A Cyber-Attack on an American City

This is old (from April this year) but deserves reminding-about. Anyone know of any updates on the event?

Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and cut eight fiber cables in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic infrastructure of an American city. Its implications, though startling, have gone almost un-reported.

That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization. The city of Morgan Hill and parts of three counties lost 911 service, cellular mobile telephone communications, land-line telephone, DSL internet and private networks, central station fire and burglar alarms, ATMs, credit card terminals, and monitoring of critical utilities. In addition, resources that should not have failed, like the local hospital's internal computer network, proved to be dependent on external resources, leaving the hospital with a "paper system" for the day.

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This should lead managers of critical services to reconsider their dependence on software-as-a-service rather than local servers. Having your email live at Google means you don't have to manage it, but you can count on it being unavailable if your facility loses its internet connection. The same is true for any web service. And that's not acceptable if you work at a hospital or other emergency services provider, and really shouldn't be accepted at any company that expects to provide services during an infrastructure failure. Email from others in your office should continue to operate.

What to do? Local infrastructure is the key. The services that you depend on, all critical web applications and email, should be based at your site. They need to be able to operate without access to databases elsewhere, and to resynchronize with the rest of your operation when the network comes back up. This takes professional IT engineering to implement, and will cost more to manage, but won't leave you sitting on your hands in an emergency.

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The most surprising news from Morgan Hill is that they survived reasonably unscathed. That they did so is a result of emergency planning in place for California's four seasons: fire, floods, earthquakes, and riots. Most communities don't practice disaster plans as intensively.

Will there be another Morgan Hill? Definitely. And the next time it might happen to a denser community that won't be so astonishingly able to sustain the trouble using its two-way radios and hams. The next time, it might be connected with some other event, be it crime or terrorism. Company and government officers take notice: the only way you'll fare well is if you start planning now.

via Bruce Perens - A Cyber-Attack on an American City.