[John van Heteren firstname.lastname@example.org found this press release on http://www.urel.berkeley.edu/releases/ and sent it to comp.dcom.telecom .] Berkeley — It took UC Berkeley graduate student Ian Goldberg only three and a half hours to crack the most secure level of encryption that the federal government allows U.S. companies to export. [On 28 Jan 1997] RSA Data Security Inc. challenged the world to decipher a message encrypted with its RC5 symmetric stream cipher, using a 40-bit key, the longest keysize allowed for export. RSA offered a $1,000 reward, designed to stimulate research and practical experience with the security of today's codes. Goldberg succeeded a mere 3.5 hours after the contest began, which provides very strong evidence that 40-bit ciphers are totally unsuitable for practical security. "This is the final proof of what we've known for years: 40-bit encryption technology is obsolete," Goldberg said. RSA's RC5 cipher can however be used with longer keysizes, ranging from 40 to 2,048 bits, to provide increasing levels of security. U.S. export restrictions have limited the deployment of technology that could greatly strengthen security on the Internet, often affecting both foreign and domestic users, Goldberg said. "We know how to build strong encryption; the government just won't let us deploy it. We need strong encryption to uphold privacy, maintain security, and support commerce on the Internet — these export restrictions on cryptography must be lifted, " he said. Fittingly, when Goldberg finally unscrambled the challenge message, it read: "This is why you should use a longer key." The number of bits in a cipher is an indication of the maximum level of security the cipher can provide, Goldberg said. Each additional bit doubles the potential security level of the cipher. A recent panel of experts recommended using 90-bit ciphers, and 128-bit ciphers are commonly used throughout the world, but U.S. government regulations restrict exportable U.S. products to a mere 40 bits. Goldberg used UC Berkeley's Network of Workstations (NOW) to harness the computational resources of about 250 idle machines. This allowed him to test 100 billion possible "keys" per hour — analogous to safecracking by trying every possible combination at high speed. This amount of computing power is available with little overhead cost to students and employees at many large educational institutions and corporations. Goldberg is a founding member of the ISAAC computer security research group at UC Berkeley, which is led by assistant professor of computer science Eric Brewer. In the fall of 1995 the ISAAC group made headlines by revealing a major security flaw in Netscape's web browser. [This item appeared more or less intact in various news media. Ian also was featured in a live hookup at the RSA Data Security Conference on 29 Jan, and noted that the key was found after exhausting only 30% of the keyspace. 2**41.5 workstation-microseconds were expended, at a rate of 1 million keys every 6 seconds. Nifty piece of work. Incidentally, longer RC5 key lengths have increasingly higher prizes, and may still be up for grabs. Also, as I recall, one DES key is worth $10,000. PGN] [Typo in title fixed in archive copy. PGN]
An internal Social Security Administration (SSA) report described in the 17 Jan 1997 *Washington Post* states that $234 billion worth of wage reports, some going back to 1937, cannot be matched to individual accounts. The wage reports are used to compute benefits. The San Bernadino SSA District Headquarters states that their computer system is 'confounded' by Asian, Latino, Native American and Islamic names. Surnames with spaces, such as 'de la Rosa' or where the surname is not at the end of the name, such as 'Park Chong Kyu' are typical of those mishandled. Women who change their names when getting married also constitute a large portion of the errors. The San Bernadino office has corrected 100,000 mismatches of the 200 million unmatched wage reports. Rep. George E. Brown Jr. has sought a General Accounting Office investigation, but has been blocked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer. The RISK here is designing a system for a diverse population without considering procedures to handle that diversity. Scott Lucero, U.S. Army Operational Test and Evaluation Command
A posting on the Orchestra List once again highlights the RISKS of inconsistent interfaces: > From: Symph@uwyo.edu (Michael T. Griffith) > To: email@example.com (ork) > Subject: spellcheckers ... > I know some of you have been amused (at best) by my spellchecker episodes > in the past few weeks (Hindemith came out as Hindmost was the worst). If > you're interested, I've discovered the problem, and will share it with > Microsoft Mail users out there. > > In MS Word, if the spellchecker highlights a word it doesn't know, like > Hindemith, you can click on "add" and it puts Hindemith into its dictionary ... > In MS Mail, if it highlights a word it doesn't know, and you click on "add," > it puts the highlighted correction it offered into the dictionary as a > permanent correction. Since "Hindmost" was the first offered correction, it > permanently noted that every time I type Hindemith, it would substitute > Hindmost. So in one interface, "add" means "add this word, as-is, to the dictionary." In the other, "add" means "add this suggested replacement to the dictionary and never ask me again." Incidentally, ispell users have been asking for the latter feature for years, but I have stubbornly refused because I think that automated replacement is far too RISKy to trust a computer. Geoff Kuenning firstname.lastname@example.org geoff@ITcorp.com http://fmg-www.cs.ucla.edu/geoff/ [Hindemith wrote "Mathis der Maler". Hindmost wrote "MS der Mauler", seemingly applicable in English (one who mauls). Although not quite echt deutsch, there are several potentially pertinent interpretations as well. PGN]
The Berlin newspaper "Tagespiegel" reports on 29 Jan 97 about a television show broadcast the previous evening on which hackers from the Chaos Computer Club demonstrated how to electronically transfer funds without needing a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or TAN (Transaction Number). Apparently it suffices for the victim to visit a site which downloads an ActiveX application, which automatically starts and checks to see if Quicken, a popular financial software package that also offers electronic funds transfer, is on the machine. If so, Quicken is given a transfer order which is saved by Quicken in its pile of pending transfer orders. The next time the victim sends off the pending transfer orders to the bank (and enters in a valid PIN and TAN for that!) all the orders (= 1 transaction) are executed -> money is transferred without the victim noticing! The newspaper quotes various officials at Microsoft et al expressing disbelief/outrage/"we're working on it". We discussed this briefly in class looking for a way to avoid the problem. Demanding a TAN for each transfer is not a solution, for one, the banks only send you 50 at a time, and many small companies pay their bills in bunches. Having to enter a TAN for each transaction would be quite time-consuming. Our only solution would be to forbid browsers from executing any ActiveX component without express authorization, but that rather circumvents part of what ActiveX is intended for. A small consolation: the transfer is trackable, that is, it can be determined at the bank to which account the money went. Some banks even include this information on the statement, but who checks every entry on their statements... Debora Weber-Wulff, Technische Fachhochschule Berlin, Luxemburger Str. 10, 13353 Berlin GERMANY email@example.com <http://www.tfh-berlin.de/~weberwu/> [Now you can get a TAN even in the dead of winter! PGN]
In an advertisement in the latest issue of _Time_ magazine (3 February 1997, Canadian edition), Corel mentions the existence of Word macro viruses as a reason to prefer WordPerfect: Virus Free* — Steer clear of the recently identified Microsoft (r) Word macro viruses. With Corel WordPerfect Suite 7 and Corel Office Professional 7, it's safe to share documents with your co-workers. [* Source: _WordPerfect for Windows Magazine_, November 1996, p. 21] It will be interesting to see if WordPerfect really does profit from this problem. Personally, I'm still using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS! ;-) Yves Bellefeuille, Ottawa, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~an448/
According to BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme this morning (January 27th 1997), a hospital in Bristol, England, has created a "medical simulation centre". The flagship effort of this centre is a "patient simulator" on which medical students, doctors, nurses, paramedics, etc can "practise"; the idea being, presumably, to make the really bad mistakes before getting to real live patients, similarly to how airline pilots are trained. The following points came to mind as I listened to the centre's spokesperson presenting this huge breakthrough in medical training: 1. To what extent will the bedside manner of many doctors be enhanced by training on an unfeeling robot ? 2. The simulator apparently cost GBP 250,000. Does anyone else feel that US$400,000, or two person-years of relatively inexpensive systems consultant time, is perhaps on the low side for a full simulation of what took evolution several million years to achieve ? Or maybe the simulation is perfect and only the centre's accounting software has problems ? 3. Anyone want to be next month's paycheck that administering 32767 milligrams of any substance to the simulator will not cause a previously present, non-zero quantity of that substance to go negative and thus disappear ? Once medical students discover that a blood alcohol level of 200 milligrams can be reduced by administering the equivalent of six bottles of vodka, how many will go out and try it, and then sue the simulator's programmers ? Nick Brown, Strasbourg, France
[Forwarded with permission by Pete Mellor <email@example.com>.] Can you believe that we have already been hit by a Year 2000 bug? Today I went with my part-time PhD student to the library and her card was rejected. This is because her card expiry date is the year 2000 which, according to the library computer entry system, is 1900, i.e., her card is rejected for being out of date. (She actually has got a print-out which states that her card expires in 1900.) Apparently the problem is known to library and security* staff but they have not done anything about it. Considering how new** the library is, is it not incredible that such a serious and obvious year 2000 bug was not avoided? Norman [Explanatory annotations from Pete Mellor:] * Our identity cards, which should be worn at all times within the university, are dual purpose, and serve as library cards also. The library identifies the owner by a bar-code. There is a magnetic strip on the back, which is not (at the moment, as far as I am aware) used for anything. For staff on fixed term contracts, an expiry date is shown on the card and held on the database. ** The library has just undergone major refurbishment and extension, and installed a new computer system. Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB, UK. +44 (171) 477-8422, firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/money/970129C01c_FI-PORN29.html Porn on Net leads to big bills; Overseas phone flip boosts phone bills, police say By Robert Brehl - Toronto Star Business Reporter, 29 Jan 1997 A bizarre scam involving pornography on the Internet has cost victims hundreds of dollars, Royal Canadian Mounted Police say. Some victims have been unknowingly charged up to $1,200 to download porn from the Web site (sexygirls.com), said Corporal Marc Gosselin, of the RCMP's computer crime unit. Gosselin said the scam worked this way: The website informs Internet surfers that looking at nude pictures is free. To see the pictures, ``a special image viewer'' must be clicked on and downloaded to your home computer. ``And that's a virus, a Trojan horse,'' the Mountie said. When it is clicked on, the viewer's modem is disconnected from the regular local Internet service provider, Gosselin said. Then the dialer volume is turned off, and a phone number in Moldova, in the former Soviet Union, is dialed. Surreptitiously, the person's computer in Canada is then hooked to a phone number in Moldova, Gosselin said. >From Moldova, the call is bounced back to a computer in Scarborough where the pornographic pictures are stored. ``You're accessing a server in Scarborough through a long-distance call to Moldova,'' Gosselin said. The scam can continue even after viewing the pornography. That's because Internet surfers may move on to other Internet sites, but are still unknowingly connected to Moldova and racking up long-distance charges, Gosselin said in an interview from Montreal. Because the investigation is continuing and charges are pending, the Mounties refuse to name the company in Scarborough. The Star attempted to send an E-mail to officials connected to (sexygirls.com). The page has an area for sending E-mail, but would not accept electronic messages from The Star. The website boasts having had more than 1 million visitors since Jan. 1, 1997. That number could not be verified. The RCMP has ordered that all calls from Canada to the number in Moldova not be connected, so this scam has been stopped, the corporal said. But telecommunications experts say oodles of other potential scams are out there, and consumers should beware. Ian Angus, author of the book Phone Pirates, said using the Internet is the latest twist in scamming people on long-distance charges. ``It's not just a dirty trick, it's business, big money,'' Angus said. That's because it's common for phone companies in foreign countries to try to attract calls from the lucrative North American market, he said. Bell will look at each case before deciding whether to waive the charges Typically, foreign phone companies enlist entrepreneurs to generate calls and then, in turn, pay the entrepreneurs a percentage of each call. Canadian phone companies ``must pay international settlement charges to foreign countries even if they can't collect at home,'' said Angus, president of Angus Telemanagement. Bell Canada spokesperson John Peck said the company will look at each complaint before deciding whether to waive the charges. ``But we're on the hook for it, too,'' Peck said. ``Chances are the individual will be held responsible.'' If Bell waived the charges, other Bell customers and shareholders would be subsidizing the charges rung up, unknowingly or not, by people downloading pornography. Gosselin and Angus said Bell probably won't get too many complaints because of the embarrassment factor for victims forced to admit what they were doing in order to argue for a rebate. The RCMP has had 20 complaints so far, but hundreds of others have probably been taken, Gosselin said. He said it would be several weeks before any charges are laid related to unauthorized access to computers and fraud.
Lucky Green (RISKS-18.75) said: > The new US crypto export regulations control the export of most if not all > data-security software. Regardless if the software uses cryptography or > not. Many software archives seem to be in violation of the new regs. [...] > This certainly controls virus checkers, firewalls, and other security > software. There are substantial penalties involved in violating the EAR. > The US can assess daily penalties and block all exports of a company's > non-violating products. Criminal penalties apply as well. > > "Export", as defined in the new regs, includes making software available on > the web or via ftp. After _very_ careful reading of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (though IANAL), it would seem that the above is slightly inaccurate. Although, as Lucky pointed out, virus checkers et al. are indeed regulated for export from the US, and putting software up for ftp or WWW is considered export, the EAR does _not_ apply to "publicly available" software (732.2(b)(1)). Software is publicly available "when it is available for general distribution either for free or at a price that does not exceed the cost of reproduction and distribution" (734.7(b)). Therefore, it would seem that, as long as the security software on your ftp or WWW site is free of cost, it is OK to keep it there. Commercial security software, however, remains export-restricted. NOTE, however, that products that actually do contain cryptography fall under an exception (734.7(c)): "Notwithstanding paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, note that encryption software controlled under ECCN 5D002 for ``EI'' reasons on the Commerce Control List (refer to Supplement No. 1 to part 774 of the EAR) remains subject to the EAR even when publicly available." The software controlled for EI reasons under 5D002 are described as: "EI controls apply to encryption software transferred from the U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Control List consistent with E.O. 13026 of November 15, 1996 (61 FR 58767) and pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum of that date. Refer to Sec. 742.15 of the EAR." As virus checkers et al. were not on the Munitions List, they are not controlled for EI (Encryption Items) reasons, but rather for NS (National Security) and AT (Anti-Terrorism) reasons. The RISKS: the government suddenly creating (and putting into effect) new rules covering large amounts of software, without warning or (in my opinion) justification. - Ian "again, IANAL"
I subscribe to the Timecast Times mailing list, a fairly low-volume but large-size announcement mailing list I'm on. It's not a discussion list but an announcement list--usually, it sends one ~5-10K file through, once a week. Last night, one of these announcement posts bounced, and the bounce apparently went out to the entire Timecast Times list. I didn't think too much of this e-mail bounce, hardly even glanced over it. But this morning, I received about eight more message from said list, mostly from subscribers saying "Please take me off this list!", some of whom quoted the entire 8K announcement file along with their message. Taking a closer look at the messages revealed something rather interesting. Cause of the bounces aside, the message at the end of Timecast Times that used to state: > ** To remove yourself from this mailing list, send a message to > email@example.com with > > UNSUBSCRIBE your_e-mail_address > > on a single line in the body of the message. ** now reads > For help subscribing, unsubscribing, and changing your e-mail address, > send e-mail with the word "Help" in the subject line to > firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an automatic response with > instructions. From this, it looks like they've had to change their mailing list software when they changed the site the list was running from. Offhand, I'd say there are two major RISKS to be seen in this: RISK #1 can be found in the advice that when you're switching mailing list software, it would be a good idea to know what you're doing. Looks to me like misconfiguration caused bounces to be sent through the list to its subscribers, instead of to the listowner alone; e-mail replies to the list to be sent to the subscribers rather than just the listowner; and maybe even the original bounces in the first place. The RISK here is that misconfiguration can lead to mess-up. RISK #2 advises that you should make it as _easy_ to unsubscribe as you possibly can. Firstly, instructions should be at the _beginning_ of the message...if you don't want to be receiving the thing, are you really going to read it down all the way through the end? Second, it should be clear-cut and self-evident what to do just by looking at it. "For help, e-mail here" just doesn't cut it. The RISK here resides in people's inherent tendency toward laziness: People don't want to _work_ to get off a list like this, they're going to hit that big old 'R' key and say "Take me off, now!" instead, probably quoting the entire message in the hopes of filling up the mail spool of whoever they're replying to. When you combine the RISK of misconfiguration with the RISK of obfuscation, you get a snowball effect as more and more people reply quoting the entire message, causing more and more mailboxes to fill up or more time to be spent downloading junk e-mail, causing more and more people to reply... Chris Meadows aka Robotech_Master email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.eyrie.org/~robotech/index.html
Thanks to the more than 100 people who replied to my posting (many of them to my msof-address :-). Many of you suggested that msof might be in my "AutoCorrect" word list, and some were wondering who had put it there. It turns out that the problem is related, but not due to "AutoCorrect". It seems that Word97 not only has an "AutoCorrect" feature, but also an independent "AutoText" with "AutoComplete" feature, and this is what's causing the visible substitution effect. AutoText has a word list that includes such wonderful phrases as Best Regards, Dear Mom and Dad, Dear Sir or Madam, Love, and, yes, you guessed it, MSOffice. When you have AutoComplete turned on, which is the default after installation, anything you type that matches an AutoText entry is expanded when you press Enter or Tab. For example, typing the four letters "to w" (with a blank between o and w) and then the Tab key, will yield the string "To Whom It May Concern:" on your screen. This still doesn't explain, however, why the MS Office installer performs such auto-text expansions on existing user-preference files when upgrading from Word 95 to Word 97. Might it be that, internally, this is actually performed by parsing the old configuration file and writing out a new one *using Word itself*? Then, if the new-configuration-writer would type msof followed by a Tab or a Return, you would get MSOffice... Michael Franz email@example.com
Yesterday, I registered my mother to MCI as an ISP. They create your access codes, which are long mixed characters, for what they call security. They aren't very informative about how to use the services or an explanation on your user codes, they ask for you to create a code or phrase in the beginning on registering, for authentication if you have problems with service etc. They also give you your first.lastname as your userid. So, I accessed the MCI server with the strange code, but when I got to my mothers e-mail stuff there was another code they created for security, but it wouldn't authenticate. So, I called them telling them I was my mother and asked for the username code and password code. The only thing they asked me for was my mother's home address prior to giving me the codes! I could have been anyone asking for the username codes and passwords! They gave me both codes, one for accessing the server and the e-mail one! What worries me about all this, is that it doesn't take much to know if someone has an account on MCI and get their address? Then, just call in saying that you forgot your codes and then login, purchase MCI's products online using the credit card that you gave MCI to bill you monthly? Right? The funny thing is that they earlier asked for a phrase etc. for service... but they didn't ask me for it? They didn't ask me for the accounting codes or service codes that they provided after registration on the browser? Just the physical home address? Is this dangerous or what? I immediately had my mother cancel the service with them. Please look into this and see if they do this to other people? I am worried how easy it is to do this with other providers other than MCI? Helen Stewart
BKMTHFLM.RVW 961021 "Moths to the Flame", Gregory J. E. Rawlins, 1996, 0-262-18176-2, U$22.50 %A Gregory J. E. Rawlins firstname.lastname@example.org %C 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1399 %D 1996 %G 0-262-18176-2 %I MIT Press %O U$22.50 email@example.com %P 184 %T "Moths to the Flame" From the subtitle, "The Seductions of Computer Technology", one can, perhaps, assume that the book is not going to be an unalloyed apologia for the computer. Poor old technology seems to be a popular stuffed lion to kick these days. Rawlins' book, more like a series of articles, is more informed and erudite than most, but readers of, say, the RISKS-FORUM Digest will find this to be thoroughly plowed ground. Rawlins looks at encryption (rather well, actually), virtual reality, information technology, the net, weapons technology, and employment. Chapter 7 gets a little out of hand: it finishes with two (not terribly good) science fiction "cautionary tale" set pieces. The final chapter moves out into the realm of technology in general, but returns to a bit more balanced view. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1996 BKMTHFLM.RVW 961021 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Please note the Peterson story - http://www.netmind.com/~padgett/trial.htm [Only one bit more? Maybe he bit off more moths than he could shoo. PGN]
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