CyberStorm, Black Swans and Campus Tech

The need to ask many, many questions.

July 31, 2013

CyberStorm by Matthew Mather

Kindle Price:  $2.99
Published, July 2013.

I've become a fan of tech disaster genre. One Second After, the tale of the aftermath of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, scared the daylights out of me.

Robert Harris' The Fear Index is probably the best written of the bunch.

My vacation read, CyberStorm, is a worthy addition to any "when tech bites back" digital bookshelf.  CyberStorm tells what will happen to NYC when Chinese or Russian or Iranian or Anonymous hackers (it is not clear until the end of the book) finally succeed launching Stuxnet like viruses on our infrastructure command and control systems.  When the Internet controls our electrical grid and gas pipelines, our dams and our transportation systems, the result of a successful cyberattack are not pleasant.

The protagonist of CyberStorm is a social media expert, a guy about as prepared as you or I to keep his family alive in the face of no food, heat, or electricity - not to mention the mother of Twitter outages.   I would have liked CyberStrom better if the hero would have been an educational technologist, but maybe there will be a sequel.

Why do we read tech disaster books?  Or to turn the question around, should your campus CIO require that the entire Computing staff read about the results of a really big "unplanned outage"?   

I for one hope that the CyberStorm book club comes to our next EDUCAUSE.  

The common theme of these books is the black swan, the edge case, the confluence of malicious actions and bad decisions that result in a truly bad day.  

Our edtech leadership are the people that need to be asking their staff about black swan / edge case preparation.    

The reality is that we will not adequately plan for the worst case tech scenarios as we are too busy putting out our daily fires.   Developing systems for true resiliency and redundancy takes more time, planning, and resources than we can easily lay our hands on.   

What I would like our edtech leadership community to commit to is to asking lots and lots of questions.

What happens if we lose power for an extended time and backup systems do not work?  What happens if our connection to the Web is cut-off for an extended amount of time?  What happens if a virus degrades our ability to access our data or the backups of our data?   

Are we asking our developers and sys admins and support professionals: "What is the worst tech disaster on campus that you can imagine"?

What is your worst campus tech nightmare?

What are you reading?


Back to Top