States From Maine To Oregon Brace For Daylight-Saving Time Computer Bug

State IT leaders have been bombarding subordinates and end-users with memos and bulletins outlining their concerns and detailing courses of action to deal with what's been called a mini-Y2K.
State technology workers across the country are in final preparations to ensure that computer systems controlling everything from benefits payments to transportation systems don't fall victim to this year's early rollover to daylight-saving time.

To ensure that their systems have been updated and patched to deal with the fact that daylight-saving time occurs on March 11 this year -- three weeks earlier than usual -- state IT leaders have been bombarding subordinates and end-users with memos and bulletins outlining their concerns and detailing courses of action to deal with what's been called a mini-Y2K.

"There will no doubt be unintended consequences that cannot be anticipated," warns a brief published this month by the Association of State CIOs, a group that represents state IT chiefs. The association advises its members to "communicate the nature of this issue and the urgency of action to all state agencies."

Indeed, public records culled from a number of states reveal that state technology officials harbor a wide range of concerns about the effect of early daylight-saving time on critical government systems.

In a bulletin issued earlier this month, Kentucky's Commonwealth Office of Technology is urging Bluegrass state tech workers to apply "patches or fixes to any devices having to do with dates or times." The office cautions that the consequences of not doing so could be severe and "may mean more than a missed meeting or appointment -- the entire system could be disrupted."

Among the computer-based services that Kentucky officials fear could be undermined by the daylight-saving bug are e-payments for state services, license applications, medical record notations, and "intelligent transportation systems."

Arkansas officials are equally concerned. In a memo issued to her staff this month, Claire Bailey, acting director for the state's Office of Information Technology, notes that the daylight-saving bug could disrupt "critical systems." Bailey warns that March 11 could bring disruption to the state's databases, servers, firewalls, fax machines, voice mail systems, and interactive voice response systems.

Connecticut technology officials are advising state employees that use Microsoft Exchange calendars to "exercise caution with appointments and meetings in the extended DST period," according to a state issued bulletin.

Oregon technology officials, in a recent memo, promise constituents that "state data center staff are making necessary adjustments to the shared infrastructure" to deal with early daylight saving. But they also are warning state agency heads that the problems created by their computers' inability to automatically roll forward one hour on March 11 could go beyond individual devices and extend to "automated security, surveillance, HVAC [heating, ventilating and air conditioning], and other facility-related systems."

Oregon officials also warn that the switch to early daylight saving could wreak havoc with state networks that use the Kerberos network user authentication protocol. "While typical deployments of these systems allow for some amount of clock skew, authentication can fail in these systems if the clocks are inaccurate," says a memo posted on the state's Web site.

According to a statewide poll, Oregon agency heads on average gave their departments a rating of 3.59 out of a possible 5 in terms of readiness for the daylight-saving bug. "Staffs at the State Data Center and the Oregon Department of Transportation have volunteered to mentor those agencies needing some additional guidance," says another memo, issued earlier this month by the state's Department of Administrative Services.

The Office of Technology in West Virginia issued a bulletin warning its staffers and end-users that, despite DST patches from Microsoft and other vendors, "due to the complexity of the problem, it is very likely that meetings and appointments may be displayed in Outlook or Groupwise at an incorrect time."

IT officials in Maine are warning users to "pay extra attention to all non-recurring meetings and appointments" scheduled in Outlook between March 11 and April 1. In Michigan, users of the state's accounting system are urged to "investigate their automated systems ... for time compatibility," according to a bulletin.

To deal with all of the potential IT problems associated with an early DST, the Association of State CIOs is advising members to have a remediation plan in place, review existing IT asset management data, and perform a thorough compliance inventory on all assets, including desktops, servers, databases, and smartphones, prior to March 11.