Paranoid Programming

“Anything that can possibly go wrong, will go wrong.” — Edward Murphy.

This saying is quite evident from the number of system faults and security incidents observed and the cost global economy has incurred to fix these. As per a Symantec study conducted last year, it was ascertained that over 75% of all legitimate websites contain un-patched vulnerabilities. With digital technologies taking over the world, most people and companies today are sitting on millions of data points and security measures to safeguard this data which therefore becomes extremely critical. Cyber security has become one of the most essential focuses for companies and governments alike. And rightly so, in 2016 alone cybercrime cost the global economy upwards of $450 billion and this it expected to go up to $2 trillion by 2019. Therefore securing and monitoring devices, encrypting sensitive data, and building risk mitigation into systems has today become a top priority for everyone.
One of the most pragmatic approaches towards cyber security for any organisation ideally starts from something as basic as the style of programming one uses. With cyber-attacks, hacking and security breaches becoming extremely common, it is imperative that companies and technology experts are prepared for the worst case scenario. This is why the mindset towards paranoid programming among technology companies has gained significant momentum over the last few years. While at the basic level paranoid programming targets bugs in coding but in the long run it creates a cost-effective system that is secure from external and internal threats.
Although some believe in the motto ‘professional programming is paranoid programming’, paranoid programming is in reality much more. As Steve McConnel has rightly said, the whole point of defensive or paranoid programming is guarding against errors you don’t expect.
Paranoid programming is a programming style that tries to prepare for the worst external conditions, including incorrect input, resource limitations along with hardware and software failure to the fullest possible extent. Paranoid coding is another key aspect of paranoid programming, that involves checking and rechecking every input before each computation. Research by found that in 2016, failures and errors in software cost the economy USD$1.1 trillion in assets affecting 4.4 billion customers with more than 315 1/2 years of lost time. Consequently, Paranoid programming practices make sure errors don’t occur that expose your end users to slow, buggy software along with ensuring there is no compromise in the security and safety of your products. It also helps address the developer costs spent on finding and fixing errors and ongoing lost revenue from unsatisfied customers.
To some paranoid programming and coding may seem a little outlandish and unnecessary, as sometimes the codes are can grow to be quite verbose, but keeping in mind that technology companies today are privy to large dumps of confidential and important data, using paranoid programming to protect the data against any vulnerabilities has proved not only necessary, but also cost effective.
The growth and adoption of social media, connected technology and sectors like e-commerce, edtech, foodtech and fintech among others has allowed for constant communication and exchange of information round the clock. This has not only put pressure on companies to ensure the data exchanged is secure but also the consumer experience is seamless with minimum hassle along with being cost effective.
With that in mind, the concepts deployed in paranoid programming come in handy as they can be applied to any aspect of technology ensuring a faultless experience along with ensuring security. As they say, defence is the best offence.
[About the author: Writtey by Mukesh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Lendingkart]

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