Twenty years have passed since the Year 2000 Problem

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One of the pandemic consequences has been the adaptation of many companies to a digitized environment. It has caused companies to rethink their cybersecurity protocols. This new challenge has coincided in time with the 20th anniversary of one of the main challenges this sector faced: The year 2000 Problem.

It is also known as the ‘Y2K bug’. It was a computer error caused by the habit of programming the date by omitting the century (generally to save memory space) assuming that the software would only be in operation between 1900 and 1999. There are still many doubts that remain around this issue. For this reason, Check Point Software Technologies, a provider specialized in cybersecurity worldwide, has prepared a summary of how one of the most important milestones of the 20th century took place in the world of computing.

What exactly was the Y2K bug?

The error known as the ‘millennium bug’ originated in the configuration of dates in computer systems. To save memory space, a day/month/year format was used in which two digits were used for each section. In this way, if it was 03/26/98, the system understood that it was referring to 1998.

However, the problem occurred with the arrival of the year 2000, since the computers would interpret the ’00’ as 1900. Therefore, instead of a progressive time, computer systems would go back in time 100 years. It generated a cascade effect that would lead to failures in primary equipment systems.

One of the main debates in society about the ‘Year 2000 Problem’ revolved around whether it was real or not. Some doubted it had been an invention of some IT sector agents interested in obtaining financial gain.

However, the truth is that the millennium’s error was real, and only the actions of governments and cybersecurity experts prevented its consequences.

Using two-digit digits to name the years prevented operating systems from recognizing the turn of the century, leading to all computer networks ceasing to function. 

Can it happen again?

According to Check Point Software, one of the most widely used solutions to combat the 2000 Effect was to change the reference year to 20.

However, more than a solution, it was simply a temporary patch to delay its effects. In fact, on January 1, 2020, the parking meters in New York stopped processing payments, while players of titles such as ‘WWE 2K20’ can only play by updating the date to one of 2019.

On the other hand, the next ‘Y2K bug’ is already on the horizon. It is known as ‘Year 2038 Problem’, and it mainly affects computers under the Unix system (including all Apple’s). They store time as the number of seconds that have passed since 1970. The capacity limit is met in 2038.

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