I received an e-mail from relatives who are on a Holland America cruise around the tip of South America. Last Thursday night, while they were eating dinner in the dining room, there was a sudden lurch and the ship went into a hard right turn, listing over at an estimated angle of 20 degrees. Every chair in the dining room toppled and people, dishes and food slid everywhere. At least two people were injured in the laundry when clothes dryers topped on top of them. The grand piano on the stage was flipped over. After about 5 minutes, the ship stopped turning. Shortly after that, the captain came on the PA system and announced that, when they turned off the autopilot to enter the port at Buenos Aires, the rudder swung to the right and could not be "unstuck." Over two hours elapsed after the incident, before the crew performed a count of the passengers.
I just got this from the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), a truly outstanding organization, BTW. Jeppesen reports airspace boundary problems About 350 airspace boundaries contained in Jeppesen NavData are incorrect, the FAA has warned. The error occurred at Jeppesen after a software upgrade when information was pulled from a database containing 20,000 airspace boundaries worldwide for the March NavData update, which takes effect March 20. Only a dozen are in the United States, including Chicago; Louisville, Kentucky; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Santa Ana, California; Las Vegas; Honolulu; Des Moines; and Oklahoma City. The error could cause pilot alerts to be given by GPS units too early or too late. Pilots are advised to use multiple sources of information, such as carrying paper charts (Jeppesen paper charts are unaffected by the problem), and contacting controlling agencies by radio to avoid airspace violations. Jeppesen has provided a searchable database of locations with airspace boundary errors on its Web site ( http://www.aopa.org/epilot/redir.cfm?adid=1875 ). To search, click on the binocular icon and enter an airport identifier. Jeppesen spokesman Mike Pound said the errors will be corrected "for the next possible release." The next release is scheduled for April 17. The risks are pretty obvious. Today if you fly your tiny aircraft into restricted airspace in the USA, you can get shot down by agents of "The Department of Homeland Security". Many (most) pilots use this navigation data with their GPS as their primary source of navigation information worldwide. Please don't get me started on the absurdity of many of these airspace restrictions in the first place...
Thousands of patients could have received the wrong prescription drugs after a power outage at Kaiser Permanente's computer center in Southern California knocked the pharmacy's labeling system out of sync — printing the wrong labels on filled prescriptions. There were no reports yet of patients suffering from adverse reactions. About 4,700 patients from Fresno to the Oregon border were affected, including those ordering prescriptions by telephone. After the error was discovered on 14 Mar 2003, hospital officials attempted to contact the affected patients, although by 17 Mar, 152 remained uncontacted — including those for whom they had only PO-box addresses. [Source: Associated Press, 18 Mar 2003, PGN-ed; Also noted by Danny Burstein]
Some Nova Scotia video lottery terminal (VLT) players found a way to beat machines last year, forcing the Atlantic Lottery Corp. to replace computer chips in about one-third of their 3,538 VLTs in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. About 20 locations appeared to have had the glitch exploited. ALC doesn't know how much it lost, but noted the maximum payout for a single spin is $500. The problem was discovered in December 2002 after ALC received calls from retailers who noticed frequent high payouts, and from its own inspections. Chips were replaced in January and February 2003. [Glitch let gamblers beat machines, *The Chronicle-Herald*, Nova Scotia, 8 Mar 2003; PGN-ed] http://www.herald.ns.ca/ M Taylor http://www.mctaylor.com/
Several bank customers in Fargo, North Dakota, had an automated teller machine disperse more cash than they had requested. (They turned it in.) Apparently ``cold weather caused the ATM cash door to stick so some customers who wanted to withdraw money could not get it. The door opened for other customers, who then wound up with their cash and the cash belonging to the previous customers.'' [Source: AP, 14 Mar 2003; PGN-ed] http://story.news.yahoo.com/news ?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20030314/ap_on_fe_st/haywire_atm
A study at the University of Pittsburgh reveals that the ubiquitous spelling checker software may be doing as much harm as good, when it comes to writing. In the study, 33 undergraduate students were asked to proofread a one-page business letter — half of them using Microsoft Word, with its spelling- and grammar-checking features and the other half using only their brains. Without the software, students with higher SAT verbal scores made, on average, five errors, compared with 12.3 errors made by students with lower scores. However, using the software, the two groups made about the same number of errors — 16 vs 17. Dennis Galletta, a professor of information systems at the Katz Business School, says people have come to rely on spelling-checker software too completely. "It's not a software problem, it's a behavior problem." [AP 14 Mar 2003; NewsScan Daily, 17 March 2003; slight PGN-ed] http://apnews.excite.com/article/20030314/D7POQ7R80.html
A spike in Internet traffic caused by a worm over the weekend can be largely blamed on bad passwords and poor security practices, said security experts on Monday. The Deloder worm, which spreads by communicating with Windows computers that have file sharing enabled, may have spread to perhaps as many as 10,000 systems using a list of 86 passwords to break into computers running Microsoft Windows NT, 2000 and XP. [Source: MSNBC] http://www.msnbc.com/news/883415.asp: The same article later says: The recent LovGate worm — which appeared on the Internet two weeks ago -- uses a list of 16 passwords as a secondary way to infect computers. Yet another RISK of bad password choices. And before PGN says it: Deloder attacked de losers! B-) David J. Aronson, Software Engineer for hire in Washington DC area. See http://destined.to/program/ for online resume, references, etc.
According to the UK's Sophos, one of the world's largest antivirus companies, about 1,000 viruses are created every month, and in almost all cases the perpetrators are computer-obsessed males between the ages of 14 and 34. "They have a chronic lack of girlfriends, are usually socially inadequate and are drawn compulsively to write self-replicating codes. It's a form of original graffiti to them," says Sophos CEO Jan Hruska. Virus writers tend to explore known bugs in existing software or look for vulnerabilities in new versions in order to create and spread their infections, and Hruska notes that the next target for the virus writing community could be Microsoft's .Net platform for Web services. To boost the impact of their creations, virus writers also tend to share information to create variants of the same infection, such as the infamous Klez worm, which has been among the world's most prolific viruses in the last year. [Reuters/CNet News.com 18 Mar 2003; NewsScan Daily, 18 March 2003] http://news.com.com/2100-1002-993023.html?tag=fd_top
I work for a company that performs vulnerability assessment using tools such as the nessus security scanner. Yesterday I was searching for more information about one of the security holes in a report, and I came across someone else's report with the same hole. Looking a bit further, I noticed that searching for 'nessus report' I got a dozens of pages back. Some of the pages returned were sample reports from companies like ours (or the nessus site itself), but others were from people who had left their reports in location visible to search engines. The danger here is obvious - do you really want to make a list of all your security holes visible to the world? Things are actually even worse than they first appear too, because engines like google cache the pages, so even if you delete them people can still access the information.
Clothes sold at Benetton stores will soon contain microchip transmitters that allow the Italian retailer to track its garments from their point of manufacture to the moment they're sold in any of its 5,000 shops. [Source: Associated Press, 11 Mar 2003] http://news.lycos.com/news/story.asp?section=Business&storyId=673780 Tag, You're It: What Your Clothes Say About You Clothing designer Benetton plans to weave radio frequency ID chips into its garment tags. While Benetton is poised to save money by tracking the clothes with RFID, it could also mean a loss of customers' privacy. [Source: Elisa Batista, wired.com] http://www.wired.com/news/wireless/0,1382,58006,00.html
An American consumer privacy group has called for an immediate, worldwide nboycott of Benetton, following disclosures that the company has placed identification and tracking devices into its clothing products. CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) announced that it will oppose Benetton's plans to place Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips into clothing labels intended for the consumer market. For additional information, see Phillips/Benetton press release: http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/030311/115697_1.htm Forbes article illustrating remote inventorying of shoppers' clothing (As reproduced on Alien Technology's Web site) http://www.alientechnology.com/news/The_Internet_of_Things.htm CASPIAN overview of privacy concerns associated with RFID technology: http://www.nocards.org/AutoID/overview.shtml
One of the "Holy Grails" of networking has long been the concept of single sign-on. For those not familiar with the term, it refers to the ability for a user to authenticate once to some authentication server and then to have access to many different systems in a secure but unimpeded manner. Kerberos includes the concept of single sign-on within its framework as does DCE. X.509 certificates and associated PKI also hold forth the concept of single-sign-on through the use of certificates that are issued by a trusted issuing authority, and can be presented as a means of authenticating the user. More recently, Microsoft has come up with a Web-based identity in their Microsoft Passport standard. A competing standard to Microsoft Passport is that being put forth by the Liberty Alliance Project. In all of the standards above, there is the concept of users having a set of attributes or credentials associated with their authenticated identity. These credentials can be used to determine whether or not users should have access to certain systems, and, further, to determine the level of access. The attributes can also include such things as age verification, credit card information, address, etc. that could be used with on-line merchants for purchase or other purposes. However, as this concept has matured, there is now the thought that users would be able to have (Microsoft Passport and Liberty Alliance), a single federated network identity, and that the user would have some control over what information he would be willing to share with different communities (e.g., a user could have a work profile associated with his ID that would provide certain salient information to work related computers and a home profile that would provide potentially different information to computers that the same user accesses from home). The ability to have such a federated network identity would, if it could be administered in a secure fashion, enable any Web site or Web application that accepted the federated identity (once authenticated by an identity provider) to have a clear idea of whom they are dealing with. In other words, rather than Joe Smith connecting to a site as Joe Smith, JSmith, Jdog, etc. and appearing to be one or multiple users, he would be Joe Smith always. Now, as you can imagine, the ability of Joe to be able to determine what information he wants to share with different sites would be important. For example, Joe may be quite willing to share his full name, mailing address, and credit card number with an on-line store, but only be willing to share his age with a porn site that may be allowing free tours to prospective customers who can provide age verification. The problem is, that, as we have seen with the misuse of social security numbers by other than the Social Security Administration in the U.S., we can expect to see sites demanding more information than they legitimately need in order to allow access. So, this places the burden (and perhaps rightly so) on the individual to make sure that he makes good choices as to what information he is willing to share with each community. This may be quite a bit to expect of someone who is not technically savvy enough to understand the ramifications of these choices. This risk can be mitigated to an extent by looking to a third party to help an individual reduce some of this risk. For example, if I connect to a portal provided by my bank and the bank performs the identity verification to ensure that I am who I say I am, then I may assume that any vendors that look to the bank to verify my identity and associated credentials have, themselves, been scrutinized by the bank and determined to be trustworthy at least to the extent that they have privacy policies that are similar to that of the banks so that information provided to them is treated with the same care as that provided to the bank. Unfortunately, I think this is contrary to reality. So, the point is, be very suspicious of Microsoft Passport or of the Liberty Alliance Project, or any other group who is trying to create the equivalent of a universal ID. While I think that they have some very good ideas, and are trying to create a federated network identity with the best of intentions, there is much that is not being covered that may call for not only study by consumer groups, but for legislation and additional infrastructure. Even then, I would still want to be able to anonymously surf the Web the same way I anonymously enter stores at the mall, knowing that I can walk in, look around and even purchase something without the store knowing who I am.
As far as I could tell from the article, what happened at Beth Israel Deaconess in November 2002 [year fixed in RISKS ARCHIVES. PGN-oops] was not a "computer crash." That's one of the terms that journalists use when they either don't understand what went wrong or are trying to dumb it down for the semi-literate masses. Quoting from *The Boston Globe* article, "The computer crash at Beth Israel occurred when a research [sic] flooded the network with large quantities of data, causing the strained system to slow drastically.... networks must have sufficient bandwidth and modern routing systems, and should allow for portions to be shut down without the system becoming disabled." In other words, the network didn't have enough bandwidth to handle the traffic being thrown at it, there was no infrastructure in place for limiting the amount of bandwidth used by individual computers or applications, there was no infrastructure in place for monitoring bandwidth in real-time to detect anomalies and trace them to their sources, and there was no infrastructure in place for reactively locating high bandwidth consumers. For all of these things to be missing in a mission-critical network is shocking (and that's why the articles about it were written), but not terribly surprising. Beth Israel Deaconess has been in dire financial straits for several years; I doubt they pay high enough salaries to attract the best and brightest IT professionals, people who understand the importance of constructing a robust network and how to go about doing it. I also doubt they've budgeted enough money to be able to afford the proper infrastructure; perhaps, after last November's outage, that will change.
I can comment in some detail about a similar situation. I worked for what was the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (Australia) in the early 1990s. A new customer billing system was implemented which, among other things included a "special" interface for senior billing officers in each local office that bypassed most of the sanity checks in the system, and allowed the sanity checks to be over-ridden, if necessary. The electricity meter was replaced for a customer and this was not correctly recorded. Then when the next, regularly scheduled meter reading was entered into the system, it looked as if the meter had gone from a low value to an even lower value. This resulted in an enormous bill, a significant percentage (about 10%, from memory) of total sales for the district. The system asked for confirmation, but the operator (an ordinary data entry clerk, not the supervisor) thoughtlessly confirmed the entry. Since it was "special" mode the transaction was confirmed. The customer received a bill for several million Australian dollars. The risks? Creating data entry screens with the power to gratuitously over-ride the sanity checks for the data that are built into the system. Is this really a direct problem with the computer system? I'm not sure. It is definitely a problem with the interaction between the computer system and the organisational systems designed to use the computer system. The real lesson is that there is a need to recognise that computer systems do not exist in isolation, and that giving the power to over-ride the system to ordinary users is a bad idea. Don Gingrich firstname.lastname@example.org School of CSIT, RMIT Melbourne, Au [New meters and wrap-arounds are of course old problems. For example, see RISKS-7.40 and RISKS-12.16. PGN]
I guess I'm a bit influenced by RISKS, and observed a disturbing (human-based) protocol failure last week in my daughter's after school care. I think it would come down to one of those system-boundary things. On a normal day, my daughter goes to school on the school bus, but after school, she attends an after school program physically located in the school, but administered by the local YWCA. I pick her up from the school. Transfer of daughter among three parties: school bus -> school -> YWCA. Last week, we had one of those days that we were being threatened with a snowstorm (early news reports promised 3-6 inches by afternoon), and this being New Jersey, everyone panicked. Because there was ultimately no serious accumulation of snow, everything was business-as-usual for most of the day. However, at 2:00, I got a phone call from the after school program, indicating that the program would not be available that afternoon, due to the snow, and that I should pick my daughter up. I arrived at the school at 3:00, and was herded into the cafeteria, to wait with the other anxious and disoriented after school program parents, for the 3:10 dismissal. At 3:10, children began filtering into the cafeteria, and parents collected their children and left. 10 minutes later, half a dozen parents remained, and we were informed by a teacher that all of the non-bus children had been released. She said that the Y had told the school to put all the after school program children onto the school bus. At that point, I ran out, and with some difficulty located the school bus that my daughter comes to school on (which had luckily not pulled out, yet), and pulled her off the bus. System risks here: 1) The school accepts YWCA's word that it has informed all parents of the closure of the after-school program (what if the Y had not been able to reach me?) 2) The school accepts YWCA's word that it has informed all of the parents of what action will be taken (this failed in my case) 3) The school releases my child to a 3rd party (the school bus) that does not have sufficient information for the situation. The school has emergency contacts for me and alternative pick-up people, as does the afterschool program. The school bus department does not have this information. It was not clear what the bus driver would have done if I had not rescued my daughter. I asked him what would have happened if he tried to drop my daughter at the house, with nobody at home, and it seems like their protocol is the most sensible: if there is no one to receive a child, radio the transportation department. The department then calls the home (the only number they have for me), and if no one answers, take the child back to school. If I want my neighbors to take my child, I have to supply a note to this effect. I don't know. Maybe I'm just refusing to take off my RISKS glasses, here, but I think there's problems in the protocol with all three parties. I've communicated with the Principal, who refuses to accept any responsibility. She asserts that the whole fault is with the Y, who should have informed me that my daughter would be sent home on the bus. Personally, from reading RISKS, I think it is unacceptable to assume that communication was sent correctly to all parents. The school explicitly demands at the beginning of the year a list of acceptable people to release my child to, and the school bus is not on this list. I guess a better protocol would require the Y to provide minimal coverage at the school until such time as any parents who have not been successfully contacted arrive. Also, I guess I'm going to have to suggest that the transportation department keep my emergency contacts list, too.
The Workshop on Rapid Malcode (WORM) Workshop held in association with the 10th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, October 27th, 2003 Washington D.C. Call for Papers In the last several years, Internet-wide infectious epidemics have emerged as one of the leading threats to information security and service availability. The vehicle for these outbreaks, malicious codes called "worms", leverage the combination of software monocultures and the uncontrolled Internet communication model to quickly compromise large numbers of hosts. Current operational practices have not been able to manage these threats effectively and the research community is only now beginning to address this area. The goal of this workshop is to bring together ideas, understanding and experience bearing on the worm problem from a wide range of communities including academia, industry and the government. We are soliciting papers from researchers and practitioners on subjects including, but not limited to: Modeling and analysis of propagation dynamics Automatic detection, characterization, and prediction Analysis of worm construction, current & future Propagation strategies (fast & obvious vs slow and stealthy) Reactive countermeasures Proactive defenses Threat assessment Forensic methods of attribution Significant operational experiences Paper submissions due 1 Jul 2003; submission instructions will appear at http://pisa.ucsd.edu/worm03/ General Chair: Stuart Staniford, Silicon Defense Publicity Chair: Robert Cunningham, MIT Lincoln Lab Program Committee Chair: Stefan Savage, UC San Diego Program Committee Members: Robert Cunningham, MIT Lincoln Lab; Anup Ghosh, DARPA; David Moore, CAIDA/UC San Diego; Carey Nachenberg, Symantec; Vern Paxson, ICIR/LBL; Phil Porras, SRI; Jeff Rowe, UC Davis; Mike Skroch, Sandia; Stuart Staniford, Silicon Defense; Don Towsley, UMassAmherst Dr. Robert K. Cunningham, Information Systems Technology Group MIT Lincoln Laboratory http://www.ll.mit.edu/IST/
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