Thursday, April 23, 2009

 

The Attack On Morgan Hill

It should be getting more attention than it has

Attackers cut 8 fiber optic cables in Morgan Hill, California. The attack cut off the city and the surrounding area from communicating with the outside world via almost all media:
That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization. The city of Morgan Hill and parts of three counties lost 911 service, cellular mobile telephone communications, land-line telephone, DSL internet and private networks, central station fire and burglar alarms, ATMs, credit card terminals, and monitoring of critical utilities. In addition, resources that should not have failed, like the local hospital's internal computer network, proved to be dependent on external resources, leaving the hospital with a "paper system" for the day.

In technical terms, the area was partitioned from the surrounding internet. What was the attackers goal? Nothing has been revealed. Robbery? With wires cut, silent alarms were useless. Manipulation of the stock market? Companies, brokerages, and investors in the very wealthy community were cut off. Mayhem, murder, terrorism? But nothing like that seems to have happened. Some theorize unhappy communications workers, given the apparent knowledge of the community's infrastructure necessary for this attack. Or did the attackers simply want to teach us a lesson?

Although they are silent on the topic, I hope those responsible for emergency services, be they in business or government, are learning the lessons of Morgan Hill. The first lesson is what stayed up: stand-alone radio systems and not much else. Cell phones failed. Cellular towers can not, in general, connect phone calls on their own, even if both phones are near the same tower. They communicate with a central switching computer to operate, and when that system doesn't respond, they're useless. But police and fire authorities still had internal communications via two-way radio.

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