More than 20,000 international passengers were stranded for hours at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday, 11 Aug 2007, waiting on airplanes and in packed customs halls while the malfunctioning of a computer system that determined who would be subject to secondary searches prevented officials from processing travelers entering the U.S. The system was down from 2pm until just after midnight, and the final passengers were not cleared until 3:50am — except for six more requiring human intervention. As of 3am, some parking lots were still gridlocked. "This is probably one of the worst days we've had. I've been with the agency for 30 years and I've never seen the system go down and stay down for as long as it did," said Peter Gordon, acting port director for customs. [Source: Computer glitch holds up 20,000 at LAX; Passengers are delayed for hours on planes and in terminals after a customs processing system goes down. Karen Kaplan, Rong-Gong Lin II and Ari B. Bloomekatz, *Los Angeles Times*, 12 Aug 2007; PGN-ed] http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lax12aug12,0,5727961.story?coll=la-home-center
According to the *Los Angeles Times* (and an Associated Press article), the issue that caused thousands of travelers to be delayed at LAX was caused by a faulty network interface card (NIC) on a single machine: > The card, which allows computers to connect to a local area network, > experienced a partial failure that started about 12:50 p.m. Saturday, > slowing down the system, said Jennifer Connors, a chief in the office of > field operations for the Customs and Border Protection agency. > > As data overloaded the system, a domino effect occurred with other > computer network cards, eventually causing a total system failure a > little after 2 p.m., Connors said. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-lax15aug15,1,6802259.story?coll=la-headlines-nation http://www.lompocrecord.com/articles/2007/08/15/ap-state-ca/d8r1dhl00.txt I've noticed on more than one occasion that often when the primary system breaks, and then fail-over occurs, the secondary system can't handle the backlog of requests. When setting up new systems, two identically configured units are usually ordered and configured. Perhaps the secondary units should be more powerful as standard practice? Or the two should always run in parallel/round-robin? This way you know things are working on both, and if one goes away the second one is still around (in a known working state).
H.R. 2272: the "21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007" has been signed into law: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-2272 One of its provisions has changed the legal basis of U.S. timekeeping from mean solar time to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC (in its current form) has existed since the early 1970s, relying on the issuance of leap seconds every year or two to remain within 0.9 SI seconds of Greenwich Mean Time. Thus, if leap seconds continue, the effect of changing from mean solar time to UTC (overlaid by the standard time zones and varying Daylight Saving Time rules) is small for most purposes. However, since 1999, (feed://email@example.com) the LEAPSECS forum has existed precisely to discuss the proposed elimination of leap seconds — and thus the divergence of all civil and legal clocks from time as kept by the sun in the sky. With the passage of H.R. 2272, the decision now rests not with the U.S. Congress, but with Working Party 7A of the Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R WP-7A): http://www.itu.int/pub/R-QUE-SG07.236 Much of the LEAPSECS discussion has revolved around the large Y2K-like resource drain that the international astronomical community would face should UTC be redefined so as to no longer track mean solar time — not only data structures would change, but also algorithms and runtime services. Now that UTC is legal time for the U.S., one wonders what similar expenses other sectors would face. It is straightforward to show that civil timekeeping must track mean solar time closely: 1) Time kept by Mother Earth (mean solar time) differs from that kept by atomic clocks due to slowing caused by lunar tides. (There are many other periodic and aperiodic effects, but the tidal transfer of angular momentum accumulates secularly over long periods.) 2) Leap seconds are issued to compensate for the accumulation of a few milliseconds per day due to slowing that has already occurred, i.e., 2ms/day times 500 days would be one leap second even in the absence of further tidal effects. The solar day itself lengthens by just a few SI milliseconds per century. 3) With no leap seconds, day would literally turn into night over a few thousand years - i.e., this would be a redefinition of the much more fundamental concept of a "day". 4) There is a notion of embargoing leap seconds 3600 at a time into leap hours as a kind of unfunded mandate placed on our N-great grandchildren. Even those parties agitating for the cessation of leap seconds agree that eventually they must still be released in such a larger jump. 5) A larger jump would be more disruptive than a smaller jump, therefore it cannot be tolerated as frequently. 6) Pick a period of time over which a jump of such an amplitude would be deemed too frequent. I suspect we could agree that one per century is too many, but for the sake of argument let's specify the looser constraint of a maximum of one leap hour per decade. 7) Simply divide. One hour per ten years = 3600 SI seconds per 3652 days. QED. Civil time must track mean solar time to better than one SI second per day. (In actuality, much better than one second.) The fundamental challenge for precision timekeeping is that there are two flavors of time: 1) the steady cadence of atomic clocks, and 2) the wondering orientation of the Earth in space. A "second" is a unit with two definitions that are often conflated. A second is either 1/86400 of a day, or a second is the SI unit. In fact, the name first proposed for the SI unit was the "essen", after Louis Essen, a pioneer timekeeper. Much confusion would have been saved if only this name had been chosen. Q: What about apparent versus mean solar time? A: A red herring. The Earth spins very regularly with respect to the stars. Mean solar time is simply sidereal time offset by a little under four minutes daily to account for the day "lost" each year from lapping the Sun. That sundials run fast or slow at different times of year has nothing to do with our clocks. People do care, however, whether the sun is up at midnight in populated latitudes. Q: Surely there have been professional meetings on this topic? A: Yes, Torino in 2003. (http://www.gfy.ku.dk/~iag/ecag05doc/torino_coll.pdf) The consensus was to leave UTC alone and that any civil timescale without leap seconds should be called "TI" (International Time in the French acronym). The ITU appears to have rejected this position. Q: What's happened recently? A: NASA has proposed a fall back recommendation making GPS time (with no leap seconds) a standard interval time scale for precision timekeeping projects, while leaving UTC alone: http://ussg7.org/documents/fact%20sheet%20modified%20and%20proposed%20new%20Recommendation.doc (This writer supports this recommendation.) A couple of good references for leap second and general UTC information: http://www.ucolick.org/~sla/leapsecs http://leapsecond.com My apologies for the length of this Risks submission. Confusion is often rife in even simple timekeeping applications. Rob Seaman, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ [Considering the plethora of calendar-clock-related cases reported in RISKS, this seems worthy despite its length. PGN]
This is like the voting-machine thing: citizen concern over what's inside the boxes we live with. An attorney for a Minnesota man accused of drunken driving says he doesn't think the manufacturer of a breathalyzer will meet a court-imposed deadline of August 17 to turn over its source code. If that happens, his client could go free. As CNET News.com reported earlier this week, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled late last month that source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, made by a Kentucky-based company called CMI, must be handed to defense attorneys for use in a case involving charges of third- degree DUI against a man named Dale Lee Underdahl. CMI's historic resistance to such demands has led to charges being dropped in at least one case outside of Minnesota. ... http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1009_22-6202038.html Theodor Holm Nelson, Founder, Project Xanadu; Visiting Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Visiting Professor, University of Southampton IP Archives: http://v2.listbox.com/member/archive/247/=now
Adulterers, beware: Your cheatin' heart might be exposed by E-ZPass. Seven of the 12 E-ZPass states in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest provide toll records to to court orders in criminal and civil cases. Four of those states (including NJ and PA) allow release only in criminal cases. [Source: *Star-Ledger* by The Associated Press, 10 Aug 2007; PGN-ed] http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2007/08/toll_data_nabs_unfaithful_spou.html
[Note: This item has been PGN-excerpted with Bruce's permission. PGN] CRYPTO-GRAM August 15, 2007 by Bruce Schneier Founder and CTO BT Counterpane firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.schneier.com http://www.counterpane.com A free monthly newsletter providing summaries, analyses, insights, and commentaries on security: computer and otherwise. For back issues, or to subscribe, visit <http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram.html>. You can read this issue on the web at <http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0807.html>. These same essays appear in the "Schneier on Security" blog: <http://www.schneier.com/blog>. An RSS feed is available. Assurance Over the past several months, the state of California conducted the most comprehensive security review yet of electronic voting machines. People I consider to be security experts analyzed machines from three different manufacturers, performing both a red-team attack analysis and a detailed source code review. Serious flaws were discovered in all machines and, as a result, the machines were all decertified for use in California elections. The reports are worth reading, as is much of the commentary on the topic. The reviewers were given an unrealistic timetable and had trouble getting needed documentation. The fact that major security vulnerabilities were found in all machines is a testament to how poorly they were designed, not to the thoroughness of the analysis. Yet California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has conditionally recertified the machines for use, as long as the makers fix the discovered vulnerabilities and adhere to a lengthy list of security requirements designed to limit future security breaches and failures. While this is a good effort, it has security completely backward. It begins with a presumption of security: If there are no known vulnerabilities, the system must be secure. If there is a vulnerability, then once it's fixed, the system is again secure. How anyone comes to this presumption is a mystery to me. Is there any version of any operating system anywhere where the last security bug was found and fixed? Is there a major piece of software anywhere that has been, and continues to be, vulnerability-free? Yet again and again we react with surprise when a system has a vulnerability. Last weekend at the hacker convention DefCon, I saw new attacks against supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems -- those are embedded control systems found in infrastructure systems like fuel pipelines and power transmission facilities — electronic badge-entry systems, MySpace, and the high-security locks used in places like the White House. I will guarantee you that the manufacturers of these systems all claimed they were secure, and that their customers believed them. Earlier this month, the government disclosed that the computer system of the US-Visit border control system is full of security holes. Weaknesses existed in all control areas and computing device types reviewed, the report said. How exactly is this different from any large government database? I'm not surprised that the system is so insecure; I'm surprised that anyone is surprised. We've been assured again and again that RFID passports are secure. When researcher Lukas Grunwald successfully cloned one last year at DefCon, industry experts told us there was little risk. This year, Grunwald revealed that he could use a cloned passport chip to sabotage passport readers. Government officials are again downplaying the significance of this result, although Grunwald speculates that this or another similar vulnerability could be used to take over passport readers and force them to accept fraudulent passports. Anyone care to guess who's more likely to be right? It's all backward. Insecurity is the norm. If any system — whether a voting machine, operating system, database, badge-entry system, RFID passport system, etc. — is ever built completely vulnerability-free, it'll be the first time in the history of mankind. It's not a good bet. Once you stop thinking about security backward, you immediately understand why the current software security paradigm of patching doesn't make us any more secure. If vulnerabilities are so common, finding a few doesn't materially reduce the quantity remaining. A system with 100 patched vulnerabilities isn't more secure than a system with 10, nor is it less secure. A patched buffer overflow doesn't mean that there's one less way attackers can get into your system; it means that your design process was so lousy that it permitted buffer overflows, and there are probably thousands more lurking in your code. Diebold Election Systems has patched a certain vulnerability in its voting-machine software twice, and each patch contained another vulnerability. Don't tell me it's my job to find another vulnerability in the third patch; it's Diebold's job to convince me it has finally learned how to patch vulnerabilities properly. Several years ago, former National Security Agency technical director Brian Snow began talking about the concept of "assurance" in security. Snow, who spent 35 years at the NSA building systems at security levels far higher than anything the commercial world deals with, told audiences that the agency couldn't use modern commercial systems with their backward security thinking. Assurance was his antidote: "Assurances are confidence-building activities demonstrating that: "1. The system's security policy is internally consistent and reflects the requirements of the organization, "2. There are sufficient security functions to support the security policy, "3. The system functions to meet a desired set of properties and *only* those properties, "4. The functions are implemented correctly, and "5. The assurances *hold up* through the manufacturing, delivery and life cycle of the system." Basically, demonstrate that your system is secure, because I'm just not going to believe you otherwise. Assurance is less about developing new security techniques than about using the ones we have. It's all the things described in books like "Building Secure Software," "Software Security," and "Writing Secure Code." It's some of what Microsoft is trying to do with its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). It's the Department of Homeland Security's Build Security In program. It's what every aircraft manufacturer goes through before it puts a piece of software in a critical role on an aircraft. It's what the NSA demands before it purchases a piece of security equipment. As an industry, we know how to provide security assurance in software and systems; we just tend not to bother. And most of the time, we don't care. Commercial software, as insecure as it is, is good enough for most purposes. And while backward security is more expensive over the life cycle of the software, it's cheaper where it counts: at the beginning. Most software companies are short-term smart to ignore the cost of never-ending patching, even though it's long-term dumb. Assurance is expensive, in terms of money and time for both the process and the documentation. But the NSA needs assurance for critical military systems; Boeing needs it for its avionics. And the government needs it more and more: for voting machines, for databases entrusted with our personal information, for electronic passports, for communications systems, for the computers and systems controlling our critical infrastructure. Assurance requirements should be common in IT contracts, not rare. It's time we stopped thinking backward and pretending that computers are secure until proven otherwise. California reports: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vsr.htm Commentary and blog posts: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1181 http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/07/ca-releases-res.html http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/07/california_voti.html http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1184 http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/ca-releases-sou.html http://avi-rubin.blogspot.com/2007/08/california-source-code-study-results.html or http://tinyurl.com/2bz7ks http://www.crypto.com/blog/ca_voting_report/ http://twistedphysics.typepad.com/cocktail_party_physics/2007/08/caveat-voter.html or http://tinyurl.com/2737c7 http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/08/more_on_the_cal.html California's recertification requirements: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070806-california-to-recertify-insecure-voting-machines.html or http://tinyurl.com/ytesbj DefCon reports: http://www.defcon.org/ http://www.physorg.com/news105533409.html http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/open-sesame-acc.html http://www.newsfactor.com/news/Social-Networking-Sites-Are-Vulnerable/story.xhtml?story_id=012000EW8420 or http://tinyurl.com/22uoza http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/jennalynn-a-12-.html US-VISIT database vulnerabilities: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202260.html or http://tinyurl.com/33cglf RFID passport hacking: http://www.engadget.com/2006/08/03/german-hackers-clone-rfid-e-passports/ or http://tinyurl.com/sy439 http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2559/2/1/ http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2007/08/epassport http://money.cnn.com/2007/08/03/news/rfid/?postversion=2007080314 How common are bugs: http://www.rtfm.com/bugrate.pdf Diebold patch: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/08/florida_evoting.html Brian Snow on assurance: http://www.acsac.org/2005/papers/Snow.pdf Books on secure software development: http://www.amazon.com/Building-Secure-Software-Security-Problems/dp/020172152X/ref=counterpane/ or http://tinyurl.com/28p4hu http://www.amazon.com/Software-Security-Building-Addison-Wesley/dp/0321356705/ref=counterpane/ or http://tinyurl.com/ypkkwk http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Secure-Second-Michael-Howard/dp/0735617228/ref=counterpane/ or http://tinyurl.com/2f5mdt Microsoft's SDL: http://www.microsoft.com/MSPress/books/8753.asp DHS's Build Security In program: https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/daisy/bsi/home.html This essay originally appeared on Wired.com. http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2007/08/securitymatters_0809 or http://tinyurl.com/2nyo8c ** *** More Voting News California Secretary of State Bowen's certification decisions are online. She has totally decertified the ES&S Inkavote Plus system, used in L.A. County, because of ES&S noncompliance with the Top to Bottom Review. The Diebold and Sequoia systems have been decertified and conditionally recertified. The same was done with one Hart Intercivic system (system 6.2.1). (Certification of the Hart system 6.1 was voluntarily withdrawn.) To those who thought she was staging this review as security theater, this seems like evidence to the contrary. She wants to do the right thing, but has no idea how to conduct a security review. http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vsr.htm http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/us/05vote.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1186287020-khO/ehBMuFtZIyeXCC4wHg or http://tinyurl.com/yto8ss Florida just recently released another study of the Diebold voting machines. They — and it was real security researchers like the California study, and not posers — studied v4.6.5 of the Diebold TSx and v1.96.8 of the Diebold Optical Scan. (California studied older versions (v4.6.4 of the TSx and v1.96.6 of the Optical Scan). http://www.sait.fsu.edu/news/2007-07-31.shtml http://election.dos.state.fl.us/pdf/SAITreport.pdf The most interesting issues are (1) Diebold's apparent "find-then-patch" approach to computer security, and (2) Diebold's lousy use of cryptography. More here: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/08/florida_evoting.html The UK Electoral Commission released a report on the 2007 e-voting and e-counting pilots. The results are none too good. http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/pilotsmay2007.cfm http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2007/08/02/electoral-commission-releases-e-voting-and-e-counting-reports or http://tinyurl.com/yukeot And the Brennan Center released a report on post-election audits: http://www.brennancenter.org/dynamic/subpages/download_file_50089.pdf My previous essays on electronic voting, from 2004: http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0411.html#1 http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0411.html#2 My previous essay on electronic voting, from 2000: http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0012.html#1 ** *** CRYPTO-GRAM is written by Bruce Schneier. Schneier is the author of the best sellers "Beyond Fear," "Secrets and Lies," and "Applied Cryptography," and an inventor of the Blowfish and Twofish algorithms. He is founder and CTO of BT Counterpane, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). He is a frequent writer and lecturer on security topics. See <http://www.schneier.com>. Crypto-Gram is a personal newsletter. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT or BT Counterpane. Copyright (c) 2007 by Bruce Schneier.
This is amusing, but not particularly unusual — the computer programmed elision of an overly long concatenation of individual and company names where a new-line character presumably was omitted. I just received an "Exclusive Platinum Visa Offer" from First Equity in Fort Mill, South Carolina, addressed to Peter G. Nmnnsri Intrntnl offering a credit line up to $100K, no annual fee, low rates, and 5% cash back. The form is of course already filled in with the above name and offers an immediate cash advance. I wonder whether a routine credit check would cause the application to bounce? Or perhaps they are so eager for new customers that they don't even bother with credit checks for people answering their preprinted exclusive-offer applications? Or perhaps it is a total scam? Well, a Web search gives me the assurance that "During the last five years First Equity has not been convicted in a criminal proceeding, nor has it been a party to a civil proceeding of a judicial or administrative body of competent jurisdiction." That is certainly reassuring, but makes one wonder about the preceding years. On the other hand, I certainly have enough credit cards already.
I guess it is done this way on purpose: average user does not understand why they must patch the system and if there is an option on the dialog `I'll reboot myself', most users will choose it without thinking. There is a way to stop this countdown: go to services (e.g., Win-R services.msc Enter) and stop `Automatic Updates'), but this hidden option is akin to self-moderation of alt.sysadmin.recovery — if one cannot find it, most likely they do not understand the security implications (of course, there is a risk of security-savvy users who are new to Windows). Although, in my opinion, the solution is best for given problem of forcing reboot on novices, in a reasonable system there should be no need to reboot for update.
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