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 91

Friday 21 August 2015


Ashley Madison needs Smarter Cheating???
PGN on Jennifer Weiner
Dealing with the Devastation from the Ashley Madison Hack
Josh Barro and Justin Wolfers
ATM security risk: nonfinalization
Alister Wm Macintyre
Consumers are Cutting the Cord to Gain Choices and Pay Less
UK orders Google to ‘forget’ 9 news articles about RTBF
Re: Could Hackers Take Down a City?
Peter Ladkin
Re: gmail policy on BCCs, related to Mass. pot dispensary
Robert L. Wilson
Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time!
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Ashley Madison needs Smarter Cheating??? (PGN on Jennifer Weiner)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 9:56:38 PDT
The Ashley Madison Hack Shows We're Too Dumb to Cheat
Jennifer Weiner, *The New York Times* op-ed, 21 August 2015

  [We covet smart appliances, smart pebbles (in space), smart robots, but
  what about smart people?  Jennifer Weiner's wonderful NYT op-ed this
  morning is absolutely delightful.  In response to the surprisingly large
  number of government employees outed by the AshMadHack, Jennifer proposes
  a new category along the lines created by Fran Lebowitz, who once created
  useful categories for people she believed were committing crimes against
  the rest of us.

  Here is her suggested new category:]

    “You are a government employee and you were too stupid to create a new
    email account when you registered on a website for cheaters.”

Here are some savory snippets from her op-ed piece:

  “According to *The Washington Post*, the capital has the highest rate of
  membership for the site of any American city.  A number of those caught up
  in the hack work at the Department of Justice and - #irony - the National
  Security Agency.”

  “Maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that D.C. is full of cheaters, but
  why, oh why, did it have to be full of stupid cheaters, cheaters too lazy
  and incurious to go to before they cheated?  We're talking
  minimal effort here, people.  Five minutes, a couple of security questions,
  a password that isn't PASSWORD, and you're, or, and France isn't laughing at us anymore.”

  “If you're going to cheat, cheat smart.”

[The ACM Risks Forum does not endorse the last line, but smirks a little at
the irony and satire of the op-ed.  It is just one more reminder that our
computer systems are inadequately trustworthy and that many users are
unjustly trusting.  PGN]

Dealing with the Devastation from the Ashley Madison Hack (Josh Barro and Justin Wolfers)

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 22:05:48 -0700
FYI—So the Ashley Madison hack is the “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that
Adm. Michael Rogers has been incessantly warning us about?  What is our
Cyber Commander's plan for retaliating against this hack which will live in
infamy?  Perhaps Gen. Petraeus has a better retaliation strategy?

The economic devastation from the Ashley Madison hack will likely exceed
that from the Tianjin explosion.

  “5 million marriages at risk”

  "So we have around 800,000 extra divorces [as a result of the Ashley
  Madison hack]"

  “The Ashley Madison hack might mean that more kids grow up without married

  “all the divorcing couples out there looking for studio apartments will
  drive up rents and make it harder for millennials to move out of their
  parents' basements — adding another aspect of economic drag.”

  “The big costs here are real, it's just that most of them aren't measured
  in our economic statistics.”

Wages of Sin: An Ashley Madison Recession?  Or an Ashley Madison Stimulus?
Josh Barro and Justin Wolfers, *The New York Times*, 20 Aug 2015

The revelation of who opened accounts on the Ashley Madison site for
adulterers got the attention of curiosity seekers and suspicious spouses.
Josh Barro and Justin Wolfers had a different impulse.  They wondered
whether a surge in marital trouble resulting from the Ashley Madison hack
could hurt the economy—or even, surprisingly, make it grow faster.

  [The rest of this article is a delightful back-and-forth between Josh and
  Justin, omitted here.  PGN]

ATM security risk: nonfinalization

Alister Wm Macintyre <>
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 20:49:56 -0500
Companies are frequently making upgrades to their technology, not always for
the better.

My Bank's ATM used to be one transaction per instance of stick in plastic &
PIN#.  Now, at end of transaction it asks if we want another transaction,
click on the YES or NO.  Many customers have apparently not noticed this
feature, because about the time when I arrive at the ATM, it is showing the
final screen, from the prior customer.  I always select No, but I wonder if
some other customers are not as honest as me.  The ATM security camera
footage may figure it out, but the prior customer could be inconvenienced
until then.

A person does not need to even be a customer of the ATM network, to make a
killing.  Many drive through ATM screens can be seen from a distance, and
the normal start screen is pretty obviously distinct from the more
transactions one.

I plan to suggest they need some kind of sensor to detect that a prior
customer has left the station, so that it can assume a No, before next
customer arrives.

  [A nasty example of this risk mode involved election fraud cases in
  Kentucky (R 25 76, correction in R 26 77) where the “change vote” ability
  was misrepresented, and voters who did not properly finalize their votes
  (which required more than clicking on the ”vote“ icon that merely meant
  “review”) allowed voting officials to change the intended votes.  PGN]

Consumers are Cutting the Cord to Gain Choices and Pay Less (NYT)

Monty Solomon <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 10:28:26 -0400

Congress and the FCC can help consumers have more broadband options as they
choose online services over cable TV.

UK orders Google to `forget' 9 news articles about RTBF (Consumerist)

"David Farber" <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 17:05:30 -0400
Orwell's MinTruth would love this *Consumerist* item.  Dave [PGN-ed]

Although Europeans in 28 countries have the option to ask Google to remove
Internet search results about themselves under certain conditions, Google is
pushing back against a new Right To Be Forgotten request one that seeks to
remove nine news articles about the right to be forgotten itself from its
Internet search results.

The United Kingdom's Information Commissioner's Office has ordered Google to
scrub the articles in question from the Internet, because they mention a man
who previously made a successful RTBF request.

See, the RTBF rule in the European Union says Google and other search
engines have to remove links to outdated or inaccurate information about a
person if they request they do so. That keeps defamatory statements, arrest
records for minor crimes and other information a person might like to keep
hidden in their present from coming back to haunt them whenever their name
is searched on the Internet.

Though Google complied and took down links related to a man's conviction for
a minor crime committed 10 years ago, ICO says news articles since then
about Google doing so have mentioned the man's name and details about that

Google declined the request, ICO says, arguing that the articles concern one
of its decisions to delist a search result and that they were an essential
part of a recent news story relating to a matter of significant public

But ICO deputy commissioner David Smith wrote in a statement that the same
RTBF rules apply here, just as they did when Google agreed to take down the
other web results for the man.  “Google was right, in its original
decision, to accept that search results relating to the complainant's
historic conviction were no longer relevant and were having a negative
impact on privacy.  It is wrong of them to now refuse to remove newer links
that reveal the same details and have the same negative impact.”

Are those RTBF stories about individual requests in the public interest?
Yes, ICO says, but they shouldn't show up on a Google search for that
person's name, as that completely defeats the purpose of having the other
mentions removed in the first place.

Commissioner Smith: “Let's be clear, we understand that links being removed
as a result of this court ruling is something that newspapers want to write
about. And we understand that people need to be able to find these stories
through search engines like Google. But that does not need them to be
revealed when searching on the original complainant's name.”

In July, a complaint filed here in the U.S. with the Federal Trade
Commission by advocacy group Consumer Watchdog argues not just that Google
should be honoring RTBF requests stateside, but that the company's refusal
to do so is a violation of federal law.

Re: Could Hackers Take Down a City? (Macintyre, RISKS-28.90)

Peter Bernard Ladkin <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 09:35:12 +0200
> Some pipeline explosions have been due to mistakes in the control rooms of
> the pipeline companies.  Can they be hacked to cause such an accident on
> purpose?

The answer seems to be that it has happened, according to Thomas Reed, a
former USAF secretary and former member of the USG NSC. See

Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited

Re: gmail policy on BCCs, related to Mass. pot dispensary (Levine)

"Robert L. Wilson" <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:51:06 -0500
I would not be surprised if many comp.risks readers, like myself, stay
away from things like Google groups on general principles! It has been
an issue for me: there is someone involved with a hobby I enjoy (amateur
radio) who wants to be able to send a set of us email using exactly that
mechanism. I explained what I thought about almost all such social media
and their risks and she has been willing to send me email separately.
But I think this is another problem with that proposed solution that is
worse than the time it takes to set up a group.

Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time! (Slonim)

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:50:33 -0700
  [I can't tell whether this reply is tongue-in-cheek or not, so I'll answer
  it seriously.]

Yes, it's true that the SW—e.g., Win10—(presumably) controls this HW
audio spying feature.

However, Intel's audio spying capability provides an additional *attack
surface* for hackers/govts/spouses/competitors to exploit.

There appears to be no way to disable this ”feature“ permanently, so one is
forevermore at risk of being bugged by his/her own cellphone/computer due to
“misconfiguration” and/or hacking.

Now it's entirely possible that there are many other electronic components
already in a computer/cellphone that can be used as microphones—in
particular, the motion sensors have already been hacked to do exactly that.
But an audio capability with enough fidelity to enable speech understanding
is also good enough to cause an enormous amount of privacy trouble.

Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time! (Baker)

Edwin Slonim <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 05:32:18 +0300
There is no microphone in the Intel processor.  No new attack surface.  Just
an improvement in wake up from sleep.

Previously, waking up the processor or putting it back to sleep took many
tens of milliseconds, so if it was woken up every time a voice sound was
heard it would not get back to sleep before the next phoneme.

It's not even audio specific.  You are critical of an application someone at
MS dreamed up.

Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time! (Slonim)

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:20:18 -0700
You'll have to excuse me, but I consider the ability of a “sleeping”
computer to recognize & interpret speech as a new attack surface—right up
there with various TV settop boxes constantly listening to their customers'

If it's all the same to Intel, I'd like to let my sleeping computers lie.

You have just confirmed that Intel's “feature” is even creepier than the
article indicated.  Intel apparently has a “tin ear” when it comes to their
customers' privacy.

Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time! From: Dimitri Maziuk <>

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 09:20:10 -0500
On a serious note, I can think of several problems with putting a microphone
on a CPU, but in terms of privacy and security implications: it would be no
different from a smartphone. We already have those.

Re: Intel to customers: We listen to you... All The Time! (Maziuk)

Henry Baker <>
Fri, 21 Aug 2015 06:54:02 -0700
The joke Dimitri refers to is good enough to spell out (!) in full:

“A great example appeared in a 1999 issue of Computing [6].  A
representative of a company with a voice recognition product prepared to
demonstrate their product and asked the crowd gathered to see the
demonstration to be quiet.  Someone in the back of the room shouted,
“Format C Colon Return!”  Someone else shouted, “Yes, Return!”  The
software worked perfectly, reformatting the primary disk on the
demonstration unit, requiring that the machine finish its format and have
all of its software and data reinstalled.”

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