John Markoff, Rice University Computer Scientists Find a Flaw in Google's New Desktop Search Program, *The New York Times*, 20 Dec 2004 [PGN-ed] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/20/technology/20flaw.html Prof. Dan Wallach and two of his students at Rice University discovered a potentially serious security flaw in the desktop search tool for personal computers that was recently distributed by Google. The flaw could permit an attacker to secretly search the contents of a personal computer via the Internet, and is referred to as a composition flaw -- a security weakness that emerges when separate components interact. Dan Wallach said, "When you put them together, out jumps a security flaw. These are subtle problems, and it takes a lot of experience to ferret out this kind of flaw."
In German banks you find more and more machines, where you can check your account's balance and do money-transfers. To be able to do this, there is a keyboard available instead of the 11+4 keys for the standard-cash-points. It seems that the program running on these machines is a simple window and that it's possible to get the underlying "desktop" with "clicking" (the screen is a touchscreen) onto the corresponding place where the minimize-icon resides. Thanks to the available keyboard it's possible to do everything you're used to do with every other computer with a shell. Somebody took the opportunity to play a little bit around with these machines and documented everything with a digital camera. The pictures can be watched at http://www.ulm.ccc.de/projekte/bankomat/ where the machine ends with a game of chess against itself running instead of the application originally intended to be run on it. Lothar Kimmeringer E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just consider how much of our world now relies on GPS for ordinary day-to-day operation... what if it just "went away" during a time of crisis? The EU has been planning its own version of GPS called Galileo... progress was hampered for years by all sorts of bickering, but the project recently announced that deployment would happen by 2006. The threat of a US GPS shutdown may motivate that project, but Galileo is already bound up in agreements with the Americans and would probably be turned off as well in cooperation, via NATO, on American orders... all this so "terrorists" can't... I'm not sure what terrorists do with GPS that they can't do without GPS. On the bright side, I guess times of national crisis will also be free days on the GPS-metered toll roads now being tested in Oregon and elsewhere. This seems like a great example of the sort of "solution" that turns a regular-size crisis into an impressively crippling crisis. I don't understand why reinstating Selective Availability isn't considered an option this time. [It dumbs down the accuracy, and was stopped by President Clinton in 2000. PGN] President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology. He also instructed the Defense Department to develop plans to disable, in certain areas, an enemy's access to the U.S. navigational satellites and to similar systems operated by others. The European Union is developing a $4.8 billion program, called Galileo. The military increasingly uses GPS technology to move troops across large areas and direct bombs and missiles. Any government-ordered shutdown or jamming of the GPS satellites would be done in ways to limit disruptions to navigation and related systems outside the affected area, the White House said. [Source: Ted Bridis, Bush prepares for possible shutdown of GPS network in national crisis The Associated Press, 15 Dec 2004, excerpted] http://www.securityfocus.com/news/10140 http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/ns/news/story.jsp? id=2004121521290001739682&dt=20041215212900&w=APO&coview=
Great... if there's another 9/11, they can turn off GPS so the "terrorists" can't use the system. of course, if there's another 9/11, the terrorists will be dead before we know what happened. that will leave police, fire, rescue, 911, red cross, air traffic, media, utility workers, etc all left without their bearings, since they rely heavily on consumer-grade GPS receivers. this is just brilliant. But why stop there? how about turning off all cell phones, land-lines, Internet connections, electricity and water? we don't want terrorists to be aided by any of these things immediately following an attack. [...]
A 78-year-old driver, on a 130 km/h road near Nancy, and not realizing the limitations of the navigation system, turned around when instructed to do so. He and the occupants of the car he collided with were, amazingly, unhurt. Police said this wasn't the first such incident they'd experienced. [Source: News Interactive at http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,11553850%255E15306,00.html ] Peter G. Capek, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598-0218 (+1 914) 945-1250 [Maybe that's a reason why GPS should be turned off? PGN]
On the National Public Radio program "Morning Edition" this morning, a story by Elaine Korry on how, "Due to a crashed computer network, Colorado is unable to distribute Medicaid and welfare benefits this holiday season. Food banks are picking-up the slack." According to the story, numerous benefit applications are still waiting to be processed after the Federally-mandated 30 day processing deadline, and food banks are serving unprecedented numbers of households: one food bank served 157 in one day, where their typical _monthly_ load has been about 150.
A report from U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), a nonprofit group that sets standards for the drug industry, says that as more hospitals have implemented automated systems for administering drugs the number of errors associated with them has risen. USP vice president Diane Cousins says, "It would seem logical that applying computer technology to the medication use process would have a significant positive impact in preventing medication errors. Yet, depending on the computer's design or user competence, new points of potential errors can emerge." Kenneth Kizer of the National Quality Forum agrees with Cousins: "Technology offers great opportunity to reduce errors, but it's not a panacea. You can't just throw a computerized system in and expect that everything's fixed. It has to be done right. The technology is only as good as the people who use it." [*The Washington Post*, 20 Dec 2004; NewsScan Daily, 21 Dec 2004] <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15178-2004Dec20.html>
I just checked Yahoo's finance website and was rather surprised to learn that the S&P had fallen nearly 870 points today. I thought perhaps it was a Yahoo issue, but I also checked the Fidelity web site and found the same numbers. So either a very strange anomaly has occurred causing S&P to lose 73% of its value while the Dow and Nasdaq gained 1% OR something's gone funny in some database or application that reports S&P numbers. I have screen shots. I'm a RISKS reader. I'm voting for database corruption or data entry issue.
A federal judge in Iowa has awarded a small ISP more than $1 billion in damages in what's believed to be the largest judgment ever against spammers. The case was brought by Robert Kramer, whose company provides e-mail service to about 5,000 customers, and who filed suit after his inbound mail servers were jammed with as many as 10 million spam-mails a day in 2000. Citing federal racketeering laws (RICO) and the Iowa Ongoing Criminal Conduct Act, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle ordered AMP Dollar Savings of Mesa, Ariz., to pay $720 million; Cash Link Systems of Miami, Fla., $360 million; and TEI Marketing Group, also of Florida, $140,000. "It's definitely a victory for all of us that open up our e-mail and find lewd and malicious and fraudulent e-mail in our boxes every day," said Kramer, who is unlikely to ever collect on the judgments. [AP/*Wall Street Journal*, 20 Dec 2004; NewsScan Daily, 20 Dec 2004] http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110349923676804327,00.html (sub req'd)
(or has this been done already?) As anyone who has recently become a parent knows, hospitals are very serious about making sure that no one leaves the premises with a baby not their own. RFID anklets on the infant, combined with RFID scanners and existing magnetic locks on maternity-ward doors seem like a good idea: chipped infants can't leave, and only Authorized Personnel can remove the chips. RFID is no respecter of walls, so a strategically placed baby in the nursery can effectively lock down the maternity-ward exit until someone figures out why the doors aren't opening -- which could be anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more. In a real emergency, the magnetic locks of course fail open, but there are plenty of other urgent situations where not being able to open the maternity-department doors (and not knowing why) could complicate hospital operations significantly. This isn't exactly an unintended effect, since the system is operating exactly as intended (baby within range of RFID door scanner yields non-opening door), but rather an imprecise specification ("within range" doesn't mean what the implementors thought it meant). As RFID-based security becomes more commmon, it will be interesting to see just how many more such snafus crop up.
If a new Massachusetts "eHealth" pilot project is successful, physicians in that state will be able to access patients' records from any hospital or clinic by computer. Gov. Mitt Romney says that switching from paper records to easily shared electronic records could save the state millions of dollars while improving patient safety and quality of care. He has given assurances that the system will have strict controls to allow patients to control who sees their records. [AP/*Los Angeles Times*, 7 Dec 2004; NewsScan Daily, 7 Dec 2004] http://www.latimes.com/technology/ats-ap_technology14dec07,1,1268455.story?coll=sns-ap-toptechnology http://www.latimes.com/technology/ats-ap_technology14dec07,1,1268455.story ?coll=sns-ap-toptechnology
According to *Space News*, 29 Nov 2004, a TV broadcast via the AsiaSat satellite was pirated for 4 hours on 20 Nov. A broadcast targeted at mainland China was superseded by an unknown source transmitting a signal with higher power than the legitimate programme towards the satellite transponder, thus replacing the intended programme . The pirate broadcast concerned the Falon Gong spiritual organization that is outlawed in China. The source of the pirate signal is unknown, but is believed to originate in Taiwan. (Is this a political or a technical assessment??) Calculations by AsiaSat suggest that the signal could be generated by a 250 Watt transmitter on a 4.5-meter dish, or 100 Watt on a 7-meter dish. Such capabilities are quite standard in medium-sized Earth stations. AsiaSat eventually decided to switch off the transponder for some hours. The pirate signal was gone when the transponder was re-started. This event underscores the vulnerability of, in this case, satellite TV broadcast. But similar attacks could be launched on many other types of (satcom) services. The equipment needed is commercially available and within financial reach of even rather small organizations. The attack can be launched from anywhere within the footprint of the satellite which, in most cases, includes neighbouring countries, some of which may be less than friendly. At least with bent-pipe satellites ("dumb" transponders that receive and re-broadcast anything within their frequency band), the most common technology today, very few defenses exist against such attacks. Also, locating the perpetrator is difficult since the signal is transmitted upwards in a highly directive beam and therefore is undetectable at ground level unless you are very close to the transmitter. Qinetic of Britain claim to have a method to determine the position of a transmitting station by comparing the signal with weaker copies of the same signal transponded through nearby satellites. Little detail of their satID system is given in the article.
A television station in Raleigh, North Carolina (U.S.A.) created a Web interface so local businesses could submit closure information during inclement weather. Although participants had to register and receive human approval, there was apparently no further review of the submissions before they appeared on-air. Judging from the screenshots the hack went on for many hours before being discovered. Gallery http://www.networksynapse.net/gallery/News14?page=1 Discussions http://www.securityfocus.org/news/8191 http://www.lostremote.com/archives/000366.html
http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2004/12/01/CanadianTire-ATM.041201.html [For the non-Canadians out there, an intro to Canadian Tire money: http://www2.canadiantire.ca/CTenglish/ctmoney.html] A CIBC cash machine at a mall near Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada dispensed an assortment of 11 Canadian Tire bills in denominations ranging from 10 cents to $2 instead of legitimate Canadian cash. The bogus cash reportedly must have originated from business customers. [Source: CBC.CA, 2 Dec 2004]
(Harry Neumann, RISKS-23.61) I pasted the German version into three free translator sites: Google Language Tools http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en Altavista Babelfish http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/tr Freetranslator <http://freetranslation.com/> Google gives the same English version as the one Harry Neumann had noted, so that is probably what was used. Altavista's result is just as weird except for "Vatican city", while Freetranslator seems to do a much better job (although not perfect). > (Why other place names were not subjected to this treatment > remains a mystery). It seems like some of them were: Isle of Man -> Isle of one Jersey -> jersey (lower case indicates clothing, not island or cow) Ulf Lindqvist, Computer Science Laboratory, SRI International
I have always assumed that the tendency to use Windows for everything stems from a perception that development is less expensive for the more standard systems. This perception might even be correct. However, I'm not sure I'd want a programmer who couldn't learn a new environment writing a glass cockpit, and I have seen Windows based glass cockpits advertised. Recently, several people have mentioned using OS X, and now other BSD derivatives for special purpose turnkey systems such as ATMs. The basic quality might be higher, but these general purpose projects still spend a lot of time developing and adding features irrelevant here. It seems to me that the QNX and its competitors are meant for such applications and would have serious advantages. I'd especially expect more stability and better long term support.
In Risks Digest 23.61, "J.E. Cripps" <email@example.com> wrote: > If someone can't find those few minutes over a two year period, then fine, > keep them out of the voting booth. I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in Pennsylvania, USA, we have elections in April and November of every year. I don't think six months is sufficient time to overhaul the electoral process in the way you suggest. By the way, your suggestion would disenfranchise me. Since I'm disabled and homebound, I would be unable to present my birth certificate in person at the office of the Board of Elections.
I found the following on the BBC's site. The RISK here is, of course, did Lycos take care of all the (mainly legal) aspects of such a sponsored DoS attack against spammers? Knowing how spammers work, they would either find a way to make someone else pay for their increased bandwidth, or sue Lycos for lost revenues (or both). After all, the targeted sites are probably quite legal, and it may be easier to associate the attacking screensavers with Lycos, than to associate the targeted sites with the spam that advertises them. A screensaver targeting spam-related websites could help drive spammers out of business. Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/technology/4051553.stm
It seems that what I had predicted just 2 days ago has already happened; again from the BBC's site: A controversial anti-spam campaign by Lycos Europe appears to have been put on hold. Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/-/2/hi/technology/4065751.stm
I received the following today. My response is below. firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: > Dear ACM Member, > > We are redesigning parts of the acm.org website to make it more > member-friendly, informative, and easily navigable, and we would like your > assistance in this effort. > > You can help us by taking a moment to complete our ACM website survey > located at: > http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=71148761076 > > The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, and your > answers will be kept confidential and considered only in aggregate > form. Your participation will help us to identify ACM's most valuable > content and functionality, and at a later time, you will also have the > opportunity to provide feedback on actual suggested website redesigns. Are you aware that this request is indistinguishable from a phishing scam? The link you provide is NOT within the acm.org domain, and the message is not authenticated (i.e., in PGP-signed). My guess is it's probably legitimate, but you are contributing to the problem by not making it possible for recipients to unambiguously distinguish this from phishing. I continue to be extremely disappointed by ACM's apparent ivory-tower unawareness of what actually goes on in the real world.
W> eBay and similar companies should eliminate these public W> servers that serve up static images for e-mail and should pay W> attention to referrer information to refuse images being sent to W> pages other than their own. Checking referrer headers at the content HTTP server is not necessarily the wisest course of action. It is easy to do wrongly, has maintenance problems for the publisher, and is conceptually shaky as well. And it isn't addressing the issue actually at hand, in any event. The far better way to address the issue at hand is one that many people have been advocating for quite some time now, for this and other reasons: ensure that all MUAs are designed *not to automatically fetch external content* when displaying messages (with body parts of any sort, not just "text/html", moreover). The RISK? Thinking that RFC 2017 is a good idea. (-: I'm not aware of anything as detailed as the GNKSoA and the GNKSoA:MUA for web browsers and HTML display engines, but were there one, one of my suggestions for inclusion in it, that pertains here, would be the display of (CIS) URLs broken-down into their component pieces, preventing the confusion between domain parts and usernames that is often also exploited by these electronic mail scams. W> Probably the only true answer is for eBay, my credit card company, W> and all of these other vendors to start digitally signing their mail. It is interesting to note how many of these same companies make a point of noting that they provide end-to-end validation when one is accessing their web sites (For the case of eBay, for example, see <URL:http://pages.ebay.com./securitycenter/avoiding_fraud.html#secure>.), and yet fail to do the same thing for their electronic mail communications. However, one should always bear in mind that the architecture of SMTP-based Internet electronic mail is the architecture of paper mail. The former is simply, and solely, cheaper ("There are fewer electrons in an electronic mail message than in a sheet of paper. So it's cheaper by weight."), allowing the architectural flaws to be revealed more readily. Digital signatures *are* the tool for determining whether a message came from whom it purports to have come from. However, look at paper mail and consider: When you last received a paper communication from such a company, was it on mass-printed stationery with a computer-printed copy of someone's signature at the end? How did you know that that was the correct signature? What steps did you take to validate it? Do you even know what the person's correct signature is supposed to look like? When you next contacted the company, did you use the contact information (telephone number, et al.) supplied at the bottom of such a letter? When you telephoned the company's customer account line using the telephone number from the letter, did you supply your account number and password to the complete stranger on the other end of the line?
> JIM HORNING responded: I also suspect that we are probably going to have > to give up the use of html in e-mail. I seem to get an awful lot of legitimate HTML e-mail. I don't think that HTML is the problem. My hope is that some of the "low hanging fruit" (e.g., servers like static.ebaypics.com) can be fixed, at least increasing the marginal cost of business for spammers. These guys are all about thin marginal profits multiplied by huge numbers of messages. If you can make those messages even a little more expensive, you hurt the spammers.
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