That's not just a football field; that's five and a half football fields. And all because nobody took the time to punch "Reset."
Multiple Militaries Were Crippled by a Common Windows Virus
You only have to deal with a virus once to know you never want to do it again. Whether it poisoned your whole hard drive or simply hijacked your clipboard so that every time you hit "paste" you wound up inserting racial slurs into your Word document, one frustrating weekend of scans and reboots can convince you to never go without antivirus software again.
And there really is no excuse anyway -- effective and constantly updating antivirus programs are available for download at any time, at no cost whatsoever. So you can only imagine what kind of terrifying state-of-the-art virus blockers the military uses. They probably stop the virus, then automatically launch a drone strike on the virus writer's house.
"Shit, here comes that reporter. Tell her that sometimes houses just explode."
Again, when we talk about the military getting crippled by a virus, we're not talking about the super-terrorist cyber attacks from the movies. We're talking about the same crap your mom catches when downloading some free screensavers and toolbars she got from clicking on a banner ad.
"Oh, honey, look! It says you won something!"
For instance, back in 2011, the unmanned drones at a Nevada Air Force base caught themselves a particularly annoying virus called a keylogger. This thing records every keystroke the infected computer makes and reports it back to its master. This is an easy way to get credit card numbers or bank account information or, in this case, classified information about the military's most important weapon systems (specifically, every keystroke the pilots made while operating the drones).
How is this possible? Well, the drones are controlled with off-the-shelf PCs running Microsoft Windows. In this case, they weren't connected to a network, but they still had to install software, and the external drive somebody brought in to upload it happened to be infected.
But that's nothing compared to what happened to the French navy, who were told weeks in advance of a common spamming virus called Conficker. It was so common that we're betting some of you reading this got this virus back when it was infecting Microsoft systems like wildfire. But while many of you saved yourselves because you saw the headlines (and alerts from Microsoft) warning you to update your antivirus, French officials ignored it. And they paid for it.
Isn't that right, Chad?
The virus shut everything down. Crews were ordered to take everything offline and all communication was done via phone and fax. Fighter jets were completely grounded, as flight plans couldn't be downloaded from the computers that couldn't be turned on.
They weren't alone -- less than a month earlier, the British Ministry of Defense also dealt with Conficker, causing their systems to be down for two weeks. So now we know how the aliens in Independence Day must have felt. Only instead of Jeff Goldblum uploading the code from a hijacked ship, they just caught it by randomly surfing shady websites on Earth's Internet.
Erik Germ runs HugeFrigginArms.com, and thinks it would be awesome if you followed him on Twitter.
For more terrible mistakes, check out The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time and 5 Tiny Computer Glitches That Caused Huge Disasters.