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April 4, 2016

We Interrupt This Connection . . .

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

In what the government considers a surprise attack, North Korea today shut down all Internet access throughout the world. All sites are offline. No data can be sent or received. So how are you reading this post?

Obviously, the North Koreans haven’t shut down the Internet, though it’s possible.

Back in December of 2014, North Korea suddenly lost all it’s Internet access. They blamed the US as a retaliation for the retaliation over the Seth Rogen/James Franco film The Interview. So I believe such a thing is possible software-wise.

Whether it happens or not, and who does it, is speculation. But the other day, I was wondering what the effect would be.

Consider that it’s 10:00 in the morning. America is at work or school. People are going about their day. Suddenly, all Internet access stops.

Your first impression would be that the “web is down.” It’s annoying, but you don’t suspect anything is up. You may check the modem. It seems okay. The local network is working, but that “No Internet Connection” icon looms large in the Windows Notification area.

Maybe you call your ISP. No: You can’t because your cell phone doesn’t work. You have a landline, but the number is busy. Even if you could connect, their computers are down as well. They can’t help or troubleshoot.

Some work items stop and wait for the Internet to come back. It’s a minor inconvenience, but things get done. Ditto for school.

People getting gas notice that their debit/credit cards are denied at the pump. Those stations that have a register will take cash. So people walk over to the ATM, but it doesn’t recognize anyone’s card.

Some folks make it to the bank, but the bank’s records are all accessed via the Internet, so the bank has no way to know how much money is in your account. The banks close. That’s when the real panic starts.

Would the power grid go offline? How about City water? A lot of those utilities use Internet monitoring, but they’d probably still function.

First responders rely on the Internet, either to map out where to go or for communications. The 911 call centers use the Internet. That’s all down, so they resort to using radios. Minus a GPS, it takes longer for them to respond to calls. “Does anyone have a street map?”

Looking for information, people turn to TV and radio. The TV stations doesn’t have answers because all their information also comes over the Internet. And for radio, forget it! Local Radio in the US is rare. Even the newspapers would have trouble getting regional or national news. Will people panic?

The bigger question for me is, how fragile has the world become? Could such a thing really happen?


  1. Which is why I still like to know ‘how to do things’ like finding North without a compass, find drinkable water. Not because I intended to live off the land but I can if I have to. The problem is there is now an over use of interconnection, ‘I have my fridge so it can tweet me when I am low on milk!, said a friend, ‘Why for the love of gord’ said I. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

    Comment by glennp — April 4, 2016 @ 9:52 am

  2. I believe those are skills beneficial to anyone. I wonder if they teach thise basic skills in school?

    Comment by admin — April 4, 2016 @ 11:37 am

  3. Certainly in the UK, most likely in US there has been a fad for things to be online, while some of them are useful most I have found is annoying. I mean the fact that the TV can connect to the web so you can view YouTube and other services (like Hulu I suppose, but that really does not have much penetration beyond the Geek Elite in the UK) the interfaces are clunky and awkward and slow to use so you don’t (at least thats me). I wonder if anyone has used the fridge example that seems awkward and a level closer to the Matrix.

    Comment by glennp — April 5, 2016 @ 2:03 am

  4. Well, I think we’re living in the Matrix, but I have no proof!

    The “Internet of Things” is about the connected TV, fridge, and toaster. They recently did research to discover that these devices don’t offer much security, so hacking into a fridge is possible. Then again, I don’t see much penetration. The only common Internet of Things item here is the Nest thermostat control. Even then, it’s common only among those who can afford it.

    Comment by admin — April 5, 2016 @ 7:08 am

  5. I’m afraid this hypothetical scenario is bound to happen at some point. As we put more and more reliance on the Internet, the dangers of a shutdown become more pronounced. I suppose Amateur radio and satellite based communications would take on new importance in the event of a major Internet failure

    I’m puzzled by the way the risk of catastrophic failure doesn’t seem to be the major concern it once was when implementing critical systems. For example, GPS jamming is not only possible but not that difficult. (North Korea has already done it a number of times.) Yet the new eLoran systems that were supposed to serve as backups to GPS have never been built. The existing Loran-C systems have already been shut down. When a major GPS failure happens, there will be no backup.

    Comment by Matthew Reed — April 13, 2016 @ 1:36 pm

  6. Generally, first responders are trained in backup systems, but I’m not sure how rigorous that training is. I mean, they can read a map, but does every vehicle have a map? In fact, if you needed a map of your city right now, could you even buy one?

    Comment by admin — April 13, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

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