Today Google and Sun Microsystems announced a joint venture, and while their grand plan seems somewhat murky at this point, there is speculation that their goal is to move toward "hosted" versions of applications (such as Sun's "StarOffice") that would run largely on remote central servers instead of local users' PCs, theoretically allowing access from any Internet location. This would presumably present formidable competition to Microsoft's own software products. Whether or not this is actually the Google/Sun target, it's worth taking a moment to review where we stand right now regarding Google in some important respects. Google keeps records of your searches, and can tie them to other activities via cookies. Google scans the e-mail you send and receive through Gmail. Google collects a variety of information on your other browsing activities through various optional toolbars and services. Google wants to make copies of copyrighted books without paying for them. Arguments about how they might make "snippets" of such materials available in "Google Print" aside, the internal R&D value alone of that collection to Google would presumably be immense, and all without sending a dime to the copyright holders. When CNET ran a story using Google to research data on Google's chief exec, Google reacted like an enraged and petulant child. Now, with the new Sun Micro deal, if hosted versions of word processing and related applications are developed and deployed by the joint Google and Sun team, Google could quite possibly be tied into your document editing and other Office-like activities if you use such services. Google refuses to hire a privacy officer (after all, they're the "Trust us -- First do no evil" company, and they're smarter than everyone else about... well... everything, right?) Google refuses to detail their data retention policies or the extent to which they make that growing corpus of data available to outside entities. Of course, it's Sun's Scott McNealy who has famously said: "You have no privacy, get over it" and who suggested that consumer privacy is a "red herring" issue. Let's face it, the writing isn't only on the wall, it's dripping off and collecting in putrid pools on the floor. "Trust us" is not enough. Why does Google so strenuously resist at least consulting with the privacy community? What have they got to lose if everything they're doing is on the up and up? (I'm certainly willing to assume that this is currently the case.) Why do they take such a masochistic approach when it might be possible with a relatively few changes to let in the fresh air? Here's my free advice to Google. Pick up the phone and start talking to folks who quite possibly might have more experience dealing with these issues than you do, and might even be able to help you. I for one would be much happier if I could support Google's efforts rather than having to be concerned every time they announce a new project. Hell, my number is listed below. I'd be glad to chat. But I won't be holding my breath waiting for their call. Lauren Weinstein firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 http://www.pfir.org/lauren http://www.pfir.org http://www.eepi.org Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com DayThink: http://daythink.vortex.com
Reference  (from Joyce McCloy [of NCVV]) is fascinating. It is an exchange between an attorney at Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (DESI) and the general counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections. It mostly centers around a few incidents that occurred in Gaston Co., NC. It is a great illustration of a number of worrying characteristics of the vendor/jurisdiction relationship typical of modern election systems. : http://www.josephhall.org/nqb2/media/GastonDiebold2004.pdf : http://www.ncvoter.net/ Three incidents are of particular note: 1. In one city, Dallas, NC, a bug appears to have prevented the downloading of 11,945 votes which wasn't caught for seven days. At which point, it appears the county compared paper print-outs from the precinct with the totals reported by the tabulation server. A DESI technician reproduced the bug twice and then decided to forgo usual DESI protocol and loaded the flash-based memory packs directly into the central (GEMS) server to retrieve the votes from the memory pack. 2. In another case, another memory pack "failed to download" and the DESI technician got approval to send a back-up file electronically to DESI technicians who then e-mailed the results back. After writing this data to a memory pack, the on-site technician loaded them into the central server via a tabulator unit. 3. Finally, the document describes hand-entering of "three to five" ballots. DESI claims as a "check and balance" this process doesn't allow the technician to enter more votes than the total vote count (that is, the number of valid plus spoiled ballots). This would implicate that one would be prevented from entering more than a certain number of votes, but, of course, does nothing to constrain what votes are entered. A human looking over the technician's shoulder is the only other constraint. I've posted more below the fold: <http://josephhall.org/nqb2/index.php/2005/10/03/desi_nc> Joseph Lorenzo Hall, UC Berkeley, SIMS PhD Student <http://josephhall.org/> blog: <http://josephhall.org/nqb2/>
Kathy Uek, MetroWest Daily News, 2 Oct 2005 A two-car accident on Rte. 20 in Marlborough in front of Burger King sent several people to area hospitals, including one who was flown by medical helicopter to a Worcester hospital. Police said a handicapped-equipped two-seat Dodge van was traveling on Rte. 20 when it hit a Lexus traveling in the opposite direction yesterday at about 11:30 a.m. "The disabled driver's arm began twitching," said Officer Rob Insani. "Since the controls are on the steering wheel, he couldn't control the car and it seems like he swerved into the oncoming lane." ... http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=110555
In the Windows XP command interpreter CMD.EXE (the default command line shell) one can specify multiple arguments to the DEL(ete) command, in order to delete multiple files. If at least one of the files can be deleted, the command will not complain about any nonexistent files specified as arguments. For example: C:\> echo.>foo C:\> del nonexistent foo C:\> del nonexistent Could Not Find C:\nonexistent This behavior is non-orthogonal and risky. If one mistypes the name of one of several files that are to be deleted, that file will silently continue to exist. The same will happen if one of the files has the hidden attribute set: DEL will silently ignore it, rather than issue an error message. Although one should not depend on a delete command to reliably obliterate data, the current behavior can lead to difficult-to-locate bugs, especially in scripts. Further examination of the command reveals other instances of non-orthogonal behavior. When specifying multiple non-existent files as arguments, DEL will complain only about the first one, but when specifying multiple files with the read-only attribute set, DEL will complain about each one. Also DEL, never sets the ERRORLEVEL environment variable to indicate an error, although other commands, like DIR, set it correctly. The logic behind a correctly-operating implementation of DEL is trivial. errorlevel = 0 foreach filename if not delete(filename) then display_error_message(filename) errorlevel = 1 end if end foreach exit(errorlevel) If a central and critical piece of the Windows operating system, such as the command shell, can't get the above logic right, what are the chances of having in the system a secure TCP/IP stack, web browser, or firewall? Diomidis Spinellis - http://www.spinellis.gr
A recent discussion in news:sci.electronics.repair concerned late-model RCA television sets that would suddenly lose their sound. Two repair technicians stated that they could find nothing physically wrong with the sets, and that unplugging the set for a while seemed to cure the problem. One technician later posted this link: http://www.iwaynet.net/~nesda/SilentCTC.html According to that article, a device from one particular manufacturer that is used to insert closed captioning and other data into the video stream is generating data that has two bits more than the specification. These two extra bits were causing the microprocessor in the television to become confused. The article claims that Sony, Hitachi, and Philips sets are also affected. That article is dated June 2001, but the discussion in the newsgroup appears to indicate that this problem has occurred more recently than that.
Recently, a former critic of telephone company "Caller ID Services" (more properly "Calling Number ID" - CNID) has publicly stated that he has changed his mind and now feels that our concerns (I'm a CNID critic of long standing myself) have turned out to be unjustified. With all due respect, I must strongly disagree. First, there's a logical flaw in the argument that simply because one doesn't perceive or experience the sorts of problems cited, that they don't exist -- or that they wouldn't exist even with less or no blocking of CNID. These are both incorrect. In fact, CNID has now become even more dangerous than we ever imagined. Taking the latter point first, we have no way to know how many problems have been and continue to be avoided by the use of CNID blocking. Most people sensitive to these concerns have been using blocking all along, so by definition to the extent that they're not making non-blockable 800/900-type ANI calls they are relatively protected. Business collection of CNID info may have been somewhat suppressed by the heavy usage of blocking, but if there were less blocking there would almost certainly be more collection since it would become a more valuable resource. And yet, most of the horror stories still *do* take place. You may not hear about them, but in my role as PRIVACY Forum moderator I frequently get reports that are utterly nightmarish. Spousal abuse facilitated by CNID, massive abuse by businesses that *do* collect the CNID data, and then use it as an excuse to claim exemptions from the "do not call" lists, and all manner of other problems, some of them life threatening, and particularly bad in regions that don't offer per-line blocking, where one can easily forget to dial the block code on an individual call. But our crystal ball *was* foggy, in that we never predicted the new CNID scourge that has actually been putting even more lives at risk - -- CNID Spoofing. This is becoming very widespread and is being used by crooks, scam artists, stalkers, collection agencies, pranksters, and so on -- and is a total mess. The telcos in general so far can't/won't do anything about this -- it may not be fixable in a practical sense -- and this spoofing is rapidly being commercialized, using PRI telephone trunks and VoIP interfaces. Both CNID number and name info can be easily spoofed in most cases via these systems. It's an enormous problem and getting rapidly worse, and is poised to blow up in a big way in the public sphere, and really give CNID yet another new and very serious black eye. In a comment to a PRIVACY Forum message in 1993, I suggested that, "As a practical matter, 'spoofing' of caller ID (CNID) systems should not be a significant problem in modern, properly implemented systems." The last three words in that quote are key. We did not anticipate that untrusted parties would gain routine access to such sensitive aspects of the telephone network in a manner that would allow such abuse. Lauren Weinstein +1 (818) 225-2800 http://www.pfir.org http://www.eepi.org http://daythink.vortex.com Moderator PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Time out to start. Has Geoff Kuenning done any research about the impact of Caller ID, or is this one of those situations where someone projects their personal experience and assumes that it applies to everyone. I've been seeing descriptions of the negative consequences of Caller ID for years, including murders, in publications such as Privacy Journal: http://www.privacyjournal.net/ In discussions with people I often notice a gender split. Men tend to think that Privacy is mainly concerned with junk mail, telemarketing and spam, while women tend to assume that it is more to do with not being confronted by someone they wish to have No Contact with. > Then a few privacy advocates noticed that there was a dark side: if > you called a local business, it could capture your number with CNID > and add you to a telemarketing list. Suddenly CNID changed from a > beneficial service to a nefarious plot. There is far more to the issue and to the concerns. Caller ID for a hardline phone places you at a particular location. That isn't necesarily the case for cellular phones, unless someone with access to tower or GPS data for that mobile phone can be corrupted. Prepaid cellular solves much of the billing data privacy issue. I do agree with Geoff Kuenning's comments about cell phones "solving" some Caller ID problems. > What happened? The answer is simply that I was wrong about the evils of > CNID, and wrong about the (perceived lack of) benefits. That error arose > primarily from an inability to correctly predict the future. In particular, > the following forces have reduced the evils and increased the benefits: Privacy Journal sometimes offers prediction about future abuse, but often PJ publishes "War Stories" of real life experiences. > 1. The predicted data collection by small businesses never happened. Says who? Is there any researched evidence behind this claim? Kevin Evans, "President" of the BC Business Council, that is to say, Paid PR front man, stated that customers expect businesses to answer the phone with "Hello Mr. -politician's surname- are you happy with your Hugo Boss purchase from last week?", while making the Business Council's pitch to a legislative committee responding to a national mandate to enact private sector privacy laws. He made the comment in connection with the issue of Caller ID, not ANI. It is perfectly possible that Mr. Evans was exaggerating the ability and use of Computer Integrated Telephony by business. On the other hand he was making a claim in public and the cost of Computer Integrated Telephony gets cheaper every year. Retrieving a customer name via CNID and associating it with account data and recent purchase history is well within current technology for large, medium or even small businesses. Haven't we seen Risks submissions about companies billing the wrong customer because they use ANI data with the assumption that it uniquely identifies customers? In my own submission to the legislative committee I responded to Mr. Evan's claim, rhetorically asking how he reconciled it with at least 1/3 of telco customers paying for non published numbers, and with the fact that at least 1/4 of Canadians are Privacy Fundamentalists. I also changed Evan's scenario to one in which "Mr. Smith's" wife calls a store and is asked "Hello Mr. Smith, are you happy with that gold necklace you bought earlier this week?". I pointed out that Mr. Smith is unlikely to be happy with that, regardless of whether the necklace is a surprise anniversary/birthday gift for his wife, or one for his girlfriend. > 3. The unforeseen Federal Do-Not-Call List has become an effective defense > against telemarketing, so revealing your telephone number isn't much of a > problem anyway. Again this reflects an idiosyncratic definition and perception of the risks. The risks of Caller ID are not limited to telemarketing. A hard line phone number reveals your location at the time you call. Think of the meaning of the phrase "I know where you live". While it has become something of a dramatic cliche it is based on a harsh reality which most people should be able to understand. There are 100s of millions of people in the world with hard line phones. The fact that Geoff Kuenning hasn't personally experienced a downside of Caller ID doesn't mean that everyone else has been so fortunate. Most murder victims are killed by someone they know. Personal experiences vary widely and allowance should be made for that. The fact that Geoff Kuenning hasn't been murdered doesn't mean that nobody should worry about homicide. The display of hard line calling numbers creates a potential for a wide variety of privacy invasion and abuse. Stating that it has never happened seems naive, to say the least. Personally I found many people using caller ID got confused when the information on my employer paid home phone line was displayed. It can create confusion as well as eliminate it. Eg. I got paged at home and whoever answered my call decided I must be at my office, based on caller ID showing the name of my employer. (My employer provided cell phone was unreliable at home).
In RISKS-24.05, Andrew Koenig complains that every time he moves a USB MIDI device to another port, Windows thinks that it's another device. Raymond Chen discusses this behavior in his blog in message http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2004/11/10/255047.aspx What is probably happening is that the MIDI device doesn't have a serial number, so Windows can't tell if it's the same device it's seen before or not. So Windows errors on the side of caution and considers it a new device. Mike Swaim, MD Anderson Dept. of Biostatistics & Applied Mathematics firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com at work
The subjects of routers security, possible worms and the "taking down of the Internet" are ones that occupy much of my time. Trying to distinguish different threats, plausibility and FUD - as well as finding solutions. The following is an e-mail message in which I discuss a certain simple scenario to such a risk, and I would really appreciate some feedback on it. You can find the text in this blog entry: http://blogs.securiteam.com/?p=73 My blog: http://blogs.securiteam.com/?author=6
Del Quentin Wilber and Derek Willis, *The Washington Post*, 4 Oct 2005, A01 The District's red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer. But a *Post* analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices. Three outside traffic specialists independently reviewed the data and said they were surprised by the results. Their conclusion: The cameras do not appear to be making any difference in preventing injuries or collisions. ... http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/03/AR2005100301844.html
Douglas W. Jones wrote about FEMA's website working under one browser (IE) only ... and then not well. Not too many moons ago, one of the largest oil companies in the world relied upon telex as its stand-by communications system. Rugged, reliable, needing only a telegraph wire to work, reaching multiple audiences, accessible by sophisticated (e.g. PC) devices as well as dedicated telex terminals, working in any language using the Roman alphabet, store-and-forward but with instant access and delivery capability; telex is (was) the epitome of simplicity and availability, practically a guaranteed method of communication in the aftermath of a disaster. Complex websites, packed with graphics and requiring particular software, fonts, etc. to work properly are not suited to such situations. The RISKS are manifold, and engineered in by the inability of "imagineers" to truly imagine.
> From: Harvey Fishman > I read the article in Risks about your contretemps with regedit and I > think that the fault here lies with you rather than Microsoft. I am a > cat person also, and when I get a new kitten it learns quickly that > desktops and computer keyboards are verboten. Water guns are really > excellent tools for teaching young cats what is acceptable and what is > not. A cat that gets to the age of five months without learning this > discipline is the mark of a lazy owner. The interesting thing is that this particular incident is the *only* time I can recall this kitten actually walking on the keyboard. After receiving your e-mail, I watched her normal behavior, which is to jump from the table next to my computer stand onto the stand and from there to my lap, without touching the keyboard. I have no problem with her behaving that way. Anyway, if a kitten can come that close to permanently deleting a registry key, so can a dropped object. Such things happen. For that matter, I suspect that if I failed to suppress my Unix habits and hit "delete" instead of "backspace" at the wrong time, it would have a similar effect. So what I'm trying to say is that regardless of how my cats behave, I don't think it's wise to design a software system that allows a single keypress to make an irrevocable change to the system's state. PS: I don't think using a water pistol near computer equipment is a real good idea, either.
The Cyber Conflict Studies Association Fall 2005 Symposium will be held November 3, 2005 in Arlington, VA. The CSC is a non-profit entity organized to promote and lead research and intellectual development efforts to advance the field of cyber conflict. This Symposium will form the basis for the initial issue of the Cyber Conflict studies Association's *Journal of Cyber Conflict Studies* and will help create agendas for Workshops in the Spring of 2006. Full details of the conference can be downloaded as a PDF file from http://www2.norwich.edu/mkabay/unlinked/ccsas_cfp.pdf The registration form is available from http://www2.norwich.edu/mkabay/unlinked/ccsas_reg.doc For further details, contact Jane Swann at < mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org >. M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP http://www2.norwich.edu/mkabay/ * Assoc. Prof. Info. Assurance * Prog. Dir., MSc & BSc in Info. Assurance * CTO, Online Graduate Programs http://www.msia.norwich.edu/overview.htm http://www2.norwich.edu/mkabay/bsia Norwich University, Northfield VT V: +1.802.479.7937 email@example.com * Network World Fusion Security Newsl http://www.nwfusion.com/newsletters/sec
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