Google Docs recently had a bug that allowed about 0.05% of documents to be inappropriately shared. (Even though 0.05% is a small percentage, it’s a potentially large number.) Let’s ignore the fact that this is Yet Another Major Incident Involving Google. Forget for the moment that, as Google attains the status of being the universal hard drive, these kinds of breaches make anything that goes wrong with a desktop or server OS look minor in comparison. Instead, let’s turn our attention to why this is a good lesson for developers.

The lesson is that a “minor” mistake that probably should have been caught in QA looks a lot worse when it is deployed to a cloud scenario compared to a more traditional deployment. In a traditional deployment, the customer’s response is, “Well, that means folks inside of the firewall could have accessed this, but in general, we trust our employees, so it isn’t so bad,” even though employees aren’t always so trustworthy. But when it happens in the cloud, the reaction is, “Sweet niblets! Kevin Mitnick has been reading my financial information!” And it makes sense. When someone we know accidentally gets access, we feel safe. When the general public gets access, we feel violated.

Of course, it’s easier to learn these lessons by watching Google than to duplicate the mistakes yourself.


Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.


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