Latest 74: Bluetooth Bubbly

In the seventy-fourth episode of The Latest, we wonder whether or not a recent cyberattack on a water treatment facility means that Dave Matthews was ahead of his time when he suggested that we Don’t Drink the Water. This episode also features a special announcement regarding The Latest with Greg Ott.

The Latest with Greg Ott
Latest 74: Bluetooth Bubbly
/

Transcript

Those voices are discussing a cyber security incident involving a water treatment plant, one of the nation’s most dangerous and disturbing water-related incidents since the release of Halloween H2O.

As the United States continues to remain exposed to escalating digital attacks that target the country’s critical infrastructure, many concerned millennials are beginning to ask themselves the same question: in the event of an emergency, is there a national stockpile of LaCroix?

On Monday, it was revealed that hackers recently gained access to a water treatment plant in Florida, a facility entrusted to moderate the dosage levels of bath salts its residents consume from the tap.

Once inside, the perpetrators tampered with the water’s chemical composition to raise the levels of sodium hydroxide, a corrosive substance that’s used to remove metal from water that can cause burned skin, baldness, and other ailments that make it difficult to ascertain who’s a burn victim and who’s the aging, divorcee vacationing at Margaritaville. 

Fortunately, the hack was caught and reversed before the tainted water could make its way to the public, an encouraging sign for at least one lucky location the United States that starts with F.

This hack comes on the heels of a New York Times report that finds that the U.S.A. has fallen far behind on its defensive cyber security capabilities, which should come as no surprise, considering that, if you were to take a look at California in the summertime, you’d already know that Silicon Valley is incapable of constructing a firewall. 

Among the many reasons why the marshmallows in Fall Guys keep inching us into a candy-coated abyss is that a leaked National Security Agency hacking toolkit, as well as a lucrative market for unexploited software vulnerabilities, has leveled the playing field for other countries wanting to get in on the cyber action, a quaint phrase that once suggested a racy exchange of AOL Instant Messages that’s been reappropriated to mean a ransomware attack demanding that a children’s hospital cough up enough Bitcoin to purchase a Tesla.  

Even as recently as 2012, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sounded the alarm over a potential “Cyber Pearl Harbor,” and if you think your Roku is prepared to withstand another coordinated assault from Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Jon Voight, you’re in for a rude awakening.

I worry about things like this because this country is already a few blue shirts short of a Geek Squad, struggling to distinguish a frayed ethernet wire from its pony tail.

For all our AirPods, iPads, and iPhones, we’re basically a nation of Siris: we seem understand the concept of technology, but when summoned, we’re absolutely helpless to do anything about it. 

The Obamacare website crashed the moment it launched; Comcast won’t run broadband wires to rural homes in states like Tennessee; that guy I went to high school with won’t accept my friend request so I can’t pretend that I’ve made better life choices by glancing at his family photos.

Back In December, I talked about the massive Solar Winds hack that had just been carried out against federal agencies by the Russian government, the same benevolent organization that has used cyber weapons against Ukraine multiple times to shut down ATMs, gas stations, post offices, and even the heat and power on Christmas Eve. 

You think the good people at ConEd are ready to resurrect a fried machine that powers down the east coast when the good people at AT&T can’t even block the robocall urging you to renew the extended war-an-tee of a car you’ve never owned?

A recent issue of Wired published several chapters from 2034, a generous excerpt of an upcoming title we currently can’t read while we’re trapped at home during a pandemic. 

From whatever percentage of the story I’ve consumed, the authors envision a cyberwar about ten years out — stay with me — that forces those who have been hamstrung by power outages and useless digital devices to revert to using pre-internet technology, like a conversation. 

Now, this tactic isn’t that far-fetched: after enduring multiple cyber attacks to its infrastructure, one approach Ukraine adopted was to prevent critical systems from ever connecting to the internet, borrowing a page from your printer.

But according to another book by a Times’ cyber security reporter, This is How They Tell Me The World Ends, which I am telling you to so you know that I purchased a book, we here in the United States connect 127 new devices to the World Wide Web per second — everything from treatment facilities and insulin pumps to the Peloton Bikes that are supposed to prevent us from needing treatment facilities and insulin pumps. 

Now this isn’t an approach I’m looking forward to —  I’m the guy with a Bluetooth sensor in my toothbrush that precisely measures, to the second, how I waste my time and money. 

But if connecting too many of my lightbulbs to the internet so I can adjust my toilet’s ambiance from abroad makes it easier for someone else to cut my power without using the lightswitch I’ve chosen to willfully ignore,  maybe it’s worth reconsidering whether our desk lamps should require a data plan.


Special Announcement

Starting next week, I’ll be joining Cracked as a producer. For those who aren’t familiar with Cracked, it’s a comedy website founded in 1958 as a direct ripoff of Mad Magazine. I can’t think of a more fitting place to work.

But with regards to this podcast, I wanted to let my listeners know that, going forward, nothing will be changing with this show.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that I’m excited to start producing and hosting all sorts of different projects that I’ll be able to share with you in the future, and not because the guest we had lined up for the O.J. bit all week wouldn’t follow up with a recording time.