In one of the more horrifying incidents I've read about, U.S. soldiers and allies were killed in December 2001 because of a stunningly poor design of a GPS receiver, plus "human error." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8853-2002Mar23.html A U.S. Special Forces air controller was calling in GPS positioning from some sort of battery-powered device. He "had used the GPS receiver to calculate the latitude and longitude of the Taliban position in minutes and seconds for an airstrike by a Navy F/A-18." According to the *Post* story, the bomber crew "required" a "second calculation in 'degree decimals'" -- why the crew did not have equipment to perform the minutes-seconds conversion themselves is not explained. The air controller had recorded the correct value in the GPS receiver when the battery died. Upon replacing the battery, he called in the degree-decimal position the unit was showing -- without realizing that the unit is set up to reset to its *own* position when the battery is replaced. The 2,000-pound bomb landed on his position, killing three Special Forces soldiers and injuring 20 others. If the information in this story is accurate, the RISKS involve replacing memory settings with an apparently-valid default value instead of blinking 0 or some other obviously-wrong display; not having a backup battery to hold values in memory during battery replacement; not equipping users to translate one coordinate system to another (reminiscent of the Mars Climate Orbiter slamming into the planet when ground crews confused English with metric); and using a device with such flaws in a combat situation.
[...] The article states: "Nonetheless, the [anonymous, senior defense department] official said the incident shows that the Air Force and Army have a serious training problem that needs to be corrected. "We need to know how our equipment works; when the battery is changed, it defaults to his own location," the official said. "We've got to make sure our people understand this." It also states: "...it is not a flagrant error, a violation of a procedure," the official said. "Stuff like that, truth be known, happens to all of us every day -- it's just that the stakes in battle are so enormously high." [Full article submitted by several others. TNX. PGN]
One of the British air-traffic control systems crashed on 27 Mar 2002, and affected airports across Britain. Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed. A spokesman said that this computer was not connected with the computers at the new Swanwick ATC centre in Hampshire (which opened six years late and millions of pounds over budget). ["connected with" is of course ambiguous in this context. PGN-ed] http://uk.news.yahoo.com/020327/80/cvck5.html [Simon Waters reported this case also at http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_1897000/1897885.stm PGN]
McAfee, the anti-virus software company, says a new virus called MyLife.B., is being circulated as an e-mail attachment featuring a cartoon about former president Bill Clinton. A McAfee executive says, "If this one does reach large proportions, it will be a very costly virus because most consumers don't have good backup methods for their operating system or important files on the C drive." The virus e-mails itself to everyone in a user's Microsoft Outlook address book or MSN Messenger contact list. The virus will cause damage only if you open the attachment -- so don't open it! (*USA Today*, 26 Mar 2002; NewsScan Daily, 27 March 2002) http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/2002/03/26/viruses.htm
Those concerned about the risks of high technology voting methods should remind themselves that low-tech methods (ballot papers marked with a pencil, transported and counted under the watchful eye of scrutineers) present their own risks. *The Bangkok Post* reports http://www.bangkokpost.com/270302_News/27Mar2002_news06.html that, following voting in a by-election on March 3, mice managed to climb into one of the ballot boxes and chew up ballots. The winning candidate had a 65 vote lead when the undamaged votes were counted, and it was estimated that scraps left by the mice represented another 40 papers. "This result still has to be endorsed by the Election Commission," reports *The Post*. [Revised URL fixed in archive. PGN]
Black box or Pandora's box? Most new vehicles come equipped with data recording technology that can help accident investigators. But the computer device has its critics, who fear the overstepping of "Big Brother." [...] http://www.phillyburbs.com/intelligencerrecord/article1.asp?F_num=1484073
Interesting article at <http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1106-868306.html>. Summary: You can run a dictionary attack on an eBay account, because eBay doesn't lock an account for invalid logins, no matter how many invalid login attempts are made. eBay doesn't lock accounts for invalid login attempts because "unscrupulous bidders might try to sabotage their competitors by locking out their accounts or that legitimate users may find themselves unable to log in after an attempted dictionary attack". So I guess identity theft is not as bad as these other possibilities? Then there's this quote: "We're trying to figure out a way that we can adopt it without disclosing how the process works". It's a pretty simple processes - 3 strikes (or whatever) and you're out. I assume from this quote that they mean they want to implement something that is not so simple, i.e. locking only if it appears to be a dictionary attack. This is security through obscurity - it won't take much time until somebody figures out what constitutes a dictionary attack pattern, then modifies their dictionary attack to avoid the pattern. Scott Nicol <email@example.com>
As reported on the "Broadcasting House" programme on BBC Radio 4, Sunday 10th March:- Scientists at John Hopkins University have spent several years calculating the weighted average of the electromagnetic frequency of emissions from all galaxies in the observable universe. They concluded their research by announcing last month that, on average, the universe is turquoise. Last week, they announced that, due to a software "glitch", they had miscalculated, and that the universe is, in fact, beige. Broadcasting House are threatening legal action, claiming that they have just had their studio painted turquoise in order to be in harmony with the rest of the universe. Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB UK NEW Tel.: +44 (0)20 7040 8422
Bioinformatics is a hot topic at this university, and the computer science department is just starting to get involved. As part of trying to learn about this field, I thought I'd read a couple of the better-known programs. To be honest, I thought I'd run splint (formerly known as lclint) over them and find a minor buig or two. I'm not going to name either of these programs, but one of them was particularly interesting because we were thinking of having a student make a parallel version to try out a parallel architecture one of our people is interested in, because normal runs of this program on recent PCs can take about 3 weeks. I don't know what art these programs are state-of; possibly macrame. They certainly aren't even 1970's state of the programming art. * indentation inconsistent, crazy, or both (fix with indent) - lines up to 147 columns wide (fix with indent) * lots of dead variables (fix with quick edit) * array subscripts that could go negative (use unsigned char rather than char in a couple of dozen places, phew) * failure to comprehend that C++ prototypes and C prototypes are different (fix by changing () to (void) in too many places) * #define lint ... so that lint falls over (rename lint to Lint in a dozen files) * assumption that long int = 32 bits (one program) or that int = 32 bits (the other) (not yet done, but use inttypes.h with a local backup) * string->integer code that gets INT_MIN wrong (rip out, plug in code known since 60s) * using %ld format with int arguments (*printf and *scanf), a real problem because the machines (I have access to are 64-bitters and it'd be nice if the programs ran in LP64 mode.) * gcc, liint, splint find variable used before initialised (see next item) * technically legal syntax with no semantics: double matrix as function argument,. (Scream, bang head on wall, write this message.) Is it reasonable to expect people with a biochemistry or mathematics background to write clean well-engineered code? No. For the importance of the topic, and the sums of money involved, is it reasonable to expect that they'll have their programs cleaned by someone else before release? I think it is. With the pervasive lack of quality I'm seeing, I don't trust _any_ of the results of these programs. I have to wonder how many published results obtained using these programs (and fed back into databases that are used to derive more results which are ...) are actually valid.
Caveat: this is third hand, I've no way to test. However, the original reporter seems to have done sound observation and corroboration, and this could be important. Extract from a report from Tim Loeb posted on Jerry Pournelle's mail page (www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/currentmail.html): ...What happens is this: either during the initial setup of Earthlink as a network connection via the Network Connection Wizard or later as an explicit modification the user attempts to activate XP's Internet Connection Firewall. All seems to go well. If the user is on-line with the target connection active at the time he/she will be advised that not all features can be implemented until sign-off and a fresh log-on. Reviewing the status of that active connection will show that the check box for Enable Internet Connection Firewall IS checked, and the user would naturally think the protection is in place. Running the tests on Steve Gibson's site right then, with the active connection unbroken since enabling the firewall, will show that the machine is indeed in full "stealth" mode, and naturally most people would now assume the issue has been successfully addressed. WRONG! A fresh log-on (via Earthlink using their dialer at least - I have no way to test other ISP connections and/or associated software) DISABLES the firewall, and the machine is completely open to probes and hacks! I've spent hours testing this scenario, and the result is always the same: while I can enable the Internet Connection Firewall and have it work ONCE, as soon as I log off the network and back on again the protection disappears, and the "enable Internet Connection Firewall" box reverts to being unchecked. Frankly I don't know what's happening here, but it is happening on two separate machines that have never been on a network together...
My Lego Mindstorms set communicates with both infrared and visible LED's. So does your television remote control. And many other things. If you want to communicate with LEDs, you can. However, I doubt very much that it is easy to read data passing over a modem from the activity light! Unless it only lights for, e.g., 1's. Even then, at reasonable data rates --- especially since you have no ECC coding or even clock sync --- it seems nearly impossible.
>... "Was the original e-mail monitored - WITHOUT the recipient's consent?" The recipient has nothing to do with it. It is the sender who has copyright on the email (the recipient is not entitled to publish it). Just like letters and other "ordinary" correspondence, the sender can show it to anyone else. Obviously, by choosing to use a monitored email system, he has chosen to let it be monitored. >How long before the 'thought police' in the BBC extend their monitoring... Well, actually, it is normal company policy at most places to open all incoming correspondance (e.g. letters) as a matter of course! And it's not unheard of for certain companies (e.g. mail-order ones) to record all telephone calls as a matter of course. And how you imagine that postcards and faxes are "not examined" by anyone involved with the delivery, I don't know! They have to start reading the thing to see who to give it to, it's human nature to look at the rest. Use of company phones (some places run a "no private calls" policy), company fax machines, and the company mail service is obviously all down to company policy. Why one would imagine that these things are provided for the personal benefit of employees rather than to conduct company business, I don't know. As long as the employees know what the policy is I see no grounds for complaint (other than to grumble about the policy being strict). Malcolm Cohen, NAG Ltd., Oxford, U.K. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I use PayPal from the vendor side, and I can assume you that you did not quite understand the system. Actually, most people I know of who make extensive use of PayPal end up with a "fraud investigation hold" on their accounts from time to time. PayPal seems to have a system that monitors transactions for weird activity and automatically puts such a hold on accounts. Then it appears that a human reviews the activity and investigates. If you recieve a drastic increase in the number of transactions you get flagged. What got me was having money arrive and then immediately sent somewhere else. So a fraud hold does not mean that there is fraud, but that there appears there may be. A fraud hold does mean that you don't have access to the funds coming in. You can not issue bills to people. (That is, you can't use the PayPal system to ask people to pay you.) More important, a person with a fraud hold can't access the funds. They can issue refunds, but may not send the money to other people. They also may not withdraw funds. This means that PayPal probably has your money and you will get it back. It also means that, if their automatic system flags your account, you can continue to do business for the period of time the investigation takes. In my case one hold was about 2 hours and another was about 8 hours. I hope this helps you and the group understand this system better. Ray Todd Stevens, Senior Consultant, Stevens Services, Suite 21 3754 Old State Rd 37 N, Bedford, IN 47421 1-812-279-9394 Raytodd@kiva.net
As a merchant myself, accepting credit cards for some time, I can state quite categorically (and with some rancour) that the approval from the credit-card company is by no means whatsoever a guarantee of payment. It provides a merchant with pretty close to no protection at all. I've been provided with chargebacks (which are automatically deducted from my business' accounts) on transactions where I have meticulously verified that the credit-card company gave me authorisation. As far as I can make out, the only "guarantee" is that the checksum matches, the card hasn't expired through old age, and probably hasn't been reported as stolen any time longer than a week ago. Oh, and chargebacks may get submitted to you many months after the original purchase. I had one bank try to process a chargeback about two years after the original purchase. The number of chargebacks submitted works against you, as well, as the credit-card company will increase your "discount rate" (the percentage of the transaction that they take from you) if you have too many. Is this to cover their expenses in handling those chargebacks? Why, no, of course not. After all, every chargeback is not only charged at that same discount rate both coming and going, but also has the helpful addition of a "service charge" of $25 added on for your convenience. For as much as credit-card holders may feel concerned about whether their money is safe in an online transaction (in the USA, law requires it to be so), the merchants are _always_ the ones left holding the bag. Texas Imperial Software, 1602 Harvest Moon Place, Cedar Park TX 78613-1419 Fax/Voice +1(512)258-9858
I have a fairly simple response to spam e-mail that claims I requested it, or can only opt out, or whatever. I determine the actual sending address, and the domain of any associated URLs in the message, and I add them to my "black hole" list. Any future mail from that address is bounced. Domains that offer repeated abuses are added, too. E-mail in languages other than English with embedded prices, porno, or URLs to commerce sites automatically go into the list. I also have added addresses collected in like manner by several friends; I have not used any of the major anti-spam sites (yet). It doesn't matter what they claim -- I no longer see their spam. Based on a multi-year history of e-mail, I now completely block any e-mail from msn.com, any version of yahoo.com, and hotmail.com --- I have had (literally) thousands of spam messages from there, but only 6 legit correspondents. I am also blocking 3200 separate addresses and over 6400 other domains. My spam load is down to only about 10-15 new pieces per day. :-( And by the way, if this is being read by the pinheads who keep sending out ads for reconditioned printer cartridges, please know that we will *never* do business with your firms. We're keeping a list.
> Does a failure to respond to this type of message constitute a legitimate > "acceptance" on my part? (Particularly for those of us from outside the US?) This can't be right. So, if the e-mail is lost in cyperspace and you never even recieve it, is that the same as implicitly consenting? Does this not have direct precedence with snail mail? I am imagining CD clubs here. You can't be legally obligated by anything that you receive in the mail and just throw away.
Pearl Harbor Dot Com A novel by Winn Schwartau Interpact Press Seminole, Florida, 1-727-393-6600 2002 ISBN 0-9628700-6-4 512 pages We do not normally review or analyze RISKS-relevant fiction, but this book seems to make a rather compelling novel out of a surprisingly large number of security and reliability risk threats that we have discussed here over the years. The story echoes one of the fundamental problems confronting Cassandra-like risks-avoidance protagonists and agonists alike, namely, that, because we have not yet had the electronic Pearl Harbor, people in power perceive that there is little need to fix the infrastructural problems, so why bother to listen to the doom-sayers who hype up the risks? Well, in this novel, one man's massive craving for vengeance reaches major proportions, and significant effects result on critical infrastructures. In the end, the good hackers contribute notably to the outcome. The book is somewhere within the genre of technothrillers, with a typical mix of murder, mayhem, intrigue, computer-communication surveillance, and non-explicit s*x. I enjoyed it. It is entertaining, and the convoluted plot is quite consistent, fairly tight, and to RISKS readers, each incident is technologically quite plausible -- because many of the attacks seem almost reminiscent of past RISKS cases, sometimes just scaled up a little. If you read the book, try not to let the sloppy proof-reading bother you; there are too-frequent typos and grammar glitches, and lots of mispelingz -- for example, Naugahyde is subjected to two different versions, each with at least two letters wrong, and Walter Reade is mispelt twice, differently, on the same page! Incidentally, the author and his previous writings make several self-referential appearances throughout the story, which might seem rather self-serving, but does draw attention to the author's long-standing role in trying to combat what has now become known as cyberterrorism.
BKAUTHNT.RVW 20020220 "Authentication: From Passwords to Public Keys", Richard E. Smith, 2002, 0-201-61599-1, U$44.99/C$67.50 %A Richard E. Smith %C P.O. Box 520, 26 Prince Andrew Place, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 2T8 %D 2002 %G 0-201-61599-1 %I Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. %O U$44.99/C$67.50 416-447-5101 fax: 416-443-0948 email@example.com %P 549 p. %T "Authentication: From Passwords to Public Keys" Chapter one looks at the history and evolution of password technology, and introduces a system of discussing attacks and defences that provides an easy structure for an end-of-chapter summary. A more detailed history appears in chapter two, while chapter three discusses the enrolling of users. Chapter four is rather odd: it brings up the concept of "patterns" as defined in the study of architecture, but doesn't really explain what this has to do with authentication or the book itself. The closest relation seems to be the idea of determining a security perimeter. The material poses a number of authentication problems and touches on lots of different technologies, but the various difficulties are not fully analyzed. Chapter five is supposed to be about local authentication, but mostly examines encryption. Strangely, chapter six inveighs against the complex rules for password choice and management that are commonly recommended--and then adds to the list of canons the requirement to assess the security of a system when choosing a password. Ultimately the text falls back on the traditional suggestions, with a few good suggestions for password generation. This place in the text also marks a change in the volume: the content moves from a vague collection of trivia to a much more practical and useful guide. Chapter seven is a decent overview of biometrics, although there is an odd treatment of false acceptance and rejection rates, and some strange opinions. Authentication by address, emphasizing IP spoofing, is covered in chapter eight, while hardware tokens are discussed in chapter nine. Challenge/response systems are reviewed in chapter ten, as well as software tokens. Indirect or remote authentication, concentrating on the RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In User Services) system, is examined in chapter eleven. Chapter twelve outlines Kerberos, and has a discussion of the Windows 2000 version, albeit with limited analysis. The study of public key (asymmetric) cryptography in chapter thirteen would be more convincing with just a few more sentences of explanation about how keys are established. Chapter fourteen talks about certificates and signing, while fifteen finishes with some vague thoughts on password storage. After a slow (but interesting) start, the book does have a good deal of useful material in the later chapters. Long on verbiage and a bit short on focus, this text does have enough to recommend it to security practitioners serious about the authentication problem. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002 BKAUTHNT.RVW 20020220 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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