The Royal Air Force bought 8 Chinook Helicopters for 259M pounds. The helicopters were supposed to be in service 6 years ago, but problems with radar systems, mean they can not fly in cloud. According to the BBC "The Chinooks were originally supposed to be in service in 1998 but radar systems and software developed under a separate contract would not fit in the cockpit, the report said." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3606325.stm [The Chinooks are hiding in Chicrannies. PGN]
Kevin Poulsen of Security Focus reports on the analysis of the Great Northeast Blackout of August 2003 in http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/08/blackout_bug_report/ <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/08/blackout_bug_report/> . Much is made of the fact that the Energy Management System built by GE had a very obscure, difficult to test race condition that caused it to fail during the early stages of the blackout thus denying the operators at FirstEnergy much of the information they needed to prevent or limit the blackout. I would agree that this is a difficult bug to root out, but there are several extremely important risks that need to be noted. * The alarm system failed silently - the operators did not know that it had failed and was displaying stale data. * The alarm queues backed up causing that host to fail - bad design that does not handle queue overflows. * The backup alarm queue processor kicked in and quickly failed - bad design of an allegedly high-available system These 3 points prove that the system suffered from much more than an obscure race condition. It had truly bad design problems. Clearly, when GE created an energy management system that processed alarms they would have benefited from the experience of the telecom world where we have been building alarm monitoring systems for years. We made these mistakes years ago and they should have known that. The best part of the article: "But Peter Neumann, principal scientist at SRI International and moderator of the Risks Digest, says that the root problem is that makers of critical systems aren't availing themselves of a large body of academic research into how to make software bulletproof. ""We keep having these things happen again and again, and we're not learning from our mistakes," says Neumann. "There are many possible problems that can cause massive failures, but they require a certain discipline in the development of software, and in its operation and administration, that we don't seem to find. ... If you go way back to the AT&T collapse of 1990, that was a little software flaw that propagated across the AT&T network. If you go ten years before that you have the ARPAnet collapse. ""Whether it's a race condition, or a bug in a recovery process as in the AT&T case, there's this idea that you can build things that need to be totally robust without really thinking through the design and implementation and all of the things that might go wrong," Neumann says."
I received the (excerpted, redacted) following piece of mail. > From: ABCDEF HIJKLM <HIJKLM.ABCDEF@WXYZ.co.in> > Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: good morning > > Hallo > Your mails have not been received by me. > Please send all your mail to HIJKLM.ABCDEF@NOPQRST.com. My first thought was that this was a phishing expedition. Interestingly enough, all of the Received: headers in the mail seemed to be valid, and the mail was routed through NOPQRST's mail servers. Then it hit me: NOPQRST is a large, German multinational. I'm not familiar with WXYZ, although ABCDEF HIJLKM's name sounds Indian, so that's reasonable. It must have been the case that some piece of malware (spreading its garbage) forged my name in the From: header. "Hallo" is typically German. "Please send all your mail to" is fluent, close to correct, but decidedly not idiomatic English -- easily explained if he's not a native speaker. So we have the confluence of malware, auto-reply agents, and non-native speakers of human languages. I decided not to forward all my spam to him. :-) Meta-RISK: I'm not using string's of X's for redaction -- as usual, in an attempt to get through spam filters. Drew Dean, Computer Science Laboratory, SRI International
Google (or ISPs) getting into the business of routinely scanning users' e-mail for "interesting" keywords is of staggering import, even if the reason is "merely" to insert ads (or spam control, for that matter, though Google's plan to act as a massive long-term e-mail repository ups the risk ante considerably over e-mail pass-through ISPs). What would Google's legal responsibilities and actions be if they "stumbled" across discussions of apparently illegal activity (everything from overdue library books to adultery to murder...), or terrorism, or illicit pornography? Since they've apparently opened the surveillance box, it's quite possible they'd be legally required to report everything that might even potentially fall into questionable categories. This of course would include all the false alarms that would be generated by innocent messages that only looked suspicious but really weren't, not to mention purposely faked messages spiked with likely nasty keywords to try upset the system. Even with the best of motives, do we really want Google or ISPs becoming the commercial equivalent of Total Information Awareness? We all want to prevent crime and terrorism, but is the creation of massive surveillance machines in the guise of free e-mail services the proper way to do so in our society? And what of the proprietary information that will inevitably find its way into Google's scannable e-mail treasure chest? "Innocent" scanning could reveal all sorts of goodies. (I've thought in the past about all those new product names and future trademarks that first drop into Google's logs when initial searches are performed...) Can we trust Google not to abuse this potentially lucrative power? For now the answer is probably yes, but market forces make the future anything but certain. Don't get me wrong. I like Google -- a lot. I think overall they've got a good attitude, and a superb search engine (though the privacy implications of their search logs have long been a matter of concern, as I noted). But I fear that they have not fully thought through the ramifications of their new e-mail project, and how it can, even with the best of intentions, be rapidly turned to the Dark Side. That risk won't only result from Google's decisions, but also from actions by government, lawyers, law enforcement, courts, and even ISPs and Google's competitors. E-mail is arguably the most sensitive form of Internet communications, and deserves the highest possible levels of protection. Mere trust or good faith aren't enough. In the classic (and highly recommended) satirical film "The President's Analyst," the protagonists gradually come to the realization that every phone call in the country is being tapped. The 1967 film has been prescient in numerous ways, and doesn't seem quite so funny anymore. Centralized scanning of e-mail (even for ostensibly innocent commercial purposes), the push for expanded surveillance of conventional and VoIP telephone systems, and many other moves, together point towards a future where all use of telecommunications is monitored through close alliances of commercial enterprises and government, and where encryption will be banned or tightly controlled. Even if one assumes completely benign motives on the part of these firms and governments today, what of the future? Will the incredibly powerful and pervasive monitoring infrastructures now being woven always be in the hands of such trustworthy entities? History suggests that we have a lot to worry about in these regards. [Incidentally, it is now being reported that Google's terms of service for Gmail (or whatever it ends up being called if there are really trademark problems) apparently say they can KEEP your e-mail even after you close your account! That's what's being reported!] Lauren Weinstein firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.pfir.org/lauren +1 (818) 225-2800 Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Network Solutions (and other registrars in various ways) have begun offering services to bypass ICANN's requirement for accurate domain holder information being listed in WHOIS. While the issues of WHOIS information accuracy and availability vs. privacy are complex and controversial, NetSol's particular approach appears to trigger a number of interesting legal questions. For an extra charge, NetSol will mask the contact e-mail address with an aliased address that changes at intervals, list their own po box for the physical address, and list a phone number that leads to a "no calls accepted" recording. I do not see an obvious problem with their e-mail alias approach. However, their intercepting and opening of physical mail is a different matter, since it makes it impossible for senders of certified mail to be assured that the material ever reached the actual registrant, and of course privacy of such mailings is lost. If confidential legal materials were involved, the issues could get very dicey. Lack of an accurate phone number is of great concern. In cases of network disruptions (either intentional or not) often the only recourse to restore normal services is to pick up the phone and call the person at the domain in question. Physical mail is too slow, and if systems are disrupted e-mail often won't work. One also must wonder if NetSol really wants to interject themselves into the middle of legal and related communications involving spammers, pornographers, and others with less than pristine motives for wanting to hide their contact info -- the John Smith family who wants to protect their home address is not the major issue. Finally, what actions will ICANN take to enforce both the letter and spirit of their rules in this regard, while these issues are being hashed out in various policy forums? Lauren Weinstein email@example.com http://www.pfir.org/lauren +1 (818) 225-2800 Co-Founder PFIR <http://www.pfir.org>, Fact Squad <http://www.factsquad.org>
The real risks with the following "New Technology" are that it depends on the light source remaining at the correct 'frequency' throughout its lifetime AND somehow letting you know when it is NOT working correctly. Until the bulb burns out you simply will not have a clue that it is not working correctly should the light wave used shift frequency or the 'marker' detection fail. There is no discussion of failure mode, unfortunately, so we could all end up deep in what the product is intended to detect. New technology could detect dirty hands, Associated Press, 5 Apr 2004 http://edition.cnn.com/2004/TECH/ptech/04/05/cleanhand.technology.ap/index.html With just a flicker of blue light, little Johnny's mother one day may know for sure whether her son washed his hands before dinner. New light-scanning technology borrowed from the slaughterhouse promises to help hospital workers, restaurant employees -- one day, even kids -- make sure that hand washing zaps some germs that can carry deadly illnesses. A device the size of an electric hand dryer detects fecal contamination and pinpoints on a digital display where on a person's hands more scrubbing is needed.
I'll take issue with Crispin Cowan's assertion that (RISKS-23.30): "Thus hardware semantics enforcement ended because the hardware people discovered that it was easier to do in software." The issue is not whether there is hardware semantics enforcement. All modern architectures do have hardware enforcement via privilege modes, trap instructions, and memory protection. Rather the issue is of what form they take, whether they provide only mechanism (and hence are policy neutral) and what level of semantics they provide. The problem of layering (whether to put the mechanism in the architecture, operating system or application is exacerbated by two issues. The first is pushing to lower levels special purpose mechanisms. The second is pushing to higher levels issues we don't understand and making them more complex. The latter is every bit as much of a problem as the former, and thereby following Hoare's dictum: "I conclude that there are two ways to constructing software design: One way is to make it so simple that there obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies." The higher levels of necessity depend on the lower levels for their security. So the question is how, not whether, the protection is provided at the various levels. Jon A. Solworth, Computer Science Dept., University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL 60607-7053 http://parsys.cs.uic.edu/~solworth 1-312-996-0955
>> Heck, software can always make up for hardware deficiencies, right? > That's a perspective, but I disagree. Burroughs was not the only lab to > experiment with language support on chip. Intel also tried this, with the > i432. The result was that the RISC processors produced *crushing* > performance wins over chips with complex semantics, due to the ability to > heavily pipeline and thus ramp up the clock on simple instruction sets. The death or rather non-success of the iAPX-432 had very little to do with language support. It had a lot more to do with the fact that customers were not willing to pay for security--the iAPX-432 had very good hardware support for security. But the devastating decision was a decision not to fix a "bug" in the initial version of the chip. The net effect was to make every instruction instruction owned by a user take two memory cycles longer to complete, and every OS instruction took one more memory cycle when working with user data. It is an instructive lesson in how software fixes for hardware problems may be counterproductive. The iAPX-432 was a capability based architecture. All resources, in particular memory were accessed through capability descriptors. The chip kept track of whether or not something was a capability, so they were not easily forged. However, in the final preproduction version of the chip, there was a glitch. As a result, the only way to expand the top-level capability table was to do a hardware reset. (Ouch!) Of course, the workaround that the developers used was to have a fixed set of top-level descriptors, which pushed all user owned descriptors one level lower. On a day when I was there for a job interview in the compiler department, the decision was made to ship the current version of the chip, and fixed this problem in a later mask release. At lunch the discussion was not about how bad this decision was, but where people were going to go when they left Intel. Needless to say, I didn't take the job. (I probably should have -- the actual result of that decision by Intel was the founding of two companies: Rational and Verdix. Rational eventually bought Verdix, and was then acquired by IBM.) Why was the decision by Intel so bad? Because it meant that almost anyone designing products around the iAPX-432 made the same workaround decision. Once you made that decision it didn't matter if 99.9% of the chips your software ran on had the fix. You had to design your software one way or the other. There was one company in England, High Integrity Products was the name I think, who instead decided not to support the first batch of iAPX-432 chips. They had quite a good business for years. But that was it. Well, BiiN, a joint venture between Siemens and Intel was developing a trusted operating system, and there was no reason for them to support the original buggy chips. But Intel discontinued the 432 and disbanded the company before they shipped product. It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if absent that decision, the 432 became the future of computing. Certainly most viruses would never have existed.
> Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 01:54:11 +0900 > From: Chiaki <firstname.lastname@example.org> > ... > Really a good example of what one should NOT do in handling sensitive > information and seeing it at an large ISP is rather disappointing and > disgusting. It may be disappointing and disgusting, but it's my opinion that this is going to happen again and again. I have friends who work as computer technicians in various companies here, and there are other companies that keep similar personal information and take just as little care with it. Not only have the managers been informed by tech folks time and time again over the years that this risk exists, but even after management has seen this whole Yahoo brouhaha they still have done *nothing whatsoever* to make the information more secure. Honestly, not one single step. I myself in the past have been in a similar position and have tried to convince managers that they should spend a little to reduce the level of risk they were undertaking, and have always had little luck. > This incidence is a really good example of what we should not do and > many organizations seem to take this example seriously. > In that sense, it is a good thing... It would be interesting to find out how many organizations have taken this example seriously, and how many have not. I can't think of any way to do this, of course; everybody's going to say, in public, that this can't happen to them. The only way to find out, if you're not part of the organization itself, is to know someone in the right place in the organization who's willing to tell you about it over a beer. And needless to say, that kind of information, when handed to someone, is probably not going further. I'm left with anecdotal evidence. Possibly being able to buy insurance against these sorts of things would help; insurance companies would presumably then be able to come in and inspect for such situations, giving companies a direct financial incentive to fix this stuff. And I would certainly be much more inclined to use a company that had insurance that would pay me directly, say, $250 should my personal information be compromised. Curt Sampson <email@example.com> +81 90 7737 2974 http://www.NetBSD.org
Following up from my recent report on 16 Mar in RISKS-23.27 of social engineering to get the Beagle virus onto people's systems, here is yet another attempt. >Dear user of Btopenworld.com gateway e-mail server, > Some of our clients complained about the spam (negative e-mail content) > outgoing from your e-mail account. Probably, you have been infected by a > proxy-relay trojan server. In order to keep your computer safe, follow the > instructions. > > Further details can be obtained from attached file. > > Have a good day, > The Btopenworld.com team > > http://www.btopenworld.com This time they interestingly attempt to scare people into opening the attachment by accusing them of already having had their computer compromised and being responsible for spam. An old con trick but not one I have seen in this context before. Another interesting feature is that the message doesn't seem to have any gross grammatical errors this time something that seemed to be standard in these things before. John Sawyer, University of Portsmouth
BKCYBSQT.RVW 20031118 "Cybersquatters Beware", Chantelle MacDonald Newhook, 2002, 0-07-090579-7, U$19.95/C$24.99 %A Chantelle MacDonald Newhook firstname.lastname@example.org %C 300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6 %D 2002 %G 0-07-090579-7 %I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne %O U$19.95/C$24.99 905-430-5000 800-565-5758 fax: 905-430-5020 %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070905797/robsladesinterne http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070905797/robsladesinte-21 %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070905797/robsladesin03-20 %P 290 p. %T "Cybersquatters Beware" The introduction talks about branding, and the fact that companies can do it very inexpensively on the Internet. Chapter one explains trademarks, as well as the domain name system. The Uniform Domain name dispute Resolution Process (UDRP) is outlined in chapter two (along with other similar mechanisms), and key elements necessary to winning a dispute are noted. Successive chapters present a number of cases involving different types of principals and principles: companies (in three), institutions and individuals (in four), celebrities (five), sex (six), complaints and comments (in seven), generic names (eight), and an amalgam, in chapter nine, of airlines, banks, wineries, and other companies that have not prepared for the disputes. Chapter ten deals with the process of going to court with domain name disputes. Trends and indications in decisions are reviewed in chapter eleven. The book does provide a good compilation of advice on a complex and poorly understood topic. There is one proviso: the text frequently makes the point that the race is not always to the justified, nor the legal battle to the prepared. However, as current wisdom has it, the prepared side is the one to bet on. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKCYBSQT.RVW 20031118 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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