Why your business continuity and disaster recovery plans should account for EMP attacks and GMD events

Solar flares or North Korean nukes: What's the bigger worry?

Dawn came early on September 2, 1859. Shortly after midnight an aurora borealis brighter than the moon woke residents as far south as New Orleans. A Baltimore paper reported that "The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone."

Elsewhere, telegraph operators fought to keep their systems online. The telegraph was 20 years old, and the event so powerful that it disrupted operator batteries and made effective telegraph operation impossible. Other operators turned off their batteries in frustration, only to find to their astonishment that the telegraph worked normally again — powered exclusively by the aurora borealis.

The Carrington Event of 1859, so named for the British astronomer who recorded the sun spot activity that day, was the largest geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) event of modern times. Apart from a telegraph outage, the largely analog world of 1859 continued with little consequence. But what would happen today if a solar flare of similar magnitude occurred — or if a human-made electromagnetic pulse weapon (EMP) produced similar results?

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