When tech goes wrong: Major quake alert mistakenly sent to millions across Japan

when tech goes wrong major quake alert mistakenly sent to millions across japan false alarm

At 4.56pm on Thursday, mobile phones across Japan began beeping and vibrating in unison. Millions of train passengers, shoppers, office workers and those at home reached for their device as one.

The message that greeted them was not a good one, especially in a country where memories of the mega-quake and tsunami that struck the country’s east coast two years ago are still fresh in the minds of many.

“I had that ‘here-we-go-again’ feeling.”

Issued by Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) as part of its earthquake early warning system to which anyone can subscribe, the message said a massive quake was imminent in a part of western Japan that includes a large urbanized area home to cities such as Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The system is designed to detect the primary wave of a quake, which, depending on a number of factors, can occur up to 90 seconds before the serious shaking begins.

Train services halted. TV shows were interrupted (video below). Offices ordered workers to prepare for expected violent shaking, while others turned to live TV coverage from Nara – the predicted center of the quake – expecting to see some extremely unsteady news footage.

It must have been a very tense minute or two for those who saw the alert.


But nothing happened. Not even a little wobble.

Tokyo resident Steve Richards was on a packed subway train in Tokyo when everyone’s phone started buzzing.

“All the passengers went for their phones at the same time,” Richards told DT. Reminded of two years ago when alerts were being sent out every day in the weeks after the mega-quake, he felt understandably unsettled when this one came through.

“I thought, ‘what the –?’”, the 41-year-old New Zealander said, adding, “I had that ‘here-we-go-again’ feeling.”


Initial reports said a quake with a magnitude of 7.8 had occurred – strong enough to cause widespread destruction – though later it was stated a 2.3 tremor had taken place, a quake few, if anyone, would’ve felt. So what happened? Why no mega-quake?

“We sincerely apologize for our overestimation”

Red-faced officials from the JMA held a press conference about an hour after the incident explaining that one of its many devices located around the country designed to monitor seismic activity had malfunctioned, blaming “electronic noise” as the cause.

“We sincerely apologize for our overestimation, having caused much trouble to a large population in a wide area,” the JMA’s Toshihiko Hashida told reporters at the press conference, following up with the customary deep bow of apology.

Thinking back to two years ago, Richards said the JMA warnings in most cases resulted in minor shaking or no shaking at all, adding that on some occasions the alert came through after the quake.

Referring to the phone buzz, which would sometimes wake him in the small hours with a fresh alert, he said, “I think that sound of impending doom got me sweating more than the actual shaking.”

Who knows, perhaps yesterday’s false alarm was one alert too many for some, causing them to unsubscribe from the service in the hope of a less nerve-wracking existence.

In its defense, the JMA said it was the first time in three years that it had issued a false alert, and that it was first time it’d done so over such a large part of the country.

[Source: WSJ] [Image: Shibuya TV]

Below: The alert appears during a broadcast on Japanese TV.


Four fake cryptocurrency apps were listed on the Google Play Store

It is a dangerous time to be going after crytocurrency on Android. Four bogus cryptocurrency apps were spotted on the Google Play Store this week, according to a report from cybersecurity researcher Lukas Stefanko. 

What games were nominated for the The Game Awards 2018? Find out here

The Game Awards returns to Los Angeles for its fifth show this December. Here is everything we know about the event, including its location, where you can watch it, and games that were nominated.

Fired Treyarch tester spills ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Zombies’ secrets

A former Treyarch employee revealed numerous Call of Duty: Blacks Ops 4 Zombies secrets. Among the unraveled mysteries were the Viking Boat puzzle in IX and the purpose of the Engine Room valves in Voyage of Despair.

Data stolen from HealthCare.gov includes partial SSNs and immigration status

Around 75,000 users have had their user data stolen from government site healthcare.gov, including information on their immigration status, whether they were pregnant, and partial social security numbers.

Google honors Veterans Day by highlighting military service stories

For Veterans Day, Google is honoring the heroes that served the country with a new Google Doodle that highlights the stories of five veterans from the five different branches of the military.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Will Chrome remain our favorite web browser with the arrival of newest version?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.

Zoom in on famous works through the Art Institute of Chicago’s new website

Art lovers, listen up. The Art Institute of Chicago has given its website a serious makeover with new features that let you get up close and personal with more than 50,000 artworks by famous (and not so famous) artists.

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.

Google’s Squoosh will get an image web-ready with in-browser compression

Google's latest web app development is an image editing and compression tool, Squoosh. In just a few clicks, it can take a huge image and make it much lighter and web-friendly, all in your browser.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.