Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/04/BAUI15N63L.DTL&type=newsbayarea Two BART subway trains crashed yesterday on a Y junction in Oakland. The automation in the BART system made this crash a surprise for some, and the newspaper article specifically says that one of the trains was under manual operation at the time of the collision. Many will likely conclude that the cause of the crash was operator error, which is certainly a possibility. But a common risk of automated systems is the problem of what happens when they fail, and infrequently used manual protocols must come into effect. Complacency is always a risk with automation. It will be interesting if the details of this crash are found and are released.
[See note at end on request from Max for help requested on a paper on Hyperinflation impact on electronic commerce. PGN] The risk is that older computer and networking systems can be overloaded when not updated regularly. Yes, there are risks in upgrading too — so the success or failure here is in the backup systems. Max Power, CEO Power Broadcasting http://HireMe.geek.nz Wellington / Adelaide / Vancouver / Seattle When an earthquake larger than magnitude 3.0 strikes the Northwest, an automated system is supposed to page University of Washington seismologists and notify emergency managers. But that's not what happened with Friday morning's magnitude 4.5 jolt. The *Seattle Times* reported that because computers were apparently overloaded with data from an expanded network of seismic instruments, the scientists were awakened instead by predawn calls from journalists. "The system has worked flawlessly for 10 years," said Steve Malone, emeritus professor and former director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. "This time, nothing went off." The quake didn't cause any damage, though it woke people across the region and the shaking was felt from the Olympic Peninsula to Seattle. The glitch in the UW's routine also had no serious fallout, thanks to functioning systems in other states. An automatic warning from the U.S. Geological Survey in California arrived at Washington's Emergency Management Division headquarters within seconds of the 5:25 a.m. quake. Notification from Alaska's Tsunami Warning Center followed minutes later. "That's the value of redundancy," said EMD spokesman Mark Clemens. It took Malone and other UW scientists about 15 minutes to check seismic data and compute the earthquake's size and epicenter — about 14 miles northwest of Seattle near Kingston, Kitsap County. http://www.kirotv.com/news/18612303/detail.html ==> ALSO: Research assistance needed on Hyperinflation impact on electronic commerce I would like to do a fully detailed research paper [on Hyperinflation vs Electronic Commerce] that can be distributed on the web via my website - so if you have any practical suggestions on how to expand this paper do so. THERE IS NO WIKIPEDIA PAGE ON THIS TOPIC, as there is little if any official research. Hopefully, I will be able in future to submit the core conclusions to RISKS -- to the amusement or horror of this strategically important part of the IT SECTOR. [DRAFT deleted by PGN]
Brian J. Pedersen, *Arizona Daily Star*, 2 Feb 2009 The pornographic content that interrupted thousands of local Comcast subscribers' Super Bowl broadcast was the result of an "isolated malicious act," a company spokeswoman said Monday. But company officials have yet to determine how that act was committed, spokeswoman Kelle Maslyn said, though any sort of equipment malfunction has been ruled out. "We did an extensive preliminary check on our technical systems, and everything appeared to be working properly when the incident occurred," Maslyn said. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's office in Phoenix said it is looking into the interruption, which lasted about 30 seconds, and featured full male nudity. "We take this matter seriously," spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said. "We're working with appropriate agencies to review the incident." One of those agencies, the Federal Communications Commission, was not aware of any formal complaints made regarding the porn clip, FCC media relations director David Fiske said Monday afternoon. It is still unclear how many viewers saw the clip, from a porn movie being shown on Shorteez, an adult cable channel offered by Comcast on a pay-per-view basis. Only Comcast subscribers who received a standard definition signal could see the clip, while those who watched the game on high-definition televisions were not affected, Maslyn said. Comcast is Southern Arizona's second-largest cable subscriber, with more than 80,000 customers in unincorporated Pima County, Marana and Oro Valley. ... http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/278448.php
We just cut and paste from the e-mail to the program we use for printing the edible images, we are usually in such a hurry that we really don't have time to check. and if we do the customers yell at us for bothering them. Result http://cdnll-7.liveleak.com/s/14/media14/2009/Jan/31/LiveLeak-dot-com-e9f763bb9c03-cake.jpg?h=fc165d4705b83d83ab53fb1bfbd44c49&e=1234064051&rs=150 or *http://tinyurl.com/as7ree ASCII art anyone?
Kirjoittaja: Antti Vaha-Sipila, Lokakuu 28, 2008 - 19:12. Electronic Frontier Finland ry http://www.effi.org/blog/2008-10-28-finnish-evoting-votes-lost.html [29th Oct 2008 Updated the e-voting interface link to point to the English version] [29th Oct 2008 Edited to add a report of touchscreen issues] A fully electronic voting system was piloted in the Finnish municipal elections on the 26th of October, 2008. Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI) had criticised the pilot program for years, recently releasing a report on its deficiencies <http://www.effi.org/blog/2008-09-01-evoting-report-in-english.html>. Today, the Ministry of Justice revealed <http://www.om.fi/Etusivu/Ajankohtaista/Uutiset/1224166604122> that due to a usability issue, voting was prematurely aborted for 232 voters. The pilot system was in use in three municipalities; this amounts to about 2 per cent of the electoral roll. Seats in the municipal assemblies are often determined by margins of only a couple of votes. It seems that the system required the voter to insert a smart card to identify the voter, type in their selected candidate number, then press "ok", check the candidate details on the screen, and then press "ok" again. Some voters did not press "ok" for the second time, but instead removed their smart card from the voting terminal prematurely, causing their ballots not to be cast. This usability issue was exacerbated by Ministry of Justice instructions, which specifically said <http://www.vaalit.fi/sahkoinenaanestaminen/aanestyksen_kulku.html> that in order to cancel the voting process, the user should click on "cancel" and after that, remove the smart card. Thus, some voters did not realise that their vote had not been registered. [Added 29th Oct:] There has now been at least one report <http://www.hs.fi/keskustelu/Brax%3A+Vaalitulosta+ei+voi+perua+hukka%E4%E4nien+takia/thread.jspa?threadID=148607&tstart=0&sourceStart=40&start=60> of touchscreen issues. A voter had repeatedly tried to click on "ok", but either due to system lag or touchscreen sensitivity problems, it took "minutes" to get the button press registered. If hit by this type of problem, the voters may well have thought that the ballot casting process had completed. EFFI argues that the election should be re-run in the affected municipalities, and has issued a press release <http://www.effi.org/julkaisut/tiedotteet/lehdistotiedote-2008-10-28.html> (in Finnish) arguing for the legal basis of a re-election. According to Finnish election law, this would require a decision from the Administrative Court. A Flash demo of the e-voting user interface is available <http://www.vaalit.fi/sahkoinenaanestaminen/en/esitys/index.html> on the Ministry of Justice elections portal.
(Just imagine the 'excitement'!) Fannie Mae Logic Bomb Would Have Caused Weeklong Shutdown Kevin Poulsen <firstname.lastname@example.org> 29 Jan 2009 http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/01/fannie.html http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/threats/index.html A logic bomb allegedly planted by a former engineer at mortgage finance company Fannie Mae last fall would have decimated all 4,000 servers at the company, causing millions of dollars in damage and shutting down Fannie Mae for a least a week, prosecutors say. Unix engineer Rajendrasinh Babubha Makwana, 35, was indicted<http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/files/fannie_indictment.pdf> Tuesday in federal court in Maryland on a single count of computer sabotage for allegedly writing and planting the malicious code on Oct. 24, the day he was fired from his job. The malware had been set to detonate at 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 31, but was instead discovered by another engineer five days after it was planted, according to court records. Makwana, an Indian national, was a consultant who worked full time on-site at Fannie Mae's massive data center in Urbana, Maryland, for three years. On the afternoon of Oct. 24, he was told he was being fired because of a scripting error he'd made earlier in the month, but he was allowed to work through the end of the day, according to an FBI affidavit<http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/files/fannie_complaint.pdf>(.pdf) in the case. "Despite Makwana's termination, Makwana's computer access was not immediately terminated," wrote FBI agent Jessica Nye. Five days later, another Unix engineer at the data center discovered the malicious code hidden inside a legitimate script that ran automatically every morning at 9:00 a.m. Had it not been found, the FBI says the code would have executed a series of other scripts designed to block the company's monitoring system, disable access to the server on which it was running, then systematically wipe out all 4,000 Fannie Mae servers, overwriting all their data with zeroes. "This would also destroy the backup software of the servers making the restoration of data more difficult because new operating systems would have to be installed on all servers before any restoration could begin," wrote Nye. As a final measure, the logic bomb would have powered off the servers. The trigger code was hidden at the end of the legitimate program, separated by a page of blank lines. Logs showed that Makwana had logged onto the server on which the logic bomb was created in his final hours on the job. Makwana is free on a $100,000 signature bond. His lawyer didn't immediately return a phone call Thursday. (Updated January 30, 2009 | 3:00:00 PM to correct Makwana's employment information)
If you did a Google search between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning, you likely saw that the message "This site may harm your computer" accompanied each and every search result. This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users. What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. ... http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/this-site-may-harm-your-computer-on.html Google glitch causes confusion Maxim Weinstein, 31 Jan 2009 This morning, an apparent glitch at Google caused nearly every [update 11:44 am] search listing to carry the "Warning! This site may harm your computer" message. Users who attempted to click through the results saw the "interstitial" warning page that mentions the possibility of badware and refers people to StopBadware.org for more information. This led to a denial of service of our website, as millions of Google users attempted to visit our site for more information. We are working now to bring the site back up. We are also awaiting word from Google about what happened to cause the false warnings. ... http://blog.stopbadware.org/2009/01/31/google-glitch-causes-confusion
What if you woke up tomorrow and your Gmail, Orkut, Docs, Reader, Google Checkout account was gone? http://ma.tt/2009/01/google-account-takeover/ [Check out this one. Mark Ghosh, Et Tu Google? Then Fail, Net Safety. Mark is the "owner" of the Orkut community. Apologies to those of you who complain when I occasionally run items that are URLs only. In this one, Mark speaks for himself. PGN]
Spencer S. Hsu, *The Washington Post* 1 Feb 2009 As President Obama's motorcade rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, federal authorities deployed a closely held law enforcement tool: equipment that can jam cellphones and other wireless devices to foil remote-controlled bombs, sources said. It is an increasingly common technology, with federal agencies expanding its use as state and local agencies are pushing for permission to do the same. Police and others say it could stop terrorists from coordinating during an attack, prevent suspects from erasing evidence on wireless devices, simplify arrests and keep inmates from using contraband phones. But jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first. The quest to expand the technology has invigorated a debate about how widely jamming should be allowed and whether its value as a common crime-fighting strategy outweighs its downsides, including restricting the constant access to the airwaves that Americans have come to expect. ... http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/31/AR2009013101548.html
(David Chartier) Prank callers are using VoIP and caller ID spoofing services to pull expensive wool over the eyes of 911 call centers. Solutions are available to bring these centers into the 21st century, but even the cheapest ones are priced outside the realm of the aging service. David Chartier, arstechnica, 2 Feb 2009 The Internet and the hooligans who exploit it have evolved over the past few years, but sadly, America's 911 service hasn't kept up. Pranksters are wreaking havoc on the service and on call center budgets by placing fake calls through a flaw in the way the aging emergency phone system handles VoIP networks. After paying a small fee to one of the readily available caller ID spoofing services available on the Web, a prank caller with a grudge or a serious psychological problem can call 911 and tell the operator just about any story he or she wants. Since the 911 system wasn't built with VoIP in mind, these calls appear to originate from anywhere, and said hooligans take full advantage of the opportunity. The practice has been dubbed "swatting," typically because the spoofed emergency stories that these troubled individuals make up are horrible enough to send police and even SWAT teams to unsuspecting victims on the other side of town or the continent. The AP reports one recent incident that occurred in 2007, when 18-year-old Randal Ellis in Mukilteo, WA falsified his location and called a 911 support center in Orange County, CA. For 27 minutes, Ellis spun a story about drugs and murder that sent the Orange County Sherriff's department SWAT team to the house of Doug and Stacey Bates. Ellis told the operator that he was high and had just shot his sister, and after police stormed the house, Doug and Stacey were handcuffed. This was just one of the 185 calls Ellis made to 911 call centers around the US, according to Yahoo Tech, and the Bates family was picked at random. After being caught, the teen pleaded to five felony felony counts that include computer access and fraud, as well as false imprisonment by violence, and was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Another major case involved eight people who arranged over 300 swatting calls, while another in 2006 involved a teen in Dallas, TX who made up a story about killing family members and threatening hostages with an AK-47. ... http://arstechnica.com/telecom/news/2009/02/911-service-not-prepared-for-new-generation-of-pranksters.ars
In RISKS-25.53, David Hollman <email@example.com> writes: > [Signs] manufactured by IMAGO's ADDCO division can be easily > altered because their instrument panels are frequently left > unlocked and their default passwords are not changed. Even more worthy of mention here is the fact that ADDCO's signs allow themselves to be reset to their from-the-factory state, complete with default password, using what is now a well-known password: http://www.i-hacked.com/content/view/274/1 | ** HACKER TIPS** | Should it will ask you for a password. | Try "DOTS", the default | password. | | In all likelihood, the crew will not have changed it. However if they | did, never fear. Hold "Control" and "Shift" and while holding, enter | "DIPY". This will reset the sign and reset the password to "DOTS" in the | process. You're in!
> 60 US military files labeled top secret popped up on his screen. ... > Kerri Ritchie: The files contained the social security numbers, home > addresses, even mobile phone numbers of American soldiers based in > Afghanistan and Iraq. Although I'm disturbed by the several levels of carelessness needed to allow this to happen, I think I'm even more disturbed by the idea that the names and personal information of soldiers is "top secret". Confidential, definitely. Maybe even "secret", since some of those people are high-ranking officers and I can imagine movie-plot scenarios involving their home addresses. But "top secret" on the level of attack plans and nuclear technology? I think not. Geoff Kuenning firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~geoff/
Ron Lieber's submission about surveillance of account activity reminded me of an incident some years ago when I applied for a mortgage through my bank. I completed the forms with the help of my Bank Manager for a mortgage through their partner (UK) Building Society. The application charges would be debited from my bank account. Two days later I received a call from the Fraud detection department of the bank - Did I owe "XYZ loans" (name obscured to protect those involved) £900, which they were trying to take by direct debit ? "No" said I. "That will be fraud then, we'll stop the payment, cancel the card and send you a new one" they replied. 'Thank you my bank's fraud team, job well done' I thought. The very next morning I received a letter from the Building Society in question with all the relevant mortgage paperwork. One of those papers informed me that the mortgage application fee of £900 was being requested from my bank. Yes, that's right, the mortgage fee request from the Building Society to the Bank had been detected by the bank as fraudulent and denied. Adrenaline kicks in, as it tends to do at moment like that, 'Gosh' (or words to that effect) I thought, 'there goes my mortgage'. Fortunately logic kicked in about 2 minutes later, together with my knowledge of Behavioral Analysis and the Merchant Account payment systems for credit/debit cards (my wife runs an e-commerce business and I set one up for her, together with the encrypted links to the Payment Service Providers). I could see what must have happened, the Building Society was using a Merchant Account name for the debit card transaction that bore no resemblance to their actual name. The fraud system had no knowledge of it and wondered why I was getting a request from a loan company when I had a five figure positive balance in my account. What got me is that it's a major Bank and Building Society. I couldn't have been the first to be processed through a new system could I ? One where the new Merchant Account details had not been entered into the Fraud System as a 'trusted' account ? Did they set up a different one for each kind of mortgage to make the accounting simpler ? By good fortune I know the CTO of the Bank in question and rang him up. I explained what had happened and my theory. He rang back later, I was right on the money - or not in this case. It was exactly as I had supposed. I was one of more than 240 people to whom this had happened in the last 48 hours, but no-one in the Bank had realised the reason why. The good thing was that, for identifying their problem, the Bank waived my application fee and the mortgage was approved. The risks - that not everyone knows the CTO of their bank personally, that mortgages get declined and there is an adverse impact on one's credit rating, that you don't get that dream house...you get the idea. David Alexander, Towcester, Northamptonshire, England Founder member, European Top Methanol Racers Association www.etmra.com
Martyn Thomas wrote: > "The common law has traditionally accepted oral contracts - special cases, > going back the the oddly-named Statue of Frauds, ..." > > What an excellent idea! Where is it? What does it look like? In Paris - across from the Musée de la Contrefaçon, of course: http://www.placesinfrance.com/counterfeit_museum_paris.html Mark Jackson - http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~mjackson
> For any language with reference semantics, trying to program without being > able to express a "reference to nothing" would be quite difficult. I expect about as difficult as dealing with integers without int NaN. Let's see — just off the top of my head. If a function returning a pointer had no way to return an unambiguous error value, we'd have to have a global errno that nobody bothers checking and (except when it's or) application-specific error semantics. Some functions would return a reference to a zero value, others would return reference to zero to indicate success. Some would return 0xdeadbeef, others: negative one, or 9999.999. Hopefully it is all correctly documented and everybody gets the memo when things change in the next release. Then we'll try to work around that mess by returning the actual value as a var parameter and using return value as an error code. In which case everyone will start ignoring the return value, just as they were ignoring the errno before. There'd also be a bit of a problem fetching values from sources that understand nulls: we'd have to define a second function in our API and then everyone will forget to call wasNull() after each and every get(). In other words, it'd be situation normal. [Presumed reference to SNAFU. PGN]
Perhaps Prof. Hoare is apologising because he knew a better way but took the short cut instead. The better way is to make nullability distinct from referencing, as in ML's option type or Haskell's Maybe type. A halfway house is to distinguish nullable and non-nullable references, which is getting closer to mainstream via things like Java @NonNull type annotations. f.anthony.n.finch <email@example.com> http://dotat.at/
IMO the real blindspot is in how we think of aggregate textual types. Clearly, it is a type error, detected at compile-time to add an integer to a Date and expect an integer. My compiler hates me when I say things like what. But it is perfectly happy to take a string representing a Date and then concatenate a string representing hours past that date. And in fact, it's pretty happy for me to just glue some random HTML sludge string onto a nice valid Date. Spackman pointed out that flat text is just *never* what we want. But as long as (char *) is the (void *) of throwing random crap together without reference to eventual contract I see no motivation not to view the world as a vast ocean of Unicode codepoints and then go sailing those Seven Seas.
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