Bachelor and Master Theses

Title: An Empirical Exploration in the Study of Software-Related Fatal Failures
Subject: Computer Science
Level: Basic
Description: Background
Software technology has a major impact in our modern society. In recent years software found its way into almost every part of our everyday life. From helping in household chores and heavy industrial production to international transportation and advanced military defensive systems. Accidents caused by software problems or the improper use of software are not that uncommon as we might think. In many of these cases lethal injuries and deaths might unfortunately occur. For example, in 1986, a software-related failure caused the death of several people because of overdoses from radiation. The main fault was a software error in the relationship between the data entry routine and the treatment monitor task of the therapy machine [1].

Goal (s)/ Problem(s)
Although there is some research conducted in this area [2], software-related failures are not that well studied as they should be. In order to understand the patterns and specific causes of failures we need to build some overall record containing the factors that are directly influencing these accidents. In this thesis we are reviewing fatal software-related failures, spanning from 1970 to the present day, by looking at the Risks Reports in the Association for Computing Machinery's Software Engineering Notes. This thesis provides an empirical basis for investigating fatal software failures that will attempt to place these failure examples in the context of a wider record and answer the following question: What are the causes of such accidents?
While observing and studying the causes of these accidents, we are also looking at what the major cause of software related failures is.

A research methodology is a systematic method that fulfills a certain research objective. Our research is performed using an exploratory systematic review study. Which means that data and information will be collected using the reports in the Association for Computing Machinery’s Software Engineering Notes. In addition we will use and examine other sources to cross-check our findings. The collected data will be reviewed and analyzed. Finally the analysis results will be reported in terms of tables, plots and descriptive statistics.

Expected Outcome(s)
The outcome of this thesis will be a systematic empirical study on software-related failures. The resulted data will be analysed with an emphasis on the nature of the main fault that caused the failure. The results of the thesis will show the different causes of accidents due to software-related failures. The thesis will also establish a basis for future investigations into fatal accidents caused by software-related failures.

Initial Timeplan
Initial time plan is divided in the following moments:
Background Research:: March 28, 2016 - April 4, 2016 (approximately 1 week)
Related work
Research and Collection of the Data: April 4, 2016 - April 20, 2016 (approximately 2 weeks)
Analyzing and Processing of the Data: April 26, 2016 - May 10, 2016 (approximately 2 weeks)
Report writing: April 26, 2016 - May 22, 2016 (approximately 4 weeks)
Presentation Preparation: May 25, 2016- June 1, 2016 (approximately 5 days)

A limitation of the results presented in this thesis, is that the reports which are going to be reviewed are written only in English, which means that other failures that are reported in other languages than English are not taken into consideration at all and will probably not be used in the research as it will be difficult to discover them and also draw accurate information.
The partial use of unreliable sources, which could include non-scientific information about software-related failures [2], are also a limitation of the results of this thesis. Finally, this thesis is considering “software-related fatal failures” using a non-strict definition of the relation between software and the caused failure, which also could influence the interpretation of the results [2]. This means that investigated cases are only following the definition given in the thesis.


[1] Leveson, Nancy G., and Clark S. Turner. "An investigation of the Therac-25 accidents." Computer 26.7 (1993): 18-41.

[2] MacKenzie, Donald. "Computer-related accidental death: an empirical exploration." Science and Public Policy 21.4 (1994): 233-248.
Prel. end date: 2016-06-15
Presentation date: 2016-06-03
Student: Nikolaos Sycofyllos
IDT supervisor: Eduard Paul Enoiu, +46-21-101624
Examinator: Daniel Sundmark
Daniel Sundmark, +46-21-103145

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2016-08-03, 11:23

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