Software failures

The 2018 Software Fail Watch Awards

If you are into films, you know that “award season” is upon us. While the winning films might tell a compelling story, the drama pales in comparison to the “winners” of the Software Fail Watch.

Each Software Fail Watch analyzes and highlights the software bugs found in a year’s worth of English language news articles. The 5th Edition of the Software Fail Watch hits records numbers, with 606 recorded fails, affecting 314 companies and $1.7 trillion in assets.

The real drama however, lies not in the numbers but the stories behind some of the fails. Reality really is stranger than fiction, so who knows? These stories could be the basis for next year’s award-winning film.

“And the award goes to…”


Best Comedy of Errors

“Connected sex toys recorded intimate sessions without consent”
A Reddit user took to the forums to share his discovery that his Internet of Things connected “adult toy” was recording audio files during usage, and saving them to his phone. The embarrassing discovery was quickly picked up by mainstream media, causing the toy’s maker, Lovense, to scramble their way out of a privacy intrusion and PR nightmare.


Most Horrifying Bug

“709,000 pieces of medical mail undelivered”
The United Kingdom’s National Audit Office discovered that 709,000 pieces of medical mail had never been delivered to the patients or their General Practitioners thanks to a software glitch. The backlog of letters had been stacking up for five years, thrown into boxes and stored in a warehouse. 500,000 of the letters were found to have contained confidential patient data, and 1,700 cases were identified where the missing information could have caused the patient serious bodily harm. The company charged with delivering the letters had reportedly known about the issue since 2014.


Biggest Overnight Financial Hit

“Provident Financial stocks tank after bug disclosure”
Provident Financial, a UK-based loan company that targets low-income customers, admitted that a software bug was keeping them from collecting debts and would result in a revenue loss of up to $158,256,000. In light of the announcement, Provident Financial’s stock price crashed, losing a whopping $2.2 Billion in market value in one day. The culprit of this enterprise disaster? A new appointment scheduling system intended to improve employee efficiency. Bugs in the scheduling system are arranging meetings at the wrong time, causing employees to miss meetings with their clients. This also places an estimated 800,000 vulnerable customers in jeopardy, many of whom rely on the support that Provident Financial provides to make ends meet.


Biggest Hack + Cover-Up

“The Equifax social security hack”
Equifax, one of the United States’ largest credit reporting agencies, announced that up to 143 million of their consumer records were stolen by hackers. Names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and credit card numbers were all amongst the data stolen. Given that the population of the United States clocks in at 321 million, that means that approximately 50% of Americans could now find themselves in danger of identity theft or worse. Though the hack took place in May 2017, Equifax hid the story until early September, further outraging the public. As details of the hack have emerged, it quickly became clear that much of the damage done was a result of vast negligence on Equifax’s part.


Biggest Post-Bug Lawsuit

“Frenchman sues Uber over a software bug”
It’s not often you hear of a software bug resulting in divorce, but we are living in exceptional times. A common Uber app bug revealed a man’s affair to his wife, leading to a divorce and a lawsuit landing in Uber’s lap. The bug causes Uber notifications to be pushed to a device, even after logging out of your account on that device. In this case, the “cheating Frenchman”, who had once called an Uber from his wife’s phone, was exposed when she received notifications of using Uber to visit his mistress. The angry ex-husband is now suing Uber for up to $45 million in damages.


Best Premise for a Sci-Fi Thriller

“St. Jude Medical patches cardiac implants after discovering how easily they can be hacked”
In early January, the US Food and Drug Administration revealed vulnerabilities in St. Jude Medical brand pacemakers and defibrillators. According to the FDA’s findings, the cardiac implants can be remotely accessed and reprogrammed to drain the battery, interrupt pacing, or shock the patient. St. Jude Medical responded by pushing out a software patch, which will hopefully be an effective solution given that a full recall would be a bit…invasive.


Biggest Miscarriage of Justice

“Computer glitch extends man’s jail sentence by 5 months”
An inmate had his 1-year prison sentence extended by 5 months due to a software glitch that could be affecting hundreds of inmates. Reports claim that the prison facility technicians had been warned of the bug that affected saved changes, causing data to “display incorrectly” unless closely monitored. However, there was no word on whether efforts had been made to fix the $1.5 million software system. Since the story broke, lawsuits have been filed stating that hundreds of other inmates had their sentences unlawfully extended due to the same software bug.

Download your free copy of the Software Fail Watch: 5th Edition here.