4 disastrous times businesses could have used a QA tester

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Posted by Brian Borg

They may not look like it at first glance, but QA testers are real-life superheroes. They’re all that stands between order and chaos, holding back hordes of bugs from reaching your software’s users.

While preventing buggy applications from reaching consumers isn’t as exciting as stopping a runaway train or battling a supervillain, there are plenty of examples that prove just how impactful QA testing can be. In some cases, it’s even a matter of life and death.

Here are four disastrous times that businesses could have used a QA tester.

1. Facebook’s user data breach

In September 2018, Facebook discovered that their security measures had a loophole. 50 million user accounts were compromised, forcing the social media giant to issue an official statement:

‘…it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code…This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts.’

What’s interesting about this data breach (aside from the massive scale) is the fact that the ‘hackers’ didn’t have to do too much hacking to get in. Facebook acknowledged that it was an oversight in their own code that caused the issue. With more rigorous security testing, there’s a chance it could have been avoided.

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2. Boeing’s ill-fated 737 Max

Boeing’s now-infamous 737 Max became a household name for the wrong reasons after two tragic crashes in 2019. 346 people died, and major investigations were undertaken to find out what went wrong.

Those investigations found that the plane’s MCAS software was at fault, along with improper pilot training on its use from Boeing, and lax tech regulation from the Federal Aviation Administration. Three more serious bugs have been discovered in the plane’s software since the crash, as Boeing plans to get the 737 Max airborne again.

The airplane manufacturer has been criticized for using outdated computers and buggy software, without the right testing.

3. An Amazon AWS outage

A four-hour AWS outage may not sound all that serious, but in March 2017 it made a serious dent in the economy. The incident affected hundreds of websites and services from Slack to Venmo, and is estimated to have cost S&P 500 companies $150 million.

What was behind the $37,500,000-an-hour outage? A typo. An AWS employee was (ironically) fixing a bug when they made the mistake.

Human error is unavoidable, even amongst QA testers. What safeguards against situations like these are watertight development and testing processes, implemented by experienced engineers.

4. World of Warcraft’s ‘blood virus’

Here’s a more lighthearted software disaster to round things out, but one that no doubt caused some genuine grief. In what’s now known as ‘the corrupted blood incident’, WoW developers introduced ‘Hakkar the Soulflayer’, a new enemy that could infect players’ blood and slowly drain their health.

This was supposed to be contained to a specific in-game area, but a bug meant that players’ pets contracted the disease and spread it throughout the online game, killing thousands of beginner characters instantly. The issue was eventually fixed by developers, but it has gone down in history as one of the most impactful videogame bugs of all time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this virtual pandemic is a hot topic at the moment.

The value of a QA tester

While it’s unlikely that your application will accidentally give thousands of gamers a digital virus or cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars, QA testing’s impact scales to the software it’s applied to. It plays just as important a role for small web applications as it does for global social media platforms, because it’s intrinsic to the success of both.

Without a tireless QA tester on the front lines, your software is at risk. Period.

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