The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Volume 26 Issue 21

Tuesday 16 November 2010


Domain Exploitation Society Celebrates "Swinging" New Top-Level Domains
Lauren Weinstein
"Uncrackable" G2 Android Phone Successfully and Permanently Rooted —and Why This Matters!
Lauren Weinstein
Hazards of information leakage to youtube: a real story
Chiaki Ishikawa
Facebook's new chat/e-mail feature apparently records everything...
Lauren Weinstein
Once you hit send, you can forget privacy
Joseph P. Kahn via Monty Solomon
Albert Gonzalez, The Great Cyberheist
James Verini via PGN
Rise of VoIP systems open new market for exploitation
Charles Wood
Re: A Strong Password Isn't the Strongest Security
Earl Nolan
Re: Something has been going right in the fight against spam
David E. Ross
Spam volume is indeed down
Peter B Ladkin
Re: J. Alex Halderman, Hacking DC, Freedom to Tinker
Erik Mooney
Re: Banks Rush to Fix Security Flaws in Wireless Apps
Michael Kowalchuk
Re: Remote starter risk
Randal L. Schwartz
Gene Wirchenko
Re: U.S. Daylight Saving Time ends with bug in iOS4
Chris Kantarjiev
Re: Texting Stinks?
Alexandre Peshansky
Re: Cellphone's Missing Dot Kills Two People ...
A.E. Siegman
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Domain Exploitation Society Celebrates "Swinging" New Top-Level Domains

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sat, 13 Nov 2010 19:23:09 -0800

                Bulletin: Domain Exploitation Society Celebrates
                       "Swinging" New Top-Level Domains

Frostbite Falls, Minn. (ZAP)—The Minnesota-based Society for Leveraged
Internet Mercenary Exploitation Domains (SLIMED) expressed enthusiastic
satisfaction with leading domain registrar Go Daddy's decision to feature
the new ".co" [sic] Top-Level Domain (TLD) as the default on its home page ( ) today, reducing to "trash" status the old,
obsolete, useless, silly, obscene, disgraceful, painful, purulent, and less
expensive ".com" TLD that all consumers already understand.

"This decision by Go Daddy to emphasize .co [sic] signals the real beginning
of the TLD gold rush—with literally thousands of new TLDs promised over
the next few years by Internet Control Authorities," said Boris Puteo,
SLIMED media affairs and financial director, at an interview today during a
celebratory gala at the ultra-exclusive "Masa" restaurant in New York City.

"TLDs are like gold," said Puteo, "even better than gold in fact, since you
can't force people to buy bullion, but you've got everyone over a barrel
when it comes to protective domain registrations!"

Puteo refuted claims that the coming deluge of new TLDs will carry enormous
costs and confuse consumers, while opening avenues for vast numbers of new
phishing scams and spam attacks, without bringing any real positive value to
ordinary Internet users.

"If people can't figure out the difference between .co [sic] and .com,
they're just, well, sic [sic!] in the head.  Why can't these bleeding heart,
pencil-necked geeks stop rocking the boat ( [Lauren's
Blog] ) and just get back into their cubicles and their damned programming
-- oh excuuuse me, I mean "softwaaare engineeeering!" said Mr. Puteo, "Just
leave the moola magic to us!"

SLIMED's Puteo also noted that an illuminating and very short new YouTube
video ( ) was now available for viewing --
showing the Top-Level Domain consideration procedure in action, and
incontrovertibly demonstrating the complex, serious, lucid, and deliberative
process involved in TLD approvals.

"Top-Level Domains really swing!  And while I probably shouldn't be telling
you this yet, SLIMED is hoping to make a deal with Burundi so that we can
sell ".bi" TLD domains to everyone who swings both ways!  God, I love the
Internet!" Puteo added.

"Uncrackable" G2 Android Phone Successfully and Permanently Rooted

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 9 Nov 2010 12:01:44 -0800
  —and Why This Matters!

                "Uncrackable" G2 Android Phone Successfully and
                   Permanently Rooted—and Why This Matters!

Greetings.  Almost exactly a month ago, in "New Android Phone (Falsely)
Accused of Containing a 'Malicious Root Kit'" (
[Lauren's Blog] )—I noted the situation with the new T-Mobile G2 Android
phone (aka HTC Vision), where a new protection scheme had been employed by
the manufacturer to (try) prevent "rooting" (also known as "jailbreaking").
I also expressed my hope that "permanent rooting" efforts in progress would
be successful.

As I discussed, I view having complete control over my cell phones as being
important for privacy and security reasons—and in terms of overall user
freedoms as well.  A "locked-down" device cannot be relied upon to run the
systems and applications of users' choosing.  And while there are certainly
those persons who disagree with me on this point, I consider these freedoms
to be extremely important in an age of ever increasing and widely
distributed technologies.

So I'm very pleased to report that as of this morning, the G2 has been
successfully and permanently rooted ( [xda-developers]
), opening the door to specialized applications and the running of the
excellent "CyanogenMod" enhanced systems ( ).
Incredible work guys!

As it turns out, it was quickly established that the G2 was not using a
firmware rewrite system, but rather was employing the protected mode of
JEDEC Embedded MMC memory (eMMC).  Temporary rooting of the device was
possible from early on since the underlying Linux kernel was caching changes
related to user root attempts, but the eMMC protection mechanism was
preventing those changes from ever being successfully written to flash
system memory—so all such changes were lost at the next boot of the

For the last month I've been lurking on various Web sites and a key IRC
channel, watching a core group of dedicated hackers (and I'm using "hackers"
in the original, positive sense of the word), as they gradually teased their
way into the phone's systems—truly a joy to watch.  One individual in
particular, with a "handle" that would be recognized by any fan of the
original "Star Trek" series, deserves special commendation indeed.

The level of technical expertise exhibited by this group is extraordinary.
And no matter how much you think you know about these systems, it's
definitely a learning experience to view these reverse-engineering efforts
in progress.  (By the way, did you know that many modern cell phones' radio
modems can be controlled via a superset of the ancient—more than 30 years
old!—Hayes modem "AT" command set?  Yep.  True innovation can live a long
life indeed!)

It seems likely that this same basic rooting technique will be useful—at
least for now—when dealing with some other new HTC Android phones hitting
the streets.

I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to root their cell phones.  There are
operational risks in doing so—such as the possibility of "bricking" your
phone (making it nonoperational) if you screw up.  Nor does everyone need
the ability to run the sorts of applications and systems that require

That being said, I do consider having the *choice* of running such software
to be an important one, and the concept of devices that lock out user choice
is frankly offensive to me.

The conflicting world views represented by various flavors of closed systems
-- vs. open systems—will certainly trigger continuing struggles, not just
in the mobile device world, but in technology generally as we move toward
ever more complex and "cloud-aware" systems.

But to distill this all down to a simple sound bite, as far as consumers of
technology are concerned:

   "Open Wins."

Lauren Weinstein Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
PFIR (People For Internet Responsibility):
NNSquad (Network Neutrality Squad):

Hazards of information leakage to youtube: a real story

"ISHIKAWA,chiaki" <>
Fri, 12 Nov 2010 03:25:34 +0900

Compared with what happened with Wikileaks, the following story may not be
that interesting in general, but there are still a few lessons.

Internet certainly brings new twists.

A real story: Synopsis

A video was made during a traffic violation and catching of the perpetrator
by law enforcement officers on their vehicle.

An edited version of the video was duplicated many times (17 times from a
news report) at the local law-enforcement office as a TRAINING MATERIAL for
other law-enforcement officers (!). A copy was made and sent to local
prosecutor's office for the purpose of charging the perpetrator eventually.

Later, though, the perpetrator's charge was dropped due obviously to
political pressure (is the foregone conclusion in the press.)

Now the story had an interesting twist.

An irate officer in a different branch of the law-enforcement agency, which
handles such traffic violations, released the video of the dangerous
violation on YOUTUBE (!)  of all the places.

No one knows how he got the video yet. (But producing 17 copies for training
is not a such a good idea if the video was going to be used in a court
proceeding although the charge was dropped later.)  Now it seems that the
video on youtube was from the training video.

The government was mollified, and police asked the local office of Google,
who owns youtube, to find out the IP address from which the video was

(Well, I thought all the youtube servers are in North America basically.  It
turned out that local police office asked Google local branch to selectively
pick up the IP address from the youtube server logs so that the the relevant
IP addresses are available.  The local office of Google COMPLIED AFTER a
court order was produced. )

Some old lessons that we can glean out.

- Poor Handling of sensitive data in an office, and law enforcement agency
  of all the places.

  Before it was known that 17 copies were made for training purposes in an
  unencrypted form (from what I read), both the local prosecutor's office
  and law enforcement agency's were trying hard to clear their names, but
  there must have been the feeling of "there you go" when the existence of
  17 copies for training purposes created at the law enforcement agency
  became known. The prosecutor's office had a very strict data handling
  procedure and their report was that the leakage from their office is very
  unlikely if not impossible.

- Server side data in a foreign country may be revealed to your
  disadvantage. The man who put the video on youtube probably didn't expect
  the IP address of an internet cafe-like establishment where the video was
  posted to be known so quickly.  He probably thought Google, being in a
  foreign country, may not reveal such information to a request from local
  police easily.

  Cloud computing, and out-sourcing in general may not be such a great idea
  if we need to go across country borders.

  Anyway, with a friendly court order, it may be that YOUR search habit may
  be known to the law enforcement agency as far as I can judge from the way
  the local branch of Google acted at this time. (If you are a male, and
  happen to reach the page of a Japanese cross-dressing shop or studio (?)
  when you are looking for "Artemis", an EU initiative for embedded computer
  systems, tough luck. Pray that Google does not reveal the log :-)

Cast of Characters:

Now the REALLY INTERESTING part is that this REAL story was played by the
following actors. A le Carre or Forsyth may be able to concoct a better
novel from these elements.

Perpetrator: A Chinese captain who manned a fishing boat that entered a
   territorial water near a group of small islands claimed by Japan. (The
   islands are near 25 degrees 45' North, 123 degrees 31' East)

Law Enforcement Agency: Japanese Coast Guard

Traffic Violation: The Chinese captain smashed his boat into two Japanese
   Coast Guard Boats (twice) violently when the coast guard boat warned in
   Chinese and plodded the Chinese boat to go out of the claimed water. Sea
   Shepherd boat looked like a sheep in comparison.

Local Prosecutor's office: located in Ishigaki Jima (a relatively large
  island) near where the smashing and apprehension took place.

Mollified Government: the Japanese Government, of course.

Political pressure: the rumor has it that the Japanese cabinet wanted to
  keep the things behind the closed door by not irritating Chinese
  nationalists who claim the territorial right on the same region, and thus
  avoiding the costly banning of export of rare metal material from China to
  Japan, and other temporal inconveniences which have been noticed by
  Japanese business and industry after the arrest of the Chinese captain.
  Somehow the Ishigaki local prosecutor's office dropped the charge against
  the Chinese captain and released him along his boat. (The rest of the crew
  had been freed much earlier.)

An irate officer who released the video to youtube: he is a boat officer at
   the office of Japan Coast Guard in Kobe about 1500 km from Ishigaki Jima
   island.  How he obtained the video is anyone's guess.  Obviously Internet
   is a great boon to a whistle blower like him.  He confessed to his
   superior after the IP address was traced to an internet Manga cafe which
   he seems to have used.  He seems to have contacted a local newspaper or
   TV reporter citing the people's right to know a few days before

   The video in full was not released officially even to the members of
   parliament who wanted to know what was going on.  Only a select few
   members saw the abridged version of the video in a closed session so far.
   The video has been on Japanese TV news in the last several days.

An interesting story with the new twist added by the Internet.

Facebook's new chat/e-mail feature apparently records everything...

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 10:47:19 -0800

Facebook's new chat/e-mail feature apparently records everything you say

Based on *preliminary information* I heard from the Facebook launch
announcement today for their new "chat/e-mail" system (Facebook keeps
insisting that it isn't really e-mail), users will *not* have the
ability to declare chats or related conversations to be "off the
record"—everything will apparently be recorded.  Individual users
will have the ability to archive or delete their *own* copies of
transcripts, but it appears that there is explicitly *not* a
functionality similar to Google's "off the record" chat feature, which
permits users to declare that their conversations with given
individuals should not be routinely preserved.  "It just didn't make
sense for us," were pretty much the words that Zuckerberg used in
response to a question on this topic.

We'll have to wait for more info, but this could be a major privacy
problem in the making.

Once you hit send, you can forget privacy (Joseph P. Kahn)

Monty Solomon <>
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 09:29:38 -0500

Joseph P. Kahn, *The Boston Globe*, 15 Nov 2010

The e-mail was clearly misguided in its interpretation of
intellectual-property rights and the Internet. It was also dismissive,
unapologetic, and, if made public, potentially far more embarrassing to
sender than recipient.

If? Try when.

A recent testy e-mail from Cooks Source managing editor Judith Griggs to
freelance writer and blogger Monica Gaudio read, in part, "you should be
happy we didn't just 'lift' your whole article and put someone else's name
on it!'' Gaudio posted the e-mail online, and it went viral. When it did,
one question about Griggs's judgment eclipsed all others: How could anyone
assume a communication like that would remain private?

With minor variations, the same could be asked of others making news
recently with their private-made-public communications, ones that quickly
spread to social-media websites like Facebook and Twitter, to gossip sites
like Gawker and Deadspin, and to mainstream media sites like Poynter Online
- to the chagrin of those who composed them.

Tucker Carlson, who edits *The Daily Caller*, a political-journalism
website, posed as suspended MSNBC host Keith Olbermann in e-mails to a
Philadelphia columnist last week, then claimed he did not expect that his
prank e-mails would be published.

Campaign staffers for gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, the state
treasurer, e-mailed state Lottery officials last summer urging them to
launch a taxpayer-funded ad campaign likely to benefit him.

Harvard Law School student Stephanie Grace's e-mail to friends about
affirmative action and race touched off a furor on the Harvard campus this

The NFL is investigating accusations that pro football star Brett Favre sent
explicit photos and messages to several women, most notably a New York Jets
sideline reporter who worked for the team when he played there. Dozens of
golfer Tiger Woods's text messages to one of his mistresses, Joslyn James,
were posted on her website in March, tarnishing Woods's image and
contributing to his divorce.

What part of “Forward With Attachments'' do these people not seem to
understand? ...

Albert Gonzalez, The Great Cyberheist (James Verini, NYT)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Tue, 9 Nov 2010 19:32:34 PST

  A long article by James Verini in the Sunday *NYT* Magazine section
  reviews the case of Albert Gonzalez (RISKS-25.26, 25.32, 25.77, 25.98).

Rise of VoIP systems open new market for exploitation (Re: R-26.20)

Charles Wood <>
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 12:39:46 +0800

I manage a number of VOIP servers. And I too have noticed a surge in
brute-force attacks. Almost all of which are REGISTER attempts.

These generally are very simple name and extension scan with simple password
lists. The beauty of the attack is that only one account needs to be
compromised before unlimited calls are made Assuming internal routing rules
ain't so good.

Properly set up VOIP servers now include rate limitation as part of the
default scripts. It's the Asterisk derived servers that are set up by the
home user or the office junior that seem to be the problem. A typical
exploit is to connect by SIP and then dial out via the target's landline
interface - very common with Asterisk - or dial out by the upstream VOIP

With all servers, the real problem is that passwords are often insecure.
Usually deliberately so, so that the customer can remember them. This means
that even though RFC2617 http digest authentication is used, the attacker
just needs to keep hammering away till something gives.  Publishing your sip
phone number makes it even easier as there is a known user to test passwords

Personally I enforce use of cryptographically strong password.

Re: A Strong Password Isn't the Strongest Security (Sampson, R-26.16)

Earl Nolan <>
Tue, 9 Nov 2010 18:45:23 -0800

I am surprised that I don't see more mentions of using an open source and
free tool such as PasswordSafe <>.

It generates strong passwords, allows for a different password for every
account.  All I have to remember is the pass-phrase to unlock my safe.

Re: Something has been going right in the fight against spam (R-26.20)

"David E. Ross" <>
Wed, 10 Nov 2010 13:18:40 -0800

The volumes of spam arriving at my inbox and spam captured by my ISP's
filter (from which I can recover false positives) have both dropped
dramatically in recent months.  This was NOT because of a reduction in spam
or the elimination of any botnets.

Instead, this reduction in spam resulted from my ISP installing a
"pre-filter".  The pre-filter trashes any E-mail message from a
non-registered domain or from a non-assigned IP address.  These messages are
irretrievably trashed and cannot be recovered.  After all, there should be
no false positives when checking for an invalid domain or IP address.

Of course, this pre-filter might also trash legitimate messages from munged
addresses.  However, why would someone munge their address in a private

David E. Ross <>

Spam volume is indeed down (Kamens, Risks 26.20)

Peter Bernard Ladkin <>
Tue, 16 Nov 2010 10:30:57 +0100

The BBC reports on November 15 2010 in that spam volumes are down in
the three months from August 2010. The article suggests that is because of
law enforcement services shutting down botnets and big users of such nets.

Peter Bernard Ladkin, Causalis Limited and University of Bielefeld

  [PGN says: I'm still running about 3000 a day between me and RISKS that
  are filtered, and still hundreds more that have to be deleted by hand.  I
  am increasingly grateful for all contributors who use the "notsp" in the
  subject line of your submissions.  I'm increasingly dependent thereupon.]

Re: J. Alex Halderman, Hacking DC, Freedom to Tinker

Erik Mooney <>
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 13:13:28 -0600

Great writeup on the shell-injection vulnerability in the absentee voting
machine.  It occurs to me that this hole is actually the oldest in the book:
a case of treating data as executable code.  A file extension should be
data, yet thanks to the convenience of string concatenation, it becomes
executable instructions on the command line.

Re: Banks Rush to Fix Security Flaws in Wireless Apps (R 26 20)

Michael Kowalchuk <>
Sat, 13 Nov 2010 00:37:46 -0500

Not only are "the apps are storing a user's information in the memory of a
cellphone" but I have been absolutely dumbfounded with the "security"
inherent with these "smartphones". For example, browser cookies and caches
are not easily cleared, call and text histories are saved from day one, and
login, email and other master passwords are easily "typed-in once then
forgotten". It seems that the users have forgotten, and are encouraged to
forget by the interface, basic security awareness.

Something has failed us greatly when concern about being able easily monitor
and optionally clear any personally entered or downloaded data in these
tools is rarely voiced!

Also, have you ever seen someone who has lost their phone? Not only are they
devastated and powerless, but they suddenly become catatonic when you ask,
"Of course, all your data is backed up, isn't it"?

Re: Remote starter risk (RISKS-26.20)

Randal L. Schwartz
Wed, 10 Nov 2010 12:45:11 -0800

>>>>>   <> writes:
> A woman died and and her husband was hospitalized after someone in the house
> accidentally pressed the "remote-start" button for her car in their garage
> in Raleigh NC.

This story was updated later:

  Police initially reported that someone unintentionally pressed the
  remote-start button for the car. They later determined that the car was
  accidentally left running.  Wake County Medical Director Dr. Brent Myers
  said cases like this are all too common in winter. Several people die each
  year, usually from using heaters or letting their vehicles warm up in
  enclosed spaces.

Randal L. Schwartz - Stonehenge Consulting Services, Inc. - +1 503 777 0095
<> <URL:>

  [Typo corrected in archive.  PGN]

Re: Remote starter risk (RISKS-26.20)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Wed, 10 Nov 2010 13:03:10 -0800

Another risk:

In the comments to the linked article, methinks posted:

"These journalists have got to change their ways. This woman's identity was
not released for a reason. By say that the house is located haf a block from
a particular intersection and showing a picture of it, then anyone who knows
them is going to find out from the news instead of a loved one. The same
thing happened with the clerk in Fayetteville. They printed all sort of
information so that it was real easy to figure out who it was. No respect at
all for the victims and their loved ones. Limit the info printed until the
police release names."

Re: U.S. Daylight Saving Time ends with bug in iOS4

Chris Kantarjiev <>
Wed, 10 Nov 2010 12:52:39 -0800

Android has exhibited a similar bug for at least two DST change cycles; I
was bitten by it when we "sprang forward" in the US last March. I was not
alone in filing a bug, but no one at Google appears interested in fixing it.

Re: Texting Stinks? (RISKS-26.20)

Alexandre Peshansky <>
Tue, 16 Nov 2010 19:25:50 +0000

No wonder the item seemed familiar - the actual accident happened on 10 Jul
2009, and the item on was last updated on July 12, 2009 (with
news of a lawsuit, one may presume).  I guess no news is good news ;-)

Alexandre Peshansky, Snr. Bioinformatics Analyst, ICTR/RIC
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (718) 430-2440

  [Drat!  You're absolutely correct.  See "Teenager Falls Into Manhole While
  Texting" (Michael Barkoviak via Monty Solomon), RISKS-25.73, 16 July 2009.]

Re: Cellphone's Missing Dot Kills Two People ... (Wirchenko, R-26.20)

AES <>
Fri, 12 Nov 2010 08:00:06 -0800

Dots don't kill people.  People, and knives, and stupid cultural beliefs and
attitudes, kill people.

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