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 28 Issue 63

Monday 11 May 2015


Ed Felten joining WH OSTP
Richard Forno
Real-time emotion tracking by webcam
Nick Brown
Flawed encryption leaves millions of smart grid devices at risk of cyberattacks
ZDNet via Bob Frankston
Gustavo Duarte Blog Recommendation: "Brain Food for Hackers"
Lauren Weinstein
HTTPS: the end of an era
Medium via Lauren Weinstein
Another reason why any moves toward forced https: are so potentially dangerous
Google via NNSquad
Re: Authentication vs Identification ...
David Brodbeck
Re: Doctors don't like EHRs
Richard I Cook
Alister Wm Macintyre
Re: All cars must have tracking devices ...
John Levine
REVIEW: "Security for Service Oriented Architectures", Walter Williams
Rob Slade
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Ed Felten joining WH OSTP (via Dave Farber)

"Richard Forno" <>
May 11, 2015 5:22 PM
Andrea Peterson, *The Washington Post*, 11 May 2015

The White House is adding one of the tech policy world's most valuable
players to it's roster: Princeton Professor Ed Felten. The White House
announced today that Felten will join the Office of Science and Technology
Policy as deputy U.S. chief technology officer.

In his decades-long career, Felten has carved out a role as one of the
world's top thinkers on computer security and privacy—tackling
technically difficult topics and translating them for Washington insiders.
"There is no one more valuable to bridging tech and policy than Ed," said
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy &
Technologist, who worked with Felten as a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton.

He's also slipped seamlessly between academia and civil service: Felten has
been a professor at Princeton for more than two decades, and currently
serves as the founding director of the school's Center for Information
Technology Policy. But from 2011 through 2012 he served as the first chief
technologist at the Federal Trade Commission—the government's de facto
privacy watchdog.

Felten's also weighed in on government surveillance efforts: In the wake of
revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs from former
government contractor Edward Snowden, Felten publicly argued that phone
record data being vacuumed up by the government could reveal extremely
sensitive personal information. In fact, he made that point in a brief
supporting the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that resulted in a federal appellate
court decision last week that found the phone records program is illegal.

"Ed joins a growing number of techies at the White House working to further
President Obama's vision to ensure policy decisions are informed by our best
understanding of state-of-the-art technology and innovation, to quickly and
efficiently deliver great services for the American people, and to broaden
and deepen the American people's engagement with their government,"
Alexander Macgillivray, deputy chief technology officer, and Megan Smith,
U.S. chief technology officer, said in a blog post today.

Both Macgillivray and Smith come from big tech companies—Macgillivray is
a former general counsel at Twitter while Smith was a vice president at
Google. That makes Felten's academic background unique among the current
class of the nation's top tech civil servants.

  [See also

Real-time emotion tracking by webcam

Sun, 10 May 2015 01:07:53 +0200 (CEST)
The European Commission is giving financial backing to a company that claims
its technology can read your emotional state by just having you look into a


"Realeyes is a London based start-up company that tracks people's facial
reactions through webcams and smartphones in order to analyse their
emotions. ...  Realeyes has just received a 3,6 million euro funding from
the European Commission to further develop emotion measurement
technology. ...  The technology is based on six basic emotional states that,
according to the research of Dr Paul Ekman, a research psychologist, are
universal across cultures, ages and geographic locations. ...

[T]his technological development could be a very powerful tool not only for
advertising agencies, but as well for improving classroom learning,
increasing drivers' safety, or to be used as a type of lie detector test by
the police."

More at

The risks are left as an exercise for the reader. I suspect that most people
will have little difficulty in coming up with a few dozen, perhaps split
into two categories: if the technology works, and if it doesn't work, the
boundary between the two being some more-or-less arbitrary false-positive
rate. The impossibility of falsifying the machine's verdict is top of my

Flawed encryption leaves millions of smart grid devices at risk of cyberattacks (ZDNet)

"Bob Frankston" <>
Mon, 11 May 2015 02:27:45 -0400

Gustavo Duarte Blog Recommendation: "Brain Food for Hackers"

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sat, 9 May 2015 13:38:39 -0700
Earlier today I literally stumbled into a site unfamiliar to me, the blog of
Gustavo Duarte called "Brain Food for Hackers."

Contrary to what you might expect from the name, it is not a guide to
hacking, but (among other things) a series of extremely clear, lucid, and
accessible articles—most with great graphics—explaining how modern PCs
and OSes work in various respects—CPU, system calls, page caches,
recursion, and so on. While most of his examples are for UNIX/Linux, he also
takes care to explain the relationship of these principles to Windows and
other systems.

His blog is only relatively infrequently updated—the last update is from
late last year. But if you've ever wondered how this stuff works—and you
really should!—you might want to check out his blog archive at:

Great work, Gustavo!

HTTPS: the end of an era

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 10 May 2015 12:26:08 -0700
Medium via NNSquad

  Mozilla, the foundation that maintains Firefox, has announced that it will
  effectively deprecate the insecure HTTP protocol, eventually forcing all
  sites to use HTTPS if they hope to use modern features.  This essay
  explains why this was such depressing news to me, why this shift marks the
  death of a way of life ... An HTTPS site can not be built on a desert
  island network, because you need a signature from a certificate
  authority. A dissident is screwed, because the dissident must give
  identifying information to the certificate authority. —Ben Klemens

More on this theme: "When Mozilla's Fanatics Make Us All Look Bad":

Another reason why any moves toward forced https: are so potentially dangerous

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 10 May 2015 19:27:32 -0700
Google via NNSquad (Google+)

The Internet is already far too dependent on centralized authorities.  We've
seen the DNS abused by LEOs (Law Enforcement Organizations) and courts, not
to mention being turned into an extortion racket by many gTLD domainers and
the domain-industrial complex. Any moves that would make Net communications
even more dependent on centralized entities should be non-starters.  I don't
care who the central entities are—even with the best of intentions they
could be manipulated by LEOs, courts, crooks, black hat hackers, intel
agencies, or whomever to the detriment of potentially vast numbers of sites
coerced into dependency on issued certs and the associated "chains of

Re: Authentication vs Identification ... (Ashworth, RISKS-28.62)

David Brodbeck <>
Fri, 8 May 2015 23:49:03 -0700
Jay Ashworth makes a number of excellent points about the problems of using
Social Security Numbers as both identifiers and authenticators, and suggests
organizations should stop asking for them at all unless there's a legal

A big sticking point here is the use of SSNs as identifiers for credit

Everyone from utility companies to landlords to prospective employers run
credit checks, these days, which means they all need to ask for my SSN.
Often, refusing to give it would either mean being denied, or providing a
prohibitively large deposit.  Landlords are especially risky, since I can
never be sure if they're actually going to follow through with a lease, or
if they're just going to abscond with my personal details and my application
fee.  A typical rental application has enough info for a very effective
identity theft—SSN, previous addresses, employment information...

Re: Doctors don't like EHRs (Geissman, RISKS 28.62)

Richard I Cook MD <>
Sat, 9 May 2015 14:52:00 -0400
This is a sore spot for the medical world but not, perhaps, as important as
it at first appears. Exchange of data between systems is not as frequent as
it might have been in the past. The reason is that insurance schemes [sic]
severely limit the choice of provider so cross-system data access is the
exception rather than the rule.

It is true that EHR vendors benefit from non-standard databases. They get to
program things as they like and the difficulty in moving existing data to
another vendor's platform is an obstacle to switching vendors. But the
significance of this is decreasing as the medical industry becomes an EHR
monoculture. The EHR world is quite likely to end up with a single vendor by
2020. Making data accessible for exchange doesn't do much if there is no one
to exchange with.

See Koppel & Lehmann (2015). Implications of an emerging EHR monoculture for
hospitals and healthcare systems. JAMIA 22:465–471. doi:10.1136, available
as PDF:

Re: Doctors don't like EHRs (Geissman, RISKS-28.62)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Fri, 8 May 2015 22:46:45 -0500
I think whoever is in charge of enforcing a standard has a lot to do with
whether it is competent.

Consider PCI-DSS, which most security professionals consider to be a minimum
standard, but security professionals are not in charge of PCI-DSS, the
credit card companies are.  There is a slight variation for each card
company.  If a financial institution wishes to issue a particular credit
card, or a retailer wishes to accept payment via some card, they must agree
to the terms of the standard for that card, unless they are exempted by law
such as using credit card to pay for government services.  If they
sub-contract card processing to some other firm, they are supposed to
cascade the standard into whatever contract, but is this ever audited by the
credit card companies?  One of the reasons why there are so many breaches,
is that agreeing to a standard is not the same as obeying it.  The standard
is supposedly adhered to, during an eye blink of an occasional audit, on
systems which are forever in a state of flux with various hardware and
software upgrades and patches.  Standards Compliance Testing really needs to
be continuous, or rerun after every update.  Then the folks, who agreed to
the standard, claim to have met it because of the eye blink test, when in
fact many of them are ignorant of what all is in the standard.  When I was
full time IT, I occasionally saw on IT forums some peer who had been ordered
to implement the PCI-DSS standard, with zero training, who was reaching out
to fellow computing professionals for guidance on what the heck is that,
because his or her boss had no idea?

I believe EHR is a sub-set of Obama Care, which the Republicans have been
trying to sabotage since day one.  Then implementation was handed to a
government agency which lacked experience in the scale of the project, and
called on hundreds of contractors to each produce pieces of the giant jigsaw
puzzle. We should be amazed the result is working as well as it is.

Whether there is a single mortgage standard may be in the eyes of the
beholder.  In many US states there are court battles over whether the
banking industry is permitted to supplant the old courthouse system of
keeping track of who is a legal owner of real estate.  Under the new
standard, there have been cases of banks foreclosing on homes owned free and
clear, because the records had failed to have been cleared of info on former
owners of the property.  I don't know if that ever happened under the
courthouse system.  But the court house system seems to be suffering a
higher rate of breaches, thanks to government budgets and laws not keeping
up with privacy risks.

I am now retired, but when I was full time in manufacturing ERP, one
standard we had was EDI (electronic data interchange), where companies in a
supply chain send each other business forms associated with the ordering and
delivery of widgets, and getting paid for them.  I worked with EDI I and EDI
II.  I would not be surprised if there's an EDI III by now.  These were
packages of standards, where there was a standard for each type of form,
each type of data, each type of company, each type of communication, and
other ingredients.  I knew of no company which adhered to relevant
standards, except a few industries had a too-big-to-fail conglomerate, or
super-store chain, creating their own independent standards, for any doing
business with them.  The normal rule was each company claimed to have
exceptions, which required their customers and vendors to make modifications
to the standards for the business to work. One of my employer's customers
was mandating new modifications more frequently than Microsoft delivers
critical patches.  Upper management mandated we do anything a customer
wants, claiming this customer's management had promised to pay all expenses
because of implementation urgency.  That lasted until they were willing to
discuss the bill for tens of thousands of hours implementing the never
ending modifications.

The best enforced standard may be income tax forms like W-2, because there
is a single organization in charge, with serious fines for outfits who
violate the standard.  Before I retired, the IRS would wait until a few
months before filing deadline, to change form design, and our ERP company
could not implement the changes until 6 months after the deadline, so we had
to modify to meet IRS standards, then address it again when vendor patches

Re: All cars must have tracking devices ... (AlMac, RISKS-28.62)

Wols Lists <>
Sat, 09 May 2015 00:31:30 +0100
Mmmm ... that's problematic. All level crossings *should* have automatic
barriers, and sensors that leave the train signals on yellow until the
barriers have properly deployed with a clear path left for the train.

The problem here, in Europe at least, is that many times by the time the
barrier is deployed and a problem detected, the train may be too close
to stop.

> But EU auto manufacturers, which export to other nations, may need to
> disable this feature ...

This is nothing new. Most new cars here have LED running lights.  I believe
they are (or were) not permitted in the US. Different standards for
different markets is par for the course.

> * The USA has places where cell reception is no good, such as some rural
> areas, and valleys.  Is this also true in Europe?

Of course. Britain is the most densely populated country in Europe, yet
we have vast swathes of hilly country with few people, and hence few
mobile masts. Lots of hills and not many masts means plenty of areas
where reception is poor or non-existent (and that includes a lot of
large villages / small towns !!!)

We don't, as far as I know, have many accidents caused by false deployment
of airbags. If the airbag deployment also triggers the alarm, then the
false-positive and false-negative rate is going to be low (false negative as
in an accident causing critical injuries fails to trigger an alarm).

Admittedly, given our dense population, the cost of responding to false
alarms is likely to be low, and a precautionary over-response is likely to
be fairly cost-effective.

Re: All cars must have tracking devices ... (AlMac, RISKS-28.62)

"John Levine" <>
9 May 2015 02:23:43 -0000
Trains have drivers (engineers in US English) who can see vehicles blocking
crossings.  The problem isn't seeing them, the problem is that for reasons
of physics and engineering by the time the driver or the radar can see the
vehicle, it's too late to stop the train.

The technical rules for cars in the EU are different from those for
North America and other countries, even cars with the same model name.
Having driven both the US Ford Focus and the European Ford Focus, I
wish I could buy the European one here, since it's a much better car.
Installing or removing a cell phone would be the least of the issues in
converting one from somewhere else to meet EU rules.

> * Will this system be as easy to hack as prior systems installed in
> vehicles?

Of course.

REVIEW: "Security for Service Oriented Architectures", Walter Williams

Rob Slade <>
Sun, 10 May 2015 16:01:03 -0800
BKSECSOA.RVW   20150130

"Security for Service Oriented Architectures", Walter Williams, 2014,
978-1466584020, U$61.97
%A   Walter Williams
%C   #300 - 6000 Broken Sound Parkway NW, Boca Raton, FL   33487-2742
%D   2014
%G   978-1466584020 1466584025
%I   CRC Press
%O   U$61.97 800-272-7737
%O   Audience i+ Tech 2 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P   329 p.
%T   "Security for Service Oriented Architectures"

Walt Williams is one of the sporadic, but thoughtful, posting members of the
international CISSP Forum.  He has come up with a significant text on an
important topic.

After some preface and introduction, the book starts in chapter two,
defining the four kinds of architecture in computer systems: infrastructure,
software, data, and security.  This chapter covers foundational concepts, as
well as service oriented architecture (SOA), and is, alone, worth the price
of the book.

Chapter three, on implementation, comprises the bulk of the space in the
work, and is primarily of interest to those dealing with development,
although it does have a number of points and observations of use to the
manager or security practitioner.  "Web 2.0" (chapter four) has some brief
points on those advanced usages.  A variety of additional SOA platforms are
examined in chapter five.  Chapter six, on the auditing of SOA applications,
covers not only the how, but also notes specific types of attacks, and the
most appropriate auditing tools for each case.  Much the same is done, in
terms of more general protection, in chapter seven.  Chapter eight, simply
entitled "Architecture," finishes off with sample cases.

It is an unfortunate truism that most security professionals do not know
enough about programming, and most programmers don't care anything about
security.  This is nowhere truer than in service oriented architecture and
"the cloud," where speed of release and bolt-on functionality trumps every
other consideration.  Williams' work is almost alone in a badly under-served
field.  Despite a lack of competition, it is a worthy introduction.  I can
recommend this book to anyone involved in either security or development,
particularly those working in that nebulous concept known as "the cloud."

copyright, Robert M. Slade   2015   BKSECSOA.RVW   20150130

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