The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Volume 18 Issue 08

Monday 29 April 1996


o Another way to run native code from Java applets
David Hopwood
o The T-43A Accident in Dubrovnik
Peter Ladkin
o FAA drops navigation system contract
Fred Ballard
o The RISK of attributing error to malice
Paul R. Potts
o Need to censor AOL's name!
Jack Campin
o Re: AOL censors town's name!
Flavian Wallis
Greg Gomberg
Philip Overy
o The "finger" command and "Paul Hilfinger"
Jim Horning
o Re: Swedish and French names
Bertrand Meyer
o Re: MCI recommending bad security practices
Andy Piper
o Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (Mike Marler, J.R.Valverde
John C. Rivard
Simona Nass
Steve Kilbane
o Coordination and Administration of the Internet: workshop CFP
Tim Leshan
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Another way to run native code from Java applets

David Hopwood <>
Sun, 28 Apr 1996 03:42:49 +0000 (BST)
In addition to the security bug found by Drew Dean, Ed Felten and Dan
Wallach in March, there is another way to run native code from a Java
applet, which will require a separate fix to the current versions of
Netscape (2.01 and Atlas PR2) and Sun's Java Development Kit (1.01).

Both this attack and the previous one rely on an applet being able to create
an instance of the same security-sensitive class, but each does so using an
independent hole in the bytecode verifier.

Once an applet is able to run native code, it can read, write, and execute
any local file, with the permissions of the browser.  These attacks do not
require any additional preconditions, other than viewing the attacker's web
page with Java enabled.  They can be done without the user's knowledge.

Summary of Java bugs found so far
Date      Found by  Fixed in   Effects
---------  ------  ----------  -------
Oct 30 95  DFW     not fixed   Various - see
                   in HotJava
Feb 18 96  DFW/SG  1.01/2.01   Applets can exploit DNS spoofing to
                               connect to machines behind firewalls
                               Buffer overflow bug in javap
Mar  2 96  DH      1.01/2.01   win32/MacOS: Applets can run native code
                               UNIX:        Ditto, provided certain files can
                                            be created on the client
Mar 22 96  DFW     not fixed   Applets can run native code
Mar 22 96  EW      not fixed   If host names are unregistered, applets may be
                               able to connect to them
Apr 27 96  DH      not fixed   Applets can run native code

There was also a separate bug in beta versions of Netscape 2.0 which, in
hindsight, would have allowed applets to run native code.

[DFW = Drew Dean, Ed Felten, Dan Wallach
 SG =  Steve Gibbons
 DH =  David Hopwood
 EW =  Eric Williams

 Dates indicate when the problem was first posted to RISKS, except for
 Eric Williams' bug, which has not been posted.]

For bugs in Javascript, see John LoVerso's page
These include the ability to list any local directory (apparently fixed
in Atlas PR2), and a new version of the real-time history tracker.

Additional information on the March 2nd absolute pathname bug is now
available from

Recommended actions
Netscape (2.0beta*, 2.0, 2.01):
  Disable Java (on all platforms except Windows 3.1x), and if possible
  Javascript, using the Security Preferences dialogue in the Options menu.
  Note that the section on security in the Netscape release notes is not

Netscape (Atlas PR1, PR2):
  As above, except that the options to disable Java and Javascript have
  moved to the Languages tab in the Network Preferences dialogue.

Appletviewer (JDK beta*, 1.0, 1.01):
  Do not use appletviewer to load applets from untrusted hosts.

HotJava (alpha*):
  Sun no longer supports HotJava alpha, and does not not intend to fix
  any of its security holes until a beta version is released.

David Hopwood

The T-43A Accident in Dubrovnik

Mon, 29 Apr 1996 21:56:27 +0200
There are many articles in RISKS wondering about various aspects of the
safety of increasing automation in aircraft. We should remember that
increased automation can also help to avoid accidents.

Nancy Leveson (RISKS-17.21) pointed out some incidents in which TCAS (the
Traffic Avoidance and Collision Alert System) seems to have helped avoid
collision accidents. In RISKS-17.89, I referred to a report that the US Navy
was speeding up acquisition of digital flight control systems for F-14s to
help avoid loss-of-control accidents.

There is another example in recent news.  From newspaper reports, it seems
as if the safety of flight IFOR 21, a US Air Force T-43A (a type of
B737-200) which crashed on approach to Dubrovnik, Croatia, could have been
enhanced by more modern navigation equipment. This flight carried US
Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown.

The USAF does not normally release results of its investigations to the
public. So I have summarised facts from a short *Washington Post* article,
two articles from *Flight International*, and a *New York Times Service*
feature article that appeared in the *International Herald Tribune* on
Monday 29 Apr 1996. I also include some of my own observations and (a link
to) the approach plate (map) for the Dubrovnik NDB Runway 12 approach that
the aircraft was in course of executing. This summary is available in the
Compendium `Computer-Related Incidents and Accidents...'  under my WWW home
page at

Peter Ladkin

  [Archivists reading RISKS ten years from now will hope that it
  is *still* there then.  But Peter's home page is clearly a moving
  target anyway, changing at flying speeds.  Grab it while it's hot.  PGN]

FAA drops navigation system contract

Fred Ballard <72400.1525@CompuServe.COM>
29 Apr 96 10:13:30 EDT
Citing cost overruns and schedule delays because of mismanagement, the
Federal Aviation Administration canceled a $475 million contract that was
intended to help the airlines get extremely precise navigational data from
satellites.  The FAA announced the contract in August with Wilcox Electric
Inc. of Kansas City, a subsidiary of Thomson-CSF SA of Paris.  The FAA said
the action was part of a new strategy of cutting losses early, rather than
struggling along for years with mounting delays and cost overruns.

_The Minneapolis Star Tribune_, Saturday, April 27, 1996, p. A8.

The RISK of attributing error to malice

Paul R. Potts <>
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 12:09:03 -0400
I'm writing this up as a reminder re: the importance of not jumping to
conclusions, especially when computers are involved. My hope is that perhaps
this story will one day be recalled by a reader facing a similar situation,
and a better outcome will result.

Recently, one of our staff members found an incomplete outgoing message in
her e-mail that she did not write. The appearance was that another staff
member might have been forging an e-mail message from her machine, but been
interrupted. The creation date was several days before the message was
found, making it appear that the creation date had been faked; there were
two copies of the message in two locations, making it appear that the
message had been copied; the writing style was not that of the machine's
owner; the issue mentioned was one that had a bone of contention between the
staff members days earlier.

In my initial investigation, I reported that without full security and a
reliable audit trail it wasn't really possible to prove that such a forgery
had been done, but that this did look suspicious. Relationships within our
group had been strained, and this was enough to start accusations flying.
The climate in the office, already toxic, grew poisonous.

Yesterday, I put my finger on the actual smoking gun: I hadn't known it
initially, but the two staffers were using Macintosh file sharing and one
was mounting the entire hard disk of the other as a server volume using the
owner password, which gave complete read and write access to the entire
volume. This was counter to our written guidelines on safe file sharing.
The mail program in question, poorly-written, stores full path names to keep
track of the folder where it creates outgoing mail. One system's internal
hard disk had been renamed from the default "Macintosh HD" and the other had
not - I'm sure most readers know by now where this is going.

The mail program found its outgoing messages folder on the wrong machine and
the message in question was created there. I replicated this exact sequence
of events on two other machines yesterday while my supervisor watched. I
haven't explained the duplicate copies on the remote machine or why the
message was seen earlier, but this isn't necessary in order to convince me
that this "forgery" was really an accident.

Upon reflection, there was no clear motive, and everyone agrees now that if
the attempt had been to defame a fellow employee, a much more coherent and
effective job would have been done. Public apologies have been made. We're
switching e-mail clients and our staff members will be expected to follow
guidelines for safe file-sharing. I personally was far, far too willing to
blame a staff member before exhausting every technical possibility. Now
we've got to work at building a trusting work environment again, and hope
that this can be put behind us, but I don't think the accused staff member
will quickly forget being the target of an unfair accusation where the only
evidence existed on a computer, and my confidence in my own judgment has
been badly shaken.

The RISK is of attributing to malice what is easily attributable to
poorly-written software, incomplete understanding of the system your
co-workers use, and failure to follow good security practices. There is a
further risk that a pre-existing climate of suspiciousness can push an
investigation of an anomaly into a witch hunt. The last RISK is that it is
too easy for someone like myself, inexperienced at managing conflicts
between staff members, to lose his objectivity and start becoming more
suspicious of a person than of a computer. As a regular RISKS reader, I
should have known better.

"Paul R. Potts">, Technical Lead,
Health Media Research Lab, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Need to censor AOL's name! (Re: RISKS-18.07)

Jack Campin <>
Sat, 27 Apr 1996 14:48:50 +0000
I can't wait for AOL to try this with other languages.  The "am" in
"America" means the same in Turkish as what they're objecting to in
Scunthorpe.  Perhaps they need to transform themselves to "Omerica On-Line"!

The first time I ever saw the offending word in print, it was spelled with
an "o" anyway; this was in the early 60s in a script in _Plays and Players_,
a British magazine devoted to contemporary drama.  They presumably did that
to get by the English drama censor (the Lord Chamberlain, whose
idiosyncratic prohibitions provided the British intelligentsia of the time
with nearly as much amusement as their modern American counterparts get from
the CDA).

Re: AOL censors town's name! (RISKS-18.07)

Flavian Wallis <>
Sun, 28 Apr 1996 00:03:54 -0500
It seems somewhat ironic that AOL's substitution of an 'o' for a 'u' in the
name of Scunthorpe has just translated the problem -- turning an embedded
English vulgarity into a French one, the same one just to add to the fun
(what my dictionary refers to delicately as: "Vulg. Sexe de la femme.")

AOL, or any other organisation applying such a policy on a global basis,
runs the risk of altering a name to avoid a perceived English vulgarism and
creating as much, if not more, offense in the language and culture of
origin.  This is complicated by the fact that these second-order vulgarities
would likely be unrelated to the English obsession with body parts and
functions and thus be much harder for the censor to detect.

Flavian Wallis

Re: AOL censors town's name! (RISKS-18.07)

Gomberg Greg <>
Fri, 26 Apr 96 12:39:00 bst
Fans of British humour will recall that "Norwich" encodes an indecent
suggestion. Perhaps AOL should be censoring that fine city's name also.


  [Lots of other comments were received as well, including the common
  gerundive name of a German town, a few classical typos that made things
  worse in miscorrection, and more.  This thread is certainly not
  unraveling.  PGN]

Re: AOL censors British town's name! (RISKS-18.07)

Philip Overy <>
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 12:20:13 +0100
[Long message excerpted for RISKS ...] The real message is:

1) Use PGP.

2) If you receive PGP e-mail and find it to be offensive, and only
   that, give up corresponding with the person in question.

3) (which is the crux of the matter) Does the e-mail contain a serious
   threat or form of intimidation?, in which case it is covered by the
   normal strictures against intimidation, does it contain slanders or
   libels (N.B. English law doesn't consider a statement of fact to be a
   slander or libel, so I don't in all honesty think this law counters
   freedom of speech, even though its heavier users are Tory MPs)? and
   finally is it in some other way criminal?, e.g., a chain letter to
   deprive you of all your cash, which I admit I tend to dismiss as being
   the "buyer"'s problem to worry about - AOL aren't protecting you from ANY
   of these rather larger problems.

and the message to America On Line is that they should probably provide
something on the lines of PGP, however ropy and possible to crack, and stop
fooling around with people's e-mail and free speech. IBM must have had this
problem, because under VM it was possible to monitor only your own id, not
the id of someone you managed - a lesson I think Unix should probably have
learned too (as a result a VM manager could claim not to be responsible for
the nasty activities of the users).  [...]

Phil Overy

The "finger" command and "Paul Hilfinger"

Jim Horning <>
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 12:03:42 -0700
The AOL censorship item in RISKS-18.07 reminds me of Paul Hilfinger's story
about the time the Carnegie-Mellon University computer-center staff was
ordered by the CMU administration to change the name of the "finger" command
(despite it being an ARPAnet standard).  They changed "finger" to "where"
and also took it upon themselves to change Paul's name to "Paul Hilwhere"
(initially intending it to be temporary).  Paul actually approved of the
change (as a kind of gentle protest), and it remained that way for some

Jim Horning

Re: Swedish and French names (Pettersson, RISKS-18.07)

Fri, 26 Apr 96 10:48:35 PDT
> French forenames must be taken from saints and/or antiquity ...

Funny about how French mores are constantly misrepresented in the
Anglo-Saxon world - usually to present France as a kind of Soviet Union
where everything is government-regulated.

The informal guideline until a few years ago was that the name should either
be from antiquity or appear in some calendar. This includes religious
calendars (not only Catholic), but also e.g. the Revolutionary calendar,
where months appear with names like Nivose and Ventose, and days have names
like Cerise (cherry). I believe all the law said was something like local
authorities should exert proper care; the calendar approach was a pragmatic
way to resolve borderline cases. In last resort, of course, the courts would

In the past twenty years or so pragmatism has reigned, what with the large
immigrant populations (if you go to a playground you'll hear parents calling
"Leila" and "Tarik" all around - not typical Catholic saint names), the
influence of American movies (every other child seems to be called Jessica
or Gregory), and a general move towards more laxity in tolerating individual
tastes.  This clearly has some limits, and I don't think that `Brfxxx...'
would pass any more there than in Sweden.

-- Bertrand Meyer, ISE Inc., Santa Barbara

This posting adheres to the SELF-DISCIPLINE guidelines for better
USENET discussions. See

Re: MCI recommending bad security practices (McDaniel, RISKS-18.06)

Andy Piper <andyp@wrath>
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 11:32:02 +0100
<> of what good security practices would proscribe! Not only do they suggest
<>                                         ^

Even more interesting is the fact that I use a proportional spaced
font for reading news/editing etc and so the `^' character appeared
under the word `practices' rather than `proscribe'. I stared at it for
ages before realising what had happened.

The RISKS? Don't make assumptions about how your intended audience will view
information. We constantly have problems with this - people using MS-Word as
an e-mail format; non mime-compliant mail readers; compression/encoding
schemes that are UNIX-unfriendly - the list is endless.

andy piper

Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (RISKS-18.07)

Mike Marler <>
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 09:50:11 -0400 (EDT)
   9a. Don't believe that a person cannot have a batch job or
       background process running on their machine, which could
       send e-mail to another address (with or without "fudged
       headers"), while the person is, for example, 5 miles offshore
       of Costa Rica catching sailfish.
   9b. Don't believe that a person cannot have an automated answering
       service that sends a reply to "a piece of e-mail" stating
       something similar to the following: "Sorry I cannot send a
       detailed reply to your 'piece of e-mail', because I will be
       very busy in meetings until the end of today".  When the
       actual person is "playing hookey" or still chasing those
       sailfish in Costa Rica.

Mike Marler, Information Technology, Georgia Tech, Atlanta,
Georgia 30332-0715

Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (RISKS-18.07)

"J.R.Valverde (jr)" <>
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 15:17:49 WET
I think PGN forgets a very important one:

10. Never accept to handle the account of some other person or
    having access to his/her computer.

The reason is obvious: should that person commit any crime s/he can always
argue that since you had access to his/her account you could have forged or
impersonated him/her. If that person is your boss and more powerful and
reputed than you are, chances are s/he will be believed and you will charge
with the responsibility for the crime.

Note: I'm not implying this could in any way whatsoever have happened in the
Oracle case. But with computers it is now so easy to deny the authenticity
of any document and imply it is a forgery that loading responsibilities on
someone else's shoulders is trivial.


Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (RISKS-18.07)

"John C. Rivard" <>
Sat, 27 Apr 1996 16:40:48 -0500
Has the Assistant DA never heard of cellular modems?

John C. Rivard

Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (RISKS-18.07)

Simona Nass <>
Sun, 28 Apr 1996 11:34:29 -0400 (EDT)
Adelyn Lee having Larry Ellison's password is significant. If she had his
password, she may or may not have used it to send the e-mail. But as a RISKS
matter, the technological evidence is not conclusive, even beyond some of
the ways PGN mentioned.

For example, the cellphone records don't even have to be forged. Unless they
checked all possible cellphone numbers in the area that he could have used,
they can't rule out his having both his own cellphone and another line with
a cellular modem. Or having had the e-mail sent via an at job or other
automatic scheduled mechanism. Also, was the clock set to the same time for
their computer and the cellphone records?  Conceivably, he also could have
had someone else with access do it (but allegations of conspiracy, like talk
of black helicopters, don't do much to establish the credibility of a
particular line of argument).

Since the technical evidence is not conclusive, it comes down to a
credibility and bigger lawyers issue. I'm concerned about the precedent that
may be established if judges rule on an issue while the parties have not
explored all reasonable arguments about the technology. We'll see what
happens with the perjury charge. -S.

Simona Nass

  [Clock synch problems also noted by (Tye McQueen).  PGN]

Re: Former Oracle worker ... bogus e-mail (RISKS-18.07)

Mon, 29 Apr 1996 09:33:06 +0100
Ah, this warms my heart, to know that we're learning lessons here: a person
is charged with perjury, because computer records have shown that the
computer records can't be trusted....

Coordination and Administration of the Internet: workshop CFP

"Tim Leshan" <>
Mon, 29 Apr 1996 17:21:36 EST
               Information Infrastructure Project
                       Harvard University
         Commercial Internet Exchange Association (CIX)
                        Internet Society

           Workshop Announcement and Call for Papers

This is a first announcement and call for papers and proposals for a
workshop to be held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Cambridge,
MA, USA, on September 8-10, 1996.  The workshop will address issues in the
international coordination and management of Internet operations.  We are
seeking papers which address the economic, organizational, legal and
technical issues in migrating to internationally sanctioned,
industry-supported processes and institutions.  What should a fully
internationalized Internet look like, and how do we get there from here?

Topics to be explored in the workshop and resulting publication include:

  - policy and management issues concerning
      network addresses
      domain names
      routing policy
      interconnect points
      intercontinental connectivity
      quality of service standards

  - legal and institutional structures for supporting core Internet functions

  - institutions and policies needed to ensure the future scalability and
    extensibility of the Internet

  - technical and implementation issues presented by heterogeneous national
    information policies

  - the need for data in support of Internet planning, including issues of
    how data should be collected and maintained

  - coordination needed for the deployment of new technology

  - international crisis management for the Internet

Although the Internet is already substantially privatized, certain essential
functions -- notably the domain name registry, network number assignment,
and the routing arbiter -- are still funded by the U.S. Government.  Unlike
the local telephone exchange, these integrative services are managed by
third parties, contributing to an open competitive environment which has
helped enable rapid growth of the Internet.  Rapid growth,
commercialization, and internationalization are putting stress on current
institutions and procedures -- which are neither self-sustaining nor
officially recognized at the international level.  The National Science
Foundation plans to phase out support for core administrative services and
for international connections, just as it has withdrawn support for
production-level backbone services.  Conflicts over tradenames and number
assignments suggest that international legitimacy is needed for domain name
and network number management.

Beyond support for essential functions, there are many practical and policy
issues where some greater degree of coordination or institutional leadership
may be desirable.  For example, how can the implementation of new technology
and protocols be expedited? What common definitions and guidelines should
exist to describe network performance?  Should the functions performed by
current Internet institutions (such as the Internic, RIPE, APNIC, and the
IANA) be brought into a more robust international infrastructure, and if so,
how?  To what extent are multilateral peering arrangements and settlements
needed to encourage continued growth and competition in the Internet access

The conference will engage scholars, practitioners and policy makers in
examining and discussing these issue.  It will bring together stake-holders,
academics and individual leaders within and beyond the Internet community to
help define the future institutional infrastructure of the Internet.

Workshop papers will be revised and edited following the workshop for
publication by MIT Press as part of the Harvard Information Infrastructure
Project series.  Potential participants are encouraged to submit papers that
can be developed and revised for publication (copyright assignment is not
required).  Please send an abstract by June 15, 1996, for review by the
program committee.

Please direct papers, proposals, and requests for future mailings to:

  James Keller
  Information Infrastructure Project
  Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  79 JFK Street
  Cambridge, MA  02138
  617-496-4042; Fax: 617-495-5776

The Harvard Information Infrastructure Project is a project in the Science,
Technology and Public Policy Program at the John F. Kennedy School of
Government, with associated activities at the Kennedy School's Center for
Business and Government and the Institute for Information Technology Law and
Policy at Harvard Law School.  This event and publication are funded in part
by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Networking and
Communications Research and Infrastructure.

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