Last Wednesday night at about 1850 EDST, a national US Customs and Border Protection computer crashed causing major delays for arriving international passengers across the US. According to this story from WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, Florida, arriving passengers at Orlando International Airport had to wait for several hours to clear customs even after the computer was back in operation at about 2055. Passengers also could not call relatives or friends to tell them what had happened, because you can't use your cell phone while waiting to clear customs.
What I found interesting was that only three television stations in Florida (the two others being WSVN Channel 7 and WFOR Channel 4 both in Miami) carried the news story at all. There has been no print or web-only reporting that I can find. The Customs and Border Protection website has nary a word on it either.
In August of 2007, a computer meltdown at LAX caused problems with about 11,000 arriving passengers and that hit the national news across the country. At least that many passengers were affected across the country, I would guess. Some 2,000 were stuck Wednesday night at Miami International, and another 800 at Orlando International as well just for starters.
Is this a case that if a computer crashes in the woods, and no one is there to see it, it doesn't really happen?
Or did the August 2007 episode just happen on a slow news day?
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.