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    There is a thread already on TEST Huddle on the most embarrassing software bugs but I thought that while many of those listed generally only cause issues (share price, reputation etc) for the companies that release the software.

    However dangerous software bugs can have a much greater impact on people’s lives in terms of security, theft and more.

    I thought that this story as reported by Wired, if true, would suggest that critical software like avionics software needs to be almost 100% perfect.

    Have you heard about or come across any dangerous software bugs that could cause
    real problems if they were exploited?


    This is probably a good example of what I’m talking about. Last year it was reported researchers were able to hack traffic lights in Michigan and change them how they saw fit.


    The Traffic Light issue is not so much a bug as an oversight in design. Clearly no-one had considered that security was needed in the system.
    Before 2000 there was considerable anxiety about the Millenium Bug. My employers insisted that a colleague travel by Eurostar back to her job after the New Year because of fears over plane safety. Thankfully no plaLnes crashed and only one minor bug was found in our systems in January. (A program was adding a century flag into the day when it reformatted a date. I fixed it before it tried to store 32/01/2000.)

    It then became fashinable for the media toi laugh at Millenium Bug fears. However there was a news report some months later of a software error that did affect the lives of a number of families. Pregnant women who were screened for Down’s Syndrome were given incorrect ‘low risk’ results. The report said that their ages had been calculated incorrectly. The reports I heard did not say how this had happened but it is quite possible that the software was using 2 digit year fields, calculating negative ages and using the lowest age band figures in the risk calculation.



    @Hilary They are some fascinating stories, That story about the the screening for Down Syndrome is one I hadn’t heard before. It goes to show how something that simple can mess up some very important reports.


    While not a software bug per-say, a failure to configure the software correctly for a Airbus A400m military plane led to the plane crashing in Spain in May after three engines lost power.


    Due to a race condition in the software of a radiation therapy system (Therac-25) several patients received a massive overdose, resulting in several fatalities and serious injuries. This happened between 1985 and 1987.

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