I'm sure there are multiple risks here — not the least of which is that the reported incident disrupted ATC communications for about 50 minutes. [Dr. Thomas P. Blinn, UNIX Software Group, Digital Equipment Corporation Mailstop ZKO3-3/W20, 110 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, New Hampshire 03062] ------- Forwarded Message Subject: :-) BRITISH COUPLE BROADCAST THEIR FROLIC IN THE SKIES From: MOVIES::RMARSHALL "Richard Marshall 824-3383 EDO-13 08-Oct-1993 1611" Subj: This looks true as air traffic in and out was disrupted that night... (Our Technical Director was returning to Edinburgh from London that night and was delayed...) RTw 10/06 2320 BRITISH COUPLE BROADCAST THEIR FROLIC IN THE SKIES LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuter) - A British couple who made love in a light aircraft forgot to turn off their transmitter and broadcast their moments of passion to air traffic controllers and radio enthusiasts on Wednesday. The couple, flying in a private Cessna 150 plane near the Scottish city of Edinburgh, began by debating whether they should have sex 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) above ground and join the "Mile High Club." Their conversation grew more and more passionate and then ceased. "We've been trying to raise you for the past 50 minutes," an angry controller was quoted by the domestic Press Association (PA) as telling the errant couple when they came in to land. "We've been listening to your conversation. Very interesting. Please come and see me when you land." Fifteen aircraft, including shuttles, holiday jets and cargo planes, had to use an emergency channel while the two cavorted. PA said the pilot reported to the authorities at Edinburgh Airport, where he was carpeted for blocking radio communication. "Apart from one aspect of his airmanship — his failure to check in on a regular basis — there were no breaches of aviation rules," PA quoted the airport's air traffic control manager Paul Louden as saying. [No breeches, either. Gives a new meaning to "Beam me up, Scotty!" PGN]
Several months ago, I noted that AT&T was planning on using its submarine finding acoustical expertise to track the ebb and flow of traffic on the highways. This Sunday's NYT (Oct 5, pg 30) mentioned that another company, Alliant Techsystems of Edina, Minn is trying to get the Federal Government to buy a system from them and install it in Washington, DC. The target? Targetshooters. They aim to place a network of sensors on top of telephone and utility poles and link them into an array that would allow the police to track random gunfire and respond much faster. (Up to 85% faster according to the article.) There would be no need to wait for a good citizen to call and report the reports. The author (Warren Leary) spent some of the ink wondering whether such a project was actually feasible. Several accoustical experts were "skeptical about whether sensors could be designed to isolate gunshots from other city noise." But the RISK is not just that the project will turn into a fool's folly. Some of the city noises that might not be filtered out are conversations...
The Apple Newton has a "security" feature which involves letting the owner/ user set a password to the machine, presumably to protect private data stored in the machine. Its possible of course to get it to dump its data to a Macintosh for backup purposes, where it can be easily sifted through. But readers of this group probably would expect that. Maybe even some users would expect it. But something I was surprised to find out is that in that data dump the user's *plaintext* password is stored! Given the number of people who use the same password for about everything requiring a password, it is easy to see what the risks are here... Doug Siebert email@example.com
It appears computer controlled trains are not yet there. Although my experience did not have casualties it points to some problems. The London Docklands Light Railways are completely computer controlled. There is a conductor/driver on board for emergencies, and the closing of doors. Moreover, he has to take control on the station (Canary Wharf) the software is not yet able to deal with after all those years of operation. What we experience was that at the terminal station the train stopped as intended, but a few centimeters short of the exact required place. The net result was that the doors refused to open. The conductor/driver had to come forward to the driving box to manually forward those few centimeters. But this happened only after a prolonged conversation with the Central Control. So apparently (but this is just speculation) there are sensors that tell whether the doors can be opened and there are different sensors that tell whether a train is where it should be. And they do not always agree. -- dik t. winter, cwi, kruislaan 413, 1098 sj amsterdam, nederland home: bovenover 215, 1025 jn amsterdam, nederland; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
<> 60,000 passengers each day ... Lets see. That's 262.8 million passengers. 178 injuries and 48 hospitalizations means that 1 in 1.5 million passengers is injured, and 1 in 5.5 million is hospitalized. This isn't the 1 in 10^9 figure we hear often on this list, but it's a fairly admirable record, nonetheless. Failing controls are certainly a RISK, but one must look at the entire record, not just a single bad incident. Marc
>I'm sure there's a RISK in there, somewhere...:-) It was COMPLETELY >instinctive for me to hit "No"... There's a quite obvious risk. At one time I was using versions of EMACS on UNIX and on the Mac. The command set common to both is identical, except for the behaviour upon quitting if there is unsaved work, which looks roughly as follows: (GNU Emacs) Save changes to buffer FOO before exiting? (Y/N) (microEmacs) One or more unsaved buffers exist, quit anyway? (Y/N) After I'd been caught by that a couple of times, microEmacs hit my bit bucket with a resounding clang. Nick Rothwell | email@example.com CASSIEL Contemporary Music/Dance | firstname.lastname@example.org
Monsieur Royer mentions NOS/VE as using protection rings, and Peter Neumann points out that Multics is of course the classic example of the first operating system to use rings. However, many other systems since then have also used rings including: VME/B for the ICL 2900 AOS/VS for the Data General MV8000 VMS for the DEC VAX the Hitachi 5020 time sharing system (first with hardware rings) and probably many others. - Paul
> [Never heard of Multics, eh? Well, that was almost 30 years ago. ... PGN] The Primos operating system uses this ring protection scheme. It was developed by a number of the same people who made Multics. Steen Hansen e-mail: email@example.com Computer Specialist (614) 292-7211 (Stores/Food: tue/thu/fri) Ohio State University (614) 292-9317 (Dentistry: mon/wed)
While such a ring mechanism *can* be quite effective. It must be remembered that all such schemes (including the "protected" mode of the 80286+) rely at some point on software to effect the state change. While this can be effective protection at the OS level, it is vulnerable in every instance I have seen to a tunnelling or covert channel attack. Conventional cpus (and the Intel iapx architecture in particular) are single state machines and a properly presented instruction will be executed by the hardware. If only software deciders are used to determine whether to change rings and the higher rings are also implemented in software, they can be bypassed. Years ago in a galaxy far, far, away I had a problem with an OS that operated in such a "protected" state and would periodically update its real time clock with an "unmaskable" interrupt. We needed a precise 660 usec period without any interrupts to the executing code. By placing an array at the head of the program and storing a value into a reverse dimension - clk(-2078) as I recall - it was possible to turn off the clock while our code executed. Padgett
In addition to the RISKS posed by the computing systems themselves, there are risks when one tries to analyze computing systems from limited information. In RISKS-15.08, Jim Huggins <firstname.lastname@example.org> made some comments about a system being implemented in Cornell's Theory Center. Unfortunately, as best I can tell, his comments were based solely on a single paragraph in _Communications of the ACM_, October, 1993, v36, n10, p11: "NEWSTRACK — POWER HUNGRY". As a result, Jim seemed to be trying to apply standards which are usually appropriate when evaluating production computing facilities. Although it has been an extremely useful tool for many of the people using it, the highly parallel IBM computer system that was mentioned is still a (rather expensive) research project. By definition, research always entails "risk". More information about the research facilities at Cornell's Theory Center, one of the NSF funded national supercomputer centers, is available from their gopher server at gopher.tc.cornell.edu, port 70. Selden E. Ball, Jr., Cornell University, Laboratory of Nuclear Studies 230A Wilson Synchrotron Lab, Ithaca, NY, USA 14853-8001 +1-607-255-0688
Selden is right, of course: the new research project at Cornell is far different than the large projects chronicled in "Inside RISKS", and I don't mean to disparage this particular research project. My point may have been obscured by my attempt to be a little too cute. My critique is more of Cuomo's voiced attitude that "change brings strength". I wonder how many of the large projects whose failures are discussed here got started because some government official or corporate bigwig said "If we do this with a computer, it will be better," without thinking through *why* it would be better if done with a computer. Such an attitude needs to be challenged (though more carefully than I did).
>...aware that everyone else who is reading the paper sees the same articles. Unfortunately computer based publishing of paper newspapers has already broken the "imagined community". In Portland Oregon where I live, the local newspaper, the Oregonian, publishes separate sections of local news for downtown, and each of the suburbs. Subscribers living in suburb A only get the local news for their suburb, remaining ignorant of goings on in suburbs B,C,D and E. So two randomly choosen readers are likely not to have received the same articles. This is already having effects on local politics. There was a letter to the editor this week from a political activist[*] on a State-wide issue complaining that the efforts of his co-campaigners in suburb A are only reported in suburb A's local news section, thus voters in the other suburbs are deprived of news on how the campaign is being fought. Mark Gonzales [*] he is one of the opponents of the Oregon Citizens Alliance second State-wide anti-gay rights campaign.
At the Risk of being overly brief: Regulation isn't an answer. I presume there is already regulation against building devices that kill more patients than necessary. How does one inspect new technologies? I've been told, for example, that there are regulations on digital X-rays that prevent storing high resolution images. This is based on some notions of standardization. RTFM isn't the answer. The quality of documentation is inversely proportional to cost of a device and negatively correlated with the need for a manual. A printed manual is a great example of an open-loop device. It just sits there in its own reality. For customizable equipment the odds of it all coming together with the corresponding versions of everything are very low. Of course, by the same reasoning, you shouldn't comment your code since comments and execution paths don't necessarily cross nor stay in synch.
I think the REAL risk in this case would be that the doctors at the "defective" machine would write a paper saying that they get much better results when they use higher doses than customary. That would lead to OVERDOSES being applied at different sites to different patients. Roger
I work in a radiation therapy clinic, so I had to respond to this recent RISKS posting: > I would hope that testing this device would include a test to make > sure it was calibrated. That if the machine is supposed to operate at > so many roentgens for so many seconds, that it actually does so! Well, of course they're calibrated! Every modern therapy machine has two independent dose monitoring channels (both independent of the control the operator uses to select the dose) that measure the dose emerging from the machine. At most clinics these are calibrated *every morning* against a completely independent reference which is not part of the machine at all. In fact, all of these procedures were probably being followed at the clinic in question, as I understand the incidents described in this thread. As I heard it, the blunders involved a different issue entirely, which postings here have seemed unaware of. The hard part of the problem is determining what machine output will deliver the prescribed radiation dose *at the tumor in the patient's body*, accounting for absorption of some of the beam in the overlaying tissue, irregular patient geometry, etc. This involves a whole additional set of measurements and calculations, some of which must be done differently for each patient, and which are largely independent of the machine control system itself. My understanding is that the errors involved this part of the process. > Who built this, the same dolts who tested the Hubble mirror? ... This remark illustrates a tendency that we sometimes in RISKS and elsewhere. Someone learns of a mishap through a very brief and incomplete news account, makes a lot of assumptions about what must have happened, proposes an obvious remedy, and is smugly sure that *they* would not have been so careless. But in fact the news reports are incomplete, the reader's understanding is oversimplified and naive, and the proposed safeguards (and some the reader didn't think of) are already in place --- but didn't work in this particular situation. We have reached a stage where our technological systems are very complex, most of the obvious things have already been seen to, and there really aren't so many "dolts" out there in positions of responsibility. > Dare I suggest some official body regulate such devices, or would that > be an example of government over regulation of private industry? There is already some regulation of people, clinics and devices. I'm sure some of it helps, but just as there is a limit to what you can allow to go unregulated, there is also a limit to the degree of oversight it is reasonable to expect from regulators. To put this all in perspective, radiation therapy mishaps are very rare, especially in view of the large number of patients treated, and the potential hazards. Jonathan Jacky, Radiation Oncology RC-08, University of Washington Seattle, Washington 98195 (206)-548-4117 email@example.com
This is a typical instance of problems caused when one organization supplies (possibly erroneous) information about individuals to others. There is a relatively simple remedy which would go a long way to solving the generic problem. It has the advantage that it is simple to state and easy to understand: Each time an organization supplies data on an individual to another organization, it must also promptly send TO THE INDIVIDUAL a notice specifying what information was supplied to whom. Of course, some details need to be added, like requiring that coded information be translated into plain language, and that the criteria used to select the individual for the data transfer be given explicitly (e.g., "We sold a list of all our subscribers with ZIP codes in neighborhoods with median family incomes above $100,000/year."), but I don't think this would be hard to spell out in a way that would inform the individual without requiring information that the provider doesn't already have. Since a typical sale results in something being mailed, the cost of mailing the notices ought not to cause a major economic impact. Jim H.
Mich Kabay writes: >Such information is supposedly restricted to "authorized requesters" ... Veteran RISKS readers probably already know how much damage can be done with the magic three pieces of information (your name, DOB and Social Security number). For newcomers, let me relate a (personally painful) anecdote. In Massachusetts, the default driver's license number is your Social Security number. In the USA, the default identifying number on your Credit History file is also your Social Security number. 2 years ago, my wallet (with driver's license inside) was stolen. Using the magic three pieces of information which were on the license, some person called TRW Information Services and obtained a copy of my credit history. It cost them $8. On the credit history was every current credit card number. Armed with the magic three pieces of information plus a credit-card number, the person convinced the credit-card company to change my mailing address. A few days later, the person called and reported the card had been destroyed, and got a new one. Within a week, the person had run up $8000 in Automated Teller Machine cash withdrawals using the card. The credit-card company readily admits that their customer-service agent should NEVER have changed the mailing address of the card based on only the magic three pieces of information. However, their security system clearly failed in this case. Having dealt with 6 different credit-card companies during the history of this little affair, I can attest to the fact that the magic three pieces of information are ALL that is needed to pass most companies' security. Mich goes on to suggest that perhaps we are moving to a "universal identifier". I shudder to think that it could get any MORE universal than NAME+DOB+SS#. What we really need is an authorization scheme that will work for all the copies of our identifiers that are NOT electronic copies. Jim Hudson <JHudson@legent.com>
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