In recent years we have heard a lot about the potential danger of cyberattacks. We have heard scenarios describing what these attacks “could” or “would” do. We have seen headlines about big businesses being hit. But cyberattacks haven’t affected many people directly in ways that got their attention. Until now.
A series of recent attacks have shown how cyberattacks can suddenly, powerfully affect your real-world, day-to-day life. This isn’t just about keeping your computer safe. Your car, your electricity supply, even your dinner are at risk.
One of America’s most important energy conduits was shut down by a cyberattack first reported on May 8. Colonial Pipeline links Houston’s oil refineries with the eastern United States. It carries about 45 percent of the region’s fuel: 3 million barrels a day. Politico called Colonial Pipeline the “jugular” of America’s pipeline system.
Rather than risk hackers causing permanent damage to these fuel arteries, Colonial shut down its whole system, the first time it has done so in its 57-year history. The results were soon felt in the real world. Gas prices shot up. Lines snaked out of gas stations. Stations ran out of fuel.
Before the fallout could become disastrous, Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom of $4.4 million to a cybercrime group called DarkSide. Disaster was averted—but at the cost of informing criminals everywhere that cybercrime can make you very rich, very quickly.
Unsurprisingly, another major attack followed soon after. On May 30, computer networks shut down at jbs, a South American company controlling one fifth of beef and pork slaughtering capacity in the United States. Plants in the U.S., Australia and Canada were immobilized. Tens of thousands of workers stood idle because of an attack launched by a handful of people hundreds of miles away.
Food is not an industry that would seem immediately vulnerable to such an attack. But food production and distribution has become heavily technologized. Due to government covid-19 restrictions, the world is facing a shortage of microchips. This not only hurts computer and television manufacturers, but also causes shortages in a range of other products from new cars to potato chips.
Trade journal Hoosier Ag Today reported, “The biggest factor impacting the ability of United States farmers to produce the food we need has nothing to do with the weather, the markets, trade, regulations or disease. The worldwide shortage of computer chips will impact all aspects of agriculture for the next two years and beyond. As farmers integrate technology into all aspects of the farming process, these highly sophisticated semiconductors have become the backbone of almost every farming operation.”
It’s not just animal slaughtering that’s at risk. The entire agriculture industry is under threat.
Electricity and Water
America’s electricity and water infrastructure is also highly dependent on technology that is vulnerable to attack. Success in shutting down these sectors could quickly have catastrophic effects.
Foreign groups routinely probe the U.S. electricity grid for weakness. The Associated Press warned on Dec. 21, 2014, “[S]o many attackers have stowed away in the largely investor-owned systems that run the U.S. electric grid that experts say they likely have the capability to strike at will.”
Warnings of such attacks have come in the form of incidents in other nations. For example, in April 2020, Iran attacked Israel’s water network. The attacks were unsuccessful, but the fear was that hackers could corrupt chlorine control and potentially poison the water. In 2015 and 2016, Russia-backed hackers shut down the distribution of electricity in Ukraine, leaving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians without power in the depths of winter.
Experts believe the Ukraine attack could have been much worse. “[W]ith the right exploit, it’s possible that someone could permanently disable power-generation equipment or the massive, difficult-to-replace transformers that serve as the backbone of our transmission system,” Robert Lee, who assisted in investigations of the 2015 Ukraine attack, said (Wired, June 20, 2017).
“The people who understand the U.S. power grid know that it can happen here,” he said. If anything, it could be even worse. Ukraine prevented worse damage by switching to manual control. Experts warn that this may not be possible in America.
Meanwhile, more frequent attacks are occurring that target personal data or government agencies. These too do real damage, though they may not hit your wallet so immediately.
Thus far, these attacks have been attributed to criminal organizations, many with links to Russia. Russia gives these attackers safe harbor, and its intelligence agencies may be helping them. With little pushback from the U.S. government, we should only expect these attacks to intensify. Russia will continue harming the United States and probing its civilian systems and its defenses to learn how to better attack in the future.
How Bad Could It Get?
Successful cyberattacks in recent months are only a taste of what is certain to come in the future. All-out cyberwar could cripple the United States, or any other major country.
Imagine the potential fallout. The power goes out. Food productions halts. Gas stations run empty. So do supermarkets. Practically overnight, it would bring the nation to its knees.
This level of attack on the United States seems unthinkable. But no power or empire in world history has been immune to attack. Why should America be any different?
The Bible confirms this prospect is very real. Ezekiel 4:3-5 describe a debilitating attack on “the house of Israel.” The timeline of biblical history makes this forecast intriguing—and very relevant to our day.
The house of Israel refers to 10 tribes of Israel that separated from Judah and set up their own kingdom. They were besieged and taken into captivity in 721 b.c. Ezekiel was writing 100 years later. Why would he prophesy about something that happened a century prior? It would be like a modern writer forecasting a German defeat in World War i. Yet this writing was among the infinitesimal few that have been preserved for millennia all the way to today.
If the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, there is only one explanation: Ezekiel was referring to an event in the future. The attack on ancient Israel was only a forerunner of what would happen to its modern descendants. This is in fact why the Bible records so much about the events surrounding this captivity: That history is prophecy.
But who are the descendants of ancient Israel? Elsewhere, the Bible prophesies that they would constitute “many nations” (Genesis 17:5) including “a great and mighty nation” (Genesis 18:18), and eventually “thousands of millions” of people (Genesis 24:60). God said these countries would be among the most powerful on Earth.
As Herbert W. Armstrong proved in his free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, the promises recorded in the Bible could apply only to Britain and America, along with a handful of other countries—the descendants of ancient Israel. This means the dire prophecies in Ezekiel are for us.
Our Fragile World
Ezekiel 4 describes a yearlong siege against modern Israel. It supplies graphic detail about the barbarity to which men are reduced by starvation.
Ezekiel 5:1-3 foretell this besiegement causing mass causalities. Cut off from the world, social problems will explode, cities will burn, and ultimately, one third of the people will die.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “These nations of Israel are going to be literally besieged—economically frozen out of world trade! As that happens, domestic rioting and violence will become much more prevalent. Already in America today, instances of rioting and burning are occurring more regularly, often associated with racial hatred.”
But how could this kind of siege cause all this destruction? America, Canada and Australia are all net exporters of food. The U.S. is the world’s largest food exporter.
The recent cyberattacks give a very plausible answer. They expose how fragile our civilization is. A pipeline or powerplant can be shut down without a single bomb being dropped or shot fired. Moreover, infrastructure is so interconnected that the disruption can quickly spread, causing further disruption. No fuel, for example, means no workers, which means no supply chain. No microchips means no potato chips. How many resources from around the world are we dependent on without even knowing it?
The Bible doesn’t say so directly, but cyberattacks could be used in this prophesied siege. In ancient times, armies would lay siege to cities, cutting them off from all external commerce, food and water. They would work to break the will of the city’s inhabitants and force their surrender. Any means were used. Diseased carcasses would be launched over the walls to try to spread sickness. Public execution of enemy prisoners would sap morale. Propaganda could convince the city that the plight was hopeless.
In an upcoming siege, might America’s enemies reach over the walls with cyberattacks to weaken the country more quickly?
After the siege will come an outright military attack. Here again, cyberwarfare could play a role. Ezekiel 7:14 warns, “They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.”
“It seems everybody is expecting our people to go into battle, but the greatest tragedy imaginable occurs!” Mr. Flurry wrote. “Nobody goes to battle—even though the trumpet is blown! Will it be because of a computer terrorist?” (Trumpet, January 1995).
“America is the greatest superpower this world has ever known,” he warned. “But we have a very vulnerable point in our military—our own Achilles’ heel. It is so dangerous that I am amazed it hasn’t received more publicity.”
Every army is just as dependent on food, water, electricity and fuel as the average civilian. Take away these supplies, and it cannot fight. On top of that, the U.S. military depends heavily on a high-tech communications and weapons systems.
Cyberwarfare could soon play a devastating role in America’s future. The last few weeks have given us a glimpse of that.
But God says He allows these curses for a wonderful and powerful reason. It is the same reason he has allowed the ancestors of the Americans, British, Jews and other nations to suffer attack and defeat. Amid all this destruction, God says repeatedly that His people “shall know that I am the Lord.” (See Ezekiel 5:13; 6:7, 10, 13, 14; 7:4, 9, 27.) We will realize that we are losing our blessings and suffering this destruction because we have refused to know and obey and be grateful toward God. Without God’s help, we will destroy ourselves. But before God can give us the solution to our problems, we must be willing to listen to Him. The coming devastation will finally bring all mankind to recognize this inescapable reality.
Mankind is made in the image of God (Ezekiel 1:26). God has incredible plans for His creation. “Mankind is truly part of something so splendid and unique it is hard to even describe,” wrote Mr. Flurry. “Man is something magnificent in potential. We look like God, and He wants us to develop the very character of God also.”