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How to Break Software: A Practical Guide to Testing W/CD 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0201796193
ISBN-10: 9780201796193
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Practical tutorial on how to actually do testing by presenting numerous "attacks" you can perform to test your software for bugs.


* Practical approach has little or no theory, but shows real ways effectively test software—accessible to beginners and seasoned testers.
* The author is well known and respected as an industry consultant and speaker.
* Uses market leading, and immediately identifiable, software applications as examples to show bugs and techniques.
How to Break Software is a departure from conventional testing in which testers prepare a written test plan and then use it as a script when testing the software. The testing techniques in this book are as flexible as conventional testing is rigid. And flexibility is needed in software projects in which requirements can change, bugs can become features and schedule pressures often force plans to be reassessed. Software testing is not such an exact science that one can determine what to test in advance and then execute the plan and be done with it. Instead of a plan, intelligence, insight, experience and a "nose for where the bugs are hiding" should guide testers. This book helps testers develop this insight. The techniques presented in this book not only allow testers to go off-script, they encourage them to do so. Don't blindly follow a document that may be out of date and that was written before the product was even testable. Instead, use your head! Open your eyes! Think a little, test a little and then think a little more. This book does teach planning, but in an "on- the-fly while you are testing" way. It also encourages automation with many repetitive and complex tasks that require good tools (one such tool is shipped with this book on the companion CD). However, tools are never used as a replacement for intelligence. Testers do the thinking and use tools to collect data and help them explore applications more efficiently and effectively.

James A. Whittaker is a well-known speaker and consultant, as well as seasoned professor.

About the Author

James A. Whittaker is a well-known speaker and consultant, as well as seasoned professor.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 1 edition (May 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780201796193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201796193
  • ASIN: 0201796198
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is part of the new wave of testing books that challenge not only the conventional wisdom about test process, but also challenge conventional wisdom about how to teach and write about testing. People who prefer testing textbooks that preach paperwork and process will be shocked, shocked, to discover that there are a lot of us who think it's a tester's job to find important bugs fast. We want books that give us strategies for actually finding problems. Paperwork and process help some, but not enough. We need something more. We need test-designer-sits-down-at-the-keyboard know-how.
As a test designer, myself (and a competitor of Whittaker's) I can certainly find things to nitpick about this book. But I won't do that here, because the big picture is far more important. That picture is simply this: if you are confused about what to do to uncover problems in software before it ships, EVEN IF you have no specifications to test from and EVEN IF no one listens when you rant about "quality assurance processes" they should follow, then there are only a few testing books yet published that will help you. This is one of them.
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Format: Paperback
Don't let the title or description fool you into thinking this is a book about ad hoc playing with applications with a goal to break them. In reality the book gives a structured approach to finding vulnerabilities in software. These vulnerabilities are weak points commonly found in software, and should be included in any test suite.
The vulnerabilities are classified by a fault model, then the book systematically walks you through the procedures used to attack and break the software. Each vulnerability type is addressed:
User Interface
- inputs and outputs, with 6 attacks for breaking common input flaws and 4 for output flaws.
- data and computation, with 3 attacks against stored data and 3 against computation and feature interaction.
System Interface
- 3 media-based and 3 file-based attacks against the file system.
- how to test the application/operating system interface.
The book also comes with a Windows application that helps you to create the hostile environment with which to 'attack' the software being tested. Therein lies the sophistication of the book, which employs fault injection as a technique. This technique is not commonly used in any but the most advanced testing environments, which raises this book's credibility from ad hoc to a serious approach to software engineering. More importantly, it provides test professionals, especially those who are testing Windows applications, a catalog of common vulnerabilities to address. More importantly, it teaches test professionals to approach parts of the testing process from an exploitation point of view - after all, their job is to break the software.
My initial misgivings about this book vanished as soon as I started reading it, and were replaced by enthusiasm by the time I was finished. This book addresses a niche topic, but deserves a place in every software testing library.
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Format: Paperback
I acquired this book as part of a training exercise from my current company. I figured since I used Amazon reviews largely to decide which books to purchase for that it would be good to leave some in return.

When I graduated college, I told myself I'd never again pick up a school book without good cause because they are largely terrible reads and can be very difficult outside of a school setting both because there's no professor and no drive. When I found out that "How to Break Software" was written by a college professor for his students I was skeptical. However, I found it to be a very good read. Professor Whittaker writes in a very easy to read style with the references to self and social aspects that I enjoy as well as incorporate in my own writing (despite what I was taught in college;)). His examples are simple and easy to understand I imagine for novice or veteran testers.

Unfortunately, this is where my use of the book and enjoyment of the book ended. I've been working in the QA/QC industry for about 7 years now. After the introduction, I found most of the chapters to be more of a synopsis of good practices than teaching me anything. This is fine for school kids who know little to nothing about testing or for people just getting into QA; however I did not find it particularly useful as a veteran which is contrary to the disclaimers in the introduction as well as the snips about the book on the covering. This feeling lasted until about the time they introduced the Canned HEAT and Holodeck applications which I found interesting and was excited to use. That is until I saw the examples they gave and I realized that if I used them in my current workplace I would be testing the web browsers and operating system more than I would be testing the application itself.
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Format: Paperback
I think that this is an exceedingly useful book.
Most books that purport to be about testing are really about something else. They're generally about planning, or process, or mathematics, or graph theory. Often, they're about making models of software so that you can demonstrate that there are indeed jillions of paths through a given piece of software--hardly news to anyone who's bothered to think about it for a while. Sometimes they're about the underlying theory of the thing you're supposed to be testing, such as "Web applications" or "security". All of these are useful things to think about, to be sure. Many of these books are large, and this one is small. I would venture to say, though, that few books talk about actual bugs as much as this one does, and provide such entertaining, cringeworthy examples.
This book is about testing, and it's about thinking about testing. It provides a set of theories of error, and follows these with worked-out examples of using those theories of error to find bugs in real software. What a concept.
In some reviews of this book, you'll find pious pronouncements about process; you'll see one that complains that this book doesn't have anything about testing J2EE applications; or that this book somehow applies only to Microsoft software. Those reviews all represent valid points of view, equivalent to the valid point of view that Moby Dick is a book about a big fish.
Some of the information presented is quite basic. Mind, as a tester, testing trainer, and user of software, I've seen a lot of software--a LOT of software--not Microsoft products, some written in Java, built with well-defined process... but some pretty basic bugs. Mission to Mars, anyone?
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