From shoppers securing festive bargains for just 1p, to aircrafts being grounded in some of the world’s busiest airports, 2014 featured an abundance of software glitches. Several of the outages could have had catastrophic ramifications, with airline passengers, car drivers and those requiring urgent medical services all temporarily having their lives put at risk.
Software quality firm, SQS, has asked those in the quality industry to vote on the top failures over the past 12 months, with the results proving glitches continue to effect businesses and society in general worldwide.
Cindy Truyens, Managing Director at SQS comments, “In every facet of our lives we are dependent on technology. These software failures are clear evidence of that. They could have been easily avoided through effective quality management, resolving potentially catastrophic glitches before they happen. Sometimes there simply isn’t a second chance to get it right. Turn to the experts who can assure you achieve the right results and minimise both financial and reputational risk.”
The top software failures of 2014 as per the vote:
1. Amazon had the wrong kind of Christmas spirit
Amazon experienced an embarrassing technical glitch in the run up to Christmas which saw prices of thousands of items being reduced to just 1p – giving eagle-eyed customers a pre-Christmas treat. Scores of small family-owned businesses were left cursing the error as they were left nursing heavy losses; with some warning they could enter the New Year facing closure.
2. UK airports grounded
Despite being warned of a potential problem four months previous, an air traffic control glitch in Stanwick led to the closure of large parts of UK airspace in December. The failed software, designated to track and plan all incoming and outgoing flights in one of the world’s busiest airspaces, resulted in hundreds of flights being cancelled, delayed, or diverted.
3. National Grid Gas Company Loses Nearly $1 Billion
The National Grid Gas Company transitioned to a new ERP software system in 2012 with hopes of streamlining the back-office processes. However an audit conducted by the Public Service Commission found that the software had been incorrectly implemented, resulting in a range of problems from inaccurate wage payments to unpaid vendor bills. The original implementation, along with fixing the software, has brought the total cost of the system to nearly $1 Billion dollars.
4. The car in front has a software glitch
Back in February, the best-known hybrid vehicle in the world, the Toyota Prius, was recalled due to a software issue with its engine control unit (ECU). The faulty ECU settings were reported to cause some transistors to overheat, which in turn sends the car into a failsafe mode and, under certain circumstances, could cause the hybrid system to shut down while driving.
5. Who you gonna call?
For six hours, emergency services went dark for more than 11 million people across seven US states back in April. The incident affected 81 call dispatch centres, rendering emergency services inoperable in all of Washington and parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota and Florida. An urgent study from the Federal Communications Commission found that an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing the service to drop.
6. Boeing 787 flight diverted
Air India was forced to divert one of its $250 million Boeing 787s Dreamliners after the pilot noticed a glitch in the plane software mid-flight. Engineers were immediately flown out from Hong Kong to address and correct the issue; though not without first creating considerable panic and inconvenience to the passengers on board. This latest error is just another of the Boeing 787’s Dreamliner’s numerous known software flaws, for which the entire worldwide fleet was grounded the previous year.
7. Heartbleed security bug
Heartbleed affected the encryption library called OpenSSL that is used in the majority of web servers, giving hackers the ability to capture sensitive data and passwords. Whilst Heartbleed was quickly patched by the majority of IT companies, since most of the commercial web-based services we all rely on were affected, there’s still a chance there are servers out there which remain vulnerable to attack.
8. The world’s most profitable company fell flat in October
Despite its recent record breaking financial results, the team at Apple were cringing back in September when it had to pull the update for its new iOS 8 operating system just an hour after release. Users downloading it complained they lost phone signal, so were unable to make calls. Others said Touch ID, which allows users to unlock their iPhone using their fingerprints, no longer worked. A report from Bloomberg claimed that the latest operating system crashes 67 percent more often than its predecessor.
9. F-35 yet to take off
Glitches in software development and testing have pushed back the final delivery of the ‘jump-jet’ F-35B to the US Marine Corps by over a year. There have also been several high-profile software problems with the F-35. One was an error in the fighter’s computer system, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, which associated the wrong part numbers with aircraft components and recommended grounding planes even after repairs had been made.
10. The Fappening
Compromising photos of a raft of A-list stars, including Jennifer Lawrence, Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian surfaced on Internet chat forums in September. Hackers got access to the Hollywood stars' iCloud accounts with a phishing scheme. Apple since scrambled around to beef up iCloud's security features in an attempt to restore consumer confidence in the technology after the hack.