Chapter 2

The Coming Nanocrisis


Imagine if the world went dark and there were no internet. Consider the fallout, the repercussions, the overall impact that would have on your organization. Then multiply that by one hundred—the coming nanocrisis will be even more devastating, more destructive than that. And faster. The pandemic is illustrative because of its massive impact on human life, organizations, and the economies of the world. It spread fast but it unfolded at a snail’s pace compared to how a nanocrisis will hit.

The real threat today is the access that malefactors have to digital technologies that operate at different speeds, on different scales, and in a different domain than humans can or do. That gives perpetrators countless, ingenious ways to make their assaults. When you learn that hackers in 2018 were able to access and steal over ten gigabytes of private data from a Las Vegas casino by entering its systems though a smart thermometer in just one fish tank, you know the game has changed.

Such threats are different in the non-military and military arenas, but not as markedly different as they once were. Cyber threat, like electronic warfare, is a never ending upward spiral of destructive innovation. And though many breaches happen from the inside out, involving either employees as bad actors or oversight on the part of users, it remains important to prepare for these instances. We have grouped them into general types of nanocrisis.


A predicament or calamity whose origins lie in the dependence of an organization on a digital system, and whose speed and scale preclude immediate mitigation by humans


Which nanocrisis is coming your way first?

While new forms of calamity are engineered daily, we propose that there are six general categories into which nanocrises can be grouped:

  • Deception is the deliberate distortion of fact, disinformation, misinformation, pretense of identity or promotion of hoax to harvest data, sway opinion or incite action
  • Extortion is the use of leverage to force payment or action
  • Collapse is the one nanocrisis with no apparent perpetrator. It refers either to the stoppage of operations through events such as equipment failure, or to the forced aborting of a plan due to mitigating circumstances
  • Infiltration is unauthorized or inappropriate system entry to survey, copy or corrupt data
  • Detonation is deliberate damage to a system to slow or halt an organization’s operations
  • Eclipse, our final category of nanocrisis, is the use of technology to achieve speed and scale that undermines a competing organization’s own value to its customers

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