Select relevant quotes from http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/space/06/14/genesis.crash.ap/index.html The 231-page document prepared by independent investigators found that gravity switches on the Genesis probe designed to trigger the deployment of its parachutes were installed backward. Investigators found that the probe's builder, Lockheed Martin, skipped a critical pre-launch test that would have uncovered the fatal flaw because of time constraints. Instead, engineers decided to do a simpler test by comparing Genesis' design to drawings of another spacecraft, Stardust, which was built earlier and had passed rigorous testing. The report also said lack of oversight by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which managed the $264 million mission, caused the error to remain undetected from the design phase to the review stage. Investigators also faulted the space agency's "faster, better, cheaper" philosophy for creating an environment where cost issues were put ahead of a successful mission. That philosophy "created an ever-present threat of cancellation if overruns occurred on cost-capped missions," investigators wrote. ... And this quote, which appear to be conflicting 'requirements': "Clearly, we want missions to be cost-effective, but we don't want to cut corners just to make them cheaper," Jones said. They probably meant to say something like this: "We want the missions to be successful, at the least cost possible." A laudable goal, not quite achievable with current technology, in my opinion. Howard Israel, CEO, Secure Systems Consulting, LLC (732) 613-9464
Preliminary reports from the Canadian Transportation Safety board investigation into the "Queen of The North" running into Mount Gil and sinking say that the bridge crew had the Electronic Chart System Display turned off because they didn't know how to use the software control to reduce the illumination for night use. The preliminary reports also say that bridge crew claim to not be fully aware of how to use the various steering modes, or even to know what steering mode they were in. Digital controls should help, not hinder. "The screen from the ECS produced too much ambient light, so the crew would often turn it off at night, Ayeko wrote. The monitor would be turned on momentarily only when it was required." http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060605/BC_ferry_060605/20060606?hub=Canada This must have been an expensive system. Would it have been too much trouble to add a rotating dial or rocker button which would reduce or increase the brightness on the display? It wouldn't even have to be integrated with the monitor, just mounted somewhere close to it and clearly labeled. These don't even need to be rheostatic controls, just something that generates an input specifying the type of change requested. Software control is bad if it makes essential functions too complex or obscure. Some reports describe Mt. Gil as Gil Island. It is a relatively tall and steep mountain whose base is underwater. There should have been a good radar return from it. It will be interesting to see what other electronic or computer integrated safety systems also failed to make the officer and helmsman aware that their failure to change heading at the scheduled time had left them on a collision course with a mountain. It will also be interesting to see whether the ECS brightness control issue is a "reasonable doubt" red herring raised as a defense for the criminal trial which will take place. Two passengers are missing and presumed drowned.
After a "spirited discussion"', space shuttle mission Discovery (STS-121) is scheduled to launch 'despite the reservations of two senior officials': the lead safety official & the chief engineer, over issues that "remained about debris from the shuttle's external fuel tank that could damage the vehicle during launching.' "If a shuttle is critically damaged during launching, (NASA administrator Michael) Griffin said, the crew could make it to the space station to await rescue by another shuttle or a Russian spacecraft. Such an accident would not unduly threaten crew safety, he said, but it probably would end the shuttle program. I would be moving to shut the program down," he said of the loss of another shuttle. "I think, at that point, we're done." 'rescue by another shuttle' would be the (then) sole remaining shuttle. Why bother to ground it, under the circumstances? [Source: Warren E. Leary, NASA to Launch Discovery on July 1 for 13-Day Mission, *The New York Times*, 18 Jun 2006]
RISKS has long documented problems with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system. The latest is that $80 million have been spent on a long-planned automated train-control system that would enable a 25% increase in the number of trains that could go through the Transbay Tube. $40M for equipment, $40M for staff time. The effort is now on "indefinite hold". Involved in a contract that began in 1998, Harmon Industries was acquired by GE Transportation Systems Global Signaling, a GE subsidiary, which BART officials claim has refused to honor the contract and GE claims is false. The system was originally scheduled to be fully operational in 2004. [Source: Rachel Gordon, BART: Transbay speedup on hold, *San Francisco Chronicle*, 17 Jun 2006, B1,B7; PGN-ed] http://www.sfgate.com
In September 2003, I reported on "The benefits and risks of robot surgery" using "Robodoc", a computer-controlled robot for hip and knee joint implants, in use at a rather well-reputed German clinic at Frankfurt/Main. The new method of medical treatment which was used since the mid-1990s in Germany promised to be more precise than surgery done manually. http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/22.90.html#subj13 Operations with Robodoc were suspended in this country since 2004 and the senior surgeon using the robot had left the said clinic in 2005 already. The first of the lawsuits pending ever since has now been decided, resulting in the German Federal Civil Court, or Bundesgerichtshof, at Karlsruhe declining any legal claims raised by a former patient against either the clinic or the physicians using the robot for the operations at the time. The court thus upheld the earlier decisions by other German courts. The court said in the ruling that patients must be told by physicians about the risks of new operating methods before undergoing surgery so that they can themselves decide whether they are willing to take risks hitherto unknown due to the small number of cases the all-new method was used in or whether he wants to be treated in a conventional way, i.e., in this case, by a surgeon without the help of a robot. However, in the case decided on June 13, 2006 the risk of damage to the patients' nerves about 11 years ago was the same as with conventional methods of operation she _was_ told about before undergoing treatment. This is why the plaintiff who is now 49 years old was not eligible to compensation damages in this case which is the first in a series of rulings. The press release on the decision (in German) can be found at: http://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/document.py?Gericht=bgh&Art=pm&Datum=2006&Sort=3&nr=36501&anz=90&pos=0&Blank=1
It seems as if NZ is taking a Canadian-style solution to its tax number length. However, the risks of going to the longer format are (really) not known at this time. NZ has done a lot of background work with respect to modernizing its government computer systems — but IRD numbers span the public and private sector. Australian, British, Canadian and Irish IT systems relating to taxation and benefits that explicitly use the NZ IRD number may also be affected. [Source: Inland Revenue and GST number range is to be extended] https://www.ird.govt.nz/gst/gst-didyouknow.html Max Power, CEO, Power Broadcasting (PTY) http://HireMe.geek.nz/
http://www.lotterypost.com/news-112702.htm http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/01/national/main684584.shtml Powerball lottery officials suspected fraud: how could 110 players in the March 30 drawing get five of the six numbers right? That made them all second-prize winners, and considering the number of tickets sold in the 29 states where the game is played, there should have been only four or five. Answer: They all chose their numbers from fortune cookies from the same factory in Long Island City, Queens. (The unexpected payout totaled $19 million for the second-place winners.) Howard Israel, CEO, Secure Systems Consulting, LLC (732) 613-9464
"Tokyo's futuristic image as the world's most technologically advanced broadband Internet-enabled city is under attack from a vicious but decidedly low-tech foe: the crow." During the spring mating season, the crows have discovered that fiber-optic cable makes great nesting material, and have seriously disrupted Internet service. [Source: Leo Lewis, Australian IT News, 16 Jun 2006; PGN-ed; thanks to Dan Farmer for pecking out that one.]
I have a Toshiba satellite P30 laptop and a Treo 650 cell phone. Recently I was working on the laptop and had occasion to take a phone call on my cell. I needed some information for the phone call, so I looked it up on my computer. To do so, I had to put my cell phone down. I placed it on the table right next to the laptop. Right in the middle of my Internet query, the laptop just completely shut down... no warning, just dead. When I thought about it, it seemed almost obvious that the electromagnetic radiation from the phone caused some problem and shut the system. down. I was able to reproduce this effect simply by laying the phone within a few centimetres from the computer. While I did not lose anything, even in my testing, it does point out a problem with our computers and the ubiquity of cell phones. Surely computer manufacturers could design some kind of shielding for computers to keep them from this sort of risk.
I ran across this video (via Gizmodo) demonstrating Volvo's new braking system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9c3V0q8cgk It is currently in the lab, and NOT in production. Basically, if the system determines that a collision is unavoidable it automatically applies the brakes to try to prevent the collision. Is driving safer when drivers are not involved? RFID "Best Practices" (CDT via Monty Solomon)
I was puzzled when I saw in the mail log that some mail accepted for my wife had been flagged as spam by spamassassin, as the sender address was one of her friends. "Obfuscated reference" to a certain drug, amongst other things. I assumed the friend's machine had been hijacked, but not so. It turned out simply that yahoo had tacked on an advert for /anti/-spam software: "Tired of Vi@gr@! come-ons? Let our SpamGuard protect you". The irony is quite delicious! Interestingly, the ad had only been inserted into the html alternative text - which we don't use anyway. A nice exercise in how to get your customers' email binned for no obvious reason. [And that may be sufficient to cause this issue of RISKS to be blocked. PGN]
Foot dragging on an incident which occurred in September 2005... A hacker stole a file containing the names and Social Security numbers of 1,500 people working for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration last September. But this was not reported to senior DoE officials until Jun 2006, and none of the victims was notified. [Source: Energy Dept. Discloses Data Theft; Victims, Top Officials Were Not Told About 2005 Hacking, Associated Press item in *The Washington Post*, 10 Jun 2006; PGN-ed] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/09/AR2006060901505.html
Our Verisign account on www.sample-non-profit.org is being used to test stolen credit cards. They are spoofing our IP address, so aren't even going through our web pages which contain no authorize transactions, which is what they are using to test cards. They hit us with about 20 new cards most evenings between 2am and 3am. Some succeed and some fail. The names are totally bogus, but the addresses look real. They have CVC codes and those usually match as does AVS. I assume they make use of the cards on other sites because our site has donations and memberships as well as very specialized books and maps that would be hard to sell. Sorting through all these bogus transaction, more then 50% of all our transactions, places a large load on our bookkeeper. Verisign has been very unhelpful in stopping the transactions. They claim it is the banks that are authorizing the transactions and they are just a passthrough agency. We do not have access to the full card numbers and cannot tell which banks are involved. In some sense I am observing an ongoing crime that effects me very little. I don't know the real victims at all and cannot contact them to warn them that their card is in play. Given enough zombies, this looks like a way of finding valid cards without having to steal them. See Risks24-32 "Unsalted Credit cards" for some of the key pieces of doing this. There are many opportunities for either the banks or Verisign to have noticed these sorts of problems, e.g. 20 transactions from a single IP address in a few minutes should be suspect. A name like "Kkkky Dhgmop" is not likely to be a real person (an actual example that was accepted). Neither any bank nor Verisign has made any attempt to contact me to find out what I know. From the data I see I could easily be the person entering those transactions.
Policy Post 12.09: CDT-Led Working Group Releases RFID "Best Practices" A Briefing On Public Policy Issues Affecting Civil Liberties Online from The Center For Democracy and Technology (1) CDT-Led Working Group Releases RFID "Best Practices" (2) Best Practices Ideal for Evolving Technology (3) Technology-Neutral Consumer Privacy Legislation Still Needed ... http://www.cdt.org/publications/policyposts/2006/9
I received a "phishing" email claiming to come from Barclays Bank. All the usual stuff, except that the URL it gave appeared to be plausible: http://www.barclays.co.uk/cgi-bin/gotosite.cgi?location=%68%74%74%70%3a%2f%2f0xC1.0xAF.0x16.0x2D%2fcache%2fbarclays.ssl%2f The bit after "location=" translates to "http://126.96.36.199/cache/barclays.ssl/" An experiment shows that, yes, Barclays do have a redirector which will happily redirect off-site. An absolute gift to phishers and suchlike. [Certainly suggests a fissure of security. PGN]
Windows Patches break Operations Console of IBM midrange platform. In the olden days of networks, a dumb terminal might have been used for IT staff to manage large computer networks. In recent years the move has been to use a PC for that function, which of course needs Windows patches. The latest round of MS patches has busted the ability of IBM Consoles to do their primary tasks. V#R# is version of IBM operating system affected. http://www.itjungle.com/tfh/tfh061906-story05.html
This reminds me of one of my first assignments in my graduate numerical analysis class: Invert a Hilbert matrix using pencil and paper and fractional arithmetic, and, invert it using a computer program. The Hilbert matrix is ill-conditioned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ill-conditioned) because the fractions cannot be precisely represented in binary format, which introduces round-off error, so calculation of the inverse by computer results in greater inaccuracies as the errors are multiplied by each iteration of the algorithm. The lesson learned was, know the limits of your computer's architecture. Five decimal places does not mean five decimal places of accuracy. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert_matrix]
Is it just me, or have "lies, damn lies and statistics " simply become the norm in the media. > A campaign to reduce lethal errors and unnecessary deaths in U.S. > hospitals has saved an estimated 122,300 lives in the last 18 months. ... With 6731 hospitals in total in the US [*], this implies that the measures, if applied to all would have saved over 265,000 lives in the last 18 months, or 177,000/year — almost twice the upper estimate of those dying from errors and low-quality care. (I am presuming here that hospital acquired infection low quality care.) Either someone needs a quick course in basic numeracy, that or the quality of care and error rates have soared in the US since 1999! * http://www.hospitalmanagement.net/ihf/publication_5_1.html [The report seemed rather overhyped to me. PGN]
Cyberwar, Netwar and the Revolution in Military Affairs Edited by Edward Halpin, Philippa Trevorrow, David Webb and Steve Wright Palgrave Macmillan, 2006 This book is based on a summer program of the International School of Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO), with a preface by the organizers, Gary Chapman, Diego Latella, and Carlo Schaerf, and contributed chapters from the lecturers. [Gary Chapman has contributed various items to RISKS over the years, beginning with volume 1. Disclaimer: PGN is one of a very diverse set of the authors.]
BKISEMBE.RVW 20060520 "Information Security and Employee Behaviour", Angus McIlwraith, 2006, 0-566-08647-6, U$99.95 %A Angus McIlwraith Angus.McIlwraith@btinternet.com %C Suite 420, 101 Cherry Street, Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA %D 2006 %G 0-566-08647-6 %I Gower Publishing Limited %O U$99.95 www.gowerpub.com email@example.com %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566086476/robsladesinterne http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566086476/robsladesinte-21 %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0566086476/robsladesin03-20 %O Audience i+ Tech 2 Writing 3 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 169 p. %T "Information Security and Employee Behaviour" In the introduction, McIlwraith points out that security awareness training properly consists of communication, raising of issues, and encouragement to modify behaviour. (This will come as no surprise to those who recall the definition of training as the modification of attitudes and behaviour.) He also notes that security professionals frequently concentrate solely on presentation of problems. The remainder of the introduction looks at other major security activities, and the part that awareness plays in ensuring that they actually work. Part one looks at a "framework for understanding." Chapter one addresses employee risk, and the fact that people assess risk very poorly. Issues such as whether the risk is controlled by the self or another, problems that are diffuse or dispersed, and immediacy all reduce our perception of the scale of the hazard. Other psychological reasons for poor decision-making are also examined. (There is also some explanation as to why security people get fixated on their field, and often over-emphasize minor problems.) This material definitely provides an understanding of the problem for anyone involved in security awareness, but unfortunately does not give equivalent solutions. The discussion of culture, in chapter two, describes a number of diverse corporate styles, with suggestions for the type of approach most likely to be effective in each. The fact that security professionals are frequently perceived as problem-creating, rather than problem-solving, is hardly a surprise, and so neither is chapter three. However, it does outline various reasons for this perception, which may give us insight into changes we could make. (I'm finishing off the security dictionary manuscript at the moment [www.syngress.com/catalog/?pid=4150], and McIlwraith's comments on the jargon we use in security are definitely cringe-making.) Part two moves into solutions. Chapter four outlines practical strategies and techniques. The author lists five major points: manage by facts and reality (rather than vague desires), have specific objectives (instead of just "we need training"), plan carefully, implement meticulously, and get real feedback on the results. Additional mechanisms for training success are discussed. Realistic assessment of the program (and the danger of simple metrics) is reviewed in chapter five. (I might take slight exception to McIlwraith's recommendation on rating scales: any use of odd-numbered scales tends to push responses into the middle.) Design of the delivery media for awareness materials is as important as the message, and chapter six provides useful advice for those of us who are stylistically challenged--which includes pretty much the entire technically-oriented clan. McIlwraith's message is important. His writing is interesting and clear. His suggestions are useful. His book is recommended for anyone with either a specific obligation for awareness training, or overall responsibility for security management. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2006 BKISEMBE.RVW 20060520 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm
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