October 31, 2018 by Siobhan Climer
“And as the network administrator sat down in her chair to watch IT Crowd reruns, a loud crack reverberated through the room. With a dawning sense of horror, she reached into her back pocket for her new rose gold iPhone 6. Tears ran down her cheek as she cradled its now concave body in her cold hands.
‘It’s… it’s… it’s bent!’ she cried out to her empty home.
And she immediately took to Twitter and joined #BendGate to share the horror with others. Mwah-ha-ha!”
Okay, maybe we’re not at that level of horror. But technology – and the idea behind the tech – doesn’t always perform as expected. While Bendgate certainly horrified many iPhone users, many other tech horror stories abound to remind us of the fragile nature of the systems we rely on every day. We’ve rounded up some of the most frightening tech horror stories to share this Halloween. Grab your blankie and flashlight and prepare to immerse yourself in the very real dangers of fires, floods, and tech disasters. These will keep you up all night!
Tech Horror Stories: What A Fright!
Self-Injected CRISPR Gene Therapy
Ouch. With over 200K views on YouTube, Josiah Zayner’s do-it-yourself gene therapy video definitely went viral. In it, Josiah – a biohacker who operates a shop called The Odin – injected himself with a CRISPR-filled syringe. The discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 launched a new era of drug development and treatment research relying on the DNA-altering properties of CRISPR. Although Zayner’s video attempt at DIY gene therapy likely did no immediate personal harm, a growing field of biohackers willing to inject their bodies with non-FDA approved therapies seems rather horrifying.
The Knightscope Suicide
More prepared for cow-tipping than crime-fighting, the Knightscope K5 robots received much derision during release. The enormous 5-foot tall, 300-pound Whovian robots attempt to dissuade criminal activity through an array of cameras. Rather than instill fear – though there were several complaints from the homeless and residents of San Francisco – the robots are tipped over by drunks, covered with tarps, taunted, and smeared with barbecue sauce. In a rather dramatic and iconic twist, one Knightscope K5 robot wheeling the beat of a Georgetown in Washington D.C. slipped right into the shallow water pool – and couldn’t get up. Tributes from twitter poured in for the robot. As one Twitter user wrote, “We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.”
We know you shivered when you saw this one on the list. What didn’t go wrong with Microsoft’s Vista operating system? The compromised OS struggled with everything from price to security and earned a great deal of criticism. Windows Vista was notoriously susceptible to malware, viruses, and other security attacks, and it had restrictive licensing, DRM technologies, non-compatibility with legacy Windows software, and an unseemly number of authorization prompts with user account control. Truly, a nightmare for users.
The Exactis Data Breach
Though Yahoo, Target, and Equifax typically reign supreme in worst data breaches of all time titles, a data breach in June of 2018 far outweighed any of them. According to Wired, 340 million records were leaked by a hitherto unknown marketing firm located in Florida: Exactis. That’s more than double the enormous Equifax breach of 2017. Your name, address, phone number, interests, habits, number of children (along with their ages and genders), plus other personal information, such as if you smoke or adhere to a particular religion, was likely part of this leak. How did it happen? An open database accessible to any hacker – not the work of a malicious entity – just poor cyber security.
Super Micro, Super Scary
While Bloomberg and Silicon Valley heads trade blows on the validity of the Super Micro reports, the idea behind the report is terrifying enough to consider. Bloomberg broke the story in the early hours of October 9, 2018; “a major U.S. telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Super Micro Computer Inc. in its network and removed it in August,” supporting claims of tampering by Chinese agents. While the story reads like a spy thriller, the fact is that Super Micro hardware is a component of most networks – you may even be utilizing it right now – so the possibility, and extent of the infiltration, is extremely horrifying.
Talk about tech horror stories! There really isn’t a better headline than “Dell laptop explodes again and again and again”, and that’s precisely why CNET published its piece in 2017. A California teen’s charging laptop burst into flames not once, not twice, but three times after his successive attempts to put out the fire. Luckily, he was not injured in the explosion. The incident, linked to the computer’s lithium-ion battery, came on the heels of the Samsung Note 7 debacle, in which several users were burned or engulfed in smoke from replaced devices, after their initial phones were deemed unsafe.
DR Failure For LAX Network Downtime
Back in 2007, more than 17,000 passengers had to sit on planes or in the terminal holding area due to a computer outage with U.S. Customs. FOR 10 HOURS. If you’ve ever been stuck taxiing in an airplane for more than 10 minutes, you can only begin to imagine the horror. Think stuffy bathrooms, bad coffee, bored toddlers, and cramped seating arrangements. Talk about a disaster recovery failure. U.S. Customs had no recovery strategy for the software failure, which occurred due to a single network interface card on a desktop PC. With no disaster recovery plan in place, U.S. Customs – and the airlines – made 17,000 people’s lives miserable.
Salt Circles And Disaster Recovery Plans: Tech Horror Stories Tell A Broader Tale
While Hocus Pocus or Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might recommend salt circles or clever red-headed witches, we recommend a disaster recovery strategy and buying things that don’t explode. We know, it’s probably advice you get every day. But here at Mindsight, we can deliver the strategy, expertise, and tools you need to be successful. No fires, no explosions, and no downtime. Now that’s a proper Halloween treat.
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About The Author
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin two-year old daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.