Pacemaker No-No!

So I learned that this is called a Van de Graaff Generator.


It generates very high voltage electricity. 


The guy setting it up asks me:

Do you have a pacemaker?


I respond in the negative and ask what’s the danger zone on this thing.


He says: 

You probably wouldn’t want to get within 10 feet of this!


Good to know. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

(Please note that blog is not to be taken as medical advice.)

Thank You To The Rescuers

Houston.jpeg

With all the devastation going on around Houston and the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Harvey…


I thought it would be nice to just take a moment to reflect.


First, the pain and suffering of the people affected. 


I couldn’t believe last night when I saw this image of residents in a assisted nursing facility sitting up to the necks in flood waters.


Or this morning, when I saw a photo in the Wall Street Journal of a firefighter holding a mother with her baby daughter lying on her, rescuing them through the waters. 


With over 3,000 rescues performed for people stranded in attics, rooftops, in cars, and all over the city and surroundings, I also think it’s important to recognize all the firefighters and other emergency workers who put their lives on the line to help others. 


The Houston area is expected to get 50 inches of rain in under a week, which is what their usual annual rainfall is. 


So there is massive flooding and damage from Harvey as well as 250,000 people without power. 


My prayers go out to the people impacted and gratitude to the people who help them. 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Huffington Post)

Internet Divide And Conquer

Cut Cable

Remember in the old Western’s when the Indians were about to attack the town, and before they rode in with knives and flaming arrows–what would they do?  


The Indians would cut the telegraph lines–no calls for help out, and no communications in–the town and its people were completely cut off.


The very next scene would be the slaughter of everyone in the town including a bunch getting scalped. 


How have things changed in the 21st century?


Not so much so, as the New York Times reports today on the constant threats to our underground Internet lines being cut–with 16 cuts to the lines in the San Francisco Bay area alone in the last year. 


Similarly just a couple of weeks ago, the media was reporting about the U.S. being worried about Russian subs cutting the undersea Internet cables.


But isn’t the Internet built like a spiders’s web (i.e. the World Wide Web) with redundant routes so that it can withstand even a nuclear attack?


Apparently, if you take out key Internet Exchange Points (IXP) or major international cable lines then the Internet can be seriously disrupted. 


Similar to the impact of an EMP weapon that fries our electronic circuits…poof no more communications. 


If you can cut off our core communications ability–then it’s a simple strategy of divide and conquer.  


Divided we are weak and can’t communicate and organize ourselves to either know what’s going on or to effectively respond. 


Like sitting ducks in the Old West surrounded and cut off–it was a slaughter. 


This is why it is so critical that we not only build redundancy in the cable lines, but that we create alternatives like satellite Internet or Google’s Project Loon for balloon Internet access.


It’s not just the military, law enforcement, and emergency management not that needs to be able to communicate–we all do!


With excellent communications, we can unify ourselves and we are strong–but if we are left in the dark, then divided we fall. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Dire Warnings On Cybersecurity

Security Camera
This week Adm. Michael Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command issued a stark warning to the nation about the state of cybersecurity:



With our cybersecurity over the next decade, “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic.



The Wall Street Journal reports that he gave ” a candid acknowledgement that the U.S. ISN’T yet prepared to manage the threat!”



China and “one or two others” [i.e. Russia etc.] are infiltrating our SCADA networks that manage our industrial control systems, including our power turbines and transmission systems,.



The cyber spies from the nation states are “leaving behind computer code that could be used to disable the networks  in the future.”



Can you imagine…you must imagine, you must prepare–not if, but when. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hanging By A Thread

Hanging By A Thread

This spool of cable has been hanging from this utility pole for days, maybe weeks.

I have never quite seen anything like this.

This huge spool hanging by a thread from this skinny little pole.

Of course, there is one warning cone sitting right underneath the overhead spool.

Can’t you just see that spool crashing down and flattening the cone? [Wonk!]

Then you have some sporadic red warning tape not doing much of nothing.

And cars and people regularly going up and down this street–which you don’t really see in this photo.

Maybe the workers just left the spool of cable up there in case they need it again in the future.

Hey, less work lifting it all the way up there again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Malware Through A Charger

Malware Through A Charger

Who would’ve thought you can get cyber attacked this way…

Forbes is reporting that Georgia Tech researchers have discovered an exploit where malware could be introduced to your computer through the plug in AC power charger.

Based on their proof of concept, when you connect your computer and electrical plug, you could get more than an electrical charge to your Apple iOS computer–you could get hacked!

The malicious charger has been named Mactans and in the future could be put together by inserting a miniature computer board (e.g. a BeagleBoard) right into the base of a charger plug (larger than the one shown above).

The hack attack is enabled by the USB port which is used for charging and doubles as a data port so that the malicious code would be surreptitiously inserted into your computer.

So be careful what you plug into, because when you think you’re just powering up your battery, you may end up powering down your whole computer device.

This sort of reminds me of the shoe bomber that forever changed how we view seemingly innocuous shoes at the airport.

A shoe may not just be for walking, and a AC charger may not be just a power source anymore. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lee Bennett)

Mayim Chaim

Mayim Chaim

You can only live about 3 days without water–that’s why protecting our water is so critical.

Emergency Management (May/June 2013) says, “There are numerous ongoing threats to our water supply. Some of them [natural or man made] could be catastrophic.”

– Water poisoning: Already in the 1st century, Roman Emperor Nero poisoned the wells of his enemies. These days you’d need a large supply, like “several dump trucks of cyanide or arsenic to poison a reservoir. Plus the water system is monitored and has purification protections such as chlorine, so it’s not that simple. We can also issue “boil alerts” for people to boil the water before drinking it. Then again, we saw what some radiation did to the Japanese water supplies after Fukushima.

– Blowing it up: The water system infrastructure can be disrupted using explosives, so keeping intruders far away from it is important to keeping it safe.

– Earthquakes/Hurricanes: Much of the water system pipes are old–some built during the Civil War–and these can be destroyed by natural disasters or even a construction crew jackhammer hitting in the wrong place.

– Electrical outage: If you shut down the electricity, you shut down the water pumps…and even with generators taking over for a while, your up against the clock, if you don’t get the juice flowing again soon.

– Cyber Attack: Our water systems, like other industrial control systems are vulnerable to cyber attack. A hacker that gets control of the systems could overheat it, overtreat it, flood it, or otherwise break it and shut it down.

Keeping our water infrastructure secure, the water supply safe and potable, the transport pipes intact, the electricity working, and the systems under control–are not little matters–they are the difference between life and death for millions.

As in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, when the ship gets blown off course into unchartered waters and the crew is thirsty for water and desperate to survive, the poet states, “Water, Water. Everywhere. And All The Boards Did Shrink; Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor Any Drop To Drink.”

In Hebrew, there is a short saying that sums up this topic, “Mayim Chaim”–water is life. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)