The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 05

Monday, 26th October 2015

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…


Now we know the NSA blew the black budget breaking crypto, how can you defend yourself?
Cory Doctorow
Most NHS depression apps are unproven, warn health experts (Chris Drewe
DoD tries to upgrade cyberdefenses
IHLS via Alister Wm Macintyre
US Copyright Office outage - *not* a breach
Jeremy Epstein
Senator Wonders If 'Pro-Botnet' Caucus Derailed His CISA Amendment
Most Americans would be fine with some Internet surveillance if they were notified
Daily Dot
CCTV cameras worldwide used in DDoS attacks
Thailand reacts badly to protests via Internet
Privatizing censorship in fight against extremism is risk to press freedom
Russia 'tried to cut off' World Wide Web
*The Telegraph
CIA and DHS directors' personal email reported hacked; China's "character scores
Hackers Prove They Can Pwn the Lives of Those Not Hyperconnected
Western Digital self-encrypting hard drives riddled with security flaws
Ars Technica
"Tricky new malware replaces your entire browser with a dangerous Chrome lookalike"
Jared Newman
FTD's—Fitbit Transmitted Diseases
Henry Baker
NTP Attacks: It's Earlier Than You Think
Jeremy Kirk
Hackers Make Cars Safer. Don't Ban Them From Tinkering
Driverless cars, auto insurance, electric cars
Gabe Goldberg
UK Govt's Surveillance—Who's Doing It?
Fraser Nelson via Chris Drewe
UK TalkTalk hacked again
Encrypted VoIP Leaks: Can You Hear Me Now?
Henry Baker
Feds to Apple: Game Over; EULA LUSA
Richard Chirgwin
Identity Chaos, Courtesy of Your Federal Government
Ron Lieber
Cops are asking and 23andMe for their customers' DNA
Kashmir Hill
Re: Art Forgers Beware: DNA Could Thwart Fakes
Gary Hinson
Re: Reducing risks in national elections?
Michael L. Cook
Re: Tesla Adds High-Speed Autonomous Driving to Its Bag of Tricks
Stephen Kent
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Now we know the NSA blew the black budget breaking crypto, how can you defend yourself? (Cory Doctorow)

Hendricks Dewayne <>
October 17, 2015 at 11:19:52 AM EDT
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 16 Oct 2015

Well, obviously, we need to get Congress to start imposing adult supervision
on the NSA, but until that happens, there are some relatively simple steps
you can take to protect yourself.

Yesterday, Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger won the prize for best paper at
the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security for Imperfect
Forward Secrecy: How Diffie-Hellman Fails in Practice
<>, a paper
co-authored with a dozen eminent cryptographers, in which they make the case
that the NSA has probably spent an appreciable fraction of their "black
budget" (whose size was revealed by the Snowden revelations) attacking some
standardized prime numbers that were foolishly used by programmers for
Diffie-Hellman key-exchange in standard cryptographic suites.

This really is very bad news, because it means that the NSA has discovered a
critical vulnerability in the technology that defends everything from your
medical implant to your car's steering and brakes, and they kept it a
secret, so that other entities with the budget to replicate their feat (or
with the nous to steal the secrets from the NSA) can attack you. f course,
it also means that you're liable to being attacked by the NSA, who have
aided US domestic intelligence in targeting groups over everything from
advocating against invading other countries, building oil pipelines, or just
worshiping at a non-Christian temple.

Imperfect Forward Secrecy will resound through the security world, and we
can expect that vendors will begin to take steps to fix things. But until
they do, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself, by
removing the weak forms of Diffie-Hellman key-exchange from the list of
methods used by your browser, SSH client and VPN software.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Joseph Bonneau and Bill Budington have
published an excellent, straightforward guide to hardening your Mac, Windows
or GNU/Linux system. Do it today—I just did.

How to Protect Yourself from NSA Attacks on 1024-bit DH
Joseph Bonneau and Bill Budington/EFF

Most NHS depression apps are unproven, warn health experts

Chris Drewe <>
Thu, 15 Oct 2015 22:13:01 +0100
Medical Apps—Approval?

There was an item in the newspaper about apps for mental health problems
recommended by the UK's National Health Service.

  Just 15 percent of apps recommended by the NHS for depression have
  been proven to be effective, the University of Liverpool has found

  The majority of depression apps recommended by the NHS have not been
  tested and could do more harm than good, health experts have warned.

  Yet a review of studies by the University of Liverpool found just four of
  those listed on the site have been found to be effective through rigorous

The researchers claim that the NHS *seal of approval* may lead patients to
wrongly believe the apps are of clinical benefit.  [PGN-ed]

The apps that were found to have passed clinical trials were Big White
Wall, Moodscope, Happyhealthy and Workguru.

  [Obviously medication is subject to strict clinical trials to ensure
  safety and effectiveness, but what about software..?]

DoD tries to upgrade cyberdefenses (IHLS)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sat, 24 Oct 2015 15:20:22 -0500
Ideally every computer system, connected to the Internet, or to anything
else, should have an automated security system to detect attacks, and take
appropriate action to protect the system from unwanted intruders.  In
addition to detecting unwanted intruders, and what they are up to, defenses
need to detect suspicious activities by formerly authorized insiders,
employees, contractors, sub-contractors.  There can also be, among those
insiders, some people installing unauthorized applications, which can have
adverse effects, where the insiders do not know what all is going on in the
software they acquired.  The security system needs to be subject to
auditing, to make sure it has not been compromised, its patches and features
are up-to-date, and the local setup settings are appropriate to the security
needs of the enterprise.  The physical facility, housing all portions of the
computer hardware, needs a security system to detect that no unauthorized
activity is going on, where someone can physically access the hardware, and
bypass its internal security.

It would seem that many outfits security lacks some of the above important

Many outfits have had such complete systems for decades, and now the US DoD
may be getting one, also.

The Pentagon is particularly interested in having the computers take over a
lot of the busy work currently done by cyber security personnel.

US Copyright Office outage - *not* a breach

Jeremy Epstein <>
Thu, 22 Oct 2015 14:37:37 -0400
Not all outages are due to attacks.  This one sounds like it was essentially
a lack of an adequate backup/recovery plan.  Sometimes it's the simple
things that trip you up., although I doubt that's a long-term URL.

The U.S. Copyright Office apologizes to the users of our electronic
registration system for the recent system outage that lasted for nine days,
from August 28, 2015, to September 5, 2015. The outage occurred when the
Library of Congress shut down a data center that hosts a number of the U.S.
Copyright Office's technology systems, including the Office's electronic
registration system, to accommodate a two-day annual power outage scheduled
by the Architect of the Capitol, which owns and maintains Library
buildings. Unfortunately, the Library was unable to bring copyright systems
and other agency functions online until September 6, 2015. The outage was
not the result of a data breach or other security event and, at this time,
we do not believe that any Copyright Office records or deposits were


Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this outage caused and will
endeavor to make sure that this can never happen again.

Senator Wonders If 'Pro-Botnet' Caucus Derailed His CISA Amendment

Lauren Weinstein <>
Wed, 21 Oct 2015 21:02:54 -0700

  A controversial amendment to an already controversial cybersecurity bill,
  which would have expanded an archaic 1986 anti-hacking law, isn't going to
  get a vote in the U.S. Senate.  And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who
  proposed the measure, is frustrated.  Whitehouse headed to the Senate
  floor on Wednesday to point out that his amendment to the Cybersecurity
  Information Sharing Act (CISA) is bipartisan and supported by the Justice
  Department. After explaining what it would do, he wondered if there were
  "some hidden pro-botnet, pro-foreign cybercriminal caucus here that won't
  let a bill like mine get a vote."  - - -

"CISA. Either you support it, or you're a cybercriminal botnet lovin'
hippie freak!"

Most Americans would be fine with some Internet surveillance if they were notified

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 19 Oct 2015 08:03:34 -0700
Daily Dot via NNSquad

  Despite increasingly heated rhetoric from opponents of government
  surveillance, a recent survey shows that most Americans would be okay with
  many kinds of Internet snooping as long as the snoopers told them first.
  The results showed "a surprising willingness by participants to accept the
  inspection of encrypted traffic, provided they are first notified,"
  according to the researchers behind the survey, which was titled "At Least
  Tell Me."

Of course, the most watched cable news channel in the U.S.—FOX News --
isn't a real news channel but merely a propaganda outlet for the racist,
moronic, anti-science, anti-education GOP—so one might forgive "most
Americans" for their lack of insight on this technical privacy issue.

CCTV cameras worldwide used in DDoS attacks (ZDNet)

"Bob Frankston" <>
26 Oct 2015 11:52:17 -0400

Again. the real message is not in the particular vulnerability of reusing
credentials. It's a reminder that it's going to take a while to evolve this
new landscape of connected things. In the meantime, we need to learn to
survive such problems rather focusing on preventing and trying to put a wall
between good and evil.

Thailand reacts badly to protests via Internet (IHLS)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sat, 24 Oct 2015 14:55:17 -0500
There are two stories here

1. Many citizens of Thailand do not like their government constraints on
Internet usage. So there is now a protest movement, via the Internet.
Instead of hundreds of people marching in the streets, it is hundreds of
people attacking government web sites.

2. All the time there is new technology which no one can stay current with,
least of all law enforcement and governments with high censorship regimes.
So frequently they demonize the medium, instead of the lack of their own
internal cyber training budgets, and the actual perpetrators of misdeeds.
It would be like blaming highways for the fact that some motorists drive
carelessly and have accidents.

Privatizing censorship in fight against extremism is risk to press freedom

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:04:54 -0700
CPJ via NNSquad

  Despite this, some governments are seeking to hold social media firms
  responsible for the monitoring and removal of content. A July meeting of
  the U.N. Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee called for Internet
  platforms to be held liable for hosting or indexing extremist content. And
  with the so-called right to be forgotten ruling in the EU, Internet and
  telecommunications intermediaries are increasingly being called on to act
  as editors of the Web, as CPJ's report "Balancing Act: Press Freedom at
  Risk as EU Struggles to Match Action with Values," found.  Intermediary
  liability threatens innovation and free expression by placing the burden
  of monitoring content on neutral third party hosts, which is why CPJ
  supports reforms contained in the Manila Principles on Intermediary
  Liability, a set of recommended best practices prepared in coalition with
  leading press freedom and technology policy organizations and individuals.

Russia 'tried to cut off' World Wide Web (*The Telegraph)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sat, 17 Oct 2015 08:21:36 -0700
*The Telegraph* via NNSquad

  Russia has run large scale experiments to test the feasibility of cutting
  the country off the World Wide Web, a senior industry executive has
  claimed.  The tests, which come amid mounting concern about a Kremlin
  campaign to clamp down on Internet freedoms, have been described by
  experts as preparations for an information blackout in the event of a
  domestic political crisis.  Andrei Semerikov, general director of a
  Russian service provider called Er Telecom, said Russia's ministry of
  communications and Roskomnadzor, the national Internet regulator, ordered
  communications hubs run by the main Russian Internet providers to block
  traffic to foreign communications channels by using a traffic control
  system called DPI.

CIA and DHS directors' personal email reported hacked; China's character scores (WYFF4)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 19 Oct 2015 14:31:55 -0700
WYFF4 via NNSquad
CIA, DHS secretary hacking report investigated

  In fact, the hacker told *The New York Post* that he used a stunningly
  simple tactic to allegedly hack Brennan's account.  The process, called
  "social engineering," involves collecting information on a person that is
  publicly available and using it to personalize an attack on their
  accounts. In this case, the alleged hacker told the Post he tricked
  Verizon employees into giving him Brennan's information and got AOL to
  reset his password, presumably sending the reset to the hacker.

AOL ACCOUNT? AOL? Say what???

Inside China's plan to give every citizen a character score

  Where you go, what you buy, who you know, how many points are on your
  driving licence, how your pupils rate you.  These are just a few of the
  measures which the Chinese government plans to use to give scores to all
  its citizens.  China's Social Credit System (SCS) will come up with these
  ratings by linking up personal data held by banks, e-commerce sites and
  social media. The scores will serve not just to indicate an individual's
  credit risk, but could be used by potential landlords, employers and even
  romantic partners to gauge an individual's character.  "It isn't just
  about financial creditworthiness," says Rogier Creemers, who studies
  Chinese media policy and political change at the University of Oxford.
  "All that behaviour will be integrated into one comprehensive assessment
  of you as a person, which will then be used to make you eligible or
  ineligible for certain jobs, or social services."  One of the earliest
  components of the system is called Sesame Credit - a scoring system built
  and run by Ant Financial, a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant
  Alibaba.  It assigns citizens a score of between 350 and 950 points based
  on factors such as their financial history.  Spending more through
  Alibaba's payment app, Alipay, or doing financial transactions involving
  friends through Sesame Credit, can also raise your score.


Hackers Prove They Can Pwn the Lives of Those Not Hyperconnected

Gabe Goldberg <>
Fri, 23 Oct 2015 10:53:43 -0400
*TheNYTimes*, 14 Oct 2015

It took the hackers less than two hours to take over Patsy Walsh's life.

On a recent Friday, Mrs. Walsh, a grandmother of six, volunteered to allow
two hackers to take a crack at hacking her home. How bad could it be?

Mrs. Walsh did not consider herself a digital person. As far as she knew,
her home was not equipped with any "smart devices," physical objects like
refrigerators and thermometers that transmit information to the
Internet. Sure, she has a Facebook account, which she uses to keep up on
friends' lives, but rarely does she post about her own.

"I don't post things about myself and don't really understand why other
people do," Mrs. Walsh said. "The fact you can go from one friend's profile
to their friends' profiles is creepy. I guess you could find out a lot of
information about somebody if you really wanted to."

Plenty of vulnerabilities found but no more than I see for many not-stupid
but non-technical friends. Whose fault is that—people not
interested/needing to be tech experts or a technology
infrastructure/ecosystem requiring specialized expertise for safe use?

Gabriel Goldberg, Computers and Publishing, Inc.
3401 Silver Maple Place, Falls Church, VA 22042           (703) 204-0433

Western Digital self-encrypting hard drives riddled with security flaws

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 20 Oct 2015 16:25:55 -0700
Ars Technica via NNSquad

  Several versions of self-encrypting hard drives from Western Digital are
  riddled with so many security flaws that attackers with physical access
  can retrieve the data with little effort, and in some cases, without even
  knowing the decryption password, a team of academics said.

Weak or flawed crypto can be even worse than no crypto, because it fools
you into complacency.

"Tricky new malware replaces your entire browser with a dangerous Chrome lookalike" (Jared Newman)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Thu, 22 Oct 2015 10:46:28 -0700
Jared Newman, PCWorld, 19 Oct 2015
This malicious browser looks and acts just like Chrome--except for
all the pop-up ads, system file hijacking, and activity monitoring.

FTD's—Fitbit Transmitted Diseases

Henry Baker <>
Wed, 21 Oct 2015 06:27:35 -0700
FYI—Mass pwnage of 40,000+ runners at the upcoming NY marathon in
November?  Your Fitbit can be compromised in 10 seconds, and then later
compromise your PC.

I can't wait for malware like this to infect iWatches...

'full persistence means it does not matter if the FitBit Flex is restarted;
any computer that connects with the wearable can be infected with a
backdoor, trojan, or whatever the attacker desires.'
'10-second' hack jogs Fitbits into malware-spreading mode
To avoid viral stains, go jogging alone or with Bluetooth binned

Darren Pauli, 21 Oct 2015
A vulnerability in FitBit fitness trackers first reported to the vendor in
March could still be exploited by the person you sit next to on a park bench
while catching your breath. [...]

NTP Attacks: It's Earlier Than You Think (Jeremy Kirk)

Henry Baker <>
Sun, 25 Oct 2015 16:46:03 -0700
FYI—A Rip Van Winkle and/or TARDIS attack?
Is the current NTP protocol fool-tardy?

"Attacking the Network Time Protocol"

"We explore the risk that network attackers can exploit *unauthenticated*
Network Time Protocol (NTP) traffic to alter the time on client systems.  We
first discuss how an on-path attacker, that hijacks traffic to an NTP
server, can quickly shift time on the server's clients."

"time is a fundamental building block for computing applications, and is
heavily utilized by many cryptographic protocols."

"On November 19, 2012 [8], for example, two important NTP (stratum 1)
servers, and, went back in time by
about *12 years,* causing outages at a variety of devices including Active
Directory (AD) authentication servers, PBXs and routers [45]"

"TLS certificates are used to establish secure encrypted and authenticated
connections ... For example, the client can be rolled back to mid-2014, when
> 100K certificates were revoked due to heartbleed."

"Various services ... expose APIs that require authentication each time an
application queries them.  To prevent replay attacks, queries require a
timestamp that is within some short window of the server's local time
... Amazon S3, for example, uses a 15-minute window."

"The [Bitcoin] blockchain consists of timestamped blocks; bitcoin nodes use
computational proofs-of-work to add blocks to the blockchain.  Because
blocks should be added to the blockchain according to their validity
interval (about 2 hours), an NTP attacker can trick a victim into rejecting
a legitimate block"

Jeremy Kirk, Network World, 21 Oct 2015
Researchers warn computer clocks can be easily scrambled

In 2012, two servers run by the U.S. Navy rolled back their clocks 12 years,
deciding it was the year 2000.

The servers were very important: they're part of a worldwide network that
helps computers keep the right time using the Network Time Protocol (NTP).

Computers that checked in with the Navy's servers and adjusted their clocks
accordingly had a variety of problems with their phones systems, routers and
authentication systems.

The incident underscored the serious problems that can occur when using NTP,
one of the oldest Internet protocols published in 1985.

The protocol is fairly robust, but researchers from Boston University said
on Wednesday they've found several flaws in NTP that could undermine
encrypted communications and even jam up bitcoin transactions.

One of the problems they found is that it's possible for an attacker to
cause an organization's servers to stopping checking the time altogether.

Hackers Make Cars Safer. Don't Ban Them From Tinkering

Lauren Weinstein <>
Thu, 22 Oct 2015 08:39:38 -0700
*WiReD* via NNSquad

  This connectivity within--and between--vehicles will allow transformative
  innovations like self-driving cars. But it also will make our cars targets
  for hackers. The security research community can play a valuable role in
  helping the auto industry stay ahead of these threats.  But rather than
  encouraging collaboration, Congress is discussing legislation that would
  make illegal the kind of research that already has helped improve the
  industry's approach to security.

Driverless cars, auto insurance, electric cars

Gabe Goldberg <>
Fri, 23 Oct 2015 17:08:22 -0400
Auto premiums account for close to half of global non-life insurance—but
cars are about to get much, much safer. Electric cars will be safer than
gasoline ones and driverless cars are likely to be safer still. At a time of
excess capital and a shortage of growth opportunities, the insurance
industry is unprepared for the challenges that will result from this
wholesale reduction in risk.

Although cars have been getting safer for a long time, about 3,400 people
are still killed each day in auto accidents around the world—many times
the numbers killed in world's wars. However, a combination of changing
demographics, new designs and the latest technology are likely to radically
improve car safety.

Insurance protects against risks and this is risks digest...

Added note: this article neglects any INCREASED risks from technology --
whether from hacking or just the usual but chronically unanticipated
problems/failures. No, wait—THIS time will be different.

Gabriel Goldberg, Computers and Publishing, Inc.
3401 Silver Maple Place, Falls Church, VA 22042           (703) 204-0433

UK Govt's Surveillance—Who's Doing It? (Fraser Nelson)

Chris Drewe <>
Fri, 23 Oct 2015 23:26:58 +0100
There was an item this week about possible reform of the UK security
authorities' surveillance powers due to be debated soon (and the latest
James Bond movie):

Fraser Nelson, *The Telegraph*, 22 Oct 2015
British spies need our data, and we should let them have it
It's the councils, taxmen and assorted other snoopers who want to
  play James Bond we should worry about

In summary:

> The Snowden revelations caused uproar in America, but polls show that very
> few Brits cared. We tend to trust our spies, but this can lead to lazy
> lawmaking—it's easy for the government to play the *national
> security*card.  When the Investigatory Powers Bill comes to be debated,
> most of the talk will probably be about spies and jihadis and dark
> threats. But when David Anderson QC investigated all of this for the
> government recently, he came out with an astonishing fact: just 1 per cent
> of the private data requested by government agencies relates to terrorism.
> The vast majority of the snooping is done by police, councils, trading
> standards authorities and suchlike—all of whom find it rather
> convenient to hide behind a debate about terrorism.

UK TalkTalk hacked again (IHLS)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sat, 24 Oct 2015 14:38:13 -0500
British TalkTalk communications company releases news that it has had its
3rd cyber attack in 12 months.  This time by "Russian Jihadis."

4 million customers compromised this time.

Encrypted VoIP Leaks: Can You Hear Me Now?

Henry Baker <>
Sun, 25 Oct 2015 16:05:48 -0700
FYI—The focus on back doors in GSM encryption looks downright silly if
packet timing & size alone give the conversation away.

"Phonotactic Reconstruction of Encrypted VoIP Conversations:

"Although prior work has shown that the interaction of variable bit-rate
codecs and length-preserving stream ciphers leaks information, we show that
the threat is more serious than previously thought.  In particular, we
derive approximate transcripts of encrypted VoIP conversations by segmenting
an observed packet stream into subsequences representing individual phonemes
and classifying those subsequences by the phonemes they encode."

"researchers have shown that this interaction allows one to determine the
language spoken in the conversation, the identity of the speakers, or even
the presence of known phrases within the call."

Feds to Apple: Game Over; EULA LUSA

Henry Baker <>
Mon, 26 Oct 2015 08:36:43 -0700
FYI—The first step down Dan Geer's path: you want immunity, you can't
have proprietary.

Richard Chirgwin, *The Register*, 26 Oct 2015
You own the software, Feds tell Apple: you can unlock it
Software licences that leave vendors in control cited as fine reason to hand
over evidence.

Apple's battle to avoid handing over user data to the US government has
taken an unwelcome turn, with the Feds claiming in court that Cupertino's
license agreement gives it the right to do what the government tells it.
[Long item PGN-ed...]

Identity Chaos, Courtesy of Your Federal Government (Ron Lieber)

"Bob Frankston" <>
17 Oct 2015 18:17:09 -0400
Ron Lieber, *The New York Times*, 16 Oct 2015 (

What struck me in the article was the comment about SSN and EIN number being
the same! Why must be horde integers and reuse them? Given the use of the
SSN as an identifier why are we using a 1930's approach. When a credit card
company has a problem they issue a new number. Why aren't SSNs more
sophisticated? Not only unique over all time but also following best
practices like not using the same identifier for all purposes and issuing
new identifiers when there have been potential compromises?

I know we've got a century of encrusted software that may be hard to change
but we can have a new identifier for us in modern systems while slowly
retiring the legacy approach. After all, we're revamping the entire credit
card system why can't we apply a little of what we've learned over the last

Or am I missing something about the SSN?

PS: Apparently Visa still issues the same number to multiple instances of a
card so you can't track which family member used which card.  Why not have
unique identifiers?

Cops are asking and 23andMe for their customers' DNA (Kashmir Hill)

Dewayne Hendricks <>
17 October 2015
Kashmir Hill, *Fusion*, 16 Oct 2015

When companies like and 23andMe first invited people to send in
their DNA for genealogy tracing and medical diagnostic tests, privacy
advocates warned about the creation of giant genetic databases that might
one day be used against participants by law enforcement. DNA, after all, can
be a key to solving crimes. It “has serious information about you and your
family,'' genetic privacy advocate Jeremy Gruber told me back in 2010 when
such services were just getting popular.

Now, five years later, when 23andMe and Ancestry Both have over a million
customers, those warnings are looking prescient.  “Your relative's DNA
could turn you into a suspect,'' warns Wired, writing about a case from
earlier this year, in which New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry became a
suspect in an unsolved murder case after cops did a familial genetic search
using semen collected in 1996. The cops searched an database
and got a familial match to a saliva sample Usry's father had given years
earlier. Usry was ultimately determined to be innocent and the Electronic
Frontier Foundation called it a wild goose chase that demonstrated “the
very real threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by law enforcement
access to private genetic databases.''

The FBI maintains a national genetic database with samples from convicts and
arrestees, but this was the most public example of cops turning to private
genetic databases to find a suspect. But it's not the only time it's
happened, and it means that people who submitted genetic samples for reasons
of health, curiosity, or to advance science could now end up in a genetic
line-up of criminal suspects.

Both and 23andMe stipulate in their privacy policies that they
will turn information over to law enforcement if served with a court
order. 23andMe says it's received a couple of requests from both state law
enforcement and the FBI, but that it has “successfully resisted them.''

  [Lauren Weinstein added this comment on that article:
    As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"

Re: Art Forgers Beware: DNA Could Thwart Fakes (RISKS-29.04)

"Gary Hinson" <>
Sun, 18 Oct 2015 13:00:07 +1300
> A new method of authenticating artwork uses manufactured DNA to give each
> piece a unique identifier.

Am I missing something when I suggest that the artists' own bodies are
perfectly capable of synthesizing unique DNA with neither cost nor effort,
nor worries about the integrity, authenticity etc. of the synthetic process?

All concerned artists need do is add a relatively small amount of their
bodily fluids or tissues to their artworks, and ideally place some of the
genuine articles on record with a suitably trustworthy and competent
repository capable of running or commissioning DNA fingerprinting if and
when needed.  Well almost all: I guess they'd also need to guard their DNA
against thieves, and prevent forgers substituting their DNA for the artist's
own (same issue with synthetic DNA).

If for some obscure reason there is a desperate need to identify individual
but otherwise curiously indistinguishable works, simply mix-in some
biological material from another person or animal to each work plus send
some of the mix to the repository.

Even without the repository element, a "body of work" could be taken
literally.  I imagine some artists would find the very notion tremendously
exciting, while those of us who routinely put blood, sweat and tears into
our work need not worry about our historical pieces.  Mind you, being a
professional electronic author, I wish my computers had their own unique
'DNA' with which to mark my products indelibly.  Meanwhile, I'll settle for
cryptographic watermarks and steganography.

PS: Was Vincent van Gogh a 'pionear'?  [I think he had a herring aid.  PGN]

Gary Hinson PhD (in genetics!) CEO of IsecT Ltd., New Zealand

Re: Reducing risks in national elections? (RISKS-29.04)

"Cook, Michael L." <>
Mon, 19 Oct 2015 13:25:14 +0000
> The federal government should play a big role in making national elections
> run more smoothly.

Because we all know how well the federal government makes so many other
things run more smoothly.

Uniform voting laws might help.  But some federal government agency
overseeing voting across the country can only mean a bigger mess.

How about voter IDs, paper ballots, and purple fingers for voting in the

Re: Tesla Adds High-Speed Autonomous Driving to Its Bag of Tricks (RISKS-29.04)

Stephen Kent <>
Mon, 19 Oct 2015 10:33:34 -0400
It is not true that the software download costs $2,500. That is the cost of
the hardware option needed to make use of the software.  I know this
firsthand as a Tesla owner who paid for the option, just received the _free_
software update, and who is very impressed by this new capability.

  [The original article is here:]

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