The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 09

Friday, 13th November 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…


Another failed software project: DHS online immigration forms
WashPo via Jeremy Epstein
Driverless car stopped by officer in traffic
Toyota's A.I. Research Efforts Could Mean Cars That Anticipate Traffic, Pedestrian Moves
Sharon Gaudin
Windows 3.1 Is Still Alive, And It Just Killed a French Airport
Peter Longeray via Jim Reisert
Aircraft maintenance—and making sausages?
Ukraine Cyberwar's Hottest Front
Coker and Sonne
UK law will allow secret backdoor orders for software, imprison you for disclosing them
UK Snooper's Charter would devastate computer security
Ars Technica
Court Says Tracking Web Histories Can Violate Wiretap Act
Linux users targeted by new Linux.Encoder.1 encryption ransomware
Mark Wilson
"Crackas With Attitude" claim they hacked the FBI's LEEP portal
ted byfield
Anatomy of an Incident Website on Industrial Process Control Incidents Launched
Rob Wilcox
10 reasons why phishing attacks are nastier than ever
Apple and Google yank Instagram password-stealing app from app stores
Encouraging trends and emerging threats in email security
Lauren Weinstein
It's Way Too Easy to Hack the Hospital
Reel and Robertson
Oz 'My Health Record': more surveillance than health
Richard Chirgwin
Re: UK Health Minister announces a review of NHS IT
Prashanth Mundkur
My first purchase with a chipped card
Paul Robinson
Tor Users Matter
Matthew Green
Microsoft: Self-Righteously Reformed Privacy Advocate
Henry Baker
New Microsoft Country Clouds Won't Bring Reign
Henry Baker
Vizio TV spies on you whether you agree or not
Dan Goodin via HB
Re: Helping victims who used encrypted privacy
Barry Gold
Re: Wikipedia and Deepak Chopra
Re: German & US spy scandals ...
Clint Chaplin
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Another failed software project: DHS online immigration forms

Jeremy Epstein <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 21:42:44 -0500
  [A failed software project is a tautology, but just for the record:]

After US$1B and a decade, only one of the 94 forms the US Citizenship and
Immigration Services has only managed to get one form running online.  Usual
sorts of problems - design wasn't finished until several years in (which
isn't necessarily a bad thing - may mean that they actually designed what
they were building before they built it!), lots of defects, etc.

They're scrapping the waterfall-based development methodology for one based
on cloud.  I don't really understand that - those are apples and giraffes.
You can use waterfall to build a cloud-based system - but I guess this has
something to do with buzzword compliance.

Driverless car stopped by officer in traffic—but not ticketed

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 9:57:21 PST
  Google Self-Driving Car Stopped for Going Too Slow(ly):
  An officer spotted a Google self-driving car going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone
  yesterday, and stopped it—with traffic backed up behind it.  Of course,
  this should not be a surprise, because Google limits these cars to 25 mph,
  for safety reasons.  As a result, no Google car has ever been ticketed --
  after 1.2M miles and the equivalent of 90 years' driving experience.
  [Source: Arden Dier, Newser via *San Jose Mercurity News* and NBC News,

This event actually inspires some discussion of what might happen in a
future where there are many such cars on the road.

* Suppose a driverless car actually has no passengers.  (Perhaps it is
  delivering groceries or packages, or doing surveillance of a dangerous
  area.)  How does a police vehicle actually get the car to stop?
  Presumably the officer gets his vehicle directly in front of the car.  But
  if the car is programmed to back up when it reaches an immovable object,
  several police vehicles might have to completely boxing it in.  Then, how
  does the officer ticket the vehicle for some offense?  The citation would
  presumably go to the owner of the car, e.g., Google!

* Suppose at least two driverless cars are involved in an accident, with no
  responsible adults as passengers.  If all of the cars involved in such a
  multicar accident were driverless, would the cars be programmed to pull
  over to a safe siding if they were drivable.  How would they exchange
  (non)driver's licenses, as required by law?  Who would call for the tow
  trucks?  If the damage required calling for law enforcement assistance,
  how would that work?

* Suppose a driverless and passengerless car is being controlled remotely.
  Who would be liable for accidents, and would be the recipient of
  citations?  How would an automated highway prevent malicious behavior by
  drivers of noncompliant cars, such as old Hummers, motorcycles weaving in
  and out, exhausted truck drivers in the fog, and legacy racing cars?

* Suppose racing car drivers were to decide that they would prefer to be
  remotely controlling driverless race cars.  Would people stop paying to
  watch the races, some of whom presumably come hoping to watch the
  collisions and accidents?  What about the responsibility for intentionally
  wiping out your competition?  And perhaps electric cars would have battery
  life sufficient to survive an Indianapolis 500 without having to recharge
  their batteries, completely avoiding refueling pit stops (except for tire
  changes)...  Of course, if you believe in totally autonomous vehicles
  preprogrammed for the entire race without any real-time interactions, that
  might reduce all of the challenges in auto racing to who is the best
  programmer.  I suppose many rule changes would be in order.

This is just my top-of-the-head reaction to an officer stopping a Google
car, reportedly out of curiosity to have a discussion with the car's
passenger/co-pilot as to how the car chose its speeds.  I presume
appropriate people involved in driverless cars have thought through
thoroughly all of the questions above (not to mention those that might arise
in many other risks-relevant scenarios).  However, because there might never
have been a reported traffic citation, and because I know of only one report
of a driver-present car running into a driverless one that stopped for a
pedestrian (as required by law), it might be timely to discuss some of these
issues in RISKS—especially as they relate to drone-like totally
unoccupied cars.  PGN

Toyota's A.I. Research Efforts Could Mean Cars That Anticipate Traffic, Pedestrian Moves (Sharon Gaudin)

"ACM TechNews" <>
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 12:22:12 -0500 (EST)
Sharon Gaudin, *ComputerWorld*, 11 Nov 2015, via ACM TechNews, 11 Nov 2015

Toyota is making high-profile investments in artificial intelligence (AI)
research and development that could yield many benefits in human-machine
interaction.  In a recently announced partnership with Stanford University
and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Toyota will give each
institution $25 million over five years to set up AI research centers.
Stanford AI lab executive director Steve Eglash says these efforts could
lead to cars that function more safely on city streets and in inclement
weather, as well as robotic assistants for the elderly and infirmed.  He
says Toyota contributes not only financial support, but also "a unique
perspective on the future of the AI industry and robotics."  Data is another
important ingredient Toyota brings, which Eglash says can be applied toward
making more contextual and human-centered AI.  With the car industry having
already introduced self-parking autos and other driving-assistive
innovations, Eglash thinks in a few years cars will be able to predict
traffic and road conditions minutes before the vehicle arrives.  He also
expects the research to lead to cars that can anticipate cyclists and
pedestrians' actions and take precautionary measures.  Carnegie Mellon
University professor Manuela Veloso sees such initiatives as the beginning
of "the reality of AI in the physical world."

Windows 3.1 Is Still Alive, And It Just Killed a French Airport (Peter Longeray)

Jim Reisert AD1C <>
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:34:21 -0700
Risks of not updating technology?

November 13, 2015 | 5:30 am

A computer glitch that brought the Paris airport of Orly to a standstill
Saturday has been traced back to the airport's "prehistoric" operating
system. In an article published Wednesday, French satirical weekly Le Canard
Enchaine (which often writes serious stories, such as this one) said the
computer failure had affected a system known as DECOR, which is used by air
traffic controllers to communicate weather information to pilots. Pilots
rely on the system when weather conditions are poor.

DECOR, which is used in takeoff and landings, runs on Windows 3.1, an
operating system that came onto the market in 1992.

DECOR's breakdown on Saturday prevented air traffic controllers from
providing pilots with Runway Visual Range, or RVR, information—a value
that determines the distance a pilot can see down the runway. As fog
descended onto the runway and engineers battled to find the origin of the
glitch, flights were grounded as a precaution.

"The tools used by Aeroports de Paris controllers run on four different
operating systems, that are all between 10 and 20 years old," explained
Alexandre Fiacre, the secretary general of France's UNSA-IESSA air traffic
controller union. ADP is the company that runs both Orly and Paris' other
airport, Charles de Gaulle, one of the busiest in the world.

Aircraft maintenance—and sausages making?

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 10:47:44 PST
  [Thanks to Robert Dorsett for pointing out this item.]

Ukraine Cyberwar's Hottest Front (Coker and Sonne)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 5:03:03 PST
Margaret Coker and Paul Sonne, *WSJ*, 9 Nov 2015
A woman votes in Kiev in May 2014. A cyberattack ahead of Ukraine's 2014
presidential election threatened to derail the vote.

KIEV, Ukraine—Three days before Ukraine's presidential vote last year,
employees at the national election commission arrived at work to find their
dowdy Soviet-era headquarters transformed into the front line of one of the
world's hottest ongoing cyberwars.

The night before, while the agency's employees slept, a shadowy pro-Moscow
hacking collective called CyberBerkut attacked the premises. Its stated
goal: To cripple the online system for distributing results and voter
turnout throughout election day. Software was destroyed. Hard drives were
fried. Router settings were undone. Even the main backup was ruined.

The carnage stunned computer specialists the next morning.  "It was like
taking a cold shower.  It really was the first strike in the cyberwar."
(Victor Zhora, director of the Ukrainian IT firm Infosafe, which helped set
up the network for the elections.  [...]

UK law will allow secret backdoor orders for software, imprison you for disclosing them (BoingBoing)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 08:35:47 -0800
BoingBoing via NNSquad

  Under the UK's new Snoopers Charter (AKA the Investigatory Powers Bill),
  the Secretary of State will be able to order companies to introduce
  security vulnerabilities into their software ("backdoors") and then bind
  those companies over to perpetual secrecy on the matter, with punishments
  of up to a year in prison for speaking out, even in court.  The gag orders
  don't stop there. The Snoopers Charter also lets the government silence
  people it conscripts to help it with interception, hacking, bulk data
  collection and data-retention.

UK Snooper's Charter would devastate computer security

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 07:56:16 -0800

Rupert Goodwins (UK), Ars Technica, 11 Nov 2015
What happens when you are forbidden from disclosing that backdoor you found?

Any law that forbids citizens from revealing what the government gets up to,
or from speaking out about what they find, needs to be looked at with a very
hard stare indeed.  Yet that's where we find ourselves with the draft
Investigatory Powers Bill, aka the Snooper's Charter.

As Glyn Moody and George Danezis point out, the draft bill effectively makes
it a crime to reveal the existence of government hacking.  Along the way,
the new law would also make it illegal to discuss the existence or nature of
warrants with anyone under any circumstances, including in court or with
your MP, no matter what's been happening.  The powers are sweeping,
absolute, and carefully put beyond public scrutiny, effectively for ever.
There's no limitation of time. [...]

Court Says Tracking Web Histories Can Violate Wiretap Act

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 18:08:25 -0800
*WiReD* via NNSquad

  In the ruling, the appeals court agreed with a lower court, which
  dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that Google and the other defendants had
  violated laws like the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the
  Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by collecting users' web browsing
  information. (Though the ruling does reverse the dismissal of a different
  claim that the defendants violated the California constitution, which will
  now proceed in the lawsuit.) But despite those decisions and perhaps more
  importantly, the court was careful to make another point: That merely
  tracking the URLs someone visits can constitute collecting the contents of
  their communications, and that doing so without a warrant can violate the
  Wiretap Act. And that's an opinion that will apply not just to Google, but
  to the Justice Department ... In their ruling, the panel of three
  appellate judges found that Google and its co-defendants hadn't violated
  the Wiretap Act because they were a "party" to the communications rather
  than a third-party eavesdropper--the users were visiting their websites
  when the cookies were installed.  But the judges took special pains to
  make clear that the defendants hadn't been let off because their
  cookie-blocking circumvention technique was only collecting metadata from
  users, rather than the content of their communications.

Linux users targeted by new Linux.Encoder.1 encryption ransomware

Gene Wirchenko <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 10:38:46 -0800
Mark Wilson, BetaNews, 9 Nov 2015
Linux users targeted by new Linux.Encoder.1 encryption ransomware

Published 21 hours ago [as I write this (2015-11-10 10:38 PST).  This
non-dating of content has its own risks.]

"Crackas With Attitude" claim they hacked the FBI's LEEP portal

ted byfield <>
Mon, 09 Nov 2015 21:54:08 -0500
The FBI set up a web portal, the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP),
that provides access to an long and growing list of services and resources
"that are sensitive but unclassified"—in order to "strengthen case
development for investigators, enhance information sharing between agencies,
and be accessible in one centralized location!" (Yes, the exclamation point
is in the original.) And they made all of it accessible with just a "single
sign-on," i.e., a username and password.

You'll never guess what happened next!


  FBI officials on Monday had no comment on bureau website access controls
  or the alleged hack beyond a statement made Friday that "those who engage"
  in such hacktivism activities "are breaking the law" and that the FBI will
  work with other agencies and industries "to identify and hold accountable
  those who engage in illegal activities in cyberspace."

Hackers demonstrate they can gain access to LEEP, and the ensuing
investigation involves several agencies, which share their investigation
records on LEEP.

Anatomy of an Incident Website on Industrial Process Control Incidents Launched

Rob Wilcox <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 07:36:05 -0800
A multinational process control company has launched a website It has brief narratives of process control

Included in the initial launch are the BP Texas City Refinery explosion and
fire, the Bayer Crop Sciences chemical tank rupture, the Buncefield oil
storage depot fire, and the Piper Alpha drilling platform fire.

The creators of the site note that further content is planned, deeper into
the incidents and more incidents.

The narratives discuss human and management contributions to the incidents,
a longtime focus of the Risks Forum.

10 reasons why phishing attacks are nastier than ever (InfoWorld)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 9 Nov 2015 17:23:48 -0800
InfoWorld via  NNSquad

  Enter spearphishing: a targeted approach to phishing that is proving
  nefariously effective, even against the most seasoned security pros.  Why?
  Because they are crafted by thoughtful professionals who seem to know your
  business, your current projects, your interests. They don't tip their hand
  by trying to sell you anything or claiming to have money to give away. In
  fact, today's spearphishing attempts have far more sinister goals than
  simple financial theft.

Apple and Google yank Instagram password-stealing app from app stores

Monty Solomon <>
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 10:28:34 -0500

Encouraging trends and emerging threats in email security

Lauren Weinstein <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 15:19:18 -0800
New Research: Encouraging trends and emerging threats in email security

  To that end, in partnership with the University of Michigan and the
  University of Illinois, we're publishing the results of a multi-year study
  that measured how email security has evolved since 2013. While Gmail was
  the foundation of this research, the study's insights apply to email more
  broadly, not unlike our Safer Email Transparency report. It's our hope
  that these findings not only help make Gmail more secure, but will also be
  used to help protect email users everywhere as well.

The irony of course is that TLS (STARTTLS) is basically clown-grade email
encryption. It is—generally—easy for midpoints to defeat or disable
(cracking the crypto is not necessary), and due to incompatibilities results
in significant amounts of email not being delivered at all (that's why many
popular mailing list systems are configured to not use it—they've
actually disabled it after trying to make it work and ending up with angry
respondents who didn't get their mail, and it's difficult to blame
them). And of course, hack attacks virtually never relate to third-party
snooping of email—rather, endpoint vulnerabilities are key to the big
attacks. My gut feeling is that Google warning people about receiving
unencrypted email will trigger much angst and panic without doing much good
at all. But this is all part of the Internet's own version of airport
"security theater": "Falling Into the Encryption Trap" -

It's Way Too Easy to Hack the Hospital (Reel and Robertson)

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 08:40:28 -0800
FYI—Forget about a nightmare night at the museum; a cybersecurity
researcher of medical device security finds himself spending two weeks
hooked up to medical devices he had previously shown were extremely
vulnerable to attack.

"After six months, TrapX concluded that all of the hospitals contained
medical devices that had been infected by malware."

"observe hackers attempting to take medical records out of the hospitals
through the infected devices."

"In 2011, the Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, Ga., shut its doors
to all non-emergency patients for three days after a virus crippled its
computer system."

Monte Reel and Jordan Robertson, November 2015
It's Way Too Easy to Hack the Hospital

Firewalls and medical devices are extremely vulnerable, and everyone's
pointing fingers.

In the fall of 2013, Billy Rios flew from his home in California to
Rochester, Minn., for an assignment at the Mayo Clinic, the largest
integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world.  Rios is a
white-hat hacker, which means customers hire him to break into their own
computers.  His roster of clients has included the Pentagon, major defense
contractors, Microsoft, Google, and some others he can't talk about.  [...]

When he found vulnerabilities in an infusion pump used in hospitals, he
contacted the US Department of Homeland Security's ICS-CERT, which notified
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which in turn notified the
manufacturer, but nothing happened until he provided DHS and the FDA with
proof-of-concept code demonstrating the risks the devices posed. The FDA
issued an advisory recommending that the pumps not be used, but no one was
under any obligation to fix the devices that were already in use. Trying to
assign responsibility for mitigating these issues has been difficult, and
Rios has concluded that the only way to make changes is to put pressure
directly on the manufacturers.

  [... VERY LONG item truncated for RISKS.  PGN-ed]

Oz 'My Health Record': more surveillance than health (Richard Chirgwin)

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 08:51:41 -0800
FYI—U.S. takeaway: Australia is simply further along the learning curve
than the U.S.; the U.S. intends to 'lead' in the insecurity of health
records, as well.

"the e-health system looks more like it was designed for spooks and
revenue-collectors than for doctors or patients"

"[criticized the recommendation that] My Health Record be changed from an
opt-in system to an opt-out system"

"Once a breach has occurred, the data cannot be put back in the box"

Richard Chirgwin, *The Register*, 12 Nov 2015
Oz e-health privacy: after a breach is too late
Privacy foundation slams 'dangerously naive' Senators

Australia's peak privacy body has lambasted the country's Senate for being
ignorant about the implications of the country's new e-health records.  What
was once called the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR),
re-branded My Health Record this year to give it a smiley face, is the
government's attempt to dragoon Australians into a national health database.

Looking behind the mask, however, the Australian Privacy Foundation reckons
the e-health system looks more like it was designed for spooks and
revenue-collectors than for doctors or patients.

Coming in for special criticism is the Senate committee recommendation that
My Health Record be changed from an opt-in system to an opt-out system.
That decision seems designed to boost the chronically low take-up of a
system that this year got a budget allocation of more than AU$450 million
(its 15-year estimated cost from 2010 to 2025 is $3.6 billion).

Re: UK Health Minister announces a review of NHS IT (Thomas, R-29.08)

Prashanth Mundkur <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 11:41:19 -0800
> Does any reader know whether [Robert Wachter] is well qualified to conduct
> this review?

RISKS-28.59 linked to Wachter's 5-part series on Medium, excerpted
from "The Digital Doctor", starting here:

My first purchase with a chipped card

Paul Robinson <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 03:03:25 +0000 (UTC)
No, I don't mean I broke off part of my card, it means of all the credit and
debit cards that I have, currently the only one with a chip in it is my
Target Red Card. A couple weeks ago I had to call in and ask the automated
system to send me a new card because there was a crack in the mag strip. So,
Target sent me a chipped card, and when I registered it on their website it
asked me to select a pin;. I did.

Since it is a chipped card, guess what? No mag stripe. Since Target had to
replace 100% of their card readers anyway after they got hacked, and since
you can't use the card anywhere else, it makes sense to have it set up for
chip-and-pin only transactions, since the whole idea is to reduce the
potential for fraud. A crook not only has to steal your card, he also has to
torture you for your pin number.**

Merchants were supposed to be ready to take chipped cards as of October
anyway, but despite the fact I have about 6 different cards. only the one
from Target has yet to be chipped. All my other debit and credit cards are
mag stripe.

So today, I went into Target to buy a package of socks, and I found they had
a nice multi pack of socks for tall and big men, fits sizes 12-14, pack of
10 black dress socks, $15. Not bad.

So I go up to the self-serve register, scan the bar code on the socks,
select credit card for method of payment, push the Red Card into the chip
reader, it brings up a password entry box, I punch in my pin, then it burps
twice to tell me to take my card back, and the transaction is approved. Very

My second purchase was at the pharmacy, $1.29 for one of my prescriptions
after insurance. I'm actually impressed that the technology actually works.

Now, anyone want to take any bets on how long before crooks figure a way to
break the system in order to steal goods and/or money? I've heard the
chip-and-pin system in Europe has been hacked, at least and some researchers
have even written papers showing how it can be done.

** The term "pin" as used with authenticating payment cards is an acronym
for "personal identification number," so actually, using the term "pin
number" is redundant.  I also sometimes take money out at an Automatic
Teller Machine machine, so I'm also redundant when I use an ATM

Tor Users Matter

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 13:10:24 -0800
Why the attack on Tor matters
Matthew Green, Ars Technica, 12 Nov 2015
Op-ed: Comp sci researchers have a blind spot to ethical issues in their field.

On Wednesday, Motherboard posted a court document filed in a prosecution
against a Silk Road 2.0 user indicating that the user had been de-anonymized
on the Tor network thanks to research conducted by a university-based
research institute.  As Motherboard pointed out, the timing of this research
lines up with an active attack on the Tor network that was discovered and
publicized in July 2014.  Moreover, the details of that attack were eerily
similar to the abstract of a (withdrawn) BlackHat presentation submitted by
two researchers at the CERT division of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

A few hours later, the Tor Project made the allegations more explicit,
posting a blog entry accusing CMU of accepting $1 million to conduct the
attack.  A spokesperson for CMU didn't exactly deny the allegations but
demanded better evidence and stated that he wasn't aware of any payment.  No
doubt we'll learn more in the coming weeks as more documents become public.

You might wonder why this is important.  After all, the crimes we're talking
about are pretty disturbing.  One defendant is accused of possessing child
pornography, and if the allegations are true, the other was a staff member
on Silk Road 2.0.  If CMU really did conduct Tor de-anonymization research
for the benefit of the FBI, the people they identified were allegedly not
doing the nicest things.  It's hard to feel particularly sympathetic.

Except for one small detail: there's no reason to believe that the
defendants were the only people affected.

If the details of the attack are as we understand them, a group of academic
researchers deliberately took control of a significant portion of the Tor
network.  Without oversight from the University research board, they
exploited a vulnerability in the Tor protocol to conduct a traffic
confirmation attack, which allowed them to identify Tor client IP addresses
and hidden services.  They ran this attack for five months and potentially
de-anonymized thousands of users.

It's quite possible that these researchers exercised strict protocols to
ensure that they didn't accidentally de-anonymize innocent bystanders.  This
would be standard procedure in any legitimate research involving human
subjects, particularly research that has the potential to harm.  If the
researchers did take such steps, it would be nice to know about them.  CMU
hasn't even admitted to the scope of the research project, nor has it
published any results, so we just don't know.

While most of the computer science researchers I know are fundamentally
ethical people, as a community we have a blind spot when it comes to the
ethical issues in our field.  There's a view in our community that
Institutional Review Boards are for medical researchers, and we've somehow
been accidentally caught up in machinery that wasn't meant for us.  And I
get this—IRBs are unpleasant to work with.  Sometimes the machinery is

But there's also a view that computer security research can't really hurt
people, so there's no real reason for this sort of ethical oversight
machinery in the first place.  This is dead wrong, and if we want to be
taken seriously as a mature field, we need to do something about it.

We may need different machinery, but we need something.  That something
begins with the understanding that active attacks that affect vulnerable
users can be dangerous and should never be conducted without rigorous
oversight—if they must be conducted at all.  It begins with the idea that
universities should have uniform procedures for both faculty researchers and
quasi-government organizations like CERT if they live under the same roof.
It begins with CERT and CMU explaining what went on with their research
rather than treating it like an embarrassment to be swept under the rug.

Most importantly, it begins with researchers looking beyond their own
research practices.  So far, the response to the Tor news has been a big
shrug.  It's wonderful that most of our community is responsible.  But that
doesn't matter if we're willing to look the other way when people in our
community aren't.

This story was originally published on Matthew Green's blog.

Microsoft: Self-Righteously Reformed Privacy Advocate

Henry Baker <>
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 08:08:01 -0800

Kieren McCarthy, *The Register*, 13 Nov 2015
Microsoft creates its own movie moment with fancy privacy manifesto
General counsel still waiting for people to leap onto desks

Microsoft has published what can only be described as a privacy manifesto.
The unusual online screed comes complete with interactive graphics,
including a recording of the FISA court's voicemail, and appears geared at
pitching Microsoft as the protector of people's global data.  [Very long
item truncated for RISKS.  PGN]

New Microsoft Country Clouds Won't Bring Reign

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 12:43:26 -0800
It's also possible to store data so that it doesn't reside *anywhere* --
e.g., using RAID techniques, except that instead of RAID standing for
"Redundant Array of Independent Disks", we replace it with RAIC --
"Redundant Array of Independent Countries".  Search also for "erasure


"Microsoft to store data in Germany to keep it from third parties"

Cory Bennett - 11/10/15 11:28 AM EST
Microsoft opens UK-only data center following EU ruling

Vizio TV spies on you whether you agree or not

Henry Baker <>
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 18:14:59 -0800
"This [spying] data is sent *regardless* of whether you agree to the privacy
policy and terms of service when first configuring the TV."

"readers are better off foregoing the minimal benefits provided by an
Internet-connected TV and settling for one with no networking at all"

It's worth reading the following blog for the techniques used to crack the
Vizio TV; e.g., they used repeated command injection to list the filesystem,
and then use this info to mount a filesystem on a USB stick and copy the
whole filesystem over.

Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 11 Nov 2015
Man-in-the-middle attack on Vizio TVs coughs up owners' viewing habits
Hack underscores amateur goofs routinely made by Internet-of-Things developers.

The cautionary tales just keep coming for Internet-connected TVs,
thermostats, and other so-called "Internet-of-Things" devices.  Today's
lesson comes courtesy of a smart TV from Vizio that was subjected to a
man-in-the-middle attack because it couldn't be bothered to validate the
HTTPS certificates of servers it connected to.

Researchers from security firm Avast found that the Vizio model in their lab
broadcast fingerprints of users' viewing habits, even when owners hadn't
consented to a privacy policy displayed during set up.  What's more, the
researchers uncovered a vulnerability in the smart TV that could act as a
potential attack vector for a hacker attempting to access a user's home

Specifically, the TV accepted a self-signed forged certificate when
connecting to, a site the TV accessed about once per
second.  After studying the data sent to and from the server, the
researchers discovered that commands the server sent the TV came embedded
with a token.  Rather than checking the validity of the HTTPS certificate,
the TV inspected a checksum at the end of the data before it would accept
the data.  The checksum was the MD5 hash of the command combined with a
secret cryptographic salt.

The researchers were unable to use traditional cracking methods to figure
out what the salt was.  So they instead used some reverse-engineering
creativity to enumerate the entire file-system on the TV.  They soon found a
plain-text file that contained the salt (which they declined to name).  They
were then able to use their man-in-the-middle attack both to read data the
TV sent to the server and to impersonate the server and send commands back
to the TV.  With that, they were able to decrypt the entire binary stream
that traveled between the TV and, which is operated by a
company called Cognitive Networks.

In a blog post published Wednesday, the researchers wrote:

  From this, it is obvious that the same data is being sent to Cognitive
  Networks servers through UDP and HTTP.  This data is the fingerprint of
  what you're watching being sent through the Internet to Cognitive
  Networks.  This data is sent regardless of whether you agree to the
  privacy policy and terms of service when first configuring the TV. [...]

Re: Helping victims who used encrypted privacy (AlMac, RISKS-29.08)

Barry Gold <>
Mon, 09 Nov 2015 17:39:42 -0800
> I believe in an optional "side door" into our electronic lives.

Overall, I think this is a good idea.  When the "side door" is optional,
each person can choose for himself among the risks of:

 * loss of privacy to the government (via search warrants or less controlled
   methods, e.g., national security letters, tyrannical regimes simply
   walking into the bank, lawyer's office, etc. with guns to get your

 * loss of privacy to phishers who "social engineer" the custodian

 * loss of critical data due to disk crash, software error, death of the
   only person who knows the keys or locations of data, etc.

 > As for the allegation that encryption slows down access to the content,
   if you have legal access, and a math chip to handle the decrypting, there
   is no slow down.

This is the only part of Mcintyre's post that I disagree with. There's a
reason why "strong encryption" is called "strong". The encryption algorithm,
key length, etc. are carefully designed to resist attempts to access the
data without knowing the key—even by attackers with the resources of a
large government behind them. (e.g., the NSA, CIA, or equivalent groups in
the UK, Germany, China, Russia, etc.)

If the secret is important enough (that is, worth enough $$$), it's
theoretically possible that a large, dedicated organization may be able to
extract it without access to the key—either by using massively parallel
processing or by finding a weakness in the algorithm.  But note that it is
at least theoretically possible to create a key long enough that you cannot
brute force it even if you could do one computation with every atom in the

So if you want your data to be available in case of your death or
disability, find a custodian whom you trust with your passwords, encryption
keys, etc.

  [Ah, back to trusting potentially untrustworthy third parties
  or escrow agents that can be compromised by insiders, outsiders,
  and government agents, when there is already very weak security
  in all systems involved.  Very nice.  PGN]

Re: Wikipedia and Deepak Chopra (Slade, RISKS-29.08)

"3daygoaty ." <>
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 14:52:40 +1100
When my children pick up and examine a bit of litter and then attempt to
drop it again I tell them if they touch it they have to bin it.

I think this applies to Rob Slade's review of Computer Viruses on wikipedia.
If you know within your field that a wikipedia article is misleading and
possibly dangerous I think it behooves you to try do something.  If they
cite your book incorrectly, all the more so.  Perhaps your efforts will be
overwritten and lost, but then again they may not be lost.  Either way the
virtuous attempt is in the page history forever and you did what you could.

Re: German & US spy scandals ... (AlMac, RISKS-29.08)

Clint Chaplin <>
Mon, 9 Nov 2015 19:25:54 -0800
> Remember Japan Airlines 007?"

That would be Korean Airlines KAL 007.

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