Last December 8, a Tomahawk cruise missile was launched from a submarine in the Gulf of Mexico. It was intended to fly around southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle and then crash onto the Eglin AFB reservation; however, about 9 minutes into the flight the missile made a sudden right turn and crashed outside the reservation near the small town of Freeport (the residents of Freeport were less than amused.) No explanation for the failure was given until an article in the 2/20 issue of the "Playground Daily News" [Fort Walton Beach, Florida]. The article says in part: Human error caused a malfunction that led to the errant flight and subsequent grounding near Freeport of an unarmed cruise missile on a test flight two months ago...Newly released information shows that a "procedural problem" involving the missile's computer guidance system caused the malfunction [according to a Navy spokesman]...He said the middle portion of a launch-fly-recovery program guidng the sophisticated missile was erased when the launch crew loaded the information into the missile's memory banks too quickly. As a result, the missile went from the launch mode straight to the recovery mode "without going through the most important part of the mission"..."That's what caused it to make the unscheduled turn," he said. "It was not the missile's fault. It did exactly what it was supposed to do."..."It was not a mistake. In reviewing the procedures we can see how it happened. Since then, new directions and new procedures have been instituted." Old saying: If all else fails, follow the instructions. New corollary: If you follow the instructions, you can't make a mistake. (or, "I was only following orders, Your Honor.")
Unfortunately, I'm not in Massachusetts, so I won't be going to Ms. Waskell's lecture on computerized voting. But ever since I heard about the electronic tally board in some legislative house (I think the U.S. House of Representatives), I've been interested in the safeguards. The method used involved the legislators pushing one of two buttons at their desk (one for "yea", the other for "nay"). Well, it seems that some legislators pushed buttons for colleagues who were absent and who did not know how they were "voting"! Now, this story may be apocryphal (since I don't remember the source, you might as well take it with a grain of salt) but it does bring up a point I've not heard addressed. If you use an electronic "ballot puncher" (as opposed to manually punching the cards then counting them electronically) how can you ensure the ballot is punched correctly? So, my questions to this group: Anybody know if all electronic voting schemes used at election time require manually punched ballots? If not, what tests are the electronic "ballot punchers" subjected to in order to test their reliability? (I gather there can be no precautions against someone voting for someone else other than careful checks at the precinct, by the precinct workers. Opposing comments welcome!)
From Risks 2.12: "In a worst possible case, you could double the entire worldwide burden of plutonium in the atmosphere." Robert K. Weatherwax, head of Sierra Energy and Risk Assessment I find this quotation silly and non-science. Here are two meanings for his sentence: 1. The accident could double the instantaneous weight of Pu in the atmosphere. So what? Weatherwax supplies no figure for the current atmosphereic Pu burden, and no figure for that burden's harm or risk. Anyone know what the current level of Pu is? If its one femtogram, or even one milligram, who cares what "doubling" it does? 2. The accident could double the amount of Pu that has been added to the atmosphere by man. That's probably what Weatherwax wants you to read into his sentence. And its clearly silly, because when an above-ground Pu atom bomb goes off, MOST of the 10-20 kilogram critical mass of Pu goes into the atmosphere. Considering the number of above-ground bombs tested, this would mean that the "accident" involved at least a tonne of Pu! Look at the loaded words: "double" "entire" "worldwide". Would his sentence have changed meaning if he had simply left out the words "entire worldwide"? No, but it wouldn't have sounded like a drum-roll was being played in the background. This isn't science, guys, this is politics — or silliness. [If we horse around a little, we might get to Whinny the Pu. PGN]
In Risks-2.11, I noticed that it was suggested that one way that software manufacturers combated software piracy was by providing various "extras" with their software packages which supposedly enhance the value of the product. To an extent, this is true, and I will grant that those who are really interested in a said game (business software is another matter) will purchase it rather than copy it because of the extras and the value that they provide during the playing of the game. However, I submit that the vast majority of computer users are only casually interested in a certain "new game", and because of this will not be too deterred by the lack of colorful maps or cute little clues which are provided with the game. These can easily be described or listed in a small and easily written text file, and distributed all over the US and Canada with the actual "cracked" game that is being pirated. Thus, these objects included with the software are only a deterrent for the interested player, who probably buys most of his software anyhow. Software companies do not loose money due to these people, rather, it is the software trader who seeks to get new software at a regular rate (which with a modem is exceptionally easy to do) who is the main threat to software company profits, and large cloth maps and parchment instructions thrown in to the software package are of little interest to some one who can easily get the complete instructions and contents of the "extras" all typed up in a neat little text file. This also goes for games like "Captain Goodnight", which sought to deter piracy by having a set of codes, which if not used properly in various sections of the game, would cause the program disk to reboot (Apple version). However, it was just as easy to type up the chart that the software manufacturer provided and include it with the program on the same disk. Versions have even been circulated where the section of the program that asks for your 'ID code' is taken out, and the game proceeded as if the user had typed in the right code. One further thing - Another notable software manufacturer which is reputed for their software protection policy is Beagle Brothers, who provide valuable utilities and some games for the Apple which are unprotected and at a much more modest cost then most of its competition. D.Reuben Reuben@Weslyn.Bitnet (or Reuben@Weslyn.Arpa)
> Subject: Security Safeguards for Air Force Computer Systems > "WASHINGTON (UPI) - . . . . > > The Air Force Audit Agency, which inspected eight bases, sharply > criticized officers at each facility for failure to inspect safeguards, > such as lead boxes designed to limit electromagnetic signals emitted > by the equipment..." Bet the spells to ward off evil spirits weren't current, either. [If you think that Steve's remark is off the mark for the RISKS Forum, you could be wrong. But no spirited follow-ups, please. PGN]
EXCERPTED FROM THE BBOARDS: c.1986 N.Y. Times News Service: news summary for Thursday, February 20, 1986 Washington - NASA's technical experts reviewed the shuttles' booster rocket sealing problems last August without considering the impact of cold weather on the seals or giving much attention to the possibility that launchings should be delayed while the seals were strengthened, according to a key participant in the top-level review and recently released documents. The participant, William H. Hamby, deputy director of shuttle program integration, described in an interview a history of rising concern over the rocket seals. New York - Shuttle safety margins were cut to adhere to an accelerating launching schedule, according to space agency documents made public by the chairman of a House panel. The chairman, Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., said the actions, coupled with the explosion of the Challenger, raised basic questions about the safety of the shuttle design and precautions by the space agency.
Please report problems with the web pages to the maintainer