The Bandwidth War was the shortest conflict in of Earth's violent history, lasting only 5:58 hours. Yet simultaneously, the fallout that followed from it led to devastation that had not been seen since the 20th century. The Earth Planetary Consortium, precursor to what would later become the Stellar Consortium, was founded as a means to focus rebuilding efforts.
Often called the first and only "hacker war" in popular discourse, it is probably more correct to speak of economically motivated electronic and virtual warfare on a level that has no match in the history of the Orion Arm, safe for the rise and fall of the so-called "Negative Profitability Doctrine" that led to a brief period of unrest among the G'ahnli in the early 23rd century. The difference lies in the fact that the motivating factor was not sheer maliciousness on part of the perpetrators; rather, the "IT terrorists" were hired by and worked for the great conglomerates (also called zaibatsu, mega- or metacartels) of the time, who had been vying for supremacy and control of the market, ie, Earth. The Bandwidth War was merely the violent outburst of a sickness that had long been fermenting below the surface of the otherwise peaceful human societes of the late 20th century.
Of the conglomerates involved in the struggle, only three are known by name today: Boeing-Daimler Motors, a megacartel centered on heavy industries and motor companies; Sonykraft, a classic zaibatsu that could claim to supply all items -- foods and appliances both -- a household would ever need; and Micro-Apple Business Machines, the electronics and software giant that must bear the brunt of the blame, having been the first to implement virtual warfare against its competitors. (None of the three survived the war.)
Though it is impossible to reconstruct the exact sequence of events during the "hot" phase of the war, it is commonly held that no effort by human hackers, no matter their numbers and competence, could have brought the global network down with such swiftness and terrifying efficiency. It is hence speculated that various offensive agents, ranging from the crude (such as scripts performing denial of service attacks) to the cutting-edge (malicious decentralized AI routines propagating via viral vectorcode), were deployed. The race to develop these routines has been likened of the so-called Cold War period, wherein two Terran geopolitical entities with differing philosophies had stocked up nuclear weaponry as deterrents to attack by the other side. Unlike in the Cold War, however, the deterrents were not strong enough to stop their holders from deploying them against one another. (This failure of the strategy of "stability through deadlock" has been attributed to the fact that, unlike nuclear weapons, virtual warfare is invisible and does not come with the strong determent of immense immediate destruction of property followed by an aftermath of radiation diseases and fallout. Moreover, the likelihood of such warfare entailing a complete and worldwide simultaneous systems failure leading not only to the disabling but destruction of the global network was never seriously considered.)
Even without knowing the full details of the events, a chronological list of what we know has been put together below. The readiness to retaliate in kind and the fact that the metacartels could unleash their entire arsenals within five minutes of being alerted to an attack only emphasizes how hostile the atmosphere had already become at that time; from what has been pieced together it seems that the governing bodies of the conglomerates considered the war as the perfect chance to not only overcome their competitors, but to wipe them from record.
|February 16th, 2011
The Opening Gambit
|23:15 GMT||MABM deploys its virtual arsenal against a BDM node in Greater Moscow.|
|23:16 GMT||BDM countermeasures are in effect.|
|23:17 - 23:58 GMT||Network traffic spikes as the AI routines escalate their behaviour to overcome their respective opponents. Public access nodes across Russia and the Middle East stall and go offline.|
|23:45 GMT||BDM gives green light for indiscriminate retaliation while the Moscow node is still under attack. Associated companies of either conglomerate become involved, taking the struggle to the lower economic echelons.|
|23:56 GMT||Subcompanies of Sonykraft alarm the ITCM department of their parent company to the fact that their company nodes are under attack.|
|23:58 GMT||Sonykraft agents enter the war. The access nodes along the Pacific Rim shut down.|
|February 17th, 2011
|00:00 GMT onward||The situation escalates as more and more zaibatsu and their affiliated partners and subcontractors are drawn into the war. The AIs of MABM and BDM are out of control at this point, no longer following their priority listings but attacking indiscriminately, a result of emergent behaviour.|
|01:33 GMT||Brownouts occur throughout Asia and India as the AIs escalate their conflict to the most basic level of the global network. The first deaths resulting from the AI warfare are reported in a high-maintenance clinic in New Delhi, India, as patients dependent on life support die in the wake of one such brownout.|
|01:41 GMT||North America shares the fate of Asia, going down under the onslaught of traffic. South America follows suit. Server hosting facilities reportedly go up in flame as cables succumb to smouldering fires, unable to cope with the sheer volume of data coursing the network.|
|02:21 GMT||The Pan-European WiFi Network collapses. Europe is offline.|
|03:13 GMT||Power grids across the world shut down, having been infested by viral code that corrupts programs of all layers, down to emergency protocols. Fire and burglary alarms, refrigerators, traffic and flight control systems, communications: all remaining systems depending on outer energy sources collapse, with stand-alone systems unable to provide sufficient backup. The world goes dark.|