Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse: Now That We’re Afraid of Cardboard, How Many Small Businesses Will Fail?

Ellen Beth Gill
2 min readMar 21, 2020

Late yesterday, my state of Illinois joined New York and California in COVID-19 jail. There’s a 9 page executive order from Governor JB, EO2020–10. The order describes what we can and cannot do. It doesn’t sound like enforcement will be draconian. They’re relying on us to be good citizens of Illinois, the same people who panic shopped the stores of more than toilet paper.

Under EO2020–10, we can go to the store and make and receive deliveries. We can order out a pizza and worry that COVID-19 lasts longer on the box than the cheese lasts on top of the pizza.

I remain in self-imposed exile because of my 88-year old cancer patient dad but as it turns out, as a financial industry worker, I’m an essential employee in an essential industry, and therefore, exempt from EO2020–10 should I wish to go to and from work. I don’t. I’m working from home and I’m lucky because I can.

However, work was stalled yesterday and not because of my quirky monitor or my cat. The fed wiring system shut down yesterday. Note the little yellow warning symbol and the red x below.

Fed Wiring Has Been Down

That meant no one could wire funds, making large transactions, like real estate closings, impossible. Good funds rules require monetary transfers of $50,000 or greater be done by wire.

The worrisome part of this is that it doesn’t appear to have been some typical computer snafu. Looks like the the private company that provides the service, FINSTRA, was hacked. It also looks like it was not just any hack, but possibly a ransomware attack wherein the hacker threatens to steal or damage the system unless the protection money is paid.

Reading on in the Krebson Security article linked above, hackers who do this sort of thing have made some assurances that they won’t hack health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. They seem to be happy enough inconveniencing financial institutions, those large beasts who they believe deserve what they get. However, they’re also strengthening their intended targets by putting the small guys out of business, those tiny title agents who are already struggling to get by. By the end of the pandemic, we’ll have lost thousands or millions of small businesses and the big players will own everything.