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A Bug That Could ‘Turn Time Back’ By 1024 Weeks On October 24!

A Bug That Could ‘Turn Time Back’ By 1024 Weeks On October 24!

  • A bug in GPSD may cause clocks and apps relying on it to show a time roll-back of about 1024 weeks and set these devices to March 2002.
GPSD Bug

Don’t be surprised if you ‘time’-travel 19 years back on the coming Sunday (October 24). What might seem like a situation straight out of sci-fi is due to a bug in GPSD that may cause clocks and apps relying on it to show a time roll-back of about 1024 weeks and set these devices to March 2002.

This bug was identified in July this year, and the faulty code (written two years back) has now been fixed. The challenge now is to make sure that every application and device that deploys GPSD has applied the correct patch. GPSD is implemented in applications like Kismet, GpsDrive, gpeGPS, roadmap, LiveGPS, OpenCPN, gpsd-navigator, gpsd-ais-viewer, and Firefox.

Technically termed as GPS Week Rollover, it happens due to the design of the GPS protocol, which is often closely monitored by manufacturers. The first time it happened was on August 21, 1999 (end of Saturday), the second time, it was on April 6, 2019 (end of Saturday). The next occurrence should have happened in November 2038. But the errant code within the GPSD caused it to subtract 1024 weeks on October 24, 2021. This means that the NTP servers using the bugged GPSD version would show the time/date of March 2002.

The affected versions of GPSD are 3.20-3.22. The maintainer of GPSD, Gary E Miller, said that users should upgrade to version 3.23.1 (released on September 21, 2021). The older versions like 3.19 and 3.20 are unsupported and have bugs. Organisations using GPS applications or those which rely on GPSD are recommended to check the corresponding versions. 

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