Top IT Turkeys of 2007

Top IT Turkeys of 2007

Last year, Network World named the top 10 turkeys of that year, in honor of Thanksgiving. Here we are again with the top picks for 2007. So sit back, relax and pass the mashed potatoes.

10. The cheater

Our 2007 list of top turkeys begins with the guy who tried to hire hackers to change his college GPA. Faithful Buzzblog readers may remember Todd Shriber , the congressional aide who penned the following e-mail:

"I need to urgently make contact with a hacker that would be interested in doing a one-time job for me. The pay would be good. I'm not sure what exactly the job would entail with respect to computer jargon, but I can go into rough detail upon making contact with a candidate."

Unfortunately, he sent it to the wrong place, and the recipients toyed with Shriber before exposing his efforts to the world. Was he fired? Oh, yeah .

9. University of Portland / Cisco

In a high-profile knock on NAC, a student at the University of Portland was easily able to dodge a security scan to get onto the university's network. The Cisco Clean Access device let him through because a "null" entry was made when the endpoint was queried about its operating system at login. Apparently, that's the default setting. Who's the biggest turkey - Cisco for the boneheaded default setting, the university for not changing it, or the student for exploiting it? You decide. (The student was suspended.)

8. The City of San Francisco

Municipal Wi-Fi is a beautiful concept that may become largely irrelevant, thanks to a stew of corporate, political, and ideological self-interests that came together to kill the Wi-Fi project in San Francisco. EarthLink was supposed to build the network, and EarthLink and Google were supposed to offer services over that network. But while the politicians bickered, EarthLink struggled financially and pulled out. The failure has had a ripple effect , in Silicon Valley and other cities .


Here's a turkey that may spoil your Thanksgiving appetite. Rewind to February, when Anna Nicole Smith had just died, and a battle ensued over where she should be buried. Enter start-up, which then issued a press release entitled, "ANNA NICOLE SMITH WOULD BE SIX FEET UNDER IF SHE HAD KEEPYOUSAFE.COM." You see, Keepyousafe's business is...well, never mind what their business is. This tasteless display earned them a spot on this list, and they even had the nerve to try to promote their service in a response to Buzzblog's Paul McNamara .

6. Apple

Apple's iPhone certainly got more than its share of hype , but that's not why Apple is on this list. You may love the iPhone or think it's overblown, but there's no getting around the fact that Apple flubbed its pricing strategy in a turkey-like fashion. An iPhone that cost $600 in June cost just $400 in September , a move that served to alienate the iPhone's biggest fans, the ones who waited in lines for hours. Under pressure, Apple offered a $100 rebate to those customers, but that didn't stop Apple from getting sued .

5. Joseph Nacchio

The good news was that, in April, a jury found former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio not guilty on 23 counts of insider trading. The bad news was that they found him guilty of the other 19 counts, covering $52 million in stock sales .  Nacchio's attorneys called just three witnesses in the trial, which some saw as a symptom of extreme overconfidence . A judge said Nacchio's "overarching greed" was to blame, and sentenced him to six years in prison and $19 million in fines . Oh, and he has to give the $52 million back.

4. Microsoft

Microsoft released its latest Windows operating system about a year ago, and it was supposed to be revolutionary. It was plagued by delays, setbacks and cuts in features, such as the WinFS file system. Windows XP was stable, and users were looking for some really good reason to move to Vista, and they didn't find it. In fact, early users were annoyed with Vista's security features and found Vista to be resource-hungry and counterintuitive. Microsoft recently allowed users to downgrade to XP Pro .  Mark Gibbs compared Vista to the Ford Edsel . But in the end, says Network World's John Fontana : "Perhaps the one true failure of Vista is that Microsoft again was unsuccessful in stamping out the perception that a new Windows operating system isn't worthy until the first service pack. Vista Service Pack 1 won't ship until early 2008."

3. Vonage

Vonage just couldn't keep its hands off others' intellectual property. In March, a judge found that Vonage infringed on three Verizon patents for supporting VoIP traffic and was liable for $58 million plus royalties. At first, Vonage claimed it had a workaround, where it could use an alternate method that wouldn't infringe on the patent. But no, it didn't . Or did it ?  In September, an appeals court affirmed the verdict on two patents and ordered a retrial on the third . Meanwhile, Vonage settled with Sprint Nextel on a separate patent dispute to the tune of $80 million , and on another with AT&T for $39 million .

2. SCO / York Capital Management

The SCO Group, which in 2003 attempted to strike fear into the hearts of Linux users everywhere with a billion-dollar lawsuit against IBM (among other things), fell on hard times this year, filing for bankruptcy protection in September and saying there was " substantial doubt " it would survive.  But like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, SCO CEO Darl McBride recently was quoted as saying, " It's just a flesh wound! " or something to that effect.  And then - what's this? - investment firm York Capital Management swooped in with $36 million , and we couldn't exactly put SCO on our Network Graveyard list anymore.  " FrankenSCO ," indeed.

1. TJX

In January, TJX Companies (which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshall's and other stores) disclosed that its computer network had been hacked , exposing data on millions of credit cards. The company's response was lame, " a case study in what to do wrong ."

It only went downhill from there.

It was revealed that 45.7 million cards were compromised - no, wait, make that 94 million . TJX drew the ire of the FTC , the Massachusetts Attorney General ,  and banks . TJX tried to make it up to customers with a settlement , but then it turned out the settlement was good for only 1% of breach sufferers . In all, it was the biggest data breach ever, affecting tens of millions of people and costing $118 million to TJX .

The company's response was plain awful. And that's why TJX is our top turkey of 2007.

What do YOU think?

Did we miss any turkeys? Do you agree with our choices? We want to hear from YOU.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.