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 13 Issue 48

Sunday 10 May 1992

Contents

o Farmer receives $4M US Government check by mistake
Fernando Pereira
o Daylight savings time started early this year
David J. Fiander
o C-17 software problems
Mark Seecof
o Composite Health Care System at Walter Reed Hospital
PGN
o Microsoft advocates killing of Jews
Aaron Dickey via Jim Horning
o DATATAG
Brian Randell
o Re: $70 million bank scam
Tom Perrine
o Re: April Fools' Meteorology
Bear Giles
o Re: Free TRW Credit Report
Mary Culnan
o Risk of direct deposit
Stuart Bell
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Farmer receives $4M US Government check by mistake

Fernando Pereira <pereira@mbeya.research.att.com>
Fri, 8 May 92 20:30:35 EDT
The Associated Press reports today from Crosby, N.D, that farmer Harlan Johnson
who was expecting a $31 check from the U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and
Conservation Service received instead one for $4,038,277.04. Dale Ihry, head of
the agency's office in North Dakota said that their computer program
occasionally picks that particular amount and prints it out on something,
although this is the first time that it was printed on a check. The farmer
returned the check the day after.

It's wonderful how the agency seems to accept the bug as an act of God.  Looks
to me instead like an act of off-by-one indexing into an inappropriate memory
location...

Fernando Pereira, 2D-447, AT&T Bell Laboratories, 600 Mountain Ave, PO Box 636
Murray Hill, NJ 07974-0636, pereira@research.att.com


Daylight savings time started even earlier this year

"David J. Fiander" <davidf@golem.uucp>
Sat, 9 May 1992 08:50:58 -0400
The following excerpt is taken from shortwave radio magazine _Monitoring
Times_, May 1992 issue:

  Does anyone have the correct time?

  When subscriber Fred Latus ... came in at 5 a.m. to "open up" station WKTV-TV
  ...  he felt something was amiss with the clock - an ESE NBS Master Clock
  receiver, locked to WWV's time signal.  Not having time to check it, however,
  it wasn't until a second engineer arrived and asked why the digital clock was
  one hour fast, that it hit him.  [...]

  "Having had problems with our receiver and antenna the past few months, we
  thought it could be our problem.  By eight a.m. I had reset the system twice
  and it still was in error."

  "About 9:15 a.m. I finally got an engineer at WWV, just coming on duty at 7 a.m.
  MST." ... Keeping Fred on the phone while he checked the computer, he came
  back to report that, sure enough, a "3" had been entered instead of a "4" for
  the month starting Daylight Savings Time.

  ... The United States had been on Daylight Savings Time for about nine
  and a half hours a month early and only half a dozen people caught it!

Since the rule for determining the start of daylight savings time is so simple
(in the US), why isn't there an easy way to describe the rule, rather than
punching in a date every year (as would seem to be the case).

  [... It is not trivial, however, because any program older than a few
  years will get the shift wrong!  The switchover used to occur on the LAST
  Sunday in April, and now is on the FIRST Sunday.  PGN]


C-17 software problems

Mark Seecof <marks@capnet.latimes.com>
Fri, 8 May 92 15:34:32 -0700
In a story by Ralph Vartabedian on page D-12, Friday, 8 May '92,
the Los Angeles Times reported [brutally condensed by M. Seecof]:

GAO Says C-17 is Riddled With Computer Problems

The McDonnell Douglas C-17 cargo jet is plagued with serious computer hardware
and software problems, resulting in part from shortcuts taken by the company
... according to a General Accounting Office report obtained Thursday.

The GAO report is the first public finding that the C-17 has serious
computerization problems, though Air Force documents have hinted before that
the computer system lacks adequate capacity and that its development has fallen
behind schedule.

The GAO report asserts that the software ... has been ``a major problem...''
It found that the Air Force wrongly assumed that the software portion of the
program would be low-risk and ``did little to manage its development or oversee
the contractor's performance.''

The C-17 is the most software-intensive transport aircraft ever developed.  The
report said the aircraft has 19 different on-board computers, using 80
microprocessors and functioning in six different computer languages.

The GAO found that the Air Force ``made a number of mistakes,'' including
underestimating the size and complexity of the task, waiving many Pentagon
standards for software development and awarding a contract to McDonnell that
gave the firm control over software.

McDonnell officials declined to comment on the GAO report.  But the report
notes that both the Air Force and McDonnell concurred with its findings.

  END OF STORY.  Mark Seecof asks: has anyone seen the report itself?  I'd like
  to know in what way it was a mistake to give McDonnell-Douglas control over
  software development for a plane it was building?


Composite Health Care System at Walter Reed Hospital

"Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
Sun, 10 May 92 14:07:57 PDT
Walter Reed Army Medical Center has a $1.6 billion computer system intended to
streamline health care in the U.S. military.  It has gotten low marks from
WRAMC personnel, who attribute bungling of prescriptions, patient-care records,
and doctors' orders to software glitches.  One doctor said that use of the
system increased his workload by up to two hours per day.

The system had been used for two years for admissions and general
record-keeping, but the problems began when laboratory and pharmacy orders were
incorporated.  One doctor stated that his name was linked with patients he had
never seen.  Another noted that access to narcotics was not secure.

About half of the 625 doctors do not use the system for in-patient lab orders,
although most do use it for radiology and pharmacy orders.

[Source: An article by Christine Spolar in the Washington Post, appearing in
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 2 Feb 1992, p.A-22, and submitted (somewhat
belatedly) to RISKS by Sevilla Finley.]

  [I missed this one altogether at the time.  A review was held later, in
  March.  I hope a reader can provide an update -- including someone from
  SAIC in San Diego, which designed the system.  PGN]


A Newspaper Risk?

<horning@src.dec.com>
Fri, 08 May 92 14:28:56 -0700
------- Forwarded Message

From: axd7104@acfcluster.nyu.edu (Aaron Dickey)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers,alt.folklore.urban
Subject: Microsoft advocates killing of Jews
Date: 29 Apr 92 23:24:20 GMT

Hey everyone!!  Did you know that Microsoft is advocating the killing of Jews
in New York City?  I sure didn't!  But it's true!  I read it in the paper!

Get ready for a whopper.  Once again the news media proves that it doesn't
know the first thing about computers.  The entire story, retransmitted
without permission, is below, as it appeared in today's New York Post.

For those who don't know, the Post is a tabloid paper, where the entire front
page is one huge headline.  So, screaming out at millions of New Yorkers this
morning was the headline, "PROGRAM OF HATE".  Above the headline is a photo
of one of those old PC green-screen displays, with "NYC" = <skull> <Star of
David>