On Monday 22 June 2009, 6-car southbound train #112 rear-ended stopped 6-car southbound train #214, just north of Ft. Totten station. The lead car of 112 split open horizontally, with the frame crushed to half its length, and the sides/roof climbing the last 214 car. Since this was inbound at afternoon rush hour, the trains were far from full; there are 9 dead, including the operator of 112, and ~75 injured. The NTSB reports that 112 was in automatic mode, where trackside block limits and Central Command dictates the train's movements. An interview with the 214 operator disclosed that it was stopped in manual mode. Based on track and wheel markings, the operator of 112 started an emergency stop several hundred feet before the collision. Despite that, 214 was displaced 6-7 feet by the collision. (An empty 6-car train weighs about 460,000 lbs.) On Tuesday and Wed, NTSB ran tests on the blocks of signaling system. On Wednesday, they found that a train stopped where 214 was did NOT register on the ATP system. Comments: It's way too early to jump to conclusions, but the above is exactly what 100+ years of railroad signaling supposedly makes impossible. There will be a lot of work in the coming months to discern what happened. ref: past NTSB reports on Metro incidents. One discusses the signaling system; the other shows another 1000-series car similarly split by a collision. <http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2006/RAR0601.htm> <http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1996/RAR9604.htm>
In case you missed it, NTSB issued a press release yesterday on investigation progress. http://ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2009/090625.html One significant finding: > Investigators conducted tests at the accident site last night with a > similar train and found that when the train was stopped at the same > location as the stopped struck train, the train control system lost > detection of the test train. This is certainly only one factor in a complex incident, for example the operator of the leading train says he was running the train in manual mode all his shift - why?? This will be an interesting one to watch.
Comment from Dave Parnas: This problem already seems to be solved on German trains. If you watch them, you will see that they punch in some numbers when they pass a sign along the tracks. In this way, you know if they are not alert. On the other hand, the system is supposedly designed to make it impossible for a train to cross the red light indicating a train on the tracks ahead, with automated braking based on maintaining a safe distance between trains. Later reports seem to indicate that the signaling across one stretch of track was inoperative, which prevented the system from working properly. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/01/AR2009070102369.html?hpid%3Dtopnews&sub=AR
There was a train problem in the news two weeks before the DC disaster. [Source: Heather Haddon, Autopilot causes L trains to bypass platforms, *AM New York*, 10 Jun 2009]
According to the Wall Street Journal, 27 Jun 2009, investigators "suspect a rapid chain of computer and equipment malfunctions stripped the crew of automation today's pilots typically rely on to control a big jetliner." Much of the article concerns the hypothesized sequence of events, but this paragraph should resonate with RISKS readers: Unlike jetliners built in previous decades — which required pilots to frequently manipulate controls and often manually fly the planes for long stretches — newer computer-centric aircraft such as the A330 and Boeing's 777 are designed to operate almost entirely on automated systems. From choosing engine settings and routes to smoothing out the ride during turbulence and landing in low visibility, pilots essentially monitor instruments and seldom interfere with computerized commands. So when those electronic brains begin to act weirdly at 35,000 feet, the latest crop of aviators may be less comfortable stepping in and grabbing control of the airplane. There's on other point worth noting. As has often been noted, it's rarely one thing that brings down a modern airliner. The current presumed scenarios are known to be incomplete: Planes can — and occasionally do — fly safely without pitot probes functioning properly. That's why investigators believe some other important factor, which hasn't been identified yet, likely contributed to the crash. The plane is a system, where the different pieces interact in complex ways.
Out of Business, Clear May Sell Customer Data <http://slashdot.org/> Posted by kdawson Friday June 26, @11:40AM from the but-don't-worry-it's-perfectly-safe dept. privacy <http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=privacy> narramissic <http://www.itworld.com/> writes "Earlier this week, the Clear airport security screening service ceased operations, leaving many to wonder what would become of the personal information, including credit card numbers, fingerprints, and iris scans, of Clear's customers. And now we know. The information could be sold to the provider of a similar service. http://www.itworld.com/security/69829/out-business-clear-may-sell-customer-data Until then, Clear has erased PC hard drives at its airport screening kiosks and is wiping employee computers, but the information is retained on its central databases (managed by Lockheed Martin). Clear customer David Maynor, who is CTO with Errata Security in Atlanta, wants Clear to delete his information but that isn't happening, the company said in a note <http://www.flyclear.com/> posted to its Web site Thursday. 'They had your Social Security information, credit information, where you lived, employment history, fingerprint information,' said Maynor. 'They should be the only ones who have access to that information.'" <http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/06/26/1435209/Out-of-Business-Clear-May-Se ll-Customer-Data>
The demolition crew was given only the GPS coordinates, and demolished the wrong house. No one home, no confirmation. Ugly case. [PGN-ed; Thanks to Lauren Weinstein.] http://news.aol.com/article/mans-house-mistakenly-destroyed/523439
Sequoia Voting Systems agreed yesterday to turn over sensitive information to the D.C. Council about how the District's voting machines work and tabulate results, setting the stage for one of the most comprehensive probes on the reliability of electronic voting equipment. The agreement is a response to the election night chaos in the September primaries, when Sequoia machines tabulated more ballots than there were voters, resulting in thousands of phantom votes. ... [Source: Tim Craig, *The Washington Post*, 6 Jun 2009] <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/05/AR2009060503617_pf.html>
I thought Heathrow was bad enough with its new multi-million pound Terminal 5. Remember the opening fiasco of the thousands of delayed bags being trucked around Europe and then back again, eventually to be auctioned at Gatwick as unclaimed? But at least at Heathrow they always get the departure gates correctly displayed on the computer driven LED displays. But recently Rome FCO airport produced a first for me. The screens displaying departures were like huge 6 foot / 2 metre laptop screens on end. In detail they listed the airlines, flight codes, departure gates, and important information like 'now boarding.' When I discovered them upstairs in Terminal C, incidentally in the time-distracting shopping area, one screen showed up-to-date / minute by minute listings for 12.00 through to about 14.00, and the two screens next door had listings for 19.00 through to 21.00 and 21.00 to 24.00. On the two latter screens some of the flights were listed as 'now boarding' including one for Toronto at about 20.00. However the actual time was 13.00. Hmm ... Interestingly a possible explanation could have been seen at the bottom left hand corners of the errant screens where there was that ubiquitous Windows 'Start' button in green. I tried pressing it but the screens were not touch screens. Clearly Windows had crashed and apparently left the previous day's flights on display on the two screens. When I told an official he shrugged - like airport officials tend to do - and walked away. The screens stayed like that until I left the area at 16.30 for my BA flight to London. But as we queued at the BA flight's departure gate, to have our boarding passes processed, I noticed that the Windows driven screen there clearly stated that the flight we were about to board was on Gulf Air to Dubai. The BA contract staff had not noticed, so I assumed that this misinformation was not unusual. I was correct. However that wasn't quite the end of my computer malfunctioned experience. At Heathrow T5 BA/BAA, with their spanking brand new computer controlled baggage delivery system, they kindly delivered my hold baggage onto the wrong belt so that after waiting for about 30 minutes I then reported it missing. After interrogating their computer system the BA staff told me that it had not even been loaded onto the plane at Rome, that this was not unusual from Rome, and that it would (probably) arrive the next day and be delivered to my home by courier. [Incidentally it appears that thousands (millions?) of 'delayed' bags actually do fly around the world without their owners on board - but that's another risk.] However as I was about to leave the hall and go through customs, and in a less than happy mood, I spotted my lonely bag all by itself on a delivery belt at the far end of the baggage hall. So I guess it was all a case of a human workforce who don't care about giving out the wrong information, or at least in Rome FCO Airport simply not switching off (or rebooting) displays that were clearly giving out the incorrect information, together with "the principal of computer automation" (e.g. for baggage delivery) "that things automatically go wrong;" a mix that can't fail to cause an interesting experience if not one of concern. And this was during a simple flight from Rome to London.
Not an area I'm an expert in, but many years ago I worked as an auditor for the New South Wales (Australia) State Rail. As the job on occasion required us to walk around the maintenance workshops and railway tracks, we received safety training. My recollection of the training was an emphasis on not relying on actually hearing a train coming at you, as the sound waves mostly radiate sideways (not forward of the train). Hence, despite being very big and noisy the trains can 'sneak up on you' (even at very low speeds). Which is why when workers are doing track maintenance they put explosive charges down the track to provide an audio cue that the train is coming. So, whilst wearing an ipod didn't help the situation, walking on a railway track is not very clever in the first place.
[Thanks to Gunnar Peterson for spotting this one.] Space trading game Eve Online has suffered a virtual version of the credit crunch. One of the game's biggest financial institutions lost a significant chunk of its deposits as a huge theft started a run on the bank. One of the bank's controllers stole about 200billion credits and swapped them for real world cash of 3,115 pounds. As news of the theft spread, many of the bank's customers rushed to remove their virtual cash. ... The scandal is not the first to play out in Eve Online. In early 2009 one of the game's biggest corporations, called Band of Brothers, was brought down by industrial espionage. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8132547.stm
This is probably an interesting paper to draw figures from to see if you can somehow convince people to (a) leave full disk crypto alone and (b) properly shut down a laptop when not in use, despite the lengthy boot time of a modern enterprise laptop lumbering under anti-virus, corporate software management tools and a fragmented file system. Ponemon rang up 106 big airports in 46 states to discover that Business travelers lose about 12,000 laptops a week in US airports. Not all, or even most, are stolen by airport staff — 40 per cent of losses occur at security checkpoints. But of the laptops that are found, just 33 per cent are reclaimed by their owner. The rest are sold off, leaving "potentially millions of files containing sensitive or confidential data that may be accessible to a large number of airport employees and contractors." 40% of loss occurs at security checkpoints. Should that not be IN security checkpoints then?
UBC graduate students and instructors visited Ghana, China (the world's largest electronic waste dump, in Guiyi), and India to find out what happens to electronic trash. Criminals scour the hard drives for credit card information and other personal information. (The electronic waste also pollutes the environment and poisons scavengers seeking to extract metals.) In Ghana, students bought a hard drive originally used by U.S. defence contractor Northrop Grumman, containing about 50 files marked as competitive and sensitive, including information on government contracts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Northrop spokesman Thomas Henson said that the company has a detailed procedure to dispose of electronics and the drive was likely stolen from a vendor that handles its disposed electronics. (Yeah, right.) (Maybe the Chinese don't have to hack into important computers to get sensitive info ...) http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/media/releases/2009/mr-09-077.html http://www.vancouversun.com/News/team+uncovers+sensitive+defence+records/1723318/story.html http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/ http://www.timescolonist.com/Technology/secrets+found+trash/1723812/story.ht ml http://fergdawg.blogspot.com/2009/06/ubc-journalism-students-find-sensitive.html email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org 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/
The matter of the e-mails between Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) and his paramour becoming public raises any number of questions. However, what has been notable in much of the press coverage is the lack of question of whether a crime was committed in the process of supplying them to The State (a South Carolina newspaper). A more detailed discussion of this affair appears in my blog under the under "Governor Sanford Email Disclosure: An ECPA Violation" at http://www.rlgsc.com/blog/ruminations/sanford-ecpa.html Robert "Bob" Gezelter, 35-20 167th Street, Suite 215, Flushing, New York 11358-1731 +1 (718) 463 1079 http://www.rlgsc.com
There are now full-text RSS 1, RRS 2 and Atom feeds available from the risks.org website at http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/ .
X-Brightmail-Tracker * From: John Hatpin <RemoveThisjfhopkin@gmailAndThisToo.com> * Newsgroups: alt.fan.cecil-adams * Subject: Google Earth a tool for thieves and scoundrels? * Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Date: Mon, 29 Jun 2009 13:29:34 +0100 * Xref: number.nntp.dca.giganews.com alt.fan.cecil-adams:1618846 Just happened across this report today from an unlikely source, the BCS (British Computer Society): http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.27169 |Thieves in Hull are thought to be using Google Earth to help them |steal sought after fish from people's gardens. | |Up to 12 cases of fish going missing have been reported during a |three-week period, with many of those missing Koi carp, worth |several hundred pounds each. | |Police believe the online technology is being used as it would |otherwise be impossible to locate gardens with fish and ponds in. | |Sam Gregory, Humberside police community support officer, said: |'Google shows what is in your garden and you can see people's |ponds. One of the properties targeted has an eight foot fence and |is set back from the road.' | |'The pond is in the corner and can't be seen. Unless you were |standing right next to the wall, you wouldn't be able to hear |the running water,' he added. | |Previously, Google Earth had led to the arrest of two muggers in |Holland after their victim saw them on Google's Street View. Firstly, it took me a while to realise that "12 cases of fish going missing" wasn't talking about big boxes of fish. Now, I'd heard people complaining that "Google Earth can be used by burglars to case out their targets", but always dismissed it as Luddite hysteria; this is the first time I've actually seen it to be the case. Of fish. Have there been any previous instances where GE has been used by ne'er-do-wells to redistribute wealth nefariously? John Hatpin http://uninformedcomment.wordpress.com/
I wonder why an ATM needs an operating system anyway. Maybe we should go back to software as it was done in 1950 and write the instructions to tell the hardware what to do, no more and no less. But if it does need an operating system, there was a paper written by David Parnas long ago where he explained how to write software so that it was hierarchically modular. That is, the kernel was as simple as possible; and increased functionality was achieved by adding modules on top of what was already there, never having to modify something underneath the modules being added. Philip Levy designed an operating system for the Z-80 using these principles. The result was a system that could serve anything from an embedded microcontroller to a multitasking workstation simply by adding the right set of modules as needed. Seems like I was told that Data General had an operating system designed along the same lines, again so that a machine could span a wide range of different kinds of applications. Maybe the problem is that today memory is essentially free, so it's easier to throw in baggage we don't need than it is to decide just what we do need.
When I read the article about Bozeman requiring job applicants to grant access to their online personae, I immediately wondered whether the same principle might not apply in the physical domain as well. That is, I wonder what would happen if a prospective employer were to require all applicants to sign a contract that assigns the applicant's fourth-amendment rights to the employer as a condition of consideration for employment. In other words, in exchange for the company looking at your job application, you would agree to give the company power of attorney to authorize police searches of your home and possessions. Would such a contract be considered binding? Would it even be considered conscionable? If not (and I certainly hope not), what is the difference between such a contract and what Bozeman is doing? In both cases it is a matter of using a contract to force someone to divulge information to a government entity that would ordinarily require a search warrant.
Regarding that recent story about Bozeman, Montana, requesting usernames and passwords for social networking sites: http://www.montanasnewsstation.com/Global/story.asp?S=10577236 They appear to have backed down and apologized.
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