>The Bank of Stockton (California) accidentally turned Mohammed Idrees >Kussair's deposit of $100,000 into $1M. ... Did the bank say why they converted $100,000 to $1,000,000? Could it be due to the following: in India & Pakistan the placement of commas on large numbers is different from the west. The power-of-ten table and their names are shown below: ten 10 hundred 100 thousand 1000 ten thousand 10,000 one lakh 1,00,000 ten lakhs 10,00,000 one crore 1,00,00,000 Could he have deposited a check which was made out for $1,00,000 but got `corrected' by the bank because an `obvious' error was made in the number of zeroes. Just a wild guess... Raju Varghese firstname.lastname@example.org [No lakh of confusion. Mighty lakh arose? A rose is arose is arisen. PGN]
>From the Washington Post newswire, 17 February 1994, via Executive News Service (GO ENS) on CompuServe: "Break-Ins Prompt A Search for Better Computer Security By John Burgess, Washington Post Staff Writer Since the dawn of the electronic age, the computer password has been a trusted guardian of secrets large and small. For many people, obtaining their own password became a rite of initiation into computer culture itself. Now, growing numbers of security experts feel that the password in its common form is too old and unsophisticated for the job." The author continues with the following key points: o The IAB (Internet Architecture Board) is now arguing for a change to alternative methods of identification and authentication (I&A). o Proposals include hand-held one-time password generators and smart cards. o Concern is growing over the practice of sending cleartext passwords through unencrypted communications channels. o Trojan Horse programs can capture unencrypted passwords and store them for misuse by criminal hackers. o The most recent attack described in a CERT-CC (Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center) Advisory involved a Trojan. o There is as yet no evidence of widespread use of the captured passwords. o Another approach to I&A is the challenge-response system, in which the computer logging on to another system has to perform calculations based on data and algorithms stored on the client and the server machines. o Other methods focus on biometric I&A. o In general, current use of passwords needs to be improved: users should select passwords with strong random components to prevent dictionary attacks and should guard their passwords closely against inadvertent or deliberate disclosure. Michel E. Kabay, Ph.D., Director of Education, National Computer Security Assn
'Biometrics' refers to the use of physical charactersistics as identification. Human beings use this in that when we see a friend, we identify them by face, size, hair color, etc. Changes in Biometric data usually return an identification when positive ("Are you losing weight?", "Gee your hair looks teriffic") while negative changes are usually not stated publicly ("I see he's getting married, but his bride-to-be looks somewhat plumper than before; perhaps they _had_ to..."). However, when someone else needs to identify you and doesn't know you, they usually have to rely on authentication. Usual forms of authentication are various forms of paper, photographic/multimedia, and/or magnetic authentication issued by a government or trusted third-party. With the increased sophistication of duplicating equipment, relyance on documentary authentication is becoming unreliable. Witness the fact that anyone giving out a social security number is presumed to be the holder of that number. When they aren't, the actual holder is usually chagrinned to find out how much expense and damage they have to suffer to rectify the situation. With this, various organizations are working on means of real-time automatic biometric identification of individuals. The implications of this can be both good and bad. As the actual article is rather complicated, I'll summarize it in a separate article here. The dangers to people is that if, for example, biometric photographic measurements are used, that real-time tracking of people could be done as the technology gets cheaper. Further, you may never even know that you've been tracked unless and until something happens that it comes to your attention. Paul Robinson - Paul@TDR.COM
What does the Aldrich Ames Spy Case mean about Clipper? In an earlier posting, I thought it just proved that people could be bought and this meant that the Clipper escrow keys weren't that safe. Yesterday, I spoke with a Clipper Fan who said that Ames was an isolated case and Ames wouldn't have a need-to-know about Clipper keys. I'm not so sure. The fact is that someone in Ames's position would be one of the first people who would need access to the Clipper keys. The Department of Justice and other parts of the government have already placed large orders for the Clipper capable phones. The anti-US government spies would be operating in this arena. This is precisely where Ames should have been looking for spies to counter. If everyone at the DOJ and the FBI is going to be using Clipper, then Ames would be one of the first with a need-to-know. The private sector response is much cooler and local cops will probably go years before needing access to Clipper keys. Now consider another important fact. The Escrow Key Kops won't have a list matching names with Clipper Chip ID numbers in order to prevent them from abusing their keylist. (Memo to NIST: Don't measure response time to tap requests in Keystones.) They won't be able to tell if a spy in Ames position is asking for the Clipper Key to some long sought after mole or the target dictated by his foreign masters. Such a spy could have complete and total access to any Clipper-protected conversation they wanted. People designing the Clipper system must not only consider the security of the two Escrow Key Centers, but they must also look at who gets access to the keys. This is going to be the weak link and if Clipper becomes standard there will be plenty of potential weak links around.
In a recent editorial, Dr. Dorothy Denning of Georgetown University argued in support of the U.S. government's proposed Clipper Chip, a security device that would allow law enforcement to decipher the communications of users of such devices. Dr. Denning attempts to argue that Clipper is necessary for law enforcement agencies to be able to do their job. I'm not going to argue that one; there are plenty of people who can argue that compromising privacy for all citizens in order to aid law enforcement is a bad idea more effectively than I, particularly in the Clipper case, where the arguments from law enforcement are dubious at best. (The current justification is inadequate; there may be better reasons, from a law enforcement perspective, but we haven't heard them yet.) Without doubt, law enforcement and intelligence are huge stakeholders in the debate over encryption. But every individual and corporation in the U.S. must be included as well. Are NSA's actions really in the best interests of all the stakeholders? Are there alternatives to the current key escrow program? If one steps back and looks at what has happened over the last few years, one might well question the approaches, if not the motivation. (I believe it may even be possible to conclude that Clipper is the visible portion of a large-scale covert operation on U.S. soil by the National Security Agency.) Over a number of years, through their subversion of the Commerce Department (who should be championing the causes of U.S. industry, not the intelligence agencies), NSA has managed to put many U.S. government resources normally beyond their control, both legally and practically, to work on their program of making U.S. and international communications accessible. The first step was the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between NIST NSA. This document appears to contravene the provisions of the Computer Security Act of 1987, the intent of which was to give NIST control over standards-making for the unclassified government and commercial sectors. The MOU essentially gave NSA a veto over any proposals for crypto standards by NIST. By using the standards making authority of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NSA is attempting to force the entire U.S. government to purchase Clipper equipment since only NIST-standard equipment may be purchased by government agencies. This purchasing power can then be used to force U.S. manufacturers to build Clipper products or risk losing government business. (GSA is currently questioning NSA's authority to control government-wide procurement, and should continue to do so.) This of course not only subsidizes Clipper products, but could make Clipper a de facto standard if the costs associated with alternatives are too high. These costs to industry, of ignoring Clipper, come in the form of lost government market share, costly support for multiple versions of incompatible products, and non-exportability of non-Clipper products. It also appears that NSA is desperately seeking a digital signature standard that would force users to take that signature capability wrapped up with a Clipper chip. If this is the case, as it appears to be, then NSA has is trying to use what is probably the most powerful business tool of the information age as a means to deny us its benefits unless we subsidize and accept Clipper in the process. This would, if true, be an unprecedented abuse of government power to influence U.S. industry and control individual privacy. (Clipper is part of a chip called Capstone, which is where their proposed digital signature standard would be used.) The overall cost of these policies is unknown. We only know that NSA has spent a considerable amount of money on the program directly. Other costs are not so obvious. They are: * A burdened U.S. industry, which will have to build multiple products or more expensive products that support multiple techniques; * A low-intensity "trade war" with the rest of the world over encryption; * Lost sales to U.S. companies, since international buyers will surely go to non-U.S. suppliers for non- Clipper encryption, as may buyers in the U.S.; * Potential abuses by government and loss of privacy for all citizens. Does NSA truly believe they can displace other methods with Clipper? With over three million RSA products, the technology they feel threatened by, in use in the U.S. today? Not likely; therefore, they have already decided that these costs are acceptable even if they only delay the inevitable, and that U.S. industry and U.S. taxpayers should bear these costs, whatever they are. This policy was apparently developed by unelected people who operate without oversight or accountability. Does the White House really support this policy? (Does this all sound familiar?) It has been rumored that NSA will gain support from foreign governments for escrow technology, especially if "local control" is provided. Even if NSA can convince their sister organizations around the world to support key escrow (by offering Clipper technology with a do-your-own-escrow option), will these other governments succeed in selling it to their industry and citizens? Most countries around the world have much stronger privacy laws and a longer history of individual privacy than the U.S. WHY AGAIN WHEN IT DIDN'T WORK THE FIRST TIME? Many seem to have forgotten or are not aware that the Clipper program is not new, and it's also not the first time NSA has attempted to force communications security on U.S. industry that it could compromise. In the mid-80's, NSA introduced a program called the Commercial COMSEC Endorsement Program, or CCEP. CCEP was essentially Clipper in a black box, since the technology was not sufficiently advanced to build lower-cost chips. Vendors would join CCEP (with the proper security clearances) and be authorized to incorporate classified algorithms into communications systems. NSA had proposed that they themselves would actually provide the keys to end-users of such systems. The new twist is access by key escrow. To see how little things have changed, consider this quote: "...RSA Data Security, Inc. asserts that since CCEP-2 is not published and therefore cannot be inspected by third parties, the NSA could put a 'trap door' in the algorithm that would enable the agency to inspect information transmitted by the private sector. When contacted, NSA representative Cynthia Beck said that it was the agency's policy not to comment on such matters." That was in 1987. ("The Federal Snags in Encryption Technology," Computer and Communications Decisions, July 1987, pp. 58-60.) To understand NSA's thinking, and the danger of their policies, consider the reply of a senior NSA official when he was asked by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal if NSA, through the CCEP program, could read anyone's communications: "Technically, if someone bought our device and we made the keys and made a copy, sure we could listen in. But we have better things to do with our time." (The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1988, page 1, column 1, "A Supersecret Agency Finds Selling Secrecy to Others Isn't Easy," by Bob Davis.) Another NSA official, in the same Journal story, said "The American Public has no problem with relying on us to provide the technology that prevents the unauthorized launch of nuclear weapons. If you trust us to protect against that, you can trust us to protect private records." Remember that the Cold War was still on at that time. Maybe they're not so busy today. Law enforcement and intelligence gathering are certainly impeded by the use of cryptography. There are certainly legitimate concerns that these interests have. But is the current approach really the way to gain support? People with a strong military and intelligence bias are making all the decisions. There seem to be better ways to strike a balance. AN ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL One approach would be to have NIST develop a standard with three levels. The first level could specify the use of public-key for key management and signatures without any key escrow. There could be a "Level II" compliance that adds government key escrow to message preparation. "Level III" could be key escrow controlled by the user, typically a corporation. Would this work? The first level, meeting the standard by itself, would back up the government's claim that key escrow is voluntary; if I want privacy and authentication without key escrow, then I can have it, as the government has claimed I can. Actions speak louder than words. Why would any vendors support Level II? They would find a market in the government. (I would certainly like our public servants to use key escrow, just as I want work product paid for by my corporation to be accessible.) So the government can still influence the private sector by buying only products that include Level II compliance. Also, Level II products would be decontrolled for export. The market can decide; vendors will do what their customers tell them to. This satisfies the obvious desire on the part of the government to influence what happens, as a consumer. Level III would allow any user to insert escrow keys they control into the process. (Level II would not be a prerequisite to Level III.) My company may want key escrow; I, as an individual, may want to escrow my keys with my attorney or family members; a standard supporting these functions would be useful. I don't necessarily want or need the government involved. NIST already knows how to write a FIPS that describes software and hardware implementations, and to certify that implementations are correct. This approach certainly isn't perfect, but if the administration really believes what it says and means it, then I submit that this is an improvement over a single key escrow FIPS foisted on everyone by NSA, and would stand a much better chance of striking a workable balance between the needs of the government and the right of individuals to privacy. Therefore, it RISKS much less than the current plan. The real problem with the way NSA works is that we don't find out what they're really doing and planning for decades, even when they're wrong. What if they are? In the 60's and 70's, the CIA was out of control, and the Congress, after extensive hearings that detailed some of the abuses of power by the CIA, finally moved to force more accountability and oversight. In the 80's and 90's, NSA's activities should be equally scrutinized by a concerned Congress.
This is a letter I just sent to the Patent and Trademark office in which I discourage software patents because the boundaries between components of software machines are not well defined. Mail your software patent comments to email@example.com. Mike Crawford | Author of the Word Services Apple Event Suite. firstname.lastname@example.org | Free Mac Source Code: ftp sumex-aim.stanford.edu | get /info-mac/dev/src/writeswell-jr-102-c.hqx Dear Patent Commissioner, I object to the existence of software patents. I object for many reasons, but an argument you may not have heard before is that computer algorithms do not have clear boundaries. Thus it is not possible, or not feasible, to prove that a particular software product has not used some algorithm which has been patented. This problem is due to the very nature of software, so I feel that patents should not apply to software. It is somewhat difficult to express this concept clearly, but consider this: A mechanical device, made of metal, has hard surfaces. There are clearly defined boundaries between metal parts. It is clear where one device stops and another starts in physical space - or at least one can take a machine apart to determine this. Thus one can examine a machine for patent violation by taking it apart and looking at the pieces. This is not always the case with software. Computer programs are usually implemented as some sort of "virtual machine", in which mechanistic concepts are used to guide the construction of the software, but computer programs have the peculiar property of having no boundaries. (Or, if you prefer, soft and penetrable boundaries.) This is a problem for software reliability, for example: any line in a computer program has the capacity to reach out and destroy any other line. Thus software programs are inherently unreliable.  If this could happen in a mechanical system, a poorly molded windshield wiper might reach into the engine and throw a piston rod. This does not happen to mechanical systems, but it is a daily problem in my work as a programmer. Now, suppose I devise an algorithm, let us call it A. The source code that implements the algorithm looks like this: A-line-1 A-line-2 A-line-3 A-line-4 and so on. Suppose also someone has patented an algorithm B. He might examine my source and find that his algorithm can be expressed within my source code as: A-line-1 B-line-1 A-line-3 B-line-2 Thus I would expose myself to a lawsuit by writing this code. In this small example it could be obvious that I have used someone's patented work... but suppose my program consisted of 100,000 lines of extremely convoluted code: A-line-1 ... A-line-9 999 B-line-1 A-line-10 001 ... A-line-90 000 B-line-2 In this case it would be very difficult for any normal human being to know that the algorithm has been used. Certainly this could not be done within the time constraints usually placed on commercial software development. If the source code were revealed to a team of engineers and attorneys in a lawsuit, with this engineers solely focused on finding patent violations, this patent violation could be detected. Thus any normal commercial development effort is quite at risk to patent lawsuits. There are other ways in which this could happen. I will elaborate if the Patent and Trademark Office is interested in further information. References:  The Risks of Software, Scientific American, November 1992. email@example.com Michael D. Crawford, Product Development Manager, Working Software, Inc. PO Box 1844, Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1844 (408) 423-5696 (408) 423-5699 fax
From: Lawrence Kestenbaum School of Criminal Justice Michigan State University 22914LCK@msu.edu This is in relation to the recent article in RISKS by Ross Anderson. He described the case of John Munden, an English police constable who complained of unauthorized transactions appearing on his bank statement and (without any other real evidence) was tried and convicted of ATM fraud. I was sufficiently outraged to (as Ross suggested) send a letter to the Chief Constable of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, expressing my deep concern. I enclosed a copy of the RISKS report and stated that my opinion was based on this information. Here is the reply I received today, dated 18 February 1994: Dear Sir, I acknowledge receipt of your letter concerning the case of Police Constable John Munden who was recently convicted of obtaining money by deception from the Halifax Building Society. The investigation into the allegations made against Police Constable Munden was carried out by members of the Suffolk Constabulary, and the prosecution was undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service for the Suffolk Area. In view of this I have forwarded your letter to the Deputy Chief Constable of the Suffolk Constabulary for his information and the information of the Crown Prosecution Service. Any action taken against Police Constable Munden in relation to his conviction will be made under the Police (Discipline) Regulations 1985, which instruct all Chief Officers on breaches of the Discipline Code and the scope of punishments intended for such a breach. Yours faithfully, D. R. Winser A/Deputy Chief Constable
Rob Hasker wrote in RISKS-15.60, concerning an E-mail threat to the life of the US President: > (Local news reports suggest that the student intended this to be a > practical joke. As I see it, the risk is in assuming that it doesn't > really matter what you say by e-mail.) It may be premature to assign a RISK, since one doesn't yet know any motive. But there is a prima facie argument against Hasker's suggestion of prime RISK, which is that if it doesn't matter what's said in email, then one might as well send it in the clear. And Reincke didn't. It seems that Reincke intended either (a) to confuse the audit trail, or (b) to give others the impression he was trying to confuse the audit trail. If (a), then it shows the risks involved in using a traceable fake; if (b), maybe he wanted to get caught and prosecuted (this is a known characteristic of some of those who engage in criminal activity of various sorts), and succeeded in doing exactly what he tried to do - in which case there seems to have been no computer-related RISK at all to him! Peter Ladkin
> Here's the [suggestion]: the government organization which is purchasing the > safety-critical software publishes the specification, the entire source > code as delivered by private contractors, and technical documentation > on the hardware environment. It then offers a bounty to any party > anywhere who demonstrates a logical error in the software. Data exist (there's apparently a JPL study) to support the assertion that in safety-critical software, many more errors are usually to be found in the requirements specification itself than in the match between the delivered software/hardware and the requirements spec. If this is correct, information delivered to the public according to Chastain's suggestion would need to be supplemented by information enabling the requirements spec itself to be critiqued. Documentation on the hardware environment is unlikely to be sufficient by itself. I have only the usual numerous and incomplete suggestions as to what the extra needed info could be. However, there are examples in which Chastain's suggestion, unsupplemented, could have helped. Consider the September 1993 A320 accident in Warsaw. Inspection of the requirements (in this case, simply the info contained in the Pilot's Operating Handbook) reveals the design that fatally inhibited deployment of the braking systems after the plane had landed. Peter Ladkin
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