A colleague has just informed me that thousands of MOSS systems (a graphics package) all over the world crashed on 15 Jul, due to some authentication problem to do with the date. The "quick fix" was to set the date backwards, but this introduces its own problems; a lot of software rely on monotonically-increasing timestamps (were there any problems reported at the Leap Second on 0000 UTC 1st July?), and some Apollo systems use the time value to generate "unique" (sic) file system descriptors... Dave Horsfall (VK2KFU) VK2KFU@VK2RWI.NSW.AUS.OC dave@esi.COM.AU ...munnari!esi.COM.AU!dave
Living on the edge of the flooded Iowa River, I've been following the river reports from the Corps of Engineers quite regularly in recent weeks. They offer a recording you can call at their local office that gives the current river flow (in cubic feet per second), the current river stage in town, and the current statistics for the Coralville Reservoir ten miles upstream from my house. This recording was well maintained until the reservoir went over the emergency flood spillway for the first time ever on the night of Monday, July 5, and then things began to break down. Normally, the recording is a deadpan recital of the numbers, but that night, the woman who recorded the message sounded like she was in a state of panic, and soon after that, they discontinued the recording for a week. By midweek, even the data they were giving to the newspapers was sketchy, they were reporting the outflow of the reservoir and the current water level, but not the inflow. Furthermore, their predictions began to get very sketchy -- it turns out that lightning hit the gauging station upstream from the reservoir that they use to measure inflow, and without that data, they couldn't run their computer models to predict outflow. To quote one corps official I chatted with while he was looking at the floodwaters down the block from my house, they'd come to rely too much on their computer models and on their automatic data collection system. Another problem they face is that they know the capacity of their reservoir up to the emergency flood spillway, but nobody every bothered to calculate the capacity of the reservoir when the water is 4 feet above the spillway; I gather that the working assumption has been that once water spilled over the spillway, it would stop rising. The spillway is 400 feet wide, so that seemed intuitive, but this is an awfully big flood! Clearly, the hydraulic models of river systems that the corps uses to manage their flood control reservoirs need to be made more robust so that they can handle missing data, and the assumption that water will never rise significantly over dam spillways needs to be modified! The Des Moines Register reported a similar but even more disastrous story about the floods in Des Moines in their Sunday July 18 chronology of the flood. On the weekend of July 11, the waterworks director phoned the US Weather Service for a flood forecast. They apparently gave him a forecast of a 22 foot crest on Tuesday, and when the director then told them that the river was already over 23, they were taken by surprise. In that case, there was no provision made to compare the flood forecast coming out of the computer model with the current river data. This data comes in from stream gauging stations around the United States by satellite, and to make a flood forecast, they combine this data with rainfall data. If flood forecasts could be computed instantly, there would be no problem, but they aren't instantaneous and there was apparently no provision made for such a sanity check on the forecast! Doug Jones email@example.com
Early warning systems have been kicking around the seismological community for a decade at least. Most studies of proposed early warning systems have shown the economic return to be too small to justify development. California commissioned a such a study and chose not to pursue early warning on that basis. Of course, such analyses cannot include intangibles such as peace of mind or people temporarily in hazardous situations (eg: holding a pot of boiling water). It is true that the system must be automated to achieve any warning. The system depends on detecting and identifying the quake in close proximity to the source. Then it relies on the speed of light exceeding that of elastic waves. The most damaging waves will arrive no earlier than an average velocity of 4.5 km/s. This would appear to give 45 seconds warning at 100 km. However, the system itself takes time. Without getting into the details, it is safe to say that time from the quake to the sensors and then processing and communicating the results might typically take 30 seconds. This means that sites closest to the quake, those most adversely affected by it, gain no benefit, and sites far away (more than 200 km or so in California's case) do not benefit because the shaking is probably manageable. So there is a narrow range of distance that benefits. Even so, the system may be justified. To answer the risks mentioned - Of course, it would be a rare system that could truly function without false alarms. One need only keep the false alarm rate to a manageable level, and make sure that any actions taken on the basis of the alarm not be hazardous. Slowing a train or halting elevators once or twice a year should not be a problem. In fact, I would think periodic tests of the system would be important as well. Predicting the damage should be straightforward. The magnitude of the quake can be estimated to sufficient accuracy - then a standard magnitude/ distance relation will return a rough expected intensity. It would not be hard to be more accurate - one need only measure the site response at the place where an action will be taken based on the warning, then program a site correction into the receiver. It is entirely up to the receiver to determine expected intensity and at which intensity to take which actions. This receiver can be as sophisticated as needed, but it will receive only magnitude, location and time. (Later, "verification" broadcasts could be made that rely on more data but take longer to produce. Any actions taken at the first notice could be modified then.) I see two risks. The first is that most of the scientists involved seem to be trying to pull a "dual-use" out of this system. They want to deploy sophisticated sensors that are good for seismological research, and save and process mountains of data. I think that if the system is to work well, such efforts should be dropped. Early warning long ago ceased to be a seismic problem, it is an engineering and political problem. The sensors to be deployed should be a simple, reliable and inexpensive as possible, and should transmit a minimum of data to cut communications costs. By cutting physical and communications costs, the number of sensors can be increased and the cost of the entire program reduced. More sensors mean more warning time and more people benefit (up to the limit of the depth of the quakes). The second risk is that people may rely on the existence of the system. I would hate to see someone designing something and say "well, if there was a quake, this would be a problem, but we have the early warning". Security will be seen by many as a risk, but I think that is addressable by isolating the system from phone communications and networks and encrypting all communications. Richard Stead firstname.lastname@example.org
Such a device (ground proximity warning system - GPWS) already exists and is mandatory on international flights. The Strasbourg A320 was only used domestically in France - where GPWS is (was?) not required. For some reason the airline decided not to install that equipment (or even had it disabled - I have some recollection that GPWS is standard equipment on the A320). GPWS will alert the pilot to five different conditions (modes) that are considered unsafe at low altitude. Excess rate of descent is one of them. Lars-Henrik Eriksson, Swedish Institute of Computer Science, Box 1263 S-164 28 KISTA, SWEDEN +46 8 752 15 09 email@example.com
> Hope YOUR financial institutions protect your PINs as well... Hah. My brother lost his wallet six months ago. Since then he's been dealing with massive credit fraud, and he's been told that his easiest recourse is to get a new social security number and a new set of accounts.
I sent the following to the Privatising the Internet List in response to a question about credit card transactions via E-Mail: >From: Paul Robinson <TDARCOS@MCIMAIL.COM> Organization: Tansin A. Darcos & Company, Silver Spring, MD USA Marianne Sweet <firstname.lastname@example.org>, writes: > On 17 June 1993 I posted a request for information to this list > regarding credit card payment over the Internet. Since I received > no responses, I am trying one more time with a slightly different > request. > > Does anyone know of (commercial) services on the Internet that > accept online credit card payment. I am currently working on a > commercial application for the Internet and am interested in > discovering what other services' charge displays look like. The simple fact of the matter is that using Internet to handle charge-card transactions is not very common for several reasons: (1) Soliciting CC transactions might violate the Acceptable Use Provisions (doesn't apply if your feed is from a commercial internet connection.) (2) Electronic mail is sent *in the clear* across the network. While it is part of a series of packets, it still can be seen by (a) the administrator of your site (b) the administrator of the destination site (c) anyone having access to the network connections used between the two sites who wants to monitor traffic. In theory, some bright boy could put a "mail scanner" on the system and watch for any messages that contain a string of 12 or 16 digits beginning with 4 or 5 and capture those messages. This means that someone watching for a message where the text contains: I'd like to order a 300 meg hard drive. Ship to Hathan Nale, 1 Patriot Lane, Fourth July, MD 21776 Charge 4000 1776 1492 1993 exp 7/4/2076 Now someone supposedly could watch for this and keep such information. Rare, but it could happen. For those who are paranoid, the answer, of course, is to have privacy-enhanced mail made freely available. Once people have the ability to send mail to someone encoded with their private key and the recipient's public key, so that only the recipient can decode it, and so the sender can't deny it was sent, we will have problems. There is probably close to 100 megabytes of transfers going across Internet every day; 40 meg of this is usenet news alone. While your little message might never be noticed, the chance is it could. Or you could mis mail it. For example, say you intended to mail this order to "email@example.com" (For, example, Soft-Disk Inc., a hard-disk seller) and instead, you miss and send it to "firstname.lastname@example.org" (it's only off by two characters), instead of sending the message with your credit card number to the one person at Soft-Disk Inc, you've just mailed it to the 75,000 readers of Info-Vax, which is gatewayed into "comp.os.vms". PS: the above credit card number is fictitious. Paul Robinson - TDARCOS@MCIMAIL.COM
Bob_Frankston@frankston.com wrote: >Simple ideas like replacing bills that contain a single amount ... Actually, one of our local doctors has initiated a billing system very close to what you desire (after years of confusing us with what insurance payment went with what service, etc). The general form of the bill now looks like: Date Date/Code Description Amount Amount Balance 01/01/93 123456 Office Visit 35.00 01/01/93 Patient Copayment 10.00CR 02/24/93 Insurance Payment 17.50CR 02/24/93 Write-off 7.50CR 234567 Laboratory Work 25.00 02/24/93 Insurance Payment 18.00CR Coinsurance Due 7.00 7.00 02/10/93 345678 Consultation 50.00 04/02/93 Insurance Payment 37.50CR 04/02/93 Write-off 4.00CR Coinsurance Due 8.50 15.50 Several features of this format deserve special mention. First, note that events are only listed in chronological order within each "block," and that the specific office code for each billable service is given. In the above example, even though the consultation occurred before the insurance payments for the original office visit, those payments are listed with the service that generated them. Also, notice the existence of explicit write-offs. Our doctor is a "preferred provider" with a major health insurance company, and has agreed to accept the company's Usual, Customary, and Reasonable (UCR) amounts as payment in full. Even though the insurer doesn't alway *pay* the UCR amount, which means we still have copayments and coinsurance, there is still usually a difference between what the doctor "charges" and what he will accept as full payment. This billing format makes that distinction explicit for the first time. How does this format reduce RISK? Simple. A recent bill (the first in this new format) seemed a tad high (like $200 or so too much), so we re-created our entire service history with that doctor in a spreadsheet and used this format. We quickly noticed where he had overlooked a previous account credit, and where he had forgotten to include a write-off for a specific service. It's probably easy to appreciate the level of frustration and helplessness we had previously felt with regard to keeping track of the myriad of bills, copayments, coinsurance, insurance payments, etc. for a couple of doctors and a dentist (we don't even have KIDS yet!). I will now keep track of all health service accounts using the new billing format, and will encourage our other doctors to do the same. Michael T. Palmer email@example.com
>From: Mark Seecof <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: DSS as a stamp tax Possibly a more exact parallel might be found in the "Teapot Dome" incident during the early 1900's in which Harry Sinclair and a group of oil magnates induced interior secretary Albert Bacon Fall to grant an exclusive license for federal oil reserves to their companies (remember Dino the Sinclair dinosaur ? Sinclair is now part of BP). Mr. Fall was subsequently sentenced to prison for his part in the activities Padgett
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what happened between NIST and PKP. NIST didn't ``give away'' anything to PKP. Rather, PKP had NIST over a legal barrel; some sort of deal was necessary. You can argue over the specific terms, but practically speaking, NIST had little choice. The problem is this: the DSS appears to infringe several different patents owned by PKP. (I'm not going to discuss the propriety of algorithm patents here, a decision that I'm sure our esteemed moderator will applaud, given his comments about the load.) These include the Diffie-Hellman exponential key exchange patent and the Schnorr digital signature patent. It could be argued that for various reasons, these don't apply. Maybe -- but that's far obvious. At the very least, the standard would be tied up in court for many years. NIST can't ignore such patents. Their own policy supports the propriety of such things (DSS itself is being patented.) And the government is not allowed to ignore private patent rights; that would, I'm told, constitute an illegal taking of property, as per the Fifth Amendment. That left NIST with several choices, none great. They could do nothing, and not promulgate any standard. But that wouldn't meet the government's own need for one. They could adopt RSA, since the government has free rights to that patent. The rest of us would still have to pay royalties for its use. Besides, RSA can be used for secrecy, which NIST didn't want. (They cite exportability; others cite NSA's desire to spy. Pick your rationale.) Or they could ask NSA for a totally new signature scheme. Maybe NSA has one -- but I doubt very much they're going to reveal a totally new way to do cryptographic operations. Finally, NIST could cut a deal with PKP. That's what they chose to do. It's not in any way a plot to enrich PKP; it's simply the only way to preserve the DSS. --Steve Bellovin
Mark Seecof should really should have read the DSS announcement more carefully before drawing any conclusions. The announcement said that DSS would be royalty-free for government use. Only private-sector use would require licensing. He compares it to a "tax." He writes: > forcing us to pay PKP everytime we sign something digitally ... Very wrong. When someone in the private sector licenses DSS, they pay a royalty once for the manufacture and sale of the product, not its use. (It says you can license even the chips, the lowest cost component of a system. There is quite a difference between a "use tax" and a "royalty.") If he was referring to the $1 per certificate, that comes only from those who provide certificates as a service as a service, not from the user, and not for "use" of a signature product.
CPSR Secrecy Statement Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) has called for a complete overhaul in the federal government's information classification system, including the removal of cryptography from the categories of information automatically deemed to be secret. In a letter to a special Presidential task force examining the classification system, CPSR said that the current system -- embodied in an Executive Order issued by President Reagan in 1982 -- "has limited informed public debate on technological issues and has restricted scientific innovation and technological development." The CPSR statement, which was submitted in response to a task force request for public comments, strongly criticizes a provision in the Reagan secrecy directive that presumptively classifies any information that "concerns cryptology." CPSR notes that "while cryptography -- the science of making and breaking secret security codes -- was once the sole province of the military and the intelligence agencies, the technology today plays an essential role in assuring the security and privacy of a wide range of communications affecting finance, education, research and personal correspondence." With the end of the Cold War and the growth of widely available computer network services, the outdated view of cryptography reflected in the Reagan order must change, according to the statement. CPSR's call for revision of the classification system is based upon the organization's experience in attempting to obtain government information relating to cryptography and computer security issues. CPSR is currently litigating Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the National Security Agency (NSA) seeking the disclosure of technical data concerning the digital signature standard (DSS) and the administration's recent "Clipper Chip" proposal. NSA has relied on the Reagan Executive Order as authority for withholding the information from the public. In its submission to the classification task force, CPSR also called for the following changes to the current secrecy directive: * A return to the "balancing test," whereby the public interest in the disclosure of information is weighed against the claimed harm that might result from such disclosure; * A prohibition against the reclassification of information that has been previously released; * The requirement that the economic cost of classifying scientific and technical be considered before such information may be classified; * The automatic declassification of information after 20 years, unless the head of the original classifying agency, in the exercise of his or her non-delegatable authority, determines in writing that the material requires continued classification for a specified period of time; and * The establishment of an independent oversight commission to monitor the operation of the security classification system. The task force is scheduled to submit a draft revision of the Executive Order to President Clinton on November 30. The full text of the CPSR statement can be obtained via ftp, wais and gopher from cpsr.org, under the filename cpsr\crypto\secrecy_statement.txt. CPSR is a national organization of professionals in the computing field. Membership is open to the public. For more information on CPSR, or a full copy of the July 14 letter from Marc Rotenberg (CPSR Washington Director) and David L. Sobel (CPSR Legal Counsel) to the Information Security Oversight Office, contact <email@example.com>.
To order any of the following three documents, contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402, (202) 783-3238. * Wendy W. Peng and Dolores R. Wallace, Software Error Analysis, NIST Special Publication 500-209, GPO Stock Number SN003-003-03212-3. $7.00. This document provides guidance on software error analysis. Software error analysis includes error detection, analysis, and resolution. Error detection techniques considered in the study are those used in software development, software quality assurance, and software verification, validation and testing activities. These techniques are those frequently cited in technical literature and software engineering standards or those representing new approaches to support error detection. The study includes statistical; process control techniques and relates them to their use as a software quality assurance technique for both product and process improvement. Finally, the report describes several software reliability models. * Dolores R. Wallace, Laura M. Ippolito, D. Richard Kuhn, High Integrity Software Standards and Guidelines, NIST Special Publication 500-204, GPO Stock Number is SN003-03171-2. $6.50. This report presents results of a study of standards, draft standards, and guidelines (all of which will hereafter be referred to as documents) that provide requirements for the assurance of software in safety systems in nuclear power plants. The study focused on identifying the attributes necessary in a standard for providing reasonable assurance for software in nuclear systems. The study addressed some issues involved in demonstrating conformance to a standard. The documents vary widely in their requirements and the precision with which the requirements are expressed. Recommendations are provided for guidance for the assurance of high integrity software. It is recommended that a nuclear industry standard be developed based on the documents reviewed in this study with additional attention to the concerns identified in this report. * Dolores R. Wallace, Wendy W. Peng, Laura M. Ippolito, Software Quality Assurance: Documentation and Reviews, NISTIR 4909, FREE (as available). Contact Dolores Wallace at (301) 975-3340 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Laura Ippolito at (301) 975-5248 or email@example.com or either at [FAX] (301) 590-0932. This study examines the contents of a software quality assurance standard for nuclear applications. The study includes recommendations for the documentation of software systems. Background information on the standard, documentation, and the review process is provided. The report includes an analysis of the applicability, content, and omissions of the standard and compares it with a general software quality assurance standard produced by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Information is provided for the content of the different types of documentation. This report describes information for use in safety evaluation reviews. Many recommendations in this report are applicable for software quality assurance in general. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - * Dan Craigen, Susan Gerhart, Ted Ralston, NIST Formal Methods Report The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published a survey of twelve case studies of the use of formal methods in industrial projects. The report is published as NIST GCR 93/626 and is available in paper form from the National Technical Information Service. It is also available in electronic form; for electronic version, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . The formal methods report contains the complete final version of "An International Survey of Industrial Applications of Formal Methods" sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and the Canadian Atomic Energy Control Board. This report consists of two separate volumes. Volume 1 describes the purpose, approach, analysis, and conclusions of the survey; Volume 2 describes the case studies. ORDER FROM: National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield VA 22161 Phone( 703) 487-4650 YOU MUST Use the PB numbers to order: "An International Survey of Industrial Applications of Formal Methods Volume 1 Purpose, Approach, Analysis and Conclusions" NIST GCR 93/626-V1 PB93-178556/AS Hard Copy: A07/$27.00 Microfiche: A02 $12.50 "An International Survey of Industrial Applications of Formal Methods Volume 2 Case Studies" NIST GCR 93-626-V2 PB93-178564/AS Hard Copy: A09/$27.00 Microfiche: A03/$12.50 For electronic version, contact email@example.com
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