15 years ago it was almost 1/1/1900

Y2KHow time flies.

15 years ago, on the 31st December 1999, I was getting ready to go to a fancy dress party on Millennium Eve. (Naturally I donned a rather long scarf and went as Tom Baker's incarnation of Doctor Who).

But I took my trusty Nokia mobile with me. Because various media agencies around the world wanted to call me shortly after midnight in case "anything catastrophic" happened due to the Y2K bug.

How would I possibly know? I told them. I'll be at a party.

But they insisted, so I played along.

As it turned out the Millennium Time Bomb was something of a damp squib. Whether that is more because it had been overhyped by the media, or due to the hard diligent work of software engineers in the years running up to January 1st 2000, I'll let you debate for yourselves.

But it's funny to think that it was 15 years ago.

Some things in my life have changed - no doubt yours has too. I've got married, had a child (W32/Cluley-A), and now work for myself rather than a corporation. Fortunately, I'm still free of grey hairs - but I don't think it will take another 15 years for them to make them their presence felt.

What's also funny is that I had no small part of 1999, debunking a quote put out by a Symantec researcher claiming that there could be 200,000 new computer viruses on January 1st 2000.

How we scoffed and chortled at the absurdity of that statement. And yet, here we are on the eve of January 1st 2015, and there most malware labs see something like 300,000 new samples every single day - that's more than one every second.

Back at the tail-end of 1999 that would have seemed like science fiction. But in the intervening years, organised criminals have woken up to the opportunity to make large sums of money from malware, and turned on a conveyor belt of cybercrime.

Make it your news resolution to ensure your computers and data are well protected, and help those family and friends who are less clued-up about how to defend themselves against attacks.

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One Response

  1. Coyote

    December 31, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    As it turned out the Millennium Time Bomb was something of a damp squib. Whether that is more because it had been overhyped by the media, or due to the hard diligent work of software engineers in the years running up to January 1st 2000, I’ll let you debate for yourselves.

    Funny. I thought similar. It reminded me then (albeit maybe not as bad) of the fear-mongering about the Michelangelo virus years prior. And we know how that went, don't we? Well, no one can really feel sympathy for the companies (that then went out of business) that abused the scare in order to profit. Still, I do seem to remember some interesting stories (of time) and given that time is so critical to computers (much more than some people realise, so much so that they insist otherwise), it isn't hard to imagine. Interestingly enough, the Unix epoch allows for a lot longer, with the data width of its time variable ('time_t') but by that point it'll be a lot larger (I seem to think it is larger than before since we now have 64 bit CPUs). But if it didn't it would be a disaster. Minor clock skewing can cause all sorts of issues (whether serious or not). And in 2012, end of June (if I'm thinking right), there was a bug in (some) Linux kernels that caused serious issues simply for the leap second (and while it was a bug and a serious one, there was an easy fix – not sure why some hosts were down for so long but it can happen). Yes, one second addition caused serious issues for servers (and this included hours of downtime; regardless of it being too long downtime it still happened). Of course you know this but those who don't might be quite surprised. So I would argue that why Y2k wasn't as serious as it could have been: both – it was hyped quite a bit but then the issue is still a serious issue and the fact much of it was fine, means that those who knew better did take care of it, if necessary (certainly not everything was needing to be fixed) (besides, the media overhypes everything – if they were to describe how they do exactly that, the description itself would be a really good example of it).

    I never thought of it – it really was 15 years ago. That's rather … hard to believe. Good post for the end of this year. How time flies…. (you know I can't help it)…. and how things change over time…

    (Indeed, and sadly so, malware is so much worse these days and unfortunately there's far more nasty bugs than before, in ratio (and total))

    Happy new year, for whatever it may be worth!

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