Top 10 Costliest Software Bugs

These software bugs drained billions in less than 60 seconds because one person made a mistake when writing the superscripts.


1. Mars Climate Orbiter Crashes

The contractor who was given the responsibility of planning the navigation system got the specifications from NASA but instead of using the metric system, he carried out measurements using imperial units. What happened was that the space craft crashed into Mars and over 125 million dollars were lost.

2. Ariane 5 Flight 501

The engine of this satellite was much faster than that of the previous models but it had a software bug that went unnoticed. The satellite was launched and after 36.7 seconds, it self destructed and turned into a magnificent ball of fire. While the satellite’s cost was estimated at 8 billion dollars, it was also carrying payload worth 500 million dollars when it disintegrated.


3. EDS Fails Child Support

About 6 years back, EDS created an IT system that was quite complex and presented it to the CSA or the Child Support Agency in U.K. The software was not compatible with the restructure initiated by the DWP which caused many errors. The cost has been estimated at 1 billion dollars till date.


4. Soviet Gas Pipeline Explosion

In 1982, the CIA claimed that the Soviet Union was in the process of stealing important U.S. technology. The CIA then introduced a software bug into the system which would work in such a way that while it would not allow operation to be carried out, it would go through inspection without any problems. The explosion that followed will never be forgotten.


5. Black Monday

In 1987, certain investigation caused the bull market to come to screeching halt. The investigation affected certain stocks whose investors decided to dump them. The computer triggers were kicked into motion which destroyed certain systems. The market value fell rapidly and there was no choice but to liquidate the stocks.


6. Therac-25 Medical Accelerator

This device was built for radiation therapy by the AECL and CGR in France. Unfortunately, the Operation System was designed and planned by an under-experienced programmer. The power of the electron beam reached such a high power that it lead to the death of 5 patients and injured the rest for the rest of their lives.


7. Multidata Systems

Multidata System International designed a software which would help them calculate the radiation dosage for each patient. Such softwares have certain limitations which the doctors tried to remove by ‘tricking’ the system. The software then started recommending double the dosage needed by the patient. Fixing the software and compensating the injured patients was expensive- to say the least.


8. Patriot Missile Bug

A Missile System was installed in 1991 during the Gulf War for the purpose of protecting certain groups from missile attacks fired by the Iraqi troops. However, a software bug did not calculate the time correctly because of which some targets were ignored. Needless to say, the money which was invested in the system was lost and about 100 people died.


9. An Almost World War III

A Soviet Union satellite created panic by interpreting some reflections as missiles launched by the United States. Protocol required the Soviet Union to launch nuclear arsenal towards the US. Thankfully, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov realized that there was some mistake and prevented the initiation of another world war.


10. Mariner I Space Probe

When a programmer was entering a navigation computer code, he made the mistake of omitting one superscript bar. The computer lost control while trying to fix the ‘errors’ during the launching period. After 237 seconds, Mission Control realized the mistake and destroyed it. Over 18.2 million dollars were lost.

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