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7 Real-Life Business Disasters That Could Have Been Avoided with Test Automation

7 Real-Life Business Disasters That Could Have Been Avoided with Test Automation

October 3, 2023
Isabel Hendrix

Did you know that an entire Mars Orbiter was lost in space due to shoddy integration testing? And hundreds of lives may have been saved in 2018 and 2019 if an aircraft maker had better software glitch detection? 

Hey, we’re not trying to focus on the negative, but these real-life examples of catastrophes that could have been avoided with test automation provide a very real learning opportunity. From Target to NASA to the federal government, the following list highlights the power of test automation in bringing peace of mind to the modern company and consumer. These unfortunate stories illustrate the limitations of manual testing, and how old-fashioned human error can happen even at the largest of companies. That's why we rely on machines, folks! 

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In this blog, we take a look at some of these major failures and pinpoint the exact type of testing that would have prevented the error that led to the failure. 

1. Knight Capital Group lost $440 Million in 45 minutes in 2012 due to a software glitch.

What testing would have prevented this?

Automated regression testing would have saved the day for Knight Capital! The problem came from a faulty software update that was not comprehensively tested. Test automation allows for effective regression testing that is not subject to human error. 

Explore more about regression testing here.

2. Equifax's Data Breach exposed the private information of 147 million people.

What testing would have prevented this?

Equifax is one of the biggest credit reporting agencies on the planet, and in 2017 they faced a nightmare of a breach that leaked data from millions of people. Automated security testing could have prevented this breach. Manual testing is simply not fast or effective enough to keep up with today's pace of change in business. Equifax's breach came from a vulnerability in open-source software that was not patched. Automated security testing could have scanned for this weakness and alerted system administrators.

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3. Two Boeing 737 Max airplanes crashed in 2018 and 2019 because of faulty software.

What testing would have prevented this?
Even an incredibly successful company like Boeing experienced a failure related to software quality. Overall automated testing for daily business processes and maintenance may have detected the critical flaws in the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) that caused the deadly failures.

4. NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter was lost in space in 1999, costing them $125 million and causing reputation damage.

What testing would have prevented this?
Guess what this was caused by? A unit conversion error between metric and imperial units. What a basic error to take out an entire Orbiter! Automated integration testing could have uncovered this discrepancy, potentially saving the mission. 

Read more about integration testing here

5. Target's 2013 Data Breach exposed the credit card information of millions of customers to hackers.

What testing would have prevented this?

Automated security testing could have identified these vulnerabilities, allowing Target to patch them before cybercriminals exploited them.

6. The launch in 2013 was marred by technical glitches and outages, causing public frustration and political backlash.

 What testing would have prevented this?

Robust end-to-end testing and load testing via automation could have ensured a smoother rollout and averted this PR disaster. 

7. The 2018 TSB Bank IT Meltdown: Millions of customers were locked out of their accounts, and the bank suffered lasting damage to its reputation. 

What testing would have prevented this?
Extensive automated testing, including regression and performance testing, would have uncovered issues before the update went live.

Well, there you have it. Manual testing simply cannot close the gap every single time when it comes to complex software, and that’s why test automation was invented and has proliferated so quickly.

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