Episode 66: One If By Land, Two If By C:\\

In the sixty-sixth episode of The Latest, we scan our computer for malware before discussing a major recent Russian cyberattack. Dr. Ray and Jean Kadkhodaian, the marriage and relationship counselors who also host the “Couples Synergy” podcast (www.couplessynergy.com), join the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 66: One If By Land, Two If By C:\\


Those voices are discussing a massive cyberattack on U.S. organizations believed to have originated from Moscow, which, if true, would make it the biggest Russian hack since Yakov Smirnoff. 

Gaining access to everything from the Centers for Disease Control to companies like Boeing, this brazen act of espionage is making many in Washington consider the same question: are organizations that are already killing us, going to end up killing us?

At least 40 U.S. companies, government agencies, and think tanks were struck by the only unprecedented and significant “cyber incident” of last week that didn’t result in a bunch of punked gamers getting refunds on their PlayStation account. 

A sweeping foreign intelligence operation, believed to have begun as early as March, granted suspected hackers access to everything from the email accounts of senior members of the Treasury Department, which explains that message in your spam folder from Steve Mnuchin claiming that he found you an extra stimulus check if you’ll just click this link, to the network for the city of Austin, Texas, which should, at a minimum keep things weird for at least a little while longer.

While the full breadth of what’s been stolen or manipulated remains unclear, Fred Flintstone impersonator Mike Pompeo has called the breach “a grave risk to the United States,” pornographic film star Dick Durbin has described it as a virtual “act of war,” and Skeleton-elect Joe Biden has vowed to levy “substantial costs” on those responsible for forcing the federal agency tasked with safeguarding nuclear weapons to take their place in line at the Genius Bar behind the guy who claims his touchscreen stopped working when it was raining when we all know that he dropped his phone the toilet.

The scale of these attacks is what’s most significant — it’s not like they just changed the wallpaper to make it look like a cracked screen.

Experts believe that residual damage and lingering malware means entire systems need to be “burned down to the ground,” which should be no problem considering how many data centers are headquartered in southern California.

That’s because hackers are believed to have harvested such a vast amount of data, they themselves don’t know exactly how much useful information that they’ve stolen. 

But if they’re planning to build a sinister operation that leverages every bit of that data to make money while destroying the country’s media literacy and trust in democratic institutions, it’s probably too late to do anything about it  because Facebook’s already cornered that market.

While the exact perpetrators have yet to be identified, security agencies and tech companies have linked the attacks to the Russian government, that kindhearted organization that enjoys changing things up every once in a while just for the fun of it, like killing its own countrymen through radiation poisoning when it grows tired of good, old-fashioned alcohol poisoning. 

Signs point to the attacks originating from the Thinkpads of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, which are either the names for the hacking groups affiliated with the successor to the KGB or your latest matches on Grindr, who are the same hackers responsible for interfering with the U.S.’ 2016 election, meddling in the Brexit campaign that same year, leaking emails before the 2017 French presidential election, and hacking American power plants and water processing facilities in 2018.

The only thing they haven’t been responsible for is making a picture of an egg the most liked post on Instagram on 2019 — you were the one who was responsible for that, and I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done. 

Russia, alongside paying a living wage and the concept of dressing up to go to the theater, has long been at odds with our society.

In 2014, John McCain described Russia as a gas station masquerading as a country, the kind of place where you’re too busy watching the in-pump television to notice that a skimmer logged your Amex credentials while you topped off that second car your wife bought you as a Christmas present last December, if you remember. 

And I remember laughing at Mitt Romney during a 2012 debate with President Obama for claiming that Russia was the United States greatest geopolitical foe — back then, it seemed clear as day to everyone that the answer was Joseph Kony. 

But countries like Russia, and Iran, and North Korea, don’t have to be big and powerful in order to inflict serious damage on another country — why go through all the trouble of trying to set off a dirty bomb when they can use a Word document to take down an entire network, something that we’d barely even notice because crashing my computer already seems to be a feature built into that application?

I’m not worried about Dmitry from Leningrad commandeering my Netflix account to watch Jingle Jangle.

I’m worried that these institutions that we entrust — the banks, the Department of Defense, the Female Body Inspectors — are in the hands of the kind of people who think that adding an exclamation mark to the end of the same password they’ve been using for twenty years turns them into a cryptographer. 

That’s not a joke: the breach that made it possible to hack these organizations came from a software company called Solar Winds, and the password that allowed hackers into their servers was SolarWinds123. 

You don’t need the Russians to build an enigma machine to break into something that’s easier to figure out than whether or not you see five or six crosswalk tiles in Capcha.

One theme of this show is that I believe this country is constantly stuck in the past, jonesing for Han Solo to show up for 30 seconds in the Mandalorian instead of enjoying something new that hasn’t had the opportunity to be crafted into a Happy Meal toy. 

U.S. cyber defense spending for 2021 is said to be 18.779 billion — barely two-and-a-half percent of the Department of Defense’s whole 700 billion dollar plus budget. 

Instead of building aircraft carriers and automatic weapons, we should be outfitting our soldiers with Yubikeys and subscriptions to LastPass.

But it’s not like there’s any leadership coming from the top on things like this — not only because the commander-in-chief’s Twitter account was hacked in July after master codebreakers figured out it was maga2020! — but because the sucker still takes Vladimir Putin’s word over everyone else’s on matters like these. 

The man could catch Putin banging Melania and leave convinced it that was someone else conspiring within her deep state.

Biden’s stopped short of calling this an act of war, though he’s vowed to at least take some sort of action, like slapping sanctions on your college theater department’s Zoom production of Uncle Vanya. 

But if we’re not willing to invest in keeping this country’s hard drives safe enough to store our secrets, we shouldn’t be surprised when we find out that our adversaries have drawn up schematics out of our dick picks to start fucking us in our own ass.