Crime writer S Hussain Zaidi’s new thriller imagines a cyberterrorist attack in Mumbai

As expected, the failure of the entire traffic system has led to widespread chaos in Mumbai. The immediate result was hundreds of accidents, some small, some serious, some critical. The death toll continued to mount as Vikrant sat in the back seat of a police SUV he had commandeered from LT Marg police station. A constable from his team drove him.

Due to traffic jams on almost all roads, it was impossible for ambulances to reach the scene of an accident. Ambulance nurses began running on foot with stretchers over their shoulders, loading the nearest injured onto them and running back to hospitals. Citizens began volunteering as the trend spread, and stretchers were passed from shoulder to shoulder in cases where injuries weren’t too severe.

Hospitals found themselves overwhelmed with casualties. Reports of at least twelve deaths in various parts of the city were heard over the police radio Vikrant was carrying, now turned on, and the toll was expected to rise. Many of the less seriously injured were treated in makeshift wards within the hospital grounds and released as soon as possible so that doctors could attend to the more seriously injured.

Private practitioners began accepting those injured in traffic jams first, asking other patients to wait if they could. As soon as Vikrant heard of such a report, he called his office.

“Tell the Mumbai police to tweet about it so other doctors can see and do the same,” he told his team, which constantly scanned social media sites and relayed updates. to the Mumbai Police team.

Social media was a tool that Vikrant was becoming increasingly aware of. It was an invention that could be as good or as bad as the person using it.

Traffic officers and wardens started working together with citizens’ associations and soon hundreds of volunteers were out on the roads to help move as many vehicles as possible. The traffic police chief had a sudden cerebral idea and issued an order, which Vikrant heard on the radio and marveled at.

“Push all two-wheelers onto curbs and prohibit their drivers from moving until larger vehicles are clear of the roads first. Put clamps on the wheels if necessary. Arrest anyone who acts smarter.

Two-wheelers have always been the greatest bane of a traffic cop’s life. The highest number of road accidents each year are due to reckless two-wheeler drivers trying to beat the signal at a busy junction or overtaking a heavy vehicle on the wrong side. The tendency of these drivers to jam their vehicles into every available inch of space has been the cause of many traffic jams.

Vikrant’s phone rang just as his vehicle boarded the JJ Flyover. It was packed but at least the traffic was moving. Vikrant silently thanked whoever came up with the idea of ​​banning two-wheelers on the flyover. He shuddered to think of what the situation might have been like today if the ban hadn’t been put in place.

“We finished the operation here, sir,” Deo said on the other end.

“Leave the accused in LT Marg’s dungeon for today.” Ask them to take the injured person to the hospital. I don’t want him to cause trouble later,” Vikrant explained to his caddy.

“I told them that before, sir,” Deo said, his voice betraying the touch of joy a teacher’s pet feels when he gets the answer right.

“Good man,” Vikrant said. “Come to the office as soon as possible. There’s something I might need your help with.

Vikrant felt the smallest of pauses on the other end of the line, during which he guessed his younger brother was wondering whether or not to ask questions.

“I’m leaving right away, sir. I’ll text you when I get to the office,” Deo finally said.

Vikrant could feel his approval for the man growing as he returned to monitoring the chaos around him on his radio. The Mumbai Police Commissioner reluctantly issued restraining orders, restricting movement on the roads unless absolutely necessary. People have been ordered to stay indoors wherever they are, whether at home or at work, and city police personnel have been ordered to help their counterparts traffic police the way they needed. Any special units personnel, like the crime branch, who weren’t working on anything urgent at the moment, were also ordered to help.

Small businesses took a hit because there was no way customers would come in on a day like this. The stock market fell several points, triggering a wave of panic on the economic front.

Vikrant was particularly concerned that India’s economy was slowly recovering anyway after going through several upheavals, including communal disputes, border escalations and sporadic terrorist incidents, not to mention a series of natural disasters. If what Mirza had just sent him was true – and Vikant had no reason to believe otherwise – he feared the market would crash and take a long time to return to normal.

There were occasions when the Sensex opened in the 0.09% margin red zone and although it rallied during the day, that was enough to cause massive financial losses to the business community. There were also times when it opened at a dismal 0.07% and then corrected. But what Vikrant really feared was a panic-driven selling spree, which always results in catastrophic losses.

The news media, of course, was restless, with reporters taking to the roads and accosting everyone, whether civilians or officials.

There was virtually nothing that could be done to stop them, as they were fully within their rights to report such a massive ongoing crisis. There were of course also unruly reporters disrupting police efforts to deal with the situation, but it was a pain that had to be endured.

Amidst all the chaos around him, as his vehicle slowly made its way towards Nagpada, Vikrant re-read the email Mirza had forwarded to him on the messaging app. He had already read it twice but was still trying to believe what it said.

What you are experiencing right now is called a Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack. I’m sure you have experts who will break it down for you in layman’s terms, but what I’ve basically done is the server that controls your traffic lights goes down.

As your experts will tell you, such an attack requires a huge number of hacked devices. I must warn you that the number of devices I used for this DDoS attack is only a fraction of what I have at my disposal. If my demands, which will be transmitted shortly, are not met, my next target will be an even greater public service.

Take this as a warning.

Retrieved with permission from Zero Day, S Hussain Zaidi, HarperCollins India.