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San Francisco under Cyberattack. What could go wrong?

Most everything.

If you thought the Pacific Gas & Electric’s Pacific Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) wreaked havoc on the Bay Area, just imagine what could happen if a well-orchestrated cyberattack jacked with all our all of San Francisco’s private and public systems. We’re talking hospitals, sewage and water supply, traffic systems, emergency response, internet access, and GPS. What if access and use of anything and everything digital went kaput?

A full-fledged 360°cyberattack = Utter CHAOS.

We’re living in a world where virtually everything is connected. Most of us don’t think twice about downloading a new app or synching another device. Do you even wonder why your apps and devices are always updating? Personally, my mac updates are always “ready to install.” Each morning, I click “Later.” (I know, I will soon pay the price.)

Truth is, the Internet of Everything (IoT) could bring San Francisco to its knees.


Let’s start with cars. The oh-so-smart Tesla might be the dumbest choice for the road in a well-orchestrated cyberattack. And for the not-so-smart vehicles, hackers can access ignitions, brakes and even the steering of web-connected cars. But your ‘77 Trans Am or even a Ford Pinto circa 1970s (known to explode) should do just fine.

Sixty-two percent of 15,900 IT security practitioners and engineers in the automotive industry surveyed said a malicious attack against automotive technologies is likely or very likely to occur in the next 12 months.

~Dalvin Brown

Total gridlock. Fog City would become Jam City. The ultimate pile-up. A cyberattack would bring San Francisco to a screeching halt. Over 25,000 traffic lights on the fritz and BART at a standstill. Evil hackers would never pick a leisurely Sunday afternoon. They would certainly go for the jugular– weekday rush-hour.

Here’s a refreshing thought. No cell signal, no distracted driving! Would a total techno shutdown force the city (SF) that ranks 4th worst in the world for distracted driving to pay attention behind the wheel?

“Can you hear me now?”

Doubt it. Your mobile phone is going down. Time to rethink that landline. Those hardwired dinosaurs always worked in a power outage. That old familiar ‘dial tone’ would be music to your ears if you needed help… But then you would be counting on a landline on the other end of that desperate call.


9-1-1?  Sorry, Charlie. To elite hackers, Hospitals, Police and EMS dispatch systems are a piece of cake.  And they’re getting better at it every day. So, don’t hold your breath for assistance. If you think you might need a trip to the ER, keep your bicycle tires pumped, and a neighbor or two on-call.

I could go on. But back to reality.

Here’s the deal.  If you’ve considered collectively all the hack-jobs that have successfully disabled cities in the U.S., New Orleans being the latest, we can’t actually, positively, unequivocally say that the hack of all master hacks couldn’t happen to San Francisco.

This year alone, ransomware hit 103 federal, state and municipal agencies, 759 healthcare providers and 86 schools and universities. Four significant ransomware attacks total in the last three weeks! Soon after New Orleans declared their cyber state of emergency on December 13, three more municipalities were hit, one of which was in Galt, a suburb of Sacramento. A little too close to home.


What if my favorite late 60’s spy comedy “Get Smart” was actually spot-on? Think about it. Maxwell Smart, a.k.a. Agent 86 worked for CONTROL, a D.C. based counterintelligence agency. Now who was their nemesis? K.A.O.S., an “international organization of evil.”  See the connection? What if our SMART cars, phones, homes, you name it, are falling to the Agents of KAOS?

What? Me worry?

I can’t.  I refuse to lie awake at night thinking about some imminent cyber-attack on San Francisco, a Golden State of Emergency. I actually sleep quite well enough knowing that San Francisco is better prepared for cyber and ransomware attacks than most cities in the U.S. They stay “at the cutting edge of technology” with constant risk assessments, monitoring,and software updates, as well as ongoing training for employees.

Heck, in this City, there’s always been a lot of shakin’ going on, be it earthquakes or cyber shakedowns. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.