Get your digital nuclear shelter ready

In today’s Exponential Investor…

  • You don’t have to go “full prepper”
  • What to do if they hit the kill switch
  • Some “prepping” suggestions

Have you ever heard the term “preppers”?

It’s a term used to describe people who actively prepare for cataclysmic events.

It’s a broad brush to paint someone as a “prepper”, as it often infers someone who’s perhaps a couple stubbies short of a six-pack, or a few kangaroos short of a top paddock.

I think that’s unfair.

In fact, I think everyone should realistically be a prepper.

You don’t necessarily have to go “full prepper” and build a ten-inch thick steel bunker in your back yard. But if events from this week are anything to go by, then I believe you should absolutely be “prepping” for some serious, world-altering events…

The kill switch

Around the internet, in the depths of chat rooms and forums, even in the deep web, are rumours that circulate about the great internet “kill switch”.

The loose concept is that one of the world’s centralised superpowers has the capability and resources to hit a big red button that would effectively bring down, “kill”, the internet.

Now, imagine that. Imagine what would happen in the event the whole internet was to “go down” for extended periods of time.

What would you do?

What have you prepared for in the event something like this actually happens?

I ask because yesterday was a stark reminder that even the internet has its vulnerabilities.

If you’re a human being on earth, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Google. There an equally good chance at some point in the day you interact with Google as well.

Maybe it’s through its web search, maybe it’s Gmail, maybe it’s YouTube, maybe it’s its Chrome browser, maybe it’s its Android operating system, or one of a whole host of other Google services.

It is without doubt probably the most pervasive company online in existence. It is everywhere online.

It’s so big, the thought of it having a worldwide system outage is near-on blasphemy.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Yesterday, during our regular Monday morning Southbank Investment Research team-wide meeting, the services of Ring Central were failing. The connections were unstable. We couldn’t hear each other. We had to all disconnect and use another service.

I noted that my internet connection was absolutely fine (I checked with Speedtest.net) but RingCentral was saying my connection was unstable.

That’s a sure-fire indication that it’s the service that’s failing, not the local connection.

Then not too long after we finished up our meeting, I tried to access Gmail… not working. Then I tried a few other sites, Twitter was working fine, Yahoo! was working fine. I jumped onto YouTube and was greeted with:

Source: editor’s screenshot

Shortly thereafter it became apparent most of Google’s major worldwide services were suffering an “outage”.

Now I don’t believe it was isolated to Google. Considering the difficulties this morning with RingCentral, I suspect this may have been a wider outage affecting more services other than Google.

It’s just that with Google being so big and widely used, it’s what will get most of the attention. After all, if YouTube is down, how on earth are we going to watch videos of cats riding on Roombas?

In all seriousness, if it proves this was a wider outage, it makes you reconsider what measures you’ve got in place if things really get bad. After all, in an increasingly digital world, ever more reliant on the internet, what can you do if the kill switch is real, and large parts of the internet are inaccessible?

“Prepping”

It’s not just Google that sends shockwaves through the world when it’s down. Have you ever been unable to access your internet banking? It’s more terrifying than if you can’t access Gmail.

Has your smartphone ever just packed up and “died” on you? That too is now a terrifying thought. How on earth will you get in touch with people? How will you do anything without a smartphone?

The good news is you can make some simple preparations in the event that the internet were to go belly-up, or there are outages that seriously impact the world’s most important piece of infrastructure.

For a start, have you got a backup phone? It doesn’t even have to be a smartphone. Just a phone that can make phone calls and send SMS messages (remember those?). A cheap “dumb phone” only sets you back about £20.

What about access to money if internet banking is down? I’m not saying it’s the smartest long-terms savings plan. But you should always have a little physical cash tucked away if you can’t get to the physical bank and the internet banking is down and you still need to pay for things.

On the subject of money – do you have bitcoin? And is it stored in a “cold wallet”. That means a wallet that’s not connected to the internet. There are now satellites deployed around the Earth, and more to come that will allow the continuation of bitcoin’s blockchain, hence network, even if the internet were to be unavailable.

If the internet was unavailable long term, it’s something you’d definitely want to consider having tucked away too.

Also, have you ever actually downloaded your contract notes, or share certificates for your investments? Something that proves ownership of the stocks you hold? If not, why not? Without your online broker, how would you ever prove you own a piece of a listed company?

Yes, there are share registers, but what if they’re unavailable too? It’s just a simple thing to make proving ownership a little easier, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have on hand.

Also, I know it’s super basic, but even just having the good old telephone landline as a backup to your backups isn’t the worst idea. Most of us have a landline, but an increasing number don’t have a phone connected to it.

A bit like the “dumb phone”, it wouldn’t hurt to have a landline phone in storage somewhere to connect to the good old telephone networks in the event you need to. With that, also not a bad idea to download your list of contacts to a local storage device too.

I think just those simple measures help to “prep” you a little better in the event that our connected world isn’t as connected or fails like it did with Google yesterday.

If you’ve got any great digital “prepping” ideas that I haven’t covered here, I’d love to hear about them. Write in to me at [email protected] with the subject “My Prepping Ideas” and if I get enough, I’ll follow up with all of them as well.

Regards,

Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor

PS On Monday we launched a new, exciting project we call “Britain’s Great Wealth Revival”. Its core mission is to help the people of the UK take back control over their lives and their finances. It’s the kind of thing that I believe has never been more important. If you’re like me and have a few “prepping” measures in place, then I also think Britain’s Great Wealth Revival might be right up your street too – you can check it out here.

Category: Technology

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