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3.13.2017

Lights Out ~ Review

Lights Out
By Ted Koppel

A Cyberattack
A Nation Unprepared
Surviving the Aftermath

We're a nation unprepared having mixed old and new together while allowing an entire industry to set their own suggested guidances. But in the world we now find ourselves living in this could very well be the weak link that could topple us.  What is this weak link you ask ~ the antiquated power system that powers everything in our day-to-day world.

The destructive power of nature is to be expected to exert its strengths upon occasion. Shutting down the power grid in a small contained area. What we don't anticipate and have no plan of recovery for is a cyberattack upon our power system. But just such an attack is not just the imaginings of fiction writers but a viable threat that could conceivably halt all modern life in a large and unpredictable swath of the nation. A threat that could silently strike with no clue as to who instigated the attack.

With our current dependence on electricity to power everything from our toothbrush to the latest automotive hybrid we would be in a word trapped. Water and food would quickly become scarce due to spoilage and panic demand. Communication would be almost impossible. 

But though there is no national plan in place if such an attack would take place there are models that each community - each neighborhood - can follow should such an event take place. The first is to practice the art of neighborliness, a willingness to pool what we have and share it amongst those around us. We should follow the philosophy of when experiencing a year of plenty to set aside a portion for a year of need. Preparation is always a prudent plan and as this book points out it is up to individuals and communities to do the groundwork necessary to survive the first few days and weeks.

Lights Out should not frighten the reader into hiding terrified of when and where disaster will hit, but rather allow the reader to think about what is exposed and plan accordingly for their living situation. This book also provides some interesting insights on how we could improve our current electrical situation so that repairs could be more easily accomplished such as having similar transformer parts that can easily be switched out anywhere in the nation (as opposed to state or region specific parts).

This is an insightful book that provides a lot of food for thought. And it is one that I recommend reading just so one is aware of what is and what isn't. This is not a book to be frightened away from because in this case ignorance is not bliss but rather an enemy.

I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher through Blogging for Books with no expectation of a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.



About the Book:
In this New York Times bestselling investigation, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyber-attack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
 
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.  

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”  

And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.

In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.