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Technician Accidentally Erases Billions

While most office workers will admit to making mistakes on their computer in the routine hustle and bustle of a workweek, it's doubtful many make a $38 billion mistake. One computer technician in Alaska knows how it feels to hit the wrong key on a computer and create a costly debacle.

A worker at the Alaska Department of Revenue deleted all the crucial information for an oil-funded sales account worth $38 billion. The technician was performing routine computer maintenance—reformatting the disk drive of the computer—when he mistakenly reformatted the back-up disk drive as well. All the data disappeared quicker than one can say, "Oops!"

When the department realized the mistake, they immediately went to the back-up tapes, which are updated nightly. Unfortunately, they were all unreadable. With one click of the Enter key, nine months of information was gone, including 800,000 electronic images that had been scanned into the system. The worst-case scenario had occurred, and the only backup was the paperwork itself (stored in over 300 cardboard boxes). Over 70 employees worked nights and weekends to re-enter all the lost data, costing the state over $200,000 in overtime pay and consulting fees.

Sometimes one seemingly innocent "oops" costs more than one can imagine.

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