The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Volume 11 Issue 32

Thursday 21 March 1991


o A further lesson from DeTreville's cautionary tale
Alan Wexelblat
o Another anecdote about automatic transfer systems
Ken Mayer
o Re: "What the laws enforce"
Bob Johnson
Ernesto Pacas-Skewes
o Re: California, driving, and privacy, again
Caveh Jalali
Flint Pellett
Jurjen NE Bos
o Re: Pilot Error - an impartial assessment?
Christopher Stacy
o Fast Food and locked cash registers
Jonathan Leech
o RISKS of digital voice forgery exaggerated
Fernando Pereira
o Report on ACM's position on privacy
Barbara Simons
o ISM Workshop Announcement
Brian S. Hubbard
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

A further lesson from DeTreville's cautionary tale (RISKS-11.30)

Thu, 21 Mar 91 14:57:16 est
One important lesson that John might have noted was:
    - Use Paper and Pencil.

Long ago I learned that people will try to fix obvious problems before they
read their email.  Therefore, whenever I report a serious problem by email, I
also leave handwritten notes taped to the appropriate doors and keyboards so
that anyone who sits down to fix the problem will see my note and be aware that
something is not as they expect.

Of course, this is not perfect, as physical notes are sometimes not seen or are
ignored, but it has saved me many times when email didn't work or wasn't read
until "too late."

--Alan Wexelblat, Bull Worldwide Information Systems  phone: (508)294-7485

Another anecdote about automatic transfer systems

Ken Mayer <>
Wed, 20 Mar 91 12:25:25 -0500
Several years ago, when I began working for a new employer, I was given the
option of direct deposit for my weekly paycheck. I also opted to have a certain
amount of money transferred to my savings account from my checking account on a
monthly basis. Due to a clerical error, the automatic transfer started one
month earlier than I expected causing undo embarassment when many of my checks
bounced.  When I complained (not only was I billed overdraft charges, I had to
pay a returned check fee at my other bank, one of my credit card carriers and
the electric company), the bank droid shrugged her shoulders and said
(basically), "Tough luck, bozo."

Infuriated, I immediately closed my account and took my business elsewhere.

Here's where things get interesting: Even though the account was closed, the
automatic transfer was not turned off! Every month for the next two YEARS I
received a statement from this bank from hell that my account was overdrawn, my
automatic savings transfer did not go through and I will be billed for
insufficient funds. Every quarter I got a letter stating the my account balance
was negative and I should call the local branch to straighten it out. Speaking
with the bank the bank manager, I got a lot of apologies, and explanations how
the computer needed the right incantation and he didn't know it. (He really was
a nice fellow, it was just that this particular bank's data processing system
was written before electric power was popular.)

The letters stopped coming when I moved to another state.

Ken Mayer, Technical Support Engineer, Visix Software Inc. 703.758.8230

Re: "What the laws enforce" (TK0JUT1, RISKS-11.30)

CDC Contractor Bob Johnson;SCSS; <>
Wed, 20 Mar 91 11:35:39 -0600
Begging your pardon, but there is a great difference between trespassing
on my property and breaking into my computer.  A better analogy might be
finding a trespasser in your high-rise office building at 3 AM, and learning
that his back-pack contained some tools, some wire, a timer and a couple of
detonation caps.  He could claim that he wasn't planting a bomb, but how
can you be sure?  As a prudent office-building-owner, wouldn't you call in
the police bomb squad, and deny access to the tenants until the whole
building had been inspected and been declared safe?

My system has over 2,000 users, and well over 70,000 files.  When we have a
breakin (and we have had a couple), how much time is it going to cost me to do
a complete audit of the operating system executables and configuration files,
have all the users change their passwords and inspect their files for damage,
analyze the intruder's activity and plug the security hole, document the
intrusion for law enforcement agencies, and pursue prosecution (if we so
decide)?  Just counting the direct cost of manpower, the sum involved is many
thousands of dollars.  Under federal law (as I understand it) - any breakin
that causes more than $5,000 of damage is a FELONY.  This includes the
incidental costs mentioned above.  I am for making the penalties for computer
trespass extremely painful to the perpetrator.  Perhaps in this fashion we can
encourage these people to find a more productive use of their time, and can
avoid the cost of cleaning up and verifying our systems after these events.

Most administrators who've had to clean up and audit a system of this size
probably think that a felony rap is too light a sentence.  At times like that,
we tend think in terms of boiling in oil, being drawn and quartered, or maybe
burying the intruder up his neck in an anthill.

Re: "What the laws enforce" (Leveson, RISKS-11.31)

Tue, 19 Mar 91 16:23 CST
In RISKS 11.31, Nancy Leveson takes exception apparently to my "analogy" of
computer hacking to trespassing on grass and argues with passion that computer
trespass is uncool. Sorry, but that analogy wasn't mine, and I was responding
to it.  The point isn't whether we approve or disapprove of hacking or computer
trespass. Most of us agree it's at best tacky, at worst dangerous.  Most of us
agree that some social response is needed to both proactively and reactively
curtail trespass and other predatory behavior in all its forms.  The question
is what are the most appropriate legal responses to computer trespass and what
are the problems with current attempts to invoke criminal penalties for it?

Those of us who have followed the recent secret service cases are concerned
with the application of comfortable legal definitions to new forms of offense
for which those laws may not be appropriate. The current metaphor of hacking as
"home entry" and applying sanctions comparable to B&E seem neither accurate nor
just. Equating credit card fraud and other forms of rip-off with hacking only
adds to the confusion.  By accepting the trend to apply former metaphors to new
conditions, we risk setting precedents that affect how computer behavior,
access to information, and other emerging problems faced by computer hobbyists
will be handled in the coming decades.

Few objected to the enactment of RICO laws, and fewer still to the laws
allowing confiscation of property of drug suspects. The attitude seemed to be
that harsh measures were justified because of the nature of the problem. Yet,
those and similar laws have been expanded and applied to those suspected of
computer abuse as we see in the cases of Steve Jackson Games, RIPCO BBS, the
"Hollywood Hacker," and others have been raided under questionable
circumstances. The Hollywood Hacker illustrates some of these problems. Stuart
Goldman, an investigative journalist, appears to have been set up and caught
accessing the computers of the Fox network by using an account to which he
apparently was not fully authorized. In a media event-type raid (Fox cameras
were present), the SS and Los Angeles police raided him in March '90, took his
equipment, and he faces a five year sentence for what appears, according to the
indictment, to be at worst a trivial offense, at best a peccadillo for which an
apology, not a sentence, is appropriate.

I'm wondering: What does law think it's enforcing? What is the appropriate
metaphor for computer trespass? What distinctions should be made between types
of offense? Please remember, nobody is justifying trespass, so continual
harangues on its dangers miss the point.  I am only suggesting that there is a
greater risk from misapplication of law, which--like a virus--has a historical
tendency to spread to other areas, than from computer hackers.  It's easier to
lock out hackers than police with guns and the power of the state behind them,
and we have already seen the risks to people that result from over-zealous
searches, prosecution, and sentencing.
                                       [Still trying to be semianonymous?  PGN]

Re: "What the Laws Enforce" (Leveson, RISKS-11.31)

Ernesto Pacas-Skewes <skewes@CAD.MCC.COM>
Wed, 20 Mar 91 12:14:58 CST
 > ... Although such laws may not discourage true criminal behavior, they do
 > discourage potentially destructive "play" by essentially law-abiding people.

They also discourage potentially constructive "play" by essentially law-abiding
people.  Knowing that you will be severly punished if you (maybe
unintentionally) hurt somebody else tends to discourage initiative. Knowing
that you are in an environment where you cannot hurt any body else tends
encourage it. Your caution is also affected in opposite directions. The
relative benefits of (and relation between) initiative and caution are
debatable, the key, as with most anything else, is to strike the "right"
balance. Many other qualities and values come into place, I am only trying to
illustrate that severe laws by themselves don't cut it, and that laws that are
"too" severe may even be counterproductive.

  > In fact, personal and business privacy and property is extremely important
  > in a complex, crowded society such as ours.

Completely agree, I would even remove the complex and crowded society.

  > ... an important system that may save lives (or cost them if done wrong)
  > because a company with which I need to deal has had to severely
  > restrict outside computer access because of security fears.

I fail to see how doing it right or doing it wrong is related to the access to
secured data unless doing it right means doing it on time. If the right/wrong
doing is determined by the accessing of secured data there may be a major hole
in that system.

 > ... Draconian security
 > measures to prevent frivolous access and pranks (in situations where it would
 > not otherwise be necessary because there is nothing of value to steal) will
 > hurt us all and cost our society untold dollars and perhaps worse.

The value, I think, is determined by whoever decides to impose the draconian
security measures, if there is none, why bother? Well ..., maybe a lawyer would
be able to find the "appropiate" value, and envolving lawyers almost always
hurts and may cost untold dollars.

The draconian security measures imposed by the company you refer to, at least
warn you that somebody already places value on the data you need to access and
these measures may very well save you from getting bitten by the severity of
the laws that you are rooting for. You request the data, the company's system
gives it to you, the company's lawyer finds out you got the data and decides
you are a good money maker, you pay more for crimes than for misdemeanors. Or
is the lack of protection and implied authorization?

I value my privacy, I try to protect it (if the law helps, even better).

Re: California, driving, and privacy, again (RISKS-11.31)

Caveh Jalali <>
Tue, 19 Mar 91 14:53:38 -0800
The major concern I have about Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) systems
is that they might make life too easy for our friends at the law enforcement
agencies.  Photo radar is bad enough -- now our car could turn into a
credit-card-on-wheels for anyone who needs to balance their budget for that
month!  instead of taking a picture, the camera would simply emmit the query
signal, and record your car's ID.  The speeding ticket, parking ticket, etc...
could be in the mail before you even realize you did anything illegal.

Re: California, driving, and privacy, again (Hibert, RISKS-11.31)

Flint Pellett <>
20 Mar 91 17:43:18 GMT
Sometimes people can't seem to see the forest for the trees.  If the roads were
paid for out of general funds like income tax money, (where there is already a
mechanism and bureaucracy in place for collecting it) then there would be no
need to build expensive toll booths, invest in transponders for cars, or bar
code readers and a new sticker every month, or any of that other stuff: you
wouldn't have to hire people to maintain the equipment and install it and
collect the money.  You could actually spend all the money that is going toward
that technology and bureaucracy building roads instead!  And nobody would have
to complain about waiting in line at the toll booth ever again!  (But wait:
then people might be able to see how much tax they are really paying!)

IMHO: the main RISK this is demonstrating isn't the risk to privacy involved in
having toll booths able to track your movements, it's the risk of inventing
technology that is going to create more problems (and expense) when we wouldn't
need that technology at all if we just addressed the social and political
problems (taxes that are too high, so we disguise them as tolls, etc.)  we
started with.  But technological problems seem to be easier to solve than
political ones.

Flint Pellett, Global Information Systems Technology, Inc., 1800 Woodfield
Drive, Savoy, IL 61874          (217) 352-1165         uunet!gistdev!flint

Re: California, driving, and privacy, again

Jurjen NE Bos <>
21 Mar 91 10:10:08 GMT
There is still a better solution:
- The user is fully anonymous
- The box is the car is owned by the user, not by the government
- The user has smart card containing his money
- Opening the smart card only allows limited damage to the system
- Fast payment (20 ms) over IR
- extendible to phones, public transport, shops, etc

The system is called SmartCash and is developed by our neighbors, DigiCash.

Re: Pilot Error - an impartial assessment? (Hollombe, RISKS-11.31)

Christopher Stacy <CStacy@STONY-BROOK.SCRC.Symbolics.COM>
Tue, 19 Mar 1991 17:09-0500
   > If the pilot's dead, it's his fault.

In a regulatory sense, this would generally be true, because the Federal
Aviation Regulations are written that way.  That is, the FAR's can be
interpreted to basically say, "it's always the pilot's fault."  In a legal
sense, sometimes the aircraft manufacturer or someone is held partly or totally
responsible.  NTSB reports almost always cite multiple contributing factors,
often putting some of the blame on controllers, airline practices, poor FAA
regulations, and pilots.  There is almost always something the pilot "could
have" done, if he had thought of it, and such things are at least useful
hindsight.  Those are three common ways for finding fault, and they often come
up with different answers.  "Fault" is a slippery concept, and it's risky make
broad generalizations about a complicated domain, based on simple bottom-line
analysis that don't make their motivations explicit.

Fast Food and locked cash registers

Jonathan Leech <>
21 Mar 91 17:10:46 GMT
    In RISKS-11.30, Dwight McKay says ``I can see it now, "Sorry, we cannot
give you a drink right now, our computer is down."'' A similar incident
happened to me a few weeks ago.  While getting lunch (loosely speaking) at Taco
Bell, a fire down the street cut power.  I happened to be about to pay at the
time.  Not only could they not take any further orders, they couldn't accept
payment as the cash register would not open.  At least I got lunch for free.

RISKS of digital voice forgery exaggerated

Fernando Pereira <>
Wed, 20 Mar 91 14:45:31 EST
It is the opinion of colleagues of mine working on speech recognition and
speech synthesis that the risk suggested by David Turner of digital voice
forgery from small speech samples is negligible. As everyone knows who has
dialed up a modern voice mail system or directory assistance service, sentences
constructed by concatenating prerecorded words sound very unnatural. More
sophisticated methods, which to some extent handle co-articulation (interword
transitions), require much greater amounts of speech data, and they still fall
far short of natural speech, particularly in the correct modeling of speech
durations and intonation. My colleague David Talkin says: ``It is MUCH more
likely that a human mimic could listen to the short passages and subsequently
perform successful voice forgery.''

Fernando Pereira, 2D-447, AT&T Bell Laboratories, 600 Mountain Ave,
Murray Hill, NJ 07974

Report on ACM's position on privacy (in response to Lotus Marketplace)

Tue, 19 Mar 91 18:50:11 PST
The following statement was passed by ACM Council and will be issued as a press

   Whereas the ACM greatly values the right of individual privacy;

   Whereas members of the computing profession have a special
   responsibility to ensure that computing systems do not diminish individual

   Whereas the ACM's Code of Professional Conduct places a
   responsibility on ACM members to protect individual privacy; and

   Whereas the Code of Fair Information Practices places a similar
   responsibility on data holders to ensure that personal information is
   accurate, complete, and reliable;

   Therefore, be it resolved that

   (1)  The ACM urges members to observe the privacy guidelines
   contained in the ACM Code of Professional Conduct;

   (2)  The ACM affirms its support for the Code of Fair Information
   Practices and urges its observance by all organizations that collect
   personal information; and

   (3)  The ACM supports the establishment of a proactive governmental
   privacy protection mechanism in those countries that do not currently have
   such mechanisms, including the United States, that would ensure individual
   privacy safeguards.


Here is some information on how to join ACM.

The RISKS forum is an ACM sponsored activity.  ACM is also getting more
involved in the kinds of issues represented by RISKS and the above statement.
If you support these activities and are not currently a member of ACM, I urge
you to demonstrate your support by joining.  You can obtain a membership
application from any issue of CACM.  If you can not get ahold of CACM, you can
obtain an application from:

ACM, P.O. Box 12114, Church Street Station, New York, NY 10257

The costs are:
$71 Voting Member (You are asked to have a Bachelor's degree,
                   equivalent level of education, or four
                   full-time years of experience.  The Bachelor's
                   does not necessarily have to be in computer science.
                   I don't know if it has to be in a related area.)
$71 Associate Member (No membership requirements)
$21 Student Member (You must be a registered student at an accredited
                    educational institution, and a faculty member must
                    certify your status.)
$66 Joint member of the IEEE-Computer Society
$57 Member of one of the following overseas computing societies
    ACS (Austraila), AFCET (France), AICA (Italy) BCS (United Kingdom)
    BIRA/IBRA (Belgium), CIPS (Canada), CSZ (Zimbabwe), GI (Germany),
    HKCS (Hong Kong), ICS (Ireland), IPA (Israel), IPSJ (Japan),
    NGI (Netherlands), NZCS (New Zealand), SCS (Shanghai).

Spouse members:
Voting Members 1st person + CACM $71   2nd person, no CACM $48
Student Members 1st person + CACM $21   2nd person, no CACM $14

$35 Retired members  (Annual income from part time and consulting work
                      does not exceed $2500; age + years of ACM membership
                      must exceed 75)

One can also join a SIG without joining ACM.  While that would be less
expensive than joining the SIG and ACM, it would not be as effective in
demonstrating support for the activities listed above.

Barbara Simons, National Secretary, ACM

ISM Workshop Announcement

Brian S. Hubbard <hubbard@TIS.COM>
Wed, 20 Mar 91 15:42:55 -0500
Sponsored and Administered By:   TIS, TRUSTED INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC.
In Coordination With:            DIS DEFENSE INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE

                    The 1991 Industrial Security Manual:
                  A Workshop on Satisfying NEW Requirements
             For Site Approval of Automated Information Systems
                       Washington, D.C., 7-9 May 1991
                   Los Angeles, California, 14-16 May 1991

In order to process classified information using automated information systems
(AISs), a contractor site must receive approval by the Defense Investigative
Service (DIS).  The requirements for such site approvals are stated in Chapter
8 of the Industrial Security Manual (ISM), DoD 5220.22.  At the invitation of
DIS, Trusted Information Systems, Inc.  participated in the development of the
1991 Industrial Security Manual which was promulgated by the Director of DIS in
January 1991.  This revision of the ISM reflects the requirements of DoD
Directive 5200.28.  The process of receiving site approval has been
administratively streamlined; however, the requirements themselves have been
made technically more sophisticated and exacting.  The revised requirements
also offer a more realistic approach to addressing threat and risk.  Part of
this latest revision requires contractors to meet the requirements of DoD
5200.28-STD, the Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria or TCSEC, commonly
known as the "Orange Book".

In order to explain the new requirements of the ISM and their application to
specific processing environments, Trusted Information Systems, Inc. in
coordination with the DIS is sponsoring and administering a comprehensive
three-day workshop.  This workshop is being developed by developers of the new

Lecturers include Stephen T. Walker (TIS), Carole Jordan (Defense Investigative
Service), Marvin Schaefer, Charles P. Pfleeger, William C. Barker (TIS)

For further information, contact Brian at hubbard@TIS.COM or Trusted
Information Systems, Inc., Attn: WORKSHOP COORDINATOR, 3060 Washington Road,
Glenwood, MD 21738, Phone: (301) 854-6889 FAX: (301) 854-5363

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