Carnes: Ransomware – the new terrorists
It’s next November, Opening Day, you’re the first person in line at 5:30 a.m., your glorious plan since summer to make first chair of the season finally coming to fruition.
Among all the hoopin’ and hollerin’ from the crowd, you proudly produce your Epic Pass purchased last spring (at a discount!), smiling for the Vail Daily cameras as the little doohickey waves across it.
Suddenly you, and everyone in the general vicinity, hear a horrific beeping sound, similar to passing through a metal detector at the Eagle County Regional Airport when you forgot the nail clipper in your right pocket.
Embarrassed, you sigh while stepping aside so the person behind you can go ahead while you sheepishly try wiping your pass across your jacket sleeve, but the same thing happens to their pass, and then the next person and so on until the ticket scanner calls a superior for help.
Not only is this handheld scanner not working, none of them are, mountainwide.
It appears the RF scanners, along with every other piece of hardware connected to Vail Resorts’ software, has been hijacked for ransom, no longer accessible by anyone, the Russian thieves demanding $5 million in Bitcoin to release their digital hold on the entire ski season.
Don’t think it could happen — think again, for Happy Valley ransomware could be just as tangible and constricting as it is in the real world.
You already know about the Colonial Pipeline ransom debacle, whose disrupted supply chain of 5,500 miles of pipelines transporting 45% of the fuel consumed by 50 million Americans along the East Coast caused gasoline shortages and people having to be reminded to “not fill plastic bags with gasoline.”
Sometimes I weep for our species.
And last week’s JBS meat processors were shut down for days, prompting many to rush to the store for hamburger meat and hot dogs before they’re all gone and vegans across America rejoice.
The nation has already endured ransomware attacks on hospitals, schools, transportation companies and many others that don’t go reported for fear of reprisal attacks, and millions of dollars have been paid out to the hackers for companies to recover access to their own data and software.
What if your local bank or brokerage firm was attacked and you no longer had access to your own money?
It could happen to local hotel chains like the Four Seasons, the Hyatts and the Ritzes (Ritzi?), or how about if booze suppliers were hacked like the meat suppliers and all the valley restaurants and bars went dry, or the town of Vail parking structures suddenly stopped allowing the gate arms to rise?
Sure, they could remove the arms and let people park for free, but the odds of that are about the same as a failed dictator-wanna-be being reinstated as POTUS in a few weeks.
Anyway, I’m not a software engineer or programmer of any sort (I’m just happy when my debits equal my credits in QuickBooks), but I do know the threat of ransomware is real and on par with every other type of modern-day terrorism.
I’m also sure there’s plenty of you in the valley eager to tell me how wrong I am to be concerned, but hey, nobody anticipated an actual insurrection attempt on Jan. 6 either.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.