One crisis at a time
October 2020 is the Cybersecurity month, every Thursday we are releasing one of the winners of our Political Fiction Story contest that was part of the ELF Cybersecurity, blockchain and big data online event in May 2020.
“Michael, I’m going out to do some shopping! When I get back, I want to see your homework done! And no video games while I’m gone!”.
This was Michael’s moment. With no one at home, he could do whatever he wanted. Today, playing “Commanders of Chaos: The First Sino-American War” was on the agenda. Michael loved historical games, especially the 21st century Pacific War that marked the end of nation-states and the rise of the 7 Global Federations.
As his mother got in the transport pod, Michael rushed to his new nano-computer and booted up his game. Suddenly, a notification pops in the corner. “ALERT: FEDERAL MESSAGE, OPEN TO READ”.
“This should be the federal emergency channel”, Michael told himself. As he turned his eyes to the notification and blank, the message unfolded in front of him:
“GOVERNMENTAL LEAK: THE 7 FEDERATIONS, WITH THE HELP OF CRYPTO-CORPORATIONS, HAVE BEEN PLANNING A SECRET AND EXCLUSIVE EARTH EVACUATION. SOON, SOLAR FLARES ARE GOING TO DESTROY ALL TELECOMMUNICATIONS ON EARTH, THROWING HUMANITY INTO CHAOS. THE ELITES SHOULDN’T DECIDE WHO GETS TO LEAVE EARTH AND WHO GETS TO DIE. RISE, CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS.”
“You have nothing to lose but your chains …”, Michael recognised this quote. It was from the pre-war era, by some political revolutionary, back when ideology was used to allocate resources instead of algorithm-based distribution and big data.
As Michael was finishing his chain of thought, his nano-computer suddenly shut down, with no means of restarting it. All electricity went off in the house.
“Hmm, maybe these guys were right …”
Panic started overwhelming Michael. Was this the end of the world? Everyone fought so hard to bring everything back to normal after the Pacific War … Suddenly, he thought of his mother. As he realised she might be in danger, he knew he had something to do.
“Ok, the protocol”, he said to himself.”My mum shouldn’t be in danger, the transport pods automatically pull over and open when autopilot is disabled, so she should be fine. Now all I need to do is find out what this message wanted to say”.
The drills from civic education told him clearly that, in case of telecommunication blackouts, he had to find his battery-powered radio and wait for further instructions from federal channels.
“But were they really going to evac. and let us all die? In any case, why would they send us any message through radio if we weren’t supposed to find this out?”
Michael took a moment to think.
“… in case of global panic, avoid all urban agglomerations … I’m living in the middle of a metropolis, so it wouldn’t really make sense to leave the house now, not without my mother in any case”.
Michael was reciting from the textbook meant to prepare humanity for the worst. After a whistle-blower leaked North Korea’s plan to launch a nuclear bomb into the Pacific Ocean, thus creating a tsunami effect that would hit the American East Coast, people panicked as the entire East Coast plunged into chaos. Politicians realised that this should never happen again, especially since that plan was a hoax, a strategy of information warfare meant to destabilise the enemy from within.
“But what if this message is a hoax?”, Michael thought.
He rushed to the kitchen to get his battery-powered radio and turned it on, searching for the federal frequency.
“ATTENTION! ALL CITIZENS OF THE EUROPEAN FEDERATION, THE MESSAGE YOU HAVE JUST RECEIVED IS FALSE. NO SOLAR FLARE IS GOING TO HIT THE EARTH. THE TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM HAS BEEN BREACHED BY AN UNKNOWN ENTITY. THERE IS NO SOLAR STORM AND THERE IS NO EVAC. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR NEIGHBOURS TURN ON THEIR RADIOS AND DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOMES!”
Just as the broadcast started repeating itself the second time, Michael’s mother walked through the door.
“Mom, there has been a telecommunication breach! Some hacker group turned off all electricity and informed us that some solar flares would hit the Earth and only a few would be evacuated. I turned on the radio now and they say it’s a hoax. We have to inform the other neighbours!”
“Don’t worry son, I know. Police are already on the streets, making sure everyone is informed and stays in their house. There have been some minor uprisings in the city-centre from what I saw, but the police are already dealing with it. There is an officer downstairs advising all people who want to leave that it’s not safe.”
“But who was it, mom? Who wanted to cause such chaos?”
“I don’t know son … I guess we’ll just have to wait for more information and hope everything’s alright …”.
Thanks to the overwhelmingly calm response from the population and the swift response of the authorities in dealing with the situation, the only real casualties were the communication and electrical grids. As soon as communications were restored, the President of the United Federations held a worldwide broadcasted speech:
“Dear citizens, thanks to your heroically calm response, we have successfully managed a crisis of catastrophic proportions. As of now, we don’t know who’s behind this and what caused such a breach. But I can assure you we are taking all the steps to find out how this happened. Let this be a lesson for us all, including for the ones out there who want to harm us. Humanity is resilient and it learns from its mistakes. And as long as we manage to counter threats, one crisis at a time, it will take more than panic to destroy us. We won’t give up!”
by Alexandru Danescu, USR Tineret