In 2020, a Y2K-like vulnerability affects parking meters and videogames

Before the start of the 21st century, computer system administrators around the world undertook a titanic and time trial effort to update millions of computers to prevent a computer bug known as Y2K, or Millennium Bug but, what exactly was this flaw? Cybersecurity experts explain this below.

Since its inception in the 20th century computers were programmed to store dates by modifying only the last two digits of the year instead of all four digits. As the year 2000 approached, this method had to be changed, otherwise systems around the world would reset their dates to 1900, which was a matter of serious concerns as more and more industries and public and private services depended on the use of computer networks.

To prevent the supposed catastrophe, developers had two options: rewrite the code to modify the four digits of the year, or release a temporary fix; in the end, the temporary correction was chosen, using a method known as “windowing”. According to today’s cybersecurity experts, this method allowed systems to identify 1900s as the 2000s; almost 90% of computer systems around the world were corrected using this method.

New decade, new bug

This programming error is not unique to the new millennium, as 2020 has only just begun and there are already a couple of reports on a similar flaw. The Department of Transportation (DOT) of New York, US, reported that the city’s parking meters were affected by a flaw that caused drivers’ credit and pre-paid cards to be rejected. “This is an issue related to a system ending date that was never updated,” the DOT said.

The city’s IT department began working immediately on the flaw, so a few days later the city’s more than 10,000 parking meters were working normally, cybersecurity specialists mentioned. The DOT tracked the incident through its Twitter account.

A similar bug affected the gamer community. Some users of the WWE 2K20 video game reported an error forcing a reset of the date to 2019 that was noticeable from the first minutes of January 1st, 2020. A few hours later, 2K, developers of this video game, announced the release of a fix for this flaw.

According to the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS), these errors occurred during the transition from 2019 to 2020 because only temporary solutions were implemented twenty years ago, so these may not be the only cases of failures in the dates of computer systems.