Why it matters: A buggy Windows update might be annoying, but it doesn’t quite invoke the fear of hearing that hundreds of suspected and former criminals being monitored by the police suddenly fell off the radar. Unfortunately, that was the case on Thursday when a buggy update accidentally made its way to ankle monitors in the Netherlands, severing communication between the devices and police.
“As a result of a software update, a disruption occurred in data traffic during the electronic monitoring of ankle bands [on May 9th]. The system is now operational again,” Dutch officials said on May 10th. “All ankle strap wearers are in view. We are working hard to make the system 100 percent stable again.”
The update rolled out sometime on May 7th in the morning, and every ankle monitor was rendered useless. It’s unknown exactly how many people were being monitored, but figures released in 2017 suggested an average of 700 people per day have ankle monitors on.
With no other choice, police were forced to pre-emptively arrest anyone they considered dangerous and locked them up in police stations. They haven’t been released as of writing. Less dangerous suspects were called and asked to check in to a police station, and those under house arrest received several surprise visits to check on their location. Additionally, past victims and their families were told to be on alert as police couldn’t guarantee their safety.
While everything is back to normal now, it’s not yet known if any criminals used the brief window to escape or cut off their ankle monitors, though it’s unlikely given the low chance of them realizing this anyway.
This incident isn’t the first of its kind, as ZDNet points out, Netherlands police lost contact with 450 ankle monitors last August during a network outage. The same thing happened to 750 monitors in Australia last May, though this may be the first time an erroneous update has been the cause.