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The connectivity vulnerability

31 May 2024

As usual, I rolled out of bed at about 1am this morning.

After taking a shower, having a shave and hurling a coffee down my neck, I proceeded to start work.

First-up, read and respond to the emails that have rolled in since 8pm when I went to bed then do a quick trawl of the newswires to see what's been going on around the world.

I was almost finished assimilating all the news when suddenly the website I was on stopped loading.

Bah... hit reload...

"The site cannot be found..."


I went to my GMail tab and it was complaining that I was no longer connected to the internet.

Sure enough, the LED on my router was red instead of green... there was no broadband.

So, being an old-school kind of guy, I picked up the landline phone beside my desk and it too was silent. No dialtone -- just a faint buzz.

Obviously there was something going on with the fibre network.

I checked the time, it was just a minute after 3am so I figured odds are that they're doing some maintenance, an upgrade or other planned work. Most sane people are tucked up warm and comfy, asleep in their beds at this hour so it's logically the best time to interrupt service for such things.

"Bah... never mind" I thought to myself, I've got plenty of other stuff to be getting on with.

I fired up my development PC and the Raspberry Pi I'm using to maintain the code for my ADSB alarm project.

Right now I'm chasing a couple of bugs that have been reported by beta testers so I have hours of work ahead of me on that front.

Oh, damn... some of the documentation I need is online and I don't have a local copy.

Never mind, I have some more CAD work to do on the new 3D printed case for that project as well.

Oh damn... I use OnShape for my CAD work and that's a cloud-based service so that's inaccessible too.

Okay, it's the last day of the month so I have some bills to pay.

Oops... you guessed it... no online banking!

Maybe I should give up on the idea of getting any work done and watch a movie instead.

Netflix perhaps? Prime Video? YouTube?

Nope, none of those are going to be accessible until the Net comes back up.

How about listening to some tunes on Spotify?

Nah... same story of course.

Just as I was about to consider dusting off a DVD or even finding a good book to read, the router's light went green and I was no longer cut off from the rest of the world and rendered useless.

So I figured I'd write today's column.

Unfortunately, now that it's written, the light has gone red again so I'm sitting here waiting for the wider world to come back into view.

One thing I've learned from this morning's frustrations is that I'm certainly not well prepared for the situation where there could be a protracted comms outage.

There's no way for me to pay my bills, I can't access any cloud-based service, neither email nor voice can connect me with anyone outside the house, even the documentation I need to perform stand-alone computer-based activities is denied me.

I shall spend the rest of the day downloading documentation and creating a local library of the stuff. I'll also make sure I top up the cash reserves I carry about in my wallet just in case internet banking and the payments network fails. I've been meaning to install FreeCad on this machine so I'm not tied to the cloud... that's also on the list. Maybe I'll even finish the task of ripping my DVD collection to a hard drive so it'll be easier to pass the time while waiting for the world to re-appear at my modem.

An "always-on" connection to the world via broadband has become such an integral part of modern life that it's easy to forget just how dependent many of our tasks have become on it. You never notice what you've got until it's gone, they say.

Are YOU prepared for any kind of protracted comms outage that takes out your broadband and perhaps even your cellular connectivity? If not... maybe it's time to get prepared.

Carpe Diem folks!

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