Top 8 Software Error horror stories

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s in human nature to do them and learn from them. Some mistakes, however, may cost far more than a headache. Here you’ll see some examples of errors in software that’ll send chills down your spine.

Exposing customer data

Nowadays people are getting more and more aware of their data security. Even the European Union introduced GDPR to ensure personal data is well protected. In the era of worldwide data hacks, it is bad news if an error in your software causes “data leak”.

  1. Not so long ago such a terrible thing happened to Singapore Airlines. A bug exposed personal information about around 284 customers to the others. Unauthorized people could see their account numbers, e-mail addresses, names, upcoming flights, among other things.

  1. Similar, but less frightening scenario occurred with Facebook. They recently admitted that due to the software bug, app developers could see user photos that were uploaded, but never posted — therefore private. This estimated to affect around 6.8 million users.

A reader that works in a company that has access to the private information about customers may now react with shivers. Rightly so as such things not only cause image damage but may result in lawsuits and a lot of fines to pay.

Losing money

Every software error is an additional cost. Even if it doesn’t impact any of your customers, the mere time on trying to recreate it is not free of charge. But when the bug directly affects your account it gets even more serious.

  1. Tesco is a British supermarket company and, as many others do, uses some cards and promotions to further encourage customers to use their services. One of them was a ‘magic cash card’, which acts as a prepaid card. A software glitch in the system allowed one homeless person from Bradford to go on a shopping spree. His groceries costed Tesco £56,683.

  1. This year a Hong-Kong based airline received a cold shower when a bug in their software allowed customers to buy tickets at a very competitive price. For example, while a ticket from New York City to Da Nang, Vietnam should cost $16,000 it was sold for $675 instead. This happens more often than you think, specialists say.

There are thousands of examples like that, and although the ones I’ve listed did not cost a lot — a bug in software does not care about the numbers. The loses can easily be millions of dollars lost for your company.

Unusable product

One of the most obvious outcomes of the bugs in your software is that your product may prove to be unusable. Again this would damage the image of your company, but also turn the hair on your customer support guys heads completely gray.

  1. It happens to the best of the best as well. A good example of that is Google and their newest Google Pixel 3 smartphone. A fatal error bug caused the camera — so one of the most marketed features of this model — inaccessible by the users. Apparently, the system’s lock mechanism denied releasing the camera and causing poor communication with other apps. Needless to say, it resulted in a huge media backlash and hordes of angry customers wanting their money back.

  1. Recalls happen, but some software remains so full of bugs that it happens for years. The issues in software causes recall of the medical devices for the 10th consecutive quarter in the United States. On average, each recall size was over 100k devices, and 22% of them were returned due to the software issues.

Every single person that sells something dreads of the moment, when the customer wants a refund. It happens, however, but most of it a software house can simply avoid by giving more love to the debugging process.

Death

This is without a doubt the worst case scenario, but in some cases, bugs in software may be health and life-threatening. In a digitalized world we shall not forget that human life is the most valuable thing. We have to ensure that if a software is responsible for it — it needs to be stellar and near-perfect.

  1. The most well-known examples of death caused by software errors are related to airlines. With the end quarter of 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner crashed into the Java Sea due to a glitch in the plane’s flight-control software. Unfortunately, all 189 passengers and crew died.

  1. Such tragedies are not exclusive to air. In 2000 in Panama City there was an error in a therapy planning software. Its aim was to give different doses of radiation, based on the received data. Bugs in the code resulted in massive overdoses and at least 5 patients died as a result of radiation sickness.


I realize that most of the stories I’ve mentioned are terrifying. Human errors happen and in result software errors as well, it’s a natural thing to make mistakes. Especially since debugging on production is not an easy task by itself.
Check this software designed for debugging on production:

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Simon Nowicki

Since the beginning of times an IT enthusiast. Currently a Technology Advocate at RevDeBug. Joins the debugging revolution to fulfil the dream about the world without the words "It works on my machine".