The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Volume 22 Issue 40

Tuesday 26 November 2002


Massive identity theft ring broken up
Identity thieves strike eBay
Monty Solomon
eBay sends plaintext password changes
Brian R. Neumann
More on the Breeders Cup Pick-6 fix
Windows quietly deletes Unix files
Doug McIlroy
Patch slip-up raises security questions
Robert Lemos via Monty Solomon
RIAA orders US Navy to surrender
Tim Finin via Dave Farber
Re: Computer problem caused fatal pipeline rupture
Pekka Pihlajasaari
Re: Readability of ATC displays at the London Area Control Centre
Peter B. Ladkin
UK Publishes Security Requirements for e-Voting
Ian Cuddy
Re: UK Publishes Security Requirements for e-Voting
Rebecca Mercuri
REVIEW: "The Privacy Papers", Rebecca Herold
Rob Slade
REVIEW: "Security, ID Systems and Locks", Joel Konicek/Karen Little
Rob Slade
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Massive identity theft ring broken up

<"Peter G. Neumann" <>>
Tue, 26 Nov 2002 19:17:11 PST

Identity theft has long been a concern in RISKS, where we have reported
numerous cases.  (For example, see my Illustrative Risks compendium,
for browsing -- click on Identity Theft -- or .ps and .pdf for printing.)

In the early days, most of the cases involved one-on-one usurpation or
masquerading as a particular individual, going back even further than the
infamous Terry Rogan case.  More recently, identity theft is becoming an
industry in its own right, with massive acquisition of personal data
sufficient to do serious damage on a large scale.

In the most recent cases, billed as probably the largest yet in the U.S., at
least 30,000 people have been victimized as a result of an employee of a
Long Island NY software company using a Ford Motor Credit Company code to
access Experian.  He obtained credit histories on people at the request of
an identity theft ring operating in Brooklyn and the Bronx, to whom he sold
that information for $60 a pop.  Together with information the ring had
already obtained, this enabled them to clean out the victims' bank accounts,
make bogus loans, max out existing and newly obtained credit cards, etc.
This operation had apparently been going on for three years, until -- in
response to numerous complaints -- the FBI was able to arrest three people,
who appeared in court yesterday in Manhattan.  Victims are asked to call the
Federal Trade Commission hot line at 1-877-IDTHEFT, or access
[Source: Benjamin Weiser, *The New York Times*, beginning on the front page,
26 Nov 2002; PGN-ed]

  [Also noted by Alan P. Burke

Identity thieves strike eBay

<Monty Solomon <>>
Sat, 23 Nov 2002 22:40:50 -0500

Paul Festa, CNET, 22 Nov 2002

When Deborah Fraser's credit card number was stolen, the thief didn't use it
to buy a new car or a high-end laptop. Instead, the number was used to buy
something potentially much more valuable--a domain name with the word "ebay"
in it.  In Fraser's case, that was the domain name "," a scam
Web site where an unknown number of eBay users may have been tricked into
handing over their eBay username and password.  ...

eBay sends plaintext password changes

<"Brian R. Neumann" <>>
Thu, 21 Nov 2002 14:28:17 -0700

I went to change my password for eBay after seeing the article "What's real,
what's a scam? eBay users wondering",
(  There are significant security
issues with eBay's password changing mechanism.

When a user changes their password using the method provided by eBay, the
new password is sent over the Internet unencrypted! This is especially bad
given that there are a large number of users changing passwords given the
scammers and legitimate eBay change requests mentioned in the above article.

EBay's security policy states that they always encrypt your password. It's
true that they do perform a lightweight encryption for sign-in. If you click
the "Secure sign in (SSL) " link on the login screen, your login information
is passed via SSL. This is a good thing.

However, when you go to change your password, only the old password is
INTERNET. You can log in securely once your password is set, but there's no
way to securely set your password in the first place.

I've used a packet sniffer (Ethereal) to verify this. When you change your
password via the method eBay provides you, (My eBay, Preferences, Change My
password) and enter your information into the form, the following string is
sent unencrypted over the Internet:


Note that the username and new password are plainly visible. Encrypting the
old password doesn't help at this point as it's about to be changed. We want
the _new_ one encrypted.

So exactly how can I feel secure on eBay?

An unscrupulous person at an ISP could take advantage of this by sending out
faked ebay change-password e-mails and sniffing for password changes coming
through.  While the user would think everything is secured, they've just
given away the new password.  All kinds of personal data is then available
within the user knowing the account has been compromised.

More on the Breeders Cup Pick-6 fix (RISKS-22.33 and 39)

<RISKS List Owner <>>
Tue, 26 Nov 2002 16:07:01 PST

Subsequent analysis has now uncovered evidence that the Drexel frat buddies
were apparently also able to collect on winning bets that had not yet
claimed by the intended winners.  (Over 14 years ago, we reported a lottery
scam in RISKS-6.77, 4 May 1988, in which someone with insider access to the
Pennsylvania lottery system had fabricated a ticket for an unclaimed winning
combination and attempted to collect before the expiration date.
Unfortunately for him, he had used the wrong card stock from the would-be
winning ticket -- each region had a different stock -- and thus he was

Windows quietly deletes Unix files

<Doug McIlroy <>>
Fri, 15 Nov 2002 12:38:43 -0500

How Windows deleted all the files in my Unix home directory.

My department has a typical distributed computing environment.  Unix/Linux
workstations anywhere can remotely mount the file systems from central Unix
servers.  By the magic of Samba, Windows systems can also remotely mount
file systems from the same servers.

Not long ago, I logged into an NT machine that I'd never used before and was
pleased to find that I was already a registered user with my customary login
directory.  How convenient!

At logout, NT announced "Saving your settings" and stayed in that state for
a remarkably long time.  Back at Linux on my desk, I found my home directory
curdled.  The directory structure remained, but the files were gone
throughout the directory tree.  In their place was Microsoft boilerplate,
such as "Favorites", to help me enjoy the good things of life like MSN and

What had happened was that my NT account had mistakenly been configured to
set a "roving profile" to be my remote home directory.  In the course of
"saving your settings", Windows evidently assessed the profile as weird and
quietly cleaned it up.  Thus Windows, which is usually reluctant to remove
even one file locally without asking for confirmation, blasted away 6000
files on a remote machine with impunity.  Why not?  They were mere Unix

Patch slip-up raises security questions

<Monty Solomon <>>
Sat, 23 Nov 2002 23:11:32 -0500

Article by Robert Lemos, CNET, 21 Nov 2002

The questionable handling of a fix for a recent widespread software
vulnerability has some administrators worried that developers can't be
trusted to make security a top priority.

Last week, the Internet Software Consortium withheld the patch for a
critical flaw in the domain name system (DNS) software from a large number
of researchers, asking instead that each person send the organization an
e-mail request in order to get the fix. The software, known as the Berkeley
Internet Name Domain (BIND) program, performs a critical function as the
address book for the Net.  The delay, coupled with messages sent to several
administrators urging them to pay to become part of an early-warning group
run by the ISC, has some security experts worried that security is taking a
backseat to secrecy and money.  ...

RIAA orders US Navy to surrender (via Dave Farber's IP)

<Tim Finin <>>
Mon, 25 Nov 2002 10:09:09 -0500

As seen in *The Register*:

  RIAA orders US Navy to surrender
  By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco

  In a timely reminder of who's really in charge here, the Recording
  Industry Association of America (RIAA) has mounted a daring raid on the US

  Acting unilaterally at the behest of the RIAA, Navy officials confiscated
  100 computers on suspicion of harboring illegally downloaded MP3s, The
  Capital, an Annapolis, MD daily reports. A Naval official quoted confirms
  the raid, adding that punishment ranges from "court martial to loss of
  leave and other restrictions".

  For the RIAA, there are no half measures: you're either with them, or
  against them. So even if you're risking having your ass blown off for your
  country, there's no mercy. ...

and in the Capital-Gazette Newspapers (Annapolis):
and on slashdot:

Archives at:

Re: Computer problem caused fatal pipeline rupture (RISKS-22.36)

<Pekka Pihlajasaari <>>
Tue, 26 Nov 2002 01:49:38 +0200

It is ingenuous to suggest that the Bellingham, Washington pipeline rupture
was a result of a computer/software fault. The NTSB accident report clearly
attributes the failure to a combination of quality assurance lapses and
operational errors.

Although some of these are related to the SCADA environment, they are
strongly overshadowed by:
* multiple errors in the configuration and installation of a pressure
  relief valve upstream from the rupture,
* physical damage by excavators to the pipeline during construction work, and
* failure of the pipeline operator to act on inspection reports
  suggesting damage in the vicinity of the construction area.

The report states that had the pipeline not been damaged, the pressure surge
allowed even by the faulty relief valve would most likely not have resulted
in a rupture.

In this case, it seems that process-wide safety controls were in place and
would have protected the pipeline from failure if the human factors of
management and operational procedures had connected the reported system
anomalies with a potential failure.

A classic combination of multiple independent failures occurring within
sufficiently close proximity where any single event would not have
compromised the overall system integrity.

Regulatory bodies will rightly bring up this incident when organisations
involved in hazardous operations complain about the level of regulatory
compliance procedures to which they are required to comply.

Pekka Pihlajasaari <>  Data Abstraction (Pty) Ltd

Re: Readability of ATC displays at the London Area Control Centre

<"Peter B. Ladkin" <>>
Tue, 19 Nov 2002 08:23:58 +0100

In RISKS-22.09, Chris Brady reported on a BBC News article concerning
readability problems of the controllers' display screens at the UK's New
En-Route Centre (NERC), now the London Area Control Centre (LACC), for the
London Flight Information Region, which came on-line in January 2002 after
nearly a decade of development.

Brady said
  "Obviously no-one thought to ask the controllers if they
  could actually read the screens clearly".

I replied in Risks 22.12:

  "On the contrary, controllers were evaluating and training on the system
  for at least two years before it went live in January, and it is public
  knowledge that they were very active with their feedback......."

I followed it up. It appears that the Head of Human Factors at National Air
Traffic Services (NATS, the UK ATC service provider) identified a legibility
problem with the size of text on the screens already in January 1997. It
seems indeed that this problem was not adequately addressed before the NERC
went live five years later, as the BBC and Brady reported.

The source of this information is a letter which appeared in The Ergonomist,
the organ of The Ergonomics Society ( ) in June
2002 from Barry Kirwan, who was Head of Human Factors at NATS from September
1996 until March 2000.

The letter says that Kirwan and two other NATS ergonomists visited the NERC
in January 1997 and "identified a number of problems, including a
significant one with the legibility of the text on the
screens. Legibility... is a function of a number of factors.... but the main
problem seemed to be simply the size of text, given the viewing distance
afforded by the work-station layout. Since this text referred to all of the
main information available to the controller, including flight levels, we
considered this an important issue."

The letter goes on to describe Kirwan's attempts to have the issue
addressed, and some organisational difficulties he encountered. He considers
his group's "impact on the NERC interface" to be "relatively unsuccessful"
and suggests some organisational reasons for it.  Concerning the issue Brady
and I discussed, he says "There was also advice from controllers, but some
controllers' advice was seen as more valid than others'."

I recommend reading the letter in full.

Peter B. Ladkin, University of Bielefeld,

UK Publishes Security Requirements for e-Voting

<"Ian Cuddy" <>>
Thu, 21 Nov 2002 19:54:35 -0000

  [You may reproduce this article on condition that
    "eGov monitor Weekly" is included at the top and
  "Copyright KAM 2002" is included at the bottom.
  Ian Cuddy, Chief Editor, eGov monitor
  T 020 7384 1551  F 020 7384 2551  E]

UK Publishes Security Requirements for e-Voting (eGov monitor Weekly)

The UK Government has released a new set of security requirements that will
form the baseline for all future implementations of electronic voting

This first statement of technical requirements will apply to the second
phase of electoral modernisation pilots taking place in local government
elections next May.  The document was drawn up following an "urgent"
consultation with IT suppliers earlier this year.

The security requirements are considered by the Government to represent the
standard by which security measures for e-voting can be considered "adequate
and acceptable". This working definition is expected to change as local
councils and their IT partners gain more experience of the practical
arrangements of running e-voting systems.

The criteria for the main security controls have been based on a
"best-of-breed" set of principles compiled from various sources, including
those used by the California Internet Voting Task Force.  These principles -
dealing with issues such as system reliability, voter authenticity and data
integrity - have been translated into 15 high-level "control objectives",
such as guaranteeing the confidentiality of the vote until it is counted.
If fully met, this should ensure that threats associated with the use of
e-voting systems and services are properly countered, the document claims.

The actions necessary to implement each of the 15 control objectives form
the technical security requirements, outlining, for example, the mechanisms,
systems or procedure that should be in place.

The document does not explain how this will be achieved.
- Ian Cuddy, eGov monitor Weekly, Copyright KAM 2002

Re: UK Publishes Security Requirements for e-Voting (Cuddy, R-22.40)

<"Notable Software" <>>
Sat, 23 Nov 2002 18:44:50 -0500

The United Kingdom and other European countries have begun initiatives to
convert all or part of their voting to electronic balloting (kiosk/DREs
and/or Internet-based) systems.  Europe appears to be rushing ahead to
deploy computer voting technologies with serious sociological and
technological downsides, such as lack of auditability, and increased
opportunities for vote selling, monitoring, coercion, and denial of service
attacks.  During mid-October, 2002 I visited England, on the invitation of
the Foundation for Information Policy Research, to meet with and brief
members of the UK Cabinet and Parliament regarding this subject, and to
provide technical lectures at the Royal Academy of Engineering and Cambridge
University.  My comments to the Cabinet are on the Cabinet Office's official
website at -- a mildly corrected version is
posted *here.  I also formally submitted an additional follow-up comment as
part of their "In the Service of Democracy" consultation, which explains why
Internet voting is not appropriate for UK democratic elections.

  [Links can be found on Rebecca's Web site
  Her testimony and comments should be looked at to gain some perspective
  on the scope and extent of the problem of implementing Internet and
  electronic voting.  In the light of that testimony, the uk decision to
  proceed seems very RISKY indeed.  PGN]

REVIEW: "The Privacy Papers", Rebecca Herold

<Rob Slade <>>
Wed, 20 Nov 2002 08:03:00 -0800

BKPRVPAP.RVW   20020926

"The Privacy Papers", Rebecca Herold, 2002, 0-8493-1248-5, U$69.95
%A   Rebecca Herold
%C   920 Mercer Street, Windsor, ON   N9A 7C2
%D   2002
%G   0-8493-1248-5
%I   Auerbach Publications
%O   U$69.95 +1-800-950-1216
%P   679 p.
%T   "The Privacy Papers: Managing Technology, Consumer, Employee,
      and Legislative Actions"

The preface asserts that this volume is intended as an introduction to
privacy for C-level executives.  (I assume that means "Chief"
executive officers, security officers, information officers, and the
like, rather than referring to the grades they made in school.)  This
assertion is a bit odd, both in terms of the enormous size of the
volume, and in terms of the statement, in the foreword, that the
papers are included based on the editors personal choice.

The introduction gives a historical look at early US privacy law.

Part one deals with business organization issues, including papers on the
privacy of employee e-mail (case studies that are often unresolved), e-mail
pornography policy (have one), computer forensics and privacy (almost no
content), policies for secure personal data (random security topics),
security awareness (good program, but generic and not tailored for privacy),
the case for privacy (vague thoughts, no case), attorney-client privilege
and electronic data transmission (careless use of communications technology
may void privilege), computer crime and analysis of computer evidence (you
can get evidence from computers), a tale of two spies (spies may use
computers), (US) federal laws affecting information systems auditors (more
politics than details), computer forensics (*extremely* vague), the
dangerous precedent set in the use of electronic identifiers (various cases
linked *only* by the fact that *none* have been tested in court and
therefore no precedents have been set), jurisdictional issues (almost
irrelevant to privacy), anonymity on the net (generic), erosion of
confidentiality (anecdotal reports), export regulations for cryptography
(irrelevant to privacy), security awareness training (irrelevant), security
standards (irrelevant to privacy), chief medical information officers (oddly
irrelevant), information security management in healthcare (interesting and
detailed), criminal activity on the Internet (clear but not much detail),
identify theft (interesting but undetailed), identity theft (US-centric and
not always helpful), obtaining information from ISPs (information service
providers) (detailed content on a complex topic).

Part two reviews tools and related technology.  The first paper not
only does not advise on its stated topic, selecting a cryptographic
system, but it demonstrates essentially no understanding of
cryptographic concepts, and a truly astonishing range of errors.
(There definitely are inherent differences between symmetric and
asymmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption does not use digital
signatures, but provides for them, and the electronic codebook mode of
DES [Data Encryption Standard] is not less able to provide
authentication than the chaining modes.)  Other essays deal with new
paradigms for steganography (pointless), cookies and web bugs (a brief
and limited apologia), online profiling (a political report on online
business), intrusion detection systems (a review of a conference on
the topic), Internet acceptable use policies (banal and unhelpful),
ethics and the Internet (a brief take, only marginally about privacy),
security of wireless LANs (long out of date), customer relationship
management and data warehousing (little about privacy), anonymity,
privacy, and trust (brief and random), Web certification (promotional
piece for ICSA Labs), and an exhortation to get people to sign a
confidentiality agreement.

Part three is about US laws and issues.  The pieces in this section
are primarily either documents prepared by government departments, or
prepared testimony before legislative committees (and sometimes both).
There is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions list) on the HIPAA (Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rule prepared by
the Department of Health and Human Services, testimony on HIPAA, a
non-detailed description of the provisions of the Financial Services
Modernization Act, a list of US laws with privacy provisions and
another of proposed laws as of July 2001, testimony about privacy in
wiretap laws, and a report on the Carnivore system.

Part four turns to international laws and issues.  The European Union
directive on privacy is attacked as a barrier to trade, there is a
detailed (but not very interesting or helpful) review of the EU
directive and how it is implemented by some of the member states, a
Department of Commerce description of the Safe Harbor program, and a
list of international privacy laws.

While isolated articles in this volume are interesting, the reader
would have to be rather ignorant about privacy issues in order to get
much out of the text overall.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002   BKPRVPAP.RVW   20020926    or

REVIEW: "Security, ID Systems and Locks", Joel Konicek/Karen Little

<Rob Slade <>>
Thu, 14 Nov 2002 07:51:18 -0800

BKSIDSAL.RVW   20021012

"Security, ID Systems and Locks", Joel Konicek/Karen Little, 1997,
0-7506-9932-9, U$39.99
%A   Joel Konicek
%A   Karen Little
%C   225 Wildwood Street, Woburn, MA  01801
%D   1997
%G   0-7506-9932-9
%I   Butterworth-Heinemann/CRC Press/Digital Press
%O   U$39.99 800-272-7737
%P   244 p.
%T   "Security, ID Systems and Locks: The Book on Electronic Access

This is an easy to read, illustrated, quick guide to a lot (not all)
of physical security.

Chapter one introduces electronic access control, primarily access
cards and sensor systems.  Then we got back to ancient history:
chapter two looks at old fort and defensive technology, which lives on
both in concepts and in terms still used.  Credentials, such as
identification and authentication systems, cards, and biometrics, are
reviewed in chapter three.  Chapter four deals with barriers like
doors and locks, concentrating on electronic systems.  Oddly, the
issue of power failure is not addressed, although there is a good
section on fire exits.  Sensors, as the input part of an alarm or
control system, are discussed in chapter five.  There is a simple
guide to (mostly Wintel) computers in chapter six.  Cabling and other
technology that may be used for communications in a security system is
examined in chapter seven.  Systems design, in chapter eight,
scrutinizes a variety of aspects, some of which have been previously
covered.  Chapter nine, entitled system integration, is actually more
system design.  Chapter ten looks at how a number of companies are
using electronic access.

While limited to electronic systems, the book is a very reasonable
guide to a lot of physical security technology.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002   BKSIDSAL.RVW   20021012

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