StoryCast ’21: The Y2K Prison Bug

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In 2021, Sky News has been marking some of the century’s biggest news events through the personal stories of lives defined by unforgettable moments from the last 21 years.

The biggest and very first story of the year 2000 involved a bug that was expected to impact tens of millions of lives all over the world.

But unlike the coronavirus pandemic of today, the Millennium Bug – Y2K for short – was a computer programming problem with predicted Armageddon-like consequences.

At the end of 1999, people genuinely feared the world was on the brink of disaster, that planes would fall from the sky, cardiac pacemakers would stop, and nuclear reactors would shut down.

The problem was devastatingly simple – computers were never programmed to read dates beyond 31 December 1999 and switching over to 1 January 2000 could lead to a global computer crash.

Governments around the world spent an estimated $500 billion trying to fix the problem and each nation had their own unique concerns.

In Russia, the military moved to protect the software that secured their nuclear weapons systems.

And in Western Australia, the Ministry of Justice feared an overly automated prison system would fail, allowing the opportunity for thousands of inmates and the state’s most dangerous prisoners, to escape.

So, they hired Matthew Hackling, an unassuming young cyber security engineer, who was then dispatched to the state’s most notorious prisons.

Could Matthew win the race against time to prevent this millennium catastrophe?

This episode is the final episode of the 21-part series StoryCast ’21. To find out more about all of the stories we’ve covered go to skynews/storycast21

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