Top 5 The Most Costly And Scandalous Software Failures


Software failures and bugs destroy a company’s image and also lead to huge expenses. Due to an error in calculations, space satellites were lost, companies suffered millions of dollars of losses, and even became bankrupt. See the top scandalous failures in the software.

Why software mistakes fixing could be extremely expensive

Software errors lead to costs in several categories.

The very first and the simplest is that you need resources to fix the bug. Expenses include payments for the hours of development and QA teams and compensation for users who were affected by the software bug.

Second, the company may suffer reputational damage. To minimize it, you need additional marketing and PR activities.

Third, bugs can launch a complete collapse of the product, courts with victims, the payment of fines, and even the bankruptcy of the company.

The consequences of failures are always unpleasant, so each company strives to detect bugs on time. The most effective approach is software testing. You test the product at every stage of development and fix the detected errors in the software in time. A test automation platform that meets the needs of the team and has wide functionality, reduces the time for tests and provides maximum coverage of the product. Moreover, a high-quality automated testing platform identifies the root causes of failures, classifies the detected errors, and easily integrates with all popular tools that QA engineers use in their work.

Expensive failure #1. Lost NASA satellite

Satellite to Mars is a huge project. It is hard to imagine that something can be untested. However, this is exactly what happened in 1999. NASA launched three satellites to Mars, each had its area of research. Two of them arrived in orbit, but the third didn’t.

The investigation showed that the failure was due to a navigational error. It turned out that the subcontractor, who worked on many engineering tasks, did not perform the simplest conversion from English units of measure to the metric system. The commands sent were calculated for the “pound per second” acceleration format, but they should have been “newton per second”. The satellite that was worth $125 million had been lost. If someone had diligently tested the control code, everything would have gone as it should.

Expensive failure #2. Worm by Robert Morris

The creation of the first network worm was the work of an inattentive graduate student. Robert Morris of Cornell University was doing an innocent experiment but made a mistake in the code. As a result, the work of 6,200 computers in the United States was paralyzed in November 1988, and all of them were infected.

Robert was accused of hacking and fined $10,000. Later it turned out that the network worm caused a total damage of $100 million. However, Robert and his advocate proved that there was no malicious intent and everything that happened was the result of an error from which no one is safe. 

Nevertheless, Robert’s advocate even saw the good in what happened. According to him, the Morris worm helped improve security systems, encouraged the creation of anti-virus programs, and also people saw how dangerous computer viruses can be.

The legendary mistake had not broken the career of Robert Morris. Later he became a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a founding member of the venture capital fund and startup incubator Y Combinator.

Expensive failure #3. Flight delays at Heathrow airport

Before the opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in March 2008, staff was testing a new system for transporting large amounts of luggage. All tests went flawlessly, but on the day the terminal opened, it turned out that the system was inoperable. Everything was because it did not provide most real-life scenarios. If there was the slightest abnormal situation, the system stopped working. As a result, in 10 days, 42 000 pieces of luggage were not delivered to the owners, and 500 flights were canceled.

Expensive failure #4. $440 million loss in bad deals

The American global financial company Knight Capital was one of the largest traders in the United States. However, due to software failure, it always lost $460 million in one day, and a year later it was sold to another company.

The essence of brokerage is to buy low and sell, on the contrary, high. However, on August 1, 2012, the company automatically bought up the shares at inflated prices due to a technical error. It turned out that the day before, a software update was installed on the Knight Capital servers. The update included the outdated Power Peg application. In test mode, this application sells stocks at the current price and immediately repurchases them at the market rate (usually higher than the selling price). As a result, the program automatically drained the company’s capital in a matter of hours. Later, the Securities Commission also fined Knight Capital $12 million for violations of financial risk management rules. Knight was on the verge of bankruptcy and was soon sold to another company.

Expensive failure #5. Apple maps with railway stations in the ocean

Early iPhones used maps and navigation from Google, but Apple didn’t like it. Therefore, in 2012, they developed their maps for iOS. Initially, this product was not given as much attention as it deserved. If Google spent several years creating maps and investing millions of dollars in the project, then Apple decided not to make things complicated. However, it ended badly.

Many objects were missing their places. The hospital could be displayed in a place where in reality there is a supermarket, and a railway station was displayed in the middle of the ocean. This error did not bring such costs to the company as the bugs in the previous examples, however, it certainly dealt a blow to the reputation.