

As we said to start, this particular vulnerability isn’t going to cause society to collapse.  But you have to ask the question – what else might also be vulnerable to computer attacks that are more essential to the ongoing smooth functioning of our society?  The answer to that list is enormously long, and some of the vulnerabilities terrifying in scope and scale.

Truly, any day and every day there’s a possibility that an all-out attack on critical computer control systems might occur, plunging our society into a sudden and severe disruption and Level 2/3 event from which few people will survive.

Keep up with your preps!

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