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EDA wrecking ball
A report released earlier this year by the US Department of Commerce revealed how one US agency, fueled by the paranoia of a nation-state attack, spent US$2.7 million trying to destroy US$3 million worth of its own IT equipment, even though evidence of such an attack was never found.
This odd decision came out of a miscommunication between the affected agency, the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Department of Commerce's Computer Incident Response Team (DOC CIRT). DOC CIRT had determined that two components on EDA's network were infected with malware. EDA somehow got the idea that in fact 146 components were infected.
EDA cut all their systems off of the networks. Confusion ensued about how widespread and sophisticated the infections on their systems were. Just to be thorough in the event that foreign infiltrators were working their way into the US Economic Development Administration, EDA's CIO ordered the destruction of all of EDA's IT components. This included printers, mice, keyboards, TVs and cameras.
Food stamp system goes down
Only a few weeks ago Xerox, the operator of the Electronic Benefits System (EBT) was conducting a routine test of their backup systems. For reasons which aren't clear, this lead to the system shutting down for five hours.
EBT is the system for food payments to beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in 17 states. It's what is usually known as food stamps. Of course, they don't use stamps anymore, they use a special debit card.
During the five hour outage merchants are supposed to use an emergency voucher system, but some merchants decided to just keep accepting the cards, which effectively no longer had limits on them. Some cardholders went on a shopping spree.
The Failure Of The FBI's Virtual Case File Project
Between 2001 and 2005, the FBI attempted and failed to build a system called the Virtual Case File.
Part of a larger project called Trilogy, Virtual Case File seems to have been designed as a case study in how not to run a large IT project. It experienced significant cost and schedule overruns. There was scope creep. The scheduling was driven by desired outcomes, not reality. There was lack of clear ownership.
Author Simon Moore says the heart of the problem is vague requirements. The requirements were ill-defined and changed throughout the project.