Today's (Wednesday) San Jose Mercury News reports a hidden effect of the LA quake this week. THe main electric feed to the LA area was knocked out by the quake, darkening the whole basin. However, interdependencies in the grid meant that power supplies went out as far away as Wyoming and Alberta. 150,000 people were without power for three hours in Idaho. It all goes to show just how interconnected things all are. Clive D.W. Feather, Santa Cruz Operation, Croxley Centre, Hatters Lane, Watford, WD1 8YN, United Kingdom email@example.com Phone: +44 923 816 344
Associated Press writer David Reed reports that an out-of-work janitor pleaded guilty to giving false radio commands to pilots around Roanoke Regional Airport in Virginia. The phony controller, Rodney Eugene Bocook, called the ``Roanoke Phantom'' by legitimate controllers, would tell pilots to abort landings, change altitudes and direction. Although some pilots followed his instructions, no serious incidents resulted. The phony instructions were sent for six weeks last fall until FAA agents with transmitter-tracking equipment found the source. Bobcook pleaded guilty to giving pilots false information and using profane language over the radio. His attorney claimed that Bobcook was not fully able to understand the gravity of his actions or of distinguishing right and wrong. Under federal sentencing guidelines, it is estimated that he will serve two years. This raises interesting questions of authentication. Wouldn't it be possible to add to air traffic messages some kind of ``signature'' that would help receivers distinguish between legitimate and bogus messages? Fernando Pereira, 2D-447, AT&T Bell Laboratories, 600 Mountain Ave, PO Box 636 Murray Hill, NJ 07974-0636 firstname.lastname@example.org [The RISKS archives contain earlier very similar cases. This is by no means a new problem. PGN]
>From the United Press Intl newswire via Executive News Service (GO ENS) on CompuServe: Hacker to ask charges be dropped SAN JOSE, Calif. (UPI, 04 Jan 1994) -- An attorney for a former Silicon Valley computer expert accused of raiding confidential electronic government files said Tuesday he will ask to have charges dismissed now that a federal judge has thrown out the government's chief evidence. Attorney Peter Leeming said the government's case against Kevin L. Poulsen is in disarray following a ruling suppressing computer tapes and other evidence seized from a rented storage locker in 1988.' The article continues with the following key points: o Judge ruled that material taken from Poulsen's locker is inadmissable; o Poulson charged with espionage after alleged hacking into military and PacBell computers; o allegedly used phone phreaking techniques to interfere with radio station call-in lines, allowing him and his confederates to win thousands of dollars of prizes in contests, including cars; o maximum penalties up to 100 years imprisonment. Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D., Director of Education, National Computer Security Assn
PRODIGY(R) interactive personal service 01/10/94 2:36 PM 12:46 PM (ET) 1/10 Defense To Halt Milnet Hackers NEW YORK--US defense officials, fearing computer hackers could invade their data networks, are moving to limit military links to Internet -- the backbone of the emerging information superhighway, a computer magazine said today. Network World said a plan to add a protective gateway or relay to the worldwide Defense Data Network--also known as Milnet--has touched off an uproar among computer users both in and out of the Pentagon. A brief notice from the defense department's network planning group said introduction of the gateway was due early in 1994, the magazine said. So far the plan has not been implemented, and Internet users said today they still had direct computer links to the Milnet. A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had no comment on the report, but said the department closely monitored computer security. "We are looking at ways to protect the network against hackers and viruses," she said. Network World said critics of the plan argue the security relay can not handle the volume of electronic mail and data that now flows daily between Milnet and Internet users around the world. And they questioned why less drastic security measures, including so-called firewalls common to US industry, have apparently been rejected by the military. (From Reuters)
Article 1637 (1 more) in misc.news.southasia (moderated): From: email@example.com (S.Ramani) Subject: India - Software Glitch Causes PSLV Failure Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org (netnews admin account) Organization: NCST, Bombay Date: Tue, 4 Jan 94 13:18:57 GMT Country - India Source - Times of India, Bombay Edition, 4th Jan 94 Sent by - S. Ramani Bangalore: A software error in the pitch-control loop of the onboard guidance and control processor led to the failure of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle's (PSLV) maiden flight, according to the expert's panel which probed the setback, reports UNI. Their findings were released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) here on Monday. The PSLV-DI failed after a smooth lift-off from the Sriharikota range on September 20, 1993.
The message below, from managers of wuarchive.wustl.edu, is one with which readers of RISKS should be familiar. How many of us are in the same position? For those of you who don't know, wuarchive.wustl.edu is one of the largest and busiest Internet public archive sites, accessible via anonymous FTP and other means. ----- From /README.NOW in wuarchive.wustl.edu ----- The entire archives were destroyed the afternoon of Thursday, January 13th due to a bug in the system crash dump routines. There have been serious problems restoring backups due to a failed tape drive -- we have gotten a loaner drive, but there may not be any recent viable backups of the archives. Translation: everything was lost, the archive maintainers are scrambling to find copies of all of the missing files -- it's probable that some files were lost permanently. Thanks for your patience, The Management
Phil Agre's message of January 6th ("Wild agents in Telescript?") brings up some very good points. In this message I would like to describe some of the safety features of Telescript that are used to prevent both ill-intentioned scripts (e.g., worms, viruses) and buggy scripts from damaging a Telescripted network. 1) The Telescript language is interpreted, rather than compiled. Thus, Telescript programs cannot directly manipulate the memory, file system or other resources of the computers on which they execute. 2) Every Telescript agent (i.e, Telescript program that can move around a Telescript network) is uniquely identified by a telename. A telename consists of two components: an authority which identifies the "owner" of the agent (e.g., the Personal Communicator from which it originated) and an identity which distinguishes that agent from any other agent of the same authority. The authority component is cryptographically generated and cannot be forged. Thus, when an agent is transferred from one Telescript engine to another, it is possible to verify (using cryptographic techniques) that the agent is indeed of the authority it claims to represent. (N.B.: a Telescript engine is a program capable of interpreting and executing Telescript programs). 3) Every Telescript agent has a permit which limits its capabilities. Permits can be used to protect users from misprogrammed agents (e.g., an agent that would otherwise "run away" and consume resources for which the user would have to pay) and to protect Telescript service providers from malicious agents. Two kinds of capabilities are granted an agent by its permit. The first kind is the right to use a certain Telescript instruction, e.g., the right to create clones of itself. The second is the right to use a particular Telescript resource and by which amount. For example, an agent is granted a maximum lifetime, a maximum size and a maximum overall expenditure of resources (called the agent's allowance), measured in teleclicks. An agent's permit is imposed when the agent is first created and is renegotiated whenever that agent travels to an engine controlled by a different administrative authority. If the agent exceeds any of its quantitative limits, it is immediately destroyed by the Telescript engine where it is executing. 4) Telescript agents move around a Telescript network by going from one Telescript place to another. Telescript provides an instruction -- go -- that gives agents this travelling capability (if granted by their permit, of course). Places are Telescript programs in their own right. Before accepting an incoming agent, a place can examine the agent's telename, permit and class (N.B.: an agent represents an instance of a Telescript class; thus, the class of the agent represents the "program" that the agent executes. Like authority names, class names cannot be forged). Based on that information, the place can do any the following: a) Do not allow the agent to enter. b) Allow the agent to enter but only after imposing upon it a permit more restrictive than the one it currently holds (e.g., the agent is only allowed to consume 100 teleclicks while in this place). c) Allow the agent to enter and execute under its current permit. 5) When a Telescript process (agent or place) interacts with another Telescript process, the telename and class of the former is available to the latter. This enables Telescript applications to control who can interact with them and in what ways. I hope this (brief) description of some of the more pertinent security features of Telescript will help Risks readers understand how we've addressed the issues raised in the NYT article and in Phil's message. -Luis Valente, General Magic, Inc.
Folks who are interested in the extent of industrial espionage (and thus the need for secure networks and secure encryption) will want to check out the lead story in January 6,1994 edition of the Wall Street Journal. The details are more arcane than even the best spy novels, but the highlights are: * Information brokers would contact companies in the oil business and offer to "help" them win contracts for a percentage. They provided information gained through shmoozing and buying off insiders as part of their help. * Illicit payments reported in the story paid to the industrial spies ranged from $10,000 to $600,000. The contracts were worth $100 million and up. * The Swiss government refuses to disclose information about the accounts where the loot is deposited because it says that this sort of behavior is not against the law in Switzerland.
At the end of December, after NBC Nightly News announced an address for Internet email - "email@example.com" - I wondered if the other US television networks had also established an Internet presence. A quick check of the Domain Name Service revealed the existence of "abc.com", "cbs.com", and "fox.com". A search in the InterNIC registration database showed that none of these represented the organizations I would normally associate with those names. Instead of TV networks, I found a design firm, a consultant, and an online service. The obvious risk is that of mistaken identity. Less clear is the impact that such "misleading" email addresses may have on the way people do business. Increasing numbers of people do much of their professional interaction via email. Email addresses are appearing on business cards and becoming as accepted as postal addresses. The domain name portion of an email address is coming to represent an organization. Domain names are given out on a first-come-first-served basis. This raises several questions. Will large companies consider "misleading" domain names to violate their trademarks? Will "misleading" domain names matching those or large companies be registered with the intent of receiving compensation for them when the companies eventually come on the Internet? Not all the networks have been lagging behind, by the way - the Public Broadcasting Service ("pbs.org") has been on the Internet for over a year. [By the way, I chided Matt for having such an amorphous net address. The "chron" gets grandfathered because of its early access to the Internet, and is actually the Houston Chron. PGN]
>Has anyone ever tried to have 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE forwarded? Yes. In January of last year, much of its mail was forwarded to Houston, Texas. :-)
Last night I purchased a Cellular phone. While reading through the manual I found a section labeled "Security features" Neat. The manual talked about two security codes, a 3 digit number to unlock the phone and a 6 digit number that is used to change the unlock number and a number of other security features. The 6 digit number can also be used to unlock the phone. The 6 digit number is not easily reprogrammed. The 3 digit number was included with the documentation; however, I couldn't find the 6 digit number. So I called the technical help line. Their answer floored me. "The 6 digit number is '123456', '654321', or all zeros. Just give one of them a try." So much for security. The manual did state that a different 6 digit number should be chosen for each phone. Sigh. Matthew Goldman E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Work: (612) 683-3061
This is dated but worthwhile for readers of RISKS. The Boston Globe of December 15 published an column by Alex Beam about an academic battle over the Harvard Semitic Museum. The Museum has an outstanding collection but was recently closed down, leading to very public battles involving many celebrities. What caught my eye in Beam's description of the controversy is the following quote: "Stager (the museum's director) instructed his secretary to remove used fax cartridges from the trash, unravel the carbonized ribbon and reconstruct the staff's facsimile transmissions, to monitor surreptitious fund-raising> (This little trick won't work on modern laser-printed fax machines, in case you're getting any ideas.)" "Stager 'talked to the (Harvard) general counsel's office, and asked them if it was against the law," his assistant, Eileen Caves, told the Harvard Crimson. They 'classified the carbon as ''abandoned material that was left in a public place'' and said it was therefore public information." Risks? It may have happened at Harvard, it may be possible to reconstruct messages, and it may be why lawyers should be buried 35 feet underground since, deep down, they are very nice people. Sanford Sherizen, Data Security Systems, Natick, MA
Setting "NOMAIL" to leave a LISTSERV keeps open the option of an easy return, but it may also lead to an unexpectedly full emailbox. Early in January, I began receiving regular messages from a LIST that I had set to NOMAIL in 1991; the LIST owner told me I was set to NOMAIL, but messages only/stopped when I sent an UNSUBSCRIBE message. Earlier this week (JAN. 16), I received my first update from RISKS in several years, under the same conditions, with my membership set to NOMAIL. Today, I received 80 messages from a LIST I had left (through NOMAIL) about four years ago and quickly sent an UNSUBSCRIBE message (which was acknowledged). A student of mine has been doing research on a number of lists and a substantial fraction of the respondents tell about similar phenomena? Is the NOMAIL setting really a time bomb that may flood your mail directory unexpectedly? (I was fortunate in TELNETing from Berkeley today just as the avalanche had begun.) If you have an explanation of this process, I would appreciate hearing it. Ron Ragsdale, Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1V6 (416) 923-6641 X2252
In RISKS-15.37, John Jones quoted The Guardian (21st December, 1993)'s report on the conviction of a male nurse who hacked into a hospital's computer system and modified entries, including prescriptions. Tow or three weeks back, the Guardian Weekly (probably in its Le Monte section) reported the widely spread practice (in may parts of the world) of illegally obtaining human organs for reselling to transplant patients. Among the many methods (such as kidnapping), one is to simulate heart failure on the monitoring machines in hospitals. Li Gong, Computer Science Lab, SRI International, Menlo Park, California
Proposal for new newsgroup on safety-critical systems Comments please, to news.groups. Proposed name: comp.safety or comp.safety-critical or comp.risks.safety ... Charter A forum for discussion of the engineering and assessment of safety-critical systems, with special reference to computing. Moderated group - Proposed moderator: Jonathan Moffett (email@example.com) Senior Research Fellow in the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group Department of Computer Science, University of York, York YO1 5DD, England Tel: +44 (0)904 432788, Fax: +44 (0)904 432767 Discussion The newsgroup would be a forum for discussions about systems safety which could afford to be more detailed than comp.risks and more specialised than comp.software-eng. It would cover safety requirements and risks, safety engineering techniques and safety assessment. Its focus would be on safety-critical computer systems and computer-supported design and assessment of general system safety. There is no newsgroup at present which deals specifically with systems safety - in a search through the Usenet postings about newsgroups the string "safe" appears only in rec.pyrotechnics, alt.irc.corruption and warnings about humor. There is of course comp.risks, with which the new group would overlap but not compete; comp.risks is wider in scope than safety, and is not very much used for technical discussions. There would also be overlaps with: comp.software-eng, which is a very high-activity group of which safety issues are a very low proportion; and comp.specification[.z], because of the indirect relationship (via high assurance) between formal specification and safety. Other possible overlaps are comp.realtime and comp.human-factors. There appear to be a gap in the market which a safety newsgroup could fill. It should be moderated, because safety is a very sensitive issue, subject both to flaming :-) and hoaxes. [A SAFE bet! The proposal sounds like a good idea. Be sure to send your comments to jdm and news.groups, but CC: RISKS if you like. PGN]
Periodically I will remind you of TWO useful digests related to privacy, both of which are siphoning off some of the material that would otherwise appear in RISKS, but which should be read by those of you vitally interested in privacy problems. RISKS will continue to carry general discussions in which risks to privacy are a concern. * The PRIVACY Forum Digest (PFD) is run by Lauren Weinstein. He manages it as a rather selectively moderated digest, somewhat akin to RISKS; it spans the full range of both technological and non-technological privacy-related issues (with an emphasis on the former). For information regarding the PRIVACY Forum, please send the exact line: information privacy as the BODY of a message to "firstname.lastname@example.org"; you will receive a response from an automated listserv system. To submit contributions, send to "email@example.com". * The Computer PRIVACY Digest (CPD) (formerly the Telecom Privacy digest) is run by Leonard P. Levine. It is gatewayed to the USENET newsgroup comp.society.privacy. It is a relatively open (i.e., less tightly moderated) forum, and was established to provide a forum for discussion on the effect of technology on privacy. All too often technology is way ahead of the law and society as it presents us with new devices and applications. Technology can enhance and detract from privacy. Submissions should go to firstname.lastname@example.org and administrative requests to email@example.com. There is clearly much potential for overlap between the two digests, although contributions tend not to appear in both places. If you are very short of time and can scan only one, you might want to try the former. If you are interested in ongoing detailed discussions, try the latter. Otherwise, it may well be appropriate for you to read both, depending on the strength of your interests and time available. PGN
TO THOSE WITH RESPONSIBILITY FOR -- OR AN INTEREST IN -- INFORMATION SECURITY: The Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) is holding its 11th Annual Conference and Trade Show, March 13-17, 1994, at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Calif. This info-security conference will feature 72 educational sessions divided among the following tracks: Network, Distributed and Client/Server, Management, Technical, Government/Legal, Audit, Awareness, and Business Continuity. Major security vendors will exhibit at the ISSA trade show. There will be a tour of Silicon Valley corporations. The following industry experts will present addresses: Harry Saal (Network Data General) -- The Super Digital Highway; James Settle (FBI) -- computer crime investigation; and Gail Warshawsky (Lawrence Livermore) -- computer security awareness. For an advance program, registration information, and ISSA membership information, please contact ISSA Headquarters at 312/644-6610 x3410 (voice), or 312-321-6869 (fax). Mention where you saw this notice! EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT IF REGISTRATION POSTMARKED ON OR BEFORE 1/31/94. Dave Lenef, Marketing/Communications Coordinator Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) 312/644-6610
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