The RISKS Digest
Volume 17 Issue 18

Thursday, 15th June 1995

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

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Flash: Netflashing unflashionable [Exon ...]
Another TCAS incident
Stephen L Nicoud
Re: Europe - Central Air Traffic Control
Jim Wolper
Sun's "talk" program
Steve Kilbane
Multo ante natus eram
Bernard S. Greenberg via Donna Woodka
U.K. Lottery Computers Hit by Gremlins
Mich Kabay
``Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs'' by Ivars Peterson
"Computer error" not a basis for suppressing evidence
Curt Karnow
Gambling on the Internet
Samuel Edward Greenfield
Re: "Nautilus foils wiretaps"
D.J. Bernstein
The risk of not caring about Prodigy
Bob Morrell
Flawed instructions for anonymous mail
Tony Harminc
Absurd New Zealand copyright violations
Bruce Johnson
J. Wilson
Chuck Karish
Mike Hocker
One Week Course on Internet Security, July 24-28, at Stanford
Arthur Keller
People, Networks and Communication... an invitation
Robert Mathews
ABRIDGED Info on RISKS (comp.risks) [See other issues for full info]

Flash: Netflashing unflashionable [Exon, Exoff; Exrated, Execrated?]

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Thu, 15 Jun 95 11:22:41 PDT

For the benefit of the RISKS archives, if nothing else, let me note that the U.S. Senate voted 84 to 16 yesterday for the Exon amendment to the telecommunications bill. Senator Exon's measure imposes fines up to $100,000 and prison terms up to two years for knowingly transmitting indecent material over a computer network accessible to minors. It also applies to "obscene lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent" comments, requests, or suggestions intended to annoy or harass.

Decidedly in the minority of senators on this issue, Senator Leahy produced a stack of petitions from some 35,000 people (presumably most of whom used E-mail) who believe that Exon's measure is a serious threat to constitutional rights, free speech, and the Internet.

Another TCAS incident

Stephen L Nicoud <>
Thu, 8 Jun 95 07:59:26 PDT

*Aviation Daily* reports in its "Intelligence" section 8 Jun 1995 that an erroneous command in TCAS (Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance system) nearly resulted in a midair collision Sunday involving a United 737 and a Viscount Air Services 737, both on approach. After both aircraft received a TCAS warning, the United airplane began to climb from 10,000 feet to 12,000 feet while the Viscount plane started to descend to 10,000 feet. The aircraft came within 200 feet of each other before controllers instructed the Viscount flight to return to 11,000 feet. The incident occurred in the ``Northwestern portion of the U.S.''

Stephen L Nicoud <Stephen.Nicoud@Boeing.Com> [Disclaimers]

Re: Europe - Central Air Traffic Control (James, RISKS-17.17)

Jim Wolper <>
Thu, 8 Jun 95 10:42:51 -0600

Mike James asked "What happens if the ATC goes off-line while you are in the air?" I am an instrument flight instructor, and this is one of the major points of instrument training. There are very specific rules about which routes and altitudes a pilot must use, as well as when s/he can begin the landing approach to the airport. Basically, the pilot must follow the clearance given by ATC, at the altitude to which the aircraft has been cleared (there are exceptions that enable the aircraft to safely climb for higher terrain). The landing approach should begin at the Estimated Time of Arrival computed from the actual time of departure and the time enroute specified in the flight plan.

The primary purpose of the ATC system is to separate aircraft operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), and the _assumption_ is that ATC knows the pilot's intentions so they can clear out the necessary airspace. Clearances are formulated to prevent potential collisions in the event of widespread communications outages (for example, I was once approaching a busy airport under IFR and the approach controller accidentally turned off his transmitter).

The system is by no means perfect, but there are backup modes in place, and all operators (pilots and ATC) are trained in their use. The human-in-the-loop aspect also makes the system more robust. Pilots and controllers know to try to contact each other over many different frequencies and methods (eg, in the approach control incident above, we used the local controller's frequency to call someone in the same building. It is also common for ATC to have Flight Service, a different agency, contact aircraft with lost communications over navigational frequencies, private frequencies, and the like.) The worst case scenario — complete outage of ATC radio communications — would probably be handled by pilots using air-to-air communications. (This is in fact the standard for separation of IFR traffic in more remote sections of Australia.)

Jim Wolper, CFII Department of Mathematics Idaho State University

Sun's "talk" program

Steve_Kilbane <>
Tue, 13 Jun 1995 14:56:41 +0100

I don't know whether this applies to many variants of "talk", but this hit me on a SunOS 5.3 box.

Talk allows direct interaction with another user elsewhere on the network. Each user types text into a "window" on the screen, and the other user sees the text appear on the other window on their own screen. The problem is that when one user breaks the connection, the program also terminates for the other user.

In my case, I was just finishing off a line ("bye") and hitting return when the other user disconnected. "by" had been read by talk, leaving "e\n" to be read by my shell.

The RISK, of course, is that users can accidentally invoke potentially damaging commands by doing this. All I did was run a line editor, but supposing I'd been giving advice: "whatever you do, don't type [exit] rm -rf $HOME"...

Steve <>

Re: Multo ante natus eram

"Bernard S. Greenberg" <>
8 Jun 1995 22:45:59 GMT
[A woodka tonic forwarded to RISKS by Donna Woodka <woodka@SDSC.EDU>, who probably knows my penchant (or even pun-chant) for Multics tales. Thanks to Bernard for having fortifived our archives and providing evidence that Multics still lives! PGN]
Ward Anderson at ACTC just reported an interesting crash on Multics (10.2) at ACTC — Collection 1 initialization discovered that I became 45 years old Tuesday past, an event which was extremely unlikely, and crashed the system before the clock did damage to the file system, or so it feared.

The code in scs_and_clock_init is perfectly clear - the time "06/06/95 18:31 est Tuesday" is hard-coded in, in characters, with the comment that it is "Bernard S. Greenberg's 45th birthday". It has been there for twenty years in plain text visible to anyone reading the code! (I loved to read code in my day, especially initialization - perhaps I was the last?)

Maybe Tom Van Vleck remembers, but it is extremely likely that twenty years ago at CISL our operator at the time for the nth and last time forgot to set the clock, or set it poorly, and damaged the file system (which looks quite askance on "back to the future" jaunts), and Tom and I said "This has to end. We have to put a gullibility check in the clock init code", and I did this. Probably saved a lot of file system damage over the years. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it over again! This code did the -right-thing-!

At 25, I could not imagine I'd ever be 45, let alone that scs_and_clock_init.pl1 would be there along with me! Somehow, though, 65 doesn't seem that far away any more...

As Ward said, this is a -real- Multics story.


U.K. Lottery Computers Hit by Gremlins

"Mich Kabay [NCSA Sys_Op]" <>
12 Jun 95 18:24:33 EDT

From the Press Association (U.K.) news wire via CompuServe's Executive News Service, 10 Jun 1995


National Lottery computer outlets throughout the UK crashed today — ahead of tonight's expected record [pounds] 20 million jackpot prize-draw. Terminals across the country failed just after 11.30am when part of the satellite network broke down. Engineers traced the failure to a piece of equipment at the Camelot headquarters which was replaced and the system was running within 15 minutes.

Other points in the article:

M.E.Kabay,Ph.D. / Dir. Education, Natl Computer Security Assn (Carlisle, PA)

``Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs'' by Ivars Peterson

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Wed, 14 Jun 95 15:19:53 PDT

Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs
Ivars Peterson
Times Books (Random House)
ISBN 0-8129-2023-6

Ivars Peterson is a fine writer who is well-known for his articles in _Science News_ on physics, math, and computers. His fourth book (``Fatal Defect ...'') is a wonderfully readable work that threads its way gently through some computer-system problems that will be familiar to those of you who are old-time RISKS readers. Peterson does this with a fresh view of the problems and their origins, so that the book is worth reading by everyone — experienced and novice, young and old, technologists and nontechnologists, optimists and pessimists. Peterson also brings to life many of the people behind the scenes, some of whom are quite familiar to RISKS readers.

"Computer error" not a basis for suppressing evidence

Thu, 8 Jun 95 12:27:44 PDT

Original-Subject: Unlawful arrest based on computer error does not lead to exclusion of evidence

<From: Curt Karnow [Landels, Ripley & Diamond] <>

The United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Evans (March 1, 1995) discussed an illegal arrest precipitated by a "computer error." A man was arrested based on what police officers thought was an outstanding warrant for his arrest; in fact the warrant had been quashed; court clerical personnel had failed to clear the warrant from their computer system. The police thus had no legal basis for the arrest.

Following the arrest, the police found a bag of marijuana. The issue was whether the marijuana evidence should be suppressed (which would have the effect of dismissing the case). The state court threw out the evidence under the old suppression rule -- holding that the "fruit" (drugs) of the poisonous tree (the illegal arrest) should not come into evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, and held that the purpose of the exclusionary rule — to encourage proper police procedures — would not be furthered by tossing the evidence.

The Supreme Court found that excluding the evidence would not have a significant effect on the actions of court personal, and thus that errors by court clerks were not a basis for excluding evidence. The Court did not address whether court personnel's outright misconduct, and such personnel's deliberate efforts to violate peoples' constitutional rights, would lead to the exclusion of evidence, but the reasoning in this case strongly suggests that such misconduct would *not* lead to exclusion.

Gambling on the Internet

Samuel Edward Greenfield <>
Tue, 6 Jun 1995 17:36:14 -0400 (EDT)

A Clarinet brief,, if you have Clarinet, stated that a group of people would like to "bring the thrill of casino gambling to the Internet."

There are clearly many risks to this. First, there is no way to verify that the person gambling is who they say they are. That is, I can easily steal someone's credit card and spend money at a digital casino without them knowing. Of course, if I win, the other person might be happy if their credit card is credited, but chances are, I will lose their money.

Second, there is no way to verify the age of the player. There are already problems with minors gambling in real casinos and there will certainly be a problem with minors gambling in virtual ones.

Third, there is absolutely no way to tell if the house is cheating or not. At least in a real casino, there are video tapes of the dealer or operator and independent auditors. I am curious who the digital gambling houses will hire to audit their systems.

Fourth, what happens when bugs are discovered in the code? This can cut both ways: the computer might give away too much money, or the computer could never let anyone win.

The brief on Clarinet said the Justice Dept. said gambling via the Internet may break many laws. However, even if it doesn't, I think people would really be taking a big risk by gambling on the Internet. (Of course, that is really the point of gambling anyway, isn't it?)

Sam [1st, crypto-based authentication technology is progressing, but will never be completely foolproof. 2nd, NO WAY is perhaps too strong. 3rd, NO WAY, perhaps; you could have bonded/trusted third-parties — although the casinos would object. 4th, bugs? Gee, you think there might be bugs? BTW, see Home Gambling Network (Kabay), RISKS-16.86, and my April Fools' semispoof in RISKS-17.02 for some further background on this topic. PGN]

Re: "Nautilus foils wiretaps" (PGN comment on Back, RISKS-17.16)

"D. J. Bernstein" <>
Thu, 8 Jun 1995 15:43:16 -0700

PGN comments on the cryptographic mailing label shown in the New York Times:
> As I recall, the left margins were (intentionally?) fuzzied.

Strangely enough, the same mailing label was published the same day in the Washington Post, with the _right_ margins fuzzied. Anyone who picked up both papers could easily piece together the whole label.

Which paper has violated the export control laws?

Okay, I'm kidding about the Washington Post, but the question remains.


The risk of not caring about Prodigy

Bob Morrell <>
Tue, 6 Jun 1995 15:11:39 -0400 (EDT)

In RISKS-17.17, I worried out loud about the broader possible implications of the recent ruling against Prodigy.

My concern was, and remains, that by viewing Prodigy as a newspaper because it exerts =some= editorial control, the courts failed to make distinctions both of degree and technology. Like the moderator of this forum, I worried about forums which may be edited (by post rejection) to increase signal noise ratios, or to eliminate off topic posts. Such forums, could, if the Prodigy ruling reflects a lack of discernment by the courts, be forced to discontinue or begin much more controlled editing. I found this somewhat incredible, since it meant that the ruling could well lead to more censorship, and worse, less forums.

To my surprise, my mailbox began filling with mail from individuals quite happy about the ruling, most specifically, happy about any discomfort to Prodigy. Now, I am neither a friend to censorship nor to Prodigy, but I found the enmity towards this private business puzzling. After all, anyone is free to subscribe or not subscribe. While I oppose censorship, I also oppose interfering with what private businesses offer to their customers. Since, to my knowledge, Prodigy never guaranteed that the facts in any post appearing on their system were true, to hold them liable is to force them to do something for their customers that was not in the contract voluntarily agreed to by both Prodigy and its subscribers.

The RISK I am perceiving is this: the popular net bias against filters, censors, and restricted info access, (however justifiable) has created such hatred against Prodigy, which appears to be practicing the most control of any provider (though still nothing like a newspaper) has people cheering over its loss in the courts despite the fact that the ruling holds grave risks to the internet and its culture as a whole.

Bob Morrell

Flawed instructions for anonymous mail

Tue, 13 Jun 95 13:37:00 PDT

Frank Magazine, an Ottawa based satirical/gossip magazine solicits assistance (leaks) on various hot topics via their Web page :

"FRANK is currently conducting inquiries into the subjects listed below. Any assistance you could render in this regard would be greatly appreciated. To let us know about without tipping off your electronic-surveillance-happy superior, just delete the name and e-mail address in your browser's mail preferences file." ...

Later they have more detailed instructions for temporarily removing one's name and address from Netscape.

Whether Frank actually believes that this will defeat corporate/government mail snoops isn't clear, but there are probably going to be some people who act on their advice and get burned.

Tony Harminc Antares Alliance Group Toronto Software Development Centre

Absurd New Zealand copyright violations (Re: Ronald, RISKS-17.17)

Bruce Johnson <>
13 Jun 1995 17:59:42 GMT

Here is a prime example of the idiocy (IMHO) of non-technically oriented lawyers expounding on copyright infringement on the internet... these are the same people that say, technically, you need two legal copies of any form of software, because it is read off the disk into memory, so you have two copies at once. Both lead to situations where the law is completely unenforceable.

Given the growing popularity of the Web as a internetworking paradigm, the only way to avoid your copyrights being violated is to keep your material off the Web...a dandy way to ensure that a significantly smaller audience (market?) has anything to do with your work.

Carried to it's logical, if utterly absurd conclusion, reading anything is a copyright violation, because we certainly store significant quantities of the information in our brains.

When a user browses ANY sort of information on a computer, a temporary copy is made, even if only in a screen buffer.

When opinions like this get floated about, unfortunately, the real issues of maintaining copyright protections in a distributed network environment like the Web get buried in the silly stuff, which in the present (at least in the US) legal climate leads to 'ban everything' stupidity.

Bruce Johnson Information Technology/College of Pharmacy The University of Arizona

Absurd New Zealand copyright violations (Re: Ronald, RISKS-17.17)

Sat, 10 Jun 95 06:17:00 UTC

Similar thinking allegedly prevails in the committee appointed to study copyright law under US Vice President Al Gore's "Reinvention of Government" program, as reported in the April, 1995 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Literal interpretation of the New Zealand Act's language as quoted above would prevent many uses in the classroom as well as boardroom. A simple overhead projector would produce a "transient" copy on the silvery screen, to name one instance. One may presume that "fair use" or a general license for educational purposes would allow the overhead projector use, but how does this differ from using a web browser to allow all of the audience to view the same document? Quibbling with the definition of "medium," I could argue that the virtual images created by eyeglasses constitute a copy. Should we wish to pursue the matter ad absurdum, an image of the material is stored in the colloidal medium of the viewer's central nervous system, though this may be considered an abstract only, at least given this RISKS reader's memory. The RISK is of course making sweeping provisions in law that at the time of legislation seem to encompass very little, while human innovation tiles those sparsely-settled plains more quickly with each passing year.

Absurd New Zealand copyright violations (Re: Ronald, RISKS-17.17)

Chuck Karish <>
12 Jun 1995 07:06:26 GMT

I've seen and heard a number of "warnings" of this sort. They strike me as belonging in the same category as Chicken Little's concern that the sky is falling, for two reasons.

First, the fact that someone who owns the rights to a piece has published it to the World Wide Web can be construed as permission to make a transient copy for the purpose of viewing and/or listening to the piece. Someone who wishes to prevent others from keeping more persistent copies of such works should protect the relevant rights by causing a statement of reservation of rights to be presented alongside the works to be protected.

Second, the people who own the copyrights and the people who make the laws that govern them (a) are not all idiots and (b) do talk to each other. The problem on this level is easy to fix. There are much more difficult problems concerning intellectual property on the Web and the Internet. Let's not spend too much effort worrying about the trivial ones. --

Chuck Karish 415 323 9000 x117

Absurd New Zealand copyright violations (Re: Ronald, RISKS-17.17)

Tue, 13 Jun 95 14:57:41 EDT

>New Zealand's Copyright Act defines copying to include "storing the work in
>any medium by any means". ...

Any medium/any means? How about if the work is memorized? _Reductio ad absurdum_ perhaps... a new way to avoid schoolwork: the assignment to memorize the passages requires illegal behavior!

Mike Hocker (

One Week Course on Internet Security, July 24-28, at Stanford

Arthur Keller <ark@Office.Stanford.EDU>
13 Jun 1995 06:14:39 GMT

The Western Institute of Computer Science announces a Practical Week-long Course for Consultants, Educators, Government and Industry Scientists and Engineers on INTERNET SECURITY, at Stanford University July 24-28, 1995.

This course is taught by leading researchers and practitioners in the area of internet security: Arthur M. Keller, Dave Crocker, Tina M. Darmohray, Whitfield Diffie, Mark Eichin, Gail Grant, Lance Hoffman, Sushil Jojodia, Peter Neumann, Allan M. Schiffman, and William Wong. Participants will receive a grounding in internet security, familiarity with current concepts and issues, and exposure to the most important research and development trends in the area.

Connecting to the Internet brings both unparalleled information resources and unparalleled security dangers. Protecting computer systems and networks from attacks is a critical and ongoing process. Equally important is protecting corporate intellectual property assets from inappropriate access. This course will examine a variety of network security topics, including protecting against intrusion, detecting and tracking intruders, and repairing damage after intrusion.

The course will begin with a survey of basic security concepts, followed by a detailed description of cryptography. We will then cover Internet security architecture and identification and authentication. The course will then cover specific security technologies. These include network firewalls, which provide perimeter security, intrusion detection systems, Kerberos and addition of security to existing network applications, secure messaging, secure payments, and World Wide Web security, including Secure HTTP and SSL. This course will also analyze security issues for electronic commerce, such as viruses and cryptographic policy. We will also show a videotape presentation on SATAN by Dan Farmer, one of its developers.

FOR INFORMATION: Call Western Institute of Computer Science at (916) 873-0575;
OR E-mail to;
OR WRITE to P.O. Box 1238, Magalia, CA 95954;
OR FAX (916) 873-6697.
[Tell them RISKS sent you, and see if they know what that means.]

People, Networks and Communication... an invitation

Robert Mathews ICICX-PNC <>
Tue, 13 Jun 1995 18:23:10 -1000 (HST)

For our academic, scientific and educational colleagues who are participants in the IT, CS, IRM, Computer/Information/Network Security, Integration, Interoperability, Network Services, Network Metrics or Policy fields, please consider this your PERSONAL invitation to PNC - People, Networks and Communication '95..

TITLE: " PNC - People, Networks & Communication '95 " (C)
THEME: " Turning 21 - A Journey to Maturity in Communications" (C)
TOPIC: " The Emergence of Application, Information Technology & Policy for the 21st Century." DATES: October 30 - November 3, 1995
VENUE: Mid-Pacific Conference Center, Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort.
Honolulu; Island of Oahu - " The Gathering Place ", Hawaii.

For information, send E-mail to: bm189@po.CWRU.EDU

Sponsored by ICICX - International Community Interconnected Computing eXchange / The Pacific Network Consortium Ltd., involved in Information Technology Research, Planning & Practice.

Dr. Ernest Kho, Jr.                    Mr. Robert Mathews.
Conference Chairman                    Conference Coordinator
University of Hawaii.                  ICICX
Telephone:  + 808.933.3383             Telephone:  + 808.921.2097
Telecopier: + 808.933.3693             Telecopier: + 808.921.2097
E-mail:    E-mail:  bm189@po.CWRU.EDU

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