EMP, Debunked: The Jolt That Could Fry The Cloud - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Comments
EMP, Debunked: The Jolt That Could Fry The Cloud
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>
John Barnes
50%
50%
John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
9/16/2014 | 12:58:56 AM
Re: clouds at risk
Daniel, that's exactly the trouble with most of the journalistic scare-stuff out there about EMP: it conflates different threats to different systems, and to use that phrase of Winston Churchill's that Tom Clancy borrowed, you end up with the sum of all fears. The EMPs that can damage a wide area -- basically the ionospheric events -- are relatively low in energy density and have to act over a long distance on a conductor. They threaten the power grid but won't do much to the small electronics in your workplace.  The things that produce fields strong enough to cook out small electronics (lightning, close-in tactical nukes, and ebombs) are mostly not wide-area enough to damage more than one facility (in fact, oddly enough, backup to cloud should work rather well against them).  For the most part EMPs are either a little spread out sizzle over a wide area, or a big honking ZAP in a small one. You cope with the former by unplugging and surge protecting, and with the latter with offsite backups. All of which are things people should be doing now, and I hope mostly are.


The more sensationalistic reporting has tended to claim that the big, intense effects would occur over a wide area, and that part of the field of possibility is probably unoccupied. It's a little like the media treatment of radioactive waste, which tends to combine the very slow decay of some heavy elements (so that "the threat will remain for thousands of years") with the very fierce radioactivity of some lighter ones ("kills in a short time as the patient's whole body falls apart") -- without noting that what decays slowly doesn't decay energetically, and vice versa.

 

 
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 9:50:37 PM
Re: clouds at risk
I wouldn't think that standard infrastructure would be able to withstand an EMP attack. I just don't see that as plausible. The problem is that infrastructure has a lot of moving parts, and it doesn't take much to make these things unstable in the event of an electrical attack. I just don't see systems being able to withstand such a thing. 

I've certainly seen systems where there are backup generators and the like, but let's be realistic: EMP would probably seriously weaken networks that all systems rely on. 
John Barnes
50%
50%
John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
9/15/2014 | 4:06:30 PM
Re: Something new to worry about
Charlie, that's actually one of my favorite details about the Carrington Event: for almost a week, telegraphs could be operated with the batteries disconnected (assuming the lines were still up). The induced currents amounted to a few volts per hundred miles of wires (and in those days, nothing interrupted the line -- relays were still more than a decade in the future -- and power came from a-few-volt batteries). Some of the fires were caused by arcing, a few by melted wires, but most by battery explosions; not good for a bi-metal acid battery to be hooked up to several times the current it produces!
John Barnes
50%
50%
John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
9/15/2014 | 4:00:40 PM
Re: clouds at risk
JonLakeland, that's a reasonable assessment. Most events that can produce an EMP big enough to worry about are themselves big enough events to give you (and everyone around you) other, more serious problems. And as long as you're backed up it will really only be a problem if you're dealing with magnetic fields strong enough to corrupt magnetic storage media -- which are some pretty hefty fields and not terribly likely, except from a nearly direct lightning strike.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 3:58:53 PM
Re: clouds at risk
From previous reports that is what I took away as well. It was really end of the world stuff. This story made it seem to me that things aren't too bad and it seemed that we actually have some safeguards in place. The grid really needs to be protected because while there are backup power systems out there, they will not last long in an emergency. That we saw as recently as Hurricane Sandy.
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/15/2014 | 3:55:54 PM
Something new to worry about
The 1859 event moved visibility of the Northern Ligfhts far down into the temperate zones and charged the telegraph wires with so much electricity that they sparked at office junctions, creating fires. The coronal mass ejection is an unlikely event to happen in any one part of the world. Nevertheless, the fact that the 1989 one affected the Hydro-Quebeck region so severely as it did should be a warning. Our electronic devices -- and data --  may get knocked out by nature when we least expect it.
JonNLakeland
50%
50%
JonNLakeland,
User Rank: Moderator
9/15/2014 | 3:50:22 PM
Re: clouds at risk
What I really took away from this is that should a large scale event occur, whether or not your data survives might not be the big question on your mind.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 1:10:08 PM
Re: clouds at risk
That is really interesting. I had no idea. All i hear (I guess like most laymen) are the reports in the news about how vulnerable the infrastructure is and how we can go bsck to the Stone Age with one bad CME. I am glad I have surge protectors on all my important equipment though! With regard to the legislator part, I wish there was a way to just put term limits on all of them. That way they are focused on doing the work of the people and nothing else.
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/15/2014 | 12:54:22 PM
Re: I'm more concerned about a big earthquake in California
That's not to take anything away from and increadibly well researched and thought-provoking presentation. In fact it's reassuring that you've put the risks and scope of possible impacts in clear and very understandable terms. It makes all those Hollywood doomsday movies seem no more real than "The Blob," one of my all-time favorite '50s B movies. Thanks for covering an off-beat topic.
John Barnes
50%
50%
John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
9/15/2014 | 12:44:48 PM
Re: I'm more concerned about a big earthquake in California
D. Henschen, I think on the whole you're probably right.  The Northridge quake back in the 80s rolled back announced dates and deadlines by around a year and a half on average, with quite a few firms just going broke and never recovering, and others more or less leaping to their feet right after.


And the golden lesson from all of this: there's probably no such thing as too much backup when the bad stuff happens.  Unfortunately, the worst happens infrequently enough that it's easy to get careless and/or cheap about it.
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>


2020 State of DevOps Report
2020 State of DevOps Report
Download this report today to learn more about the key tools and technologies being utilized, and how organizations deal with the cultural and process changes that DevOps brings. The report also examines the barriers organizations face, as well as the rewards from DevOps including faster application delivery, higher quality products, and quicker recovery from errors in production.
News
Think Like a Chief Innovation Officer and Get Work Done
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  10/13/2020
Slideshows
10 Trends Accelerating Edge Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/8/2020
News
Northwestern Mutual CIO: Riding Out the Pandemic
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  10/7/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
[Special Report] Edge Computing: An IT Platform for the New Enterprise
Edge computing is poised to make a major splash within the next generation of corporate IT architectures. Here's what you need to know!
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll