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Year 2010 bug wreaks havoc on German payment cards

Son of Y2K also hits SpamAssasin, Symantec

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A delayed Y2K bug has bitten hard at some 30 million holders of German debit and credit cards, making it impossible for them to use automatic teller machines and point-of-sale terminals since New Year's Day.

Multiple news agencies said the outage stemmed from card chips that couldn't recognize the year 2010. The DSGV, an association representing German banks, said engineers were working diligently to fix the problem, but a full resolution might not come until Monday.

The outage affected 20 million EC, or electronic cash, cards, which act as debit cards, and 3.5 million credit cards, according to the DSGV. A separate bank association known as BDB said about 2.5 million of its cards suffered from the same problem and another 4 million cards issued by Germany's cooperative banks were at least partially touched.

The reports are the latest to involve the inability of computers to properly handle the 2010 date. Just after midnight on New Year's Day, Symantec's Endpoint Protection Manager stopped accepting updates after it was hit by its own 2010 date bug. Soon after the first of the year, SpamAssassin began blocking huge amounts of legitimate email because they included the 2010 in their headers, a date so far off the spam filter assumed they had to be junk.

Kaspersky software also experienced massive update problems on December 30, according to support forums, but it's not clear the new year had anything to do with them.

The German payment card snafu hit a variety of banks, although customers of Deutsche Bank reportedly were not affected. More from the AFP and Dow Jones is here and here. ®

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