Washington DC officials spent more than $20 million transferring payroll data for city employees cutting over to a new computer system (Comprehensive Automated Personnel and Payroll System) from a 33-year-old system that had a long history of inaccurate and late paychecks. After a year, the new system was no better, so they then spent another $14 million reverting back to the old system. [PGN-ed] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/ [This saga is not atypical of other cases noted here previously, but RISKS readers will find many lessons of what NOT to do in the *Post* article. PGN]
A 24-year-old South Korean man (identified only as Kim, a very common Korean name) was found dead in an Internet cafe after playing computer games nonstop for 86 hours, apparently without sleep or meals. [PGN-ed] http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/10/10/1034061260831.html
For my telephone needs I have a Nokia 6190 with firmware V5.53. For my television needs I have Dishnetwork Dishplayer running at whatever version they last pushed to it. I have known for a while that my telephone and my dishplayer have an "interaction". When I am about to receive a call, the audio on my television has a modem-like sound buried in it. Similar sounds come up periodically when the telephone is sitting idle as well, probably some kind of background communication between it and the tower. Yesterday, while I was watching the Discovery Channel, an emergency came up and I had to make some phone calls. I moved into the next room with my telephone. After a little while of talking on the phone, and making several different calls, my phone suddenly synchronized with the Discovery Channel. The audio track that I could hear from the next room was also being played over my telephone. I tried telling the person I was talking to what had happened, but when I talked the telephone amplified my own voice over its speaker (but not on the television). I I hung up and redialed, but my telephone continued to play the Discovery Channel to me. I had to power cycle my telephone to make it stop. The person I was talking to knew that I had hung up on them, but hadn't heard anything unusual. If it happens again, I think I'll try changing channels on the television to see what happens. Maybe I can get the audio track to a channel I'm not subscribed too! :) The risks here, are that wireless devices could someday/somehow use the wrong radio signal and do bizarre and unexpected things.
Less than sane pacbell menu system: "If you have a dead line, and cannot make calls, press 1" <press 1> "If you are calling from the line you are having problems with, press 1, else press 2" [...]
Extracted from "Hacktivists target trade summit": http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,43137,00.html A coalition of cyber-protesters plan to flood 28 websites associated with this weekend's free trade negotiations at the Summit of the Americas with page requests and e-mail messages. ... Dorothy E. Denning, a computer crime and security expert at Georgetown University, thought the group deserved to be regarded as a political, rather than a criminal, organization. "They operate openly and publicly," Denning said. "They also try to operate by a democratic principle, meaning lots of people have to protest to make it effective." She was impressed when the group cancelled a cyber-protest over genetic engineering that had failed to get majority support in an online vote. In an effort to disassociate themselves from the "server-side" denial-of-service attacks that took down Yahoo and eBay last year, the electrohippies call their technique a "client-side" denial-of-service attack. The difference, according to an electrohippie essay called Occasional Paper No. 1, is that client-side actions require thousands of individuals (clients) using their PCs to participate in order to be effective, while it only takes one person to launch a server-side attack. This is the "democratic principle" that impresses Denning. Andrés Silva http://www.ls.fi.upm.es/UDIS/miembros/asilva/index.html
The original correction, from a student newspaper at Washington State University: http://www.dailyevergreen.com/nn4/news/index.asp?Story_ID=6923&StoryPage=1 The Daily Evergreen would like to sincerely apologize for an injustice served to the Filipino-American, Spanish-speaking and Catholic communities on the front page of Thursday's Evergreen. The story "Filipino-American history recognized" stated that the "Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza," the galleon on which the first Filipinos landed at Morro, Bay, Calif., loosely translates to "The Big Ass Spanish Boat." It actually translates to "Our Lady of Good Peace." Parts of the story, including the translation above, were plagiarized from an inaccurate Web site. October is Filipino-American History Month. Members of the Filipino-American Student Association of WSU will hold events to celebrate thier history and culture all month. They should be able to celebrate without gross inaccuracies and poor coverage by the Evergreen. We hope these groups accept our deep regret. The explanation, from the *Seattle Times*: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134551307_wsublunder09m.html George Mannes www.thestreet.com 1-212-321-5208 firstname.lastname@example.org 14 Wall Street - 15th Floor / New York, NY 10005
Lying 'Lie Detectors', William Safire, *The New York Times*, 10 Oct 2002 Longtime readers of this column have noticed some recurring themes: I'm for personal privacy and have an affinity for the often-betrayed Kurdish people. I despise state-sponsored gambling as well as the form of torture that calls itself the "lie detector." Win some, lose some. Losses: Lawmakers are playing the slots, and privacy has been taking a beating from both government and private snoops. But some wins: The Kurds we protect in northern Iraq are united and ready to join in a fight for freedom. And this week, the polygraph -- that hit-and-miss machine measuring sweat, speedy heartbeat and other signs of nervousness -- has been discredited as the judge of truth-telling. After 19 months of study, experts convened by the National Research Council, an arm of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, concluded that "national security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," and noted pointedly that "no spy has ever been caught [by] using the polygraph." ... http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/10/opinion/10SAFI.html
OBSERVATIONS: A message to one of my students bounced because his e-mail service refused the large attachment I had sent him. He gave me a different e-mail address to use. I dutifully entered it into the TO: field in my e-mail client and sent him the file again. That message bounced and I noticed that it had gone to the original address instead of to the desired address. ANALYSIS: Had I simply written the wrong address into the TO field? Investigation revealed that the e-mail client I am using (Outlook 2000 SR-1 v 126.96.36.19927) cheerfully looked up the e-mail address in my contact list, found it as his secondary e-mail address, converted the secondary address into my student's name, then converted the name into his primary address. These conversions were done entirely without visible notification. This sequence of events is repeatable. WORKAROUND: Right-clicking on the student's name in the TO field did bring up a little menu that allowed me to force the secondary address to be used. INTERPRETATION: My guess is that (1) Someone decided that when one types a name into the TO: field, it's helpful to look up the e-mail address and plug it into place while still showing the name; thus a name becomes underlined when there's a match. So far so good: very useful and unobjectionable. (2) Someone (else?) decided that the opposite change would also be useful; i.e., if one writes an e-mail address into a destination field, the program automatically looks it up and shows the underlined name instead of the address. Also reasonable. (3) Now a tricky bit: someone decided to allow multiple e-mail addresses in the Contact list. However, the conversion from a name into an e-mail address always uses the *preferred* address -- and there is no notification of this choice. Also reasonable, albeit on shakier grounds. After all, if there is a preferred address, we ought to use it, right? And if we need to change it, presto! There's a pop-up menus that lets us choose from the alternate addresses. Great! Works fine. (4) Ah, now we hit pay dirt: someone decided to allow steps (2) and (3) to work in sequence without user intervention. And there we have it: typing an alternate address into a destination field silently converts it to the *wrong address*. LESSONS FOR DESIGNERS: 1. If you override your users' inputs and propose to change their entry to what you think is better, tell them you're doing so and let them refuse the change. 2. Don't link a series of operations together without thinking about the consequences of that chain of operations. M.E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP, AssocProf InfoAssur, Dept CompInfoSys, Norwich University, Northfield VT mkabay(at)norwich(dot)edu [Typo *preferred* fixed in archive copy. PGN]
Nigerian officials are investing $30 million in technology (including BioLink fingerprint scanning) in hopes that next April's presidential election -- their first under a civilian government in 42 years of statehood -- will be peaceful. A trial run in late September resulted in riots after would-be voters were informed there were no more registration forms (apparently having been hoarded by lower-level officials -- 70M were printed for 60M supposed eligible voters), with reports of shootings, lootings and takeovers of government and business facilities as well. The fingerprints will hopefully prevent voters registering more than once, especially with multiple identities. [Source: Nigeria Vote: Peace Through Tech? Michelle Delio, Lycos/wired.com, 11 Oct 2002; PGN-ed] http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,55702,00.html [Perhaps the Nigerians are still using the old African technique of putting a pebble into one of several competing jars. Assuming no fraudulent pebbles are introduced and the pebbles are all similarly sized if you want to avoid actually counting them, that scheme might actually be more trustworthy than all-electronic voting in the absence of any assurance that your vote will be counted correctly (as noted previously in RISKS). The pebble scheme is clearly not rock-et science, but the opportunities for rocking the ballot box still seem to be considerable. But the idea of using biometrics in the voting process may merely move fraud around to other parts of the process, especially if the other parts are inherently not trustworthy. PGN] [Incidentally, PGN asked our long-time election technology expert on this subject to comment. This was her response:] Not only that, but this also brings up a lot of human rights issues. Sure, "democracies" might want us to ante up our biometrics to the government for the "privilege" of voting. Makes one almost want to live in a dictatorship! Rebecca Mercuri
Remind me, how much did the Presidential candidates in 2000 spend on television advertising again? Don't you think it might have been better to have spent, say, 10% of that on getting the votes counted properly?
>That means *millions* of votes have to be counted in a few hours. "have to be"? Only because our society (mainly the news media) is obsessed with instant gratification. Oh, the horror of going to bed on election night not knowing ... not finding out until the next morning or the day after that ... the uncertainty ... the waiting ... what ever would we do ? Most US elections don't take effect until at least a couple of months later (November to January for national elections). Out of those 60 or so days, I could spend the first two or three not knowing an election outcome. Unfortunately, the TV news people can't.
The California Constitution puts the burden for counting votes on the voter, not the government: SEC. 2.5. A voter who casts a vote in an election in accordance with the laws of this State shall have that vote counted. RISK of poorly worded laws? "A voter...shall..." vs. "the state shall count that vote."
In the UK each elected position has its own ballot paper, so you will often have to mark more than one piece of paper at the polling station. This allows the votes for each post to be counted in parallel, and it means that recounts can be done efficiently because counting for the second post does not mess up the sorting of the ballot papers for the first post.
>Also, look up the population of Florida and compare it with the >population of Britain. OK... Florida's population is about 16 million. Britain's population is about 60 million. So I'm not sure what the point is here, especially since our counting system would scale perfectly well to a population of 600 million. The solution to the long ballot problem is surely to put the important selections on a separate ballot that can be easily hand-counted, and let the (existing, well-understood) machines deal with the assistant dog-catchers and whatnot. David Damerell <email@example.com>
The US has about double the per capita GDP of Britain. If the Brits can afford it, the US certainly can. As for trained volunteers, you'd have them if you recruited and trained them. It's got to be less effort than what is put into the census. [Scott also noted the relative populations... PGN]
The original article in *Dagens Nyheter* does not mention encryption per se and there is no indication that any encryption has been broken (the phrase "broken the code" is probably used in a very generic sense). The statement that anyone could triangulate the current transmitters makes me suspect that they are either (a) not even transponders, but transmit a signal at regular intervals, or (b) simple transponders that are activated by a simple tone signal or similar. In case (a), encryption of the signal content would not prevent triangulation of the radio signal by unauthorized parties. In case (b), encryption of the activation signal would make it harder for the hunters to activate the transponder, unless replay attacks were possible. Of course, as long as it is active, anyone could triangulate the transponder. What would be a better system, from the point of view of the wolves and the researchers? If the wolves could be fitted with GPS receivers, the transmitter could use encryption and more advanced radio techniques to send its position to the authorized receiver, as no triangulation would be needed. Ulf Lindqvist, System Design Lab, SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Ave, Menlo Park CA 94025-3493, USA +1 650 859-2351 http://www.sdl.sri.com/
It seems to me that encryption is not really the issue here. Encryption could hide the identity of a particular wolf, but would not hide the radio signal as such. There is likely to be very few radio transmitters in "wolf country", so if you find a signal on the right frequency, it is likely to come from a wolf transmitter. What is called for is a means to make detection of the signal itself difficult/impossible. Spread spectrum techniques spring to mind: By spreading the radio signal over a wide frequency spectrum, detection is impossible unless you know how the spreading was done, and are able to "de-spread" the signal. In other words, you hide the signal in the noise for anybody not having the code to extract it. Spread spectrum is used in military systems for exactly this reason. (And used in mobile telephony, but for other reasons that are not relevant to this subject)
BKINFWFR.RVW 20020721 "Information Warfare", Michael Erbschloe, 2001, 0-07-213260-4, U$29.99 %A Michael Erbschloe %C 300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6 %D 2001 %G 0-07-213260-4 %I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne %O U$29.99 800-565-5758 905-430-5134 fax: 905-430-5020 %P 315 p. %T "Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber Attacks" In both the preface and the introduction, the author makes a point of stating that this book is different from others in the field, that it does not simply use the old military paradigm to analyze information warfare, and, as a result, will be more useful to business. It is, therefore, rather startling to find, in chapter one, background basics that stick strictly to the military model. Everything is presented purely from the perspective of single attacker and single defender, and it's definitely black hat versus white. The model thus constructed is weak in several areas, and would not seem to be able to even address a number of issues. For example, writers such as Dorothy Denning (cf. BKINWRSC.RVW) postulate the potential harm that can arise from corrupted data and other misinformation, which may be used for purposes ranging from propaganda to degrading decision systems. And what do we do about business situations, where today's colleague may be tomorrow's competitor? Chapter two uses profligate verbiage to list a few points about economic impacts that will come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone with the slightest background in business impact analysis. In chapter three, Erbschloe turns to fiction. He proposes a scenario in which a gang of cyber-terrorists causes one trillion dollars worth of damage. In doing so, the author demonstrates that a) his experience in information warfare is limited to viruses, b) his experience with viruses is limited to Loveletter, and c) he believes all the movie stereotypes about "hackers." Black hat communities are seldom as cosmopolitan as the one proposed. They are never as original: multiple viruses based on the model used would quickly be caught by generic means. It is also a lot easier to write simple virus variations than it is to break into specific targeted systems for specific targeted information. We are told, in chapter four, that in order to fight against the information warfare threat, all governments and militaries must get together. (Can we hear a chorus of "And do it my way!" swelling in the background?) Then we have a relay of military strategies in chapter five. Supposedly chapter six turns to corporate strategies, but with the emphasis on terrorists and the FBI, we seem to be back to the military again. A number of tables are used to assert that terrorists and rogue criminals are interested in attacking various industries. (Proof of these statements seems to be singularly lacking.) Chapter eight lists companies proposed to be in the "information warfare" reserve: able to provide expertise in the event of an attack. In light of the recent business debacles, these lists unintentionally provide some of the most humorous reading in the book. (For those who know the security problems of some of these companies, the lists are even funnier.) Tellingly, the material on the civilian "casualties" of infowar, in chapter nine, is the most restricted in the book. Chapter ten seems to move into fiction again. Erbschloe, without much in the way of evidence, says that the "geek in the basement" brigade is now about to turn pro, en masse. (He also states that we are going to have a skilled and active black hat population of 600,000 by 2005.) The statement, in chapter eleven, that we need more skilled law enforcement people is unsurprising, and also unhelpful. The conclusion, in chapter twelve, that we need more money and attention for security is equally useless. This is a verbose reiteration of minor points that are evident to anyone with any background in security, let alone specialists in the information warfare field. Mind you, the book was probably not intended for experts. However, readers with no knowledge of data security are likely to be misled. They will feel that they have been taught about information warfare. They haven't. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002 BKINFWFR.RVW 20020721 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
Dates: January 6-7, 2003 Location: DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University Organizers: Gary McGraw, chair, Cigital, firstname.lastname@example.org Ed Felten, Princeton University, email@example.com Virgil Gligor, University of Maryland, firstname.lastname@example.org Dave Wagner, University of California at Berkeley, email@example.com Invited Speakers: * Brian Kernighan, Princeton University: Coding Excellence: Security as a Side Effect of Good Software * Michael Howard, Microsoft: The Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Initiative from the Inside * Dan Geer, @STake: Software Security in the Big Picture: Repeating ourselves all over again WWW Information: http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/Workshops/Software/ The security of computer systems and networks has become increasingly limited by the quality and security of the software running on these machines. Researchers have estimated that more than half of all vulnerabilities are due to buffer overruns, an embarrassingly elementary class of bugs. All too often systems are hacked by exploiting software bugs. In short, a central and critical aspect of the security problem is a software problem. How can we deal with this? The Software Security Workshop will explore these issues. The scope of the workshop will include security engineering, architecture and implementation risks, security analysis, mobile and malicious code, education and training, and open research issues. In recent years many promising techniques have arisen from connections between computer security, programming languages, and software engineering, and one goal is to bring these communities closer together and crystallize the subfield of software security.
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