Readers wanting another issue to alarmed about might pick up Ted Koppel's  "Lights Out."

The former ABC newsman recently wrote a thoughtful book about the threat of cyber-attacks.

Here's some dramatica from the liner notes: "Imagine a blackout lasting not days but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. There is no running water, sewage, no refrigeration or light . . . devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread and law and order are being tested as never before."

Thanks for the optimism, Ted.

Cyber-attacks are becoming widespread even in the Newburyport community.

Your Scribe was recently roused early on a Thursday morning by the security people from Bank of America Mastercard who asked, "Were you buying women's shoes in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon?"

I mustered my gravitas to declare, "No, not in Toronto."

The customer-service rep then said, "Your credit card was hacked, and is being used illegally. We will cancel it now, and send a new one."

In late March, executives of one of the local banks spent much of the annual meeting talking about the threat of cyber-theft in the banking business. They announced plans to increase security.

And in a related national matter, news reports stated that hospital departments in at least a dozen cities have been shut down by hackers.

Records were temporarily lost, and nurses had to ask patients what medications they were taking because their data had disappeared.

So hacking has arrived, big time.

Koppel asserts that private, public and military institutions are all ill-prepared to battle the onslaught.

But his access to national leaders doesn't enhance the book.

He interviews utility presidents, Army generals and cyber-security experts - almost all say that little can be done to stop talented, motivated hackers. 

The nation's best and brightest - and he interviewed many - say we are in big trouble.

I was so dismayed, I drove to Plum Island looking for mating plovers - a very low-tech activity.

Koppel, never to be confused with a stand-up comic, is dry and repetitive as a writer.

Only the first couple chapters need to be perused to get the idea of the threat of high-tech mayhem.

And right now, there don't appear to be many effective solutions.



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