Five reasons Y2K may give you the creeps

Jesse Berst, Editorial DirectorZDNet AnchorDeskYou open your door Halloween night and there's a frightening ghoul standing on your doorstep. Or is it a friend in a mask?

Jesse Berst, Editorial Director
ZDNet AnchorDesk

You open your door Halloween night and there's a frightening ghoul standing on your doorstep. Or is it a friend in a mask? Only if you remove the mask can you know for sure. But do you dare?

Today I'm going to unmask some of the latest scare stories circulating in the U.S. about the Year 2000 bug. I'll tell you which ones are dressed up for effect. And which ones should give you nightmares.

Convicts roam the streets. A Web gun seller is trying to boost his sales with this warning: Malfunctioning locks and alarms could send inmates into the streets. My take: Newbie gun owners scare me more than the unlikely failure of prison security systems. Click for more.

Digital Pearl Harbor. Some military experts worry terrorists may attack communications networks under the guise of the Y2K bug. An FBI cybercop warns changes to computer software could have been planted by foreign contractors, also under the Y2K guise. My take: Cyber warfare is a serious concern, but no more so on Jan. 1 than it is today. Click for more.

Malfunctioning schools. The U.S. Department of Education says only 56% of the nation's elementary and secondary schools have successfully fixed potential Y2K problems. Leaving millions of students vulnerable to lapses in building security, among other things. My take: This one worries me. Check with your local schools to see what they're doing to protect your kids. Click for more.

Stock market crash. Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan believes the biggest Y2K threat is not large-scale computer failures. Rather, it's the uncertain response of the American consumer as the year-end approaches. Days later, IBM chief Lou Gerstner mentions "Y2K slowdown" and the stock market had fits. Click for more. My take: The market often slows down after the first of the year, but it is unlikely to be triggered by Y2K issues.

Failure of the Internet. The Internet backbone should weather Y2K, experts say. But they admit there is no way to know for sure. No guarantees there won't be glitches, outages, surges due to lack of preparedness. No independent audits of all the separate pieces that work together to create the global network. My take: At least check to see how well prepared your ISP is. Click for more.