What will happen when the new Google wifi drones start flying? (I also wonder if L.A.'s 1950's Nike missile sites in the Santa Monica mountains went on high alert?) HB http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/spy-plane-fries-air-traffic-control-computers-shuts-down-lax-n95886 Andrew Blankstein, NBC News, 2 May 2014 Spy Plane Fries Air Traffic Control Computers, Shuts Down LAX A relic from the Cold War appears to have triggered a software glitch at a major air traffic control center in California Wednesday that led to delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights across the country, sources familiar with the incident told NBC News. On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Calif. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region's major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas. The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it. Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane's altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed. As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers. At LAX, one of the nation's busiest airports, there were 27 cancellations of arriving flights, as well as 212 delays and 27 diversions to other airports. Twenty-three departing flights were canceled, while 216 were delayed. There were also delays at the airports in Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario and Orange County and at other airports across the Southwestern U.S. In a statement to NBC News, the FAA said that it was “investigating a flight-plan processing issue'' at the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center, but did not elaborate on the reasons for the glitch and did not confirm that it was related to the U-2's flight. “FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes,'' said the agency in a statement. “The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence.'' Sources told NBC News that the plane was a U-2 with a Defense Department flight plan. “It was a Dragon Lady,'' said one source, using the nickname for the plane. Edwards Air Force Base is 30 miles north of the L.A. Center. Both Edwards and NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, which is located at Edwards, have been known to host U-2s and similar, successor aircraft. The U.S. Air Force is still flying U-2s, but plans to retire them within the next few years. Gary Hatch, spokesman for Edwards Air Force Base, would not comment on the Wednesday incident, but said, “There are no U-2 planes assigned to Edwards.'' A spokesperson for the Armstrong Flight Research Center did not immediately return a call for comment. Developed more than a half-century ago, the U-2 was once a workhorse of U.S. airborne surveillance. The plane's `operational ceiling' is 70,000 feet. In 1960, Francis Gary Powers was flying a U-2 for the CIA over the Soviet Union when he was shot down. He was held captive by the Russians for two years before being exchanged for a KGB colonel in U.S. custody. A second U.S. U-2 was shot down over Cuba in 1962, killing the pilot. [danny burstein commented, “Don'cha hate it when our own `weather observation' planes knock out our own air traffic control?'' PGN]
You can register for Peter Neumann's May 22 webcast, "Lessons from the ACM Risks Forum," at http://learning.acm.org/webinar/ (click on the registration link in the sidebar on the right). I hope that works, Yan Timanovsky, Education Manager, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) 2 Penn Plaza, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10121 212-626-0515 firstname.lastname@example.org [The URL included in Yan's message in RISKS-27.87 apparently works for Mac and Linux users on Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, but for some IE users from whom Yan received complaints. For those of you whose browser was unable to use what seemed to me to be a perfectly good URL, Yan has provided an alternative way of registering for the webinar. However, this nasty incompatibility is itself worth a note in RISKS. (I routinely have to remove the "3D" from "=" and the "= <newline>" at the end of broken lines from URLs submitted to RISKS, plus all the E92/E93/E94 etc. encodings for standard ASCII characters that some stupid mailer system cannot handle, although I've gotten lazy with some of the special characters with diacritics that I once used to try to decode properly.) PGN]
(Letter) To the Editor, *The New York Times* Sunday Business, 4 May 2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/technology/a-student-data-collector-drops-out.html The recent collapse of inBloom, the student data company, is a powerful reminder that in the era of Big Data, privacy still matters (A Data Collector Drops Out, Technophoria, April 27). As we see it, the problem was not misunderstanding by the public, but a lack of meaningful privacy protections. The Department of Education also bears some responsibility for inBloom's demise. Instead of defending important privacy laws that help protect student data, the department chose to loosen the rules so that private vendors could pull sensitive data out of local schools. Schools were also encouraged to collect far more information than they had in the past. Parents did not know what information was being collected, who would have access to it or what impact it might have on their children's future. Not surprisingly, many objected. The Education Department could help restore confidence in these data-intensive programs by strengthening privacy rules and establishing a Student Privacy Bill of Rights. Students should know what information about them is being collected and how it is being used. And schools should be more cautious about turning over their students data to others. Marc Rotenberg and Khaliah Barnes Mr. Rotenberg is president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Ms. Barnes is director of EPIC's Student Privacy Project.
Serdar Yegulalp, InfoWorld, 2 May 2014 Some major tech companies are starting to push back against government orders for personal data, though they still must comply with court orders http://www.infoworld.com/t/internet-privacy/tech-companies-get-little-less-silent-about-government-data-collection-241815
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/03/everyone-is-under-surveillance-now-says-whistleblower-edward-snowden The US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that entire populations, rather than just individuals, now live under constant surveillance. “It's no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing, It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.'' Snowden made his comments in a short video that was played before a debate on the proposition that surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance, in Toronto, Canada. The former US National Security Agency contractor is living in Russia, having been granted temporary asylum there in June 2013. The video was shown as two of the debaters—the former US National Security Administration director, General Michael Hayden, and the well-known civil liberties lawyer and Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz—argued in favour of the debate statement: “Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms.'' Opposing the motion were Glenn Greenwald, the journalist whose work based on Snowden's leaks won a Pulitzer Prize for the Guardian last month, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the social media website Reddit. The Snowden documents, first leaked to the Guardian last June, revealed that the US government has programs in place to spy on hundreds of millions of people's emails, social networking posts, online chat histories, browsing histories, telephone records, telephone calls and texts—“nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet'', in the words of one leaked document. Greenwald opened the debate by condemning the NSA's own slogan, which he said appears repeatedly throughout its own documents: “Collect it all.'' “What is state surveillance?'' Greenwald asked. If it were about targeting in a discriminate way against those causing harm, there would be no debate. “The actual system of state surveillance has almost nothing to do with that. What state surveillance actually is, is defended by the NSA's actual words, that phrase they use over and over again: 'Collect it all.' '' Dershowitz and Hayden spent the rest of the 90 minutes of the debate denying that the pervasive surveillance systems described by Snowden and Greenwald even exist and that surveillance programs are necessary to prevent terrorism. “Collect it all doesn't mean collect it all!'' Hayden said, drawing laughter. Greenwald sparred with Dershowitz and Hayden about whether or not the present method of metadata collection would have prevented the terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2011. While Hayden argued that intelligence analysts would have noticed the number of telephone calls from San Diego to the Middle East and caught the terrorists who were living illegally in the US, Greenwald argued that one of the primary reasons the US authorities failed to prevent the attacks was because they were taking in too much information to accurately sort through it all. Before the debates began, 33% of the audience voted in favour of the debate statement and 46% voted against. It closed with 59% of the audience siding with Greenwald and Ohanian.
(Or in this case, M-O-N-E-Y-P-O-T !) This is also clearly overreach, as a large fraction of investors don't give their brokers or money managers any discretion to trade for their accounts. Perhaps it would be better to make this system *voluntary* for those who did want someone to watch over a discretionary account ? http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/05/02/get-ready-for-regulators-to-peer-into-your-portfolio/ Jason Zweig, Bad brokers, meet RoboRegulator, The Intelligent Investor, 2 May 2014 In December, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees how investments are sold, proposed what it calls Cards, an electronic system that would regularly collect data on balances and transactions in brokerage accounts. If adopted, Cards would revolutionize how regulators do their jobs and could make it harder for unscrupulous brokers to bilk customers. But some critics think it could endanger the privacy and security of investors' confidential data. And the proposal ups the ante for Finra, which often has been criticized for letting wrongdoers slip through the cracks. Under Cards (which stands for Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System), Finra would collect—probably weekly—a record of activity at all of the more than 4,100 brokerage firms nationwide. Finra would scour the data continuously, looking for any hints that a firm or a broker might be taking advantage of a client: excessive trading or commissions, switching from one mutual fund to another, overcharging for bond E*Trades, overconcentrating in risky or illiquid securities, and so on. Cards “would provide us with a treasure trove of information and the ability to focus quicker on firms that are placing investors at high risk.'' Richard Ketchum, Finra's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. Social Security numbers and other personal details won't be included in Cards, so Finra won't be able to identify which investor an account belongs to or to match any investor's holdings across firms. Nor will the data give anyone access to cash or securities. Finra relies now partly on data analysis and partly on field examiners who gather information piecemeal on potential wrongdoing. With Cards, an ocean of detail would flow into Finra's computers automatically. That, Mr. Ketchum argues, would enable the regulator to stop at least some misdeeds before too much damage is done. And the sense that a regulatory RoboCop is watching their every move could deter some brokers from doing anything wrong in the first place. “If we can easily compare information across firms, that will build enormously greater power into our focus,'' Mr. Ketchum says. “I have no doubt that this is going to be the standard for regulation in the next three to five years.'' Some experts, however, worry that Cards could be overkill. “This goes beyond mere concerns about Big Brother,'' says Henry Hu, who oversaw data analytics as former director of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the Securities and Exchange Commission and is now a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “I think Cards creates a new form of systemic risk.'' Mr. Hu worries that Cards would take data that is widely dispersed—say you have money scattered across accounts at E*Trade, Fidelity Investments, Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab—and centralize it for the first time. That could make it more vulnerable. “It's a Pearl Harbor problem,'' Mr. Hu says. “All the ships and airplanes are in one place at the same time.'' The probability of the data being breached by a disgruntled employee, a terrorist or an unfriendly government is probably very low, Mr. Hu concedes -- but the consequences could be dire. “Just read any trashy spy novel,'' he says. “If you were a hostile foreign government, you would immediately put some of your top people to work'' trying to crack into Cards. Finra vehemently disputes that Cards could create systemic risk. The chance that anyone could penetrate the system and exploit the anonymous data for nefarious purposes is “infinitesimally small, out on the fringe of all possibilities,'' says Steven Joachim, an executive vice president at Finra. “The good that will come from the dramatically increased ability to reduce fraud will way overwhelm that extraordinarily remote risk,'' Mr. Joachim adds. Mr. Ketchum says he hopes that Cards will go to the Securities and Exchange Commission for final approval by next year, after further refinements and input from brokerage firms and the public. Consumer advocates have long claimed that Finra is insufficiently tough on the brokerage industry that helps fund it. But if Cards does go through as planned, Finra's new powers could leave the regulator itself with nowhere to hide. “If they get all this information and fail to find a problem or to do enough about it, they could be open to serious criticism,'' says Mike Stone, formerly a senior regulator at the SEC and a top legal officer at Morgan Stanley, now an adjunct professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York. “We would welcome that scrutiny,'' Mr. Ketchum says. “If we're not using the data [from Cards] properly, that's where we should be held accountable.'' Access to Big Data can still leave big problems festering. After all, the recent prosecutions of insider trading were set off as much by informants wearing wires as by computers running sophisticated analysis on data. But if Finra does end up putting all its cards on the table, it will have to follow the data wherever it leads. Write to Jason Zweig at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter:@jasonzweigwsj
David Linthicum, InfoWorld, 2 May 2014 An ex-employee of a cloud provider was recently convicted of screwing with its servers—could this happen to you? http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/why-companies-are-still-afraid-of-the-cloud-241432
A few years ago I ditched my landline service with BT. This was due to numerous disconnections and faults that rendered browsing the web with broadband a waste of time. So I switched to using a Three dongle. I live in a flat at the top of a block near a major UK Airport. I get 5 bars. The Three dashboard on Windows connects OK. The dongle has a light blue light indicating a connection to the mast / server / router - whatever. And it all used to be fine a year ago, and browsing the web was a fairly reliable and speedy experience. However now when Three's home page is requested all I get is "Resolving host ..." and then "No Internet Connection Is Available." This is now consistent, repeatable, and almost permanent. Three still charge me for the non-existent service - of course, Incidentally all works well in a speeding train commuting from London to Brighton (except through tunnels) - in a way I find that to be a miracle of technology. But what's wrong with living near a major Airport - I would have thought that there all services would be second to none. So my dilemma right now is whether to try and continue trying to use a dongle at home, or going back to a landline. The risk to me was putting all of my web eggs into the dongle basket and ditching the landline. I guess it might have been better to have both!
http://cphpost.dk/news/news-of-the-weird.9386.html Danish police are probing allegations that the popular Danish gossip magazine Se og HÝr snooped on the credit card transactions of the Danish Royal Family and various celebrities. Police are investigating claims that an employee at the credit card IT service Nets passed on details about the credit card transactions of the beautiful people to Se og HÝr, which then published stories based on the information. ... Information allegedly based on the illegally purloined credit card information includes photos of Prince Joachim and Princess Marie's 2008 secret honeymoon in Canada and numbers confirming Prince Henrik's wild shopping sprees in Thailand. Restaurant visits and other spending by Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary were also tracked. Queen Margrethe appears to have been spared because she doesn't use a credit card. Nets handles credit-card transactions for just about all Danish banks. What has come out in the Danish-language media is that an IBM employee working as a consultant at NETS received DKK 10,000 a month for supplying credit-card transaction information for people on a list of names given to him. Then the magazine could know where the royals were vacationing and send their photographers. That this could have gone on for six years with no one the wiser suggests that both Nets and IBM haven't a clue about security. Donald B. Wagner, Jernbanegade 9B, DK-3600 Frederikssund, Denmark Tel. +45-3331 2581 http://donwagner.dk
Simon Phipps, InfoWorld, 2 May 2014 An open source expert believes OpenSSL's custom license was partly responsible for the neglect behind Heartbleed http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source-software/heartbleed-postmortem-openssls-license-discouraged-scrutiny-241781
In our case they blocked a payment in a dive shop in Curacao. Later that day I was able to pay 1) in the supermarket, 2) at a gas station, and 3) at the hotel—run by the same people who run the dive shop, though through a different shopfront. That last bit was particularly confusing because the transaction amount was not that different from the one that bounced either. > - The fraud detection system does not maintain any transaction history. That's why I don't worry too much about targeted advertisers or three-letter acronyms collecting my metadata: you'd think a string of dive equipment purchases, plane tickets to and hotel booking in Curacao, and a few purchases on the island would be a clear indication that 1) we're probably there and 2) not home to check our answering machine. If visa's software can't do that I doubt nsa's software can do much better. > - Everyone assumes that card holders have continuous telephone access. Even if you have phone access, you have to know to call home and check your answering machine. I don't think I even remember what buttons to press to check mine.
Let's be absolutely clear about our terminology w.r.t. garbage collection (GC). "Hard real time" systems respond within an a priori fixed bounded length of time. For many systems, this bound might be 50 milliseconds, for example. "Real time" garbage collection works by performing a tiny bit of GC work for each allocation, so that there is _never_ a long GC delay. Depending upon the amount of GC work per allocation, the total amount of space required might vary, but this is a good thing; memory space these days is cheap, so the ability to trade larger memory space for smaller processing delays is a good thing. To the extent that a Java implementation requires long delays for GC, it is _not_ a suitable host for a real-time environment such as a web site. This is not a problem for the Java language—per se—or even with the concept of garbage collection, but a problem with that particular Java _implementation_. I hear excuse after excuse about garbage collection, but the "roll your own" alternatives are _always_ buggier and more expensive at the end of the day. The crypto people are fond of warning people not to roll their own crypto systems; perhaps the same thing should be said about memory management/garbage collection systems. I've spent a lifetime trying to come up with appropriate analogies to better understand computer science issues. I liken the problem of buffer overflows (due to non-safe languages) to the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. This epidemic was only stopped after the pump handle which pumped sewage-laden drinking water was removed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1854_Broad_Street_cholera_outbreak Perhaps the modern equivalent of that pump handle is "gcc". Gcc may have to be forceably removed from programmers' cold, dead hands in order to get them to program in safer languages. (My comment should in no way be interpreted as a slam against the quality of gcc; the pump in 1854 London was a perfectly fine pump; it just allowed the pumping of contaminated water.)
I have to confess to not understanding why so much attention is paid to this style of garbage collection, rather than reference counting systems. Yes, GCs like those found in Java ARE more efficient - they GC in larger chunks, rather than every time something goes out of scope. I get that. But reference counting accomplishes the primary goal of making sure memory gets cleaned up without programmer intervention, without the 'it just stops for 1/2 a second every now and then' issue we see with regular GC. As well, reference counting means you can depend on your 'finalizer' equivalent to run at an appropriate time, which means you can use regular objects to automatically collect things like sockets or DB connections or what ever you have. We waste CPU on all sorts of things to make our programs easier to write -- why aren't we willing to spend some of that CPU GCs are saving us on making our programs more predictable? It would make the problem described in Steve's post vanish without having to implement anything that's not already well understood.
As I'm sure you're aware, this is nothing new. BASIC had GC and applications would "go away" (perceived as a "hang") while GC was taking place. When developing a PC and Apple ][ based application in the early 1980's we experienced this problem. It took us a bit of time to figure out that the behavior, a hang that would resolve itself if one was patient enough, was caused by GC. Our solution was to force GC every time we hit the primary menu (right after user menu choice entry). That way there was never so much processing required that the time was noticeable. Unfortunately, the GC method in Java is a request rather than an order.
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