July 4th fireworks fiasco in San Diego? Computer virus gets the blame

Filed Under: Featured, Malware

FireworksAs local media reported, hundreds of thousands of people gathered at San Diego Bay on July 4th to see what should have been one of America's biggest Independence Day firework spectacles.

But a computer malfunction meant that the planned 17 minute fireworks display was condensed into a 15 second firestorm.

Confused spectators waited for what they believed was going to be the rest of the show, but were told that the event was cancelled and sent home disappointed.

There are numerous videos of the "Big Bay Boom" event on YouTube, but this is my favourite because of one audience member's reaction at the end of the clip.

Some of the media reports have claimed that a virus was responsible for thousands of fireworks on four barges to be fired at the same time.

News report

Was a computer virus really to blame for the firework farce? I doubt it.

It sounds more like a bug in the code which co-ordinated the firework display, or a mistake in the system's configuration, that caused the pyrotechnics to all explode at once.

But it's so much easier to blame a malware author's code for a computer problem, and brush off some of the responsibility for a screw-up. It's also a lazy explanation for journalists who don't want to trouble readers with more plausible explanations.

So it doesn't surprise me that a virus is being fingered as the culprit for how the "Big Bay Boom" became a Big Bay Bust.

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16 Responses to July 4th fireworks fiasco in San Diego? Computer virus gets the blame

  1. Black A.M · 805 days ago

    Stuxnet 2.0 was designed to reprogram electronic match ignition systems not PLCs, also the programmers wanted to see what the Natanz infection could have looked like.

  2. Mike · 804 days ago

    From the news reports, it sounded like they ran the entire show in test mode first, where all of the fire signals were sent in proper order and timing, and the system verified that the signals were recieved correctly.

    I'm thinking that they didn't reset the system - flush the buffer, as it were. So when they went live and opened the circuit to the live fireworks, the commands were waiting.

    And all went at once. :)

    So not a virus, IMHO, but a technician that didn't follow procedure.

  3. Why not to blame it on Anonymous instead of a Virus?

    • Art Brown · 800 days ago

      I'm surprised Anonymous hasn't taken credit for it yet TBH.

  4. Strikes me someone forgot to calibrate the time for "minutes" and instead did it all in seconds... But surely that should be caught in a test scenario?

  5. Yeah right! Blame it on the computer! Computers only do what they're told!

  6. Mike Plotczyk · 804 days ago

    Maybe it was the Firestorm virus....? ;-)

  7. Davis · 804 days ago

    They obviously did not go off all at once... it just looks like the timing was compressed. You can see the sequence still.

  8. Guy · 804 days ago

    Micosoft software :-) ?

  9. Internaut · 804 days ago

    In a word, GIGO.

  10. A love the guy in the video 'Merica :D Priceless!

  11. Sum Guy · 804 days ago

    I wish i was there to see it. Most fireworks shows suck with only the finally being mediocre at best. This one was awesome. I wish there were more like it. A virus actually did some good for once. This is my opinion on this matter.

    Throw another one for free for the sponsors. Seriously. Ok, do it again but bigger LOL. I think they got more than there moneys worth for this show.

  12. Mario · 804 days ago

    They should have used Mac computers. :)

  13. Guest · 803 days ago

    Love how the guy in the video is heard praising America for the show. What an exquisite illustration of a misinformed mentality.

  14. Black A.M · 803 days ago

    Happy99 had a better display.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.