When I was in junior high school, I dabbled in computer programming. By “programming,” of course, I mean that I bought magazines with basic DOS codes that I typed into a computer and produced simplistic video games that made Pong look brilliant.
That was way back before Al Gore invented the internet as we know it — the place that today has led to such remarkable moments in human achievement like Grumpy Cat, Zoom meetings with Jeffrey Toobin, and mean tweets from Grumpy Cat’s third cousin twice-removed on his mama’s side, also known as the 45th president.
Even in the early days of the modern internet, it seemed like a place where we could see the latest news, weather and sports scores. Perhaps we could swing some stock trades for $9.99 a pop or reconnect with the folks from high school with whom we’d lost contact for such trite reasons as hating them with the burning passion of 10,000 white-hot suns in our youth. Now, they are our “friends” on Facebook as the years of separation have replaced that hatred with a mere an extreme loathing.
“Did you see your Facebook friend Jimmy Earl got COVID?”
“The science-denying anti-vaxxer? Oh well. Natural selection.”
The internet soon gave rise to hackers. I’m not talking about guys like me who dream of shooting under 85 at Gator Gulley Country Club. I’m talking about that nerdy guy in the corner who plotted his revenge for years of bullying.
“Stuff me in the locker again, and you’ll be out of gas in 20 years!”
“Ha! We’ll be in flying electric cars by then, nerd.”
Twenty years later, that nerd has you hoarding gasoline in Coca-Cola bottles — making it a slightly more dangerous beverage than the original, with a little more ethanol but a lot less diabetes.
Sure enough, hackers have grown in power from sneaky nerds who once tapped into networks to steal credit cards and Social Security numbers to today’s evil nerds who hijack companies with ransomware that attacks such companies as the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies a large portion of gasoline and delicious 20-ounce white bread loaves to the East Coast.
Colonial gave in and paid a $4.4 million ransom to get their pipeline operational again. They paid it in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that is untraceable because it’s imaginary. One imaginary Bitcoin is worth about $36,000 at the time of this writing, meaning it may be worth about $36 by publication, or about 47 trillion Dogecoins, my preferred imaginary money. Still, I imagine it would have been a good idea to buy a few thousand Bitcoins a decade ago for a buck each. I could have bought the Colonial Pipeline and endless supplies of white bread.
The company paid its ransom to DarkSide, which authorities suspect is run by either Russians or John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. The Russian government disavows any knowledge of this effort or of any wrongdoing since the days of Rasputin.
“I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia,” noted Grumpy Cat’s third cousin twice-removed on his mama’s side.
Last week, though, this ransomware thing truly got out of hand when they targeted the world’s largest meat supplier, JBS — Juicy Beefy Stuff.
Had they targeted the largest supplier of figs, celery or turnips, I could have let this go. But we’re talking meat here, especially beef, which holds up the entire food pyramid just below bacon and chicken fingers. I am in real danger of starvation.
I say we gather our good ol’ American hackers and strike Russia’s vodka pipeline. And we’ll pay our hackers not in Bitcoin, but in good old-fashioned, non-imaginary barbecue.
Now, get me John Cafferty on the phone.