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January 14, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:22pm

5 of the worst IT system failures

It's not just the MoD that has IT systems that aren't delivering.

By Claire Vanner

In light of the news that a failed IT system for the MoD has wasted millions of pound, CBR takes a look at how other IT system failures have cost companies, whether it be in terms of money, utility or respect.

Abandoned £10bn NHS IT system

What would have been the world’s largest civilian system was ceremoniously abandoned by the government in September 2013, despite already costing taxpayers £10bn.

In an attempt to create a centralised e-record system, the fiasco was dubbed the biggest It failure ever seen by the government.

The NHS patient record system scheme, bought in under the Labour government, was originally expected to cost £6.4bn. But there were data management issues, patient confidentiality problems and numerous deadlines were missed.

The system was left in the incapable hands of successive ministers and civil servants who saw the costs continue to spiral as the new systems were badly managed. This failure ultimately came down to human error.

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Coca-Cola IT system secret cyber attack

Coca-Cola’s IT system was hacked by Chinese hackers in 2009, but the cyber attack was kept secret until 2012.

The breach occurred after deputy president for the Pacific region, Paul Etchells, opened a malicious link in an email that installed keyloggers and other forms of malware.

According to an internal document, seen by Bloomberg, the hackers were then able to breach the company’s files and pilfered internal emails using full remote control access, resulting in a system failure.

When it was queried why the attack was not disclosed, Coca-Cola told the BBC: "Our company’s security team manages security risks in conjunction with the appropriate security and law enforcement organisations around the world.

"As a matter of practice, we do not comment on security matters."

RBS software update glitch affects accounts for two weeks

A software upgrade failure cost RBS £125m and left customers without access it their accounts for up to two weeks in June 2012.

Millions of users were unable to make or receive payments after a failed software upgrade affected RBS’s transaction batch processing.

This resulted in missed payments both in and out of accounts for many customers, but the bank said it would waive charges and ensure credit ratings were unaffected.

"The immediate software issue was promptly identified and rectified. Despite this, significant manual intervention in a highly automated and complex batch processing environment was required. This resulted in a significant backlog of daily data and information processing," RBS said.

Dual network failure debilitates Gmail for 12 hours

Not one, but two network failures left about ten million of Google’s Gmail users unable to fully utilise their emails for 12 hours in September 2013.

Two separate breakdowns resulted in delays varying from messages not being delivered for a few seconds (2.6 seconds), while others were less functional.

While the outage did not affect users’ access to the Gmail page or other functionality, the ability to send emails was severely impeded.

"Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better," Google apologised.

This is not Gmail’s first major IT system failure. In December 2012 Gmail suffered a global outage that left millions of its users with difficulty in accessing any of its services.

MoD’s failed recruitment hardware

A flawed computer system to recruit soldiers for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could end up costing £50m more than originally planned, according to leaked documents.

The Recruitment Partnering Project – a £1.3bn service designed to allow up to 1,000 soldiers to return to frontline duty – is underpinned by a hosting platform that is being built by Atlas, a consortium of IT vendors comprising HP, Fujitsu, CGI and Cassidian.

Despite the government’s attempt to save money by laying off soldiers and hiring reservists, the scheme, to be run by outsourcing firm Capita and the MoD, is now two years behind schedule and will cost a further £1m a month until the failure is fixed.

According to a confidential report carried out by Gartner and seen by The Times, the Army’s recruitment wing picked the wrong bidder to build the hosting platform after failing in 2011 to challenge an MoD policy that favoured the less suitable of two competing offers.

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