An animal so devious, so dastardly that Germans can’t even utter its name, the squirrel may be cute, cuddly, clever and commendably industrious. It's the beady-eyed, bushy-tailed cousin rat relative — a busybody of great ubiquity, to be sure — that you don't scream bloody murder at when it scampers across your path. Yet the heart of the squirrel is as black as the seeds that it covets.
But in all seriousness, these nut-hoarding acrobats have quite the knack for disrupting our everyday lives, be at home, in the garden, at a sporting match or on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. For an extended period last year, my own life was disrupted by a squirrel — Earl the Squirrel of Brooklyn was his name — that took up residence in the ceiling of my apartment. During that particularly trying period, I cursed at every squirrel that I encountered yet still managed to cry when I accidentally plowed one over with a Subaru in upstate New York. As I said, it was a difficult time.
In addition to disrupting delicate sleep patterns, squirrels are keen on disrupting the power grid, a phenomenon that seems to be occurring with seemingly greater frequency, much to the concern of utility companies and security experts alike. And these aren't just occasional flickering lights, but large-scale and potentially dangerous events that impact thousands.
You just need to look at the headlines to understand the enormity of the situation:
The New York Times has even dedicated significant ink to the topic. Or maybe you should just take the squirrels' word for it:
Central to the nut-in-cheek website is a mapping feature that details all of the confirmed squirrel-caused power outages across the world.
Squirrels are keeping busy as this map of animal-related power outages shows. Should we all move to Portugal? (Screenshot: Cyber Squirrel 1)
This map lists all unclassified Cyber Squirrel Operations that have been released to the public that we have been able to confirm. There are many more executed ops than displayed on this map however, those ops remain classified.
Accompanying the map is an ominous quote from John C. Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency: "I don't think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels.”
As noted by Popular Science, successful strikes against infrastructure in the United States and abroad, some dating back to 1987, have been added to the map since September 2015. And it’s packed.
And squirrels, it would appear, aren’t acting alone. The map also tallies “successful cyber war ops” carried out by other “agents” including birds, raccoons, snakes, rats and beavers. (Despite their oft-tempestuous relationship with squirrels, I knew that birds were in on it!)
While the Cyber Squirrel 1 map and Twitter account are obviously satirical, it also serves as a somewhat serious reminder that all it takes is a little gnaw and a slight nibble from a curious — and wildly persistent — critter to bring neighborhoods, even entire towns, to their knees. For every squirrel making an absolute mess out of your backyard bird feeder, there's five more quietly working to plunge your community into darkness.
Via [Popular Science]