Microsoft will release a security update for Internet Explorer that will also change how users interact with Web sites. By Gregg Keizer, TechWeb.com, 11 Apr 2006 Microsoft Corp. will release Tuesday a security update for Internet Explorer that will also change how users interact with Web sites. Some sites that rely on popular ActiveX controls, such as Apple's QuickTime, RealNetworks' RealPlayer, and Adobe's Flash and Acrobat, are likely to give users fits. The change, which Microsoft has been warning Web site developers about since December 2005, was made to abide by a ruling in a patent infringement lawsuit Microsoft lost in 2003 to the University of California and its startup, Eolas Technologies Inc. With the changes rolled out in a mandatory security fix, any IE user who downloads and installs Tuesday's security patches — either manually or via an automated system such as Microsoft Update — will likely need to modify how they use those sites which haven't been rewritten. What should users expect? ... http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=185300378
The following story was posted by Mike Williams, of the UK, a few days ago in rec.puzzles (without a usable email address where I could ask permission to forward it here). This copy was edited for typos. I used to work on the S.W.I.F.T. payments system, and even that wasn't 100% perfect at eliminating duplicates and spotting omissions. In the many years that I worked with the system, we had one situation where everybody followed the rules, and yet a payment for ten million pounds got lost. It all started when an operator at Bank A mistyped 10,000,000 instead of 20,000,000 on the initial payment. The error was spotted pretty quickly - banks have systems in place for double checking the total amount that gets paid in and out. The operator could have sent a cancellation for 10,000,000 and a new payment for 20,000,000 and all would have been well, but cancellations can take days to process and someone would have to pay the overnight interest. What actually happened was that they sent a second payment for the remaining 10,000,000. Now Bank A happened to use a system whereby the SWIFT Transaction Sequence Number is the same as the initial paperwork that caused the payment to be made, so the two payment messages were sent with the same TSN, the same amount, date, payer and payee. In fact the two payment messages were identical. (My bank didn't work like that, my programs always used a unique TSN, but that's partly because I wanted to use our TSN as a unique index on our outgoing files to make the coding simpler). Unfortunately, at some point in its journey round the world, the initial payment hit a comms glitch. These were the days when electronic data communications were far less reliable than they are now. The relay station didn't get a confirmation ("ACK") so it sent a copy of the message with a "PDS" marker (Possibly duplicated by SWIFT network). When the payments arrived at Bank B, they got passed to one of my programs that checks the possible duplicates. Because the payments were 100% identical, and one of them was flagged "PDS", that payment was dumped into the "real duplicate" file. Mike Williams, Gentleman of Leisure [Forwarded to RISKS by Mark Brader]
After merging in 2003, the Norwegian banks DnB and Gjensidige NOR (now DnB NOR), finally finished moving their customers onto a common platform earlier this year. This did not go as smoothly as planned, though; in some cases company accounts and private accounts now require the same login, which in some cases have forced users to disclose their private accounts to others wanting to access company accounts. In other cases, old access rights have been activated again. In one case a man had his account emptied by his ex-wife, and in another case a mother was granted access to her 37 year old sons account. Both The Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway and The Data Inspectorate are a little cross with DnB NOR, and has asked them for more information about the problem. The bank, on the other hand, is trying to put a positive spin on the whole thing, claiming that all this is good for the customer and that it gives the customers better overview of their accounts. Somehow I don't think their customers agree. : <URL:http://www.dnbnor.com/> : <URL:http://www.vg.no/pub/vgart.hbs?artid=142282> (Norwegian) : <URL:http://www.dn.no/forsiden/naringsliv/article756284.ece> (Norwegian) : <URL:http://www.kredittilsynet.no/> : <URL:http://www.datatilsynet.no/> : <URL:http://www.dn.no/privatokonomi/article753237.ece> (Norwegian)
The identities of 20,000 former police complainants in Hong Kong have been made public on the Internet. The database, which contained highly confidential information, was discovered a few days ago on the website of a private company. The Independent Police Complaints Council has apologised for the security lapse and is currently conducting an investigation into the matter. Critics are now asking how the sensitive details were leaked in the first place. [Reported by Huey Fern Tay on Radio Australia's Asia Pacific web-page http://www.abc.net.au/ra/asiapac/]
[Much of this item will be familiar to old-time RISKS readers, but is included to remind us that many old risks are still present. PGN] Embedded bugs can kill people. Many bugs can be detected by thorough testing, or release the product without spending money on good testing, and wait until it kills people, then you know you got bugs. Guess which approach is most popular? Software to analyse other software to detect Bugs is much in demand. How effective and economical is that state-of-art? As compared to doing proper testing, for example. Traditional software (not embedded) has testing tools that can capture script of normal operations so as to test what happens after minor software changes. It sounds like this kind of comprehensive automated testing is not in use where it is most needed. At the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, California, attendees discussed how software practices can mean the difference between life and death. http://www.embedded.com/esc/sv/ * The Therac 25, designed to treat tumors with carefully targeted radiation, killed three patients with radiation overdoses due to programming errors. * Inspections of software after the crash of a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter revealed 500 errors, including 50 critical ones, in just the first 17 percent of code tested. One wonders if the testing after the crash was better than the testing before implementation, and if litigation will lead to a better budget for testing before next disaster strikes. * Electronic Smog is when instruments are inadequately shielded from interference from other electronic instruments. Engineers have known of this risk for decades, but new technology producers are perpetually rediscovering this phenomena. * A classic example of this is Japanese Bullet Train Doors opening when passing Apartment Complexes due to lots of kids playing Electronic Toys. This can kill passengers sucked out of the trains in the decompression. * Pacemaker patients have had their devices inadvertently reprogrammed when walking through metal detectors. In 2003, the pacemaker of a woman in Japan was accidentally reprogrammed by her rice cooker. * There have been a spate of problems with software in autos. One report suggests that large software systems of more than a million lines of code may have as many as 20,000 errors, 1,800 of them still unresolved after a year. In my experience, such bugs are not evenly distributed, but are related to quality of programmers, programmer tools, testing, tech support (when alleged bugs are reported), project oversight, leading to clusters of systemic bugs some places, and almost total absence of bugs other places. http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=185300011 http://dso.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=185300246 http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060411/sftu082.html?.v=54
> I would propose this Basic safety concept: before the system will allow > itself to move into dangerous situations, the pilot must confirm that he > is aware of the specific danger involved. [...] As a (admittedly inactive) private pilot, I have to respond to this suggestion by saying "No way!!" One reason is an even more basic safety concept: No autopilot or other device should ever be permitted to move the flight controls in ways that the crew cannot override. The reason is that it is impossible to predict all the circumstances in which a malfunctioning "safety device" might itself cause a hazard that is impossible to prevent without overriding it. More generally, automation tends to carry hazards in practice that do not exist in theory. For example, one light airplane manufacturer once came up with what looked on the surface like a wonderful safety innovation: Whenever the airplane is flying more slowly than a given limit, the wheels come down by themselves. No more gear-up landings, right? Wrong. In practice, it turned out that the automatic gear extension mechanism failed more often than pilots forgot to lower manual gear explicitly, so there were *more* gear-up landings rather than fewer. Eventually, the FAA required the auto-extension system to be deactivated. I can also imagine an altitude-based "safety system" forcing an airplane to fly into terrain if there is a sudden cabin depressurization that might have otherwise been survivable, or — even worse — if the sensor that measures cabin pressure malfunctions, indicating a depressurization when in fact none exists. I see nothing intrinsically wrong with a cabin depressurization warning (and I imagine that pressurized airplanes already have them, though I've never flown one myself). I wouldn't even mind if an emergency depressurization instructed the autopilot to descend in case the crew were incapacitated--especially if the autopilot is coupled to a navigation system that knows enough to avoid terrain. But unless incapacitated, the pilot in command should be in command.
Don Norman contributed an item: "Motorist trapped in traffic circle for 14 hours" to RISKS-24.22 on 1 Apr 2006. This reminded me of the following. I checked, and I was surprised to find that no one seemed to have reported it to RISKS, although it smells to me very much like an engine control system failure, and possibly a software failure. It was widely reported in the UK press at the time. The following is one account by Nick Britten, which I found on-line, originally printed in the *Daily Telegraph*. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/11/ntrapped11.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/03/11/ixportaltop.html The comment by the driver regarding the power steering and the reaction of BMW, are particularly interesting. - - - - A motorist was trapped in his car driving at almost 130mph for 60 miles after the accelerator jammed. Kevin Nicolle, 25, was unable to stop the automatic BMW going at top speed after the malfunction on the A1. Kevin Nicolle: 'I couldn't get the pedal off the floor' His terrifying journey, which was followed by four police cars and a helicopter, ended when he smashed the car into a roundabout, flipping it on its roof. ... Mr Nicolle was driving back from friends in Newcastle to his home in Southsea, Hants, last Sunday, when the accelerator on his automatic BMW 318 jammed at Catterick, near junction 53 of the A1. [PGN-ed] Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB +44 (0)20 7040 8422
The BMW incident reported upon by Peter Mellor is eerily similar to the fake incident that I contributed to the April Fools' edition of RISKS-24.22, 1 Apr 2006. My incident, which I carefully created to be as realistic as I could make it, fooled a few people. Moreover, I believe it could actually happen. I was just in Cambridge (UK) and at a talk, I showed a slide of my fake news story. The audience responded by describing the BMW incident. There was some discussion that this particular auto has a "drive-by-wire" control: that is, the throttle pedal no longer has a mechanical link, but instead signals the car's electronic control modules. In automobile language, this is called "Electronic throttle control": ETC. BMW calls it EDR, or possibly EMR. At least one aviation safety specialist at the Cambridge meeting said that his car has this, and he prefers it, because now throttle position controls speed, so that as long as the foot is held constant, the car maintains constant speed, even up and down hills. (And, if the newspaper story is correct, even if you take your foot off the pedal and attempt to apply the brakes.) See RISKS for 1988: "Drive by wire" autos in development (RISKS-6.48). Yes, to answer a question asked in that RISKS submission, BMW did introduce electronic throttle control in their 7 series autos in 1988. Caution: in the accident business, it is unwise to reply upon the initial newspaper reports. The official accident investigations, which can take a year or more to prepare, often have a very different slant on the incident. Perhaps Peter Mellor can follow up on this story when the official incident report is released. Don Norman. www.jnd.org [Later note from Don, Sun, 16 Apr 2006 18:41:40 -0700] By the way. I did some more research on the topic. Seems that stuck throttles were a continual event with old, mechanical throttles. The electronic throttles have received numerous complaints, but all of the ones I could find were about "unintended acceleration". Doing a web search for "electronic throttle accident" (without the quotes) is quite revealing. I still don't know enough about this class of potential accidents to offer definitive comment. But from what I can tell, automobile incidents will replace aircraft ones for the RISKS community. The more things change, ... Example: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating complaints that some Toyota Motor Corp. cars may suddenly accelerate or surge, causing one car to strike a pedestrian. The 2002 and 2003 Toyota Camry, Camry Solara and Lexus ES300 vehicles all come equipped with an electronic throttle control system, which the NHTSA said uses sensors to determine how much throttle is being applied. The NHTSA said 30 crashes have been attributed to the problem, with four accidents resulting in five injuries. The crashes "varied from minor to significant and may have involved other vehicles and/or building structures." The preliminary investigation is the first step in the investigative process. The NHTSA will contact Toyota to ask for documents pertaining to the issue, and could upgrade the investigation to an engineering analysis. More than 1 million Toyotas are covered by this investigation, according to the agency. Toyota officials could not immediately be reached for comment. [Source: NHTSA Investigating Toyota Cars For Sudden Acceleration, Sharon Silke Carty, Accident Reconstruction] http://www.accidentreconstruction.com/news/mar04/030804d.asp
Jerry Ravetz's item (http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/24.23.html#subj3) on Mapeley's involvement in Passport Agency biometric testing blurs the distinction between the current UK passport system, which uses a crude facial biometric process, and the upcoming biometric UK identity card system, which will undoubtedly be more complicated. Mapeley may or may not become involved in the UK ID card project - the procurement phase has only just begun (see http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2153478/id-card-scheme-moves). At present the UK Home Office suggests that the eventual ID card will likely use a combination of facial biometrics and iris-recognition, which will obviously be much less prone to error than a facial biometric alone (the passport system compiles its biometric template from the photograph supplied on application, so is presumably fairly likely to spit out false positives). Obviously when I say there is less opportunity for error, I'm talking about the richness of information on which authentication decisions can be based, not the implementation of the system. Clearly you can implement a system to create as many wrong decisions as you like. I have wondered whether it might be possible to apply for two biometric ID cards, under different names, and escape detection. According to one expert I've spoken to, iris-recognition applied to both eyes should be good enough to detect 99.99 percent of duplicate registration attempts - assuming there is a central register of templates where a new applicant can be compared with existing records. This is not yet certain for the UK system, but it is very likely. Again, the above level of confidence assumes the unlikely circumstance that there are no errors in implementation. (See http://lembingley.itweek.co.uk/2006/03/biometric_card__1.html for more). Of course you may get away with applications for two ID cards if you turn up for each test wearing an eye patch - on alternate eyes. Lem Bingley, Editor IT Week VNU BUSINESS PUBLICATIONS LIMITED, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London, W1A 2HG +44 (0) 20 7316 9000 http://www.itweek.co.uk
In this paper we address in detail how the recent DNS DDoS attacks work: how they abuse name servers, EDNS, the recursive feature and UDP packet spoofing, as well as how the amplification effect works. Our study is based on packet captures (we provide with samples) and logs from attacks on different networks reported to have a volume of 2.8Gbps. One of these networks indicated some attacks have reached as high as 10Gbps and used as many as 140,000 exploited name servers. In the conclusions we also discuss some remediation suggestions. Given recent events, we have been encouraged to make this text available at this time. http://www.isotf.org/news/DNS-Amplification-Attacks.pdf Please note that this version of this paper is prior to submission for publication and that the final version may see significant revisions. Randy Vaughn and Gadi Evron
I reacted, much as David Magda did, at the very odd notion of a "routine" system failure [in RISKS-24.24]. On further thought, an "ordinary" system failure (from buffer overrun, mishandled leap year, etc., etc.) can be meaningfully distinguished from a maliciously intended failure. If the document had been translated into English (though it presumably wasn't in the cited case), a translator might not have understood the delicate difference between 'ordinary' and 'routine'. This thought makes me wonder whether troubles might not, many times, be compounded by insufficient vetting of translations of the technical reports of various misfortunes.
Please report problems with the web pages to the maintainer