Top-10 Techno Turkeys 2016

By Carl Weiss


With Thanksgiving being just around the corner, I thought I’d take the time to talk about all the techno-turkeys that gobbled up a lot of media time this year.  While they aren’t as tasty as the traditional holiday fare, they certainly left a bad taste in many of our mouths.


1.    Pokémon Go Goes Gaga - The gaming sensation of the summer was Nintendo’s Pokémon Go.  The augmented reality game was unique in that it was played outdoors via smartphone.  The game required players to capture make believe creatures at a variety of real locations around the world.  The problem became one of where did make believe and reality collide?  A number of ‘players’ were detained for trespassing, including three teens that were arrested at Ohio’s Perry Nuclear Power Plant, after trespassing in pursuit of Pokémon characters.  In another incident, two grown men had to be rescued after falling 90 feet down a cliff in California.  As if it wasn’t bad enough to risk life and limb while playing Pokémon, a 39-year-old Japanese farmer was convicted of killing a retiree by running the man over with his car while playing the game.  He was sentenced to 14-months in prison, which whipped up a firestorm of criticism as being too lenient. 

Courtesy of  Pixabay
2.    Samsung introduces the world to the fire-starting smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7.  After selling 2.5 million of the units, Samsung issued a recall for the luckless devices, many of which caught fire or even exploded spontaneously.  One Note 7 owner felt the phone getting hot in his pocket as he drove his car.  Pulling the device out of his pocket, he reported that the Note 7 exploded in his hand, causing 2nd and 3rd-degree burns, as well as filling his car with smoke.  This was hardly an isolated incident.  During a September 23 flight from Singapore, smoke pouring from an overhead compartment was traced to a bag containing a Note 7 smartphone.  As of October 10, Samsung made the decision to halt production of the Note 7.  The company also issued an apology, as well as urging owners of the Galaxy Note 7 to exchange or return the phone for a refund.  Ya think?

3.    The UK’s Beagle Lander crashes onto the surface of Mars – The Beagle 2 was the lander portion
Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons

of the European Space Agency’s mission to Mars probe.  I say was, since the fate of the lander has been shrouded in mystery since the day it was supposed to land, way back on Christmas Day 2003.  The reason the ill-fated lander made the news last year was due to the fact that the US Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the lander, or what was left of it from orbit.  This touched off a technological shoving match with the Brits claiming the lander landed successfully but failed to radio back to Earth, as NASA was telling the media that they had photographic evidence of the crater that the lander had left.  Either way, the Beagle 2 is as dead as the Red Baron.  Sorry Snoopy.

4.    Not wanting to be outdone by the Brits, Elon Musk’s SpaceX had a rocket complete with satellite explode spectacularly on the pad while it was fueling.  There was no doubt about the fate of the Falcon 9 that exploded 0n September 3 of this year, taking along with it a $200 million communications satellite that was housed in the nose cone of the ill-fated booster.  If you want to see the video, click on this link http://www.seeker.com/dramatic-video-shows-moment-of-spacex-explosion-1995121183.html  That doesn’t mean there weren’t more than a few questions being asked, since it is a rarity that a rocket explodes before liftoff.  Especially since SpaceX is vying to
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
carry astronauts to the ISS in the near future. 

After a 2-month long inquiry, investigators believe that the explosion was caused when the liquid oxygen used to fuel the booster froze solid.  This in turn triggered a domino effect that caused a container of liquid helium contained inside the fuel tank to explode.  So, in essence, the fireball was caused by the rockets guts freezing to death.

5.    A power outage in a computer caused Delta Airlines to cancel 427 flights in August.  While this snafu didn’t cause the destruction of any aircraft, it did result in the meltdown of many a traveler’s itineraries.  What made the problem more painful was that while the computer problem resided in their Atlanta hub, the shutdown derailed Delta’s worldwide flight schedule.  An article by the Wall Street Journal summed up the long-term fallout from the shutdown this way:

“The meltdown highlights the vulnerability in Delta’s computer system, and raises questions about whether a recent wave of four U.S. airline mergers that created four large carriers controlling 85% of domestic capacity has built companies too large and too reliant on IT systems that date from the 1990s. These systems—which run everything from flight dispatching to crew scheduling, passenger check-in, airport-departure information displays, ticket sales and frequent-flier programs—gradually have been updated but are still vulnerable, IT experts said.  http://www.wsj.com/articles/delta-air-lines-says-computers-down-everywhere-1470647527
6.    Facebook trends false Newsfeeds – No sooner was the 2016 Presidential election over, when journalists began pointing their fingers at Facebook, accusing the world’s most popular social network of trending misleading or downright untrue news stories.  This caused political pundits to postulate that the tidal wave of fake news sources online represented not only a threat to legitimate journalists, but it could well erode the underpinnings of democracy.  Even worse, is the fact that Facebook is hardly the only guilty party.
Courtesy of Flickr

A recent article on MotherJones.com points out that the American public has no idea of the sheer scope of disinformation being passed off online as fact. 
That's where Melissa Zimdars comes in. A communications professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, Zimdar recently began compiling a list of "fake, false, regularly misleading and/or otherwise questionable ‘news' organizations" in a widely shared Google Doc of "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical ‘News' Sources." It is a cheat sheet for media literacy in the Facebook age.
Zimdars' viral guide — which encompasses websites from the outright fake (nbcnews.com.com) to the ideologically skewed (The Free Thought Project) to the clickbait-inflected (the Independent Journal Review)—began as a media literacy companion for her students. She decided to open-source the list after encountering an outright falsehood at the top of her Google News feed: that Hillary Clinton lost the popular vote.
"It's a WordPress site! 70news.wordpress.com! And Google treated it like news!" Zimdars said when reached by phone on Tuesday. "That's when I decided to make this public." http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/meet-professor-of-fake-news-facebook
In this all too wired world, we need to take a lesson from the ancient Romans who 2,000 years ago coined the Latin phrase Caveat Emptor, which means Buyer Beware.  In our techno-mad society that seems to grow and morph at lightning speed, every web surfer needs to follow the credo of Reader Beware.
7.    Chinese hackers break into the Federal Reserve Bank of NY on their way to stealing more than $100 million.  As if having the veracity of our information sources put at risk, even more frightening is the prospect of our banking systems being put in jeopardy.  During the 1920’s & 30’s men like John Dillinger, Baby Faced Nelson, and Willie Sutton made headlines by storming into banks across the US and demanding the tellers hand over all their money at gunpoint.  While many of these crooks became living legends during the depression, the fact is that it cost more money to apprehend these desperadoes than they stole.

Courtest of  Wikimedia Commons
Today’s cyber bank robbers do their thieving with the click of a mouse.  That was certainly the case in February 2016, when hackers penetrated the computers at the Central Bank of Bangladesh.  Using this access, the cybercriminals tricked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York into transferring more than $100 million.  As bad as that sounds, it turns out the heist should have netted the thieves nearly $1 billion.  However, a fluke caused the Fed to scrutinize Subsequent transfer orders more closely.  By the time the smoke cleared, the Fed admitted that it had authorized a total of 5 transfers totaling $101 million.

In a subsequent article by Reuters, even more, astonishing was the fact that the Fed’s handling of the transfer orders was so sloppy.  Not only were the transfer orders incorrectly formatted, they were made to individual accounts.  The transfers were also notably different from those usually made by the Bank of Bangladesh.  To date, $81 million is still unaccounted for.  If that’s how well the Fed protects a bank’s assets, it makes you wonder how safe your money is with them. http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/cyber-heist-federal/


Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
8.    Hackers also disrupted service at Netflix and Twitter – Banks weren’t the only entities to face the wrath of con.  In late October, Internet users from coast to coast were surprised to find that they were unable to log into Netflix, Twitter, CNN and even the New York times when hackers targeted an Internet hub called Dyn DNS Company.  Kind of the way an air traffic control center routes air traffic; Dyn is responsible for routing Internet traffic all across the US.  Hackers using a legion of zombie bots launched a massive Denial of Service attack on Dyn, which effectively clogged the company’s pipes, bringing traffic to a crawl.  More interesting was the way the zombie bots were conscripted.  The hackers used a malware program named Mirai to infect million of IoT devices before directing them to do their bidding.  Everything from smart TVs and refrigerators to security cameras and smart homes were potential targets.  Since 7 out of 10 IoT devices have little or no security, it seems likely that we will see more and more of these attacks taking place in the near future.  Even worse is the possibility that your nannycam could have been in on the caper.  http://triblive.com/usworld/nation/11349500-74/internet-attacks-dyn

Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
9.    Hackers took down a power grid in Kiev.  (We could be next.)  Most of the world does not appreciate how fragile technology can be until it stops working.  Last year the residents of Kiev in the Ukraine got their wakeup call when the lights literally went out when hackers attacked the country’s power grid.  It turned out that the hack wasn’t an isolated incident.  It had taken out nearly a quarter of the country’s electrical capacity.  It took more than 6 hours to bring the power back on.

While the Ukrainians quickly pointed their fingers at the Russians, since the malware that brought their grid to its knees was known to belong to a known Russian hacking group, the damage was done.  While the State Department quickly pointed out that a similar attack couldn’t be carried out on the US power grid which is more sophisticated, there are those experts that pointed out that we are hardly invulnerable. In the past few years’ Chinese hackers have targeted a number of strategic elements in the US, including the grid.  They have said that we are anything but invulnerable. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-14/how-hackers-took-down-a-power-grid

Courtesy of  Wikipedia
10.  Donald is elected president and 145 tech letters penned a letter denouncing him as being “a disaster for innovation.”  No sooner was the 2016 Presidential election over when protests sprung up all around the country, expressing dislike for the incoming President-elect.  More surprising was the letter endorsed by more than 140 tech leaders in the US posted a letter to the world stating that Trump will be a disaster for innovation. The authors included such notables as Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame.  The authors took issue with many of the tactics that Trump used to make his successful run at the White House, including his stance on immigration reform.  They also cited his disregard for institutions threatens to upend what attracts companies to start and expand in the US.  (Have none of these guys ever heard of offshoring?)  Since this letter was penned three months before the election, it will be interesting to see how many of these entrepreneurs change their tune once the Donald takes office.

Every year we see lots of techno turkeys. This year’s flock was extensive and varied widely. With Thanksgiving, just around the corner, you need to keep an eye out for the next techno turkeys so that one of these turkeys don’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. Have a happy Thanksgiving for all our us at Working the Web to Win.

In this article, I have discussed my top ten techno turkeys for this year. This article covers the gamut
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from techno product blunders, to massive security breach, to the election of the century.  Lots of detail links, pictures and video are provided to enhance the reader experience.

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Carl Weiss is president of WorkingtheWebtoWin.com a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida that routinely works with bloggers and other online marketers. 

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