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Ugliest tech stories of 2011 -- so far

Apple gets screwy, Anonymous gets really angry, Egypt pulls the plug, MySpace melts down and more

By Alpha Doggs on Fri, 02/18/11 - 10:56am.

We usually wait until the end of the year to compile lists such as Ugliest Tech Stories of the Year or Top Tech Stories of the Year, but why wait when 2011 has gotten off to such an ugly start?

I'll update this piece regularly, assuming the ugliness continues...

MARCH

DroidDream a Google nightmare


Google in March flipped a remote "kill switch" to assassinate malware-infected apps called DroidDream downloaded by users of Android mobile devices. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/030911-google-droiddream-android.html Google had discovered more than 50 apps on its Android Market infected by DroidDream. Google said it's "adding a number of measures to help prevent malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android Market."

WordPress under attack

WordPress logo

The popular blogging platform apparently wasn't so popular with everyone, suffering outages from a massive distributed denial-of-service attack that the company says originated in China.

The attacks interfered with the company's three data centers in Chicago, San Antonio and Dallas, and initially were believed to have been politically motivated, though WordPress later said it did not think that was the case.

FEBRUARY

Gmail goes down

Gmail

Google gave 150,000 Gmail customers a scare when a bug that hit at the end of February reset accounts and made it look like up to years' worth of data had been lost.  From a Google blog post in which the company acknowledged being "very sorry" about the incident: "I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That's what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we've been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue."


Dell's losing Streak

Dell Streak

Dell shot up to the top of the all-time dumbest tech marketing stunts when two employees orchestrated a Dell Streak promotion at headquarters in Texas that was mistaken for a hostage situation and wound up resulting in a SWAT team being called in to sort things out. One employee donned a biker's costume and black mask and urged workers to go to the lobby, prompting a raft of 911 calls and plenty of unwanted publicity over the Streak tablet's interactivity with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

 

Wrath of Anonymous


Aaron Barr, CEO of security company HBGary Federal, vowed to expose organizers of the online activist group Anonymous at the RSA Conference in February, but in response the Wikileaks defenders hacked his Twitter account, broke into his company network and posted more than 44,000 of the company's e-mails. They also posted his home address, phone number and Social Security number on his Twitter page.  Parent company HBGary wound up pulling out of the RSA Conference and HBGary Federal yanked its talk at a conference that runs in tandem with the RSA event. 

 

Egypt shuts down


Egypt's shutdown of the Internet and cell phone networks in an effort to diffuse protests against the government not only burned free speech advocates around the world, but it cost the country's economy at least $90 million, according to one report.  It also raised the specter of an Internet "kill switch" being put into the U.S. President's hands.

 

Microsoft, Yahoo tangle over WP7 data usage spikes

Windows Phone logo

Microsoft responded to complaints about data usage spikes seen by Windows Phone 7 by identifying a synchronization inefficiency between the Windows Phone mail client and Yahoo Mail.  But Yahoo said the problem wasn't its fault, leading one Network World reporter to blog about the new Microsoft-Yahoo comedy team

 

In a Huff over BlackBerry use


Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington created a stir on a flight from Washington, D.C., to New York  in January when she reportedly refused to stop using her BlackBerry smartphone when the flight crew instructed passengers to do so. The move resulted in another passenger creating a scene about it, and Huffington and the passenger were questioned by authorities upon disembarking in New York.  The story apparently didn't bother AOL, which a month later announced plans to buy out Huffington Post for $315 million.

JANUARY

Alarming start to the year

Apple iPhone users whose smartphones run iOS4 reported that their alarms weren't going off to start the year.  Apparently this wasn't just people with New Year's Eve hangovers not quite getting their stories straight: Apple acknowledged the problem, though said the glitch was affecting only one-time alarms, so recommended that customers set recurring alarms as a workaround. Of course that didn't soothe the frustration for a Massachusetts woman who said she lost her job as a waitress after she overslept due to the iPhone alarm not going off.