Five Tech Horror Tales

Matthew Mirzai
By Matthew MirzaiDeveloper
5 minutes to read

Forget zombies, spooky skeletons or The Boogeymen, we’ve delved into the crypts to bring you five spooooooky stories of when technology goes wrong:

The tale of the disappearing backups

Earlier this year Marco Marsala posted on the ServerFault forums that, by running a Bash script, he’d accidentally deleted everything in his servers- plus his backups. Thankfully it turned out to be a hoax.

Except a week later it actually happened for real at popular hosting company.

A ‘rogue script’ had deleted everything off several servers resulting in data loss for a small proportion of its 1.7 million users. It was then brought to light that the company didn’t even have backups of these sites and had to bring in data recovery specialists to do the work for them. The lesson we can learn from this? Keep backups and run any strange scripts in a test environment first!

Attack of the Killer USB

You can do a lot to protect yourself from malware but one device goes one step further; it kills your computer by frying it’s innards. By sending a charge of 220 ‘minus volts’ through the USB port directly, the USB Kill 2.0 will destroy the motherboard of the machine it’s plugged into. It’s advertised as a tool for System Penetration Testers but the fact it’s freely available to buy online should have you worried.

Thankfully, the same company also sells a surge protector to use in conjunction with the USB Kill 2.0 and has assured everyone that replacing the motherboard will bring your computer back to life. Add this to the long list of why you should embrace the Cloud but even that's not unbeatable...

Curse of the invisible security system

In 2011 hackers gained access to Sony’s PSN network and for a total of 23 days the service was down. Hackers exposed payment details of 77 million users and compromised millions of game libraries; at the time it was the biggest security breach in history.

It then emerged that not all personally identifiable information had been encrypted on the server – passwords had instead been stored with a simple hash function. Through fines and compensation, Sony found themselves losing nearly $200million.

Security measures since then have been strengthened but please ensure you use different passwords for different sites and fully encrypt your stored passwords!

Revenge of the ex-employee

Back in 2013 a worker for an American bank was sentenced to 21 months in jail. The reason? He’d intentionally damaged the system by deleting configuration for 9 out of 10 core routers within the internal network and then left the company. These were later restored (they had backups!), but for a financial institution to go so long without reliable phone or internet service is catastrophic.

Companies will spend a lot of time and money trying to stop external threats, often forgetting the fact that it could come from inside the building. Putting roles in place within the network plus keeping track of what files are available to the company is a good start. However also consider simple things like having a locked door to the server room as a lot of company hacks can be traced to an internal source.

Recovery Plan 9 From Outer Space

Any sensible company will have recovery plans in place for when things go wrong – many of us here at ED have zombie apocalypse defence plans ready to go. But sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect.

A major American airline had a computer failure in August this year due to a power surge and consequent loss of power. Without power their internal systems were down, passengers could not book tickets or be checked-in correctly and flights had to be grounded all over the world. Chaos reigned.

It turns out that the recovery plan in place for such an outage had not been tested properly so when the poop hit the fan power backups that should have kicked in, didn’t. As a result a whole company scrambled for the next two days.

People – test your recovery plans!

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Articles by Matthew Mirzai

Matt has 10 years experience in the development field and is a back end developer here at Enjoy Digital, specialising in Umbraco (and Mario Kart!)