The RISKS Digest
Volume 26 Issue 05

Tuesday, 4th May 2010

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

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India EVM susceptible to tampering
Raj Mathur
Security Analysis of India's Electronic Voting Machines
Halderman et al.
Risks of trusting a sensor, off by 20x
Michael Rosa
Ars Technica's old provider hacked. Data loss.
S. Keeling
Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook
Dan Yoder on Gizmodo
U.S. Treasury Department dangerously redirecting users
Dan Goodin
Pay attention to Windows 7 update KB980408
Lauren Weinstein
Chip and not bother with the pin
Celine Read
Fingerprinting Paper with Laser
Gadi Evron
A socio-psychological analysis of the first Internet war: Estonia
Gadi Evron
Your Phone Is Locked. Just Drive
David Pogue via Monty Solomon
Don't forget to back up the car before reloading the software
Roy Smith
Clouds and Phones and Untrustworthiness
Bill Gunshannon
Re: Speech recognition and phone banking: not a very good idea
Joe Thompson
Re: The Eyes Have It: Car Steered With Driver's Eyes
Marc Wilson
Re: USPS allows an INTERNET Change of Address
Edward Reid
Re: SSNs again—in Medicare
Edward Reid
Re: Risks of RFID car keys
Bob Schuchman
Re: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint
Bob Frankston
John Levine
Gary Borba
Harry Crowther
Leonard Finegold
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

India EVM susceptible to tampering

Raj Mathur <>
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 10:23:09 +0530

A group of researchers has demonstrated 2 attacks on the Indian Electronic
Voting Machine (EVM), which has been used to conduct general elections in
the world's largest democracy for over a decade.  The attacks are simple and
cheap to carry out.  A video of the attacks is available at:
The press release is at:
and the full technical paper will be available at:

Given the black-box testing, "validation" and certification of the EVMs over
the past few years by "noted experts" in India, this raises questions about
the experts' competence and the will of the Government of India to actually
have tamper-proof electronic voting (if such a thing is possible).  This
also raises questions in retrospect of the validity of all elections carried
out in India since the EVM was introduced.

Looking forward with interest (and, I must admit, scantily-concealed glee)
to the Government of India's response.

Raj Mathur

  [scantily-clad glee?  PGN]

Security Analysis of India's Electronic Voting Machines

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Wed, 28 Apr 2010 13:42:23 PDT

  [In our long-standing discussions of the risks of election systems,
  electronic or otherwise, this video seems worthy of your attention.  PGN]

J. Alex Halderman, Hari K. Prasad, Rop Gonggrijp,

Abstract: Elections in India are conducted almost exclusively using
electronic voting machines developed over the past two decades by a pair of
government-owned companies. These devices, known in India as EVMs, have been
praised for their simple design, ease of use, and reliability, but recently
they have also been criticized because of widespread reports of election
irregularities. Despite this criticism, many details of the machines' design
have never been publicly disclosed, and they have not been subjected to a
rigorous, independent security evaluation. In this paper, we present a
security analysis of a real Indian EVM obtained from an anonymous source. We
describe the machine's design and operation in detail, and we evaluate its
security, in light of relevant election procedures. We conclude that in
spite of the machine's simplicity and minimal trusted computing base, it is
vulnerable to serious attacks that can alter election results and violate
the secrecy of the ballot. We demonstrate two attacks, implemented using
custom hardware, which could be carried out by dishonest election insiders
or other criminals with only brief physical access to the machines. This
case study contains important lessons for Indian elections and for
electronic voting security more generally.

Risks of trusting a sensor, off by 20x

"Michael Rosa" <>
Tue, 4 May 2010 14:13:18 +0930

A recorded downturn in Central Market shoppers that had been attributed to
the global financial crisis has now been blamed on a faulty doorway sensor
system.  The Adelaide City Council (ACC) and traders have been in a panic
during the past year over a sharp downturn in visitor figures and fine-tuned
advertising campaigns to attract shoppers.  An ACC report obtained by *The
Advertiser* has found faulty sensors caused the dramatic drop in recorded
visitors, and the ACC has now been forced to review at least a year of data.
One sensor has been blind to 95 per cent of visitors, the report states.
The council's best estimate is that the drop in actual visitor numbers over
the past year is less than 1 per cent, compared with about 10 per cent
previously believed.  [PGN-ed]

Ars Technica's old provider hacked. Data loss.

"s. keeling" <>
Fri, 30 Apr 2010 18:37:37 -0600



   Ars moved to new provider.
   Old provider did not lock down/wipe old customer's data soon enough.
   Old provider cracked.  Cracker gets email addresses of Ars subscribers.
   Ars users spammed/phished.

As a sysadmin in the oil patch, this is a very familiar story.  When the
price of oil goes south, they lay off staff and attempt to survive the
downturn.  When price goes back up, they hire me to clean up the mess
(including disabling no longer current logins).

They never budget for the future (secure inactive accounts before they can
hurt us).  They just bet on making it up on the next go-round.

I blame shareholder greed, but that's just me.

  [Quite an E-Shops' Fable.  Moral: What's YOURS is ARS.  PGN]

Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook (Dan Yoder on Gizmodo)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Tue, 4 May 2010 12:02:53 PDT
Disclosure by Dan Yoder: I'm the VP of Engineering for a Hollywood-based
social media startup, BorderStylo. The opinions expressed here are purely my
own and are not in any way endorsed by my employer. While I do not see our
applications as directly competitive to Facebook, nor have I presented them
As such, it would be disingenuous not to mention this.  Twitter: @dyoder.

After some reflection, I've decided to delete my account on Facebook.  I'd
like to encourage you to do the same. This is part altruism and part
selfish.  The altruism part is that I think Facebook, as a company, is
unethical.  The selfish part is that I'd like my own social network to
migrate away from Facebook so that I'm not missing anything.  In any event,
here's my "Top Ten" reasons for why you should join me and many others and
delete your account.

10. Facebook's Terms Of Service are completely one-sided.
9. Facebook's CEO has a documented history of unethical behavior.
8. Facebook has flat out declared war on privacy.
7. Facebook is pulling a classic bait-and-switch.
6. Facebook is a bully.
5. Even your private data is shared with applications.
4. Facebook is not technically competent enough to be trusted.
3. Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to truly delete your account.
2. Facebook doesn't (really) support the Open Web.
1. The Facebook application itself sucks.

  [In a Network Neutrality Squa posting, Lauren Weinstein noted this article at  (Gizmodo)
  as well as "How to Delete Your Facebook Account with Extreme Prejudice"
  (and a Bit of Style):  (YouTube)

U.S. Treasury Department dangerously redirecting users (Dan Goodin)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Tue, 4 May 2010 9:10:24 PDT

Dan Goodin, *The Register*, 3 May 2010 [PGN-ed]

Websites operated by the US Treasury Department are redirecting visitors to
websites that attempt to install malware on their PCs, a security researcher
warned on 3 May 2010.  The infection buries an invisible iframe in,, and that invokes malicious scripts
from  The code was discovered late the night before and was
active at time of writing, about 12 hours later.

To cover their tracks, the miscreants behind the compromise tailored it so
it attacks only IP addresses that haven't already visited the Treasury
websites. That makes it harder for white hat-hackers and law enforcement
agents to track the exploit. Indeed, Thompson initially reported that the
problem had been fixed until he discovered the sites were merely skipping
over laboratory PCs that had already encountered the attack.  The attack is
most likely related to mass infections that two weeks ago hit hundreds of
sites hosted by Network Solutions and GoDaddy, said Dean De Beer, founder
and CTO of security consultancy Zero(day) Solutions. [...]

  [Thanks to Jeremy Epstein for spotting this one.  PGN]

Pay attention to Windows 7 update KB980408

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 2 May 2010 08:50:35 -0700

If you don't permit Windows 7 updates to install without your individual
approval, be sure to pay attention to KB980408, which is rolling out right
now.  You probably want this one.

Titled "April 2010 stability and reliability update," most of the items
fixed by the update seem relatively innocuous, until you get to this gem at
the end of the list:

  "You are not warned when you delete more than 1000 files at the same
   time. Then, the files are deleted permanently and are not moved to the
   Recycle Bin."

Ouch.  Given how easy it is in Windows Explorer to delete entire folder paths,
this is a non-trivial situation!

The official MS writeup on the update is at:  (Microsoft)

Chip and not bother with the pin

Celine Read <>
Sun, 2 May 2010 13:38:20 +0200

I'm a British immigrant to France so I read the ex-pat forums for
information.  Recently, I read a post on such a forum that made me choke.
Red security flags exploded before my eyes and alarm bells nearly stunned
(it's post number 7 on the thread)

  “I hired a car last Wednesday afternoon from Paris, and have never had
  any problems with my old style driving license. I did however forget all
  my credit card pin numbers for the deposit. As my card sat in the machine,
  and the woman said regrettably there's nothing they can do if I can't
  remember the pin, the payment went through. She said she'd never seen that
  happen before - because the card had been left for such a long time, it
  took the payment. I think my lucky stars were with me, as I'd arrived
  complete with baby and carseat and was already running late.''

The thing that I want to point out is not so much the bad design that
allowed this to happen, even though it is heart-stopping, but the
*mentality* of the person to whom it happened and the person at the hire car
desk.  The hiree thought he was *lucky* and the hire car woman was
indifferent.  According to the above post, both took a look at something
that shouldn't have happened, something that they would not want to have
happen with a stolen credit card, and said, hey, this is great, it saves me
all sorts of problems.

This is one more reason that security problems are not caught.

Fingerprinting Paper with Laser

Gadi Evron <>
Thu, 18 Mar 2010 17:16:33 +0200

I saw this release today, and just had to share it with anyone I could find.

"Every paper, plastic, metal and ceramic surface is microscopically
different and has its own 'fingerprint'. Professor Cowburn's LSA system uses
a laser to read this naturally occurring 'fingerprint'. The accuracy of
measurement is often greater than that of DNA with a reliability of at least
one million trillion."

I love it when old technologies and science are used in interesting new ways
to impact the future.

I expect to see this technology at an airport near you, in five years or so.

Gadi Evron, Blog:

A socio-psychological analysis of the first Internet war: Estonia

Gadi Evron <>
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 05:15:46 +0300

In the past year I have been working in collaboration with psychologists
Robert Cialdini and Rosanna Guadagno on a paper analyzing some of what I saw
from the social perspective in Estonia, when I wrote the post-mortem
analysis for the 2007 attacks, but didn't understand at the time.

We analyze how the Russian-speaking population online was manipulated to
attack Estonia (and Georgia) in the "cyber war" incidents, and how it could
happen again (regardless of if any actor is behind it).

Article on El Reg:

Paper (for download with pay :( ):

Gadi Evron,  Blog:

Your Phone Is Locked. Just Drive (David Pogue)

Monty Solomon <>
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 09:22:02 -0400

The statistics on distracted driving are pretty scary. Just making cellphone
calls increases your chances of crashing by four times; sending text
messages increases the risk 23 times.  We know this, we get this, but we
keep doing it. About half of all teenagers admit to texting while driving,
for example, no matter how many statistics and horror stories we pass along
to them. ... [Source: David Pogue, *The New York Times*, 28 Apr 2010; PGN-ed]

Don't forget to back up the car before reloading the software

"Roy Smith" <>
Wed, 28 Apr 2010 17:39:53 -0400

It's been many years since my last RISKS contribution, but I just got a
(somewhat agitated) phone call from my wife which prompted me to do so
again.  She's got a Prius which was subject to the recall for faulty
anti-lock brakes.  Apparently the fix was to to load new software.  We're
all used to warnings from software vendors to back up our data before
installing a new version, but the concept seems to have escaped Toyota's

She had the fix/upgrade done yesterday.  Today she noticed that her phone
contact list (the car has bluetooth pairing with her cell phone and has its
own contact list) is all gone.  I guess they didn't bother to back up the
car before reloading the OS.  Or whatever.

Oversight?  Maybe.  More likely, just standard procedure and to heck with
that fact that they destroyed their customer's data.

Clouds and Phones and Untrustworthiness (Re: RISKS-26.04)

Mon, 3 May 2010 09:18:41 -0400 (EDT)


  Subject: Cloud Risks and McAfee's blunder

  [Trusted for what?  The risk in the clouds is of course trusting
  something that is not trustworthy .  PGN]

Finally, someone having the knowledge and gumption to actually point this
out.  This was the first thing I said about "cloud computing" when they
started talking about it in our academic circles.  Before that, it was
Certificates.  What possible reason do I have to trust that one of the
commercial certificate providers will not sell my private key to an
outsider?  Or, one of their employees, for that matter.  Trust in all things
computer related is nothing new, and after all these years of pointing out
Risks nothing has changed.

  [Aw, shucks.  I've been railing against having to trust untrustwortiness
  for many years now.  But yes, nothing seems to change in that regard.  PGN]

And, second......

  Subject: Re: Your Cell Phone May Be Hazardous to Your Health (R 25 93)

  Shall we call this "Risks of relying on GQ as a source of reliable
  information?" ... Please check reliable sources, such as Wikipedia

Am I the only one who ended out rolling on the floor after reading
this comment?

Bill Gunshannon University of Scranton Scranton, Pennsylvania

Re: Speech recognition and phone banking: not a very good idea

Joe Thompson <>
Fri, 30 Apr 2010 12:36:02 -0400

In regard to speaking sensitive info over the phone, I've always felt
uncomfortable about, e.g. service providers who ask you to tell them your
account number during a phone call.  Not because I don't trust their
employees (I don't really, but I can't really do anything about that), but
because I could be anywhere—a doctor's office, a sports venue, on a
train, etc.—and be overheard speaking, for example, my name and Social
Security number.

A nefarious party could probably make off with a great deal of valuable info
by standing outside a hospital (or sitting in its cafeteria) with a notepad
and an open ear, listening for people talking to their medical insurance

Re: The Eyes Have It: Car Steered With Driver's Eyes (RISKS-26.04)

Marc Wilson <>
Mon, 03 May 2010 10:55:42 +0100

That's going to make those "Wonderbra" billboards even more hazardous.

  [Yes, imagine one's reaction upon crashing into the sign!  PGN]

Re: USPS allows an INTERNET Change of Address (RISKS-25.94)

Edward Reid <>
Sat, 01 May 2010 01:14:50 -0400

> I was ASTONISHED that I could put in a USPS Change of Address for
> her. Stunning! I'm sure no one can imagine anything that could go wrong
> with that. Just pick up your new credit card in Lagos Nigeria!

Some critical points are omitted here. Yes, you can, but it costs $1.  And
you have to pay for it with a credit card. And the credit card must validate
using either the old or the new address. Clearly the $1 charge is for
security, not for the cost of the service. And as always, an acknowldgement
is snail-mailed to both old and new addresses.

The same procedure appears to apply to change of address by telephone. (They
say it costs $1; I'm assuming that the same credit card requirement

While not perfect, consider the old way: you fill out a form, sign it, and
drop it in a letter slot at the post office servicing the old address. Or
you mail it to the postmaster at the old PO. The verification is only a
signature, though the snail-mail acknowledgments are sent.

Neither is perfect, but is the new really worse? Both depend in large part
on heavy penalties for misuse. The credit card validation has holes, but
it's the same technique used by many merchants. Physical signatures are
easily forged.

As for picking up your credit card in Lagos, virtually all mail containing a
credit card has a "non-forwarding endorsement", and USPS policy is that mail
with such an endorsement will not be forwarded, either domestically or

I found all the USPS information easily on the USPS web site. A little
research goes a long way.

Re: SSNs again—in Medicare

Edward Reid <>
Sat, 01 May 2010 01:21:03 -0400

My wife's driver license is up for renewal.

A recent requirement in Florida is that she show her social security card to
renew her DL. We lost both our SS cards decades ago, and until recently no
one wanted to see the card, they just asked for the number. So we applied
for duplicate cards.

Of course, you have to provide an ID to get a duplicate SS card. What ID?
Why, a driver license, of course!

I think that we are farther than ever from getting anyone outside IT to
understand the difference between identification and authentication.

RE: Risks of RFID car keys (Garret, RISKS-26.04)

Bob Schuchman <>
Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18:26:08 -0700

I own a car with an RFID key. It will not lock with the key in the car or in
the trunk.

My wife insisted that the trunk would not lock. She could press the small
rubber button on the trunk handle and the trunk would unlock. I told her
that was because I was close enough with the transmitter in my pocket to
allow the trunk to be opened. To prove that I walked a long distance away
and sure enough the trunk would not open when she pressed the button.

She insisted on testing my theory regularly. Then one day the bomb dropped!
With me and the transmitter quite far away she was able to open the trunk. I
was flabbergasted; what was going on?

The cause was simple. Her purse, with the second transmitter, was in the
trunk. The RFID computer will not let you lock the transmitter (or yourself)
in the trunk. So how do we lock the trunk without removing the transmitter
from her purse? You remove a physical key from the other transmitter and
turn it in the trunk's physical lock.

That takes care of the trunk, but now what about locking the car? It usually
locks by pressing rubber buttons on the driver or passenger door handles or
locks itself after 30 seconds, but that wouldn't work with a transmitter in
the trunk. You have to prove to the RFID computer that there is still a
valid transmitter outside the car by pressing its lock button.

All this was learned because she insists on leaving her transmitter/key in
her purse so it will not get lost.

Re: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint (Bumiller, RISKS-26.04)

"Bob Frankston" <>
Wed, 28 Apr 2010 16:23:31 -0700

Is this the military once again finding a scapegoat?  It's like blaming the
mirror for how we look. Sure, bullet points are convenient but not new with
PowerPoint and it's not the only way to use it.

I observe my son who has become facile with PowerPoint using it as a
presentation medium with few bullet points if any.

  [Bob,  Your son is wise.  On the other hand, for many people
    The Medium is the Message.  Marshall McLuhan

Re: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint (RISKS-26.04)

John Levine <>
3 May 2010 05:21:31 -0000

>* “PowerPoint makes us stupid.'' (Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine

Edward Tufte's short screed "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" is required
reading on this topic.  Don't miss the poster "there's no bullet list like
STALIN's bullet list!"  I keep a few copies around for people who complain
that I don't do jazzy enough slides.

Re: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint (RISKS-26.04)

Gary Borba <>
Mon, 03 May 2010 19:21:07 -0400

*The NY Times* article PowerPoint slide appears to be a system dynamics
diagram.  If one does not know system dynamics then the diagram can look
like jumbled nonsense.  I would suggest the system dynamics chart is not the
problem but instead the problem is that it was presented to people who
apparently do not know system dynamics and then expecting them to make sense
of it.

As an engineer I am distressed how presentation programs such as PowerPoint
short-circuit disciplined thinking.  The further we remove technical
discourse from this monstrosity the better!

Re: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint (RISKS-26.04)

"Harry Crowther" <>
Mon, 3 May 2010 20:24:51 -0400

As is pointed out here & elsewhere, the problem with the Afghan PowerPoint
horror slide is not that it's PowerPoint, rather it's a fairly typical
Systems Dynamics model, intended to present complex situations
understandably, more or less.


Leonard Finegold <>
Wed, 28 Apr 2010 21:48:48 -0400

Re: Frederic Rice: "I personally would like to be able to select the route
which has fewer opposing left-hand turns": I agree that left-turns (in
countries where one drives on right) are unhealthy.  I suspect that some GPS
devices are more equal than others, for my Garmin 350 will choose left turns
only very reluctantly.

Re: Arthur Flatau's Tom-Tom routes being poorer than Google's: When I check
Google's choice versus my Garmin's, they generally agree; the outfits
apparently use different maps, at least in US.  I don't have any shares in
Garmin (alas).

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