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Battling Bugs: A Digital Quagmire Print E-mail
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Posted by Benjamin D. Thomas   
Security In 1976, computer pioneer Edsger W. Dijstra made an observation that would prove uncanny: "Program testing can be quite effective for showing the presence of bugs," he wrote in an essay, "but is hopelessly inadequate for showing their absence." Thirty tears later, Dijsta's words have the ring of prophecy. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle, along with open-source projects like Mozilla and Linux, have all instituted rigorous and extensive testing programs, but bugs just keep slipping through. Last month, Microsoft's monthly drop of bug patches included fixes for 14 security holes that escaped prerelease testing, four of them rated "critical."

On Tuesday the company fixed three more Windows bugs, and all three were the same basic genus of bug -- the "buffer overflow" -- that helped spread the first internet worm in 1988. It seems programmers and software architects manage to make the same mistakes generation after generation. Even back in 1988, many of the bugs that haunt us today were already old hat.

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