BLACK SWAN: CLOUD ATTACK
A combination of physical
and cyber attacks on multiple
data centers for cloud service
providers causes economic
havoc. Even the most well-
prepared companies are
thrown into paralyzing
By Dan Reynolds
Physical damage to multiple data centers — truck attacks such as the one above being one possibility — in
combination with a hack of cloud services will cause considerable upheaval and losses in the U.S. economy.
SCENARIO: By month 16 of the new
presidential administration, the Sunshine
Brigade is more than ready to act.
Stoked by their anger over rampant
economic inequality, the mostly college-educated group of what might best be
called upper-middle-class anarchists —
many of them from California, Oregon
and Washington State — put in motion the
With web sites and digitally connected services large and small down for days,
irritation turns to fear.
Small and mid-sized banks, which host their applications on clouds, are shut
down. Small business owners and consumer banking customers immediately feel
the brunt. Retailers that depend on clouds to host their inventory and transaction
information are also hit hard.
But really, the blow falls everywhere.
In the U.S., transportation, financial, health, government and other crucial
services grind to a halt in many cases.
Not everyone is disrupted. Some of the larger corporations are sophisticated
enough in their risk management, those that used back-up clouds and had
steadfast business resiliency plans suffer
Many small to mid-size companies,
though, cannot operate. Their employees
can’t get to work and when they can,
they sit idly in front of blank computer
screens connected to useless servers.
For the man on the street, this is hell.
Long lines blossom at the likes of
gas stations, banks and grocery stores.
A population already on edge from a
steady diet of social media provocation
becomes even more inflamed.
“Where possible we would
look for clients to negotiate
their contracts. These
should be mutually
—Shiraz Saeed, national practice leader, cyber,
for the Starr Companies.
• Small to mid-sized business
would bear the brunt of a major
attack on cloud service providers.
• Economic losses could threaten
the solvency of some insurers.
• The interconnectedness of cloud
hosts makes it difficult to fully
gauge aggregation risk.
gears of a plan more than two years in the making.
Their logic, to them at least, is unimpeachable. Continued consolidation of
economic power into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations is creating a
world where the rich increasingly exploit and shut out the poor.
The rise of the techno giants is accelerating this trend, according to the
Sunshine Brigade’s de facto leader Emily Brookes, an All-American rugby player
and a graduate of Reed College in Oregon.
With a new presidential administration seemingly bent on increasing the
economic advantages of the rich with no end in sight, nothing to do then but
break things up; and in so doing break the hold of this technology oligarchy.
As Emily Brookes so forcefully put in her instant messages to the other
members of the brigade: Break the Cloud.
With more than 500 members, many of them with ample financial and
technical resources, the Sunshine Brigade is very capable of delivering on its plan
for a two-pronged attack.
It is also radicalized enough to justify the loss of some human life, even its own
countrymen, to “save” — in its collective logic — the tens of millions of global
citizens that are living as virtual slaves in this callous, exploitative global economy.
The first wave in the attack is an attempt to infect and shut down the data centers
for the top three cloud service providers. It takes months to set up this offensive.
Rather than rely on a phishing scam from outside the firewalls of the service
providers, The Sunshine Brigade uses its social and business connections to
place three members on each of the cloud provider’s payrolls. An infected link
from someone you know, someone in the cubicle right next to you, seems like an
It only partially works. Only one of the cloud service providers is harmed when an
unsuspecting employee clicks on a link from their traitorous co-worker. The released
malware manages to cripple a major cloud service provider for 12 hours.
With millions of users affected, the act creates substantial disruption and garners
global headlines. Insured losses are around $1.5 billion. But this is just the beginning.
The morning after, the Sunshine Brigade unleashes a far more devastating and
far more ruthless Round Two.
Using self-driving trucks, the Sunshine Brigade smashes into five data centers;
three on the West Coast, and two in the Midwest. Fourteen employees of those
cloud servers are killed and another 23 injured; some of them critically.
This time they get what they wanted. The physical damage to the data centers
is substantial enough that it significantly affects three of the top four cloud service
providers for five days.