Securing Applications & Educating Developers with HackEDU

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Developers, especially at larger companies, need secure coding training. With ever-shifting security and compliance concerns, it can be difficult for companies with even the best engineering talent to provide engineers with the educational tools they need to stay on top of it all. Recognizing the need for online, hands-on secure coding training, Jared Ablon launched HackEDU. Now, as CEO and Co-founder of the lab-based training platform, Jared built a company that helps combat vulnerabilities in software, training engineers how to write more secure code for hundreds of companies around the world through interactive exercises.

HackEDU’s developers needed a way to scale service and find bugs automatically. The team is lean, and since they build training software that helps developers learn to code, they need to build sophisticated, dependable technology. Once customers started joining the platform, they had to support customer needs and didn’t have resources to find and fix issues manually.

Matt Koskela, HackEDU’s CTO and Co-founder, realized that an automated error monitoring solution would identify and help triage issues quickly while keeping code quality high. After an internal recommendation, HackEDU began using Sentry’s application monitoring platform to track errors and fix issues. Since implementation, Sentry has helped HackEDU continue to grow and service large enterprise customers. HackEDU installed Sentry from the second they started onboarding customers.

Filling the End User Gap

Sentry alerts are the only way Matt’s team learns about problems because HackEDU end users rarely report bugs. Since the HackEDU product is a hands-on platform that supports several programming languages it is difficult to fully automate testing.

Sometimes an error in the platform is perceived as part of the course. During a test, a user could encounter a bug that might feel like a part of the test — when in fact it’s an actual bug. This almost guaranteed absence of user report errors makes Sentry a uniquely critical part of the HackEDU development process.

Preventing Custom Build Issues for Large Clients

When your application is built for enterprise customers, missing a single bug can sometimes have an outsized business impact. Sentry has helped HackEDU prevent this problem through automated application monitoring services.

In one case, the HackEDU team built specific features for a large airline customer. These features were unique to this one customer and were behind a feature flag making them hidden to the rest of the user base. The HackEDU team continued to grow its product and build tests for the main product and other features that applied to all customers.

When the airline customer’s contract was renewed, the new features broke reporting functionality behind the feature flag for this customer, because the features weren’t covered in normal test cases. The API had changed, leading to some unhandled React errors on the frontend. Sentry flagged this and alerted the team via a Slack integration. Sentry allowed the developers to quickly reproduce, debug, and fix the issue. According to Jared, “If we weren’t able to catch the error it would have affected thousands of users, caused our customer service to be overwhelmed and it would have hurt our relationship with the customer.”

If we weren’t able to catch the error it would have affected thousands of users, caused our customer service to be overwhelmed and it would have hurt our relationship with the customer.

Leveraging the Ecosystem

Another important aspect of HackEDU’s success with Sentry is the growing ecosystem. Sentry integrates with the tools developers love and need to use. Integrating with Jira, Bitbucket, and Slack allows HackEDU’s lean and efficient team to work on big projects without becoming overburdened by inefficient workflows.

Here’s their blueprint:

  1. Sentry alerts the team via Slack
  2. Investigate issue, view suspect commit, and stack trace in Sentry
  3. Create, assign and prioritize a ticket in Jira
  4. Fix the issue and peer review in Bitbucket
  5. Deploy to production and notify Sentry of new the release

With this lean workflow and tools like Sentry to aid the development process, HackEDU has grown to provide engineering education to large enterprises like Costco and Cisco. Companies now reach out to HackEDU to create custom curriculum and deliver coding lessons. The company is dedicated to addressing compliance and security concerns across different languages and technologies, and with Sentry application monitoring, the team can continue to operate with a lean, creative approach to catching and fixing errors.

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