Vol. 1, Issue 33, December 30, 2003
Y2K+4 Bug Not Receiving Enough Attention, Say Experts
The nation's computer networks face significant risk with the arrival of the new year, according to computer scientists at Iowa State University.
"We may have dodged a bullet in 2000 thanks to a significant worldwide effort," said Dr. Travis Lin, "but as is often the case with a complex issue like this, attention quickly wanes and moves to the next politically expedient crisis."
Up through 1999, there was widespread concern that computer software which stored dates in a two-digit format would malfunction when the year 2000 began, leaving these systems unable to distinguish between the years 2000 and 1900. Since the potentially affected software included many government and corporate systems, some feared that the nation's electronic systems would grind to a halt. Although the "Y2K" bug fizzled out, according to Yin and three other professors at Iowa State, a significant threat remains.
"The fact is that our analyses have conclusively proven that this bug will cause widespread system failures. The Social Security system, for example, has no defense or contingency plan in place to cope with the arrival of the Y2K+4 bug," said Lin. "Everything the Y2K bug threatened, this bug also threatens, but with an added twist."
According to Lin and his colleagues, tests demonstrated that changing the date to 2004 caused dozens of common programs to crash, leading to extensive data loss; several "menacing noises;" and, in one case, a melted motherboard.
"There are no plans for special measures to deal with a "Y2K+4" bug," said Myron Franks of the Federal Computer Security Program. "What exactly are you suggesting such a bug would do? In my professional opinion, fire ants would pose more of a danger to computers than this so-called problem."
Lin has declined to clarify the exact nature of the Y2K+4 threat, stating only that it is too complex to explain to non-specialists. None of the other experts we contacted were able to verify Lin's results, or even his existence. Lin has published three articles on this subject in the Journal of Computationally Related Mathematical Theories And Such, an obscure journal not available in the United States.
The nation will have to wait for January 1, 2004 to see whether Lin's theories are correct. However, Franks offers a different interpretation of Lin's experimental findings.
"Were they using Windows XP when they did those tests?" asked Franks. "Because, you know, that would pretty much explain everything."