We don’t think much about it, and most of us not only don’t understand it we can’t even conceptualize it but in the background, day-to-day, our world is run by software. A myriad of things once done by people, or mechanical systems now live in the virtual space of computers. What would happen if it went wrong?
This piece is the best thing I have read about the new world, how it operates, and how vulnerable we are to its weaknesses.
There were six hours during the night of April 10, 2014, when the entire population of Washington State had no 911 service. People who called for help got a busy signal. One Seattle woman dialed 911 at least 37 times while a stranger was trying to break into her house. When he finally crawled into her living room through a window, she picked up a kitchen knife. The man fled.
The 911 outage, at the time the largest ever reported, was traced to software running on a server in Englewood, Colorado. Operated by a systems provider named Intrado, the server kept a running counter of how many calls it had routed to 911 dispatchers around the country. Intrado programmers had set a threshold for how high the counter could go. They picked a number in the millions.
Shortly before midnight on April 10, the counter exceeded that …