What Is Bug in Software?

A bug is an error in the program code of the software. It has various effects, ranging from undesired behavior to the complete malfunction of an application or a device controlled by software. Already in the development phase, programmers try to find and eliminate bugs. Fixing a bug is called bug fixing.

What is a bug in software?

A bug is a common term in the IT environment for an error in the program code of the software. Literally translated, “bug” means “bug,” “insect,” or “creepy-crawly.” According to some sources, the term derives from an incident in the 1940s in which insects in the form of moths disrupted the functioning of relays in computers, some of which were still mechanical. In recent decades, the term has become established as a kind of figurative expression for various types of program errors.

Bugs have different effects from undesired behavior over errors in the program output up to the complete malfunction of an application or a device controlled by software. As a rule, bugs are not simple syntax errors, but logical errors in the program code. Bugs can affect applications, operating systems, hardware drivers, services, web services, plant controls, and other software-based systems. The recording and documentation of bugs take place with the help of so-called bug trackers.

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The different types of bugs

Depending on the type, occurrence, and impact of a bug, different types are distinguished. A functional bug is a program error that has an impact on certain functions of a program. Runtime bugs occur during the sequential execution of the program code and affect the program logic. Design bugs are fundamental errors already in the design of the basic concept of software.

Another type of bug is the regression bug. It occurs after a bug fixing already occurred in a later program version again. Beyond that bugs exist, which concern the user interface or the representation.

Possible consequences of a bug

The consequences of the different types of bugs are various. They range from slight malfunctions or undesirable behavior to sudden program crashes and complete malfunction and unusability of a software or application.

Under certain circumstances, the effects are serious if devices or machines are controlled with bug-infected software. This can lead, for example, to the complete failure of production plants, crashes of airplanes, or accidents in autonomous driving and cost human lives or cause immense economic damage.

Searching for bugs and fixing them with a bug fix

Due to the negative consequences of a bug, attempts are already made in the development phase to find, fix and minimize program errors. For this purpose, debuggers or special tools for code analysis and the identification of errors in the program code are used, for example. In addition, companies often use so-called bug bounty programs to find errors or vulnerabilities in software.

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These programs reward the finder of a bug with cash or non-cash prizes. The bugs are fixed with the help of so-called bug fixes or patches. Bug fixes are installable software packages that eliminate the error in the affected program part of a software. One speaks of a hotfix if it is a very urgent and important bugfix.