Software update crashes police ankle monitors in the Netherlands

Borked update prevents ankle monitors from sending data back to police control rooms.

ankle monitor

Image: Dutch government

A borked software update has crashed hundreds of ankle monitoring devices used by Dutch police, Dutch government officials said today.

"As a result of a software update, a disruption occurred in data traffic during the electronic monitoring of ankle bands yesterday," the Dutch government said in a press release.

The faulty update effectively stopped traffic from ankle monitors from reaching the Department of Justice's DV&O control rooms, preventing officials from knowing the locations of suspects in house arrests or released on bail.

The issue was fixed later in the day, on Thursday; however, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security had to step in and preemptively arrest and jail some of its most high-risk suspects.

Dutch police also stepped up to help during the downtime, either by performing house visits or by calling suspects and asking them to check in at police stations or with officers.

Yesterday's incident marks the second time that Dutch authorities lost access to their ankle monitoring system in the past year.

In August 2018, an widespread mobile telecom outage also brought down the system for a day. At the time, in a letter to the Dutch Parliament, the Ministry of Justice said it was monitoring around 700 suspects per day, 450 of which went dark because of the mobile network outage.

"The system is now operational again," Dutch officials said today. "All ankle strap wearers are in view. We are working hard to make the system 100 percent stable again."

The Dutch government recent software borkage isn't the first of its kind. There have been many similar incidents where vendors have shipped software or firmware updates that bricked smart devices. For example, in August 2017, a Samsung smart TV software update crashed thousands of sets across the world. Also, earlier this year, an update to Nike's Android app bricked one shoe for the company's self-lacing sneakers.

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