Power grids are at risk, says a Cambridge University computer expert. This threatens everything.
I have been hammering on this threat since I began this web site in early 1997. Word is slowly beginning to get out.
Anderson is correct: bank runs will begin before the grid goes down.
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According to Ross Anderson of Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory, especially worrying is the lack of preparation in countries which are at a medium level of economic development, and which have important trading relations with the world's industrial nations.
"Watch this list. Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates. You can see the economic importance of these countries," Anderson told Reuters.
Anderson pointed to the contrast between the policy of companies like British Telecommunications and countries like South Korea.
BT bought telephone hardware in the late 1980s and has spent around 500 million pounds making sure it is not destroyed by the millennium computer bomb.
South Korea bought similar equipment at around the same time and has spent nothing, because they see no problem.
They can't both be right," said Anderson. . . .
Anderson said electricity generating plants are the linchpin of modern life. The millennium computer bomb places them in jeopardy. If power generation struck down economies like South Korea or Japan, vital components for western countries would soon dry up.
Early last month the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said many countries appeared ill prepared for the disruption to basic services posed by the millennium bomb.
"We're concerned about the potential disruption of power grids, telecommunications and banking services," CIA head Sherry Burns said.
The CIA was collecting information on preparations for social, political and economic tumult that might flow from interruptions of essential services in some fragile societies.
Not all analysts go for this gloom and doom scenario.
Tom Oleson, research director at technology consultancy IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, said that a power outage comparable to a massive blackout which hit the north eastern U. S. in the 1960s would be devastating.
"If something like that happened, that would be truly catastrophic. I don't believe that will happen," Oleson said.
"Another catastrophic event would be interruption of electronic funds transfer systems. That would be close to catastrophic if it went down for more than several hours. But I don't think that will happen," he added.
For Anderson, failure of electricity generation remains the biggest nightmare.
"Electric power is the critical utility. After more than about three days (of failure) everything just folds up. Trains, heat, refrigeration, water supplies all go. We'd be straight back to 18th and 19th century, and it would take 20 years to regain the lost economic capability," Anderson said.
Anderson said a shortage of cash from banks is likely to start months before the end of 1999, as the far sighted empty bank accounts.