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 15 Issue 29

Tuesday 23 November 1993


o Logic Bomb planted in retribution for nonpayment
Mich Kabay
o Brazilian computer snarls in corruption probe
Mich Kabay
o Digitized Photos
Mich Kabay
o Magnetic Fields & Leukaemia
Mich Kabay
o Who owns the unused cycles?
Bear Giles
o Not-voting-by-phone Boulder over
Bear Giles
o Tablespoons, or another risk?
Steve VanDevender
o Charge cards from mail order houses
Ted Wobber
o United Parcel Service signatures
Jim Carroll
o Re: Massachusetts state police confusion
Brian Hawthorne
o Re: Ada Usage
Douglas W. Jones
Robert I. Eachus
o Re: UK government to scrap safety laws
Keith Lockstone
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Logic Bomb planted in retribution for nonpayment

"Mich Kabay / JINBU Corp." <>
23 Nov 93 16:51:46 EST
Excerpted from the Associated Press Newswire via Executive News Service (GO
ENS) on CompuServe:

   APn  11/23 0106  BRF--Computer Virus

      WESTBURY, N.Y. (AP) — A computer company owner and his technician
   are accused of planting a virus in a dissatisfied customer's computer
   system, after the customer refused to pay for a program.
      Michael Lofaro, 29, owner of MJL Design of Manhattan, and his
   technician, John Puzzo, 22, were charged Monday with attempted computer
   tampering and coercion, said Lt. Lawrence Mulvey of the Nassau County

The article explains that the maximum penalties are 4-7 years and up to $5,000
in fines.  The client, William Haberman, owner of Forecast Inc., a furniture
company in Westbury, complained about poor performance in a program sold by
MJL Design and refused to pay the full invoice when the vendor allegedly
ignored his complaints.

According to the accusation, Lofaro and Puzzo planted a ``computer virus''
[which I think is simply a logic bomb, judging from the phrasing--MK] and
threatened to detonate it.

The accused were arrested when they came to defuse the logic bomb.

  [Surprising to see the old confusion between viruses and logic bombs
  persisting in a newswire report.--MK]  [Not surprising at all.--PGN]

Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D.  Director of Education  National Computer Security Assn

Brazilian computer snarls in corruption probe

"Mich Kabay / JINBU Corp." <>
23 Nov 93 16:52:01 EST
>Excerpted from the United Press International newswire via Executive News
Service (GO ENS) on CompuServe:

   UPn  11/18 1948  Data-packed computer snarls in Brazilian corruption probe

      BRASILIA (UPI) — A congressional committee investigating massive fraud
   in Brazil was held up Thursday when the computers froze in response to a
   command to cross-reference data on thousands of checks, bank accounts and
   budget amendments between 1990 and 1992.

The article explains that the network ran out of processing resources,
including memory, when trying to track down corruption in the government.

[Wonder if we'd need a supercomputer to track corruption in certain other

Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D.  Director of Education  National Computer Security Assn

Digitized Photos

"Mich Kabay / JINBU Corp." <>
23 Nov 93 16:52:27 EST
>Excerpted from the Associated Press newswire via Executive News Service
(GO ENS) on CompuServe:

   APn 11/21 1531 Digital Licenses, By MARTIN FINUCANE, Associated Press Writer
      BOSTON (AP) — Fourteen states and two Canadian provinces are planning
   to use digitized photographs of drivers on licenses, adding people's faces
   to their already-vast computer files.
      Once a photo is scanned into a computer to be stored digitally, the
   image can easily be altered, matched with similar images or even
   transmitted around the world. Privacy experts worry that the information
   will be misused by people with bad intentions or by overzealous police.

The article goes on to explain that privacy advocates are already worried
about the potential for abuse.  Possible abuses include

 o release of the pictures to the direct-marketing industry, which could
   target specific categories of people (e.g., bald people or those in need
   of dental care) for campaigns;

 o illegal use by criminals to stalk, harass or intimidate victims.

The FBI is claimed to be interested in nationwide picture files and is
currently upgrading its databases to handle pictures such as those from motor
vehicle licenses.

Even in police work, such files could be misused: ``For example, courts have
frowned on police roundups of all young black men near a crime scene — but
police could use the computer to scan the pictures of every driver living
in the area.''

Police could greatly increase the number of pictures shown to witnesses of
crimes by including thousands of photos of innocent people--with a likely
increase in the number of false positive misidentifications.

Because the pictures will be stored in digital fashion, changing them will
be very easy.

Privacy watchdogs urge caution and thought as the systems are implemented.

Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D.  Director of Education  National Computer Security Assn

Magnetic Fields & Leukaemia

"Mich Kabay / JINBU Corp." <>
23 Nov 93 16:52:47 EST
>Excerpted from the Reuter newswire via Executive News Service (GO ENS) on


        LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuter) - Children who live close to high voltage
   power lines and other electromagnetic fields may be doubling their risk of
   contracting leukaemia, according to research published on Friday.
        An analysis of three of the latest studies carried out in Denmark,
   Finland and Sweden also threw up evidence of an increased risk of nervous
   system tumours and other childhood cancers, although the link was less

The article goes on to explain that the analysis was published in a letter to
The Lancet, a British medical journal.  Unlike previous studies which were
widely viewed as having insufficient sample sizes, ``Anders Ahlborn of
Stockholm's Institute of Environmental Medicine and his Nordic colleagues
looked at recent Danish and Finnish studies that used the entire population
and a Swedish study restricted to people living close to power lines.''

  [It will be interesting to see if the levels of electromagnetic disturbance
  from electronic equipment could affect us too.--MK]

Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D.  Director of Education  National Computer Security Assn

Who owns the unused cycles?

Bear Giles <>
Wed, 17 Nov 1993 19:43:06 -0700
Earlier today I talked my sys-admin into letting me install the software to
help factor RSA-129 on my workstation.  When I mentioned how easily it
installed he suggested I run it on a number of other workstations — after all
I had login permissions for them all.

An hour later a coworker was giving me a stern lecture about how I shouldn't
run a process on his system in background without getting his full permission
first (not only to run it and to be assured that it would not consume
resources, but also that it satisfied *his* requirements for legitimacy).  The
fact that the process was nice'd and previously approved by the sys-admin was
considered irrelevant.

I've since talked to several other coworkers; about 1/3 feel the same as the
coworker mentioned above, the other 2/3 feel that if the system resources are
available they can be used by anyone as long as they don't impact the primary
user.  *Everyone* appears to believe that their view is obvious, although most
admit that other views are not totally unreasonable.

This specific application is trivial, but what does this portend for the
future?  It's not hard to identify legitimate background tasks which could be
run by businesses overnight, but will efforts to use idle resources run into
hostility by workers who feel that ``their'' workstation or PC is being
grabbed by others who don't respect their privacy or ownership?  Would such
distributed software be acceptable at night, or by users without any
indication of system load (be it ``perf meters'' or flashing disk lights), but
not by users who could notice such indications of active processing?

Distributed processing over LANs seems promising, but have users had
individual PCs and workstations which acted alone too long for them to accept
the idea of a supra-system computer?

Bear Giles

Not-voting-by-phone Boulder over

Bear Giles <>
Thu, 18 Nov 1993 21:27:06 -0700
During the recent elections the people of Boulder, Colorado voted 11731 to
7926 *not* to implement a voting-by-phone system provided Constitutional
questions were satisfied.

(The Colorado Constitution requires that ballots not be individually
identifiable; the proposal to print telephone ballots and "voter IDs" may
violate this requirement.  BTW, if this information is published it can be
cross-referenced with public records (of registered voters and voting
patterns) in a statistical attack on the anonymity of voters.  But *not*
publishing this information removes one of the strongest arguments for

The ratio was quite consistent as the election results were announced, so it
appeared that there was widespread distrust of this system despite substantial
favorable press in the campus newspaper.  Unfortunately, I don't know how much
coverage the Boulder (city) paper provided; the Denver daily I read had no
coverage of this issue.

Of particular interest to RISKS readers is the fact that many proponents of
this measure implicitly acknowledged that a person voting out of sight of
election officials could be coerced, but they felt this was "irrelevant" since
people who feared being coerced could simply vote at the regular polling
place!  The fact that anyone who could be coerced to vote a particular way
could as easily be coerced to vote by phone, instead of in person, was not

Bear Giles

Tablespoons, or another risk?

Steve VanDevender <>
Thu, 18 Nov 93 01:44:11 PST
The poem "Tablespoons" allegedly created by writing Lewis Carroll's
"Jabberwocky" into an Apple Newton seems to have words a little too far off
the originals, even given the Newton's shaky handwriting analysis, and some of
the words seem too well chosen.  It really looks to me as if someone wrote a
parody of "Jabberwocky" with veiled references to things from the world of
computers and the Internet and passed it off with a clever framing story.  It
can be too easy to believe what you read on the net, especially if an author
plays off of expectations well.

Charge cards from mail order houses

Thu, 18 Nov 93 17:06:13 -0800
My wife obtained a credit card from a local branch office of a clothing
retailer (Talbots) who also happens to be in the mail order business.
Recently I had an opportunity to place an order using one of their catalogs
that was mailed to our home.

The phone sales agent was able to look up my wife's account from a 5-digit
number printed on the catalog.  Now, my wife and I don't share last names.
Nonetheless, the sales agent was willing to accept an order in my name, send
it to a location of my choosing, and charge it to my wife's account!!

Seems like anyone who picked up the catalog from the trash could have made
such an order.  I'll be more wary of accepting new credit cards in the future.

Ted Wobber  —   DEC Systems Research Center

  [Worse yet, just pick five digits at random!  But maybe the fact
  that the addresses matched made it OK.  PGN]

United Parcel Service signatures

Jim Carroll <>
Fri, 19 Nov 1993 11:00:44 -0500
UPS (United Parcel Service) arrived at my doorstep the other day, with
yet another package for delivery.

I signed the little handheld machine that they carry around, to signify my
receipt of the package. I've been doing this for the last couple of years. UPS
is the only courier (in Canada, in any event) to use these handy little

However, I began to wonder this time about UPS and signatures. UPS must
have collected my signature in digital form over 50 times now through the
past few years.

Maybe my signature exists in some UPS database at this point? Maybe a smart
hacker somewhere in the bowels of has figured out a way to download my
signature from their field device?  Maybe my digital signature can be misused
in some fashion?

What are the risks that are posed by UPS collecting digital signatures? Might
those risks be compounded as more companies implemented field devices such as
UPS? What should we as consumers being doing to protect ourselves?

Should I even bother signing with my real signature, or should I just print
out my name?

Perhaps there is an interesting issue here that RISKS should explore.

Jim Carroll, J.A. Carroll Consulting, Mississauga, Ontario
+1.905.855.2950   Co-Author, "The Canadian Internet Handbook", due March 1994

Re: Massachusetts state police confusion (Garfinkel, RISKS-15.26)

Brian Hawthorne,SunSelect Strategic Marketing <>
Mon, 22 Nov 1993 10:37:19 +0500
In RISKS-15.26, Simson L. Garfinkel forwarded a claim by a David Lewis
of the Registry of Motor vehicles that the confusion was caused by:

   "They got stickers confused with people who were supposed to get
    food stamps.  So the people [who were supposed to get] the food
    stamp books got the gun permits, and the people who were supposed
    to get gun permits got food stamps."

I would urge Mr. Garfinkel to seek independent confirmation in the future.
Were Mr. Lewis' claim to be true, it would imply that my wife was a recipient
of food stamps. While she did provide graphic design services to the
Department of Public Welfare for several years, she has never been a client of

Both Mr. Lewis and Eric Forak (in Risks 15.28) make the assertion that gun
permits were actually ISSUED to food stamp recipients. As far as I know, the
only mixup resulted a renewal application being sent to the wrong list of
people. This has all the signs of degenerating into a rather nasty urban
legend: "And then, the state police accidentally shipped fully automatic
weapons to everyone who had ordered an MBTA pass by mail..."

Let's stop this before it escalates further. If anyone else has any verifiable
information (i.e. confirmable in writing from multiple sources), let's hear

The current RISK? The ease of electronic communication makes small-town
gossip circles look like peer-reviewed journals.

Brian Hawthorne

Re: Ada Usage

Douglas W. Jones,201H MLH,3193350740 <>
Thu, 18 Nov 1993 15:56:48 GMT
Harry Erwin ( wrote, on 15 Nov 1993, that

> There are real problems for which Ada is not the best language.
> 1. Simulation--due to the lack of support for coroutines, Simula-style
>    semaphores, condition queues, call by name, and event lists,

I have used Ada for a fairly large scale discrete event simulation project,
and while I would have enjoyed having coroutines, the other issues were
not problems.

Specifically, having done a fair amount of research on event lists, I
simply transliterated the best I had from older Pascal code, packaged it
up to hide the details behind the cloak provided by Ada's package and
private type mechanisms, and used it.  My event set package is in a few
repositories of public domain Ada code, and I'll gladly E-mail it to
anyone who wants it.

Call by name is not needed, but some form of procedure parameter would
be nice.  I found, though, that the lack of both never really got in the
way.  The generic and package mechanisms of Ada are powerful enough that
I never encountered a case where they were insufficient, but they weren't
always my first choice.

Coroutines would also have been nice, but their lack never stood in the
way of my project.  In fact, I believe that Ada's tasking features could
be quite effectively used to do process oriented simulation, but I haven't
investigated this (my model wasn't expressed in process oriented terms).

I was surprised to find that Ada's separation of package bodies from
package definitions covers at least 90 percent of the uses I would have
had for inheritance in an object oriented language.  The remaining 10
percent, however, caused more than a few headaches.

The biggest thing I miss in Ada is garbage collection, but this isn't a
problem with Ada, as specified, but merely a problem with all the available
implementations.  Why isn't garbage collection more widely available?!

Doug Jones

Re: Ada Usage

"Robert I. Eachus" <>
Thu, 18 Nov 1993 18:24:32 -0500
   At a RISK of beating this horse to death, I'll respond to Harry Ervin
( who said:

 > There are real problems for which Ada is not the best language.

Of course there are.  Next.

 >  1. Simulation--due to the lack of support for coroutines, Simula-style
 >     semaphores, condition queues, call by name, and event lists,

    Have you looked at the Ada 9X standard out for ballot?  Make your desires
known.  (Most of this list is in there, but I guarantee you won't get
classical Algol 60 call by name, no matter how many comments you send in. ;-)

  > 2. Test generation--for similar reasons,
  > 3. Multi-threaded applications with external inputs, where the usual
  >   tasking libraries run into problems. What happens is that the OS
  >    and the run-time environment sometimes need to enter messages or events
  >    into the same queues. Unless the library has been carefully integrated
  >    with the operating system, race conditions can occur, losing entries.

    This definitely sounds like a complaint about a bug in a
particular implementation, and probably relates this to comp.risks.
Do not believe that just because a compiler (or operating system) has
been validated there are no bugs.  On the other hand, please try not
to confuse OS behavior with the properties of a programming language.

  > 4. Object-oriented programming in the full sense,

    Again get the Ada 9X draft and respond. Tucker Taft and a lot of
others worked hard to get OOP all "in there."  If there is anything
missing please provide details.

  > 5. Completion routines for inter-device protocols, and

     For the Ada 9X Requirements Workshop several years ago in
Florida, we had tee-shirts made up:  "I don't know what the problem
is... but Finalization is the answer."  It's in there, as is support
for heterogeneous distributed programming.

  > 6. Anything that needs to run close to the bare metal.

     It's in there.  If there is something you think is missing from the
Reference Manual or the Real-Time and Systems Programming annexes, please let
ANSI or ISO know. (Is this starting to sound repetitious?  Okay, I'll stop
    Robert I. Eachus

Re: UK government to scrap safety laws

Keith Lockstone <>
Thu, 18 Nov 93 11:37 GMT0
This posting underlines a fundamental polarity between safety and
`free enterprise' - best summed up by:

[The Herald of] Free Enterprise puts to sea again - with its bow doors open.

Keith Lockstone

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