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IT Hiccups of the Week: Electronic Voting Headaches Abound, Little Real Impact

Twitter decides to scare everyone and cost of RBS Group summertime glitch tops £175m

3 min read
IT Hiccups of the Week: Electronic Voting Headaches Abound, Little Real Impact

As expected, votingglitches related to Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election occurred, but luckily they had no discernible impact on the results. Otherwise, we might all now be crying like Abigael Evans.

There were reports of scattered electronic voting problems in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and my home state of Virginia. Probably the most “infamous” glitch was the one where a voter in Pennsylvania using a touchscreen voting machine tried to vote for President Obama, but Republican candidate Mitt Romney kept being selected instead. The voter posted his experience on YouTube, and it quickly went viral. Touch screen calibration errors, where other candidates than the one selected popped up, were a common complaint.

What happened in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, was more typical. Several of electronic voting machines wouldn’t work from the onset of voting or later broke down, leading to very long wait times to vote. In another case, Congressional voting districts changed, but the electronic voting machines used in several voting precincts didn’t properly reflect the changes. In two Spotsylvania voting precincts, the votes cast for the state’s Congressional race had to be thrown out as a result.

All the states with electronic voting issues promise that the problems will be corrected by the next election; I would love to take bets against that happening.

Twitter managed to upset lots of its users this week by mistakenly resetting the passwords of “a large number” of its 140 million users, the Chicago Tribune reported. It happened as Twitter was conducting standard security screening to identify accounts that may have been compromised. When it suspects one has been compromised, it resets the account's password.  However, in this case, it not only reset the passwords of accounts believed to be compromised, but for some unexplained reason many non-compromised user accounts as well.

Twitter then made things worse by sending out the same email to those accounts mistakenly reset as it normally sends to users of accounts believed to be compromised, namely, your account may have been compromised, and please reset your password. Many users receiving the email thought it was a phishing attempt, and decided to ignored it, until they found they couldn’t log on to their accounts.

Twitter later apologized for any inconvenience or confusion this all may have caused.

Government social workers in British Columbia are reportedly highly irritated by the continuing operational glitches in their new CAD $182 million Integrated Case Management system that went live in April. According to The Province newspaper, the ICM system is “supposed to streamline management of computer files across ministries that care for poor children, disabled people and troubled families racked by addiction, mental illness and violence.”

However, the paper quotes a B.C. social worker as saying, “It freezes. It crashes. Data disappears or is extremely difficult to locate. It’s incredibly cumbersome and hard to use….The biggest fear we all have is a crucial piece of information will be lost or overlooked — and a child will die as a result.”

In September, the paper said, social workers across B.C. turned on their computers and were surprised to see that in place of the ICM system home page, the U. S. Department of Homeland Security popped up instead. It turns out the ICM system was built on top of a platform designed by Siebel Systems for other governmental agencies, including the DHS, and a bug somehow allowed the DHS homepage to appear.

The B.C. government, while admitting there have been some system glitches, has been trying to play down the problems, saying that, “There are always challenges when implementing complex new systems and procedures.” However, the B.C. government has already spent another CAD $12 million on top of the original CAD $182 trying to deal with these "challenges," and more money is likely going to be needed.

What really puzzles me: Why did it costCAD $182 million to tailor an existing system to meet B.C. social worker requirements in the first place?

Finally, the cost of the massive IT meltdown that affected millions of customers of the RBS Group of banks has increased from an originally estimated £125 million to £175 million, ComputerWeekly reports. RBS Group had to pay more compensation to its customers than expected, hence the cost increase. RBS Group is spending another £80 million to shore up its IT infrastructure to try to avoid a  repeat performance.

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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