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Y2K Today: Preparing like its 1999

Considering the Next Y2K
"No phone, no lights no motor cars,
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe,
As primitive as can be."

-the ballad of Gilligan's Island, G. Wyle/S. Schwartz. source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/gilligansislandlyrics.html

Do you remember Y2K?
That "thing" commonly known as the Millennial Bug that was supposed to happen when the calendar changed from 1999 to the New Melania. What would happen when computer systems that were designed around a two digit date encountered the year 2000? Who knew? Computers were going to stop working, banks would loose all your money, and business systems throughout the globe would cease to function.

Amid the hype there was preparedness  
Information Technology exploded into a fury of activity that lasted for years and spent billions of dollars. The Y2K threat was taken seriously even though the impact could only be estimated. Governments and small businesses alike mobilized ahead of the threat to reinforce computer systems and upgrade technology. Fearing some form of cataclysmic event, civilians also took precautions and readied themselves for the December 31 deadline.

And nothing happened. Did nothing happen because nothing was ever going to happen; or, did nothing happen because there was a unified preparedness effort?

Thinking of the Y2K situation made me think about how we would respond to a threat on our technology systems and internet today. We're in a far different world today than we were in 1999. The use of technology has increased exponentially in the last few years and certainly over the last decade. Today, automated systems control everything from finance to water treatment facilities. We're also in a far different world concerning preparedness. How would we do with a Y2K threat today?

It's not just business
We're used to swiping a card rather than paying in cash for everything from fast food to fuel. We've become accustomed to (if not demanding) instant access to our information and entertainment and we're accessing that content on the go via Smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices. We rely on internet communication for telephone, email, and other communication.

Is there a threat on the horizon? 
Would we embrace preparedness efforts with the same level of enthusiasm today as we did in 1999? Would we endorse the expenditures in terms of time and money to make preemptive changes? If today's climate of complacency is any indication...we'd do nothing until the PlayStation stopped working or the iPhone wouldn't connect...we'd be too late. This Nike spoof of Y2K just might capture the level of awareness. Then what?
"When nothing happens, nothing happens...nobody wants to pay when nothing happens."

Today's Threats
Y2K came with substantial warning time. Time to analyze, harden, prepare. Information technology professionals had about two years foresight to begin working on the issues once the Y2K threat potential was identified.
Would we have any Y2K-style warning today? Would we take the warning seriously?

Magnify the Y2K threat beyond the inconvenience of losing your email and social media for a few days. Computer viruses, cyber attack, infrastructure failure, and the potential of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) top the list of threats. These critical threats will almost certainly come without warning; turning us back to analog for weeks if not months or years. We recently discussed the issue and potentials of a cyber attack and our lack of ability to detect it until long after it has happened. With all things considered, the biggest threat we may face will be our own indifference to the potential. Remember, it can't happen here. Can it?

How far have we come since 1999? View the video Y2K: Tensions in the Last Days of the 1900's and answer that yourself.

Commerce, Communication, Infrastructure
Damage to communications systems and commerce may be immediately felt by government and civilian populations.  Managing life without our cellular communications, chat, text messages, FaceTime, and social media may be difficult...extraordinarily difficult. The real punch of a Y2K/cyber attack will be rendering our critical infrastructure useless. Rather than crippling a water pump in a processing station, lets turn off the United States power grid. No access to your money, no use of credit/debit cards. Lack power for a prolonged period of time would begin a cascade of system failures that would include loss of domestic water and fuel supplies. Civil unrest and potential for violence should be considered. Suddenly, $4.00/gallon gas seems like a bargain. How about water for only $10.00/gallon...cash only.

No Panic, Please
The intent of this post is raise awareness and assess threats. Cyber threat is not a Cassandra Paradox, it is a reality. What to do? Simple. Acknowledge the threat potentials and employ your standard preparedness strategy...and don't, repeat don't, take anything you see on Doomsday Preppers seriously...that's a topic of another post.


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