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…
A municipal councilor in White Rock, British Columbia, has been booted out of office for sending unsolicited e-mail with a fake sender name, from a city hall computer, lying about his opponents. One of his opponents spent several $100s on a forensic analysis and court case, recovering his expenses. The lying spammer has lost his seat, fined $20,000 and has to refund his court costs, which were paid by White Rock but may now be recoverable due to the reversal of the election. Do a web search on White Rock Coleridge Todd Full text of decision. http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/09/06/2009BCSC0688.htm
As reported at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8064332.stm : A commonly-used cancer drug can make patients' fingerprints disappear, potentially causing problems for foreign travel, a doctor warns. One patient was held by US immigration officials for four hours before they allowed him to enter the country. The case is highlighted in the journal Annals of Oncology. ... Although the drug is commonly used to treat a range of cancers, it can cause chronic inflammation of the palms or soles of the feet, leading to peeling, bleeding or blistering of the skin. Over time this can lead to the loss of fingerprints. ...
...Mike Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (located at the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road and Route 123), would say only that if a communications line used by the agency was cut, the nation's intelligence-gathering would carry on uninterrupted. "No particular project puts us at risk — highway construction, building construction," Birmingham said. "We don't have a single point of failure. Our systems are redundant." [Source: *The Washington Post*, 30 May 2009; TNX to Mark Luntzel for spotting this one. PGN] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/30/AR2009053002114.html
Ideal is an electronic payment service for on-line purchases operated in The Netherlands (and maybe other countries — I don't know). It works as follows: * You complete the details of your purchase on the web site of the merchant * You select iDEAL as payment method * You are re-directed to the on-line banking service of the bank of your choice * After logging in with your usual credentials, you are presented with a pre-filled bank transfer form * Accepting the form, the payment is done, and you are returned to the merchant, who confirms your purchase and payment In a recent purchase I made, rather than confirming payment, I got a pop-up something like "Payment failed. Please try again later or pay by other means". I did just that: Tried again later. Same result. Tried again a lot later. Same result. Checking my bank account, it turned out that 3 payments had been debited. The merchant dealt with the case in a professional manner, accepting one payment and refunding me the two other. But it took several phone calls, faxing supporting material and a few days before I was really sure that the holiday I had booked was actually confirmed. Apparently, they had some trouble locating a bank transfer that was not properly linked to the purchase. Is the iDEAL protocol really so sloppy that it cannot deal properly with a fault somewhere half-way the process? Or is it the implementation by a particular vendor that is broken? What I really object to is the "try again later" phrase that seemingly implies that the whole transaction was voided.
It never ceases to amaze me at the ineptitude of e-commerce web sites to deliver items paid for. There are excellent e-commerce web sites such as British Airways flight booking, Expedia, eBay and Amazon. The common factor is that most (99.99%) manage to take a customer's money from a bank or credit card account almost quicker than a web page takes to refresh. And at least with airlines a customer then gets an e-ticket. But it is companies that sell hard goods that are continually of concern. I have had little trouble with Amazon who use 'normal mail services. But eBay sellers, and companies such as Argos, Littlewoods, GUS, etc. (aka online mail order catalogue companies) ALL have a real problem in actually delivering goods to purchasers. The courier companies — DHL, FedEx, Parcel Force, etc. — even if in-house — are the weak link in the e-commerce chain. The issues are 1) These companies deliver at their convenience forgetting that many people are not at home but out at work, and/or 2) The laziness of the courier drivers is such that they don't bother to leave an attempted delivery card, and ultimately the goods are 'returned to sender' — unclaimed. In February I was sent from the USA some valuable and rare archive video recordings on tape. They failed to arrive at my address in the UK. The courier fee was $60. After persistent enquiries at both ends they had simply disappeared — each 'country' blamed the other. The tracking number(s) didn't work. *Three* months later the package turned up again — but at the sender's address as 'returned unclaimed at destination.' It appears that once again the courier driver had simply failed to leave an 'attempted delivery card.' And the courier company had failed to alert me by mail and/or email. So the goods went beck to sender. Last year I bought some clubbing clothes from a eBay company in Germany. Again the goods were dispatched using a German courier — I can't read German so tracking on its web site was a problem. The goods never arrived. Again they were sent back, and I had to raise a formal complaint with eBay and PayPal to obtain a refund. I know that I'm not the only one affected in the UK. And this appears to be a world-wide problem. A friend of mine in New York City always has goods delivered to his parents in Vermont because he can never get them delivered properly in New York. It is not usually the fault or risks of using computers and the Internet that fails the development of e-commerce so badly. It is the human element - aka the lazy courier companies and their drivers that fail the system. I see no solution to this even as the Internet gets faster.
I hope no one found out the hard way: "Geezer phones don't work Part of http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?sub=true&id=53372: Thousands of phones sold by Jitterbug, a mobile operator that specializes in simple handsets for limited uses such as emergency calls, are being recalled because they can't be used to call 911 in some rare cases. Jitterbug sells bare-bones handsets and no-contract service plans geared toward seniors and other consumers who don't make heavy use of cell phones. One of its phones, the Jitterbug OneTouch, has dedicated buttons for the Jitterbug operator, one preset number, and 911 in place of a numeric keypad. That phone, as well as the standard Jitterbug phone with a keypad, have been recalled because they can't be used to call 911 emergency lines in some U.S. areas where they should be able to."
In 2004, a politically controversial decision was made to cease operations of BCRail, and sell a 999 year lease to CN. A section of the line near the town of Lillooet is known as one of the longest continuous mountain grades in Canada. BCRail used dynamic brakes. CN used air brakes, and confirmed this decision in early 2006, despite concerns raised by employees. On June 29, 2006, a train derailed on that section, and two employees died. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has now ruled that the failure was caused by an inadequate braking system used in the steep mountain canyon. http://links.cbc.ca/a/l.x?T=jncickgignjgfckaafjiiiklfcfi&M=36 "[N]o risk assessment was done before removing locomotives with dynamic braking from this extreme mountain territory." email@example.com http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm http://blog.isc2.org/isc2_blog/slade/index.html http://twitter.com/rslade http://blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/author/p1/
Jason Hewlett, Fatality: 19-year-old killed while walking on train tracks; iPod may have drowned out sound of train's warning whistle, *The Daily New*, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, 22 May 2009, A1-A2, PGN-ed Liam Peel, an 19-year-old Kamloops man, may not have heard a CP Rail train approaching from behind him at 56 km/h, because he was apparently listening to an iPod while walking along one of the track rails, dressed in a black hoodie. A registered audiologist suggested that an iPod can crank out up to 100 decibels, and ear buds tend to drown out external sounds. [At maximum volume, our youths are probably going deaf as well.]
Floyd Landis' 2006 Tour de France victory is being questioned because of allegedly hacked computer systems that held the drug test results. http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/may/29/1s29landis215559-landis-case-twist-hacking-lab-com/ Clearly, to keep drug testing computers safe from Tour de France attackers, we need higher cycle-omatic complexity of the systems. The RISK? Some of us will go to any length to pull a pun out of a marginally security related article.
Actually, I'd just seen this in another place, with rather complementary info. "The fugitive couple and their small entourage have been traced to Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, largely via one of their indiscreet updates on social networking site Facebook." I thought the "tracking crooks by Facebook" aspect made it RISKS fodder in another direction: http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/web/2009/05/25/1243103468196.html
> An airplane on a take-off run clearly could perform an automatic sanity > check (comparing thrust settings and actual acceleration with gross > weight, air speed/temperature/pressure, flap settings ...) and raise an > alarm if something's seriously amiss. As an engineer, I love this idea. A dash of physics, a bit of programming, a tiny display. Life is good. In fact, you could improve it. GPS databases already know which airport you're at, and your heading tells it which runway you're on. It would be easy to look up runway length from that input. As a pilot, I'm highly skeptical of any such alarm that may go off at the particularly sensitive time as take off. The alarm could trigger an inappropriate takeoff abort; and that could lead to a crash. Displaying a new piece of information, say actual versus planned acceleration, would be very welcome in the first 100 feet of takeoff roll. The same information would be very unwelcome a few seconds later as we near takeoff speed at 200 feet per second, At that point, things happen too rapidly and the pilot is too focused to deal with distractions or cognitive dissonance. That makes the design an engineering challenge — the more time the gizmo takes to make sure that estimates are accurate and alarms are not false, the less valuable the information is to the pilot. Also, if we create a situation where trust transitions from the machine to the pilot's instincts, and there is no clear-cut transition boundary, then the design is a bad one. Any new gizmo in the cockpit might be heroic or counterproductive depending on the human interface, and our ability to integrate it into pilot training. We need to develop practiced responses to inputs that lead to practiced recovery procedures. Dick Mills, SV Tarwathie blog: dickandlibby.blogspot.com
[The dangers of not having multiple sources for, in this case, radioisotopes, strikes yet again. This primarily affects Canadian medical institutions, but there's lots of impact in the US as well. (Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if Columbia University had gotten that nuclear reactor after all...)] Peter Zimonjic, Isotope crisis may be worse than forecast; Some patients will be 'low priority' http://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1581040 Patient groups say lives are at stake because of the shrinking number of nuclear imaging scans available at Canadian hospitals. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming weeks as the medical isotope shortage intensifies because of the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor. [These isotopes, which have short radioactive half lives, thus can't be "stored", are used in many medical procedures. Oh, and for other purposes, too).
In RISKS-25.68, David Hollman (In a Lab, an Ever-Growing Database of DNA Profiles) asks if there is, "A niche catchphrase for the effect where information in digital form has more credibility than in other forms?" In the same issue, Bob Frankston (Re: Australian emergency services) asks whether anyone thought to play the audio recording over a telephone line. Whilst I am insufficiently witty to think of an appropriate catchphrase, these both illustrate Hutber's Law — "Improvement means deterioration". They also suggest to me two other laws. The first is Arthur C Clarke's Third Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic . and so it appears is much of today's technology to the non-technical and because of the increasing diversification of skills, even many of the 'techies'. The second could be termed Weasley's Law, from the character Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter book 'The Chamber of Secrets': "Never trust anything if you can't see where it keeps its brain." But maybe the appropriate catchphrase is that old one ., "Computer says [YES/NO]".
Quoting an article about drive destruction, Fred Cohen disagreed with the adequacy of Canada's tax agency cutting disk drives into pieces "no bigger than the width of a pencil", saying the pieces "will have to be small enough to make the content on one chunk of no utility. At the density of a HDD, a pencil width holds quite a bit of data." Fred is right in the literal sense, but one has to consider the overall threat model. Given a choice of obtaining and putting together a disk drive from pieces no bigger than the width of a pencil or hacking into a site to steal the data, the risks to the attacker for a hacking attempt are much lower, the specialized knowledge and equipment required much less, and the likelihood of success much greater. I fear that following Fred's cautionary words might lead organizations to overemphasize drive destruction and underemphasize the risks of software flaws. Given everything we've read about tax, military, and medical systems being routinely compromised, a pencil width of data is fine with me for destruction of a disk that has my personal information. What keeps me up at night is the probability that the organization put a firewall in place and called it a day. --Jeremy
I certainly agree that risks should be rationally managed. However, my caution stands. I don't believe I said that it was a bad risk management decision — only that the residual data on a chunk of a disk is substantial. Evaluating the risks is not something that was discussed in the previous article — rather it seemed to me to portray a level of risk thought to be acceptable with no particular reason behind it. I would welcome the detailed explanation from Canada's tax agency about how they made the risk management decision and what residual risks they decided to accept, assuming that such a rational decision was made. Which brings me to your point, Jeremy... What is the basis for your conclusion with respect to the relative risks you identify, and how did you do your calculations? Or were you just making a broad generalization without a firm basis like Canada's Tax Agency did in its press release (although perhaps not in its actual decision process - we don't know). Fred Cohen & Associates tel/fax: 925-454-0171 http://all.net/ 572 Leona Drive Livermore, CA 94550
Fred, I think we're in agreement that the residual data on a chunk of disk is substantial. While it's true that the evaluation wasn't discussed, the implication was that chunks of that size are "safe", and therefore there was an implicit risk assessment. As for my conclusion about the relative risks, I assumed that the pieces of disk aren't labeled or segregated when being disposed of (i.e., so disk A is in a bag labeled "tax data disk A" while disk B is in a separate bag). I also assumed that their application security is neither better nor worse than the typical site - namely there's a 90% likelihood (give or take) that the site can be compromised with no more than a couple weeks of work by reasonably skilled non-nation-state attackers. So my calculation was that if there's a 90% probability of an arm's length essentially undetectable attack in a couple weeks vs. obtaining the physical media and analysis equipment and putting it back together (which, from what I've read, takes months or longer), the odds are very much on the software attack. I don't know how much data is destroyed in the process of chopping the disks up, and how much of it is recoverable through error correcting codes, use of RAID (if an attacker is able to get multiple copies of the same data), etc. That would obviously also come into the risk assessment - but I believe the order of magnitude difference is large enough to make software attacks a clear winner for the bad guy. So, yes I did do a (very informal) risk assessment in making my statement. Was it a broad generalization? Yes, but an informed one.
I have just read Phil Colbourns advice on creating a secure password. It's good, but I don't think it goes far enough. It should be adequate for slowing down most attackers, but it won't work for anyone knowledgeable who can access the .sam file. Before an e-mail comes 'flooding in' to point it out - I know that should only be a very few people and it should be one of the best defended files in the whole system. Someone has completed the task of generating 'rainbow tables' for every Microsoft password combination up to 14 characters in length. It's a 64 Gb download, but it is publicly available. For sysadmin and any other password with privileges, I regard anything less than 15 characters that uses the MS password hashing algorithm as broken. Eight characters is not long, not any more. David Alexander, Towcester, Northamptonshire, England
In RISKS-25.69 Phil Colbourn presented a method for creating "memorable but secure passwords" but those 2 things, memorable and secure, seem to be directly at odds with each other. Perhaps I have a naive view of the problems with passwords but it escapes me why passwords can not be phrases rather than based on some arcane and usually difficult set of arbitrary "rules". It seems to me that the stricter the rules the easier it makes things for those would like to compromise a site with said rules. A phrase that includes upper and lower case letters (if desired) as well as spaces and punctuation creates a much large space that must be consider when attempting to figure out a password. I've been designing sites to allow the use of a phrase of up to 255 characters for a number of years and have yet to have any of them compromised. It's a lot easier to remember "My first car was a '65 Mustang" than it is to remember "Ab19EloG#z" And a phrase that is easily remembered doesn't need to be written down.
How so? Or, more importantly, shouldn't we be asking on a target site by target site basis: "why is this better than three letters lower case, that aren't my initials"? eg: "cat". The usual nonsense about complex passwords being needed to defeat "dictionary lookup" - a concept that depends on a sites admin being willing to hand out his encrypt - doesn't apply to the typical e-store that is willing to send you your password in clear text. I'd be interested in typical e-store policies on people playing "guess the password"... how long do they pause between attempts, do they "lock" the account for some time period after so many tries etc. But in the real world I'm much more concerned about some manager getting his laptop stolen from the airport bar with my account info, along with the info for 78,000 other customers, on it. The escalation we've seen in trying to get the Internet user base to adopt ever sillier passwords that they inevitably need to copy onto post-its on the bottom of their keyboards seems, to me anyway, to have become insanely disproportionate to the threat. Is this still a real problem for anyone else? Working at a University requires that we set initial passwords for students to something not easily deduced by their classmates or we'll inevitably be told that any account abuse we follow up on was done by "someone guessed my password". But that's more of a political solution to a different issue. Aside from the above, I suppose one may be trying to protect oneself from someone who uses the same machine you do, but I fail to see how an environment that threatening (which suggests a key logger might be in the opponents arsenal) would benefit from a more more complex password. I guess what I'm asking for here is, if you're suggesting a best practice, could you (rhetorical "you"... I'm not trying to hold the authors of this post or many similar ones immediately accountable) give a little more detail about the threat you're helping us avoid?
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