Off the Newswire at www.trains.com [Three different spellings of the conductor's name unified. PGN] According to the *Los Angeles Times*, conductor Robert Heldenbrand, the lone surviving crew member of the Sept. 12 Metrolink wreck that killed 25 people, has told investigators the signal he passed prior to the crash was green. Trackside signals are programmed to detect the presence of a train or other equipment within a block and turn red, telling approaching movements to stop prior to entering. If the signal truly displayed a green aspect when in fact a Union Pacific freight occupied the block, it would mean a signal failure. Such failures do occasionally occur, and are known as false clear indications. Heldenbrand's account backs up that of three witnesses on the platform of the Chatsworth depot, who also say the light was green at the time of the crash. Still, the National Transportation Safety Board is standing by its account of the crash, saying the train's engineer, Robert Sanchez, passed a red signal before slamming head-on into the UP freight. It has, however, questioned how brightly lit the signal was. Investigators had earlier asked why Sanchez hadn't called out the signal's indication on the radio, which Heldenbrand would have been required to repeat back if the signal wasn't green. But a green signal would have meant the two would not be required to call the signal.
On 4 Dec 2008, Caltrain (the commuter line between San Francisco and San Jose/Gilroy) experienced significant delays due to the computer system that controls the signal system. The problem began at the end of the morning rush hour, and was still ongoing during the evening rush hour. Trains had to be controlled manually, including bullet trains overtaking local trains. Delays were further complicated by construction at Palo Alto's California Avenue station — which requires only one train at a time in the station (even though the long-standing problem of having northbound passengers cross-over the southbound tracks has finally been resolved in the past week, with the completion of a northbound platform).
The equipment failures caused fire hydrants to run dry in the highest neighborhood in the city and may explain why firefighters were unable to protect homes. Water officials said [on 25 Nov 2008] that pumps designed to push water to the upper reaches of a hillside Yorba Linda neighborhood failed during a 15 Nov firestorm [so that] firefighters were forced to abandon the area and let homes burn.... Water officials believe the electric pumps shut off because the fire had burned through their electrical communication systems. The backup, they said, failed because of the heat. Officials said that the reservoir has been on the to-do list since at least 2001, when developer Shapell Industries first submitted plans to build homes around Hidden Hills. The agency has recognized the need for more reservoirs in the eastern side of Yorba Linda for 30 years but depends on developers' building plans to determine where to locate the infrastructure. [Interesting that residential development occurs before development of the infrastructure required to support it.] http://www.latimes.com/news/local/orange/la-me-water26-2008nov26,0,3919612.story
Violation of Commercial Online ToS? [From Dave Farber's IP list. PGN] A very dangerous legal precedence was set today. In the case of the 13-year-old who committed suicide supposedly over a MySpace hoax, the mother involved was found guilty on three federal counts. What of? Not of a serious criminal act. She was found guilty on three criminal counts (misdemeanors), in a federal court, of violating the Terms of Service agreement. So now you can be accused, tried, and found guilty of a federal criminal offense not for breaking a Federal or even a state law, but rather for violating the Terms of Service of a click- through agreement of a commercial site you go to on the Web. "Prosecutors alleged that Drew and her employee violated MySpace's "terms of service," which prohibit using fraudulent registration information, obtaining personal information about juvenile members, and using the service to harass, abuse or harm others... The verdict underscores the complexities of the case. Some legal experts and civil liberties groups said a felony conviction would mean that millions of people who violate the terms of service of the Web sites they visit could become criminally liable. Experts also said that if violating such terms is a crime, then the sites that write the agreements essentially could function as lawmakers or prosecutors. " - from *The Washington Post* http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/26/AR2008112600629.html?hpid=topnews "The case was prosecuted under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, originally intended to prosecute hackers. Did Lori Drew effectively hack MySpace for nefarious purposes? Some people think it's quite a stretch. ``This was a very aggressive, if not misguided, theory,'' said Matt Levine, a New York-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. ``Unfortunately, there's not a law that covers every bad thing in the world. It's a bad idea to use laws that have very different purpose.'' from ZDNet @ http://government.zdnet.com/?p=4207 Archives: https://www.listbox.com/member/archive/247/=now
>From: No-Name <firstname.lastname@example.org> I've heard a rumor about the way the WORM made it's way into the Pentagon computer network. If true, it was a simple but brilliantly effective method. Someone infected thumb drives with the WORM then dropped them around the Pentagon parking lot. The employees, picked them up, took them into their offices and plugged them into their office computers to determine the owner of the drive. Jerry Date: December 4, 2008 8:36:03 PM EST >From: Virgil Gligor <GLIGOR1@aol.com> Subject: For IP: A cyber-attack alarms the Pentagon Cyberwar: The worm turns, *The Economist*, 4 Dec 2008 A cyber-attack alarms the Pentagon Battlefield bandwidth is low at best, making networks sticky and e- mails tricky. American soldiers often rely on memory sticks to cart vital data between computers. Off-duty, they use the same devices to move around music and photos. The dangers of that have just become apparent with the news that the Pentagon has banned the use of all portable memory devices because of the spread of a bit of malicious software called agent.btz. This is a "worm", meaning that it replicates itself. If you have it on, say, the memory card of a digital camera it will infect any computer to which you upload photos. It will then infect any other portable memory plugged into that computer (the cyber-equivalent, one might say, of a sexually transmitted disease). On any computer hooked up to the Internet, this variant tries to download more nasty stuff: in this case two programs that access the hard-drive. Was it a humdrum crime of trying to steal banking details? Or something more serious? The trail has gone cold. In any case, the malicious software (malware in the jargon) penetrated at least one classified computer network. The problem was severe enough for Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to brief George Bush on it. Officials are saying little more than that. Kimberly Zenz, an expert on cyberwarfare at VeriSign iDefense, a computer security company that is investigating the attack, notes that it is not clear that agent.btz was designed specifically to target military networks, or indeed that it comes from either Russia or China (two countries known to have state-sponsored cyberwarfare programmes that regularly target American government computer networks). Indeed, she says, by the standards of cyberwarfare, agent.btz is pretty basic; it is a variant of a well-known bit of malware called the SillyFDC worm, which has been around for at least three years. By contrast, a government commission warned Congress last month that "since China's current cyber operations capability is so advanced, it can engage in forms of cyberwarfare so sophisticated that the United States may be unable to counteract or even detect the efforts." The most remarkable feature of the episode may not be the breach of security, but the cost of dealing with it. In the civilian world, at least one bank has dealt with agent.btz by blocking all its computers' USB ports with glue. Every bit of portable memory in the sprawling American military establishment now needs to be scrubbed clean before it can be used again. In the meantime, soldiers will find it hard or outright impossible to share, say, vital digital maps, let alone synch their iPods or exchange pictures with their families.
A variation on a common RISKS theme, but one I have come across increasingly often. More and more websites are enforcing "secure" passwords and, it seems, security questions. For instance two websites I used recently, which front real services I use (credit card and pet insurance) enforce passwords that *must* contain at least one upper-case character, one digit and not bear any resemblance to your user id. So far, so secure. Unfortunately they also want an answer to a security question as a reminder. Mother's maiden name is usually the one I pick, but my mother has a double barreled maiden name and this time I get: "Answer to security question is invalid, please correct" Sorry? So the self-evidently correct answer is not, in fact, "correct" according to the website mafia. Ok, move along to the next one, place of birth. My place of birth is tripled barreled (one of those quaint English towns where the name is related to the river that runs through it). "Answer to place of birth question is invalid, please correct" Gah! I'm assuming that what the site doesn't like is the hyphen's in both names (or perhaps that they have two names, although for place names that seems entirely dubious). The problem is that I am beginning to have to enter information that is not only wrong, but which I have no hope of remembering correctly 6 months later. Increasingly the same is true for passwords. I use systems where the above rules are enforced *and* password aging takes place *and* the use of an old password is prohibited. So now I have to remember not only information that is incorrect but also a system for encoding passwords in my brain for these sites. Increasingly that system fails and I need to recover the password, but the recovery system is also failing me now! Where will this madness end?
Interesting read, was a submission by Thomas Lakofski to a mailing list. Short summary: botnet code contains a semi-random domain name generator which it will contact for new instructions. This makes it impossible to shut down the controlling domains as the code will simply switch to a new name for instructions - which differs every single day. Let me put it another way: a shutdown is virtually impossible without catching the actual operator. http://blog.fireeye.com/research/2008/11/technical-details-of-srizbis-domain-generation-algorithm.html
In South Africa, whenever you apply for an ID book, passport or driver's license, your fingerprints are taken. In the past, these were used to prevent identify theft. Of course, even that is flawed. I know someone whose skin flakes off his fingertips when he is under stress. He had a lot of trouble renewing his passport, because his fingerprints did not match what was on file. It would be fair to say that in South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs has a database of almost all the fingerprints in the country. You cannot do anything without an ID book. Now someone has had the "brilliant" idea to open up this database to the police service, who are notorious for their low conviction rate. It horrifies me to think how many false positives there will be! Imagine being dragged out of bed at 3am by police special forces for murder and rape, because your fingerprint biometrically matched a serial killer's. The level of corruption at the South African Police Service is well known, so this is probably one of the worst news I have heard in years. I'm sure fellow RISKS readers will agree ... http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?art_id=vn20081205053045716C521775 Dr Heinz M. Kabutz (PhD CompSci), Sun Java Champion, Author of "The Java(tm) Specialists' Newsletter" http://www.javaspecialists.eu
Nowadays, once you have someone's name, it can be quite easy to track them down: > Leary was left with an unpaid bill for about $520, and little hope of > recovering his money. > > "It was then I remembered that when the group arrived, one of them had > asked about one of our waitresses who was not working that night," Leary > said yesterday. > > The waitress gave him a name and then he thought of Facebook. > > "I searched the name and there he was, large as life," he said. "And he > was pictured with his girlfriend--the only girl who had been in the > group. > > "The site also gave me his place of employment, which was handy." http://tinyurl.com/68rfob http://www.news.com.au/technology/story/0,25642,24714093-5014239,00.html It turns out the individual in question worked at another restaurant, from which he's now been fired.
A few days ago my wife and I bought a 2nd-hand station wagon to replace a vehicle that needed repairs for which parts are now hard to obtain. Part of the process is to change the registration for the new vehicle. As we were dutifully filling in all the details on the form, we came to a box for our phone number, and being unable to think of any reason why we wouldn't want the licensing authority to be able to reach us, were about to fill it in. At that point the dealer stopped us and advised us not to. The reason? If your phone number changes (e.g., you drop your mobile in a toilet and have to get a new one — happened to me once), you are legally obliged to tell the LTSA, but only if you told them your number in the first place. And most people never remember to do this. So a rule "You must tell us if your phone number changes" that was presumably intended to ensure that the data would be more accurate has had the effect of making the data mostly unavailable.
This is primary elections season in Israel, when political parties vote for their nominees for the upcoming general elections in February. The Labor party tried a fully electronic voting scheme which failed miserably, forcing them to delay the election by several days and go back to the old fashioned paper ballot method. Full story at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3631836,00.html Despite that, today the Likud right-wing party also held its primary elections electronically, and did face some trouble, though not as fatal. Full story at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3635022,00.html Unfortunately, there aren't many technical details about the systems involved.
> I made the (altogether reasonable, I thought) assumption that if you take a > timestamp and add 24 hours, it becomes the same time on the following day. > Well, not always. Such as when clocks change for Daylight Savings Time. And that's only the start. As we're all well aware, you can't even add sixty seconds to a time and assume it's then in the next minute. We normally don't think much about this, but lately I've been doing a lot of programming in Haskell, and the folks who built the libraries being much too smart for their own (or, anyway, my) good, make this clear, not to mention push it a bit in your face: http://haskell.org/ghc/docs/latest/html/libraries/time/Data-Time-Clock.html Actually, though, as well as being more than a little pedantic, this is I think a fairly brilliant example of good risk management: by forcing programmers to stop and make a choice between a DiffTime (which includes leap seconds) and a NominalDiffTime (which more or less pretends they don't exist), it also forces them to think for a moment about what exactly they're doing. So kudos to Ashley Yakeley, the rather smart author of this library. Curt Sampson <email@example.com> +81 90 7737 2974 Functional programming in all senses of the word: http://www.starling-software.com
Workshop on GENI and Security January 22-23, 2009 Davis, California, USA The Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) is a suite of network research infrastructures now in its design and prototyping phase. It is sponsored by the National Science Foundation to support experimental research in network science and engineering. The goal of this workshop is to engage the security community in GENI's design and prototyping, to ensure that security issues are properly considered during its development. First, what classes of security experiments should GENI support? What capabilities will GENI require to allow the conduct of these experiments? Second, how can GENI itself be adequately secured and protected from attack? What forms of authentication, authorization, and accountability would be most appropriate? As the GENI Project Office expects to issue its 2nd solicitation for GENI analysis and prototyping subcontracts in the middle of December, with proposals due in mid-February, it is anticipated that topics discussed at the workshop will lead to proposals from the security community. Participation. We invite short (1 paragraph preferably; at most 1 page) statements of ideas addressing these two issues. Submit your statement to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 18. Please use either PDF or text. For more information: http://seclab.cs.ucdavis.edu/meetings/genisec Matt Bishop, UC Davis
For those interested in security metrics, here is the link to the Call for Participation for MiniMetricon 3.5. [20 April 2009, Moscone Center SF] http://www.securitymetrics.org/content/Wiki.jsp?page=Metricon3.5 Fred Cohen & Associates 572 Leona Drive Livermore, CA 94550 1-925-454-0171 http://all.net/ [Frequent RISKS contributors Fred and Jeremy Epstein are on the PC. PGN]
BKHISCCH.RVW 20081020 "The History of Information Security", Karl de Leeuw/Jan Bergstra, 2007, 978-0-444-51608-4 %E Karl de Leeuw email@example.com %E Jan Bergstra %C 256 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 7DH %D 2007 %G 978-0-444-51608-4 %I Elsevier Advanced Technology %O +44 865 512242 Fax: +44 865 310981 books.elsevier.com %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0444516085/robsladesinterne http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0444516085/robsladesinte-21 %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0444516085/robsladesin03-20 %O Audience i Tech 1 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 887 p. %T "The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook" Chapter one, which stands in for an introduction to the papers in this volume, already notes that the title is inaccurate. The editor admits that this work is not a history, as such, but an overview from the perspective of different disciplines related to information security, taking a historical approach in examining the socio-political shaping of infosec. The authors ask whether technology influenced public policy and politics, and look for information security strategies (or the lack thereof) in politics. I found the selection of references disquieting, noting that the editor responsible for the choice of papers complained that there was no historical material addressing industrial espionage, administrative practices, disruption of communications with criminal intent, or other areas. No mention is made, in the references, to the works of Stamp (cf. BKINSCPP.RVW), Winkler (cf. BKCRPESP.RVW, BKSPAMUS.RVW), or Denning (cf. BKDENING.RVW) to name just a few. I can agree with the emphasis on social aspects of security: security is, and always has been, a people problem. Information security, however, necessarily involves technology, and the authors of most of the papers included in this collection have concentrated so much on history (mostly in the form of dates and political rivalries) that the questions of influence of technology on politics, or politics on technology, can't really be analyzed. Additionally, enormous topical areas relevant to information security (such as risk management, intrusion detection, cryptographic infrastructure (PKI), physical security, computer architecture, application development, and malware) are notable by their absence. Part one addresses intellectual property. Essay subjects include various forms of censorship and self-censorship (with no mention of the "full disclosure" debate), the German patent system, copyright, and the application of copyright and patent to software. Part two looks at items related to identity management, with a highly abstract and impractical philosophy of identity, notes on document security, a review of identity cards, and a recent history of biometrics. Although entitled "Communications Security," part three is about cryptography. The papers on Renaissance (1400-1650) and Dutch (up to 1800) cryptography, British postal interception up until the 1700s, the KGB crypto office, and the NSA (US National Security Agency) are of primarily political interest. The articles on rotor cryptography, Colossus, and the Hagelin machines have points of curiosity, but are still very thin on technical details. A final essay attempts a very terse overview of modern cryptographic concepts. Computer security is in part four. Early US military evaluation standards, some of the basic formal information security models, an academic look at application security and auditing, a rough division of recent information technology into decade "periods," an equally unpolished history of Internet security, and a scattered review of computer crime make up this section. For some reason questions of privacy and regulations governing the export of cryptography are seen to fit together in part five. Three papers present US cryptographic export restrictions, a random and not completely successful attempt to define privacy, and various US undertakings at regulating the use of encryption. Part five can't have been lumped together simply due to a lack of articles, since part six is a single piece providing a limited and incomplete overview of information warfare. As a book this volume is disappointing. It is not "a history," merely a collection of papers, with little structure or linkage. The topics relate to security, but a work on infosec should have more technical content and understanding. It is certainly not comprehensive. And, at several kilograms in weight, it bears little resemblance to a handbook. That said, a number of the essays do provide interesting historical points, anecdotes, and references. Therefore, those with the stamina to work through the material may be rewarded with historical nuggets, and pointers to further sources of information. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKHISCCH.RVW 20081020 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/author/p1/
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