|| Published Title:
an EMP attack could destroy anything electronic-based"
My Original Title:
by Paul Abramson
2600 Magazine Volume 29,
Number 1; Spring 2012 Issue
2600 Magazine; "The Hacker Quarterly" is a must-read for Network Administrators, and computer security professionals. Each issue documents security flaws, hacks, and virus penetrations of corporate, institutional, and government networks. Folks, this is a "how to" guide for hackers! Hackers use it to learn how to get into your computer! It is legal for them to publish these things. So others had better find out some of the things that hackers (and computer security professionals) are exchanging between each other through this and other related publications.
"A Flash - It All Stops - An EMP Happened" - by Paul Abramson
I wonder if America will be ended by an EMP. EMP means: Electro-Magnetic Pulse; which can be produced by a large explosion. In fact, some large nuclear explosions, high in the atmosphere, have produced EMPs inadvertently. It is also called: The Compton Effect.
Back in 1958 the US performed a particular H-Bomb test in the skies over the southern Pacific Ocean which knocked out street lights in Hawaii (about 800 miles away), and in the opposite direction interrupted radio transmissions in much of Australia (4,000 miles away). That is a span of about 5,000 miles. Modern electronic circuitry is a lot more sensitive to interference than old street lights and tube radios. That's why you have good surge protectors on your computer and your home theater system. But a powerful electrical surge that travels line-of-sight through the air and most walls thereby bypasses most modern electronic protections.
Instead of open ocean below as in the 1950s, what if the area below was the Continental United States of today?
I recently broached this topic with an ex-congressman acquaintance and he immediately responded that this is the biggest danger to America today! I agreed. But then I followed up with the question of WHY no one is talking about this?!
After the Compton Effect was discovered in nuclear tests by both the US and the Soviet Union, both nations agreed to suspend above-ground nuclear testing. It was an unpredictable side-effect of Cold War bomb testing.
Today you can look up "E-Bomb" (not related to spam, sorry) and see that a rogue nation or terrorist group could actually shield a nuclear bomb housing in a way that would accentuate its EMP blast.
Let's say Iran, as one possible example, positioned a modified container ship about 200 miles off the US Eastern seaboard, quietly, without attracting attention. Then, still in international waters, it begins dumping all the big shipping containers overboard. A missile launcher rises out of its belly and sends a single warhead skyward successfully. Reaching only two miles in altitude (but higher would be even more effective to send the pulse further over the horizon) in a couple of minutes, roughly over Delaware or New Jersey - it detonates.
We hear nothing. Maybe we don't see much. The EMP instantly radiates out in all directions. From New York to Atlanta, and as far west as parts of Ohio, cell towers pop. Electronic ignitions in millions of cars and trucks stop. And no one can hear local radio stations much less get on the Internet. Dark and silent in many areas. Satellites above (sensitive electronics that are sometimes impacted by solar flares) also in a direct line of sight from the blast could be rendered mute.
When Hurricane Katrina hit it knocked down some power lines. There were gas stations filled with fuel, but when the small electric pumps went out, no gas. If the EMP hit cross-country power lines thus taking out the big transformers entire neighborhoods or cities could lose power. With no electric pumps there'd soon be no water, no way to flush toilets, and freezers and medical equipment would all shut off, etc.
Readers of 2600 Magazine are curious and inventive. We like to know how things work, alternate applications of technology, and I believe that we like to ponder repercussions - both positive and negative - of holes in infrastructure.
My friends, I fear that the danger of a rogue group detonating an EMP is a very real and present danger. Ponder this scenario, instead of a single large rocket: what if there were three or four modified container ships? One approaches California, one enters the Great Lakes towards Chicago, and another quietly aims for a major port in Virginia or New Jersey (perhaps a fourth is en route to New Orleans). At a set time one day the crews start to use banks of helium tanks below deck to fill a large dirigible on each ship, then lifting the payloads airborne (no bright exhaust trails to track, just big silent balloons rising). At only 2,000 or 3,000 feet in altitude they simultaneously detonate.
How could you buy a new electronic ignition for your car if the factory 500 miles away has also been fried? Wall Street? Light some candles to find it. No street lights tonight and you can't microwave your dinner.
Most people have not built a Faraday Cage (Faraday shield) around their homes or offices - but maybe we need to start. Lightning strikes rarely but lightning and grounding rods are a part of most modern building codes. One lightning strike, like one EMP, could ruin your whole day.
Generals are always fighting the last war. The French built the intricate Maginot Line in the 1930s (after WWI (1914-1918) years of trench warfare). So in 1940 (early in WWII) the German Army went north, just going around it. Then they marched into Paris a couple of weeks later. Today America is trying to build a domestic Missile Defense Shield (MDS; an ICBM interceptor or anti-ballistic system; the U.S. NMD - National Missile Defense). But a sophisticated small, light-weight 1,000 pound bomb could be delivered by a container ship, or by a submarine, or even by a semi-truck driving up from Mexico into the Midwest, or via a sleek privately owned Gulf Stream jet inbound from Monaco or Geneva late one night. Maybe the pilot has radioed ahead that he is flying to St. Louis or Kansas City or Nashville from Europe. All is dark and quiet, with street lights far below. Sounds fine, right? Flying at 30,000 feet the suicide-pilot radios a short congratulatory message back to some far away dictator, then the co-pilot simply reaches back and presses a button.
A flash - it all stops -
the end of America.
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