The Lockheed-Martin Titan IV that began self-destructing at 20,000 feet only 40 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral carried a top-secret satellite (code-named Vortex) for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. It was destroyed on ground command two seconds later. The Air Force gave no information on the cause. This was the last launch for this Titan IV model; future launches are already scheduled to use an improved model. [Source: Reuters item, 13 Aug 1998; PGN Abstracting] Only two failures out of 25 launches is reportedly thought to be a reasonably good record, although this loss is expensive — $300M for the Titan, and between $800M and $1B for the satellite. Associated Press noted that a previous Titan IV failure occurred from Vandenberg AFB in August 1993 (ignoring the Titan IV that blew up on the test stand on 1 April 1991 — see RISKS-12.09 — as a result of a problem that seemingly could have been caught in simulation).
Despite rampant evidence of global warming, satellite evidence over the past 20 years has been suggesting that the earth's atmosphere is cooling. Frank J. Wentz and Matthias Schabel, scientists at Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa, California, have published a study in *Nature* (out today) that concludes that atmospheric temperatures have in fact increased, and that the previous satellite data was erroneous — in part because orbiting thermometers lose altitude and in part because of the computers. The argument based on the global warping of orbits continues the global warring among scientists and policy makers as to whether there really is global warming that merits global warning. [Source" *The Washington Post*, 13 Aug 1998; PGN Abstracting] If you happen to have particular faith in satellite data, please don't forget Bill McGarry's report in RISKS-3.29 about how the very clear early warning of ozone-layer depletion over the South Pole was ignored for many years because the dramatic data values were rejected by the software -- because they were so extreme. That case is one of the rare examples of a bounds check that *should have* been missing (as opposed to all of the missing bounds checks that we report in RISKS as causing security flaws or other problems).
Michael Kleber, a UC Berkeley Sys Admin, discovered that someone had cracked his password, and was using his account — having already successfully cracked over 48,000 passwords from a list of 186,126 encrypted passwords. From Berkeley, the cracker broke into systems at "a noted Silicon Valley company", an Indiana ISP, other UCBerkeley systems, Caltech, MIT, and Harvard, having used a Swedish ISP Telenordia, and coming through computers in England, Denmark, and South Korea. He was finally detected on 29 Jun 1998. [Source: Henry K. Lee, *San Francisco Chronicle*, 13 Aug 1998, A21] Incidentally, pending U.S. legislation on copyright protection would make it illegal to crack passwords, but as a side-effect would also make it illegal for sys admins to find out which passwords on their systems were easily crackable — as well as outlawing reverse engineering to do constructive security analysis! That is a law that would have very little effect on foreign crackers, and could have a serious effect in further dumbing down system and network security, which is already pitiful in many cases — as readers of RISKS are well aware.
Re: "Cracking DES" (Gilmore, RISKS-19.87) The successful cracking of DES by brute force using a farm of dedicated chips has also brought force the danger of Unix password compromises in a new light. Now we can target the root account for compromise attempt. Most readers of RISKS are by now familiar with the basic concepts, but here it goes again: - Traditionally, UNIX uses one-way function (a twist on DES, detail later) to store user password in encrypted form. Usually /etc/passwd. The shadow password scheme leaves the old /etc/passwd less the encrypted field for backward compatibility and uses another file (only root can read it) to store the encrypted field. - When the user logs in, the typed password is encrypted and the result is compared with the stored encrypted password. If they match, the authentication succeeds. The best known attack to Unix password scheme is to steal/copy the password file where the encrypted passwords are stored and then encrypt a "dictionary" of common words and popular phrases and see if the result of encryption of a phrase matches the entry in the password file. The best known program, Crack by Allec Muffet, works in this manner. The more words that are in the dictionary, the greater the chance of cracking some accounts in the given password file. Please note that a particular user's account is still hard to crack. The idea of Crack to weed out the weak passwords from a collection of passwords, not particularly for cracking a single password entry. Cracking a few ordinary user accounts is enough for evil crackers to use that host for gathering local information and then use it as a launching ground for another attack on other hosts. Crack is meant to plug such holes. The encryption used for traditional Unix password system is a variation of DES algorithm.  Traditionally the password is 8 characters maximum. The 8 seven-bit character codes are used as the initial DES-like algorithm key to encrypt a constant to produce the encrypted form of the password. From what I read about the DES cracking LSI, I think it would be as easy/difficult to implement an LSI that performs the encryption algorithm of the traditional UNIX password system. Given the availability of DES cracking LSI farm, the availability of a similar system of cracking UNIX password of a "GIVEN USER" once the password file is available is within our reach. Please note that this system can pin-point a single user account as its target, usually root. This was not quite possible with Crack, for example. (yes, if the root user chooses a simple word such as cocacola or something like it, then it could have been cracked using Crack. But something like "1,#Oa0l'" would have been hard unless the particular phrase was in the dictionary. But it seems that we can now generate these random strings one by one and compare and exhaust the candidates within a month!?) [LESS!] Given the profit of breaking such account, I assume that major intelligent gathering organizations and crime organizations are either in the possession of such cracking system or building one now, I suppose. Yes, it is a good thing that - at least many systems now supports shadow password file, (But this can be circumvented by application program failure. A pop3 mail server is known to leave the encrypted password entry from the shadow file for comparison in memory when the password didn't match, and a known buffer overflow problem immediately after the failed comparison can dump core with the password entry in it. I read about this in BugTraq lately.) - some Unix-like systems use different algorithms such as use of MD5 as one way function. This avoids the danger from such a cracking system discussed here. Reference:  Password Security: A Case History Robert Morris and Ken Thompson AT& Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ (My copy is part of the BSD manual set published by O'Reilly.) To quote from that reference, section 4: "4. The Threat of the DES Chip Chips to perform the DES encryption are already commercially available and they are very fast. The use of such a chip speeds up the process of password hunting by three orders of magnitude. To avert this possibility, one of the internal tables of the DES algorithm (in particular, the so-called E-table) is changed in a way that depends on the 12-bit random number. The E-table is inseparably wired into the DES chip, so that the commercial chip cannot be used. Obviously, the bad guy could have his own chip designed and built, but the cost would be unthinkable." Unthinkable indeed more than 20 years ago! I think the slight variation on DES by using the use of salt (the mentioned 12-bit random number) to make the stock DES algorithm chip unusable may no longer be viable to protect a user account. Of course, I am assuming that the building of such an LSI is as easy/difficult as the DES LSI. E-table modification may result in a much slowdown even in the case of LSI implementation. (Anyone who knows the details of the circuit implementation care to comment?) But in any case, a large organization that still use old, say, SunOS 4.1.4 without shadow password facility installed, or use such system for, again, old NIS server needs to think of at least installing the shadow password facility or moving over to the next generation of OS that supports different authentication scheme. I know of one Japanese ISP using a Sun system in the above configured manner :-( Gosh, they could be the rampant attack launching ground within the next 12 months or so... I hope peer pressure will move such sites into modern age. Chiaki Ishikawa, Personal Media Corp., Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan 142-0051 email@example.com.NoSpam [RISKS readers must be tired of my saying that fixed reusable passwords are a menace, irrespectively of how long they are, how full of funny characters, how often they are changed (of course, sniffing catches all changes), how they are managed, etc. It is time to retire them. PGN]
After reading about all of the navy's woes with NT, perhaps they should listen to the folks at MIT. MIT has created an automatic sub which runs Linux. No GPF's at 20000ft for me. http://web.mit.edu/rec/orca/orca.html
I bought McAfee's PC Medic 97 Deluxe package a week ago. The QuickBackup program version 2.04 for Windows failed to perform a total backup; many files were not copied. Network Associates' Web site reveals a known problem: version 2.04 cannot backup files from directories whose names contain a blank space. Solution: download version 2.05 from the Web site. - From NAI customer service, I received the product ID and password required for the download. Unfortunately, the file reference for the download results in a 404 error; seems the download file is not on the server. This is a wonderful example to include in my quality assurance courses. I try to get across the concept that QA is not an add-on — it must inform all aspects and stages of software development and delivery. The same, BTW, is true of security — security is a process, not an end state. M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP / Director of Education, ICSA Inc. — Carlisle, PA <http://www.icsainc.com>
> That sounds like a bug in an application program, not the > esteemed operating system! I don't know who "esteems" NT, but if somebody entering a zero kept me from getting under steam for two hours, I would be "steamed" myself. It doesn't matter what "caused" the outage. If a program failure can kill the engine, then a system failure could equally well do likewise. NT's habit of crashing frequently is well-documented. Future releases (with a predicted 65%+ of code replaced!) promise no better stability. What's the RISK, here? It looks to me as if the Navy brass decided to "standardize" on technology that their own technical experts had warned against relying on, and actually deployed the system before they were forced to admit its flaws. Full E-Steam Ahead! Nathan Myers http://www.cantrip.org/
I could talk about crash protection and task isolation and threads, but I think there's a more interesting point here (and a whole new risk). The official account of the fault, by Vice Admiral Henry Giffin, was quoted as follows: The Yorktown lost control of its propulsion system because its computers were unable to divide by the number zero ... The Yorktown's Standard Monitoring Control System administrator entered zero into the data field for the Remote Data Base Manager program. That caused the database to overflow and crash all LAN consoles and miniature remote terminal units. The program administrators are trained to bypass a bad data field and change the value if such a problem occurs again. [endquote] The question is whether we accept this as a factual account of what happened. I'd argue that there are very good reasons for scepticism. In my experience, users' accounts of system problems very rarely match what actually went on - to be more precise, there are correspondences, but it takes work to identify them. An account from a non-technical senior manager who wasn't directly involved is still less likely to be accurate in any unproblematic way. So, can we trust Giffin's account? I doubt strongly that the "Remote Data Base Database?] Manager" program has a singular "data field" and I don't think there's any such thing as a "LAN console". More to the point, I don't know what could possibly be meant by "caus[ing] the database to overflow"; or how any sort of DBMS "overflow" could bring down a network server; or how a network crash could disable a ship's propulsion system (although *that* may be precisely the problem). In short, technically speaking it's horse feathers. We know there was a crash; we can reasonably assume that it had something to do with a division by zero. Beyond that I'm sceptical in the extreme. My reading of the story is that NT Server blue-screened for no apparent reason (as it does) and displayed a message about a division by zero (as it does - a contributor to another list reported seeing div/0 crashes in every version of Windows since 2.0). Unfortunately we're never likely to get a fuller (or, I'd argue, more accurate) account than Giffin's. The risk here is the kind of poor communication with the technical front-line which allows user stories to spread and be taken literally. Inadequate problem analysis leads to inappropriate remedial measures, giving you the worst of both worlds: an unstable OS, plus an extra layer of procedures and training to ensure that sysadmins know how to "bypass a bad data field and change the value". But I may be wrong. Phil Edwards Editor, Windows NTexplorer firstname.lastname@example.org, @ntexplorer.com
The whole point is that a decent operating system should not be capable of being crashed by an application program. My Sun machine has been running continuously for the last 8 months (until the power cut this morning :-( ): during that time it has been hammered by buggy development software, without crashing. The same "shifting of the blame" was seen in the NatWest bank case: a bug in NatWest's application caused NT to crash, yet NatWest are continuing to use NT despite this fundamental flaw. The next stage in blame shifting is to blame the user for entering a zero: with the fix being to hang a big sign over the terminal "Please don't enter a zero into this program". This reminds me of the old spy movies where the SuperVillain's Secret Base always had a large red button labelled "Secret Base Self-Destruct System"... Martin.Ward@durham.ac.uk http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dcs0mpw/ Erdos number: 4 Maintainer of the G.K.Chesterton web site: http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dcs0mpw/gkc/
What all the reports I've read appear to be missing is that bugs like this are almost inevitable in C or C++, yet pose almost no security issues in safer programming languages, including as Java, Lisp, Ada, Smalltalk, Modula-3, Eiffel, ML, etc. Not only the advantages of Java were glossed over or totally missed by some of these reports, some others even positively singled out Java as if it is the most dangerous and insecure technology. After the latest Eudora security bug was found, Qualcomm sent the following notice to all registered users: QUALCOMM recently identified that a potential security risk existed in Eudora Pro Email 4.0 for Windows and Eudora Pro Email 4.0.1 for Windows. ... This security risk involves the ability to include user hostile Java applets or scripts in an email message. Note the causal use of "Java applets or scripts". The real bug is that Eudora would blindly launch the appropriate applications to process attached content, and in some case, this would result in some executables being run. There is nothing here that is Java specific. The executables can be many different things. But by lumping everything together and then calling it "Java applets or scripts", the announcement is grossly misleading, is creating unnecessary confusion in the mind of the customers, and is in fact tarnishing the unique strength and advantage in security that Java has over other competing Internet oriented technologies. For an analogy of what Qualcomm said, imagine that you see such an official notice being posted all over San Diego (where Qualcomm is headquartered): Warning! Due to an electrical problem on our part, all door locks are no long working. To prevent theft, please do not leave valuables in your offices, because of the risk that Qualcomm employees and some other people may steal them. What would you think upon seeing this notice? Li Gong, Java Security Architect, Java Software, Sun Microsystems
I'm a Linux user and don't have Win98 around to test this, but I've found two reports so far today that Win98 has a date problem. A Y2K test program in the UK reported a Y2K problem, but further testing revealed that it was not a Y2K problem. The date was a day or two off when crossing between any two years. Because it happens every year and not only in 2000, it is not a Y2K bug. You might want to try to mess up the nearest Win98 machine to confirm this before reporting it...and I don't expect this report to be used with exactly this phrasing, as I expect you'll find plenty of other sources with better information. (OK, so I can even tell an editor that I know he'll do his job :-) I saw one report on the BBS web page and now a second related one at http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/98/08/09/stibusnws01022.html [Sorry, I cannot include the user code. PGN] As these are reports from the UK, I don't know if the problem is sensitive to the British Isles or GMT time zones or not. One can hope there is something more complex than just a date sensitivity, as one's eyebrows tend to get stuck to the ceiling when a major product has such a problem this close to Y2K. Scot E. Wilcoxon email@example.com
The call-for-papers for the 1999 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy is now available at http://java.sun.com/people/gong/conf/ieee-sp/cfp99.html - Mike
BKTMBM2K.RVW 980531 "Time Bomb 2000", Edward Yourdon/Jennifer Yourdon, 1998, 0-13-095284-2, U$19.95/C$27.95 %A Edward Yourdon %A Jennifer Yourdon %C One Lake St., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 %D 1998 %G 0-13-095284-2 %I Prentice Hall %O U$19.95/C$27.95 201-236-7139 fax: 201-236-7131 %P 416 p. %T "Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You" It doesn't take long to figure out which Saturday morning is being referred to in the Preface. And one of the common failures suggested by pundits after December 31, 1999, is that of phone service. As the outage extends to a decade, however, one begins to wonder how realistic this book is going to be. For one thing, loss of dial tone is much less likely than billing errors, and the most likely errors would be failure to bill for those calls taking place as midnight (switch time) strikes. However, the introduction goes on to point out that the subtitle is much more appropriate to this book: it is addressed to the non-technical audience, rather than those charged with fixing the problem. A bit of overstatement can therefore be forgiven. It is odd, though, that so many of the examples used refer to large infrastructures: what *could* the normal citizen do if faced with a region wide water outage? Chapter one introduces the concepts of risk management and planning, and stresses the relative time elements to plan for. However, one of the central statements is that we simply do not know what is going to happen, and that makes planning rather difficult. There are some general suggestions (for example, that most disruptions will be of days, rather than weeks, duration), but even these are questionable. One specific recommendation, for instance, is that stockpiling a month's supply of food in a city apartment might be difficult, so maybe you should go visit friends in the country for a month. I'm not sure what assumption this is based on, but if food distribution is interrupted, it might be more likely that emergency food provision would be concentrated in population centres. The consequences to employment are reviewed in chapter two, which ultimately suggests only one course of action: have a nest egg on hand. The scenario is alarming, but also possibly unduly optimistic, since it repeatedly suggests planning for a year out of work. Using the book's own figures, and fairly simple arithmetic, the average time out of work would appear to be four years. The discussion of utility disruption, in chapter three, is vague and offers little in the way of practical suggestions. Interconnected failures are not emphasized (gas furnaces fail as soon as electrical thermostats shut down) and food stockpiling is probably not realistic (how many foods require no refrigeration for storage and no heating for preparation?) Given the heavy business emphasis in other areas, it is odd to note that the concern for transportation is limited to personal travel in chapter four. While a sudden transition to telecommuting would have a major effect on business (and be impossible for some), the failure of shipping is much more serious. Chapter five's assessment of the banking industry could be responsible for a run on the banks, itself. (The advice to keep hardcopy of all transactions in the months preceding and following December 31, 1999 is very good.) The problems of the advice regarding food in chapter six have already been addressed, since the material basically repeats, in more detail, what has already been said elsewhere. Home computer problems are really only looked at in terms of business use of PCs in chapter seven. I am rather interested to note that the Internet does not get a mention either in regard to personal computers or in relation to news and information in chapter eight. The overview of medical care, in chapter nine, is solid, careful, and useful. While I agree that government is one of the largest, and most tardy, potential victims of Y2K, chapter ten is shortsighted in seeing it only as a provider of cheques. As with much of the rest of the book, the information in this section is US-centric, although similar concepts apply elsewhere. Chapter eleven reviews embedded computers, but only broadens the scope of what could happen in other areas. This material should probably have been included earlier in the general discussion of the problem. Education, as all too often, seems to be a bit of an afterthought, but some important points are made in the relatively short chapter twelve. Chapter thirteen notes that communication is an obvious target, and so most likely to be adequately addressed by the deadline. That is good, since the book gives no realistic advice for fallback positions. (A cell phone will be just as dead as a land line if all the switches are down, and is much more likely to have problems in the handset.) Despite the many shortcomings of the book, I do feel that it should be read and considered by a good many people. The books and articles currently extent concentrate on the problem and necessary solutions from a systems and technical perspective. There is a need for some consideration about personal actions that can be taken to ameliorate potential problems. Hopefully this discussion can have some rationality behind it: producing a run on the banks or dry soup mix in December '99 will help nobody. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998 BKTMBM2K.RVW 980531
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