The biggest technological failures of the past year

The most notable technological disasters of 2021

photo 1 2021, failures

For many, 2021 was a year of hope and challenge, as the coronavirus vaccine spread this year despite the pandemic continuing. And while technology has not stopped keeping us connected despite lockdowns and restrictions, it has also made our lives more difficult.

This year there have been times when the technology has either failed or completely failed to work. The following is CNN Business's list of the most notable technological disasters of 2021.

Huge data leak from Facebook and LinkedIn

In April, cybersecurity experts announced that the personal information of half a billion Facebook users, including phone numbers, birthdays and email addresses, had been posted on a website used by hackers.

At the same time, Facebook said that the same data had been removed from users' profiles in 2019, however the problem that caused the data theft had been fixed. The issue has once again shown how vulnerable companies that collect large amounts of personal data can be to malicious users.

The Citizen application incorrectly identifies a suspected arsonist

In May, Citizen, a startup whose app sends real-time crime alerts, offered a $ 30.000 reward to anyone who helped find the culprit behind a Los Angeles fire. Some tips, including a photo of a man released on the app, led police to identify a suspect. Only one (very big) problem arose: the person was mistakenly identified.

The company had used a new product in its application called OnAir to transmit information about the suspect, but said it had failed to follow its own verification protocols before distributing the information.

Ransomware Attacks - A Big Problem

This year, ransomware attacks - in which hackers gain access to a computer system and, in effect, hold a company hostage for money - have skyrocketed, especially those targeting businesses and critical infrastructure. A major attack in May highlighted the vulnerability of US infrastructure to such crimes: that of the Colonial Pipeline.

One of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States, the Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down when its network was hit by a cyber attack, which was apparently made possible by hackers who had access to a compromised password. The CEO of Colonial Pipeline later admitted that he paid $ 4,4 million in ransom to reactivate the company's network. In June, U.S. investigators with the Department of Justice said they had recovered $ 2,3 million in cryptocurrencies paid to a hacker behind the Colonial Pipeline attack.

The two big black out of the internet

It happened twice in less than two weeks: Large sections of the internet collapsed, due to technology companies shutting down, which most of us had never heard of. These interruptions were quickly identified and restored, however, they managed to emphasize the degree of our dependence on the internet as well as how secure our relationship with it is.

Initially, countless websites such as Reddit, CNNi and Amazon were blacked out due to the shutdown of the Fastly content delivery network. Then, on June 17, a problem at a similar company, Akamai Technologies, led to the collapse of websites such as Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The problem with Fastly was fixed within a minute and lasted less than an hour for most of the websites it affected, however Akamai's problem kept some websites 'dead' for about four hours (although the company said most of its customers stayed offline for few minutes).

And these were just some of the internet problems of the year: in December, Amazon's computer system suffered three downtimes that caused problems for Disney +, Slack, Netflix, Hulu and many more, and disrupted logistics transactions. Amazon, during the busy season.

A very bad day for Facebook

Monday, October 4, was a very bad day for the high-ranking executives of the company that would soon be renamed Meta.

Last night, former employee and current informant Francis Hogen revealed her identity on the show "60 Minutes", claiming that the company was well aware that its social networks were spreading misinformation, expressions of violence and hatred, without doing anything to stop it. .

Then, a huge outage led to the collapse of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for hours, which, according to the company, was caused by "changes in management". The company's stock collapsed and many noticed the "coincidence" that the blackout coincided with Hogen's televised revelations, in view of its official testimony, the next day before the competent congressional committee. A difficult day, considering that at the same time the company was negotiating the rejection of an antitrust complaint filed against it by the Federal Trade Commission.

All this in the midst of detailed complaints to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that coordinated groups are using Facebook to incite violence, and how traffickers are using the social network for human exploitation.

Zillow's hard lesson

In November, Zillow announced it would close its Zillow Offers business, citing "unpredictable housing prices" that "far exceed" what the company expected.

The news came as a stunning admission of defeat for the real estate company, which fell to a $ 304 million inventory in the third quarter, saw its shares sink and announced plans to cut 2.000 jobs - a quarter of its staff.

But it also marked a sharp turnaround from the beginning of the year, when the company seemed so confident in its ability to use artificial intelligence to assess real estate values ​​that it said its so-called "Zestimate" would work, for some houses, as an initial cash offer to buy a home. Obviously, it is not just difficult to buy and sell homes for profit. It is also a real risk to use artificial intelligence to make such decisions in the real world.

Tesla's fully self-driving system that terrified drivers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long advertised the electric vehicle company's "fully autonomous driving" software. By the end of 2021, however, it is not yet fully autonomous - instead, it offers driver assistance functions that require users to agree that they need to stay awake at the helm in case they need to take over. In addition, only a handful of Tesla drivers have been able to try it so far, including a group of customers who have paid $ 10.000 per person to access the "beta" version of the feature.

And while this option may sound fantastic, drivers who used it told CNN Business in November that, apart from the "wow" factor, they are often unsure of what their car will do next - a frightening prospect when is someone behind the wheel of a vehicle that weighs a few thousand pounds. CNN Business tested this feature on a Tesla Model 3 on the streets of New York in November and the results were, at times, frightening: the software tried to drive the car onto a UPS truck in order to avoid a cyclist, attempting to lead to the wrong side of the road, and almost hit a fence, among other problems.