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Test Management

5 Crucial Steps To Take When There’s a Leak During Beta

August 26, 2015

It’s no secret that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. An information leak during a beta test is something many beta teams dread, but it does happen. When it does it’s important that you’re prepared to handle it. Having a plan of attack in place should a leak pop up is the first step towards being ready. Below you’ll find a list of five crucial steps you should take if a leak happens while you’re in beta.

1. Assess the Scope of the Leak

Not all leaks are equally impactful, so it’s important to build a clear picture prior to taking action. Your first goal should be to assess the situation and find out the scope of the leak. One way to do this is by using Google and social media to search for key terms that would help you identify where exactly your leak is located online, what information is out there, and how far it’s spread. You’ll likely need to try a number of queries using different combinations of terms and phrases. With some basic detective work, you should be able to see the scope of the leak, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

2. Plan Your Response

Once you’ve assessed your leak, you should communicate the results of your search to the group of stakeholders impacted by the leak. This will likely include marketing, public relations, product management, and potentially support and sales. That way, your team can discuss the details of the leak, determine if there is in fact a negative impact, and the possible ways you could respond or manage the fallout. It may be that the leak doesn’t warrant a public response, but just needs to be removed.

3. Deal with Your Testers

You shouldn’t assume that your testers are the source of the leak. Often times the source of leaked information is within your company or one of your partners. Until you know the source, however, you’ll have to address the issue with your beta testers. This usually means suspending your test while you search for the culprit, and could even mean recalling any hardware you have in the field if the leak is particularly egregious.

Explain to your testers what has happened, and how they can be a part of the solution. Remind them about their NDA and the responsibilities that come with it. Emphasize the point that, should the person who committed the violation be willing to help remove the leak, you’ll reopen the test and continue the project. You can also employ your testers to help in the search for the leak’s source. You’d be surprised how eager and resourceful your testers can be in helping your team identify the culprit.

4. Remove the Leaked Info

If your information hasn’t gone viral (which nine times out of ten is the case), your next step is to contact the leak location and request the data be removed. If it’s an industry site or blog, you’ll want to send an email asking them for their help in stopping the leak from spreading. For large sites and search engines, they regularly deal with these types of issues (piracy, copyright infringement), so they have streamlined forms and processes for removing content. In the off chance your information has gone ‘viral’ (i.e. spreading to more than a handful of sites), chances are you’ll have little success in removing everything. Your team’s best strategy would be to focus on how to handle (or even benefit from) the buzz.

5. Find the Source of the Leak

Once you’ve handled the leak, you can switch your focus to discovering the source so you can prevent them from leaking additional information. As we mentioned above, it’s unlikely the leak came from a beta tester. Most of the time leaks come from an employee or partner. With this is mind, your goal is to clear your testers, so they can get back to testing. In the off chance that a tester is the source of your leak, a bit of detective work is usually enough to identify whom it was and you can remove them from this and future tests.

The majority of leaks are small and easy to handle. In the unlikely event a beta tester was the person who was responsible, legal action is rarely a necessity. That said, having an effective process in place for handling information breaches could keep a small problem from growing into a big one. Planning ahead and creating a process for how to handle leaks during beta goes a long way. If you would like more detailed advice on how to keep your beta tests confidential feel free to download our free eBook on beta test confidentiality!

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