Skype, NYSE Error Top List of 13 Big Programming Failures of 2010

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Skype, NYSE Error Top List of 13 Big Programming Failures of 2010

by Darryl K. Taft

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McAfees Glitch

Security company McAfee in April issued a software update to protect computers against a list of malicious files. Unfortunately, a file that is part of Microsoft's Windows operating system made it onto the list. McAfee's software deleted this file, causing affected computers to shut down and start on a continuous reboot cycle. The glitch primarily hurt McAfee corporate customers and was widely reported and criticized. Even multibillion-dollar software companies aren't perfect, it seems.

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Skype Crash

A bug in the Windows version of Skype's Internet telephony software caused the service to crash for nearly 24 hours in late December. Skype suffered a serious server outage Dec. 22 that left swaths of its 560 million or so worldwide users without PC-calling capabilities for most of the day. In a blog post, Skype's CIO, Lars Rabbe, blamed a bug in the Windows version for the problem.

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Russian Satellite

In December, the world saw the successful launch of the final three GLONASS navigation satellites. However, just after launching, a programming error caused the carrier rocket to veer off course and lose the Proton-M booster rocket carrying the satellites in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.

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NYSE Timing Error

A timing error on a software update at NYSE Euronext's electronic Arca exchange prompted an exchange-traded fund tracking the Standard & Poor's 500 index to drop nearly 10 percent.

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Android Kernel Bug

In November, an analysis of the kernel used in Google's Android smartphone software turned up 88 high-risk security flaws that could be used to expose users' personal information.

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Facebook Privacy CSRF

Facebook, under intense scrutiny this year for its privacy policies and procedures, was discovered to have a cross-site request forgery flaw that could have allowed hackers to alter profile information and change privacy settings for individual pages.

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Chase Online Banking

Software from a third-party database company corrupted information in Chase systems and prevented users from logging on. The service was down for two days and had an impact on millions of customers.

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Toyota Electronic Data Recorder

A software bug in electronic data recorders for Toyota (the black box that records the speed of the automobile) was found to have created incorrect readouts. This is significant as the automaker is under scrutiny for reports of unexplained acceleration and numerous recalls this year. A report from NASA and the NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] is due in 2011 to determine the cause of the unexplained acceleration, but it has also been speculated to be the result of electronic issues.

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Heavy demand for upload capacity from the iPhone 4 exposed a flaw in the software for Alcatel-Lucent's 3G network equipment, causing users of iPhone4G to experience abnormally slow upload speeds. These issues were widely reported on by mainstream and consumer publications.

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Google Street View

Early in 2010, Google admitted that for the last three years it had been inadvertently collecting private data from WiFi networks as part of its Street View data collection activities. The search company now faces intense scrutiny from the FCC and FTC.

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German Credit Cards Get Hit with the 2010 Bug

At the beginning of the year, 30 million German credit and debit cards were affected by a software bug that prevented the microchips in the cards from recognizing the year change.

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Windows vs. Linux Supercomputing Flaw

Windows and Linux went head-to-head in a contest for supercomputing speed, but a software bug in the package designed to run the Microsoft test seems to have kept Windows from beating (or at least matching) Linux.

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Medical-Device Recalls

In mid-2010, there were a number of emergency-response systems in the Midwest that malfunctioned around the times of tornadoes and other natural disasters that were software-related. We also saw a number of medical-device-related recalls, like the CareFusion electronic drug-infusion pumps and software issues related to recalled Baxter dialysis machines.

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