The RISKS Digest
Volume 18 Issue 46

Monday, 16th September 1996

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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Maryland Lottery Computer Glitch
Scott Lucero
Spider Minus Dog Equals Death
David Kennedy
Virus pushes actress over the edge. No Backup?
Donald Mackie
Minnesota disconnected from the world for 12 hours
Theodore M.P. Lee
VeriSign's policy statement
Drew Dean
Airliner interference from a COMPAQ mouse, revisited
Mark Brader
Re: Accidental shootdown of F-15 plane revisited
Robert Dorsett
AT&T — Lessons forgotten
Bob Fieldhouse
Word for Windows risks, continued
Jeremy J Epstein
Re: Microsoft VC++ property pages guaranteed to crash first time
John Vert
Mark Mullin
Re: Windows 95 passwords
Dirk Frankston
Re: AOL curbs incoming spams
Bernard Peek
More thoughts on junk mail
Re: Sometimes junk e-mail is already a fax
Mark Eckenwiler
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Maryland Lottery Computer Glitch

lucero <>
Fri, 13 Sep 96 18:18:36 EST
*The Washington Post* 13 Sep 1996 reports that a software error caused the
wrong lottery numbers to be distributed to the state's 3,800 outlets.  More
than 22,000 people successfully bet on one or more of the numbers, but threw
out their tickets thinking they lost.  Others mistakenly thought they had
won.  Getting one or two numbers right gets people $1-$5, although two
people bet numbers entitling them to $5000 in this six-state lottery.

The firm, which recently won the contract to run Maryland's lottery
games, stated that the numbers were correctly entered, but two of the
six numbers were altered in the transmission process.  A spokesman
said, "To the best of our knowledge, it was a software error."  The
Post noted that the firm recently lost its contract in Arizona due to
computer problems.

Evidently, one of the RISKS is getting bad press.

Scott Lucero

Spider Minus Dog Equals Death

David Kennedy <76702.3557@CompuServe.COM>
13 Sep 96 20:28:18 EDT
Courtesy of Associated Press via CompuServe's Executive News Service:

Engineer Killed

<>   HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP, 13 Sep 1996) — A spider may have
<>tripped a motion-sensitive alarm, and a police dog was out sick.
<>Authorities say the combination led to the accidental killing
<>of an elderly man.

<>   On another night, a police dog instead of an officer with
<>pistol drawn would have searched the darkened manufacturing
<>business where 77-year-old Theodore E. Franks was shot and
<>killed Wednesday.

o   Dogs normally check our burglar alarms, but police were down to one
dog, and that dog was sick.

o   Third alarm in seven months, second in 48 hours.

o   Franks living inside the company so he could work during the hours
he otherwise would have been commuting.

[DMK: Inverse telecommuting?]

o   Police officer checking building found Franks unlocked room,
entered, was startled by Franks and accidentally shot him in the leg.  Shot
him in the femoral artery.  Franks died of exsanguination before he could
reach the hospital.

<>   "After hearing the facts, I think it's pretty obvious this
<>was an accident," Wayne Franks said after visiting the office
<>where his father was shot.

<>   [Alarm Company] checked the alarm system Thursday,
<>telling company owner [name deleted] a spider probably set it off,
<>The Orange County Register reported Friday.

<>   "I feel bad. It was my alarm," [name} said. "That damn spider."

Dave Kennedy [CISSP] Research Team Chief, National Computer Security Assoc.

Virus pushes actress over the edge. (No Backup?)

Donald <>
Mon, 16 Sep 96 20:00:27 +1200
According to an interview with Margot Kidder in People Online, a computer
virus was the last straw leading to her nervous breakdown.

The virus (not identified) on her computer destroyed files, including the
book she had been working for three years. Having, apparently, no backup
copies, the entire work was lost. This loss triggered her widely reported
nervous breakdown.

Must go and back up this message before I post it....

Donald Mackie FANZCA FRCA, Middlemore Hospital, Private Bag 93311, Otahuhu,
Auckland, New Zealand  ph +64 9 276 0000

Minnesota disconnected from the world for 12 hours

Theodore M.P. Lee <tmplee@MR.Net>
Sun, 15 Sep 1996 20:38:03 -0500
The primary network that serves Minnesota (the Minnesota Regional Network)
was cut off from the Internet for 12 hours today [15 Sep 1996].  (My
understanding is that *all* major nets and systems, private and public, in
Minnesota ultimately get their connection to the rest of the world through
MR.Net.)  Following are the initial announcement that they had discovered
they had been cut off and the final announcement indicating service had been

> Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 10:35:22 -0500 (CDT)
> To: all@MR.Net
> Subject: NET-DOWN: MRNet isolated from rest of Internet...
> Greetings,
> MRNet has become isolated from the rest of the Internet.  The T3 line to
> InternetMCI is up, but we are not receiving the routing table.  We have no
> details on what happened, or the extent of the problem.  InternetMCI is
> working on the problem, currently they do not have an estimated time to
> repair.  According to MRNet's network monitoring we have been isolated
> since about quarter to 6 this morning (Sunday).

> Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 19:28:36 -0500 (CDT)
> To: all@MR.Net
> Subject: NET-UP: Routing restored from MCI
> Greetings,
> MCI routing was restored at 19:15 today.  Downtime was over 12 hours.
> MRNet will be checking routing tables to see that we are getting most of
> the routes we should, and will be spot checking networks to make sure that
> our routing announcements are getting out.
> There has been no official word from InternetMCI as to the specific cause of
> this outage, or why it took more than 12 hours to fix.  MRNet will be
> following up with InternetMCI to get an explanation on Monday.


Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1996 16:53:53 -0500
>From: tmplee@MR.Net (Theodore M.P. Lee)
Subject: Minnesota Cut Off From the World For 12 Hours!

This morning's paper [16 Sep 1996] here in Minneapolis had a bit more on it
-- the head of MR.Net said he had heard of problems as far away as Seattle
and Atlanta.  I was out all day and if there has been an explanation MR.Net
hasn't sent it out.  Probably no point to adding this to the RISKs item
until an explanation is forthcoming.

>Yesterday, the Downers Grove node of CICNet (much of the Big 10, plus
>Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and other schools) was also cut
>off from the outside world by InternetMCI... perhaps it was a related outage.
>John R. Grout   Center for Supercomputing R & D
>Coordinated Science Laboratory     University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

VeriSign's policy statement

Drew Dean <ddean@CS.Princeton.EDU>
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 15:16:11 -0400
I was looking at VeriSign's web page, in particular their Certification
Practice Statement (CPS).  <URL:>

Buried among the legal gobblygook, I found the following:

  "the certificate is being used exclusively for authorized and legal
purposes, consistent with this CPS," from Section 7.2.(v), Representations
by Subscriber Upon Acceptance,


  "By accepting a certificate, the subscriber assumes a duty to retain
control of the subscriber's private key, to use a trustworthy system, and to
take reasonable precautions to prevent its loss, disclosure, modification,
or unauthorized use." from Section 7.3, Subscriber Duty to Prevent Private
Key Disclosure.

I do not understand what Section 7.2 is supposed to mean.  Authorized by
whom? Legal according to which country's laws? Section 7.3's requirement "to
use a trustworthy system" would seem to eliminate about 99.5% of the market:
almost all computers are not trustworthy, even if they are (in practice)

RISKS: Although you agree to all of this (and that you've read it) before
you receive your VeriSign certificate, it is not reasonable to expect people
to wade through a 13-chapter work.

If almost nobody meets the requirements for using VeriSign, what good is it?
Who accepts the risk of something going wrong, when the conditions for use
are not met, and VeriSign issued a certificate knowing that these conditions
are not met?  A false sense of security can be worse than no security....

Drew Dean

Airliner interference from a COMPAQ mouse, revisited

Mark Brader <>
Sun, 15 Sep 96 00:11:10 EDT
Newsgroups: sci.aeronautics.airliners
Path: sq!!n3tor.istar!tor.istar!east.istar!!!!!!agate!news.Stanford.EDU!unixhub!ditka!bounce-back
>From: Dewayne Matthews <>
Subject: Re: Can't use GPS on Alaska Airlines
References: <4vkuns$> <> <> <airliners.1996.1750@ohare.Chicago.COM> <airliners.1996.1778@ohare.Chicago.COM>
Organization: University of Colorado at Boulder
Date: 13 Sep 96 03:03:33

In article <airliners.1996.1750@ohare.Chicago.COM>,
> Dave Benjamin  <> wrote:
>It seems incomprehensible that aircraft avionics that MUST frequently
>fly over high-powered radio transmitters could be so susceptible to stray
>onboard RF.  My understanding is that the restrictions on in-flight use
>of electronic devices is based entirely on unsubstantiated anecdotal

Well, here's some anecdotal evidence. About 3 years ago, I was in seat 1D on
a Delta MD88 flying at cruise altitude over NE New Mexico on a clear summer
afternoon.  A flight attendant came out of the cockpit (fightdeck?) and with
a clear sense of urgency made a PA announcement to turn off all portable
electronic devices and instructed the other FAs to check all the passengers.
They quickly reported that the only device in use was a laptop in seat 2C
(right behind me) and this guy was having trouble saving his file so he
hadn't turned it off yet. The first FA said "I'm sorry sir, but you have to
turn it off NOW!" He did. She went back into the cockpit, and came out about
two minutes later. She went over to the guy in 2B, apologized, and said that
when the captain called her into the cockpit the first time (this is an
exact quote) "All the gauges were black." (The MD88 has a "glass" cockpit.)
She said that they were just now coming back on. She then said (I'm not
making this up) "The captain wants to know if you have a Compaq computer."
He said, with surprise, "Why, yes, it IS a Compaq." It was a older one with
an external mouse. I told them that I had read somewhere that external mice
greatly exacerbated the problem. I then had another cup of coffee.

It made a true believer out of me.

Dewayne Matthews

Re: Accidental shootdown of F-15 plane revisited (Mills, RISKS-18.45)

Robert Dorsett <>
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 18:52:03 GMT
Dick Mills <> writes:
> Mr. Dorsett expands on that theme when he says "It's a political world, not
> a technical one."  I say no, never.  Mixing demagoguery and science is
> irresponsible.  It must never be tolerated.

OK, let's be more blunt.

The Federal Aviation Administration has long been criticised for its dual
charter of both enforcing safety and encouraging the development of air
commerce.  The two roles are contradictory, representing an inherent
conflict of interest. This does not reflect upon the character of the many
skilled and motivated individuals that work there.  But the agency's
existence and function is based upon constraints that are often defined by
external parties, and the people that make up the FAA must work within those
constraints.  Just to make it clear, those constraints are "political," not

In the specific case you find "deplorable," actions taken to challenge the
operation of the ATR-72 in the US, the author makes credible points that
external influences--namely, the ramifications of a bilateral accord, in
which the US is obligated to accept the findings of the European
airworthiness authorities; economic events which had nothing to do with the
certification process; and French threats of reprisals against US
aircraft--were factors in the FAA's action (or inaction).

Faced with such heavy-duty forces, the author exploited media interest in
the October 1994 crash to point out what his concerns (as a pilot) were.  He
initially gave a public interview on a daytime talk show, and, eventually,
churned out the book. He states he did so out of concern for the safety of
the flying public.  It is arguable that the media attention influenced the
political climate.  No bureaucracy wants to be seen as fallible, and it is
equally arguable that ongoing pressure forced action on the issues.

I fail to see why this is unacceptable.  Particularly given the criteria
that you yourself have laid out, namely that it is an expert attempting to
manipulate the system in his favor.

If we lived in a science-fiction world in which some mysterious quantity
called Truth were feasible and easily obtained, then, yes, I suppose we
could live in a quasi-fascist society in which the anointed protect the
unwashed masses from the ambiguities of life.

However, we do not live in such a world.  In our world, issues often reflect
the vested interests of multiple parties, all of whom may be "in the right,"
but who may nonetheless have conflicting agendas.  There are many checks and
balances in such circumstances.  The government has competing agencies
(e.g., NTSB vs. FAA) to ensure that institutional cultures do not get out of
hand. The public can comment via its elected officials and the free press.
The victims' families can react via their lawyers. If information is
suppressed and kept in the province of "experts," the system stops working.

Creating star chambers is not the answer, particularly when it affects
operations in such a huge industry, in which MANY qualified individuals are
in credible positions to comment, and, especially, in a situation when SO
many peoples' lives can be put on the line.

I concede that investigation teams need room to work.  The NTSB freely
concedes that it must make periodic reports on the status of its
investigations.  It does not issue a probable cause statement until the
final report is issued.  However, your model implies that no discussion
whatsoever should take place until that final report is released.  That's
just unrealistic, in my opinion.  It is contrary to safety and even ignores
the interests of the affected parties--particularly the traveling public.

Robert Dorsett <> Moderator, sci.aeronautics.simulation

AT&T — Lessons forgotten

Sat, 14 Sep 1996 12:38 -0400
Just got my brand new AT&T residential long-distance statement. Of course, I
pay "electronically". The quotes mean that I do it through my fancy computer
with Internet connectivity. And then the check gets printed out on wood
pulp, physically hauled in a mail sack to AT&T's post office box, removed
from the envelope, and then some clerk (automated?) keys it in and credits
it to my account.

As error-prone as this process is, it sort of worked since the account number
had a check digit which gave some hope of correctly crediting the account. My
new account number no longer has the additional digits which, I'd assumed,
were a combination of unique code and check digit. Now a single slip of a
keystroke and my check gets credit to another's phone bill. But at least, the
new bill is pretty with an Olympic logo and AT&T's corporate logo. Who cares
about the data.

To be honest, it isn't clear that companies really used the check
information anyway. The attitude, as with credit card companies, seems to be
deposit and, if someone complains, and verifies by showing the back of a
physical check (which banks try to not provide any more), you might convince
them that you really paid and they just miscredited it.

One day, in the far far future, there may be a course in "data integrity" as
part of the accounting or MIS curriculum Until them, may your checks find
the right home more often than not.

Word for Windows risks, continued

Mon, 16 Sep 1996 11:22:57 -0500
In RISKS-18.44, Edward Reid explains how Word saves files.  But it's worse
than what he describes.  I'm working on a Word 6 document (under Windows
3.1), trying to excise some references to obsolete terms.  I searched for
and deleted all of the references, and did a "Save As" to ensure that I'm
creating a new file without any "leftovers" from earlier versions.  Doing a
search doesn't find any references to the deleted terms, but the "Find File"
option (and utilities such as Norton Desktop's SuperFind) still locate the
supposedly deleted text.  So I presume they're somewhere in the file, which
gives me very little confidence in the safety of handing someone a Word

The difference between this and previous discussions of the topic (I
believe) are that others have indicated that doing a "Save As" or disabling
the "Fast Save" option would avoid this behavior.  That's clearly not the
case, for at least some versions of Word.

Re: Microsoft VC++ property pages guaranteed to crash first time

John Vert <>
Sun, 15 Sep 1996 17:01:54 -0700
Aside from the gratuitous insults, the below RISKS posting is also factually
incorrect in a number of places.

The resource modification done below is *NOT* a modification to the file on
the disk. It is done via a copy-on-write mechanism. The page containing the
modified resource is written out to the paging file, not back to the
original image. So there is no difference in the exe and whatever you ship

Writing to a read-only resource does not cause a crash for the customer.
The default unhandled exception filter for any Win32 application handles
access violations caused by writing to a resource by changing the protection
on the page from read-only (the default for resource sections) to
copy-on-write and restarts the instruction. It will now succeed, but the
modified page is written to the paging file instead of back to the original
image. For more gory details, see KB article Q126630 "Resource sections are
read-only" at

There are two reasons this behavior will cause you pain. You will see a
first-chance exception if you are running under a debugger and have the
debugger configured to handle first-chance exceptions for access violations.
If you don't understand the difference between first-chance exceptions
(exception filter functions have not executed) and second-chance exceptions
this can be confusing. should help you out

Second, if your code has a filter function that handles this exception
before the top-level exception filter sees it, the right thing is not going
to happen. This is a RISK you always take when your exception filter handles
exceptions it doesn't know how to handle.

Re: Microsoft VC++ property pages guaranteed to crash first time

Mark Mullin <>
Fri, 06 Sep 1996 13:57:06 -0700
Microsquish Stealth Bug Insertion Technology

While I'm kind of dismayed by the "if you can't innovate, litigate"
philosophy so often applied to Microsoft, this is a particularly lethal
little gem from their MFC team.  In many development environments, this
problem will almost certainly guarantee that your app will crash the first
time it is executed on customer machines, but the crash will only happen
once, and will mystify tech support.

The problem arises in the use of property pages, otherwise known as tabbed
notebook dialogs, as they are designed and implemented in the Visual C++/MFC
environment.  VC allows the developer to use interactive resource editors to
design the property pages, but IT ONLY DOES THE FINAL STEP OF THE PROCESS IN
EXECUTING THE APPLICATION, not in the development cycle.  This step, where
the style of the page is changed in the resource will cause most machines to
abort the software as it is attempting to change a read only resource.

What really concerns me from a risks perspective is that the traditional
development model is to release an exe to the test/qa group, and then to
ship this exe to production when it receives a blessing from test/qa.  This
means that the exe shipped to production IS NOT THE SAME AS THE ONE THAT WAS
TESTED, because the tested exe has been executed, and the one sent to
production has not.  Hence, every customer who launches the app for the
first time will be rewarded with a crash, which can never be reproduced.

Yes, you can get around it with careful use of filtered exceptions.  The
problem is that this is rather insidious, and outside the realm of thinking
of most developers, who view an exe as the final product of the development
process.  In this case, the final product is an executed exe.

Personally, I feel this is a lot like the Monty Python "Frog chocolates"
sketch.  VC too should have a great big warning sticker on it saying "An EXE

 — -- — -- — -- ORIGINAL MICROSOFT DOCUMENTATION    — -- — -- — --
Applies to class CPropertyPage, specifically the DoModal function that
causes the page to be presented on the screen.

virtual int DoModal( );

  [... standard usage documentation deleted...]

Note.  The first time a property page is created from its corresponding
dialog resource, it may cause a first-chance exception. This is a result of
the property page changing the style of the dialog resource to the required
style prior to creating the page. Because resources are generally read-only,
this causes an exception. The exception is handled by the system, and a copy
of the modified resource is made automatically by the system. The
first-chance exception can thus be ignored.  Since this exception must be
handled by the operating system, do not wrap calls to
CPropertySheet::DoModal with a C++ try/catch block in which the catch
handles all exceptions, for example, catch (...). This will handle the
exception intended for the operating system, causing unpredictable behavior.
Using C++ exception handling with specific exception types or using
structured exception handling where the Access Violation exception is passed
through to the operating system is safe, however.

Re: Windows 95 passwords (Rochester, RISKS-18.41)

Fieldhouse Dirk <>
Mon, 16 Sep 96 17:19:00 bst
> I clicked on "Cancel" in the dialog box and ... I was granted access.

The system could have been configured so that it would have been difficult
for you to do anything as a default user (in particular, it could have
logged you off immediately).

Windows 95 security may not be its best aspect, but even a certified secure
product is only secure with respect to its security claims and only then
under certain conditions - eg, the procedures in the accompanying Trusted
Facility Manual must be followed. You have just seen an insecure default
configuration - basically what many Unix suppliers have provided for years.

Dirk Fieldhouse, Logica UK Limited, 75 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PL UK   +44 (171) 637 9111

Re: AOL curbs incoming spams (Clapper, RISKS-18.42)

Bernard Peek <>
Fri, 13 Sep 96 20:58:25 GMT
> In the Supreme Court decision, the Court said that our right to be
> bothered does not justify limiting First Amendment rights.

However there's an interesting interaction between US and UK laws here. We
have a Computer Misuse Act which makes it an offence to alter any data on
any computer without proper authorisation. If I declare that unsolicited
e-mail advertising to this node is unauthorised (and this I hereby do) then
anyone sending such mail to me is committing a criminal offence.

The US telephone service is required, under international treaties, to
prevent this.

Bernard Peek
I.T and Management Development Trainer to the Cognoscenti

More thoughts on junk mail

Mean Green Dancing Machine <>
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 16:51:57 -0700 (PDT)
In all the discussions on junk snail mail I see, there are many comments
about the time required to sort through it (which may or may not be the
basis for a legal case), but I've seen few comments about the direct cost of
throwing away the junk mail.

If we can enact a junk fax act on the basis of direct cost, we can
probably do so for snail junk as well.

Aahz (

Re: Sometimes junk e-mail is already a fax (Franklin, RISKS-18.45)

Mark Eckenwiler <>
13 Sep 1996 21:47:59 -0400
Having tried to quash this theory repeatedly, I'm discouraged to see it
re-emerge yet again in RISKS.  The fact is that courts are not going to read
TCPA as applying to junk e-mail.  Most of the reasons are set out in the
NetGuide article whose URL I gave in my previous message.  I won't repeat
those arguments here, but here are two I didn't have room for in print:

1) Section 227(d)(1)(B) of Title 47 makes it illegal

  to use a computer or other electronic device to send any message via a
  telephone facsimile machine unless such person clearly marks, in a
  margin at the top or bottom of each transmitted page of the message or
  on the first page of the transmission, the date and time it is sent
  and an identification of the business, other entity, or individual
  sending the message and the telephone number of the sending machine
  or of such business, other entity, or individual.

Note this section applies to noncommercial messages as well as
commercial ones.

If a computer equipped as described by Dan Franklin were really a TFM for
purposes of the TCPA, then almost every Usenet post (and a vast amount of
e-mail) would be illegal, since it is highly unusual for senders to put
their telephone numbers in the headers.  (I leave aside entirely the problem
of what a "page" is in an e-mail message, other than to observe that this is
further evidence that Congress had only conventional faxes in mind.)

BTW, it is not an adequate response to say "oh, but 'telephone number' here
just means your correct e-mail address."  If you're not willing to read
"telephone number" literally, why on earth should anyone adopt a
hyperliteral reading of the definition of a TFM in sec. 227(a)?

2) Suppose someone in your company sends e-mail to the two dozen people in
his/her working group advertising a bake sale or yard sale.  Assume further
that a single recipient reads this e-mail on a networked PC equipped with a
modem and printer.  Under the proposed broad reading of the TCPA, this would
be illegal.  Is that what Congress intended?  (The legislative history
certainly doesn't offer any support for it.)

FWIW, there are no cases addressing this question of whether junk e-mail is
covered by the TCPA.  Frankly, I think the issue will be moot before very
long; this is too hot (and vote-getting) an issue to be ignored by Congress,
which has been more than willing to legislate rules for the Internet this

Mark Eckenwiler

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