The Doodlebug War
In The Doodlebug War, the vulnerability is the increasing movement of all government and private sector computing resources to huge data centers as the "cloud computing" business model becomes pervasive. The result is that not only all operating and application software is hosted in a limited number of geographic locations, but that all data is being hosted there as well. The data centers are concentrated in order to take advantage of lowest cost sources of electricity because of the enormous power demands and costs of running the centers.
The result is what may be termed "vulnerability by design," as virtually all data will soon be stored in above ground facilities that could be easily destroyed in the case of war. Or, as the book demonstrates, by a surprise attack that could be successfully launched today by a number of existing state and non-state actors. Were such an attack to be launched in mid-winter, the Internet could be rendered unavailable, and with it virtually all vital services, such as food and fuel delivery, transportation, etc. A character in the book describes it like this when he realizes the extent of the risk:
“Everything powered by electricity stops, because the grid is controlled by computers over the Internet.
“Everything moving stops, too—the planes, the trains, and the automobiles—once they use up whatever fuel is in their tanks when the Internet and the grid go down. That’s because the refineries and the pipelines are down now, too, and the gas pumps at the local gas stations don’t work, because they need electricity, and there isn’t any. There’s no air traffic control system either, because the control towers and the radar systems use electricity, computers, and the Internet, too.”
“There’s no food after you use up what’s in your warm, dark refrigerator, or in the local store, because there’s no way to deliver it from a farm or a factory to a store. There’s no water coming out of the tap, either, because the distribution system is computer controlled and relies on electricity, so that’s down, too.
“There’s no heat, if you use gas, because that distribution system has shut down—you know why. And no oil heat after you use up what’s in your storage tank.
“There’s no financial system, of course, because it’s all computerized—not even a working ATM. So what’s in your wallet is all you’ve got. And all of your bank accounts and savings are gone anyway, because all they amounted to was computerized financial records, which no longer exist.
“There’s no police, because they use gas-guzzling squad cars to get around, and the cops can’t get to work anyway. So there’s no public safety. And you couldn’t call for help anyway, because neither your landline nor your cell phone work.
“There’s nothing you can call a government left outside of small towns, because there’s no way for government employees to get to work or to communicate with anyone anyway, other than through emergency radio signals. And they quit working after the backup generators ran out of diesel fuel.
“And on and on through everything else society relies on. Hospitals? No staff, no electricity, no medicine after the cupboards are bare.
“There’s no way for anyone to grow food, because all the seeds for the next crop are stored in just a few locations, and there’s no way to transport them anywhere else. Even if you still have some of your last crop in a silo, you can’t replant it because the agribusiness companies these days make sure last year’s crop will be sterile so you’ll have to buy more seed to plant every year. But hell, there’s no fuel for the farm machinery anyway, and almost no horses or old-fashioned plows to use, either.
“What there is in the U.S. is looting and fear and hunger and more guns than people. According to the report, if the attack comes in the winter, most of the population will die of exposure or starvation within a month—if they didn’t die of thirst within the first few days. If it comes in the summer, it would just take a little longer, with more people starving than freezing to death. If Europe is gone, too, who’s going to save us? Russia or China? Fat chance. Most big countries have trouble feeding their own people and import food from us. They’ll be hard-pressed to help us out if their own people are on the verge of starvation. And even if they did, there’s no way they could transport enough food and fuel to the U.S. to help many people before they died.
“Whoever attacked us could just walk right in. It would be like the white men coming to the New World after smallpox wiped out eighty percent of the Native Americans. Back then, the Europeans took over the best town sites and cleared fields, all of which were now empty. But this time it will be even better, as there’d be all this great physical infrastructure in place. Whoever hit us could just waltz right in and take over our homes and our public buildings and our cars and our tractors and everything else and treat any survivors however they wanted to—turn them into slaves, even.
“And all of this isn’t in a report from some left-wing organization with an agenda. It’s from a government report. A government report—this is what our own experts predict will happen if someone launches a serious attack against the data centers. So what are we supposed to do? Just stand around and do nothing?”
The book demonstrates not only how such an attack could be mounted and launched (in this case by a post-ISIS type group), but what needs to be done to make such an attack impossible: limiting the size of data centers to much smaller sizes in widely dispersed locations, or burying them thirty feet under ground.
The Oslo Times International News Network