- Software problems in the automated baggage sorting system of a major
airport in February 2008 prevented thousands of passengers from checking
baggage for their flights. It was reported that the breakdown occurred
during a software upgrade, despite pre-testing of the software. The
system continued to have problems in subsequent months.
- News reports in December of 2007 indicated that significant software
problems were continuing to occur in a new ERP payroll system for a large
urban school system. It was believed that more than one third of
employees had received incorrect paychecks at various times since the new
system went live the preceding January, resulting in overpayments of $53
million, as well as underpayments. An employees' union brought a lawsuit
against the school system, the cost of the ERP system was expected to
rise by 40%, and the non-payroll part of the ERP system was delayed.
Inadequate testing reportedly contributed to the problems.
- In November of 2007 a regional government reportedly brought a
multi-million dollar lawsuit against a software services vendor,
claiming that the vendor 'minimized quality' in delivering software
for a large criminal justice information system and the system did
not meet requirements. The vendor also sued its subcontractor on the
- In June of 2007 news reports claimed that software flaws in
a popular online stock-picking contest could be used to gain an
unfair advantage in pursuit of the game's large cash prizes.
Outside investigators were called in and in July the contest
winner was announced. Reportedly the winner had previously been
in 6th place, indicating that the top 5 contestants may have
- A software problem contributed to a rail car fire in a major
underground metro system in April of 2007 according to newspaper
accounts. The software reportedly failed to perform as expected
in detecting and preventing excess power usage in equipment on a
new passenger rail car, resulting in overheating and fire in the
rail car, and evacuation and shutdown of part of the system.
- Tens of thousands of medical devices were recalled in March
of 2007 to correct a software bug. According to news reports,
the software would not reliably indicate when available power to
the device was too low.
- A September 2006 news report indicated problems with software
utilized in a state government's primary election, resulting in
periodic unexpected rebooting of voter checkin machines, which
were separate from the electronic voting machines, and resulted
in confusion and delays at voting sites. The problem was reportedly
due to insufficient testing.
In August of 2006 a U.S. government student loan service
erroneously made public the personal data of as many as 21,000 borrowers
on it's web site, due to a software error. The bug was fixed and the
government department subsequently offered to arrange for free
credit monitoring services for those affected.
A software error reportedly resulted in overbilling of up to several
thousand dollars to each of 11,000 customers of a major telecommunications
company in June of 2006. It was reported that the software bug was fixed
within days, but that correcting the billing errors would take much longer.
News reports in May of 2006 described a multi-million dollar lawsuit
settlement paid by a healthcare software vendor to one of its customers.
It was reported that the customer claimed there were problems with the
software they had contracted for, including poor integration of software
modules, and problems that resulted in missing or incorrect data used by
In early 2006 problems in a government's financial monitoring software
resulted in incorrect election candidate financial reports being made
available to the public. The government's election finance
reporting web site had to be shut down until the software was repaired.
Trading on a major Asian stock exchange was brought to a halt
in November of 2005, reportedly due to an error in a system
software upgrade. The problem was rectified and
trading resumed later the same day.
A May 2005 newspaper article reported that a major hybrid car
manufacturer had to install a software fix on 20,000 vehicles
due to problems with invalid engine warning lights and
occasional stalling. In the article, an automotive software
specialist indicated that the automobile industry spends $2 billion
to $3 billion per year fixing software problems.
Media reports in January of 2005 detailed severe problems with
a $170 million high-profile U.S. government IT systems project. Software
testing was one of the five major problem areas according to a
report of the commission reviewing the project. In March of 2005
it was decided to scrap the entire project.
In July 2004 newspapers reported that a new government
welfare management system in Canada costing several hundred million
dollars was unable to handle a simple benefits rate increase after
being put into live operation. Reportedly the original contract
allowed for only 6 weeks of acceptance testing and the system was
never tested for its ability to handle a rate increase.
Millions of bank accounts were impacted by errors due to installation
of inadequately tested software code in the transaction processing
system of a major North American bank, according to mid-2004 news
reports. Articles about the incident stated that it took two weeks
to fix all the resulting errors, that additional problems resulted
when the incident drew a large number of e-mail phishing attacks
against the bank's customers, and that the total cost of the incident
could exceed $100 million.
A bug in site management software utilized by companies
with a significant percentage of worldwide web traffic was
reported in May of 2004. The bug resulted in performance
problems for many of the sites simultaneously and required
disabling of the software until the bug was fixed.
According to news reports in April of 2004, a software bug was
determined to be a major contributor to the 2003 Northeast
blackout, the worst power system failure in North American
history. The failure involved loss of electrical power to
50 million customers, forced shutdown of 100 power plants,
and economic losses estimated at $6 billion. The bug was
reportedly in one utility company's vendor-supplied power
monitoring and management system, which was unable to correctly
handle and report on an unusual confluence of initially localized
events. The error was found and corrected after examining
millions of lines of code.
In early 2004, news reports revealed the intentional use
of a software bug as a counter-espionage tool. According to the
report, in the early 1980's one nation surreptitiously allowed a hostile
nation's espionage service to steal a version of sophisticated
industrial software that had intentionally-added flaws. This
eventually resulted in major industrial disruption in the country
that used the stolen flawed software.
A major U.S. retailer was reportedly hit with a large government fine
in October of 2003 due to web site errors that enabled customers to
view one anothers' online orders.
News stories in the fall of 2003 stated that a manufacturing company
recalled all their transportation products in order to fix a software
problem causing instability in certain circumstances. The company found
and reported the bug itself and initiated the recall procedure in which
a software upgrade fixed the problems.
In August of 2003 a U.S. court ruled that a lawsuit against a large
online brokerage company could proceed; the lawsuit reportedly
involved claims that the company was not fixing system problems
that sometimes resulted in failed stock trades, based on the
experiences of 4 plaintiffs during an 8-month period. A previous
lower court's ruling that "...six miscues out of more than
400 trades does not indicate negligence." was invalidated.
In April of 2003 it was announced that a large student loan company
in the U.S. made a software error in calculating the monthly
payments on 800,000 loans. Although borrowers were to be notified
of an increase in their required payments, the company will still
reportedly lose $8 million in interest. The error was uncovered
when borrowers began reporting inconsistencies in their bills.
News reports in February of 2003 revealed that the U.S. Treasury
Department mailed 50,000 Social Security checks without any beneficiary
names. A spokesperson indicated that the missing names were due
to an error in a software change. Replacement checks were
subsequently mailed out with the problem corrected, and recipients
were then able to cash their Social Security checks.
In March of 2002 it was reported that software bugs in Britain's
national tax system resulted in more than 100,000 erroneous tax
overcharges. The problem was partly attributed to the difficulty of
testing the integration of multiple systems.
A newspaper columnist reported in July 2001 that a serious flaw was
found in off-the-shelf software that had long been used in systems
for tracking certain U.S. nuclear materials. The same software had been
recently donated to another country to be used in tracking their own
nuclear materials, and it was not until scientists in that country
discovered the problem, and shared the information, that U.S.
officials became aware of the problems.
According to newspaper stories in mid-2001, a major systems
development contractor was fired and sued over problems with a
large retirement plan management system. According to the reports,
the client claimed that system deliveries were late, the software had
excessive defects, and it caused other systems to crash.
In January of 2001 newspapers reported that a major European
railroad was hit by the aftereffects of the Y2K bug. The company
found that many of their newer trains would not run due to their
inability to recognize the date '31/12/2000'; the trains were
started by altering the control system's date settings.
News reports in September of 2000 told of a software vendor
settling a lawsuit with a large mortgage lender; the vendor had
reportedly delivered an online mortgage processing system that
did not meet specifications, was delivered late, and didn't work.
In early 2000, major problems were reported with a new computer
system in a large suburban U.S. public school district with 100,000+
students; problems included 10,000 erroneous report cards and students
left stranded by failed class registration systems; the district's
CIO was fired. The school district decided to reinstate it's original
25-year old system for at least a year until the bugs were worked out
of the new system by the software vendors.
A review board concluded that the NASA Mars Polar Lander failed in
December 1999 due to software problems that caused improper functioning
of retro rockets utilized by the Lander as it entered the Martian atmosphere.
In October of 1999 the $125 million NASA Mars Climate
Orbiter spacecraft was believed to be lost in space due
to a simple data conversion error. It was determined that
spacecraft software used certain data in English units that should
have been in metric units. Among other tasks, the orbiter
was to serve as a communications relay for the Mars
Polar Lander mission, which failed for unknown reasons
in December 1999. Several investigating panels were
convened to determine the process failures that allowed
the error to go undetected.
Bugs in software supporting a large commercial high-speed data
network affected 70,000 business customers over a period of 8 days
in August of 1999. Among those affected was the electronic trading
system of the largest U.S. futures exchange, which was shut down
for most of a week as a result of the outages.
In April of 1999 a software bug caused the failure of a $1.2 billion
U.S. military satellite launch, the costliest unmanned accident in the
history of Cape Canaveral launches. The failure was the latest
in a string of launch failures, triggering a complete military
and industry review of U.S. space launch programs, including software
integration and testing processes. Congressional oversight hearings
A small town in Illinois in the U.S. received an unusually large monthly
electric bill of $7 million in March of 1999. This was about 700
times larger than its normal bill. It turned out to be due to
bugs in new software that had been purchased by the local power
company to deal with Y2K software issues.
In early 1999 a major computer game company recalled all copies
of a popular new product due to software problems. The company
made a public apology for releasing a product before it was ready.
The computer system of a major online U.S. stock trading service
failed during trading hours several times over a period of days in
February of 1999 according to nationwide news reports. The problem
was reportedly due to bugs in a software upgrade intended to
speed online trade confirmations.
In April of 1998 a major U.S. data communications network
failed for 24 hours, crippling a large part of some U.S. credit
card transaction authorization systems as well as other large U.S.
bank, retail, and government data systems. The cause was
eventually traced to a software bug.
January 1998 news reports told of software problems at a
major U.S. telecommunications company that resulted in no charges
for long distance calls for a month for 400,000 customers. The
problem went undetected until customers called up with
questions about their bills.
In November of 1997 the stock of a major health industry
company dropped 60% due to reports of failures in computer
billing systems, problems with a large database conversion,
and inadequate software testing. It was reported that more than
$100,000,000 in receivables had to be written off and that
multi-million dollar fines were levied on the company by
A retail store chain filed suit in August of 1997
against a transaction processing system vendor (not a credit
card company) due to the software's inability to handle
credit cards with year 2000 expiration dates.
In August of 1997 one of the leading consumer credit reporting
companies reportedly shut down their new public web site after
less than two days of operation due to software problems. The new
site allowed web site visitors instant access, for a small
fee, to their personal credit reports. However, a number of
initial users ended up viewing each others' reports instead
of their own, resulting in irate customers and nationwide
publicity. The problem was attributed to "...unexpectedly
high demand from consumers and faulty software that routed
the files to the wrong computers."
In November of 1996, newspapers reported that software bugs caused
the 411 telephone information system of one of the U.S. RBOC's to
fail for most of a day. Most of the 2000 operators had to
search through phone books instead of using their 13,000,000-listing
database. The bugs were introduced by new software modifications
and the problem software had been installed on both the production
and backup systems. A spokesman for the software vendor reportedly
stated that 'It had nothing to do with the integrity of the
software. It was human error.'
On June 4 1996 the first flight of the
European Space Agency's new Ariane 5 rocket failed shortly
after launching, resulting in an estimated uninsured loss
of a half billion dollars. It was reportedly due to the lack
of exception handling of a floating-point error in a
conversion from a 64-bit integer to a 16-bit signed integer.
Software bugs caused the bank accounts of 823 customers of a major
U.S. bank to be credited with $924,844,208.32 each in May of 1996,
according to newspaper reports. The American Bankers Association
claimed it was the largest such error in banking history. A bank
spokesman said the programming errors were corrected and all
funds were recovered.
Software bugs in a Soviet early-warning monitoring system
nearly brought on nuclear war in 1983, according to news reports
in early 1999. The software was supposed to filter out
false missile detections caused by Soviet satellites picking up
sunlight reflections off cloud-tops, but failed to do so. Disaster was
averted when a Soviet commander, based on what he said was a '...funny
feeling in my gut', decided the apparent missile attack was a
false alarm. The filtering software code was rewritten.