Today I was at Starbucks at around 4pm PST and as I pulled out my app to pay, the barrista told me that the payment system was down, and therefore the drinks were free. This outage existed at least from 7pm EST to an early close of the stores in Manhattan at 9pm vs 10pm. As of this writing the Starbucks payment system is still down.
I have an intuitive feeling about this, and one thing that is a good or bad thing is that my intuition is very reliable. I read a lot. I digest a lot and put things together. So hear me out when everybody in the family is finished watching Bruce Jenner being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.
Staples, Target, Yahoo, Home Depot, Goldman Sachs, Sony and now Starbucks. All have had “system outages”. I don’t think so. These are hacks getting into sophisticated systems with increasing ease. The creepy part is that they break in but don’t steal anything. They cause havoc, but they do not themselves take anything. Instead they expose the data to the world. It has been widely reported by the media that the source of these hacks are the Russians. (see http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-09-02/home-depots-credit-card-breach-looks-just-like-the-target-hack)
Let’s think about the likelihood that a coordinated attack is coming. Let’s say that Russia is really tired of the sanctions that the US has put on them, and is super tired of having a bunch of treasuries tied to a US debt that is incredibly unpayable. So instead of setting up nukes or deploying carriers (that would result in a pre-emptive or retaliatory attack), they quietly break into our most sophisticated systems, and rehearse. How would you rehearse if you wanted to get into the systems, but not put the US Military on alert that a data attack was imminent? You would do what Great Britain did when they broke Germany’s encryption code, “Enigma”. You would tilt the balance of the war with intelligence that allowed you to win the most strategic battles, but without giving away the fact that your enemy knows you know what they’re doing (see: http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/content/hist/worldwartwo/enigma.rhtm)
I can see something like this happening very soon. A coordinated data attack on all of our banking and transaction systems. All of a sudden, it’s not just Starbucks not able to take your payment, it’s everybody simultaneously. Mastercard, Visa, American Express, your ATM card. All processing simultaneously taken down along with banking data. Whatever you have in your bank, that data is gone. All North American banks. Coordinated attack. No ability to buy food, no ability to transfer or exchange money at any scale, large or small. And this data could be wiped out permanently with no records outside of the printed paper.
We rely on electronic transfer of funds with unbelievable faith. We do this in a world where hackers can get into the systems above. If you can register a username and a password, that means there is an open pipe into your system. That username/password can contain a code that goes inside, and unlocks the door. Anything can be broken into. Anything! And they are doing it right now, rehearsing. Is it odd to you that these systems don’t go down all at once? Big systems, one after another, with nobody stealing anything – just creating havoc and damage. I see it coming. No need for tanks or nukes or fighter jets. The next war will be won by hackers.
So let’s do a fire drill. Today at 4pm it was Starbucks. Imagine the barrista says, “our payment system is down, sorry”. Then you go to the grocery store. “Our payment systems aren’t working, sorry”. People start tweeting (strategically it makes sense to keep the social networks and media streams going to ensue panic). You watch CNN and see the headline news – all payment systems have been disabled. This affects all of North America.
People start looting. Employees of grocery stores take what they can and run, leaving the stores wide open. Banks close up, not that they could really do anything anyway, because their systems are down. Instead of sending in an army to kill people in a country, they find that the people start to kill each other.
Do you know how close we are to this happening? The data crash doesn’t have to be permanent (though it easily could and I believe it would). It just has to be coordinated. Let’s look at the list above again with the naked realization that all of them have been hacked.
Target. Starbucks. Home Depot. Yahoo. Goldman Sachs. Sony. But instead of one at a time they all go at a coordinated moment in time. Maybe something symbolic like 9:11. Creepy enough to ensue panic. The systems all go down. Where will you and your family be? How would you really cope if you couldn’t just run to the store in winter and buy duraflame logs and canned goods? How would you feed your family? Would you pull out a gun? Loot? Or starve and freeze, watching your kids fade out one at a time?
We are at the moment right now when it could happen. Right now. Not tomorrow in a horror fiction movie. Right. This. Instant.
This isn’t paranoia. It is upon us right now. Consider preparing?
By the way, isn’t it crazy that Bruce Jenner doesn’t want to reveal his new female name?