We noted in RISKS-20.72 that the Pentagon satellite intelligence system was unable to process data for 2.5 hours after the midnight GMT Y2K rollover. Apparently the situation was much worse than initially realized. UPI reported on 12 Jan 2000 that the problem was actually self-inflicted, resulting from a misguided supposedly preventive software patch in a sensitive NRO intelligence program called Talent Keyhole at Fort Belvoir. For the next few days, there was only a trickle of data from 5 satellites.
*The New York Times* today reported an extortion attempt involving credit card numbers stolen from online merchant CD Universe. Someone who called himself "Maxim" and claimed to be Russian said that he had copied 300,000 credit card numbers from their system, and that he would post them on the Internet unless he was paid $100,000. The article quoted the chairman of eUniverse, the company that operates the site, as confirming that Maxim did indeed have their data. eUniverse declined to pay the $100,000; Maxim posted 25,000 card numbers to a Web site. Several thousand people downloaded the file before it was yanked. What's interesting, though, is not that this can occur. In fact, security folks have been warning for years about wholesale theft of card numbers. But most sites can't or won't do anything about it. Consider, for example, the security statement currently posted on the cduniverse.com Web site (I saw no mention of the incident): Security - Is Internet Shopping Safe? We have all heard a lot of talk about whether shopping on the internet is safe. The main concern of online shoppers is that their credit card information will somehow end up in the wrong hands. We use Netscape's Secure Commerce Server technology, which encrypts your order information, keeping it private and protected. It's a Netscape technology called "SSL" (Secure Sockets Layer) and it's used by us and all the other major commercial shopping sites, including: The Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble Books, FTD Flowers, Microsoft, and Netscape itself. It is actually safer to transmit your credit card info over the Internet than it is to use your credit card around town. By focusing on transport encryption, they miss the point entirely. The real risk is bulk theft, as has happened here. Consider the following text from their Web site: If you have previously placed an order and want to use the same credit card, you can select the "Use previous credit card info" option. You do not need to enter your credit card information unless your credit card expiration date has passed. By maintaining this information online, they (and many other Web merchants, of course) are inviting trouble. It is tempting to say "use SET", which would provide for digitally-signed payment authorization. Unfortunately, SET may send your credit card number to the merchant anyway. Many stores use credit card numbers as the database key for user purchasing patterns; they didn't want to lose the link if SET ever took off. But this means that card-number data still exists on the merchant's site somewhere. The CD Universe security statement concludes with this note: What most people don't realize is that shopping with your credit card is actually safer than paying by check. In the event that there is a problem with your purchase, the credit card company will remove the purchase from your bill and the on-line merchant is not paid. In the event that your credit card number is stolen, the credit card companies do not hold you responsible for any unauthorized purchases. It is, I believe, accurate, though there may still be $50 liability to the consumer under U.S. law. (And they don't say anything about credit card numbers belonging to non-Americans, even though they list shipping charges for international destinations.) But *someone* is going to have to swallow the fraudulent charges — and we won't see an overall improvement in computer security until the *real* injured parties apply appropriate pressure. [The NYT article also noted by Scott Lucero. PGN]
According to an article by Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Stan Arnaud in the *Sunday Times* of London for 16 Jan 2000, British hackers have compromised the source code for the Visa card system and have sought ransom for it. Excerpts from the story which I found online under the headline ``Hacker gang blackmails firms with stolen files'' follow: Visa confirmed last week that it had received a ransom demand last month, believed to have been for 10M pounds. "We were hacked into in mid-July last year" [despite layers of firewalls], said Russ Yarrow, a company spokesman. It is understood the hackers stole critical source code, and threatened to crash the entire system. Visa's system handles nearly 1 trillion pounds of business a year from customers holding 800M Visa cards. No further incursions were detected. [PGN-ed] But this begs the question of what they should have done — if anything -- after receiving notification that their system had been penetrated. After CD Universe's credit-card database was compromised by a hacker/blackmailer, their system was (apparently) shut down temporarily and its customers notified (of which I, alas, was one.) Visa seems to have had no fall back plan for this crisis except to call in the police and hope for the best. If the hackers have not disseminated the code more widely, Visa has been very lucky and the damage has been controlled. But how certain can anyone be of that? And how certain can they be that there was only one penetration?
According to the Athens financial newspaper "Naftemporiki" (14 Jan 2000, p. 7) the Greek tax information system TAXIS has been down since Tuesday January 11th. All computerised regional state finance offices (DOY) have been affected as they are unable to connect to the system's main computer. I was personally able to verify this at my local state finance office where tax liability certificates were not issued on Wednesday. According to Naftemporiki, the affected services include the provision of tax liability certificates, the issue of new tax registry numbers (AFM), and the validation of ledgers and receipts. Many of these services are needed for the lawful conduct of business. According to sources within the ministry (department) of finance, the system's hard disk was overloaded by the large number of applications that were running on it. Another source claims that while data was transferred from one hard disk to a larger one an error resulted in the loss of all data. The disk (referred to in the article as "the system's main memory") has been sent to the United Kingdom to be repaired and to attempt to recover the lost data. Some of the above accounts are contradictory: it is not clear whether the disk suffered a catastrophic failure, or the problem is a result of a human error. In any case, the reported attempt to recover data from the disk in question suggests that database resiliency, backup and recovery procedures, and contingency planning were not adequate. In addition, it appears that a system whose failure can disrupt business, trade, and everyday life of millions of citizens (tax liability certificates are needed for many important transactions) was not designed to withstand centralised failures. Diomidis Spinellis, University of the Aegean http://kerkis.math.aegean.gr/~dspin
There has been heated debate in the Berlin newspapers about the fire department's computer problems over New Year's. It seems that just after midnight the dispatching systems broke, but they broke in an unexpected way: they told the dispatchers that an alarm had been given to a fire station, when in reality the fire station did not receive the alarm, and kept playing cards and wondering why there were no fires this nice New Year's Eve. [This is in itself a very hard to avoid security risk.] At one point an exasperated police car drove to a fire station, which was just around the corner to ask if they needed an engraved invitation or what?! The systems also logged fire engines as being somewhere in use when they were actually sitting in the fire house, and thus tried to alarm fire engines that were further away from the fire. There has been lots of finger-pointing. The systems were "Y2K-secure" because they were tested for this 2 weeks ago. [Gosh, I didn't realize that someone had found out how to prove by test that software functions properly! -dww] The chief fire fighter had to be called in at about 1.30 am to figure out what to do, eventually falling back on very old equipment: people, paper and pencil. The blame has been put on the massive number of calls to the fire department during the night, which had overloaded the system. Maybe I ought to invest in a second fire extinguisher... Some on-line articles: http://www.BerlinOnline.de/wissen/berliner_zeitung/archiv/2000/0103/lokales/0064/index.html http://www.tagesspiegel.de/archiv/2000/01/04/ak-be-kr-13983.html http://www.tagesspiegel.de/archiv/2000/01/06/ak-be-st-24269.html Interesting too the article in August 1999 http://www.tagesspiegel.de/archiv/1999/08/05/ak-be-st-23279.html where an official says that the fire department is just spreading panic by saying that they will be having problems on New Year's Eve... Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff, Technische Fachhochschule Berlin firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.tfh-berlin.de/~weberwu/
The Kremlin press office's computer communication system was victimized by Y2K, blocking their ability to send e-mail. Reportedly, they will have the problem fixed by ``the end of the month''. [Source: Agence France Presse, 13 Jan 2000] Greg Lastowka, University of Virginia Law School email@example.com http://hobbes.itc.virginia.edu/~fgl2q/home.html
Newsgroups: alt.fan.cecil-adams "Wulfdog" <firstname.lastname@example.org> excerpt: >I turned on a 286 PC in my office today. I looked at the date and it said >Jan 05 2000. Previously I had ran the date forward on my new HP and it went >to 2099 and rolled back to 1980. I quickly ran the 286 date up and to my >surprise it went to 2099 and rolled back to 1980. I wonder what those >little diskettes with the Y2K test were actually checking for, the size of >your wallet/checking account? My other question is. Will any of us >remember to tell the New Millennium babies that they are the ones who will >see the "REAL Y2K bug"? Hey, I've got a Y2K issue. My fax driver/app "Delrina WinFax Lite 3.0 Fax Administrator" can't recognize years 00 to 09 as the send date. I have to go and change the send date to 99 or before. Neat. -Drew
Having assured everyone that Sidekick98 was Y2K OK, Starfish software's calendar/scheduler product developed a bug last week in which attempts to view your daily appointments produced a complaint of "Invalid file to complete this action! mast:wk". Some users also reported troubles with past "to-do" items not done failing to appear on the current day's list. Starfish have released <A HREF = "ftp://ftp.starfish.com/pub/sk98/sk98patch.exe">a patch</A> that certainly fixes the first problem and may fix the second too (I didn't have it so I cannot report on this). Although there is a Sidekick99, many users refuse to "upgrade" because the feature set in '99 is a feeble subset of the more powerful '98. No word from the company on what was missing from their testing procedure. A. Michael Froomkin, U. Miami School of Law, P.O. Box 248087, Coral Gables, FL 33124 USA +1 (305) 284-4285 http://www.law.tm email@example.com
>From: Bruce Sterling <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: Viridian Note 00124: Viridian Movement Officially Viridian Curia Member Laura Stinson points out that people unwise enough to use "Microsoft Outlook" cannot read the entire "Manifesto of January 3, 2000." That's because one line of the text happens to begin with the word "begin," followed by two spaces. When Microsoft Outlook sees this, it interprets everything that follows as an attachment. I'll bet you didn't know that you could blind Microsoft Outlook readers merely by placing the innocuous term "begin" in a text, thus giving a preferential advantage to readers who spurn Microsoft products. Now you know this. I hope you don't put your newfound powers to any sinister use.
I got the following e-mail out of the blue today: > We have added your resume to our Resume Database. We have received your > resume in response to an ad; or your resume was available in the resume > database of an employment site to which we subscribe. [...description of Metro Information Services elided...] > If you are interested in a position with Metro, please use the following > URL to verify/update your e-Profile on Metro's Resume Database. The URL > below will connect you to a private area of Metro's website containing > only your information. The information you provide us is not publicly > available on the Internet. Metro does not sell, trade, or publicly > distribute any personal information we receive from any source. > When updating your e-Profile, do not click the <Submit> button until after > you have completed updating your resume information. Once the <Submit> > button is clicked, you will no longer have access to your e-Profile. > After you have submitted changes to your e-Profile, if your expertise > matches an open position, a recruiter may contact you about the > opportunity. > > http://metroweb.MetroIs.com/eProfile/
Woman ordered to pay back four penceAlan Barclay <email@example.com> Tue, 11 Jan 2000 11:07:43 -0500http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/scotland/newsid_598000/598625.stm The BBC is reporting of the problems Mrs Pringle George is having after receiving benefits in June & July last year, after being injured in a car accident. In November, she was contacted by the Credit Recovery Group of the Benefits Agency, who informered her that she was accidentally overpaid for one week of benefit Pounds 43.16, however when she wrote a cheque to repay the overpayment, the cheque was for the amount 43.12, an underpayment of 4 pence. Mrs George said she was shocked when she received a letter at the weekend informing her of the debt and telling her that legal action was being considered. A spokesman for the Benefits Agency said he was unable to discuss individual cases but explained that if the agency received a cheque for the wrong amount the computer automatically produced a generalised letter."The computer cannot differentiate between 4p and 400 pounds," he said. Two questions come to mind, first why was there a five month gap between the overpayment and the first attempt to reclaim payment, and secondly why can't the computer differentiate? It would seem simple to write off small amounts, and indeed most billings systems do this.
More on RISKS-20.73"Clive D.W. Feather" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Mon, 10 Jan 2000 08:32:11 +0000All following up to 20.73: (1) Robert Rathbone <email@example.com> writes: > It would be like performing a check to see if there were more than 60 > seconds in a minute. There can be 61 seconds in a minute. It's called a "leap second". (2) Andrew M Greene <firstname.lastname@example.org> talks about *The New York Times* changing its numbering. Does this mean that numbers are going to be duplicated for the next year or two, or will all references to issues since 1898 be suddenly invalid ? (3) "John J. Francini" <email@example.com> writes: > The UNIX98 standard changed the localtime() function so that the year > value is redefined to be the "year in the current century" This is the second time I've seen this claim recently. As far as I know it is false, since such a change would be incompatible with existing practice and also with the ISO C Standard. Can someone provide a URL for the UNIX98 definition? Clive D.W. Feather <firstname.lastname@example.org> +44 20 8371 1138 Internet Expert, Demon Internet http://www.davros.org
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