The FAA computer problem on 26 Aug 2008 (RISKS-25.30) "served as a reminder that the U.S. flight system is waiting for a modernizing overhaul." The FAA is apparently using "computing practices that would be considered poor in credit card networks or power plant operators — relying on only the Atlanta and Salt Lake City centers for flight planning. For example, power and water utilities can be find a million dollars a day if they are willfully negligent. [Source: Joelle Tessler and Jordan Robertson, FAA outage reveals odd computing practices, AP item, 29 Aug 2008; PNG-ed] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/29/AR2008082902088.html?hpid=sec-tech
Strike 1: A corrupt file wasn't caught by validation? Strike 2: It took 2 1/2 hours to restart after the failure? Strike 3: The "backup" computer couldn't handle the failover load? Strike 4: The restored-to-service computer couldn't clear the accumulated backlog until new transactions were suppressed? - - - - - Corrupt File Brought Down Flight Planning System A corrupt file contained in a normal software upload brought down the FAA's main flight planning computer on Tuesday, delaying hundreds of flights and prompting questions about the inevitability of it happening again. FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told eWeek the corrupt file stopped flight plans from being filed at the FAA's Hampton, Ga. facility, which is the principal flight planning computer. "Basically, all the flight plans that were in the system were kicked out," Takemoto said. "For aircraft already in the air, or had just been pushed back form the gate, they had no problems. But for all other aircraft, it meant delays." The system switched to the FAA's backup flight planning computer in Salt Lake City, which was quickly overwhelmed by airlines trying in vain to enter flight plans. "They just kept hitting the 'Enter' button. So the queues immediately became huge," Takemoto said. "On top of that, it happened right during a peak time as traffic was building. Salt Lake City just couldn't keep up." The Georgia computer was fixed in two-and-a-half hours but it wasn't until the FAA asked airlines to stop filing flight plans that the backlogs started to clear. All was reported normal on Wednesday but eWeek is openly wondering how much longer the "a creaky old IT system" can continue. They system is more than 20 years old and the company that built it has been out of business most of that time, eWeek reported.
Yet another example of UK government not testing software properly before upgrading! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/7588551.stm They want us to trust them with more information? Dr John Sawyer, Wiltshire England.
Surely customers of the elite private banking operation at JPMorgan Chase, serving only the bank's wealthiest clients, are safe from such problems, right? Wrong, says Guy Wyser-Pratte, an activist investor on Wall Street for more than 40 years who uses his hedge fund's war chest of roughly $500 million to wage takeover fights and proxy battles in the United States and Europe. In May, he learned that someone had siphoned nearly $300,000 from his personal account at the private bank through many small electronic transfers over a 15-month period. Then he was told by the bank that he could stop the theft only by closing his account and opening a new one. And then JPMorgan Chase told him that the bank would cover only $50,000 of his losses. ... [Source: Diana B. Henriques, *The New York Times*, 30 Aug 2008; PGN-ed] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/business/yourmoney/30theft.html?partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
According to the Wall Street Journal's Business Technology blog, software problems from a "botched system upgrade" caused earnings for the third quarter to drop by 12% from a year earlier. Problems included outages, performance, botched orders, return problems, call center issues, and more. http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/08/27/j-crew-blames-software-for-its-bad-quarter/ Steve Bellovin, http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb
Googling something in one language while accessing from another language environment can give rather amusing ads. I looked for "SOA SWIM" (SOA = Service oriented architecture; SWIM = System wide information management. Both terms are related to network architecture). The first half-dozen hits were spot on, and gave me what I was looking for. But the ads somehow caught my eye: Cures for chlamydia. Explanation: SOA is the Dutch abbreviation for sexually transmitted disease. So it seems that, while the search engine tries to match as many search terms as possible, the ads go for single words. At first, I had a good laugh. But, thinking a bit more about what happened, what if somebody was trying to make a profile of me based on single words? Some time ago (actually, quite a longtime ago), I was googling for "EROS data centre", a professional repository of Earth resource imagery. Put EROS and SOA together, and you might get the wrong idea of what I had been up to, and what were the consequences.
Go look up the term rootkit on Wikipedia. (Go ahead, I'll wait.) Lovely entry, isn't it? Lots of information. Trouble is, there's lots of misinformation, too. A rootkit is *not* "a program ... designed to take fundamental [or] ... `root' access" for a system. It's designed to *keep* that access, once you broken into the system and grabbed it. (And rootkits were around before 1990, etc, but we'll let that go for the moment.) Or, at least, it used to be defined that way. Recently, all kinds of people have been redefining what rootkit means, to the point that it may no longer mean anything. Wikipedia is a wonderful tool, and the English encyclopedia made with it is a wonderful resource. For the most part. But when you get to the real specialty areas you start running into problems. As John Lawton has pointed out, the irony of the information age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion. And Wikipedia is susceptible to that problem. Now the Wikipedia people are aware of the problem, and have provided ways to address it. There is the fact that anyone can correct errors, when errors have been made. There are technical controls in terms of limits on changes. There are administrative controls in the granting of elevated privileges to editors. But occasionally you get a breakdown, such as the fact that an editor can be, him or herself, in error. And then you get entries like the one for rootkit. But Wikipedia is not what I really want to talk about. I want to talk about words. Specifically, the jargon that we use, and create, in technical fields, and in the field of information security in particular. Because language is kind of like a giant Wikipedia, where anyone at all can make an entry. And anyone at all can try and modify that entry. Lots of people like to talk about computer security. It's quite likely that more people like to talk about security than actually *do* anything about security. So it's not hard to see that a lot of the people who are talking, and writing, about security often talk about things that, well, they are not quite certain about. If I say that Alan Turing was a homosexual, I might be right, or I might be wrong. But it would be fairly easy to check whether I was right or wrong. However, if I say that a Turing Machine is a universal computer because it can be implemented on any computer, I am making a different kind of assertion, and one that it harder to check. Someone who hears me say that, and knows that I'm wrong, might not challenge it immediately, because it's partly right, and the error I've made may not be important to the point that I'm making. But the people who hear me make that statement, and who do not know why the statement is in error, are probably going to assume and generate various kinds of mistaken ideas about Turing machines. And if I make the statement frequently enough, and in enough different places, it starts being taken as true. And eventually we'll have people saying that a universal computer is any entity that can be implemented on any platform. Which had nothing at all to do with what Turing was doing and proving. So it is with a number of the specialized terms that we have been using in infosec. A lot of people are getting hold of them, and using them in sloppy ways. Now, a great many people say that language is living, and you have to make allowances for that growth. Fair enough: much of the vocabulary that we use every day in computer security didn't even exist fifty years ago, so it would be hard to argue the point. However, if the terms can be changed by anyone, at any time, then they lose meaning. If I use the word virus to mean one thing, and you use it to mean something quite different, then we aren't going to come to any agreement. We can't communicate. And, in all of these rapidly changing technical fields, communication is vitally important. So, in the blort, I just want to regrify you to smetnicate all forms of antrifact. Yelth you for your fesculiant. victoria.tc.ca/techrev/rms.htm blogs.securiteam.com/index.php/archives/author/p1/
Naturally I only use orthodox Free Software, like bash, the GNU Bourne-Again SHell, to control my household projects. $ sleep 55; launch_rocket The problem is if one discovers a missing O-ring etc., then a Control-C interrupt will not cancel the whole launch as it does in other leading brand SHells, but instead just cancel the countdown -- VROOM. Next time use an && operator instead of a ;.
We continue our Control-C adventures with gnus. As you know I only use the highest pedigree Free Software, Stallman->emacs->gnus, wherein lies C-c C-c runs the command message-send-and-exit I told them 13 times this was too easy to hit by accident, and rigged up my own Child Safety Cap macro. Well, just the other day I was attempting to hit C-c C-f C-c runs the command message-goto-cc to merely add somebody important to the CC: header, http://news.gmane.org/group/gmane.emacs.gnus.general/thread=67308 but guess which key I pressed too lightly? Imagine me sending half baked messages out the door before they are complet
The other day I visited the site of a well known issuer of SSL certificates to look up some information in my account. I was shocked to realize that I was able to access this information without going through a login procedure. All I did was click the "login" button, and my account information came up. This behavior persisted across a browser restart, and even a machine reboot. I was shocked. Here's a company whose business is security, but their site (apparently) issues login cookies that don't expire! Worse, there didn't seem to be a "logout" button! (Spoiler alert: it makes an interesting exercise to see if you can figure out how this happened, other than that the web site designers were idiots. Here's a hint: I use a Mac.) Most "secure" (I've been reading RISKS far too long not to put that in scare quotes) web sites follow a common motif: there's a login page where you type your user name and password into an HTML form. That information gets sent to the server, which verifies your credentials and issues a session cookie. After you've done your business you log out, which either removes the session cookie from your browser or invalidates it at the server. Usually the session cookie expires after some period of inactivity. But there is another method of authentication on the Web: HTTP authentication. This is the kind of authentication that makes a browser dialog pop up to ask for your user name and password rather than entering it into an HTML form. There are different kinds of HTTP authentication. The most common one is "basic" authentication, because it's the easiest to set up. It is also fairly insecure because it sends passwords in the clear (usually with an accompanying warning in the browser dialog). Because of this, HTTP authentication is generally frowned up for "serious" security, despite the fact that there are variants that are more secure than "basic" authentication. The site in question was using one of these more advanced HTTP authentication schemes. The first time I ever logged into the site, the login dialog popped up and, without really thinking about it, I marked the checkbox next to "remember this username and password in my keychain." Now, this alone should not have produced the behavior that I saw because normally in order to access the OS X keychain an application has to ask permission, and my browser wasn't. But it turns out that the OS X keychain has a handy-dandy convenience "feature" that allows you to permanently grant access to a particular keychain item to a particular application, and Safari had "helpfully" added itself to this list when it created the keychain item. So here we have a security risk that is a confluence of three circumstances, two of which are the result, arguably, of too much knowledge. They are: 1. The web site used a secure authentication scheme that behaves almost identically to a less secure scheme 2. I am familiar with the more common design of secure sites and 3. OS X and Safari conspire to subvert the security of HTTP authentication in a very subtle way in order to make things more convenient for the user I find myself at a loss to suggest how this particular risk might have been avoided.
http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/08/bny_mellon_data.html BNY Mellon Data Breach Potentially Massive Posted by George Hulme, Aug 29, 2008 10:09 PM It was in May when we noted an investigation launched by the authorities in the state of Connecticut into a backup tape lost by the Bank of New York Mellon. The results of that investigation are in, and they don't look good. First, some background (which is available in my earlier post, here). A backup 10 unencrypted backup tapes with millions of customers' information had gone missing on Feb. 27, and the Connecticut authorities wanted to know more, as there were up to half-million Connecticut residents private information place at risk. Here's what those (unencrypted) tapes contained, according to Attorney General Blumenthal's letter: BNY representatives informed my office that the information on the tapes contained, at a minimum, Social Security numbers, names and addresses, and possibly bank account numbers and balances. That's just great, isn't it. At first, we thought there were 4 million whose private financial information was on those tapes; turns out now that there could be up to 10 million. Here's what Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has to say in a statement released yesterday: "It is simply outrageous that this mountain of information was not better protected and it is equally outrageous that we are hearing about a possible six million additional individuals and businesses six months after the fact," Governor Rell said. "We fear a substantial number of Connecticut residents are among this latest group." I couldn't agree more. There is absolutely no acceptable excuse as to why this information was not encrypted on these tapes. None. The BNY Mellon has set up this Web site for those who may have been affected by this incident.
On 9 Sep 2009, CBC News carried a report of a security breach of the Carleton University student ID cards. The Ottawa-based university issues the barcode and magnetic stripe-equipped cards to the students. The cards can be used to access on-campus buildings (including some of the residences), pay for services on-campus, and access university e-mail systems. According to the news report, a student (it is not clear from the report whether this was a student at Carleton, or at the Ottawa U - the other large university in the area) has compromised the security of the card by writing a piece of software "in a few hours" and installing it on a computer lab terminal. The attacker was able to collect the e-mail login credentials of at least 32 Carleton students. He/she then proceeded to report the breach to the victims and the university authorities, under an alias "Kasper Holmberg". In the report, he/she suggested that the system in its present form lacks the most basic safeguards against misuse, and should be suspended. University authorities has issued new ID cards to the affected students, and assured campus ID card users that "the campus e-mail system and campus card network are safe". The university is further considering calling in the police and charging "Karsper Holmberg" criminally for taking "a very odd way to draw attention to the security of the system", according to the university spokes-person, Christopher Walters. The complete news story can be found at: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/09/08/ot-security-080908.html
[From several other groups that I see, including Dave Farber's IP. PGN] http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=internet-eavesdropping As telephone conversations have moved to the Internet, so have those who want to listen in. But the technology needed to do so would entail a dangerous expansion of the government's surveillance powers By Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau As long as people have engaged in private conversations, eavesdroppers have tried to listen in. When important matters were discussed in parlors, people slipped in under the eaves — literally within the `eaves drop' — to hear what was being said. When conversations moved to telephones, the wires were tapped. And now that so much human activity takes place in cyberspace, spies have infiltrated that realm as well. Unlike earlier, physical frontiers, cyberspace is a human construct. The rules, designs and investments we make in cyberspace will shape the ways espionage, privacy and security will interact. Today there is a clear movement to give intelligence activities a privileged position, building in the capacity of authorities to intercept cyberspace communications. The advantages of this trend for fighting crime and terrorism are obvious. The drawbacks may be less obvious. For one thing, adding such intercept infrastructure would undermine the nimble, bottom-up structure of the Internet that has been so congenial to business innovation: its costs would drive many small U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) out of business, and the top-down control it would require would threaten the nation's role as a leader and innovator in communications. Furthermore, by putting too much emphasis on the capacity to intercept Internet communications, we may be undermining civil liberties. We may also damage the security of cyberspace and ultimately the security of the nation. If the U.S. builds extensive wiretapping into our communications system, how do we guarantee that the facilities we build will not be misused? Our police and intelligence agencies, through corruption or merely excessive zeal, may use them to spy on Americans in violation of the U.S. Constitution. And, with any intercept capability, there is a risk that it could fall into the wrong hands. Criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services may gain access to our surveillance facilities and use them against us. The architectures needed to protect against these two threats are different. Such issues are important enough to merit a broad national debate. Unfortunately, though, the public's ability to participate in the discussion is impeded by the fog of secrecy that surrounds all intelligence, particularly message interception (`signals intelligence'). [...] http://tinyurl.com/6oolcn IP Archives: https://www.listbox.com/member/archive/247/=now [Beware of the Adamant Eaves Drop. PGN]
> It seems definite that obviously white spaces in the original data were > misinterpreted during data transfer. Technical reasons remain until now > unknown. Empty fields, not "white space" Ralf Fritzsch repeats the error from the original posting: the German-language newspaper source quoted wrote "empty [data] fields", not "white spaces". (Shades of the children's game "Stille Post" -- "Telephone".)
> ... I believe that the criticism of Firefox 3.0 was simply misguided and > ill-informed. This is not helpful. Side note #1: the obvious self-contradiction. State that argument was strictly about encryption, then list a bunch of things that have nothing to do with encryption, then conclude that argument is misguided and ill-informed. Side note #2: from day one SSL's been criticized for mixing two different things: encryption and authentication in one protocol. This precisely why. It's a design problem, most of the time you can't fix those in an implementation. Aside from those, three problems with this argument are: 1. Why would I ever trust a certificate signed by someone called GoDaddy? Especially over the one I generated and signed myself? 2. Nobody expects browser developers to come up with a solution for design flaw in underlying protocol (see side note #2) that works well for every user. Yet, > The general logic is that most users should never be presented with ... a > choice and the browser should make the decision for them. [sic] 3. The problem is not that firefox complains, it's that it previously complained that *signature cannot be verified*. Now it complains about *invalid certificate*. Technically a properly self-signed cert — "criminal" or not — is "invalid" only because firefox developers say so. And thy shalt trust their judgment because they, like GoDaddy, Know Better(tm). Side note #3: another annoying new feature is that you can't type or paste into file upload field anymore. Dimitri Maziuk, BioMagResBank, UW-Madison — http://www.bmrb.wisc.edu
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