The Top 10 software failures of 2014

Software quality specialists SQS have run an industry survey to identify the top 10 software failures of last year. The results were as follows – although at least one was arguably an example of operator error!

Amazon had the wrong kind of Christmas spirit

Amazon experienced an embarrassing technical glitch in the UK in the run up to Christmas which saw prices of thousands of items being reduced to just one pence – giving eagle-eyed customers a pre-Christmas treat. Scores of small family-owned businesses were left nursing heavy losses, with some warning they could enter the New Year facing closure.

UK airports grounded

Despite being warned of a potential problem four months previously, an air traffic control glitch in Swanwick 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. The chief executive of National Air Traffic Services told the BBC that a single line of code was responsible, and said that updating elderly systems would be “challenging”.

National Grid Gas Company Loses Nearly $1 Billion

In the US, New York’s 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.

The car in front has a software glitch

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.

Who you gonna call?

For six hours, emergency services went dark for more than 11 million people across seven US states in April. The incident affected 81 call dispatch centres, rendering emergency services inoperable in all of Washington state and parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota and Florida, according to the Washington Post. An urgent study by the Federal Communications Commission found that an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing the service to drop.

Boeing 787 flight diverted

Air India was forced to divert one of its $250 million Boeing 787 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.

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.

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 per cent more often than its predecessor.

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.

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.