AWS typo gaffe isn't the first, or last in technology

History is littered with typo miscues that led to major tech outages, mixups and lots of losses.


Amazon Web Services outlined its post mortem on its S3 outage and the cause boils down to one word: Typo. A typo?!? That's crazy right? Not really. In fact, typos plague software, code and have cost companies billions of dollars.

The cloud giant offered the following when explaining its outage.

The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) team was debugging an issue causing the S3 billing system to progress more slowly than expected. At 9:37AM PST, an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process. Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.

Folks say misery loves company and the good news for AWS is that the typo club is pretty extensive. Here's a look at some of the pain caused by a simple typo. Consider:

ZCoin, which allows for private financial transactions, had a "typographical error on a single additional character in code (that) allowed an attacker to create Zerocoin spend transactions without a corresponding mint." The attacker created about 370,000 Zcoins and made a profit of about $400,000. Zcoin is similar to Bitcoin in that it's a digital currency based on cryptography.

Back in 2014 the OpenSSL Heartbleed bug was blamed on four bytes, roughly four characters. That typo left much of the Web vulnerable.

In 2013, Fortune recapped the greatest Excel disasters of all time. The common theme? Damn humans added items, changed models and lost billions of dollars. The recap includes J.P. Morgan, which lost $6.2 billion in 2012 with a few bad trades. J.P. Morgan employees added a measure when it should have been averaged.

Turns out typos have been around as long as code. Priceonomics, a site for data junkies, gave a history lesson on NASA's Venus rocket, which exploded in 1962. What happened? One extra hyphen in the code led to the disaster.

It doesn't take long to realize that typos have been around as long as code. We can move onto new technologies, but it's likely that the typo will endure.