Don't waste that Y2K worrying on the wrong things : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Don't waste that Y2K worrying on the wrong things

By Bill Husted c.1999 Cox News Service

ATLANTA -- If there were awards for worrying, you'd see my picture on the cover of Time magazine accepting the trophy for being the world champion.

And today I worry you are worried about the wrong things when it comes to the Year 2000 computer problem.

You'll see a lot of hype about what it can mean to computers in the United States. I was driving in South Georgia the other day and saw a billboard that advertised a "Y2K preparedness gun show." This stuff is too weird for me to make up.

There are people, not just in my home state, who are worried sick about water supplies failing, planes crashing, electrical grids going dark. Banks are having seminars for their customers -- in fact, that's where I was heading when I saw the billboard -- urging them not to take money out of the bank and bury it in the back yard because of Y2K fears.

Like I said, I think it's a classic case of worrying about the wrong thing. To explain why I believe that, we'll have to start with Melissa.

Not long ago, the virus called Melissa caught most of the computing world by surprise and caused all sorts of problems. It snuck in on an e-mail attachment and then invaded both business and home computers, causing them to send Microsoft Word documents as e-mail from the target computer to up to 50 folks. That sort of traffic choked the Internet and probably embarrassed the heck out of a lot of people.

Well, no one likes to be caught by surprise. So most folks -- both in the computing business and in the media that cover it -- spent a lot of time worrying about that happening again. When it came time for a virus called Chernobyl to be triggered (on the April 26 anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster), TV and the newspapers were full of dire reports of what could happen.

What happened in this country was . . . not much. It was a different story in other parts of the world, especially in South Korea and Turkey. While there was some damage in the United States, we were mostly spared. The experts here said part of the reason for that was, after Melissa, both businesses and individuals worked hard to update their anti-virus software.

But the resources aren't as great in countries such as South Korea and Turkey. Chernobyl is a nasty virus all right -- it can erase a hard disk in an instant. In the countries where it hit hard, it disabled hundreds of thousands of computers, and it will cost them megabucks to recover.

The lesson -- to me at least -- is that if you have the money, the skill and the technology and enough advance warning, you can prevent computer problems like Chernobyl. But, if resources are limited, even advance warning won't save you.

By now you may see where I'm heading. While people are worrying about Y2K disasters here, they may be ignoring the real cause for worry. I wonder if Chernobyl furnished a dress rehearsal for what things will be like when the New Year comes.

The realities will be much the same, I'm afraid. Folks in the United States, rich both in money and resources, have been working around-the-clock to prevent Y2K disaster. Every reasonable expert I talk to, including engineers responsible for our utility systems, tells me they're ready. Systems have been tested and retested. And, just in case they're wrong (engineers are cautious folk), manual backup plans have also been tested.

But in some other countries, there are more immediate problems-- like not enough to eat, antiquated computer systems, civil disorder and massive poverty. While the computer professionals in these countries may be just as smart and just as worried about Y2K, they can't afford to throw the equivalent of billions of U.S. dollars at the problem.

That sets up the possibility that computer systems in poorer countries will do all sorts of things come New Year's Eve -- none of them pleasant. Let's not even talk about the really far-out possibilities -- the computers that control weapons systems, for instance. Instead, let's just think about the computers that handle the routine bureaucracy of government.

Things could rapidly move from pretty bad to really horrible in a lot of these countries. And, unlike a virus attack, some of the Y2K problems could linger for months and even years. And the United States, long accustomed to bailing out its neighbors during bad times, could find that even its deep pockets aren't enough.

So if, like me, you want to worry, then worry about that.

Distributed by The Associated Press (AP)

-- Norm (, May 05, 1999


"Things could rapidly move from pretty bad to really horrible in a lot of these countries. And, unlike a virus attack, some of the Y2K problems could linger for months and even years. And the United States, long accustomed to bailing out its neighbors during bad times, could find that even its deep pockets aren't enough."

This is a concern of mine two. Much to my surprise, Russia's crime rate is already THREE TIMES that of the US. Of course, China is so crowded that 1 kid is the family limit - enforced by law. Much of the Arab world hates the US, unless US support for Albanians turns things around. We have the Asian economic "melt-down".

I still fear Y2K problems, but war is much more of a concern for me now. If Y2K could be compared to a "headache", my fears of war are like a sledge-hammer falling on my foot. My head still hurts, but my foot seems like a much more immediate concern.

Fortunately, the Dow is doing great, and BJ Clinton feels our pain!

-- Anonymous99 (, May 05, 1999.

From Yahoo Y2K news, dated today... <:)=

Y2K Problem Highlights West's Vulnerability

LONDON (Reuters) - Advanced Western societies are more vulnerable to technological sabotage by hackers, terrorists or hostile governments than to the millennium computer bug, a leading think-tank warned Tuesday.

While the so-called Y2K problem was a known quantity, with a clear deadline, and methods to solve it were well in hand, the threats to the large, complex and fragile interconnected information systems of 'wired nations' were more serious, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said.

``Existing security concepts provide some protection but nowhere near enough,'' the IISS said in its annual ``Strategic Survey.''

It said malicious attacks were certain to be mounted in future and the West was increasingly dependent on computer networks in military operations, communications, electrical power supplies, banking, finance and transport.

Protecting Western societies against cyber-attack will require an effort by industry and governments ``of the kind and size now being directed at known Y2K vulnerabilities,'' it said.

The millennium problem arises because many older computers and programs may treat the year 2000 as 1900, triggering system crashes, because they record dates using only the last two digits of the years.

The IISS said other vulnerabilities were not as well publicized or understood as Y2K but potentially more serious.

For example, the U.S. military routes 95 percent of its communications through commercial cables, towers and satellites, the survey said.

Among the potential threats were denial-of-service attacks, where an intruder shuts out all users from a particular communications systems or computer network.

The survey quoted a U.S. expert who claimed he could bring the United States infrastructure to its knees in 90 days with 10 selected computer specialists. The Defense Department reckoned 30 specialists could do the job with $10 million.

``To safeguard key infrastructures, potentially targeted nations must begin to set security measures in place now, before malicious individuals, organizations or governments identify the networks to target, obtain full data and carry out an attack,'' the London-based institute said.

It cited the devastating impact of an overwhelming ice storm on Canada in January 1998 as an example of such vulnerabilities.

Up to seven million people were left without power in eastern Canada, some for up to a month.

``Nature may have been the culprit this time, but another time it could be an attack from a computer hacker or terrorist group which knocks out the systems controlling the distribution of electricity,'' the Canadian Security Intelligence Service commented at the time.

The IISS said even shorter lasting failures of information infrastructure control would result in large commercial losses and perhaps even loss of life, if a well-prepared enemy launched an information attack.

Automated, user-friendly attack programs that spread computer viruses via the Internet were improving and proliferating, it said.

``While the more sensational reports about the Y2K problem, and the splash caused by hacker attacks, capture press attention, it is the secret, systematic devotion of resources to information sabotage by states, or significant sub-state actors with an international presence, that poses the primary threat to information operations,'' the report said.

Among significant threats were those posed by disaffected employees who may sabotage systems in anger at policies or actions of a company or organization, it said.

-- Sysman (, May 05, 1999.

I wonder how many years "By Bill Husted c.1999 Cox News Service" has been working on Y2K, I've only in my seventh year. Oh, I forgot - he's a reporter, probably has an english degree.

I wonder how many hours he has spent trying to figure out how to fix a file purge algorithym? Oh, bad spelling - typical of a computer scientist - I should get him to fix it.

I wonder how many years he spent trying to get senior executives (government department heads, presidents, CIOs, etc) to fund fixing things - I wasted 5 years that way.

I wonder how many years he has busted his ass and worked nights to get complex technology projects to work - I've spent close to 30.

I've been inside of technology news stories six times in my life and the only one that got it close to right was the New York Times articles on the Morris INTERNET virus 10 years ago. It's not a matter of GI/DGI or polly/doomer - these guys don't UNDERSTAND what they are writing about.

-- noel (, May 05, 1999.

Here is a worry for you:

12/31/1999 1300 hrs. NYC or Los Angeles (you pick) is hit by a high yield nuclear explosion... millions dead. Billy Jeff Klinton gets a call from the Chinese Prime Minister. "Y2K, so sorry, Y2K..."

chasin' the cat...

The Dog

-- Dog (desert dog, May 05, 1999.


I hope you don't mind if I print that again. That really says it all.

these guys don't UNDERSTAND what they are writing about

-- Mike Lang (, May 05, 1999.

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