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07 December 2007

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Gary Hinson

Hi Harry.

Working as an IT auditor reviewing software development projects, I've often been through the arguments about using (hopefully a copy of) real live data for testing. The developers typically argue that real data is the ultimate testbed. I usually argue that real data is too valuable and often too sensitive, and normally lacks all the test cases that are needed. I believe that, to obfuscate real data or create realistic test cases, the architects and developers need to truly understand the data structures, and getting to that level of knowledge is in itself a valuable part of the process, but usually the project managers veto such ideas saying it's too expensive :-(

I've upped the ante a few times by insisting that if the developers/testers are going to use real data, then the entire development and testing environment must be secured to the same degree as the primary database system, complete with tight access control and personal accountability through individual accounts and traceability/auditability, which obviously goes against the grain for most development teams.

I'd be interested, though, to find examples of situations where development or test environments containing real data have been hacked. That would lend weight to my cause in persuading management.

Kind regards,
Gary

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