Until such time as either the general population learns what to expect or digital authentication (such as PEM) becomes widespread, I suspect we will hear more of this kind of incident. This academic year the University of Wisconsin started providing e-mail accounts to all students at its Madison campus. (6,000?, maybe) The students, both technical and non-technical, are being encouraged to use e-mail as a way of interacting with their instructors. They access the accounts either through University-supplied machines scattered throughout the campus or through dial-up Serial Link Protocol (SLIP) connections. A mix of Macintosh's, PC's and other assorted workstations are involved. Last week (note how early in the school year) a group of five students, several from the Honors floor of one of the freshman dorms, were caught having forged several pieces of e-mail. Most potentially damaging was a note saying it was from the Director of Housing, to the Chancellor of the University, David Ward; note that the previous Chancellor is now Pres. Clinton's Secretary of HHS, so the present Chancellor is new to the job. The forged message was a submission of resignation. Ward's secretary had just returned from vacation and apparently assumed the proferred resignation was legitimate. The secretary accepted it and started to act upon it -- it was only during the course of that that it was discovered to be a fake. The students also sent messages purporting to be from the Chancellor to other students asking them to pay their tuition. They also forged a message from the Chancellor (my information doesn't say who it went to) saying he was going to "come out of the closet" and announce it Sept. 25. The students were only caught through a combination of circumstances. First, since they used one of the dial-in connections there were logs of who dialed in when. Secondly, during the course of their experiments they botched some addresses which caused enough traffic to go to the dead-letter office that the investigation could narrow what was happening. (It should be pointed out that the forgery was fairly easy to accomplish using the Eudora mail client on a Macintosh: the user has complete choice over the "from:" field of a message.) The FBI is investigating whether any federal crime was involved and, needless-to-say, the students are likely to be expelled at the least. Ted Lee, Trusted Information Systems, Inc., PO Box 1718, Minnetonka, MN 55345 612-934-5424 email@example.com
The market report in the London Evening Standard of 17th September 1993 reported: ...With so many people away from their desks for Yom Kippur there was little inspiration but dealers were startled to see the price of P&O race up from 653p to 863p, triggering thoughts of a dawn raid. The price then disappeared from screens and it was put down to a computer error. The real price was 603p, up 2p. [Someone was playing the P&O blindfolded. Perhaps what was needed was a Yom Kippured Herring Aide who could hear "2p on Travel". PGN]
>From the Reuters News Service, printed in The Los Angeles Times Sunday, September 19, 1993: Computers Paid Bills as Woman in Sweden Lay Dead for 3 Years Stockholm -- The body of an elderly woman who died in 1990 lay undiscovered in her apartment for more than three years while computers received her pension and automatically paid her bills, Swedish police said Saturday. "It's very unusual for someone to be dead so long without anyone else reacting," a police duty officer in the Stockholm suburb of Farsta told the national news agency TT. The woman's last-opened mail was dated May 11, 1990, police said, indicating she had died at the age of 72. Her name has not been made public. Police were called to break into the apartment by its landlord after he had made repeated efforts to gain the occupant's permission to renovate it. Alan E. Frisbie, Flying Disk Systems, Inc., 4759 Round Top Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90065 (213) 256-2575 (voice) (213) 258-3585 (FAX) Frisbie@Flying-Disk.Com [Also noted by Trevor Jenkins firstname.lastname@example.org . The RISKS archives also show a previous similar case. PGN]
The following was culled from Gene Spafford's Yucks Digest; I have no idea whather the tale is apocryphal or not, but the implications of putting yet another layer of technology between the mind and the bits (with no sanity clause)... [Yes Virginia there is a Sanity Clause (cf Groucho)] anyhow, excerpt follows: ============================== Date: Thu, 23 Sep 93 18:51:39 PDT From: uunet!frame.com!sbs (Steven Sargent) Subject: "I think my face is on fire." To: various One of my spies on the net reports: > > ... I thought you might like to know what Abraham Lincoln would've > said if he'd been writing his notes on a Newton instead of paper. > > "Bookstore avis screen deans ago, our fort fathers brownies > front it on fits continent a new nation, concerned in in berry > and bridge area to fire proposition that air me fire created > erasers...."
In the Globe and Mail newspaper from Canada for Saturday, Sept 11, 1993, Mary Gooderham, Applied Science Reporter, has an article on page A3 entitled, "Technology points finger at poor drivers: Car rentals could become more difficult as motorists' records are shared." The article explains that for $5, the Ontario Transportation Ministry will provide any registered driver's record (including name, license number, date of birth, sex, conviction--criminal and highway--and accident history. Such information is supposedly restricted to "authorized requesters" including police, collection agencies and insurance companies. In contrast, the province of British Columbia will being in October 93 to require written permission from data subjects before releasing their accident records. Gooderham writes that some US rent-a-car agencies routinely check the driving record of applicants from NY, MD, FL and OH. Poor drivers are refused service. In Canada, the Interprovincial Record Exchange is managed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, which is considering "giving third parties access." In NY, TML Information Services serves as broker between the State and rental-car agencies. According to Gooderham, TML's CEO, Sean Doherty, expects "half of U.S. drivers will be covered by the system by the middle of next year." + + + The prospect of reducing road accidents and thefts by keeping track of rotten drivers and no-goodniks appeals to my orderly side. However, in the light of extensive discussions in RISKS-14 about faulty credit, driving, and criminal records, the lack of clear information or procedures for _checking_ and _correcting_ such records is a problem. How would you, a model citizen and driver, like to discover on the morning of your vacation/business/emergency trip that you appear to have been disqualified by an erroneous database record? Arguing with the poor soul on the other side of the counter will clearly not help. I expect to see a growing number of lawsuits as a result of database errors or possibly even program bugs when innocent people suffer from data corruption. It will not be good enough to allow just _anyone_ to make ostensible corrections in our records, either. Some method of identification and authentication will have to be devised to prevent nasty people from damaging other people's histories. And just what, pray, will that entail? A national identification card? Perhaps we are headed that way. The social security number is already becoming an equivalent that can tie together many independent databases to provide a detailed vision of an individual's personal and professional life. Without adequate provisions for maintaining data integrity and validity, the growing use of databanks containing personal information will result in costly and perhaps dangerous errors. Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D., Director of Education, National Computer Security Assn
As a followup to the article on drivers' records I just posted, I would like to explore the consequences of having many interlinked but independently-managed databanks describing us. These problems have been familiar to data processing personnel for the last 50 years, but they will be new to some of the designers, administrators and users of interlinked personal-information databases being established throughout government and industry. Agency A maintains a databank and links in to Organization B, which links up with Institution C. Data flow from A -> B -> C. An error creeps into the record for Percy Perfect in database A. It propagates to B and C. Percy discovers the problem one morning when he lands at Seattle Airport and tries to pick up his Superior Rent-A-Car vehicle so he can make a 10 am meeting 120 miles away in the back woods of Washington state. He is refused because his record now shows that he stole a car in Florida 3 years ago. Actually, Percy has never stolen as much a jellybean in his life and has never been to Florida. It's one of those identity-mixups. Oops, sorry, we'll fix it. Three weeks later, the correction finally makes it into database A. Question: is there a mechanism in place to record the fact that the record had in the past been sent to database B? And will B also "know" that it ought to send a correction to database C? If all works well, there is no problem. But what if C doesn't "know" that B got data from A. What if A, not "knowing" that C got some of _its_ data from B, signs an agreement to begin sharing data FROM C? Then we have A -> B-> C -> A: a circular data path. As soon as there is a loop in the topology, the loop may inadvertently become an accumulator or buffer. So A send a correction to B which propagates it to C, but unfortunately just moments before the correction arrives, C ships an update to A showing the erroneous data. Will A update its own new records with an old record that is in fact wrong? Yes it will, unless provisions are implemented to forestall such problems. Some of the techniques that will have to be evaluated include o time stamps using coordinated time to allow a system to establish which of two records is newer. o a standardized format for exchanging the _history_ of a record: where did it come from? when? o mechanisms for unique identification of a database. o mechanisms for alerting member databases to circular references. o provision for authentication of updates; perhaps message authentication codes in the style of ANSI X9.9, including a sequence number in the MAC to prevent insertion and deletion of transactions. A printout of the data subject's record should be delivered to the data subject on demand when and where the information is used. In addition, as a means of catching errors fast, it would help if a printout were delivered to the data subject every time the record is modified. These practises would not prevent or identify all problems (e.g., they'd fail when the address is wrong) but at least they'd be on the right path. The Internet contains files which co-exist in different repositories without too much conflict. Let us hope that this model of collaborative data storage will serve as an example of how to accommodate redundant data without bureaucratic and governmental meddling. Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D., Director of Education, National Computer Security Assn
After testing a computer-based training program last night, on a PC, it was time to quit. The program used a GUI-ish interface, one of those home- grown interfaces that appeared on the PC before Windows became established. So, I selected quit, saw the prompt, and hit "no." Automatically. Then returned to the main menu. Did this three times, very fast, figuring I missed the button. Finally, my host said, "Try clicking on yes." The prompt? "Do you want to quit?" Yes/No. But *I*, a Mac-user, have been conditioned to see: "Save changes before quitting?" Yes/No/Cancel. This is the only time you see "are you sure" prompts on exiting a Mac program. I was just screwing around, so of COURSE I hit "No." I'm sure there's a RISK in there, somewhere...:-) It was COMPLETELY instinctive for me to hit "No"... And while I'm at it, an old vending-machine story, which someone suggested I send to RISKS at the time. This was one of those machines with an alpha A-F "category" selector, with a numeric item selector. So if you wanted the fifth item on row C, it would be C-5. After entering the proper amount, one hit the button "C", then the button "5." Except in this case, the item was C-11. What did I, techno-nerd, do? "C-1-1." Twice. Getting the item C-1. Then I looked down, and saw that the numeric selectors went down to 12, including 10, 11, and 12. Oh. In this vein, airliner avionics requiring numerical entry tend to use "phone-style" keyboards, with 123 the top row of keys. Yet all calculators are exactly the opposite, with 123 the second-to-bottom row. What happens when cultures clash, in THAT case? :-) Or the 0 key is transposed from the left bottom-most key, to the right? Or put to the left of the 1? :-) Profound questions at 5AM.... Robert Dorsett email@example.com ...cs.utexas.edu!cactus.org!rdd
Michel E. Kabay was wondering about the risks of new digital phones on microprocessors. I don't know about this but I do know that using certain types of portable phone near certain types of fire detectors can set off a false alarm. The problem was caused by portable phones causing an ionization detector to send out a signal which was interpreted by the system as a genuine detect. The problem came to light when the customer used a portable phone to complain about the late arrival of the engineer, needless to say he was sat right under one of the detectors. Trev
Brian.Randell@newcastle.ac.uk wrote: > Details of the errors were disclosed after a clinical inquiry by senior > radiologists who examined the cases of all 1045 patients who had > radiation doses of up to 35% less than prescribed. Their report blamed > human error by Margaret Grieveson, a physicist, who unnecessarily > programmed a correction factor into the radiography computer in 1982." The inquiry has indeed blamed Dr Grieveson, but from the news reports it is not totally clear to me that this is fair - there are some unanswered questions. The nature of the error is that she manually instructed the new computer controlling the X-ray to apply a standard correction factor (as had been required previously) based upon the distance of the radiation source from the patient. Unknown to her, however, the computer program already had this correction coded into it, so that in essence it was being applied twice. It's the 'unknown to her' that bothers me, and that the reports have not addressed. Does this imply that she didn't bother to RTFM, or is it the case that the manufacturers of the equipment thought it so obvious that the program would include the correction, that they didn't bother to mention it? I'd really like to know. Whichever is the case, it clearly demonstrates the risk of changing methodologies without making absolutely certain that everyone fully understands the new methods, and how they compare to the old ones. Finally, if the board of inquiry is able to determine, merely by reference to the set of records which were routinely kept, that patients were consistently being underdosed, then it feels probable that a review of the case papers in each individual case, while treatment was going on, could have revealed the same thing. Does this also demonstrate the risks involved in changing procedures without creating a mechanism for monitoring the effects of the change?
> The interesting part is that for the first time we are approaching the point > where true separation is possible. Not in a mainframe, nor in a UNIX machine > but in the client-server network (not peer-peer though). > IMHO this changed world-view is going to cause the single greatest change in > information security that we have ever seen. Networks will cease being > "unsecurable" and become the only accepted means for protection of data. I hope you're right, Padgett, but we've got a LONG way to go. It's amazing how many network users are unaware of the ease with which packets can be monitored, copied, and replayed. Every time I present my lecture on public-domain software tools to monitor LAN segments, most of the audience is shell-shocked! -Bob Bosen- Enigma Logic Inc.
I read a fax of a photocopy of a newspaper article (sigh), which unfortunately had the name of the newspaper as well as the date and author of the article are obscured. Although I am confident this is authentic, please keep this source in mind. "This is the new field of what [...] calls `electronic voyeurism'. [...] The results of electronic peeping are as troubling as they are bizarre. Supervisors with no intent to do mischief may watch employee message traffic on computer systems. That kind of surveillance led a major California financial institution, the Bank of America, to fire an employee after his electronic mail indicated that, when his day job ended, he worked nights as a professional gay stripper." (1) Can anyone out there supply more factual details about this case? It must have hit the papers in California. (2) We are left with a legal morass ... (a) At least in Canada, public and private institutions do have the right to monitor "private communications", but only if their intent is to check the performance and security of the systems that they are responsibile for maintaining. By the way, one might argue that the date, time, volume, originator, recipient of communications should be sufficient for this purpose, making perusal of the contents, under the guise of checking performance or security, questionable. [caveat: the absence of a "reasonable expectation of privacy" makes listening much easier, as in cellular phones, or product support phone calls to an employee in the service dept of a company -- these issues are orthogonal to the following...] (b) Privacy laws protect personal communication. (c) Some Universities have rules of the following nature: (i) it is against policy to read another person's files or e-mail. (ii) a person's personal files and e-mail *are* admissible as evidence against an accused person. One might imagine that (ii) is ineffective because while it says personal files and e-mail can be used, (i) says no one can ever obtain them! Implicit in the presence of (ii), however, is the notion that if such personal information *magically* appears at the pubic printer and is handed to someone evaluating the accused, then ... so be it. A motivated technical person could even conveniently "suspect" a problem with the computer or communications system, totally eviscerating the privacy rule, by appealing to (a).
I just did an experiment sending massive quantities of e-mail to a typical Unix box, and of course, I was able to overrun the disk capacity on the recipient machine, thus making the system grind to a crunching halt for lack of space. Since I sent it to daemon, nobody noticed the mail for quite some time, and it took a bit before they figured out the problem and were able to fix it. I don't know for sure, but I think a lot of systems are susceptible to this attack, and there is no easy solution, at least if you still want to get mail. To assess the degree to which this might be a threat, I got a listing of DoD and US Government sites from the Chaos Computer Club (thank you Charles) and tried sending mail to them - only 1 refused the mail out of 67 tried. Several told me there was no such mail recipient, but gave me a directory of other recipients with simnilar names - how helpful. A few told me they didn't have sucha user and identified that they were a particular type of system - now I know for certain what UID to send to. Under some versions of Unix, you can put quotas on users, but not on e-mail space - as far as I know. The ULIMIT prevents unbounded growth, but it is now set high enough by default on most systems that it won't stop this attack. You can explicitly refuse mail on some systems, but I don't think there is a general way to do this selectively enough to defend against this attack. The default is almost always to get all that comes to you. Your suggestions are welcomed - FC
My company is involved with a client that is producing a device that will be used in open heart surgery. Our responsibility is the design and implementation of the electronics and software that will control this device. Our client is pushing to increase the staff size 2 to 3 times beyond the number of individuals actually required to do the work. Our contention is that "too many cooks spoil the broth", an oversized staff is less likely to produce a high quality, safe product. Does anyone in these news groups have information on acedemic or industry references relating to this subject, pro or con? FDA or military project histories would be especially useful. Thanks for the help. Mike Willey
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