The Berlin daily newspaper "Tagesspiegel" reports on the reason for a massive traffic jam during rush hour on the morning of Nov. 8, 2005: http://archiv.tagesspiegel.de/archiv/09.11.2005/2163080.asp After a night of repairs to one of the autobahn tunnels in Berlin the crew wanted to test the fire alarm system. They tried starting some of the fire alarms, and were worried that the automatic gates that are to keep cars from entering a tunnel with a possible fire weren't closing right. They punched more and more alarms, and the gates on both tunnel tubes (work was going on in only one tube) suddenly banged closed - and the computer regulating them crashed. The gates failed safe - but they couldn't be opened again. Not by hand, and not by computer, which just refused to start again. They worked feverishly from 5am to 10am, trying to get the gates open again so that traffic (which is normally very heavy at that time of the morning), could move. [I'm glad I took the train yesterday! -dww] Police were able to evacuate cars trapped in the tunnel by way of an exit from the tunnel, which was not gated. A special complication was that the gates on the north end of the tunnel were made by a different company than the gates on the south end of the tunnel, this caused "additional problems". Which ones, are left to the comp.risks readers as an exercise. It is still not clear how the error happened or why the computer would not re-start, speculation has it that the computer couldn't handle so many fire alarms at the same time. Moral of the story: * It was good that the system failed safe. * It was bad that it did not seem able to handle the number of fire alarms that are installed in the tubes. * If you have different suppliers for parts, you want to make sure they are still delivering the same stuff. Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff, FHTW Berlin, Treskowallee 8, 10313 Berlin http://www.f4.fhtw-berlin.de/people/weberwu/ +49-30-5019-2320 InternatMedieninf
"The Tokyo Stock Exchange suffered its worst ever outage yesterday when trading was suspended for four and a half hours due to a software problem. A spokesman said that the glitch appeared to be connected to the decision to expand the trading system's capacity last month in response to high trading volumes. The modified system had worked well, but crashed when the automatic monthly clean-up of the software was implemented. A back-up system also failed because it uses the same software." http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2145336/software-bug-crashes-japanese Mark Bennison MBCS CITP
In a Q&A session about our airline's new staff travel online booking system, the following was asked: Q. I am unable to book [a flight] online because my date of joining is February 29. What should I do? A. Because you joined in a leap year the system is unable to identify your date of joining. You will need to ask Employee Services to change your date to February 28 for staff travel purposes. The risk: if the booking system doesn't recognise February 29 then there are going to be a lot of empty flights on that date!! In this post-Y2K age, it is astonishing that we are still suffering from such date issues and this is not even with legacy systems, but brand new ones.
The proposed modification to Daylight Saving Time (DST) mentioned in RISKS-23.94 has occurred. The US Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-58), so starting in 2007 DST in the US will no longer run from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, but instead will run from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. An added benefit is that after the change is implemented, Congress retains the right to undo the change and revert back to the 2005 DST schedules. See Report RS22284 from the Congressional Research Service, available at "http://www.opencrs.com/document/RS22284/" and "http://www.bna.com/webwatch/daylightsavings.pdf" and elsewhere, for more details. One wonders how well the embedded time-aware code in most electronic equipment will handle this.
Some prisoners were also let out too late, which is just as bad: http://www.wlns.com/Global/story.asp?S=4004197
Apparently garage doors and embassy gates are refusing to work because something in Ottawa is broadcasting on their radio controlled opener devices' frequencies and swamping them. No one seems to know who/what is doing it and some fingers point to the military use of that same frequency. The article from the CBC is at the URL below, and is also copied below it. This is, of course, a common problem as we run out of available radio bandwidth and try to cram more and more users into limited space. There is a possibility that the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. military stationed at the Embassy is responsible. Time will eventually tell. R. S. (Bob) Heuman http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/11/04/ottawa-signals051104.html Mystery signal blocking Ottawa door devices Last Updated Fri, 04 Nov 2005 09:37:24 EST CBC News Many automatic garage doors in Ottawa have suddenly, and strangely, stopped working, due to a powerful radio signal that appears to be interfering with the remote controls that open them. J.P. Cleroux of Ram Overhead Door Systems says the phenomenon began last weekend. "It affects a 25-mile radius. That's huge," said Cleroux. Angolan Ambassador Miguel Puna's operation is one of those affected by the problem. He can no longer open his embassy's electronic gate. "Not only in this gate, but even other gates, we are having a lot of problems," said Puna. "This could cause security concerns." Two companies that have plotted the reported problems on maps say they appear to cluster in the Byward Market area just east of Parliament Hill, and a corridor leading southeast from there. The Door Doctor has received more than 100 calls from irate customers who can't operate their doors using the usual remotes. The company installs and services Liftmasters, the most popular door opener in North America, which operates by radio frequency. The signal is transmitted on the 390-megahertz band, which is used by virtually all garage door openers on the continent. That's the same frequency used by the U.S. military's new state-of-the-art Land Mobile Radio System. Cleroux said operators have already been warned of this phenomenon by service updates from U.S. manufacturers, who started seeing the same problem around military bases last summer. The strong radio signals on the 390-megahertz band simply overpower the garage door openers. One technician likened it to a whisper competing with a yell. "From what we hear, it is the American Embassy that's operating on 390, and they're the only ones who can block it. But I'm not 100 per cent sure, because we're all kind of up in the air until we know exactly what's going on," said Cleroux. The U.S. Embassy denies any transmissions on that frequency. So does the Canadian military.
The t-mobile sidekick2 has the voicemail number hard-coded, so all I see is "voice mail". Last night, I checked it. It rings. (It isn't supposed to ring.) Someone answers. (Someone isn't supposed to answer.) I say "hmm. this is weird" to the lady. She says "what number are you trying to call?" I say, "well, I don't know!" So I decide then to call the support number, also built-in as "611". Someone else (not a t-mobile support jockey) answers "Hello?" It sounds similar to the woman I had just called so I ask "did I just call you a minute ago?" she says no. So I say, naturally, "is your number 611?" she says no. At this point I want to call my mother, to see if it was she who had called. A man whose voice I don't recognize answers. "Are you my mom?" I apologize for having the wrong number and hang up. This seemed to last for about 2 hours, and then everything seemed to come back to normal. The risk? Obvious. What if I needed to call 911. How reliable are the routing directories for cell phones? Are there backup systems in place for 911 routing (one can hope)? Who would I reach? Would they be able to help?
"Freddie Mac will reduce its profit for the first half of 2005 by $220 million because of an error caused by faulty accounting software, the mortgage finance company said yesterday. ... The error stems from a flaw in the accounting program Freddie Mac has used since 2001. In a recent review of the company's accounting system, Freddie Mac employees realized the software was routinely overstating the amount of interest that the housing finance company earned from certain types of mortgage-backed securities that it bought for investment purposes, spokesman Michael Cosgrove said." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/08/AR2005110801778.html Nothing very surprising there - I assume there are probably bugs in nearly accounting software, just as there is in all other software. What's surprising is that we don't see these sorts of errors more frequently. Or maybe it's just that this one was big enough that it was noticed, while similar errors exist elsewhere and are never noticed. Again, this shouldn't be surprising - when companies did their books by hand, there were doubtless always errors, no matter how many people reviewed them. "Lynn E. Turner, a former chief accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission, said this error indicates the company did not adequately test its accounting systems when they were first installed." This quote, on the other hand, bothered me. Does this guy understand that testing can only find the presence of errors, never their absence? Yes, all of us would like to see more testing, but it's impossible to ever test enough. As auditors pay more attention to finances and controls as part of Sarbanes Oxley reviews, will these sorts of disclosures become more common? --Jeremy
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff | November 4, 2005 Fast Lane double-billed 8,498 accounts this week, an error Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials attributed yesterday to the electronic toll company running the system. The computer glitch drew money Tuesday out of credit card and checking accounts belonging to Fast Lane customers, then mistakenly docked the same customers Wednesday. The total wrongly withdrawn could amount to tens of thousands of dollars, said the Turnpike spokeswoman, Mariellen Burns [...] http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/11/04/some_fast_lane_accounts_double_billed/
The global music giant Sony BMG yesterday announced plans to recall millions of CDs by at least 20 artists — from the crooners Celine Dion and Neil Diamond to the country-rock act Van Zant — because they contain copy restriction software that poses risks to the computers of consumers. [...] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/16/technology/16sony.html Note that in addition to the other problems, the copy protection software in question also apparently tried to establish surreptitious Internet connections with Sony-related servers! What's really remarkable about this is that any competent outside analysis in advance of the deployment would have raised a dozen different red flags. I am in general quite sympathetic to concerns about music and film piracy, but this kind of "shoot self in foot" action by Sony does nothing but hurt the industries' own best interests. The record labels' and studios' managements need to invite in some *straight talkers* regarding these technical issues — for high-level consultations, ASAP. — Lauren Lauren Weinstein +1 (818) 225-2800 http://www.pfir.org/lauren firstname.lastname@example.org PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com http://lauren.vortex.com email@example.com [For a nice analysis of the Sony mess, see Bruce Schneier's blog entry: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/11/sonys_drm_rootk.html The situation is too complicated and in flux for me to summarize here. PGN]
Developers have created a new pastime, fauxjacking, that mashes together GPS mobile phones and Google Maps. One fauxjacking service, Mologogo, requires only a $60 GPS-enabled phone and the use of a mobile carrier's Internet services to work. People can use the free, downloadable Mologogo Java application (available at www.mologogo.com) to create real-time visual records of their movements. Push pins on the Google maps show the times the tracked device was in a particular location. (Excerpt) http://www.boston.com/business/personaltech/articles/2005/10/31/new_phones_for_skypers/
David Kesmodel, *The Wall Street Journal* online, 19 Oct 2005, B1 Spam, long the scourge of email users, rapidly has become the bane of bloggers too. Spammers have created millions of Web logs to promote everything from gambling Web sites to pornography. The spam blogs — known as "splogs" -- often contain gibberish, and are full of links to other Web sites spammers are trying to promote. Because search engines like those of Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. base their rankings of Web sites, in part, on how many other Web sites link to them, the splogs can help artificially inflate a site's popularity. Some of the phony blogs also carry advertisements, which generate a few cents for the splog's owner each time they are clicked on. The phony blogs are a particular problem for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo because each offers not only a Web search engine focused on providing the most relevant results for users but also a service to let bloggers create blogs. Just this past weekend, Google's popular blog-creation tool, Blogger, was targeted in an apparently coordinated effort to create more than 13,000 splogs, the search giant said. The splogs were laced with popular keywords so that they would appear prominently in blog searches, and several bloggers complained online that that the splogs were gumming up searches for legitimate sites. ... http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112968552226872712-8b5l_fijhNltE4s7DX6tvLI9XNo_20061025.html
Google currently represents virtually a textbook example of the complex interplay between innovative, socially positive inventions and developments on one hand, and oppressively dangerous technological arrogance on the other. Or as the fictional David St. Hubbins of the film "This is Spinal Tap" put it more simply around twenty years ago: "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." We can look to history for other examples, though the analogies will of course never be perfect. Microsoft is one recent case where an attitude that many considered to be arrogant appears to have been somewhat tempered by financial, legal, and political realities. Microsoft will survive. Not so AT&T's "Mother Knows Best" Ma Bell. While the name AT&T will live on as the new moniker of another generally arrogant firm — SBC Communications -- AT&T for most practical purposes has imploded. History teaches us much. The controversies over Google Print for Libraries share some aspects with ill-fated attempts to essentially abolish copyrights after the French Revolution — for the presumed betterment of society. Attributes such as technological brilliance and visionary thinking can be used not only to describe many at Google, but also the phalanx of individuals who created the atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project. Like those at Google, the minds behind the first nuclear weapons were convinced that they were working for the good of mankind, and — I believe it's fair to say — were in many cases blinded by sheer technological enthusiasm to the more ominous aspects of their creations. While Google isn't building physical weapons of mass destruction, a very real mix of extremely potent positive and negative impacts on society, and a range of complex risks that need to be fully understood, are increasingly coming into focus relating to Google's operations. Such powerful forces can sometimes be managed successfully to truly exclude evil, but only when those in charge recognize that their own intellects and even good will are insufficient to prevent the "great machines" from being used in ways that can seriously damage individuals and society. It's all too easy not only to be blinded by science, but also to create mechanisms that can be horrendously abused by entities who don't necessarily share the benevolent philosophies of their creators. There are things that Google could do immediately to potentially ameliorate this situation, but only if their powers-that-be recognize that there are intelligent folks outside of the current Google circle who understand these issues in ways that could avoid a lot of problems for Google — and for the rest of us. One relatively simple step would be for Google to create a permanent advisory panel or committee of respected outside individuals well versed on policy and risk issues associated with technology and its impacts on and interactions with society. Such a committee would likely make both public and private reports (the latter protecting proprietary information and plans as appropriate). If such a committee had appropriate access within Google, and if Google were genuinely willing to pay serious attention to the ongoing recommendations of such a group, it is likely not only that future risks to society, but also future risks to Google's own business, could be greatly reduced, and Google's own prospects enhanced as a result. I can squeeze in one more movie reference. In the classic science fiction film "Forbidden Planet" (1956), we learn of a world where a magnificent and supremely benevolent race of advanced beings built a gigantic, fantastic machine to provide for the physical, intellectual, and spiritual advancement of their society. But the Krell, these marvelous creatures, were so enmeshed in the project, and so close to the problems that they were trying to solve, that they failed to fully understand the implications of their creation's power. When they activated their great machine, its interactions with the long-suppressed dark side of their minds resulted in their entire civilization being destroyed in a single night — by their own "creatures from the Id" — empowered by the machine itself despite its noble purpose. Good intentions don't always equal good results, and forewarned is forearmed. Let's do better than the Krell. Lauren Weinstein Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 DayThink: http://daythink.vortex.com Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
http://www.thisisbroken.com/b/2005/10/blue_card_chip_.html [A strange saga on what exactly the Amex Blue Card Chip does, or how to get blue chipping away at attempts to get an explanation. PGN]
First have a look at this story... http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/15/vehicle_movement_database/ Summary: a network of number-plate recognition cameras is being constructed. These will allow police to find people driving without correct tax and insurance. Conveniently this can be done without a new law. Now read on... (from a colleague of mine) > Last night on the way home my number plate was scanned on the M27 and > reported to the police because the automated records indicated that I had > not paid my road tax. I was duly stopped by a nice motor cycle police man > (called Chipps I think... remember the series!) who checked the road tax > (all duly paid almost a month ago). He then had to spend 5 mins filling > in a form as this had to be regarded as an official "stop" event, whilst > muttering that the DVLA only update the system once a month and had the > most inaccurate updated data in the system!!!. > > Hence technology + Automation + DVLA = 5 mins wasted police time > > Now how many motorists re tax each month? and what percentage > are stopped? So how much waster Police time is that? For non UK readers M27 = motorway (UK) / autoroute (France) / autobahn (Germany) DVLA = Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency who administer vehicle taxing and licensing in the UK Alan Fitch, Doulos Ltd. Church Hatch, 22 Market Place, Ringwood, Hampshire, BH24 1AW, UK +44 (0)1425 471223 http://www.doulos.com firstname.lastname@example.org
I have my phone listed under a bogus name - The phone company lets you use whatever name you want -- 1. Cheaper than unlisted - no additional charge 2. Bogus name comes up on CLID - all my friends/acquaintances know who it is. 3. Marketeers who call (and /only/ marketeers) use the bogus name - instant hang-up/ "you have the wrong number" 4. The phone company - if they call - has always used my real name (in case you're wondering) 5. It also helps detect direct mail marketeers (who use phone records for mailing lists) 6. (No need to block ID) I have not seen any down side with this approach (Reverse lookups document the bogus name) RISKSharvesting@bogusaddress.com P.M. Wexelblat PhD, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell, One University Ave, Lowell, MA 01854
Interestingly, no password was the default for T-Mobile customers for the past several years, but in October the system was updated, and now requires that customers set a password, and T-Mobile now recommends enabling password security, but does provide information on their web site for customers who want to turn the feature off: T-Mobile recommends that you turn on your VoiceMail password for added security, but the choice is yours. The risks are obvious--to everyone except decision-makers at Cingular. Apparently TMO realized the risks — after massive press coverage of their celebrity customer's voicemail and contact lists being "hacked".
Christopher Steel, Ramesh Nagappan, Ray Lai Core Security Patterns: Best Practices and Strategies for J2EE, Web Services, and Identity Management Prentice Hall 2006 (first printing Sep 2005) Clifford J. Berg High-Assurance Design: Architecting Secure and Reliable Enterprise Applications Addison-Wesley 2006 (first printing Oct 2005)
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