[Also posted to Freedom to Tinker, slightly PGN-ed for RISKS.] An article in *The Register* explains what happened in the 1 Aug 2012 Wall Street glitch that cost Knight Capital $440M, resulted in a $12M fine, and nearly bankrupted Knight Capital (forcing them to merge with someone else). In short, there were 8 servers that handled trades; 7 of them were correctly upgraded with new software, but the 8th was not. A particular type of transaction triggered the updated code, which worked properly on the upgraded servers. On the non-upgraded server, the transaction triggered an obsolete piece of software, which behaved altogether differently. The result was large numbers of incorrect "buy" transactions. The bottom line is that the cause of the failure was lack of careful procedures in how the software was deployed, coupled with a poor design choice that allowed a new feature to reuse a previously used obsolete option, which meant that the trigger caused an unanticipated result (instead of being ignored of causing an error). So, what does this have to do voting? It's not hard to imagine an Internet voting scheme using 8 servers, and even if the software doesn't have security flaws per se, a botched upgrade like this might work just fine for 7/8 of the voters, and silently fail for the 1/8. If the procedures aren't in place to check all of the systems (and such procedures apparently didn't exist at Knight Capital), a functional check might not detect a mismatch. This experience emphasizes that proper operation isn't *just* having the software itself being built correctly—it's also having it fielded properly. In a way, this is similar to the DC Internet voting experiment -- in that case, there was a bug in the software, but that particular bug wouldn't have been exploitable if it hadn't been for a mistake in how the software was fielded, replacing one version of a software library with a different version that had an exploitable bug. [This is not to suggest that this was the only bug in the DC voting software, or that Internet voting is safe, just tying to the particular exploit that happened.] Background: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/23/lone_sysadmin_caused_462_meeellion_wall_street_crash/ http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/16/knight-capital-sec-12-million-fine/2993661/
Andy Greenberg, *Forbes*, 15 Oct 2013 The non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) announced the launch of SecureDrop, a piece of open-source software designed to serve as an anonymous submission systems for media organizations. And to encourage news outlets to install it, the Foundation has offered to send one of SecureDrop's creators, security consultant James Dolan, to willing news outlets to help install it, in some cases even paying for the necessary hardware. SecureDrop, which like WikiLeaks depends on the anonymity software Tor to hide leakers' identities, was developed from the open-source software DeadDrop, initially created by the late coder and activist Aaron Swartz along with Dolan and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen. http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/10/15/securedrop-project-will-pay-to-install-media-outlets-wikileaks-style-submission-systems/
"Foreign writers who agree to submit their books to China's fickle censorship regime say the experience can be frustrating. Qiu Xiaolong, a St. Louis-based novelist whose mystery thrillers are set in Shanghai, said Chinese publishers who bought the first three books in his Inspector Chen series altered the identity of pivotal characters and rewrote plot lines they deemed unflattering to the Communist Party. Most egregiously, he said, publishers insisted on removing any references to Shanghai, replacing it with an imaginary Chinese metropolis called H city because they thought an association with violent crime, albeit fictional, might tarnish the city's image." http://j.mp/1dh4BGA (New York Times via NNSquad) [The article also notes the extensive redaction of a biography of reformist leader Deng Xiaoping written by Ezra F. Vogel. I presume this issue of RISKS will also be censored or redacted in China. PGN]
"Yet Wikipedia and its stated ambition to "compile the sum of all human knowledge" are in trouble. The volunteer workforce that built the project's flagship, the English-language Wikipedia-and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation-has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. Those participants left seem incapable of fixing the flaws that keep Wikipedia from becoming a high-quality encyclopedia by any standard, including the project's own. Among the significant problems that aren't getting resolved is the site's skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project's own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don't earn even Wikipedia's own middle-ranking quality scores. The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage." http://j.mp/1a6l6UL (MIT via NNSquad)
In the eyes of the court, calling yourself a hacker is equivalent to admitting criminality: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/10/22/153259/call-yourself-a-hacker-lose-your-4th-amendment-rights http://www.digitalbond.com/blog/2013/10/22/call-yourself-a-hacker-lose-your-4th-amendment-rights/ robert schaefer, Atmospheric Sciences Group, MIT Haystack Observatory Westford, MA 01886 781-981-5767 http://www.haystack.mit.edu
http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/27.56.html#subj9 tells us that the French government are unhappy about the NSA. Let's see where the logic takes us. 1. Blowing up a vehicle in a foreign city and killing an unarmed civilian is a terrorist act. 2. An organisation that trains, equips, and commands such an act is a terrorist organisation. 3. Anyone who contributes to the funding of such an organisation is supporting a terrorist organisation. 4. Anyone who supports a terrorist organisation is a legitimate target of surveillance in the war against terror. 5. In 1985, the French government carried out such a terrorist act in the largest city of my country. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_Rainbow_Warrior 6. Therefore every French taxpayer is a legitimate target of surveillance and the French government have no grounds for complaint. Of *course* there are flaws in this (except for 5, which is a legally established fact). But it's frighteningly plausible if you don't stop to think. And it's exactly the kind of "reasoning" that is easy to embody in computer software. (Maybe I should have written these claims using OWL...) Is there anyone, other perhaps than the inhabitants of a few villages in PNG and Vanuatu, that we _can't_ cover this way?
If American kids had to take their reading and writing tests in Spanish rather than English, we wouldn't expect them to do very well, since Spanish isn't the first language for most of them. Yet we expect them to take science and math tests which are written using metric units—the international "language" of technology. And we SHOULD expect this! The sad part is that, while metric units are the first language of measurement for 95% of the world's population, they remain a foreign tongue to almost every American, with commensurate results. Ben Franklin advocated the metric system. Congress adopted the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, and it looked as if we were finally on our way. But then Ronald Reagan was elected president, took the solar panels off the White House roof, and declared that there was no way any government reporting to him was going to dictate measurement rules to business. "Let the free market decide", he insisted. And metrication came to a dead halt. We continue to pay the price today, not only in substandard education but also in failure to manufacture to the kind of international standards that might earn us foreign markets. Plus which, ACHU* makes us dumber, almost as if we had to do all our math using Roman numerals. * Accidental Collection of Heterogeneous Units—don't mislabel it the "English system". First off, it's not a system (no design), it's an accident. 2nd, the English have come to their senses and metricated decades ago. And for gosh sake don't call it the "American system", because then all the super-patriots will insist that it's a matter of national honor to stick to it. Richard S. Russell, 2642 Kendall Av. #2, Madison WI 53705-3736 608+233-5640 http://richardsrussell.livejournal.com/ If God had wanted us to use the metric system, he would have given us 10 fingers. Ashleigh Brilliant
In RISKS-27.56, Anthony DeRobertis writes: > This is the most misleading Subject: line I can remember having appeared in > RISKS. Hyperbole in RISKS subject lines? Inconceivable! I cross borders often and it is never routine. I've been "delayed" 6 times (that I recall) at the US/Canada border, even though I had my papers in order. Some of those were probably due to fitting a profile, other times because I won the let's-randomly-check-somebody lottery. If you come without papers, you've won the lottery by default. Anything can happen once they pull you aside and start digging. The border crossing guard won't likely take your story at face value. Even between friendly nations like Canada and the US, there are plenty of things that could result in something much more serious than a delay when crossing the border. You look Mexican. Your last name is Mohammed. You look like a terrorist. You don't sound or look like a Canadian. You are not a Canadian citizen, where's your US visitor visa? Or you have kids in your car. Where is the other parent? Why does that kid not look like you? Is that baby really yours? Perhaps you're carrying contraband? Cuban cigars? Kinder Eggs? http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/kinder-surprise-egg-seized-at-u-s-border-1.1023347 http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/national/2012_nr/apr_2012/04052012.xml Drugs? Some medications with codeine are available over the counter in Canada, but only legal with a prescription in the US. You are carrying marijuana, or your buddy in the passenger seat is, or a friend stuffed some under a seat cushion last week. The US will seize your car on the spot, but you don't have to worry about transportation because you'll get a free ride in the back seat of a government car. You have a prior criminal record. You have been barred from entering the US. You have a warrant in the US. You have too much beer in the trunk of your car. Regardless if they let you through or turn you around, you'll have to go through customs on return to Canada and you can run into the same set of problems, and even more because there are legal reasons why you may not be allowed to leave (you are out on bail, probation, parole) or return (single-entry visa) to Canada. And yes turning around means going through Canadian customs, because the US customs house is on US soil. What could possibly go wrong? What if you aren't admissible to Canada or the US? How do you think people get stuck in limbo in airport terminals?
Robert H. Sloan and Richard Warner Unauthorized Access: The Crisis in Online Privacy and Security CRC Press, 2014 xxiii+374 Robert Sloan is a professor of computer science, and Richard Warner is a law professor, which would seem to make a nice collaboration. However, this book is explicitly aimed primarily at legal and policy folks, rather than techies. The back jacket says that this book “proposes specific solutions to public policy issues pertaining to online privacy and security.'' It is highly readable, and could be very helpful for those who are not yet aware of the serious issues it raises and the remedies it proposes. On the other hand, it seems much less specific in discussing the implications of many of the security problems (such as pervasive vulnerabilities and exploits) whose existence might make some of the legal and policy issues less effective, or whose remediation might possibly make the recommended fixes less necessary. Also, there seem to be many inherent weaknesses in best practices (not just in those proposed), as well as likely limitations in legal remedies that might still exist despite the authors' recommendations. A second edition might dig further into some of these additional considerations. However, their recommendations certainly deserve serious consideration—especially given the poor state of the technology for security, integrity, reliability, and so on. Overall, policy and law are important—if properly enforced. At the same time, they are not enough by themselves—especially in the absence of meaningful trustworthiness of systems, networks, and people. I have a few quibbles with the title of the book that may be familiar to long-time RISKS readers, first with `Unauthorized Access', and second with `Online Privacy and Security'. As we should learn from studying exploits such as the Internet Worm and the Snowden affair, many of our problems in this area involve Authorized Access rather than Unauthorized Access, especially relating to policies, ethics, and the law. For example, as I noted in RISKS-12.15 relating to the Internet Worm, no authorization was required to exploit the sendmail debug option, the finger daemon buffer overflow, freely open-to-the-world .rhosts files, and explicitly readable encrypted password files. This fact seriously muddied the waters in a prosecution that was based on Exceeding Authority when no authority was actually required. Similarly, denial-of-service attacks frequently require no authority, even when they manage to exploit fundamental flaws in security. Worse yet, privacy violations often exist outside the purview of computer system authentication and access controls, in which case it is not at all clear what is actually `unauthorized' once the information involved has become extrinsic to the systems in which it originated. Thus, offline privacy is perhaps just at least as problematic as online privacy, while offline security seems to be more of a fantasy. Besides, as I noted in my Inside Risks column, The Foresight Saga, Redux (Comm.ACM 55, 10, Oct 2012, http://www.csl.sri.com/neumann/cacm228/pdf), although the best may be the enemy of the good, the good may not be good enough.
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