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Top 8 Software Error horror stories

Posted by Simon Red

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, exposing 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.

 2. A 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. Such error was estimated to affect around 6.8 million users.

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

Losing money

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

3. Tesco is a British supermarket company and, as many others do, uses some cards and promotions to encourage customers further 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, UK, to go on a shopping spree, costing Tesco £56,683.

4. 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. Mistakes like this happen 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 the software does not care about the numbers, as it can easily mean millions of dollars lost for your company.

Unusable product

One of the most visible 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.

5. It happens to the best of the best as well. An excellent example of that statement 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. The system’s lock mechanism denied releasing the camera and causing poor communication with other apps, resulting in a huge media backlash and hordes of angry customers wanting their money back.

6. Recalls happen, but some software remains so full of bugs that it happens for years. The issues in software make medical devices being recalled 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 could’ve been avoided easily but paying more attention to the debugging process.


Death 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, and we have to ensure that if a software is responsible for it — it needs to be stellar and near-perfect.

7. 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.

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

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

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