Y2K problems compounded by panic, viruses
October 14, 1999
October 14, 1999
by Kathleen Melymuka
(IDG) -- Just when you thought it was safe to wipe Y2K off your list of worries, new concerns about the millennium are arising. And corporations need to take these concerns seriously, according to analysts at the Gartner Group's Symposium/ITxpo '99.
A primary concern is that an onslaught of crippling computer viruses may ring in the new millennium. The specter of multiple viruses unleashed simultaneously as the calendar turns could potentially cause more disruption than any Y2K issue.
Worldwide, tens of thousands of such threats have been recorded by state departments, law enforcement agencies, and others, according to a panel of Gartner Y2K analysts.
And despite years of Y2K preparations, this latest threat is catching most corporations off guard.
In the event of an outbreak, analysts say, don't make the mistake of relying on the Internet as a source of information. "Be very, very careful about rumors and misinformation on the Internet that could cause you to take unnecessary preventive action," says Kyte. "A rumor can be a virus, too."
A second potential problem could leave confident corporations scrambling far into the new year, they say. While more than 90 percent of U.S. companies plan to have extra staff on site to deal with changeover problems, those crews are scheduled for only a few days to a few weeks, after which many expect Y2K problems to have abated.
But companies could need additional Y2K troubleshooters throughout the entire year. In fact, Gartner predicts that after a New Year's week spike of more than twice the normal number of computer failures, the failure rate will remain at more than 50 percent above average throughout the year.
Another imponderable is the effect of public panic. A September survey of 14,000 people indicated that misguided personal preparation activities could cause more disruption than "real" Y2K issues.
For example, 55 percent of respondents said they plan to withdraw two to six weeks' worth of cash from their banks, and 14 percent will withdraw even more. Sixty-five percent intend to modify their stock investments, and 67 percent will be stocking up on more than a week's worth of food.
The fear is that these types of activities will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, initiating just the kinds of problems people are trying to safeguard against.
"The telecommunications industry is in pretty good shape," Marcoccio says, "but if people are going to be picking up the phone every five minutes to see if they can still get through, that could cause problems."
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