Top software failures 2015/2016: Amazon, RBS, Starbucks - the worst software glitches this year

Missing payments, double-charged customers and delayed stealth fighter jets all resulted from software glitches this year


This year technology has seen great advances but has also witnessed some pretty major failures! Let's take a look back at the worst software failures of 2015.

We look at the most disastrous failures of the past year...

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© Nest

Top software failures 2016: Nest thermostat leaves users in the cold

In mid-January 2016 the Nest ‘smart’ thermostat (owned by Google) was hit with a software glitch which left users, literally, out in the cold.

A software update went wrong, forcing the device’s batteries to drain and leaving it unable to control temperature – so customers were unable to heat their homes or get hot water on one of the coldest weekends of the year so far.

Nest said the fault had been caused by a December 4.0 firmware update, plus issues such as old air filters or incompatible boilers. It has since rolled out a 4.0.1 software update which it says has solved the issue for 99.5 percent of affected customers.

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© iStock/mikeinlondon

Top software failures 2016: HSBC suffers major outage

Less than a week into 2016, HSBC became the first bank to suffer a major IT outage. Millions of the bank's customers were unable to access online accounts. Services only returned to normal after a two-day outage. 

The bank’s chief operating officer Jack Hackett blamed a “complex technical issue” with its internal systems.

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© iStock/C_For

Top software failures 2015: Glitch releases US prisoners early

In December 2015 a glitch caused more than 3,200 US prisoners to be released early. The software calculates a prisoner’s sentence depending on good/bad behaviour and was introduced in 2002.

According to reports, the problem has been ongoing for 13 years until a new IT boss was appointed and informed the governor's office. It is estimated that on average prisoners were released 49 days early. 

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© iStock/Whitemay

Top software failures 2015: HSBC business banking glitch

HSBC again! In August 2015 a reported 275,000 individual payments failed to be processed by HSBC, which left many potentially without pay before the Bank Holiday weekend. The cause of this major failure was a problem with its electronic payment system for its business banking users which affected salary payments. 

Bacs is the payment system that is used for payment processes across the UK is reported to have picked up on the issue but noted that it was an 'isolated issue'.

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© iStock/DNY59

Top software failures 2015: Government divorce software failure

The government's online calculator for calculating spouses’ financial worth was hit with a Form E fault meaning that those calculations were wrong for thousands of couples that have been divorced in the past 20 months. 

According to reports this error has been inflating spouses' finances since April 2014 but was only brought to like in December 2015. 

According to the Office of National Statistics there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013 so the damage that this fault has caused is yet to be fully revealed. 

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© iStock/Anson

Top software failures 2015: Bloomberg cancels debt issue

In April this year, Bloomberg's London office suffered a software glitch resulting in their trading terminals going down for two hours. 

This came at a very bad time as the UK's Debt Management Office (DMO) was set to auction a series of short-term Treasury bills (these bills are short-term Government borrowing).

In a statement Bloomberg said: "Service has been fully restored. We experienced a combination of hardware and software failures in the network, which caused an excessive volume of network traffic."

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© iStock

Top software failures 2015: 600,000 RBS payments go missing

In June 2015 about 600,000 payments failed to enter the accounts of RBS overnight – including wages and benefit payments. Many took several days to come through. The bank’s chief admin officer said a “technology fault meant we could not ingest a file from a third-party provider” but did not provide much further detail on the root cause. In 2012 6.5 million RBS customers experienced an outage due to batch scheduling software, a glitch for which the bank was subsequently fined £56 million.

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© Vertu Motors

Top software failures 2015: Nissan’s airbag glitch

Over the past two years Nissan has been recalling airbags adding up to over 1 million cars. The software failure was due to a glitch in the airbag's sensory detectors.

In short, the affected cars could not detect whether an adult was sat in the car's passenger seat and as a result the airbags would not inflate. There has been a reported two accidents due to this software failure. 

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© iStock/John Scott

Top software failures 2015: Starbuck's software bug

Back in April Starbucks witnessed a register malfunction which according to Starbucks, was caused by an 'internal failure' during its routine refresh. This resulted in 60 percent of stores in the US and Canada being forced to close. The affected stores were unable to process payment transactions and at one point many stores were giving the coffee away for free.

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© iStock/Tzahiv

Top software failures 2015: F-35 detects targets incorrectly

In March 2015 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircrafts fell victim to a serious glitch, a software bug meant that the aircraft could not detect targets correctly. The sensors on the plane couldn't tell the difference between a singular or multiple threats. 

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© iStock/double vision

Top software failures 2015: UK government delays new online farming payments system

In March 2015 the government was forced to delay launch of its £154 million rural payments system, a new online service for farmers to use to apply for Common Agricultural Policy payments from the EU. The service was originally supposed to be up and running by May 2015 but integration problems between the portal and the rules engine software proved ‘too difficult to overcome’ by then, ComputerworldUK understands. It is now expected to be available for the 2016 deadline instead.

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© Co-op

Top software failures 2015: Co-op Food charges customers twice

A ‘one-off technical glitch’ with processing software caused thousands of The Co-operative Food customers to be charged twice while paying for goods in July 2015. The Co-op apologised and promised to reimburse people within 24 hours.

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Enjoyed those? Here are some from last year

If the 2015 top software failures left you wanting more, don't worry! Here are the top 2014 software failures...

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© iStock/killerbayer

Top software failures 2014: Amazon 1p price glitch

Just two weeks before Christmas, some of Amazon’s third-party retailers in the UK saw their wares reduced to just 1p each thanks to an hour-long pricing software glitch. Eagle-eyed shoppers had a field day, but scores of small businesses were left having to absorb heavy losses. It is still unclear what compensation, if any, they will receive from Amazon. 

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© iStock/anyaberkut.

Top software failures 2014: UK airspace closed

Over 150 flights from London airports were cancelled and hundreds more delayed on 12 December last year. A server in Swanwick running the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) flight data processing system went down as a result of a software flaw. NATS has experienced a number of technical failures since the Swanwick base opened. Worryingly, software experts have warned its systems could collapse again.

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© iStock/code6d

Top software failures 2014: Toyota Prius recalled over software glitch

In February 2014 Toyota had to recall almost 2 million Prius hybrid vehicles in order to fix a software glitch with its engine control unit. The glitch could cause transistors to overheat, sending the car into fail-safe mode and potentially causing the hybrid system to shut down while driving. It's a recurring issue: the same software problems caused Toyota to recall a further 625,000 vehicles in July 2015.

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© iStock/Nerthuz

Top software failures 2014: Heartbleed security flaw uncovered

In April 2014, a member of Google’s security team found a flaw in the encryption library Open SSL, which hosts 66 percent of all websites.  Although it was quickly patched by most IT firms, the sheer scale of the services affected means it is likely that there are still servers out that which remain vulnerable to attack.

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© iStock/farvatar

Top software failures 2014: US National Grid Gas Company blew $1 billion

The US National Grid Gas Company moved to a new ERP system from SAP in 2012 in an effort to streamline back-office processes. However the software was incorrectly implemented, resulting in problems like inaccurate wage payments and unpaid supplier bills. The cost of implementing and fixing the software means it has cost $945 million (£607 million), up from an original estimate of $383 million (£248 million), according to external auditors.

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© iStock/SeanShot

Top software failures 2014: Emergency numbers go offline for six hours

Emergency services were unavailable for six hours across seven US states last April. The incident affected 81 call centres, meaning about 6,000 people made 911 calls that were unable to connect in Washington and parts of six other states. A study from Federal Communications Commission found an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing the service to drop.

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© iStock/Wachiwit

Top software failures 2014: Apple forced to pull iOS 8 update

Despite being the world’s most profitable company, Apple had a major embarrassment in September 2014 when it had to pull the update for its new iOS 8 operating system a mere hour after release. Users complained of lost phone signal, frozen updates and unlocking problems. A study by Bloomberg claimed the latest operating system crashes 67 percent more often than its predecessor. 

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© iStock/EdStock

Top software failures 2014: iCloud hacked

Compromising photos of A-list stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst appeared on 4chan and other internet forums last September. Hackers had gained access to the stars’ iCloud accounts using phishing schemes and brute-force guessing. Apple CEO Tim Cook promised to beef up iCloud’s security features to restore user confidence after the hack. 

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© iStock/carlosphotos

Top software failures 2014: Air India forced to divert Boeing 787 flight

Air India had to divert one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners last February after pilots noticed a glitch in the plane software during a flight from Melbourne to New Delhi. Engineers flew from Hong Kong to fix the glitch, which was described as ‘not major’ by the airline. The episode was just the latest in a series of glitches to affect the 787 since its launch in 2011, with the worldwide fleet grounded in 2013 due to overheating batteries in some planes. 

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© Wikipedia/US Navy

Top software failures 2014: Delivery of F-35B stealth fighters delayed

Glitches in software development and testing have led delivery of Lockheed Martin’s F-35B stealth fighters to the US Marine Corps to be delayed by over a year, and caused costs to overrun. Software problems included an error in the fighter’s computer system which associated the wrong part numbers with aircraft components and recommended grounding planes even after repairs had been made.

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