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Cover image for What gives you a false sense of certainty/security/...?

What gives you a false sense of certainty/security/...?

While driving on a small family trip this Sunday, my father remarked that advisory bike lanes (see image above) give people a false sense of safety. Advisory bike lanes similar to normal bike lanes, but they're painted on a road that would normally be too narrow to have them. The idea is that cars in both directions use the space between the lanes, but may move into the bike lanes to pass cars going in the opposite direction.

Anything that looks like a bike lane makes a cyclist feel like it's a separate lane on the road, so they're safe. They don't think about the possibility of a car moving into their lane.

This got me thinking, are they other things, especially in the tech industry at large, that feel like they have a positive impact on security, productivity, company culture, .. but don't? I think these things can often even do damage, because we just assume their benefit is there.

Top comments (12)

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

Honestly, Unit tests. Based on the assumption that ๐Ÿ’ฏ% coverage was achieved, how many of those tests are actually testing what they are meant to test, and what does that mean for the coverage statistic.

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stickwarslit profile image
Nora Del Rosario

Unit tests are good at proving that the program does what the programmer says it's going to do

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

Precisely, as humans make mistakes, tests also may be prone to the same (I am pro TDD to be clear, but this is always in the back of my mind).

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reergymerej profile image
แด™ษ˜ษ˜แด™gYmษ˜แด™ษ˜j

Coverage is the biggest feel good fraud.

expect(() => foo.bar())).toThrow()

That counts as coverage, but it's (probably) useless.

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firozansari profile image
Firoz Ansari

I totally agree. Unit tests are another false sense of security. Having 100% code coverage does not guarantee a working functionality.

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett • Edited on

So the answer is use humans to review code. But who really trusts humans to code, that's why we have tests?

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_bigblind profile image
Frederik ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ปโžก๏ธ๐ŸŒ Creemers Author

There's an infinite number of things a piece of code could be doing, and in general tests only test that code does the things we want. But there's another infinity of things we don't want that code to do, that we're not testing for. As I'm learning more about how brittle and hard to understand large and complex systems are, the more I see the value of fuzzing, or property-based testing for smaller pieces of it.

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dezfowler profile image
Derek Fowler

Some less tech focussed ones...

Having a "permanent" job. No job is 100% secure.

Working in a big company. Once a company is big enough that you don't know everyone by name and what they all do there's a false sense of security that it must be part of someone's job to look after that important thing e.g. renewing the SSL certificates.

Job titles. Just because someone is a senior this or a principal that or a director of the other doesn't necessarily mean they know what they're doing.

Paying for something. If there's a license fee to pay that must mean the thing is better, more reliable, more secure, etc, right?

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briwa profile image
briwa • Edited on

Sorry for going slightly off-topic... IMO anything with a purpose technically can give us a false sense of security. Bike lanes make us think that it's always safe to ride bikes on it, which in fact it's not. Automated testing makes us think that the code is always foolproof and bug-free, while in fact it's not (depending on how you write them, the rest of the processes, PR review sessions, etc).

Maybe we should instead lower down our expectations? When you ride your bike on a bike lane, you know that it should be safe to some degree, but not always, but of course you would always still have to keep an eye of your surrounding, regardless of whether you're on a bike lane or not, and same goes for the rest of the people on the road. When you're using a code with 100% coverage, you know that you have the confidence to ship/refactor the code to some degree, but not always, so that you would still need to stick to best practices, improve the code over time, paying the most attention in PR reviews, regardless of whether the test is doing its job or not.

Furthermore, making less assumption is also critical. If you're not sure about what degree of security one can give us, ask, or do some research. That way, you know what you're signing up for.

Just my two cents.

TL:DR; We get false sense of security IMO because we didn't know enough and/or we expected too much.

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