Category Archives: National security

How safe is our banking system?

A couple of weeks back, I received a fraud alert from my bank. Clearly, this scared the crap out of me.

I immediately jumped online and saw with relief that my account was still accurate. The money was still there.

But the scare ignited a fear I used to not sweat, since I rarely had more than a thousand dollars in my bank account after going all in to launch a newspaper. These days, thanks to you guys, I worry a little more. : )

So following the scare, I started digging online. I had heard in the past from a few prepper-type folks say how screwed we’d be as a country if hackers — or a foreign government such as Russia or China — attacked our banking system and wiped out all of our digital accounts. Of course, there’d be complete anarchy if such a thing happened, and it is a scary thought.

But the more I dug, the less reliable information I found. It seems not many people want to talk about this, or if they do, you can’t find the info with a cursory internet search. (And what you do find initially is stuff written by preppers, which only further frightens you.)

I finally broke down and burned some political capital. I wrote a person who’s an insider on computer security. I can’t identify this person, but they agreed that I could print their answer, after I persuaded them it was the best answer I had seen anywhere. (They’ll probably send a virus to wipe my server after I post this, to protect their anonymity — they’re big on staying below the radar like that.)

At any rate, it’s safe to say this girl — or guy? — works for a major Fortune 500 company in their IT/Internet Security Department, and this person really knows their shit.

Their degree comes from a prestigious university, they regularly travel to pricey conferences with the best in the business, and they work with a talented team to remain vigilant 24/7 protecting an incredibly important asset from tons of super-sophisticated hackers.

Here’s the person’s answer to my question of “How safe is our banking system:”

My short answer is that against catastrophic attacks our banking system is very safe; much safer than our water, power, transportation and healthcare systems anyway.

Longer answer: Large scale banking attacks are one of those rare attacks that are much harder than they sound to carry out (most cyber attacks are the opposite, unfortunately). Besides layers of security protecting the account information, copies of all the information is stored in multiple redundant databases all over the world and any transaction or change in the account sizes is cross checked against all those separate databases in a cyclical fashion that has to pass through multiple fraud and error checks. Thus, changing someones account size from 10 to 10 million dollars isn’t as simple as breaking into the right machine and changing a single database entry; it would require breaking into a least a dozen machines at different sites and changing the information in all of them within a few milliseconds of each other and then changing the logs and transaction records in each of them to hide what you did and avoid getting caught. Wiping out all the account information entirely would be even harder because it would be recognized immediately and automatically reversed from a regular backup unless you managed to nuke all the different storage and backup systems simultaneously.

It’s not impossible, if my career in cyber has taught me anything it’s that nothing is, but it’s an extremely tall order for one account set and exponentially harder to do for a bunch of them. More to the point, as the Target and Home Depot break ins taught the world last year, there are much much easier ways to get rich in the hacker world than knocking over banks directly. As long as credit cards are plentiful and easy to skim, they’ll continue to get the lion’s share of the criminals’ attention.

Hope that helps set your mind at ease and wasn’t too verbose (I do go on sometimes …)

So there you go. Reading his answer helped me feel better about the situation, and I’m sharing it in the hopes that it gives you some peace of mind, as well.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

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Filed under National security, Random posts

An administrative note on my blogs

Okay, guys. As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been struggling of late with my focus for this author blog of mine. My numerous competing passions have been pulling at me, and it’s probably shown.

Sometimes, my posts have been inspirational. Sometimes, they’ve been military/foriegn policy in nature. Sometimes, they’ve had something to do with Eastern Philosophy or living in the moment.

SO, to cut down on this lack of focus, I’ve made a decision to restart an old blog and start a new one.

Now, there will be three options for you to choose from.

1) On this current site (stanrmitchell.com) that you are already subscribed to, I will continue to post about things that motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh. My efforts are paying off, and I intend to inspire, drag, or shame as many of you as possible into your own dreams. So, if you need the motivation or inspiration, or just want to keep up with me as I continue to pursue my author career with everything that I have, there’s no need to do anything. Please, stick around. I love having each and every one of you.

2). If you care about military matters, I am relaunching Marine Watch, a blog on American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps. If this is something you’re interested in, please go there and subscribe.

3) Finally, I’m launching a new blog on one of my other lifelong passions: martial arts and Eastern Philosophy. My search for the way will be about martial arts, physical fitness, and ESPECIALLY everything that goes with Eastern philosophy — mindfulness, living in the moment, and eastern philosophy. You can read about why I’m launching the site here, so if you’re interested, please subscribe for email alerts and join me there.

I hope having more specific blogs will lead to greater focus and community for each of the sites. Thanks for everyone’s patience, support, and friendship. I hope to catch you all at one of the sites — or even multiple ones.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m an action fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

15 Comments

Filed under Eastern philosophy, Faith in the world, Fighting and training, Marine Corps, National security, Stories about my life

Why are Muslims leaving the safety and comfort of Europe and joining ISIS?

This is the best article I’ve read yet about why young people are leaving Europe to join ISIS. And it’s written by the former Pakistani Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed — a man who’s written more than a dozen award-winning books, including “Discovering Islam,” and he’s been called “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC.

Here’s the article: Why are European Muslims joining ISIS? (For those who don’t know, ISIS is so radical that it not only regularly beheads and executes people, it’s also killed 120 of its own members who wanted to quit and go home.)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m an action fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

8 Comments

Filed under National security

Improving the U.S. military. Some thoughts from two vets…

Being a prior enlisted member of the military, it’s quite common to spout off your views on all things military. From playing Monday morning quarterback regarding current combat operations, to discussing how the Army or Marine Corps could do things better, nearly every enlisted member that I’ve ever met complains and gripes, while also suggesting how things could be better.

I’ve learned this doesn’t end when you get out, and I’ve of late been increasingly talking all things military with a guy I’ll just call “Lee.”

Lee served four and a half years in the Army, with most of his time in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Lee served two combat tours during that time and he knows about ten times more about weapons than I do, and well, that’s saying something.

Several times in the past six months, we’ve talked about things we’d change if we were in charge and we finally decided it’d be fun to throw these things out there for discussion purposes, and even better, to hear all the other ideas floating around out there.

Here were some ideas we had…

Continue reading

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Filed under Fighting and training, Marine Corps, National security

This nearly brought tears to my eyes

Turn your volume down, get everyone to leave you alone, and take four minutes and watch the entire thing.

Just watch it and think about what you’re seeing.

(My thanks to Stacy Reller for highlighting this and bringing it to my attention.)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please consider subscribing for email alerts of new posts.


 If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after finding himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.

10 Comments

Filed under National security