[TNX to Lauren Weinstein for spotting this one. PGN] American Airlines had a baggage problem at JFK that caused many bags to miss their intended flights, despite that fact that 35 flights were delayed up to an hour and one-half. Beginning at 4:45am, the software controlling the baggage sorting operations malfunctioned, and bags had to be sorted by hand. http://travel.latimes.com/daily-deal-blog/index.php/baggage-snafu-hits-a-2395/
According to http://www.techcentral.ie/article.aspx?id=12346 an intermittent failure in a network card caused problems for the air traffic control system in Ireland. Apparently, the fact that the failure was intermittent was enough to confuse the fail-over mechanisms. The trouble lasted for about six weeks before it was diagnosed. "Thales ATM stated that in ten similar Air Traffic Control Centres worldwide with over 500,000 flight hours (50 years), this is the first time an incident of this type has been reported." --Steve Bellovin, http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb
Many people buy MetroCards -- mag stripe swipe cards for riding New York City subways and buses -- using credit cards. For a few days, though, this wasn't working well during rush hour; credit card transactions were being rejected. They finally figured it out: one of the crypto units to protect credit card numbers in transit had failed. There was another unit, but it couldn't handle peak loads by itself, so transactions timed out and hence failed. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/mta-blames-encryption-for-metrocard-problems/ There are a few lessons here. One, of course, is that headline writers shouldn't be trusted to get technical details right. Saying "M.T.A. Blames Encryption for MetroCard Problems" is just wrong -- the MTA didn't blame encryption, they blamed the failure of a particular unit. More substantively, there were two serious problems with the technical design of the system. First, there was insufficient redundancy; failure of a single unit left the system unable to handle the load. Second, there was no notification to the administrators of the failure of the unit. Once they figured it out, they were able to cope -- they had a spare available -- but they didn't know that there was a failure. --Steve Bellovin, http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb
[Source: Andy Miller, *The Atlanta Journal-Constitution*, 29 Jul 2008; PGN-ed] A change in a computer system was "not properly tested"; Private medical data exposed; Insurance benefit letters sent to wrong addresses by Blue Cross and Blue Shield reveal claim histories, open door to ID theft. http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/2008/07/29/bluecross.html?cxntnid=amn072908e&cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab BC&BS sent an estimated 202,000 benefits information letters containing personal and health information -- identities, ID numbers, and service details -- to the wrong addresses last week, Some letters also contained SSNs. This situation seems to be in violation of HIPPA (the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
An article "How reliable is DNA in identifying suspects?" recently appeared. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dna20-2008jul20,0,1506170,full.story. The lead is: A discovery leads to questions about whether the odds of people sharing genetic profiles are sometimes higher than portrayed. Calling the finding meaningless, the FBI has sought to block such inquiry. The article illustrates two computer risks. The first is that data is not free. Each jurisdiction operates its own DNA database but relies on American federal CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) to search across multiple databases. Defense lawyers are interested in determining group statistics. DNA comparisons are apparently made based on how many of 13 loci are similar. They want to know, for example, how many people in the database match in 9, 10, 11, 12 or even 13 loci. (Reportedly some prosecutors cite less than 13 loci matching as a 'DNA evidence'.) > FBI officials argue that, under their interpretation of federal > law, use of CODIS is limited to criminal justice agencies. In their > view, defense attorneys are allowed access to information about > their specific cases, not the databases in general. A court order was made for a search of one state's database. The article reports an FBI employee said that the search could lead to the database being disconnected from CODIS. There was a warning that the search could corrupt the state database. In the end neither event occurred. The second risk is an overloading of the database's intent. The tricky bit of the search results is that closely related people may match very well but the database, as one might expect, doesn't have this information. As a note, the article illuminates many of the usual statistical risks.
Sat-nav driver's 1600-mile error: A DOZY trucker driving from Turkey to Coral Road in Gibraltar ended up at Skegness. Gibraltar is considered part of the UK by the Sat-Nav systems. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/weird/article1447400.ece
Indications of Sanity? A politician likes *paper* ballots.. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/30/debra_bowen_usenix_keynote/ [YES. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen was the keynote speaker at Usenix Security on 30 Jul 2008 in San Jose. She really wowed the audience with her candor, clarity, and relevance. We owe her our enormous gratitude for spearheading the Summer 2007 Top To Bottom Review of voting machines (with reports on software analyses, documentation, penetration testing, and accessibility), for following up on it, and generally for being one of the nation's first high government officials to really grasp the significance of the risks that we have been discussing here for so many years relating to elections -- indeed, since RISKS-1.01. Her efforts are now beginning to be emulated in Ohio and other states. PGN]
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/24/zimbabwes-money-worth-mor_n_114838.html "One major commercial bank said its automated teller machines are not configured to dispense multi-zero withdrawals and freeze in what it called a "data overflow error." Software writers are busy writing programs to try to overcome the problem." Jim Reisert <email@example.com>, http://www.ad1c.us
[Bruce Schneier's WiReD.com article cited below by jidanni outlines the Security Mindset espoused by Tadayoshi Kohno in an undergraduate course on computer security at the University of Washington. It's worth reading. Security need not be in the eyes of the beholder. It should be in the eyes and ears and fingers and mind of the attackers. PGN] http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2008/03/securitymatters_0320
Kim Zetter's WiReD.com blog, Details of DNS Flaw Leaked; Exploit Expected by End of Today, 22 Jul 2008 http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/07/details-of-dns.html Despite Dan Kaminsky's efforts to keep a lid on the details of the critical DNS vulnerability he found, someone at the security firm Matasano leaked the information on its blog yesterday, then quickly pulled the post down. But not before others had grabbed the information and reposted it elsewhere, leading Kaminsky to post an urgent 0-day message on his blog reading, "Patch. Today. Now. Yes, stay late." Hackers are furiously working on an exploit to attack the vulnerability. HD Moore, creator of the Metasploit tool, says one should be available by the end of the day. Earlier this month, Kaminsky, a penetration tester with IOActive, went public with information about a serious and fundamental security vulnerability in the Domain Name System that would allow attackers to easily impersonate any website -- banking sites, Google, Gmail and other web mail websites -- to attack unsuspecting users. Kaminsky announced the vulnerability after working quietly for months with a number of vendors that make DNS software to create a fix for the flaw and patch their software. On July 8, Kaminsky held a press conference announcing a massive multivendor patch among those vendors, and urged everyone who owns a DNS server to update their software. But Kaminsky broke one of the fundamental rules of disclosure in announcing the bug. He failed to provide details about the flaw so system administrators could understand what it was and determine if it was serious enough to warrant an upgrade to their systems. Kaminsky promised to reveal those details next month in a presentation he plans to give at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. But he said he wanted to give administrators a 30-day head start to get their systems patched before he provided details that could allow hackers to create an exploit to attack the systems. Kaminsky asked researchers not to speculate about the bug details in the meantime and to trust that it was a serious issue. Some did as he asked. But many security researchers took his coyness as a challenge to uncover the details Kaminsky was holding back. ...
Rich Mogull, TidBITS, 24 Jul 2008, http://db.tidbits.com/article/9706 On 08 Jul 2008, a massive security patch was released by dozens of vendors for a major vulnerability in DNS  (Domain Name Service), discovered by security researcher Dan Kaminsky. DNS  is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the Internet; translating domain names (like tidbits.com) into IP addresses (like 192.168.0.12). Because DNS is so core to the functioning of the Internet, this vulnerability is perhaps the most significant security problem to face the Internet in the last decade. All users who connect to Mac OS X servers for DNS lookups are at risk: Apple has not yet provided a patch, unlike dozens of other companies that make or distribute operating systems or DNS server software. Apple was clearly distracted by the largest set of launches in its history: the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 2.0 software, the .Mac-to-MobileMe transition, and the App Store. Nonetheless, their customers are now in danger and Apple needs to respond immediately. All companies that provide DNS service to their customers should have already updated their DNS servers. Many have not. You can determine whether your ISP is at risk by visiting Kaminsky's site and clicking Check My DNS . If the site says your DNS is at risk of being poisoned, contact your ISP or your company's IT department immediately. ...
A phishing message in my spam folder caught my eye today, so I decided to take a closer look at it. It claimed to be from CapitalOne. It had a legitimate sender address, a legitimate Subject line ("Please Call Us Regarding Recent Restrictions"), and convincing-looking content that was mostly lifted straight from a real CapitalOne email message. Most importantly, all of the links in the message were legitimate links pointing at capitalone.com URLs. The only text in the message that was not boilerplate was this: >Please Call Us Regarding Recent Resctriction [sic] > >This is not a promotional e-mail. Please call us >immediately at (866) 496-5027 regarding recent activity on >your Capital One Card. We're available 24/7 to take your >call. > >Please disregard this e-mail if you've already call us >since the date this e-mail was sent. > >We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. > >Thank you >Capital One Card Fraud Prevention Security Department Here's what makes this phishing message different from others I've seen: the "hook" is the phone number, not the links in the email body. Here's what you hear, recited in a female, synthesized voice, when you call the number shown above: >Welcome to the the card activation center. Please remember >that we will never ask for your personal information such >as your social security number, passwords, card numbers, >etc. via email. Please enter your card number followed by >the pound key. > >[doesn't matter what you enter here] > >Please enter your personal identification number associated >with this card followed by the pound key. > >Please enter your four-digit expiration number [sic] >(months year) followed by the pound key. > >Please hold while your card is activated. > >The card number, personal identification number or >expiration date doesn't match with our records. > >[starts over] Obviously, whoever set up this toll-free number is collecting card numbers, expiration dates and PINs, which they will then either sell or use to obtain cash advances from ATMs. I wish there were somewhere I could report this scam to get the toll-free number taken down, but I honestly have no idea who would be interested in doing something about this and able to act quickly.
San Francisco is a tech powerhouse -- the local daily paper is not. This has led to a lack of good information about one of the most interesting tech stories of the year: the showdown between a contractor and city administrators over proper handling of network security. Some of you may have already seen this (via Slashdot): http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/07/18/30FE-sf-network-lockout_1.html It's an article based on a confidential 3rd party who had a ringside seat. The risk? Some tech jobs seem to carry the risk that they can ruin your life (I don't mean figuratively). Large corporations and governments wield an enormous power to punish and seemingly no power to understand the nuance and complexity of technical risk. Under this situation being a jerk could be a felony at some job sites. We can stand in judgment of when it makes sense to let go of a fight with your manager, but how many of us would stand up to what we see as a terrible wrong in a way that could ruin us professionally? That a politically ambitious DA has made this a publicity grabbing event seems to open a serious can-of-worms for ordinary technical workers. The San Francisco DA is inadvertently creating the blueprint for handling nasty tech employee disputes. Today she has the sheriff saying that Childs set the system up for "meltdown" at the next routine maintenance. The inside story seems to be that he didn't want to store the router configs into flash at the remote sites. When pressed the sheriff acknowledges that the system is up. This might not be the best way to run a shop, but is it a actual crime to not write configs to flash? Does the DA even know what flash is? (Maybe she knows but has decided to make an example of what happens when you stand up to your manager.) It seems arbitration would have helped here. Would a system of neutral party dispute resolution go a long way to reducing system cost and preserving careers in the tech field without introducing drastic measures such as full-blown unionization? Like other professionals, maybe tech workers should carry general liability insurance where the carrier offers arbitration as a front-line defense against arrest and/ or lawsuit. (And funds to defend yourself if something goes wrong.)
> [MAC addresses are unchangeable once set at factory] Not so. The default is hard to change, because it is set in the part, but for operation you can change it as you will. For instance, though my network boards on my firewalls will occasionally get zapped by lightening, the ISP does not know that. The ISP believes that my MAC addresses are some that I made up years ago and continue to use. Thus, when I get zapped and put in a new board, the ISP re-assigns the same IP address I had before. If I do not do this, they will pick a new address. Not all operating systems support easy changing of the MAC address, so your mileage may vary. [Several other messages on this topic, but we are drifting in relevance. PGN]
BKNTRDOS.RVW 20080420 "Internet Denial of Service", Jelena Mirkovic et al, 2005, 0-13-147573-8, U$39.99/C$57.99 %A Jelena Mirkovic %A Sven Dietrich %A David Dittrich firstname.lastname@example.org %A Peter Reiher %C One Lake St., Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 %D 2005 %G 0-13-147573-8 %I Prentice Hall %O U$39.99/C$57.99 800-576-3800 416-293-3621 201-236-7139 %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0131475738/robsladesinterne http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0131475738/robsladesinte-21 %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0131475738/robsladesin03-20 %O Audience i+ Tech 2 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 372 p. %T "Internet Denial of Service: Attack and Defense Mechanisms" Chapter one is an introduction to the book itself, rather than the topic, asserting that the work is intended for an audience of system administrators, corporate managers, and those dealing with public policy. The topic is defined in chapter two, which notes that denial of service (DoS) is not like other security risks where intrusion or use (or misuse) of resources is the aim, but prevention of the legitimate use of a system. Much of the material concentrates on distributed denial of service (DDoS), and the text mentions the inherent risk of DoS where a service is being provided. The structure and logical flow of the content is not always obvious, but the information is reasonably clear and readable. The history of DoS attacks, starting with the early, simple assaults intended to gain status and notoriety and progressing through to the recent complex and financially motivated offensives, is covered in chapter three. There is discussion of the fact that the structure of the Internet works against many protective measures and hinders efforts to collect digital forensic evidence. Chapter four examines the process, technology, and tools of DDoS attacks. Defence is contemplated in chapter five, along with the intrinsic difficulty presented by the need for availability, the possibility of attacking either the computer-based service or the network-based communications, and a poor authentication and tracking infrastructure. The deliberation does note that defence can be attempted in many layers, from secure application development to overt reaction. A detailed analysis of some defensive approaches is provided in chapter six, which assessment is also valuable in terms of business continuity planning. Chapter seven has a listing and review of various research projects on defence. Legal issues are catalogued in chapter eight: most of the content is general, but there is a fair amount that is specific to the United States. Chapter nine summarizes major points, and speculates on future trends. This is a thorough overview of a topic that is covered poorly, if at all, in most of the security literature. Availability has come very late to add depth to the C-I-A (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability) triad, and therefore DoS attacks are still misunderstood as mere nuisance. The problem is growing, and this material should be of greater interest to those charged with protecting both corporate assets and the public infrastructure. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKNTRDOS.RVW 20080420 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/author/p1/
Harley et al. BKAVNMDG.RVW 20080420 "AVIEN Malware Defense Guide for the Enterprise", David Harley et al, 2007, 978-1-59749-164-8, U$59.95 %A David Harley David.A.Harley@gmail.com %A Ken Bechtel %A Michael Blanchard %A Henk K. Diemer %A Andrew Lee %A Igor Muttik %A Bojan Zdrnja %C 800 Hingham Street, Rockland, MA 02370 %D 2007 %G 1-59749-164-0 978-1-59749-164-8 %I Syngress Media, Inc. %O U$59.95 781-681-5151 fax: 781-681-3585 www.syngress.com %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597491640/robsladesinterne http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597491640/robsladesinte-21 %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597491640/robsladesin03-20 %O Audience i+ Tech 2 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 540 p. %T "AVIEN Malware Defense Guide for the Enterprise" The preface and introduction stress that this work is a collaborative effort, combining the views of a number of AVIEN (Anti-Virus Information Exchange Network) and AVIEWS (Anti-Virus Information and Early Warning System) members, trying to avoid the blind spots that result from perspectives limited to one individual or company. Chapter one outlines the history of AVIEN, noting the tensions between the (rather small) community that has concentrated on research about malware and protection against the various threats and the general user population. (The general user population includes, for various reasons, many of the producers and vendors of antivirus products.) It is noted (although not stressed) that AVIEN concentrates on protection of medium to large companies, and this point is important in regard to protective approaches. A brief, historically-oriented, look at malware and related issues, in chapter two, tries to eliminate common confusion and sets a groundwork for further discussion. The Web is now a major source of security vulnerabilities, but the malware literature has seldom considered the problem as a specific category, so chapter three's excellent overview of the related technologies and exploits is particularly welcome. Botnets are a major threat (or threats: they are used in a variety of ways), and there is a good examination of the major associated concepts in chapter four. Unfortunately, the material is somewhat loosely structured and may be confusing to some readers, and occasionally emphasizes specific (and sometimes dated) technologies rather than the basic ideas. Chapter five examines the often-asked question of who writes malware, bringing up a good deal of interesting material. The text itself may be of scant use to system administrators, although the points made in the summary do indicate trends of concern. Chapter six turns to protective measures, covering not just the usual antiviral technologies, but advising on layered defence, with the attendant required planning and management. Outsourcing, of security functions in general, and antiviral protection in particular, is reviewed in chapter seven, with attention paid to both the dangers and the conditions, agreements, and other factors that might provide success. Chapter eight's look at security awareness training and user education seems to be intended to promote the idea, but is weaker in providing solutions than other areas of the book, concentrating primarily on the difficulties and failures. A variety of tools that might be used in malware analysis, ranging from system information utilities through debuggers to online virus detectors, are listed in chapter nine. Chapter ten considers aspects of evaluating antiviral products, and makes a good, general guide. Chapter eleven notes that the AVIEN organization is changing, and feels like a promotional item to get the reader to become involved, but the lack of detail of what the institution might become does not seem calculated to appeal to busy administrators. The book contains a tremendous wealth of information and references to specific resources and studies. This is not surprising, given the background of the authors, and would, alone, make the text worthwhile. Overall this work provides a solid overview and compendium of advice on the current malware situation, and should be a required starting point for anyone protecting corporate assets in the current, highly threatening, environment. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKAVNMDG.RVW 20080420 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm
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