Was the Wave Broadband outage a terrorism dress rehearsal?

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There I was, early last Tuesday morning, Twittering away, when suddenly … connection lost. Just then, my husband called to me, “Is your internet working?

Nope.

Although we rarely have problems with our Wave Broadband service (overall, I give them two thumbs up), I’ve learned from the handful of interruptions to check the television. If the television is also knocked out, it’s time to call Wave. Sure enough, the TV was dead in the water, but rather than the usual snow on the screen, it was just black.

Weird.

I called Wave, and it got even weirder. The recording said, “Due to a high volume of calls, we are unable to take your call at this time. Please try again later.” That never happens. Wave always answers the phone, with real people at the other end. Very strange. Hmmm. Must be a whopper of an outage. Maybe some bonehead cut a line with heavy machinery again?

With no Internet access, my husband and I did something novel for a work morning — we sat and chatted over coffee. Wow — remember when people did that every morning instead of logging onto Facebook? Imagine how much time we’d spend together if a computer screen wasn’t siphoning it away.

Later that morning, at the Express office, our AT&T service was working just fine. I got right to work, and not long after, my husband emailed me links to the local television news stations, reporting that Wave declared the massive outage, affecting most of the Sacramento area and Rocklin, a “coordinated attack.” The hair on my arms stood up. “Coordinated attack” is just a polite way of saying “terrorism.”

Holy crap. Were we under attack again? The next time insane homicidal terrorists come a-callin’, will they launch into our communication systems rather than tall buildings? Of course, my thoughts were pre-shaded by all the recent crowing on the televised news about some sort of terrorist attack that may occur somewhere, somehow, sometime, because Independence Day and Ramadan are having a concurrence, and why that’s significant isn’t clear, but be afraid, be very, very afraid, and also enjoy the Fourth of July, and above all, keep tuning in so you know what to be afraid of.

Note to all you insane homicidal terrorists — kick back and relax. Your work here is done. You don’t need to terrify the American public. The mainstream media is doing a fine job of that.

Despite my anger over televised media’s attempt to manipulate the masses into obedience via concocted fear so we’ll tune in and watch commercials for prescription drugs we don’t need, my mind was whirring nonetheless. The words “coordinated attack” haven’t been tossed around much since 9/11. There wasn’t just one plane. There were four. Were more hits coming? Would AT&T also go down? Verizon? What if all Internet access had a catastrophic collapse? What would we do? What would you do? Do you have a plan? I know I don’t. Not really, other than to pace the floor and fret.

If our Internet system collapses like the Twin Towers, you couldn’t access your bank accounts. Credit cards. Healthcare records. In many places, you couldn’t purchase groceries or gas. You might not be able to contact loved ones. Do your work. Get a paycheck (which you couldn’t cash anyway). Airlines, traffic signals, power plants — they all require Internet access. We’re become completely dependent on a functioning Internet. It’s our Achilles heel. Pierce it, and we die.

With an extended time without Internet access, how long would it take for Americans to go all Lord of the Flies? Within a week, I’m guessing there’d be a sow’s head on every flagpole. We’re that dependent on the Internet. It’s not good, people. We need to have Plan B in our pockets now. What if there was no Internet, and no repairs in sight. Where would we get our information? How would we contact loved ones? Do we have some emergency cash and drinking water stashed? Do we always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in the car? I fall short on every count. Not good.

I did have one epiphany last Tuesday — I used to tease my husband about his ham radio hobby. But in the event that we lose Internet and telephone service, the ham radio geeks may be the heroes. They’ll still be able to communicate, and know how to get messages to people from across the county or country. They even have practice drills every week so they know what to do in an emergency. Hmmm. Maybe ham radio isn’t so dorky after all.

While Wave scrambled to repair its severed fiber-optic lines last Tuesday, the FBI issued a statement downgrading the outage to “vandalism.” Hmmm. There’s a fine line between a coordinated attack and vandalism. You say tomayto, I say tomahto. Soon after, USA Today reported that the FBI is investigating “at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California’s San Francisco Bay Area dating back a year, including one early Tuesday morning.”

That’s a lot of “vandalism,” don’t you think? Me, I think somebody’s out there practicing. Doing a test run. Seeing how the public, the afflicted companies and the government respond. A terrorism dress rehearsal, if you will.

The story goes on to note that these incidents date back to July 6, 2014, and that “‘The pattern of attacks raises serious questions about the glaring vulnerability of critical Internet infrastructure,’ said JJ Thompson, CEO of Rook Security, a security consulting and services provider in Indianapolis.”

Ya think?

So, was the Wave outage last week part of a dress rehearsal for something on a much larger scale? Even if it wasn’t, maybe it should serve as a dress rehearsal for us. We shouldn’t wonder IF horrible people will destroy our Internet connections. We should assume that they will. And we should have a better plan in place than running a sow’s head up the flagpole.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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