Don’t miss these biggest fails in tech for 2014!
Christmas is over and we got exactly what we wanted, right? Everything worked great and turned on the first time? Well, don’t feel too bad. Our expectations for technology has grown leaps and bounds over the years. And that’s a good thing. That means that companies are making more reliable, easy to use products that work. But sometimes and in flaming fashion, those same companies make some really bone headed moves. Sometimes, it not the companies that we have all learned to trust, but mear first timers. Or even something went wrong with a product that you knew nothing about. The product just let you down. So, with that said, here is a list of 10 failings/short-comings made by tech companies in 2014. Some you know about, others, not so much. The one thing they all have in common? They were all preventable on some level.
Home Depot POS-Malware
Several months after Target was hacked in 2013, Home Depot was struck with a similar style attack. I am listing this attack above the others in this list because of the sheer ignorance demonstrated by Home Depot’s upper level management before the attack. Not once, but multiple times, members of the Information Security met with upper management teams to discuss concerns. You know, things like servers being scanned with outdated Norton AntiVirus, not all servers being scanned — things like that. One team member, no longer with the company, suggested taking actions similar to ones taken by Target soon after their attack and was shut down with the statement, “This is Home Depot! We sell hammers.”
56 million – Number of debit and credit cards compromised
$62 million – How much the breach actually cost the company
21 – The number of class action law suits filed against the company related to the breach
$27 million – Projected known gross breach costs for the fourth quarter
$100 million – Amount of insurance the company had to cover such an event
In my book, Home Depot’s upper management team deserves the Idiot of 2014 award.
Apple iCloud and Weak Security
So, I had to pick either this breach or Sony’s similar breach. I chose the Apple scandal simply because that is just what it is — a scandal. The breach that took place was a simple brute force attack, meaning that the attackers simply ran a script against the site’s log in page trying different combinations of common passwords. Of course, this was after obtaining the victims’ actual email addresses, which could be simple enough. The reason this attack was so stupid and never should have happened is twofold:
First, the victims should have used better passwords. The majority of the victims are high level actors or similar. They have security guards and the like all around them. Not using secure passwords would be like one of the victims just showing up at a mall to buy a pair of pants. It is this same ignorance that leads so many people into similar situations and it is sad.
Second, without getting overly technical, the site should have taken precautions against such an attack. In my day job, I work on copiers for a living and they have a Brute Force mechanism in place that will block access to the web servers login page after “X” number of failed attempts. This is not that hard to do for a website either, so… yeah.
Lesson here? Passwords are there to help protect us. Passwords are supposed to be hard. That’s what they are for!
Released with much fanfare, the Amazon Fire never really took off. It did have some useful apps, special to only the Fire, such as Firefly, but the wonky 3-D display and graceless interface were just not enough for it to compete with the hoard of iOS and Android devices on the market. Even after slashing the price for an unlocked version to $199US (from $649US original price) during their Black Friday sales – it was just not enough. Amazon said it took a charge off of $170US million related to “inventory evaluation and supplier commitment costs” for the Fire Phone. That means that they had to write it off their books. Oh, and it is estimated that their current inventory of the phone is valued at around $83US million.
This project original got its start as a Kickstarter. All the designer/developer was asking for was $7500US to get the project off the ground and within hours, he was looking at 10 times that.
Why? And how could this product be a flop? Wait, what the hell is this thing anyway?
AnonaBox was started by August Germar. The project was to build a small router that would reroute all your network traffic through the Tor Network. Tor is designed to make it possible for users to surf the Internet anonymously, so their activities and location cannot be discovered by government agencies, corporations, or anyone else. This network was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory employees and was originally only going to be used by the US Government for hiding/encrypting their network activity. Engineers soon open-sourced the software and a new anonymous internet has emerged. AnonaBox connects your computer to this network without any specials skills on your part — just download the Tor Browser and you are on your way.
So why did this fail? Kickstarter told backers only that “a review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke Kickstarter’s rules.” Those rules prohibit “offering purchased items and claiming to have made them yourself,” “presenting someone else’s work as your own,” and “misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator.” Yes, the creator of the project was offering a prototype that he claimed he built and designed himself. But as it turns out, he bought the small routers from a Chinese supplier and modified the stock board to house slightly more memory. As time went by, he lied repeatedly about the product and its origins. Soon, all funding was pulled.
Surprisingly, this project has resurfaced. I look for it to fail again.
GT Advanced Technologies
Sapphire Glass. Two words that we never used together a whole lot until now. Believe it or not, Sapphire Glass has been used in countless products before the whole iPhone 6 debacle — but the iPhone 6 is why GT Advanced Tech is on this list. Although the jury is still out on what really happened between Apple and GT Advanced Tech, no one will probably ever know the full truth. But it is crystal clear (you like that?) that something went horribly wrong between these two companies — be it design changes on Apple’s part or GT’s inability to produce enough of the face plates for the iPhone 6. Who really knows? Either way, this was a breakdown between two companies on a massive scale.
Ok, here’s one most of you have never heard of: Aereo was a company, based out of New York City, that offered a subscription based service to view live TV broadcasts. On a very basic level, they leased you a remote antenna that connected to their network station, and you then used their app to watch TV or record shows from the station. As of June 2012, the service offered 28 channels, including all major broadcast channels. In August 2012, the company announced new monthly and yearly pricing options, $1US a day, and “Aereo Try for Free”. Monthly plans started at $8US for 20 hours of DVR storage; there were also yearly subscriptions. For the most part, Aereo was a much cheaper option than DISH or DirecTV on your mobile home or van.
But, after serving clients for a year and half, several broadcast companies decided that enough was enough and filed suit against Aereo for infringing upon the rights of copyright holders. The point of contention was whether Aereo’s business model constituted a “public performance,” which would legally require it to obtain permission from the copyright owners of any programs it transmits. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November of this year.
If you’re not into web or app development, you might only have seen this on the news once or twice. Probably didn’t know what it was or what it was about, and probably didn’t even care. But I love web development and everything about the web. I truly want the web to win! This incident not only shook the web to its core, it made everyone in the web community stop dead in their tracks.
First of, what was Heartbleed? On a really high level, going to a site with an address like https:// whatever.com indicates that it is a secure site (or portion of the site) — that it uses the SSL protocol to encrypt all data going into and out of the site. Any sort of e-commerce site or site that gathers sensitive information would use it, and for a long long time, it has worked brilliantly. That is, until this little bug was found in OpenSSL — a free opensource version of the SSL protocol. It was not a complex bug, only a simple check was left out of a few lines of code. This would allow people to steal your information from sites that used OpenSSL to secure it. At the time of disclosure, some 17% (around half a million) of the Internet’s secure web servers certified by trusted authorities were believed to be vulnerable to the attack.
What is Opensource? Well, opensource software is software that someone or group of developers wrote and not only do they want others to use it, but they want them to be able to contribute to the software by finding and fixing bugs or adding features — for free. Sort of a “Pay it Forward” model, if you will. That is how this bug was introduced into the OpenSSL library, which made everyone in the web community stop what they were doing and take a really long deep breath.
It was this same stunned opensource community that came to the rescue. Within hours of the bug being found, it was verified, patched and updates were freely available to every network admin all over the world. HOURS! Not a few days. Not a week. No, HOURS.
So yeah, this one turned out to be a win for everyone, but scary as hell. I think most developers agree that we will keep this one tucked away in the Holy Crap bucket for a generation or two. But as a community, we did kick butt.
With the release of the iPhone 6 and 6+ came iOS8, and there were problems. So Apple did the smart thing, pulled the update and…updated the update. That updated update was v8.0.1, which had other problems. One of which is the scariest of all — bricking phones. For a lot of people, it did just that. The majority of early adopters experienced loss of connection to their carrier’s network, which pretty much makes a cell phone a brick.
So why is this such a big deal? Windows Updates have issues from time to time and have to be pulled, updated, and re-released. iPhone users are accustomed to a better, simpler class of use, though — and for Apple, who is known for their rock solid performance, this was a big deal!
Mt. Gox Looses Your Money
What turned into a massive robbery/hack of one of the world’s leading Bitcoin trading platforms, Mt. Gox, lost 850,000 bitcoins belonging to 127,000 customers. At the time, the loss was worth roughly $400 million. Current value of the losses would be in the neighborhood of $2.8 million. Either way, now it is gone forever — there is no getting the money back. Hard to swallow, huh? Given that Bitcoins are not recognized as legal tender in most countries, they cannot be backed by the FDIC or any other insurance, even if the exchange is located in the US. The company blamed the incident on a bug in the cryptocurrency’s framework that enabled hackers to steal the virtual money.
The fact that we have to even have this conversation is a failure on so many levels, but at the end of the day, the FCC has proposed a “fast lane” solution that would allow content companies to pay for faster service. Yes, pay for faster service because we all know that internet providers cannot afford to compete for our business. Cannot actually take care of their networks and provide better services from upgrades. Oh…don’t get me on my soapbox!!!!
Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah… Sony. Well, that whole fiasco falls under the hack/security banner and I think we covered that pretty well this year. Heck, we could make a Top 15 Hacks/Security Breaches of 2014, but that wouldn’t be very entertaining, would it? Or would it? Also, why didn’t I mention anything about Playstation Network or XBOX Live going down over the holidays? Well, because they were not tech failures as such. Not to me. I see it as some people need to get a life or better yet, a job. If I did miss one, let us know! We want to know what you think of the tech industry as of 2014.
As always, “Keep your sights clear, your code clean and your arrows sharp!”
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