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The Power Grid Is Far More Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks Than Most People Realize June 18, 2017

In December of 2015, 230,000 people in Western Ukraine lost power after 30 substations were mysteriously shut off. Contrary to what most people assumed at the time, this wasn’t an innocuous power outage. The authorities would later admit that the loss of power was caused by a cyber attack, which marked the first time that malware was successfully used to attack a power grid. A similar, albeit more sophisticated cyber attack, occurred one year later just outside of Kiev. Given the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it’s widely believed that the Russian government was responsible for these incidents.

However, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. A computer security company has been investigating these attacks, and has discovered the malware that was used to take down the grid. They’ve found that it’s far more dangerous and easier to use than anyone realized before.

The danger of the malware is that it can automatically trip the breakers within a power system that keep the electrical lines from being overloaded. If one breaker is tripped, the load is shipped to another portion of the power grid. If enough are tripped, in the right places, it’s possible to create a cascading effect that will eventually overload the entire system, said Weatherford, who was formerly the chief security officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory authority for North American utilities.

“In some cases, it could then take days to restart all the plants,” he said.

Two things stand out about the malware, dubbed “Industroyer” by the researchers — it’s an order of magnitude easier to use than previous programs and it wasn’t actually deployed to do any real damage, meaning whoever’s behind the December attack might simply have been testing the waters. 

In other words, this malware can induce what’s often referred to as a cascading failure. This is what caused the massive blackout that occurred in the Northeastern US and Canada back in 2003. An overgrown tree branch in Ohio touched a power line, which caused that section of the grid to overload and shut down. The electricity had to be transferred to other power lines, which in turn also became overloaded. This chain reaction continued until 55 million people were without power.

Cascading failure is the perfect example of just how fragile our power grid can be. Because our grid is so interconnected, something really small can have a huge effect on the wider system. Though the power grid in the US isn’t as vulnerable to humble tree branches as it used to be, it’s still quite vulnerable to the type of malware that was used to shut down parts of the grid in Ukraine.

Industrial control networks of the type used in power systems use communications protocols that are much less secure than the kinds of computer networks used by banks, retailers and businesses.

“They were developed years ago, without security in mind. They weren’t designed for smart grids or interconnectedness,” said Robert Lipovsky, a senior malware researcher with ESET…

…Industroyer’s ease-of-use is so disturbing because industrial systems are still playing security catch-up, said Raheem Beyah at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

“I knew we were going in this direction but I didn’t think it would be this soon,” said Beyah, who teaches a course on infrastructure hacking and protection for graduate computer science students.

Bayah says the software needed to take down an electrical grid no longer requires the resources of a nation to create. Adding a module to the malware is now “something that a strong computer science graduate student could do,” he said.

This “Industroyer” malware represents a new threat that people need to accept and prepare for. The power grid, which is the linchpin of our standard of living, is now vulnerable to software that is relatively easy to use. Though it seems likely that the Russian government was responsible for developing it, it could have just as easily been made and deployed by non-state actors on a shoe string budget.

This is a dangerous new reality that we live in. Now, someone with a modest education and a small budget can inflict billions of dollars in damages, and leave us all in the dark. Obviously, that makes widespread blackouts far more likely in the future.

And that potential is probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s very possible that multiple cyber-attacks could keep us in the dark for weeks rather than just days. That would be more than long enough to cause society to disintegrate.

Fortunately, you’re not helpless in the face of this threat. You can prepare yourself now before it’s too late.

Additional Resources:

Are You ready Series: Rolling Blackouts

Could the Latest Solar Storm Warnings Bring an End to Civilization as We Know It?

The Big Blackout: Why I’m Going Lot-Tech to Prep for an EMP

4 Critical Components to Getting Prepped for a Blackout

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published June 18th, 2017
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Want Long-Lasting Boots? These Are the Qualities You Should Look For June 13, 2017

I’ve written before about the kinds of characteristics preppers should look for in a pair of shoes or boots. There are definitely a lot of factors to consider, including what kind of situation you’re prepping for and the environment you’re living in. And there’s a good chance that whatever benefits your choice of shoe has, there are going to be drawbacks as well. There isn’t any kind of footwear that is perfect for all situations.

With that said, perhaps the most important quality a prepper can for in a pair of shoes is durability. That’s because no matter what kind of shoes you buy, they’re probably not going to be collecting dust in your closet. You’re going to want to get your money’s worth, and use them. And if you’re going to be using them on a semi-regular basis, they had better still be in good condition in the event of a serious disaster. So if you’re in the market for a really durable pair of boots, here’s what you should be looking for.

The Sole And Heel

There’s only one characteristic that practically guarantees that the sole of your boots won’t wear down quickly. Your soles need to be made out of high density rubber. It’s also surprisingly difficult to find shoes with this trait, because most people in our society don’t spend a lot of time on their feet. They’re not walking several miles a day on pavement and concrete.

They sit at work, they sit at home, and in-between they sit behind the wheel. So they’re more concerned with how comfortable their shoes are, rather than how durable they are. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find shoes that have both qualities. The more dense your sole is the less comfortable it will be, because it lacks flexibility. So if you decide to buy really durable boots, make sure you invest in a really comfortable pair of inserts

But I digress. If you’re willing to overlook that, and you still want really long-lasting boots, you’re going to want a really tough and dense rubber sole. When you’re picking out boots, try to bend the sole. If you feel a lot of resistance, then it’s probably very dense. Also try knocking on the rubber with your knuckles. If it’s really tough, then it’ll probably sound like you’re knocking on wood, and it’ll probably sting your knuckles a little.

Also, consider the tread. It should have a significant surface area. If there’s a lot of space between the treads, then it will wear down faster. And skip boots that have air cushions in the soles. As the tread wears down, you’ll wind up with deep gaping holes that rocks will get stuck in.

The Upper

The upper portion of your boots are the most important. While soles can be replaced, uppers are more difficult to fix. Once they wear out you’ll have to buy new boots, so choose your upper carefully.

The longest lasting material for boots is also the oldest material to be used for footwear. You want leather, and not just any kind. It should be made out of full grain leather. You’ll know its full grain when you feel it. It has texture. Most leather boots on the other hand, are smooth.

Skip boots with uppers that are mixed with other materials like canvas or nylon. Those fabrics will wear out faster than the leather. They may breathe well, which will also help your boots last longer, but they’re not necessary. Leather also breathes fairly well, especially if you take my next piece of advice.

Look for pull-on boots, rather than boots with laces. That’s because the upper portion of these boots is mostly just one piece, so there aren’t many weak points. Boots that consist of multiple pieces of leather and fabric stitched together, have many ways of unraveling. Every stitch and eyelet is a liability. And yes, leather boots that can be pulled on will breathe very well.

 

Aside from that, you should consider the cost. Not all expensive footwear is long-lasting, but long-lasting boots that are new will probably cost at least $150. And it should go without saying that you should buy American. There are good brands overseas, but if a shoe company has managed to avoid moving its operations to another country, it means that it has a good reputation. People are willing to pay top dollar for their products no matter what, and they love their shoes for very good reasons.

Read More:

What Preppers Need most of All in Their Shoes

How To Retread Your Old Shoes With a Car Tire

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published June 13th, 2017
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The Chemical Used to Suppress Zika Is Having Terrible Effects on Infants June 9, 2017

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has largely disappeared from news headlines, and probably for good reason. The epidemic that started in South American in 2015, and threatened to spread to the United States, turned out to be a non-crisis for Americans. Zika, which is believed to cause microcephaly in babies, never gained a foothold in the United States.

But while fears were high, the government made some rather brash decisions to control mosquito populations that hadn’t even been infected with Zika. As a precautionary measure, they sprayed the environment in Florida and South Carolina with a chemical called “naled,” a pesticide so toxic that it’s banned in the EU. And they did so with little input from the public.

There’s a kind of dark irony that accompanies that decision, because the government was trying to stop a virus that causes birth defects. So in turn, they sprayed the environment with a chemical that also hurts babies. That’s the finding of a recent study, which examined babies in China who had been exposed to very low levels of naled.

The study, whose authors say it is the first to examine real-world exposure to naled outside workplace accidents or lab experiments, used cord blood from 237 mothers who gave birth to healthy babies at a hospital in southeast China between 2008 and 2011. At six weeks, the babies displayed no problems. But at nine months, the babies suffered from slight problems with coordination, movement and other motor functions.

The University of Michigan study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International on Thursday.

While the study provided only a close snapshot of a particular group of mothers, the authors say it suggests the need to take a closer look at using naled to fight mosquitoes, particularly since problems surfaced at lower exposure levels than previous studies.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since previous animal studies involving naled have suggested that it could drastically shrink the brains of infants.

Leave it to the government to combat a virus that shrinks the brains of infants and reduces motor function, by spraying a chemical that probably shrinks the brains of infants and reduces motor function.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published June 9th, 2017
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