Technology, the Internet, hackable cars, all targets for cyber-warfare


cyber warfare

Are systems too integrated?

Thanks to a Bell technician fixing a problem on a cable on Saturday, we now have consistent telephone and Internet service. It seems it was a more complicated problem than originally thought.

As irritating as the intermittent service was, it was neither life-threatening nor a major hindrance to my business. It was however a good reminder of how reliant we have become on technology. Not just for communication and entertainment but in ways that most of us do not think about.

In our cars for example.

I see a parallel between the increased dependability of modern vehicles on computerised systems and the huge number of recalls for defects that have been announced this year alone. Millions in the first 7 months of 2014, more I believe than in the whole of 2013.

Prior to coming to Canada in 2004, I had never heard of a widespread vehicle recall in South Africa and the only one I had read about was the Ford Explorer / General tyre vehicle roll over problem in the USA.

A recent article in a national newspaper listed the most easily hackable cars. Some of the easiest to sabotage electronically and remotely, were the more expensive models with the most sophisticated and integrated electronics. Those with communication and vehicle management controls running on the same computer system were the most vulnerable to hackers. It appears that it would be relatively simple for a skilled hacker to gain entry to your car’s systems and activate your brakes, immobilize your engine or cause similar mischief.

Just imagine if China with its armies of hackers wanted to paralyse North America, all it would need to do would be to cause a continent-wide gridlock by immobilizing every motor vehicle built in the last few years on the highway system. Chaos without a shot being fired or a missile launched.

The article noted that Audi with its separate systems for communication, vehicle management and security was much more difficult to hack and the Dodge Viper, impossible because of its lack of computerised systems.

This concern certainly makes a case for hanging on to your old carburetor and distributor ignition system pre 1990 vehicle as a backup immune to hacking.

Will this cause a boost to older car values?

Speculation along these lines certainly raise concerns about becoming overly dependent on electronic technology and the Internet.

Before the days of computerised vehicles, most people with a little mechanical knowledge and a smattering of common sense could fix a minor engine problem well enough to get out of trouble. If not, it was relatively easy to discern what the problem might be and seek the appropriate help. Now that is almost impossible without the right diagnostic tools and enough technical skill to use them.

Back in Zimbabwe when it was self-destructing, power failures were a daily occurrence. Land line telephone service became steadily worse until all the copper cables had been stolen when it disappeared completely. Fuel became impossible to obtain for days at a time.

People had to have back up plans to survive. Generators were purchased to power fridges, lights and farm cold storage facilities. Cell phones were connected to large outdoor antennae to increase range. Fuel was bought when available and stored in bulk tanks. Farmers formed syndicates to import fuel and other farming consumables directly.

It is relatively easy to make those plans when space and financial resources are available, more difficult for city dwellers and those with limited resources.

Technology is wonderful. The Internet, smart phones, smart cars and many other innovations have made our lives easier and more enjoyable.

But they have also made us more dependent on factors outside our control and that is where the danger lies.They have removed the need for self-sufficiency and the importance of practical skills in many areas of life.

I sincerely hope that there will not be a major cyber war that cripples society, but given the state of the world today, I fear there may be. It is those of us who can add and subtract without calculators, write by hand and figure things out ourselves who will survive and prosper.

Not those with the latest smart phones connected to a world-wide web that no longer works.

How dependent are you on technology? Could you survive without it?



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  16 comments for “Technology, the Internet, hackable cars, all targets for cyber-warfare

  1. August 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Even though I am basking in the privilege of answering your brilliant Blog post, I do NOT feel this Opportunity is mandatory for an enjoyable lifestyle. We both fared well before the days Technology as you outline.
    The opportunity to set up a BBQ on the corner and sell hot Dogs is always an option. (A friend is clearing $300 per day with that idea, in Arizona)
    We refrigerate little, eat fresh in season.
    We are blessed with all these wonderful tech toys, but should continue to keep an eye on Self-preservation.

    • August 15, 2014 at 10:32 am

      Of course, if technology is crippled for any reason, it will be much more difficult for the food police to find you and close your hot dog stand down for any of their dreamed up reasons they use now.

  2. Philip Quintas
    August 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    As a guitar player who primarily plays acoustic guitar, even in a blackout, I can still make music.

    • August 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Absolutely correct, and bring some serenity in times of chaos to those who can’t make their own.

  3. Roberta
    August 13, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Now that you have scared me half to death I feel so impotent. Joking aside, your scenario is a wake up call to all of us.

    You write, “It is those of us who can add and subtract without calculators, write by
    hand and figure things out ourselves who will survive and prosper.”

    Sadly I think you are correct. With my cooking background though I could sell gourmet hotdogs. $300 a day sounds pretty good. 🙂

    • August 15, 2014 at 10:28 am

      I certainly did not mean to scare any one Roberta, just get them to think. With your reputation, I think you would have more customers than you could handle if you opened a gourmet hotdog stand.

    • August 15, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Actually, Roberta, no need to wait until “Armageddon”.
      If you have the urge to “open a Hot Dog stand”, no time like the present

  4. August 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Peter–I was at my mom’s cottage last weekend where she has elected to NOT have WiFi. I only used my phone for taking family photos and I didn’t even bother bring my lap top for the visit. It was heaven to be off the grid for three days. The weekend was a great reminder: all things in moderation. A tough but necessary wake-up for an addict like me!

    • August 19, 2014 at 9:05 am

      Congratulations Cait, you survived without your fix for 3 days, Isn’t it great. Incidentally, I never take my cell phone when I ride my horse around the fields. I know it could be useful in an emergency, but I have survived over 50 years of horse riding and many falls without one and I enjoy being disconnected.

  5. August 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I attended a meeting this past evening (Business Networking). Average age was 45. Everyone was convinced that “any business” expecting to survive in the future MUST be Mobile oriented.
    I of course did not agree.
    Your thoughts?

    • August 19, 2014 at 11:20 am

      I do not agree either. There are still businesses without even websites doing very nicely. Would Caterpillar, John Deere or other heavy equipment manufacturers expect to do business with mobile users? What about Boeing, Air bus or defence contractors?

      My favourite example is arms suppliers, legal or illicit. Not only will they not look for mobile users to view their websites (if they have them) but they are unlikely to have a presence on social media.

      There are many other B2B marketers who will not find many potential prospects preferentially using mobile access to their websites.

      I do accept that for consumer brands targeting younger buyers, mobile orientation is essential. Your comment elsewhere that us older marketers are a dying breed means of course, that all I have written above may be irrelevant in a few years time.

      Last point, just as desk top internet access evolved into laptop, then mobile and tablet, I suspect that the current mobile technology / equipment will evolve further. Perhaps into thought activated wristbands that generate a hologram in front of us. Then our existing wide format desktop website designs might be back in fashion!

      • August 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

        Good call in the last paragraph.

        As a sidenote, John Deere Tractor is considered an Icon in Content Marketing,

        very state of art and have been for years…

        Check out this app:

        and here is a page that flies in the face of our premise

        • August 20, 2014 at 11:09 am

          Yes, I agree that John Deere is at the forefront of content marketing and app creation.

          However if I use my mid and late 30 year old sons as examples, they tend to use a desktop or laptop for intensive internet research and information gathering and smart phones for using apps, communicating via text and social media.

          I haven’t seen any research, but I would guess that in many fields, customers become customers first and app users second.

          So while apps and mobile platform suitability may be important for retaining customers, I still think that the point of major contact that results in a sale for B2B customers may continue to be a website via a desktop or laptop for some time to come.

          • August 20, 2014 at 1:36 pm

            Even though we are both Contraians…
            On this point we agree!
            Our metrics show most Prospects seeking Information or direct contact come from Desktop and Laptop.
            Tablets seem to gaining position also

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