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Sometimes, a small tech problem can lead to something much worse. Here are some of the most critical problems ever caused by faulty software, hardware, and other errors.
When the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus first launched in 2014, some users reported that the phone bent after normal use, leading Apple to replace the affected devices. However, some reports said that the incidents were blown out of proportion.
19. Windows Vista
In late 2006, Microsoft introduced the Windows Vista operating system. Vista would later go down in history as one of the worst Windows operating systems of all time, with numerous problems around activation, security, performance, pricing, and more.
18. Blackberry outage
A BlackBerry service outage in 2011 left some customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the United States, and Canada without text messaging or internet access for a few days. The outage eventually led many customers to switch to iOS or Android devices.
16. Knight Capital Group stock error
An error in Knight Capital Group’s stock trading software algorithm caused the program to send through millions of unapproved trades, leading the company to lose $440 million in 30 minutes. According to Bloomberg, the loss was greater than the company’s market cap at the time in 2012.
15. Target breach
In late 2013, retail giant Target announced that it had been the subject of a massive data breach. It was estimated that personal information and credit card numbers from up to 70 million customers could have been leaked.
14. Sony DRM malware
In 2005, it was discovered that some Sony music CDs were installing unwanted software, without a user’s permission, on the computer they were played on. This led to a massive class action lawsuit and recall.
13. Pepsi bottling number glitch
In the early 1990s, a Pepsi promotion in the Philippines claimed that the lucky customer to find a bottle with the number 349 printed under its cap would win a large sum of money. Unfortunately, a computer glitch caused thousands of number 349 caps to be printed, leading to riots in the streets and even a bombing of a Pepsi plant in the country.
12. EDS child support system error
Incompatible software, mismanaged payments, and additional errors led to a u00a31.1 billion cost for the UK’s Child Support Agency (CSA), because of a poor system built for the agency by Electronic Data Systems (EDS). This disaster led to a backlog of 300,000 child support cases, with an additional 36,000 cases stuck in the system.
11. LAX network problem
In 2007, a computer outage at Los Angeles International Airport led to the standing of 17,000 passengers on international flights for 10 hours. The problem occurred because US Customs authorities couldn’t screen the passengers without the software.
10. Lenovo Superfish malware
In 2015, it was discovered that many Lenovo laptops were shipped with a software called Superfish that allowed for a user’s browser traffic, including confidential communications, to be snooped on. The issue devolved into the involved companies pointing fingers at each other and trying to shift the blame.
9. AT&T network collapse
A faulty line of code in a software patch for AT&T’s switching system caused half of the entire network to crash in 1990. It started in New York, when one system went down for routine maintenance, but incorrect messages led to an enormous outage.
8. Ariane 5 explosion
A software error in 1996 caused the explosion of the $7 billion Ariane rocket in Kourou, French Guiana. The core issue was found to be a conversion error when the software attempted to convert a 64-bit floating point number to 16 bits.
7. Dell battery explosions
Certain Dell laptop models in the mid-2000s had a bad habit of catching fire or exploding, due to their batteries. This led to a recall of 4.1 million laptop batteries, which were actually manufactured by Sony.
6. Healthcare.gov launch
After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the US government launched the HealthCare.gov website in 2013. However, numerous issues plagued the site, including long wait times and information going missing. By some estimates, only 1% of users were actually able to enroll in a healthcare program during the early days.
5. Apple's Antennagate
The iPhone 4 launch in June 2010 quickly gave rise to a problem known as Antennagate, in which the antenna placement on the device could be easily covered by a user’s hand, leading to poor reception. Apple eventually agreed to pay qualified users $15 to purchase a bumper case for the phone.
4. TJX hack
A network flaw allowed hackers to steal close to 46 million credit card numbers in 2007 from TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, A.J. Wright, and others. It is believed that weak security around the company’s wireless LAN was the problem.
3. Mars Climate Orbiter lost in space
In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost in space, at an estimated cost of $193 million. The problem stemmed from software developed by Lockheed Martin that converted a certain set of numbers into the wrong units.
2. Soviet nuclear warning system false alarm
In 1983, a Soviet Union nuclear early warning system nearly caused World War Three. A computer at the Serpukhov-15 bunker in Moscow falsely reported that the US had fired a missile at the Soviet Union. Lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov correctly interpreted it as a false alarm, potentially preventing a world war.
1. Samsung Galaxy Note7 exploding batteries
A few weeks after its launch, the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone began experiencing overheating and exploding batteries. After numerous recalls and temporary fixes, the company stopped production and discontinued the line. The fiasco cost the company billions of dollars in potential profits.