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Are We Headed Toward a Cyber War?

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Are We Headed Toward a Cyber War?

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One of the most insidious end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios is an invisible attack on our power grid and the communication and information networks that drive our daily lives.  I am not referring to a short term outage, as annoying and as disruptive that can be. What I refer to and even fear, it a true SHTF where we are without power and communications for months or even years.

Many authors have explored this topic along with the corresponding breakdown of society that will occur when factories cease to operate, medical services are unavailable, and banks and stores are permanently closed.  As much as I try to envision this happening, I know that the real thing will be far worse than my imagination and certainly far more disruptive than a weekend test of off-grid skills.

Are We Headed Toward a Cyber War | Backdoor Survival

That being said, wrapping your mind around the possibility of a cyber-attack is an important part of developing the proper survival mindset.  Today I challenge you to consider the possibility of a cyber attack and to begin to prepare for this eventuality as you would any other disaster.

Richard Earl Broom, an upcoming Spring Book Festival author, has graciously provided Backdoor Survival with a thought-provoking “think piece” about the coming cyber war.  Read, believe and act.  It could happen.


On the February 19, 2013 this headline appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

“China’s Army Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S., Report Traces Attacks to Military Office’s Doorstep – Power Grid is the Target.”

How would you like to wake up some morning and find the power is off? No heat. No lights. No home appliances working. No electricity to operate the pump at the service station to gas your car. No cash register working at the store you normally frequent to pick up some milk and bread.

And… not because some snow laden tree limb fell on a power line, but because of an intentional, malevolent attack by a hostile nation. Your power company can’t estimate when your power is going to be restored, because it is not just some tree limb that’s busted a line, it was a purposeful, well thought out cyber attack that has really fouled up the computer systems that operate our national power grids. It will require an intense effort to unravel. Will the power be restored in days? Weeks? Months? Ever? Who knows?

The New York Times article identifies a People’s Liberation Army unit on the outskirts of Shanghai as the source of “…an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organizations and government agencies…” The article further reports these attacks are widespread and happening daily to probe our systems, our data and gather information about us.

“Guo Yue sat at the terminal in Shanghai at a secret location with senior party leaders present. She was ready to brief them. They sat, impassive, watching a large display screen in the room. She was looking at her screen on her laptop. The GCC Failure Report number simultaneously flashed on her laptop and also on the larger display screen. She spoke. “Excellent. Gentlemen as you see, it is working. It took us very little time to break into the GCC systems and install the malware. Their computer security is so lax.”

“One of the senior party leaders spoke, “I do not understand these people. Why do they go to global financial conferences and write papers that expose their own vulnerabilities? We sit quietly in a nice room sipping some tea and have our adversary explain to us how to defeat them. We learned there is an easy, single point of failure for global financial systems. Just put in some malevolent code at the single place they reconcile their daily trades and generate false, misleading results. They are so naïve. Really amazing.”

–From the novel Leaving The Trees, published July 2013 by Richard Earl Broome, page 33, All Rights Reserved.

Instead of an attack on our power grid, in my recent novel, Leaving The Trees, I developed a fictional scenario where the global financial systems were attacked by China and all brought down. One day people woke up to find ATMs had quit working, credit cards were shut off, and if they went to the bank, the bank employees were not certain if your balance was correct. Your bank, like all the others, froze your money in place along with everyone else’s. Over time the interstate commerce we all take for granted to deliver us food, gasoline, and the other necessities of life, ground to a halt. Business owners would not ship their goods hoping to be paid…someday. Things stopped. Chaos ensued.

Here are three recent headlines, about the cyber threat.

Washington Free Beacon: U.S. Military Not Ready for Cyber Warfare, Gen. Alexander tells Senate threat of major cyber attacks is growing, February 27th, 2014

New York Times: Report Calls for Better Backstops to Protect Power Grid From Cyberattacks, March 2nd, 2014.

Financial Post: Alberta bitcoin bank Flexcoin shuts down after hackers stole all of its online coins, March 5th, 2014

Not much appears to have changed in a year has it? And…how many among you have had your credit card recently replaced because of the massive computer security breach at Target?

I spent a significant part of my military career working with our nation’s intelligence community. All these events are what they would call, “indications and warnings” that something is going to occur, but …when? We do not know. However, with our technology-based civilization, we may not be able to withstand a “Cyber Pearl Harbor.” It could damage too much of our technology and frankly, if it is bad enough and long enough, we may never recover. This could sink us all.

So, as I sit at my desk on this beautiful Montana morning and write this think piece about the cyber threat facing us, I have to wonder what will it take to get our collective attention? While our nation copes with this, what is a prepper to do in the meantime?

Take charge, get real and get ready. When you prepare as an individual, aim for as much self-sufficiency as you can afford. Develop your Plan A, then a Plan B, and then a Plan C for each level of the deterioration of your capabilities. How will you prioritize the use of that gasoline driven generator you own, when the gasoline stops coming and you really don’t know how much longer you will have it running? What is the highest priority for use? What can wait? How you will plan this out?

When your bank graciously offers to stop sending you those annoying envelopes to your mail box, stuffed with those arcane paper statements, and just email them to you instead (which saves them tons of money and doesn’t do a thing for you), ignore them. Try to prove what your assets were worth if all the bits and bytes are long gone and the last statement you ever bothered to print out and save are a year old.

In short, think both more widely and much more deeply about all of this. Think through all the connections and moving parts of many of the things we take for granted. How will you survive if you find the systems and processes we are all so reliant on, suddenly disappear because a cyberattack? An attack launched without warning, which deftly nails us at a vulnerable point creating widespread, cascading catastrophic effects. And yes…we do have these vulnerable points, these single points of failure which have no back up systems readily available. As I sit here today and write this article, our adversaries are probing for them and making plans.

Think hard about these possibilities preppers. The coming cyber storm continues to gather.

About the Author:  Richard Earl Broome has lived an extraordinary life rising from an Army private to an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of the National Security Council staff. This was followed by a successful business career as a disaster recovery/business continuity expert. He now lives in a small community in Montana and is on the faculty at Montana State University.

His novel, LEAVING THE TREES was published in 2013 and is a part of the Spring 2014 Backdoor Survival Book Festival.

What To Do Now

As Richard indicates, there are things we can do now to prepare for a cyber attack.  As he says, develop a plan A, then a plan B, then a plan C.  Don’t wait until the event happens to figure out what you will do if your initial plan fails.

I would like you to keep something else in mind.  The last thing anyone wants to do is to go through their stored food, medicine, and supplies during the first month following an outage or attack.  If you don’t know how long the event is going to last, prepare for the worst and start rationing from the get go.  Make sure you have a way to hide what you have and also to defend it.  You are going to want your preps to last.

Most important, keep your barter items separate from your working stock.  Had you thought about that?

The Final Word

I am thrilled that Richard has chosen to share his wisdom with us.  Clearly, he has been on the inside and has learned things that we will never know.  He is extremely passionate about the topic of cyber attacks and cyber warfare and has a tremendous amount of interest in helping others understand the scope and nature of a potential cyber attack.  In closing he told me:

“I have a great deal of interest and passion around this topic and feel it is our greatest threat. Our dependence on technology and systems is so profound, that few really understand how serious it could be if some cyber attack spins out of control. There could be more serious consequences than most people realize.”

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin: Here are some items for your grid-down bucket list.

Leaving The Trees:  Richard’s book is a fictional account of the meltdown of global society, as we know it. It has at its root cause a malevolent Chinese cyber attack on global financial networks and systems – an attack so bad that everything to spins out of control.  This is the first in a series with the second book coming out soon.

One Second After:  For many, the novel “One Second After” was a game changer that convinced them of the need to be prepared.    If you have not read this book, you really should.

Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove:  This Coleman One-burner Propane Stove is an easy-to-use portable stove that should meet almost any camp cooking need. The PerfectFlow regulator provides consistent cooking performance by producing a steady fuel stream, even in cold weather, high altitudes, or when fuel is low. Equipped with one 10,000 BTU burner, this fully adjustable stove will last for 2.2 hours on high or up to nine hours on low.

BaoFeng UV-5R  Dual-Band Ham Radio: When traditional communication systems go down, you are going to need a ham radio  Yes, a license ins required (and no, I do not have my license yet but I am working on it) but I do have the radios.  Did you know they can also be used as walkie-talkies?  Here is the antenna I ordered with my units along with the programming cable: NAGOYA Antenna for BAOFENG UV-5R and USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R UV-3R+.

AA and AAA Solar Battery Charger: Another popular item with BDS readers. This unit will charge up to 2 pairs of AA or 1 pair of AAA batteries via USB or solar power.

Meyer Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: The reviews are great.


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16 Responses to “Are We Headed Toward a Cyber War?”

  1. i recently read a report by lloyds of london about the possibility of an emp due to solar storms. apparently the most likely time for that to happen during this 11-year cycle is early 2015. i will try to give the link here: Solar Storm Risk to the North American Electric Grid.pdf. i think that’s even more likely than a cyberwar, and those of us living on the coasts will be most impacted if it happens. i’m going to build me a few faraday cages. probably already should have anyway.

  2. I have talked with a retired member of one of the federal intelligence agencies who was professionally involved in counter-cyberwar.

    There is no question that foreign governments engage in hacking into our various systems, including military, electrical grid, water distribution, financial, air transport, and oil transportation and refining. So far they are mostly looking around, which means figuring how to disrupt the grids at some future time i.e. when we are at war.

    I mentioned the recent National Geographic movie “American Blackout”, in which a foreign government completely brings down our electrical grids nationwide. His expressed opinion was that while that was theoretically possible, it was highly unlikely to actually be pulled off. That is, the systems would not all be shut down, and efforts would be successfully made to restore power. He seemed satisfied that “American Blackout” was close to worst possible situation, and that worst possible is inherently less likely than than a less than worst case.

    Of course, I do know that he keeps multiple 55 gallon barrels of water and quite a bit of food in storage.

    What almost none of the scenarios people talk about emphasize, though, is the impact of power loss on the drinking water extraction, purification, and distribution systems around the country.

    Even in those areas which have sufficient back up generators to power the water system, once they run out of fuel (usually only a few days) there will be no water to drink.

    Think of Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Phoenix without tap water. In the summer.

    In Chicago, people might respond by walking to the lakefront or the rivers for polluted but fresh water. However, they would mostly live too far away to do so every day, so they would have to camp out, immediately contracting severe intestinal problems from bacterially contaminated water, and soon polluting their water supplies with sewage. Imagine a couple million people living outside, all with severe diarrhea and vomiting, and no toilets. However, in winter the rivers could be frozen, as would the shoreline. Even if they could get water out, it would be too cold to camp.

    In Miami there is no ready source of even polluted fresh water, nor in Los Angeles or Phoenix or nearly any other major city. People would simply die, and die about three days after the water stopped.

    Without potable water, none of the other problems from a collapsed grid matter: nearly everyone who remained in the affected areas would die in less than a week.

    Bill Quick’s new novel, “Lightning Fall”, about a major EMP attack, does cover this pretty well: Nearly everyone in California dies. “Lightning Fall” is easily the most complex EMP disaster novel I have come across, addressing not just the ‘on the ground’ experiences of people around the country, but also the political response from Washington. If you are interested in EMP novels, it and “One Second After” by William Forstchen are excellent, and very different from each other.

    There is no question that foreign governments are doing all they can to learn how to disable our core infrastructure, and that our government is working to prevent that from happening. If a country like China or Russia or Iran decided that it was time to strike, they would probably be able to disrupt, though probably not destroy, multiple areas.

    A worst case scenario is possible, but unlikely. However, we can each do a great deal to minimize our own personal vulnerabilities by preparing for grid down events. One good thing: preparing well for any disaster will likely prepare one reasonably well for nearly any problem. Most of the preps are similar, if not identical.

    We prep primarily for hurricanes, secondarily for earthquakes and tsunamis (we had a warning today, since cancelled), and those preps keep us prepared for less likely, and possibly more severe events.

    • On average:

      3 minutes without oxygen
      3 days without water
      3 weeks without food
      3 months without companionship

      any one of those and most people will be dead.

  3. I may be in error, but I think Gaye would prefer to keep this website as non-political as possible. I have seen some websites that have basically been destroyed by political infighting and I for one would rather the political stuff go to another site. Gaye. is trying to Give us some information that may be helpful to us as individuals. She may not agree fully with what is said in the book, but feels there is enough truth in what’s in it that she wants to share it with us. And I for one thank her, even though I may never read the book.

    • Jim – You are correct. I work very hard to keep BDS non-political and also non-religious. That said, I do want to remind everyone that Richard’s book is fiction and is not a political statement of any type.

      One other thing. I have found that many former (now retired) senior military officers are caught in the same falderal as the rest of us. Remember this article? My contact at FEMA was stonewalled by his own PTB in providing answers. //

  4. Helot’s observations and comments seem worthy of consideration. To further observe the subject matter and the author being discussed, it seems that the underlying issue (or predominant issue- whichever one chooses to perceive it) is one of FEAR and/or CONTROL by those who are determined to control others. Just WHO does government “intelligence” operations really serve?

    How generous for the “ex-government intelligence” author to offer his book for SALE to us at this point in the paradigm manipulation process. Hmmm… why has he waited until now to share his “intelligence” before the people?

    The efforts, purpose, and information presented by “Backdoorsurvival” are worthy for anyone… anytime… during our ride here on the planet. Both SurvivalWoman and SurvivalHubby are doing a great service.

    It seems, however, the “Ultimate Survival Kit”… would be one that exposes the magnitude of the lies and deceptions that have been perpetrated on the people of the planet by the Vatican, the British Royalty, and the Hidden Elite… and continue to be delivered by certain politicians, preachers and phonies among us.

  5. Whenever planning on a disaster, this one has been a constant one I’ve planned on since I first learned how to use the internet. Where there is a good thing, someone will find a way to corrupt it, whether for fun or power. For me, this one has been a given as they say.
    I do disagree in that even in the worst scenario possible, people are resilient and bounce back. It may take awhile to recover, but anyone who knows history, knows this truth. Down, but never quite out. People will rise up and create something, it may not be as it once was, but people build again and again.

  6. That’s weird. I looked at the main page and it says there are three comments here. I clicked on the link and there’s only one.

    Yesterday I submitted a comment and it said I was commenting too quickly, so I hit the refresh button and it said, “Oops, it looks like you already said that”.

    In the background, the title to this blog entry is, ‘Are We Headed Toward a Cyber War?’

    Heck, when I played around with the Internet in the 1990’s, it was clear we were always and already in a cyber war, everywhere and from every angle by many many people.

    This will be my fourth attempt to post this comment,

    The connection was reset

    The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.

    Other pages load ok.

    Funny, that.

    Just for fun I will see how many times I have to try to get this to stick. It’s probably just a WordPress? hick-up.

    • Helot – It could have been the cloudproxy I have set up to mitigate those nasty DoS attacks. I have the cache set up for 3 minutes, not long, but that still may be the problem. On the other hand, it could be internet weirdness.

      — Gaye

  7. Oh wait! I guess there is one part in the meat of this article I disagree with. It’s the “ever”, “stopped” and, “never” parts.

    “Will the power be restored in days? Weeks? Months? Ever? Who knows? […] Things stopped. […] if it is bad enough and long enough, we may never recover.”

    When in the history of the world has this ever happened?

    “Things” don’t just “stop”.

    As long as there are two people on earth there will be trade and commerce. Even in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII or in a unitedstate maximum prison system today, “things” don’t “just” stop.

    Perhaps when he says, “This could sink us all.” and, “we may never recover” what he means is, it could sink the current power structure of the empire and those who make their living from money for nothing?

    Might there be, “widespread, cascading catastrophic effects”? Yeah, probably.

    But “things stopping”? Not ever.
    Isn’t that part of why people prep? Because they know things won’t be stopping and they want to participate?

    Pardon me if that seems like an attack. It’s not really meant to be. It’s just the View from Here. An optimistic one, I think.

  8. I agree with the gist of this article. The meat of it.

    At the same time, I noticed something.
    Richard Broom, “I spent a significant part of my military career working with our nation’s intelligence community. […] an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of the National Security Council staff.”

    Is that supposed to inspire trust?

    I suppose for some it might?
    I don’t know why.

    He uses phrases like, “our adversaries” and such. However; the guys over at The Daily Bell have been pointing out how there is no “us” and “them” in that sense. All the world over, it’s just the uber-power elite at the top vs. those at the bottom they wish to control.
    They utilize chaos to further their control. For them, there are no national boundaries.

    “Clearly, he has been on the inside and has learned things that we will never know.”

    That is true.
    What – exactly – those things are, one should wonder.

    Anyway, like I said, I don’t disagree with the main thrust of this article, it’s just a basic premise within it that seems,… no longer sound. I guess it’s what they call, “a meme”?

  9. My feelings are that a cyber attack on the financial system (or even a collapse of it) and a cyber attack or EMP burst on the power grid will have the same results. Oh, the power may stay up for a while in a financial collapse/attack but the end result would be the same – business as usual will cease and survival business becomes full time.

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