WSJ - 'Y2K' Is Scarier Than The Alarmists Think? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Did anyone read the Wall Street Journal article "'Y2K' Is Scarier Than The Alarmists Think"? I don't get the WSJ, and was curious to see what they said...

-- Phil (, June 19, 1998


...oops... I believe it was in the June 18th paper.

-- Phil (, June 19, 1998.

Yeah, Phil, I read it. It's garbage. To illustrate, here are some quotes.

"These experts [Yardeni, etc.] may be exaggerating the economic threat. In many respects the Year 2000 Problem... is much less complicated than natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Unlike these events, we know when Y2K will strike. And we know exactly where to look to solve most of the problem - in old programming code."

The author, Bruce D. Berkowitz, conveniently forgot the 25 billion microchips contained in embedded systems, it seems.

"...$50 billion [projected US cost for fixing Y2K]... is a large sum of money, but it is only a small fraction of the nation's $7.3 trillion gross domestic product. So the effect on the economy as a whole should be tolerable."

"Debugging the world's information systems will take time, effort and money, but the task is not overwhelming. The trick is to make sure that businesses and individuals understand the problem, and then put their self-interest to work."

Mr. Berkowitz here omits several pertinent facts: We do not have time, there are not enough programmers to do the job, and many top managers are not willing to spend the money necessary. Plus it's already too late for 'self-interest' to be much of a factor.

"So the good news is that the threat does not need to be as dire as Mr. Yardeni and others fear. Alas, the bad news is that there is an even greater threat related to Y2K that no one seems to be thinking aobut yet. Simply put, Y2K will create one of the greatest opportunities for information warfare, crime, sabotage and terrorism we have ever encountered."

He goes on to say that many of the programmers brought in to help fix Y2K could be foreign operatives who are planning to cause havoc or steal information. He finishes with "they're probably at work even as we speak."

Sounds like Mr. Berkowitz is watering the seeds Clinton planted with all the recent talk about 'cyber-terrorism.' This article is either a smokescreen or optimistic blather. Either way, ignore it.

-- Nabi Davidson (, June 19, 1998.

<< Sounds like Mr. Berkowitz is watering the seeds Clinton planted with all the recent talk about 'cyber-terrorism.' This article is either a smokescreen or optimistic blather. Either way, ignore it. >>

Hmmm. Perhaps one should read the article and consider both it's merits and demerits, judging it not based on one's preconceptions but on it's content. It's hardly beneficial to dismiss information just because it differs from one's own opinions.

-- Paul Neuhardt (, June 19, 1998.

Mr. Neuhardt,

My evaluation of the article IS based on its content. I don't disagree that some "funny business" by programmers might take place during Y2K remediation attempts. But the statements Mr. Berkowitz made in his article indicate that he believes cyber-terrorism or vandalism is the only REAL threat from Y2K. IMHO, that contention is ignorant hogwash.

If you feel differently, I'm sure those on this forum would like to hear your views and the reasons for them. Why don't you give us your take on this article?

-- Nabi Davidson (, June 19, 1998.

I agree with you, Nabi, that resources are insufficient to completely fix Y2K in the time remaining. How much actually gets fixed and whether it will matter due to the lack of progress in other countries are questions no one really knows the answers to. The author's optimism would have made a lot more sense in 1995 or so. All we can do now is take whatever reasonable precautions we think are necessary to protect ourselves. However, the risk of malicious programming being inserted into mainframe code cannot be dismissed out of hand. Look at what corporations and governments that have stalled are going to be facing. Software Armegeddon in about 18 months or less with a serious lack of qualified personnel to repair code. They'll be desperate to open up the innermost workings of their most sensitive code and data to almost anyone with the right qualifications. They'll really have no choice. The alternative is to cease to exist. It would be a perfect opportunity for interests hostile to that organization to either implant bad code or possibly steal data or both. Or they simply could write bad repairs that require inordinate amounts of testing to fix. They could also try to demoralize the legitimate programmers on a daily basis thus slowing the rate of repair. Foreign governments, including some of our "allies", routinely indulge in industrial espionage particularily in the areas of high tech and defense. It's a short step from espionage to sabotage. Not that all this talk of cyber-terrorism gives me the "warm fuzzies". It could easily be the excuse, however valid, the federal government uses to greatly expand domestic surveillance. Given the ever increasing abuse of power and contempt for the Constitution they've been displaying in recent years I'm not exactly optimistic they'll use it wisely. A few of the agencies like the DEA and BATF are actually beginning to scare me. Their power grows and grows while their accountability for their actions is almost nonexistent. Not a good combination.

-- Anon (, June 19, 1998.


I agree with you. My problem with this article was the focus. The author portrayed sabotage and cyber-terrorism as the ONLY real threats from Y2K. If you read the article, he starts off with the optimistic "it won't be much of problem for the economy" position and then goes into the "but malicious programmers can and will cause problems for companies remediating their software" warning. Rogue programmers will likely be a problem; but that aspect of the problem pales in comparison to the REAL problems: the global scope of Y2K, the available time left to correct the problem, and the number of people qualified and available to fix Y2K.

-- Nabi Davidson (, June 20, 1998.

It appears that the article is just the beginning of the "Clean up" story we will be hearing from now on. Niether the Repblicans or the Democrats want to be accused of being asleep at the switch while the y2k monster got closer and closer. For months now we have heard about the "hackers" and the "cyberterrorists" and now the "biological" threat. There is nothing like a good scary outside threat to rally the people around government. When it all happens, as I think it will happen, the government will pin the whole thing on those traditional bad guys. Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians, maybe even those pesky Albanians (a la "wag the dog" movie) When the computers fail, we will be told it was because of attack from foriegn agents. The y2k issue will only be a "coincidence" that perhaps made things just a little bit worse, but the main reason is because of all the baddies in the world who want us to be destroyed. Our only course will be to back up the administration. To do otherwise would be a traitorist act. Who knows, they may even sell war bonds again. They have 18 months to spin the story. They are very good at it.

-- Bill Solorzano (, June 20, 1998.

The spin-cycle actually started March 2, with an article about computer security in the New York Times by Peter Lewis. He noted that corporations are sending code overseas -- Russia and India were singled out -- and then finding clandestine back doors inserted in the "corrected" code when it came back.

Also, has anyone noticed that the two cop-killing survivalists who are the target of that huge manhunt in the Southwest have now been identified as y2k TEOTWAWKI nut cases, as well as adherents of some small-town Arizona Identity Church evangelist. Big story in the weekend Salt Lake City Tribune about them.

-- J.D. Clark (, June 22, 1998.


I found the article to be pretty much as you said in terms of content. That was not my issue.

You post used words like "garbage" and "blather" to describe the article. To me (and it might just be me, but I don't think so) this indicates a mind closed to differing viewpoints and in times of crisis closed minds can be the biggest danger of all.

Okay, the author came to a different conclusion than you did. While it is unfortunate that apparent misinformation is being given wide exposure, that is the price of democracy. Got a problem with free speech? Take it up with your congressman.

Does the fact that his opinion differs from yours mean that there is nothing worthwhile in his article? No. In fact, with the near hysteria some companies and governments are beginning to show regarding Y2K issues, the chance for these sorts of "terrorist" acts increases. Letting any person off the street into you Y2K remediation project could end up being more dangerous than letting the bugs exist on 1/1/2000, but we are seeing more and more compnies and governments hiring anyone who can type a COBOL statement that will compile into their shops and systems. To me, while he missed the main point, the author did hit on something important, and therefore doesn't deserve either of your rash and simplistic labels.

After Wal-Mart had already become one of the largest retail operations in the country, Sam Walton was touring a competitor's store with several of his execs. The store was dirty, poorly run and would soon be closed. However, in the midst of all of that, Walton found one thing that the competitor was doing well. (I don't know what.) Instead of mocking the clearly inferior competitor, Walton instead took the one good thing he found and asked his execs why they wern't doing that thing at Wal-Mart. Even in the midst of what most people would consider "garbage," Walton found a pearl and used it to improve his own business. Do you think this attitude might have any relationship to Walton's success? (Remember, Walton died as the richest man in the country, and his children, even after dividing his estate up, still all rank in the 15 wealthiest people in the country.)

-- Paul Neuhardt (, June 23, 1998.

Actually, I think Paul is right. What better way to get revenge on the US than by destroying our computer systems? Many countries consider us a bully (probably for good reason) and want revenge. There have already been terrorist acts in this country, eg the world trade center bombing. The level of resentment toward the US is badly underestimated.

Ed Yourdon (our protaganist) reports that he is having random problems with this web page. Who's to say someone isn't deliberately causing problems? Somebody may want to break down open communication about the Y2k problem.

-- Amy Leone (, June 23, 1998.

Perhaps you anti-alarmists might find the following interseting. "CIA director Tenet told a Senate panel yesterday that China, Russia and other countries have alsready begun to zero in on the vulnerability of U.S. comemercial computer networks in preparation for any future conflict . He said the magnitude of the threat was "extraordinary" He said, "We know with specificity of several nations that are working on developing an information warfare is clear that nations developing these programs recognize the value of attacking a country's computer systems both on the battlefield and in the civilian arena etc....."if you wnat the full text of this article look at cgi-bin/update.cgi (check out the first article for June 25, 1998

-- Bob Lees (, June 25, 1998.

Uh, er, maybe I should clarify something. I wasn't really talking about shaowy figures in trenchcoats out to sabotauge the national security of the U.S. when I talked about "terrorism." I was actually referring more towards the malicious, "I'm going ot see who I can screw just for the fun of it" types, along with those who deliberately cause problems and then attempt to profit off of their solutions.

Although, given some of the panic that is ensuing in some quarters, it does seem to be getting easier for the trenchcoat crowd to gain admittance...

-- Paul Neuhardt (, June 25, 1998.

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