Last Friday afternoon, there was a breaking news report in the Chicago Tribune that international passengers arriving into Chicago O'Hare Airport were being delayed because of a problem with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) computers. Customs had to use its back-up systems from about noon CDT to 1640 CDT before the main system was back on-line.
What was interesting about the story were two items: one, it wasn't only Customs' computers at O'Hare that were affected, but reportedly the problem affected CBP computers at airports nationwide. Reading over the Tribune story, probably close to 1,000 passengers were affected at O'Hare alone - how many passengers were affected across all US international airports?
The second point was that the news was reported only in the Chicago Tribune that I can find, even as of today, a couple of days later. The CPB makes no mention of it on their web site that I can find, either.
It makes one wonder how may other major computer outages occur and how many people are affected on a daily basis but are never reported.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.