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Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of November 2015: Investigative reporting that reads like fiction - or maybe I just wish it was fiction. In Lights Out, Ted Koppel flashes his journalism chops to introduce us to a frightening scenario, where hackers have tapped into and destroyed the United States power grids, leaving Americans crippled. Koppel outlines the many ways our government and response teams are far from prepared for an un-natural disaster that won't just last days or weeks - but months - and also shows us how a growing number of individuals have taken it upon themselves to prepare. Whether you pick up this book to escape into a good story, or for a potentially potent look into the future, you will not be disappointed. – Penny Mann
-The New York Times Book Review
“Ted Koppel has set off a firestorm with his explosive new book….A devastating cyberattack on our powergrid [is]…the risk Koppel has brought to the attention of the American public.”
-The Energy Times
"Lights Out is a timely warning about the vulnerability of America to a massive cyberattack that would cripple all we take for granted – electricity, communication, transportation. This is not science fiction. Hats off to Ted Koppel for putting us all on alert."
"Without a single bullet, bomb, or missile, a foreign enemy can now launch a devastating attack on the United States. Koppel explores how cyberwarfare threatens all of us, assesses the risks, criticizes the lack of government action, and finds praise for the Mormon way of disaster preparedness. I hope he's wrong about the danger but fear he's right on the mark."
–ERIC SCHLOSSER, author of Command and Control and Fast Food Nation
"Ted Koppel's unparalleled reporting skills are on full display in Lights Out. A fascinating and frightening look at just how vulnerable we are to a cyberattack."
“As readers would expect from Ted Koppel, Lights Out is dramatic but not hyped, tied to today’s news of shaky infrastructure and cyber attacks but also forward looking. This is an engrossing and significant book.”
—JAMES FALLOWS, national correspondent, The Atlantic; author of China Airborne
“In Lights Out, Ted Koppel uses his profound journalistic talents to raise pressing questions about our nation’s aging electrical grid. Through interview after interview with leading experts, Koppel paints a compelling picture of the impact cyberattacks may have on the grid. The book reveals the vulnerability of perhaps the most critical of all the infrastructures of our modern society: the electricity that keeps our modern society humming along.”
—MARC GOODMAN, author of Future Crimes
"Ted Koppel has written an important wake-up call for America on the threat of a crippling cyberattack. The danger we face right now is great, but so is the failure to acknowledge that the threat exists at all."
–LEON PANETTA, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
"Lights Out illuminates one of the greatest vulnerabilities to our nation – a cyberattack on our power grid. It is a wake-up call for all of us. We are the nation that created the internet; we should be the first to secure it. This powerful book could be the catalyst for just such a change."
–GENERAL (RET.) KEITH ALEXANDER, former director of the National Security Agency
"Try to imagine what a malevolent government, armed with the latest computer sophistication, could do to another nation's complex and entirely digital-dependent economy and social infrastructure. Fortunately, Ted Koppel has imagined it for us. We have been warned."
–GEORGE F. WILL
"When the lights go out after the cyberattack, this is the book everyone will read."
–RICHARD A. CLARKE, author of Cyber War and former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism
“A bold enumeration of the challenges posed by the digital age; an appeal to safeguard new instruments of human flourishing by studying the ways in which they could be exploited.”
—HENRY A. KISSINGER
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Same place where I was, in the dark.
This book reflects the authors capability to interview important people. However their responses are fairly uniform across the board.
Yes, there might be a problem and we are doing very little to prepare.
The book is short, I read it on a Sunday afternoon. It seems to have a good list of references but there are not a lot of details in the recommendations. Three chapters and about 27 pages are used to discuss the Mormons, which can be summed up as they are prepared.
Based on a TV interview I expected more details, Such as a ranking of which geographic areas are most in danger. Are here areas of much older facilities likely to be difficult to repair? Actions to take if a problem occurs, rather than just "have a plan". Hard examples of major recent power outages and time it took to recover, instead of just a few examples.
For instance if 1 major transformer is lost do we stay or do we go?
If you know nothing about the grid and the potential for it failing, nothing about cyberwarfare and the possibilities, this might be a good introduction.
It's a very easy read without a ton of details. And it shows what the government is not doing. If you remember the Northeast blackout of 2003 in which a software bug plunged 55 million in to the dark then you know the possibility of computer failure taking down the grid.
The core of the horror is our electrical grid. It is no secret that it old, old fashioned, creaky, decrepit and vulnerable to physical attack. Koppel adds that in addition, it is even more vulnerable to cyberattack. Hackers could, if they so desired, crash the whole electric grid, much as the United States and Israel ruined Iran’s uranium processing plants and as Iran turned 30,000 Saudi computers into useless doorstops. We have the technology; we have successfully deployed it ourselves. If similar efforts were made against the USA, it would mean weeks and months before power was restored. Water would stop flowing, gas would stop flowing, gas stations would close, hospitals would close, banking systems would cease. Debit and credit cards would not operate. Replacements for Very Large Transformers run to over a year lead time. The US has hundreds, all custom made.
And the government? Clueless. There are no plans to deal with this or prevent it. Cabinet Secretaries contradict agency heads on the existence of plans, administration “experts” minimize the possibilities, first responders hope they can retire before they have to deal with it. That is the state of American preparedness. There is no policy, no oversight, no budget, no contingency, no planning at all. We’ll deal with it when it happens, like global warming. It’s just not real enough for Americans to worry about. The best advice from Washington? Ensure you have a portable radio and fresh batteries.
Koppel is clearly worried about it, and all the really nonpolitical experts are unanimous in saying it’s a matter of when and not if. Without a doubling of America’s capacity to feed and house itself somewhere where there’s electricity, there is no way to see everyone through such a period. And no one is even trying, except for handfuls of survivalists/preppers. They are individually preparing for a Mad Max sort of post-apocalypse era, where bullets matter as much as dried food.
It’s a short, fast read, a slap up the side of the head, and a national scandal. We spend billions on 800 foreign bases and ensuring dangerous liquids like chocolate frosting don’t make it into airplane cabins, but the national electrical grid limps to its almost inevitable fate, unattended.
A good friend is responsible for planning for a county in the event of a catastrophe. He told me of the dire realities after even a few days. I have read accounts of the things that transpired after Katrina. I have no real way to explain away what is likely, so, now it is to try and figure out how a small family makes it through and to seriously consider if it is even something that we should desire.
This is a book worth reading and acting upon. If you cannot grasp that... the book will only puzzle you.
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When I trained as a nurse all the equipment was NOT electrifyed i.e. by the end of our training we had taken hundreds of blood pressures ect,
Now, machines do the work - are they accurate - what happens when they fial?
But I I wonder about a few things: Koppel mentions a measure of safety in systems by isolating them by "air" that is, an isolating gap in the network connections - in the case of the grid, between administrative computer systems and operating power systems. Then he destroys the efficacy of this isolation by saying some keeners might bring in their laptops and thumbajugs thus allowing a breach in the system. Well, my god in heaven, if this matter is so crucial then police the system and fire, lock up anyone who would try such a dumb thing allowing the possible entry of a catastrophic virus destroying the integrity of the system. Also, why not connect the various operating power systems by dedicated fibre optic lines isolating them from outside communications - and the Internet. Canada did that several years ago for vital communications links. Finally, if the consequences of attack through the internet are so disastrous, why not shut the goddam thing down, or at least rebuild it so that control can be exerted over the system by isolating segments. The system is no longer a plaything for university professors working on mutual projects. And we along quite well before the web was allowed to explode into the unmanageable nightmare that now threatens us because of its weaknesses! Oh, I know, the precious US constitution and the Fourth amendment! The flaws in that constitution have the structure of US governance have amply been displayed lately as no friend of the American people, with political parties at war with each other to the detriment of the country and persons of questionable intelligence, if not sanity, are allowed to be President.
At least in one set of jurisdictions (the free world) isolate and control all servers. The downside is too horrendous a cost to continue with this plaything.