[Article 2650 (3 more) in cucs.general, sent to RISKS by Li Gong <email@example.com>.] (From the NY Times, Sat. August 28, page 7) ROBOT SENT TO DISARM BOMB GOES WILD IN SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco, Aug 27 (AP) -- A hazardous-duty robot malfunctioned Wednesday night and spun out of control in an attempt to defuse an explosive situation. "It was just spinning around, just going wild," said Edward Ellestad, a member of the Police Department's bomb squad. "People were yelling, `Shut it off!' So we pulled the plug." The police robot, nicknamed "Snoopy", went out of control as officers tried to get it to grasp a pipe bomb found at the C&B Cafe during a raid. "It could have been a lot worse if had picked up the device when it was doing 360's and banging off the walls," Officer Ellestad said. Kenneth P. Birman, Dept of Computer Science, Cornell Univ., 607-255-9199 Isis Distributed Systems Inc. 607-272-6327, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Hilliard, Florida) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is still at a loss to explain a computer glitch that knocked out a regional air traffic control center in Hilliard, Florida. An FAA spokeswoman says the trouble yesterday caused delays of up to 90 minutes for flights in a large area of the south. No planes or passengers were in danger. In one case, access to a cellular phone may have been key. The head of the local National Air Traffic Controllers Association says one controller used a car phone to contact the Air Force. He wanted to stop a live-fire exercise, because there was no way to control other planes entering the area. The FAA says it does not know what caused the computer problems.
[From *AOPA Pilot*, September 1993, page 33] For a 12-hour period between July 7 and 8, the computers shut down at the Salt Lake City and Atlanta aviation weather processors. As a result, weather information could not be transmitted to the entire automated FSS [Flight Service Station] (AFSS) network, and nearly all AFSSs lost their ability to file flight plons. The system later returned to normal. Apparently, the computer crash was caused by a time-activated virus in the weather processing software. Both processors shut down at the same time. A separate system--known as Labs--that uses the old, teletype method of transmitting weather data was not affected by the outage. This system, based in Kansas City, continued to provide weather and flight-plan capability to DUAT contractors, private weather vendors, FSSs and those AFSSs with teletype equipment. Labs is not connected in any way to the Salt Lake City and Atlanta aviation processors. AOPA [Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association] has recommended that Labs equipment be retained, even though it's a dated system. In addition to its merits as a provider to DUAT and private vendors, the computer crash proved that Labs can be a valuable backup mechanism to the main weather processors.
*The New York Times*, August 27, 1993, p. B9, reports on a service in Philadelphia that lets doctors find out whether a patient has filed any malpractice suits. The article discusses the obvious risks and makes it sounds like most doctors are unlikely to be interested. The service also calls to mind the reportedly widespread practice of blacklisting job-seekers who have filed workers' compensation claims. The *Wall Street Journal*, August 27, 1993, pp. A1, A8, reports on the computer industry's possible vulnerability to disruptions due to the concentration of chemicals firms. In some cases, chemicals used in chip-making and packaging are only produced by a couple of plants, at least one of which is on an earthquake fault in Japan. This is perhaps an instance of "hyperefficiency", the claimed tendency of market economies to expose themselves to excessive disruption from rare but serious events in cases in which companies find it difficult to invest in long-term disaster preparation because of short-term competitive pressures. In this case, many companies are able to reduce overhead and thus cut costs by drastically reducing the number of suppliers they deal with, and growing economies of scale in some kinds of hardware manufacturing may lead to worrisome concentration as well. The same WSJ (page B1) reports that Steven Spielberg's production company chose the Thinking Machines CM-5 for "Jurassic Park" (in which, of course, it ran some poorly designed software) because it "looked the least like a science-fiction machine". Wow. Phil Agre, UCSD
The Canberra Times CORRECTION For some considerable time, *The Canberra Times* has been publishing the wrong tide times for Narooma. The error has been in arithmetical calculation in this office of the difference between tide times at Fort Denison as published in standard tide tables and times at Narooma. The error, the source of which is lost in antiquity, was discovered last week when the editor, relying on The Canberra Times figures, was swept out to sea. But he managed to return to shore - and ordered this correction. Marc Auslander <email@example.com> 914 784-6699 (Tieline 863 Fax x6306)
While clearing out my file cabinet, I uncovered the following, which struck me as relevant to a lot of what goes on in comp.risks. Quoted from a paper, 'The Emperor's Old Clothes', by Charles Antony Richard Hoare, published in CACM Feb 1981: ...there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are _obviously_ no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no _obvious_ deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult. It demands the same skill, devotion, insight, and even inspiration as the discovery of the simple physical laws which underlie the complex phenomena of nature. It also requires a willingness to accept objectives which are limited by physical, logical, and technological constraints, and to accept a compromise when conflicting objectives cannot be met. No committee will ever do this until it is too late. (The paper was the 1980 ACM Turing Award Lecture. The _'s represent his italics.) Paul Smee, Computing Service, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1UD, UK P.Smee@bristol.ac.uk - Tel +44 272 303132 - FAX +44 272 291576
I just spoke to Al, and found out what the story was. We hired a subcontractor and part of his deal with us is that we provide them access to the Internet through cisco's corporate network. Since we have a relationship and our networks are physically tied together, the routers are specifically configured to allow greater access between our site and theirs (at their request). There was absolutely positively no "back door." Al never actually performed any tests with routers where he knew the configuration, and I would toss the entire thing up to some miscommunication.
After consulting with Cisco, they have convinced me that the phenomenon I reported earlier in RISKS-14.87 was not a back door but was instead a unique situation to a particular company's equipment caused by an unrelated management issue. The explanation seems reasonable, and I am willing to assume that the supposed back door does not exist at this point, especially since several independent groups have not been able to confirm its existence. Those with Cisco routers can presumably relax, at least as far as this issue is concerned. Al Whaley firstname.lastname@example.org +1-415 322-5411(Tel), -6481 (Fax) Sunnyside Computing, Inc., PO Box 60, Palo Alto, CA 94302 [At Al's request, and as a courtesy to CISCO, I have appended a note in the CRVAX ARCHIVE copy of RISKS-14.87 and RISKS-14.89 pointing to THIS issue. Other archive maintainers may wish to recopy those issues. Thanks. PGN]
I was in a local "Video Esprit" 24-hour video rental store here in Montreal and I noticed a new service they have added for their customers. There is a PC in the store that, among other things, allows you to review your own "rental history". To access your records you just type in the last several digits from your membership card. Since the issue of privacy of video rental histories has had much discussion, I thought RISK readers might be interested to know just how *easy* it has become to get a list someone else's video rentals. Just a glance at their membership card is all it takes. David Jones
A couple of telephone-related questions popped up in the digest, and while they might more properly be answered over on TELECOM, here are a couple of answers anyway: 1) Dial 1 first. This is becoming universal in North America to provide a sure way to distinguish between areas codes and prefixes. The network can only provide you with a recording that tells you that you need to dial 1 so long as no duplicate codes exist that will interfere with parsing of a particular call. Many metro areas for years have been assigning prefixes that duplicate area codes. Without 1+ dialing, the only way to differentiate would be by counting digits and providing long timeouts at the end of dialing all calls to determine when no more digits will be forthcoming. Starting around 1995, when the conventional area codes (second digit 0 or 1) run out, new area codes will be assigned that look like prefixes. The potential problems that may result in some phone systems, PBXs, etc. are quite nasty due to programmed (and in some cases hardwired) limitations in number parsing. The days when dialing 1 meant "toll call" are long since past in most areas, and will be gone everywhere quite soon. 2) It has long been understood that using the same code (e.g. *67) for both blocking *and* unblocking of calling number ID is a bad idea. Bellcore originally assigned the single code, and various telcos have argued before state commissions that there are various technical reasons why they couldn't have separate codes with existing switch software (generics). However, my understanding is that most of the major switch generics are in the process of being updated to allow this, and then those "technical" arguments will presumably no longer hold much sway in the discussion. The issue of calling number delivery via ANI (e.g. 800 numbers) is a complex one. It can be argued that calling an 800 number is like making a collect call--the party you're calling is paying for the call, and they need to know who is using their resources (either correctly or abusively) and where their money is going. Both of these issues are probably better followed-up over in TELECOM or other telecommunications-specific forums. --Lauren--
Is discussing risks RISKY? I would like to see more discussion of this topic -- even though it's been discussed in years past. I agree completely with PGN, who suggests that many people (I'd argue the majority) are living with blinders on. Even those on the provider/vendor side who should understand the risks of certain technologies (cellular phones being an obvious example), have a) underrated the intelligence of potential adversaries, b) overestimated the cleverness of their own technology, c) underestimated the speed at which exploitation information and devices would be disseminated, d) assumed that the using public can't be hurt by what they don't know, and e) let the magnitude of the financial rewards overshadow everything. Perhaps, more open discussion -- and knowledge that such discussion -was- going to happen -- would encourage providers not to make naive assumptions regarding the risks and might cause users to demand more of the products they buy. (Where have we heard that before?) Anyway -- one approach to the problem has developed over the last few years (since the Internet worm incident, to be more precise) that might be worth noting. A voluntary cooperative group of security incident response teams known as FIRST (Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams) has developed to address the problem of sharing potentially risky information without giving away the store in the process. Member teams include response teams representing a wide range of "constituencies", including the Internet (i.e., CERT), various government agencies (e.g., DISA/ASSIST for DoD, Dept of Energy's CIAC, CCTA for the UK, SurfNET in the Netherlands, etc.), private sector organizations, vendors, and academia. Member teams share information on both latent and active system vulnerabilities through a series of alerts issued by the various teams. The alerts attempt to walk the fine line of describing a problem in sufficient detail (along with corrective actions) without providing enough information for exploitation. By initially distributing alerts only among member teams (and careful vetting of members), there is reasonable control over distribution. This certainly has not solved the problems associated with identifying and closing system or network risks, it has made, I believe, great strides toward building trust and mutual support through effective information sharing and cooperation. Other groups have use a similar approach to address similar problems -- e.g., the sharing of virus information. I would be quite interested to hear how others have addressed the problem.
> Apparently the tank pressurization system on the Observer was tested > exactly once, and it "blew up." Whether this phrase is meant to imply > an explosion or merely a bad leak is an exercise left to the reader. This is hardly a suspicious occurrence. Testing of a new pressure vessel design always includes, as a matter of standard practice, testing to failure. This testing is required to ensure that the burst pressure is where analysis indicated and that it is far enough removed from the operating pressure. What would have been suspicious is if this test had NOT been performed. Kevin Maguire email@example.com [It is my understand that standard procedure is to limit-test the FIRST tank to see how far it can be stressed, that is, stressed to the point at which it actually blows. That is clearly not a test one wishes to do on many tanks. It also tells you nothing about other tanks. PGN]
****PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS MESSAGE TO INTERESTED PARTIES**** The 21st Century Project and the National Commission on Economic Conversion and Disarmament are co-sponsoring the National Conference on Technology Conversion: Reinvestment in National Needs. What follows is a schedule of speakers for the conference, which will be held October 7th and 8th in Arlington, Virginia. Anyone interested in the subjects that will be covered at this conference is encouraged to register and attend. Gary Chapman, Coordinator, The 21st Century Project, Cambridge, MA firstname.lastname@example.org National Conference on Technology Conversion: Reinvestment in National Needs October 7-8 Roslyn Westpark Hotel Arlington, VA Speakers will include representatives from: The 21st Century Project American Capital Strategies Cray Research Corporation Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Department of Energy Economic Policy Institute Federal Highway Administration Federation for Industrial Retention and Renewal Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO International Association of Machinists Microelectronics and Computer Corporation National Economic Council National Institute of Standards and Technology Northrop Corporation Congressional Office of Technology Assessment Sun Microsystems Toxics Use Reduction Institute United Technologies Corporation White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Westinghouse Electric World Resources Institute Worldwatch Institute The National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament will convene a conference on a major aspect of the conversion challenge: 1. To redirect our military-oriented federal science and technology policy toward solving our neglected domestic problems 2. To promote investments in emerging technologies that can create new jobs and market opportunities for converting businesses 3. To explore the means of financing technology conversion 4. To democratize the policymaking process. The conference will bring together policy makers within the Administration and Congress, scientists and engineers, corporate managers and trade unionists, and those in the independent sector working on issues of conversion, the environment, renewable energy and transportation policy. In plenary sessions we will examine current science and technology policy, the missing pieces of this policy, and the means of financing investments that will turn emerging technologies into sustainable, life-affirming enterprise. In working groups we will look more closely at some of the most promising of these technologies. Conference Co-Sponsors include: Economic Policy Institute Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. University of Wisconsin Extension/ School for Workers The 21st Century Project II. Registration Information To register by mail send a check for $80, payable to ECD, to: ECD, Suite 9, 1801 18th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009. Your registration fee covers lunch and break refreshments on both days and refreshments at the October 7 reception (there will be a cash bar). A small number of rooms have been reserved for conference participants at the Westpark Hotel, at a reduced rate of $87.00 per night. For reservations call (703) 527-4814 or (800) 368-3408. The Westpark Hotel is located at 1900 North Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, VA, one block from the Key Bridge and the Roslyn Metro Stop; on the Blue Line from National Airport. Space is limited, so please make reservations early. If you have any s regarding the conference, please call Miriam Pemberton, Jim Raffel or Kristen Kann at 202-462-0091. On the afternoon of October 8th we will hold 12 workshops on emerging technologies, four at a time. To help us schedule these to accommodate conference participants best, please indicate the three workshops that you are most interested in attending when registering: A. Fuel Cell Technology B. Renewable and Alternative Energy Technology C. Transportation Technology D. Environmental Technology E. Aerospace Technology Markets F. Infrastructure Development G. Smart Materials Technology Implementation in Infrastructure Enhancement H. High Speed Rail and Freight Transportation I. Zero-Discharge Manufacturing Technology J. Information Infrastructure K. Shipbuilding Industry L. Manufacturing Extension Services III. Preliminary Conference Schedule THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7, MORNING SESSION Plenary I - Conversion and National Science & Technology Policy 1. Introductory Remarks: Senator Barbara Boxer, (D-CA) (invited) Katherine Gillman, Special Assistant for Defense Conversion, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Ann Markusen, Professor, Rutgers University; co-author of Dismantling the Cold War Economy 2. Redefining National Security: Federal Policy in the Post-Cold War Era George Brown (D-CA), Chair, House Science, Space and Technology Committee (invited) Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. (invited) Seymour Melman, Chair, National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament 3. Dual-Use Technology Policy and Beyond Dorothy Robyn, National Economic Council Lewis M. Branscomb, Albert Pratt Public Service Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University 4. Technology Transfer Rep. Ron Wyden, (D-OR) Robert D. Glasser, Center for National Security Studies, Los Alamos National Laboratory Jim Ling, Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, MIT THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7, AFTERNOON SESSION Plenary II - Reinvestment and Conversion: Toward a National Needs Agenda 1. Environmental Sustainability Michael Renner, Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute Greg Pitts, Microelectronic and Computer Technology Corporation 2. Economic Conversion Peter diCicco, Secretary Treasurer, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-CT) (invited) Lou Kiefer, International Association of and Aerospace Workers Joseph Hoffman, Manager of Marketing Systems Development and Engineering Division, Westinghouse Electronics Systems Group 3. Democratizing the Decision-Making Process Gary Chapman, Director, 21st Century Project, a nationwide effort to reorient public support for science and technology toward solving critical domestic problems Jim Benn, Federation for Industrial Renewal and Retention (FIRR) 4. Reception (Thursday Evening) FRIDAY OCTOBER 8, MORNING SESSION Plenary III: Technology Innovation and Infrastructure Development 1. Government Initiatives and Institutions Jeff Faux, President, Economic Policy Institute Herb Whitehouse, Whitehouse Fiduciary Advisers 2. Private Financing Bruce R. Guile, Director, Programs, National Academy of Engineering, Washington, DC; tax credits and incentives for innovation and new technology R&D Tom Schlesinger, Southern Finance Project 3. Alternative Financing Structures Martin Trimble, National Association of Community Development Loan Funds Mike Locand Associates, economic consulting firm specializing in conducting feasibility studies for employee buyouts, with a concentration on the steel industry Adam Blumenthal, Vice President and Partner, American Capital Strategies FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, AFTERNOON SESSION Workshops on the Following Emerging Technologies: A. Fuel Cell Technology William J. Lueckel, Vice President, Government Programs and Marketing, International Fuel Cells, United Technologies Corporation Jeff Serfass, Exec. Dir., Fuelion Group B. Renewable and Alternative Energy Technology Eric Vaughn, President, Renewable Fuel Association Frank Bruno, CEO, Turbo Power and Marine Systems, Inc., division of Pratt Whitney (invited) C. Transportation Technology: Vehicles, Highways and Public Transit Victor S. Rezendes, Director, Energy Issues, GAO; on flexible fuel vehicle program Wesley B. Truitt, Deputy Manager for Business Development, Northrop Corporation D. Environmental Technology David Blaskovich, Senior Director, Programs, Cray Research Corporation Mark Schaefer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy R. Darryl Banks, Program Director, Program in Technology and Environment, World Resources Institute Clyde Frank, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Technology Development, Office of Environmental Management, Department of Energy E. Aerospace Technologies David P. Radzanowski, Analyst in Aerospace Policy, Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service Samuel N. Goward, Associate Professor, Director, Laboratory for Global Remote Sensing Studies, University of Maryland at College Park F. Infrastructure Development Harry B. Caldwell, Office of Policy Development, Highway Needs and Investment Branch, Federal Highway Administration Sue McNeil, Carnegie-Mellon University; infrastructure management, condition assessment, and image processing G. Smart Materials Technology Implementation in Infrastructure Enhancement Craig A. Rogers, Professor and Director, Center for Intelligent Material Systems and Manufacturing, Virginia Tech Vijay Varadan, Professor of Engineering Science, Pennsylvania State University and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Smart Materials and Structures H. High Speed Rail and Freight Transportation Raymond V. Lanman, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak); commuter rail and business development Edward K. Morlok, University of Pennsylvania; freight transportation in the future: New Demands, New Approaches, New Technologies John Ullmann, Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods, Hofstra University I. Zero-Discharge Manufacturing Technology Robert Atkinson, U.S. Congress, OTA, Industrial Technology & Employment Program Ken Geiser, Director, Toxics Use Reduction Institute at U Mass, Lowell J. Information Infrastructure Marc Rotenberg, Washington Office Director, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility John Gage, Sun Microsystems (invited) K. Shipbuilding Industry William Avery, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; expert on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Virgil Rinehart, Senior Advisor for Shipbuilding, Maritime Agency L. Manufacturing Extension Services Philip Nanzetta, Director, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, National Institute of Standards and Technology George Sutherland, Director, Great Lakes Manufacturing Technology Center
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