Updated: May 27, 2021
“Lost Tech.” Twitter, @Charliefargo, twitter.com/charliefargo/status/1312473344185298944/photo/1.
You're sitting in your backyard enjoying a beverage on overcast afternoon, the family is at your wife's sisters house the next town over. Randy, the nosey neighbor pops his head over the fence and yells out to you. "Hey, you been watching the news? Everything is going offline. Power, internet, banks, cell phones."
"What are you talking about Randy?"
"I guess it's like a cyber attack on all of our infrastructure, so many things are getting hacked right now, they think it's coming from a foreign hacker group. it's all over the news"
"I haven't heard anything about yet oddly. But it's not the first time this has happened."
"No, you're right, but it's the worst ever!"
The interaction with Randy left you really curious for more info, you reach for your phone and start looking up news on the event, dozens of stories about the attacks happening all over the country. A coordinated blitzkrieg of DDoS attacks on hundreds of vital nodes in our infrastructure by a massive botnet that has been lying dormant for months has been unleashed. Half of the country is without power, more than half have no internet. Many cities are reporting that they still have power, but the water pumping stations have gone offline leaving millions without running water. This attack is spreading rapidly and seems to be overtaking the country's infrastructure faster than our Cyber Security experts can stop the exploits.
This might be just another test run, but judging by the scale thus far, it would be naïve to think this isn't going to escalate further and reach your area. What you didn't notice earlier was that it already had. Your cell had no service, just an active Wi-Fi connection that allowed you to research the crisis in your browser.
You contemplate the severity of the situation in your head. You know that cyber attacks are prevalent, you know that foreign adversaries have been doing things like this for a long time, but it's on the rise. You also know enough to realize that every major infrastructure system we rely on in turn relies on an internet connected backbone. Everything is vulnerable and the system is fragile. A well planned cyber attack can really wreak havoc on a modern day society. Is this possibly time to pack up and head to the summer house before things get a little wild? Nothing like this has ever happened though, but doesn't matter now. If they don't get a handle on these attacks, bad things are going to start happening.
Best idea now is to call your better half to give them a heads up, this is worthy of heading out to your summer home for a few days while this blows over. You have solar there and are fully capable to handle things off grid if your power goes out. Might be a good time to catch up on some fishing anyways. However, when you try to call - you get a strange tone and nothing goes through. Even Wi-Fi calling is down. Facebook messenger worked though, you were able to explain what's going on and what your plan is. The conversation is met with resistance at first. "Stop over-reacting" she said, but eventually, the idea of a spontaneous "vacation" sounded nice. Clever way to sell a bug out, you thought to yourself.
She's packed up the kids and is on the way home now, and you have your 40W GMRS mobile radio in your vehicle. But, the only other 40W GMRS radio you have is built into your Cyberdeck, your handheld radios are only a few watts they wont reach her. No bother, you've been waiting to use bust that thing out for a while.
Hoping their drive home is going to be uneventful, it's only about 15 miles but she's going to deal with city traffic the entire way. Flipping open the Cyberdeck, you plug in to wall power while you still have it just to top off the lithium ion battery. After getting everything turned on, you do a quick radio check on your designated channel and sure enough, she answers.
With an open line of communication, you feel an overwhelming sense of relief. Still, she has to get home with the kids and your current head space tells you the packing job to prepare for your bug out is going to be awkward. You already know she thinks you're taking things a bit too serious. But as you sit jotting a list of the things you should be packing, you remember, you already put together an emergency list that's saved on the Cyberdeck. At least it's one thing less you have to think about in this moment.
Opening the file and scanning through the list, you run to start grabbing the various noted supplies. Upon return to your kitchen, you hear the radio crackle to life. Your wife calls in to tell you the weather is getting really nasty and the traffic lights are blinking erratically so every light is a stop. You reassure her that things will be fine and your mini-vacation will be fun. The family is 9 miles from home now, close enough for comfort, but not out of the woods yet. The situation is deteriorating quickly and the streetlights were an unexpected turn for the worse. Internet is down now, TV is still operational. If it wasn't obvious, so is power - which is good, the sky has shifted from an overcast blanket of clouds to a swirling, menacing wall of darkness.
You examine all of the items you've collected to bring on your bug out, making sure you're not missing anything. While comparing against the list on your Cyberdeck, you hear an emergency alert on the TV in the living room. Peering into the other room, you see it's unrelated to the hacking situation but now you have a tornado watch to deal with. Walking back over to the Cyberdeck, now is a good time to check in with your family.
Calling in on the radio, she reports back that they've barely moved in the last 20 minutes with the traffic signals
on the fritz. As she's replying back, the power in the house fails. Dammit, you didn't get to see the Doppler radar on TV to figure out the scope of the storm. Your wife and kids are stuck in this weather not to mention,
there's a bug planned for tonight shortly after they get home. If it's this bad, you can't go into a 90 mile drive blindly. Turning back to the Cyberdeck, you open up your SDR tuned to 137.1MHz, and use an old adjustable TV dipole antenna pointed north and south at about 20" of length and are able to start receiving satellite weather imagery. It's slow, but you can tell, even from the half-loaded image that conditions are quite bad and she needs to hightail it out of there. Since you don't have active radar and can't tell the movement of the storm, you flip your SDR over to the NOAA weather stations and listen a bit to hear that you're all in the path. This will make bugging out more difficult and downright unsafe, at least for the night.
You radio back with a warning about the weather and ask where they're at, she replies with the name of the street but only after she gets close enough to the next sign to read it. The older vehicle doesn't have built in GPS and with the cell networks being down, the maps on her phone's GPS wouldn't load either. She took the only route she knew which was through the center of town. Even at that, it's a heavily forested area with many winding roads and is mostly unfamiliar territory to her. With the traffic light issues, lack of power to the street lights, and limited visibility from bad weather, you know she needs an alternate route fast. You tell her of the tornado watch and suggest as gently as you can to keep her eyes peeled without spooking the kids in an already stressful situation. But, it's almost dark now and her ability to spot a funned cloud at this point is slim to none. Stuck in traffic with tornadic weather is quite a dangerous situation, they're sitting ducks and it's on you to find a way out for them.
You pull up your downloaded maps and find the spot she told you they were at. Timing was perfect, the next right she takes will swing her down a long, parallel back road with very few intersections. Hopefully that will give her the advantage of speed and prevent her from all the 4 ways stops at the down traffic signals on their current route. You relay the new directions to her and provide guidance along the way.
To feel certain you're not sending them into some other chaos, you flip the SDR to your scanner stations and listen to the local emergency frequencies. Tons of chatter tonight. Sounds like there's catastrophes all over the county; car accidents are a clear problem and first responders are overwhelmed. Luckily, you've been plotting the locations they've mentioned on the digital map and so far, none of them cross paths with this new route. Safe, for now.
Your guidance along this backup route, although dark and scary, got them home in just under 30 minutes. It wasn't too far out of the way but it definitely avoided the stop lights. Your GMRS radios worked great in this situation. Thank god she wasn't out much further though, you've never tested the rang of the local repeater, which according to mygmrs.com, was 30 miles. The wave of relief that washed over you upon your family's return was short lived, immediately discussion of the bug out ensued. But after they told you stories of the car wrecks that occurred in close proximity to them along the first part of their drive, it became obvious that you were going to have to re-evaluate your path. Only 1 of your predetermined routes will be unaffected by the traffic due to the misbehaving traffic lights, but there's already been reports on the scanner of bad accidents on some of the more rural roads blocking them for miles while cleanup crews work.
Back to the map software again, you are quickly able to plot a new route and even jot down a couple important resource locations along the way incase something happens to be open and you can score some extra supplies. You've practiced your bug out route a few times, but this unexpected change has some previously un-scouted areas that you'll be forced to pass through. Better bring up the downloaded repeater book and make sure you have the frequencies of the local ham repeaters along the way, and again, the emergency frequencies so you have some advanced warning of what you're getting into. You can plug into 12V power in the car to keep the battery at peak performance while you're on the bug out.
So much is running through your mind as you sit and plot your family's bug out. Is this a world ending crisis? No, but will your family be in better shape at your vacation home which is permanently setup of for off grid power, water, and propane. This will be more of a vacation than anything while the madness of the country's largest cyber attack is cleaned up. But, the fact remains - it's horrendous weather outside and the latest satellite imagery doesn't show any improvement on the situation. After weighing the pros & cons, the decision to wait until day break to leave seems the safest option.
Overwhelmed with the events of the last four hours, you set the family up for bed and sooth your racing mind by cracking open a still cold beer and focusing on some additional preparations for the morning's drive. You spend some time scrubbing through the prep list you reviewed earlier just to ensure you didn't miss anything in the hurry. You listened to the emergency frequencies for a bit longer and captured some notes to help improve your odds on the route to the bug out location, now codenamed "Raven Rock" as a nod to the Cold War era nuclear bunker developed as a major pillar in the US governments COG (Continuity of Government) plan. Naming your family's vacation home was a definite morale boost for you.
The wind is picking up some serious strength and the rain is coming down in sheets. You head to the garage with a headlamp and use the 12V air pump to make sure the car tires are at pressure. To your surprise, there is a knock at the side door of the garage. In an instinct-fueled reaction, you upholstered your Glock 19, checked the chamber and walked to the door. The shadow created by the moonlight, visible through the window looked menacing, it took you a moment to compose yourself and decide what to do. A knock again... You answer the door, weapon at low ready and have a strong defensive posture not knowing what's about to happen. But that shaken voice, you immediately reach out and grab the figure by the arm and pull them out of the rain. It's your next door neighbors 12 year old daughter, Kaylee
"What on earth are you doing out in the rain?"
"Mom sent me over, her pills ran out today, she wanted me to ask if you could pick them up for her tomorrow cuz' the busses weren't running at all today."
You didn't think twice before saying yes. The poor girl had to come over in this horrible monsoon to ask this, but that's what happens when modern conveniences cease to exist. Taking a moment to grab your poncho, you find an umbrella for Kaylee and get her home safely. Your neighbor Sue is a widower and stay at home mom that watches your kids 3 days a week while you and your wife work. She's been there for you so many times, you have to help. Sue has been on disability for almost 5 years with a bad back and an even worse heart. She takes a medication called Coreg twice a day and it's very dangerous for her to stop cold turkey. There's no question of a doubt, you're going to have to try to get her those pills. Adding an hour to your departure time to drive through town, you consider the other adjustments you will need to make to your day's plans. But wait, the immediate issue at hand... how will you find a pharmacy that's open when the power, internet and phones are all down? It's unfortunate she didn't build up a few months of stockpile on her meds when you had suggested it a while back but hindsight is 20-20, I guess. Nonetheless, you need to take action now before it really throws off your bug out.
You tell your wife about the visit from Kaylee and she understands what you have to do but is more worried you won't find an open pharmacy. As you prep to leave, you ask her to check through everything you've packed so you can load up immediately upon your return. She kisses you and says be careful. You can tell from her embrace that she's nervous. Maybe about you leaving on this supply run, maybe about the planned events for the day or the general state of the nation and all that has happened. You give the nod and head out. As you luck up the pharmacy in your resource list on the Cyberdeck, you can see that it's 24 hours. You're praying that they've got some way to process the transaction, surely a pharmacy has backup procedures for this. Sure enough, the stop lights are still out, but it's early and nobody is on the road yet making the trip quick. It's only a few miles. Upon your arrival, something doesn't seem right. The power is off, but the door is open - gut says to proceed with caution. You hear nothing as you walk up so you peer in the door. No movement and absence of sound, not only is the store not open but the scene is dismal. How is it possible that looting has started already. The store hasn't been emptied but it's definitely been ravaged. On the other end of the store, the metal shutters that would close off the pharmacy from the rest of the store have been defeated. A large opening has been cut with what had to have been a power tool, you wonder about this, but that's not the priority. Your immediate need is to address the moral dilemma here. You stand only 10 meters from the pharmacy, no one is here, it's accessible to you to grab whatever you wanted. You remind yourself that you're not a thief and make every attempt to do the right thing but someone's life is in the balance here. There are other pharmacy's you could go to, but for all you know the looting isn't a localized thing and that adds additional delay to your plans making things riskier. You opt to be a life saver and get Sue the medication she needs because you know you're her only option, now it's just a matter of finding the pills. Checking the prescription, you see she's taking Coreg. Flipping on the headlamp you mumble... "Here goes nothing."
At first glance, things are disheveled but it's definitely not cleared out. The real challenge will be finding the pills, many bottles had been strewn from the shelves. Nearly 30 minutes of searching goes by and you remain unsuccessful. Time for plan B, but what? You head back to your car to figure this out. No need to be hanging around that place any longer, you hadn't even considered what would happen if anyone else showed up. Before pulling away you remember the Wikipedia backup on the Cyberdeck. A quick search reveals it's a Beta Blocker and just as easy as it was to find the Coreg, you were able to pull a list of alternatives to Coreg. After writing a number of them down, you grab the headlamp and head back in. Not even 5 minutes into your second search you find 3 large bottles of Metoprolol tartrate. They're 3 different dosages, but the bottles are very large, Sue should be set for months. You pack up, hiding the cash Sue left you under the register hoping someone from the Pharmacy will find it. Back in the car you head home as quickly as you can, still surging with adrenaline from the scavenging mission. You stop at Sue's house first to drop off the meds but keep the small talk to a minimum simply making some recommendations to her on how to stay safe over the next few weeks and providing the address to "Raven Rock" incase they need to get out of dodge. Wrapping up your conversation and quickly hopping the bushes you rush home. Greeted with a anxious family and the delicious smell of the last meal you'll eat in your home for a while.
To be continued.