Sunday, January 10, 2010

Y2K bug makes a return ten years later!

Those of you who followed the news at the turn of the century will recall the “Year 2000 Problem”, referred to as the Y2K bug.

Basically, the millennium bug was a problem which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits. There were fears that computer systems would breakdown without correcting the problem, and there were huge efforts worldwide to prepare. In the end, Y2K passed with little trouble.
Last week, the date change over from 2009 to 2010, wreaked havoc on some systems across the world.

The biggest problem happened in Germany, where an error left around one third of all cards issued by German banks unable to access ATMs or to make payments from New Year's day till the end of the first week in January!

Banks said this week that like the year-2000 problem, in which old software was not designed to recognize any date after 1999, the new glitch was caused by a software error that treats the year 2010 as if it does not exist. The total number of debit and credit cards knocked out was over 30 million, and it seems the banking system will have to incur the costs of replacing them. Australian bank reported similar problems, though less damaging.

Also, surprisingly, two of the world’s top software security companies, Symantec and Kaspersky, reported problems too. Symantec's network-access control (NAC) software that is supposed to check whether spam and virus definitions have been updated recently enough fails because of this 2010 problem.

Open source projects like SpamAssasin also faced date-related problems, increasing the spam score it gives to e-mails that come with 2010 date headers, making it more likely that those e-mails will be classified as spam, resulting in more false positives.

Even users of certain Windows OS mobile phones reported getting SMS messages time stamped from the future, the year 2016! Microsoft is now fixing that issue.
So, can IT specialists be excused for being a bit distracted by the tough economic situation in 2009?

There are no excuses, and it’s dissapointing that the Y2K hype that grabbed our attention for 2 years was forgotten ten years later. It’s human nature to forget and assume all is well. In this digitally-run society, it’s clearly a mistake.


At 7:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The company responsible for the problem, Gemalto - estimates it will cost them $400M+ to correct the problem. Most likely the costs involved in replacing 30M credit/atm cards. Seems excessive to me - but there are obviously complications to this that we're not privy to.



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