The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 20

Tuesday, 5th January 2016

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

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Dutch government defers on dumbing down security
Bug in prison-release calculations unknown for 10 years, unfixed for 3 more
Mark Brader
Kid Racks Up $5,900 Bill on Dad's iPad Playing Jurassic World
Payment Card Protocols Wide Open to Fraud
IRS insider crime
Tax Law Prof Blog
Risks of Facial Recognition
Consumer Reports via Al Mac
"Tim Peake said a spreadsheet error had caused his prank call from space"
Sarah Knapton
Video of L.A. hoverboard fire
Al Mac
Cisco joins Juniper in thorough checking
Bank Info Sec
Analysis of VW Dieselgate SW
Henry Baker
Millions of Voter Records Posted, and Some Fear Hacker Field Day
2 Bankers Charged With Creating AT Cards to Steal From Accounts
Microsoft may have your encryption key; here's how to take it back
Ars Technica
Re: Hotmail and how not to block spam
Gene Wirchenko
Re: Lie-detecting Software uses Machine Learning to Achieve 75% accuracy
Dan Geer
Re: Driverless Cars
Al Mac
John Levine
Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security
Jeremy Epstein and Rebecca Wright
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Dutch government defers on dumbing down security (EDRi)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 4 Jan 2016 10:58:57 PST
  [Source: EDRi, European Digital Rights (a confederation of digital-rights
  nongovernmental European organizations)]

Today the Dutch government sent their position paper on encryption to the
parliament: “currently not appropriate to restrict development, availability,
and use of encryption.''

This may be relevant to many of you as some member states take a different
position on `the problem of encryption', the Dutch take a fairly clear
position and the Dutch hold the chair in the Council these six months. You
may even ask yourself whether it is coincidence the letter was sent only
today. :)

The government says:

  "The government's role is to ensure the safety of the Netherlands and the
  offenses to detect. The Cabinet stressed the need for legitimate access to
  data and communications. In addition, governments, businesses and citizens
  benefit from maximum security of the digital systems. The government
  recognizes the importance of strong encryption for Internet security, to
  support the protection of the privacy of citizens, for confidential
  communication of the government and companies, and for the Dutch economy."

  "Therefore, the government believes that it is currently not appropriate
  to adopt restrictive legal measures against the development, availability
  and use of encryption within the Netherlands. In the international
  context, the Netherlands will pronounce these conclusion and the

  G. A. Van der Steur H.G.J. Camp,
  Minister of Security and Justice,
  Minister for the Economy Business,

The original, in Dutch: 16Z00009&did 16D00015

See also (in English):
Dutch govt says no to backdoors, slides $450K into OpenSSL without breaking
  eye contact: People need encryption to be safe and secure, says ministry

Bug in prison-release calculations unknown for 10 years, unfixed for 3 more

Mark Brader
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 00:57:26 -0500 (EST)
In 2012 the family of a crime victim in the state of Washington learned that
the criminal was going to be released earlier than he should have been.
They notified the state department of corrections (DOC), and it turned out
to be due to a software bug.

Specifically, if a prisoner in Washington receives time off their sentence
for good behavior, the amount of time off is supposed to depend on the
sentence as it would have been without the addition of "enhancements" based
on aggravating factors (such as using a firearm in the crime).  But since
2002, the actual computation has been based on the total sentence, including
any enhancements.

The DOC ordered a fix as soon as possible, but 3 years have now passed and
it still hasn't happened.  Now that this has come to public attention,
though, the fix is expected soon.

It is now estimated that since 2002 there have been 3,200 prisoners released
early, by an average of 55 days.


Kid Racks Up $5,900 Bill on Dad's iPad Playing Jurassic World

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 3 Jan 2016 10:02:48 -0800,2817,2497323,00.asp

  While said kid knew his dad's password to get onto the iPad itself, the
  dad was surprised to learn that his son had also memorized his Apple ID
  password. And, in doing so, he was able to bypass any restrictions his
  father had placed on the device and buy whatever he wanted in the game.
  The damage? The son made 65 transactions between December 13 and December
  18--that's a lot of dinosaurs--to the tune of L4,000, or just around
  $5,900.  Shugaa is apparently upset that Apple didn't do anything to
  verify that the many, many purchases made over that small time period were
  actually him.

I'm sorry, I consider these games to essentially be scams, and the companies
that take their cuts from the associated in-app revenues are at the very
least complicit in situations like this one. Busy parents cannot be expected
to monitor this stuff on top of everything else they have to do. The entire
in-app purchase ecosystem—especially for games—has turned into an
unethical mess.

Payment Card Protocols Wide Open to Fraud (Europe)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 09:10:11 -0800
OnTheWire via NNSquad

  "This mechanism is protected by a cryptographic signature (MAC).  The
  symmetric signature key, however, is sometimes stored in Hardware Security
  Modules (HSMs), of which some are vulnerable to a simple timing attack,
  which discloses valid signatures. A signature extracted from one such HSM
  can be used to attack other, more secure models since the signature key is
  the same across many terminals, violating a base principle of security
  design," the researchers from Security Research Labs wrote in an
  explanation of the research, which was presented at the 32C3 conference in
  Berlin earlier this week.

IRS insider crime (Tax Law Prof Blog)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sun, 3 Jan 2016 15:40:16 -0600
The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is 5+ years behind in applying
cyber-security repairs, according to US Government Accountability Office
(GAO), most recently because Republican Congress has dramatically cut IRS
funding beyond their core function, as punishment for scandal involving IRS
alleged mistreatment of conservative non-profits exploiting loopholes
created by US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United.  The regulations for
non-profits needed to be totally re-written, because of that, but Congress
has not supplied sufficient funding for that to be done.  This has become a
cause celebre for Republicans in election campaigns.

* The last couple years, have had 1 million more tax payers, per year,
victimized by id theft which files fraudulent tax returns to get fraudulent
tax refunds sent to the crooks, then when the legitimate tax payer files
correct return, the IRS treats the victim as the crook.  Everyone expects
this volume to rise in the years ahead.

* Now we find that an IRS employee, whose job it was to assist taxpayer
victims of id fraud, had been conducting at least a $ million of that id

* Nakeisha Hall obtained individuals' names, birth dates and Social Security
numbers through unauthorized access to IRS computers. Hall used the personal
identity information (PII) to prepare fraudulent income tax returns and
submitted them electronically to the IRS. Hall requested that the IRS pay
the refunds onto debit cards and directed that the cards be mailed to drop
addresses that she controlled. Hall solicited and received drop addresses
from Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators, who also collected the
refund cards from the mail.

* Hall activated the cards by using stolen identity information. She,
Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators took the money off the debit
cards at ATMs or used the cards for purchases. If the fraudulent returns
generated U.S. Treasury checks rather than the requested debit cards, Hall
and her co-conspirators used fraudulent endorsements in order to cash the
checks.  Hall compensated Goodman, Coleman and other co-conspirators by
giving them a portion of the refund money, or by giving them refund cards
for their own use.

The IRS is an agency in the US Dept of the Treasury, with an Inspector
General's office just for investigations of the IRS, with an endless parade
of reports on various different alleged wrong doing.

Risks of Facial Recognition (Consumer Reports)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Mon, 4 Jan 2016 22:44:40 -0600
Feb 2016 has an article on who's tracking us in
public, how they doing it, and what are they doing with the info.  As
shoppers enter store, bank, mall, wherever, facial recognition identifies
who you are [1] - new customer, old customer, suspected crook (suspected shop
lifter, celebrity stalker, etc.), etc.  Customer Service greets you by name,
knows what kind of business you have done there before.

Facial Recognition is unregulated.  Companies may do anything they please
with your picture.  There is no ethical code of conduct.  They assume that
by you walking into their establishment, you give your permission for them
to do anything with your picture, without even giving you an opt-out
opportunity [2].  Churches use it to identify what regular attendee has
stopped coming, so they call to see if they are Ok.   Companies can use this
to target you with ads, some based on age & gender.  They do not have to
encrypt the data or protect it from breaches.  Hackers can sell the data to
kidnappers and stalkers.

[1] Google had a public relations disaster when the software identified two
    black people as gorillas.

[2] Facebook is being sued for using photo of someone without that person's

"Tim Peake said a spreadsheet error had caused his prank call from space" (Sarah Knapton)

Chris Drewe <>
Wed, 30 Dec 2015 17:42:53 +0000
Sarah Knapton, *The Telegraph*

It was reported that Tim Peake attempted to make a telephone call to his
parents from the International Space Station, but dialed a wrong number...

  British astronaut Tim Peake blamed a spreadsheet error for wrongly phoning
  grandmother Betty Barker from the International Space Station.  Major
  Peake said Microsoft Excel had rounded up a number in his list, forcing
  him to accidentally dial a different West Sussex address when he tried to
  call his own family.  Mrs Barker hung up after hearing a strange man's
  voice say: “Hello, Is this planet Earth?'' on Christmas Eve.  "There was
  a bit of a gap before he spoke - I thought it was one of those silent
  calls we are always getting."

Video of L.A. hoverboard fire

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sat, 2 Jan 2016 14:58:40 -0600
Should Hover Board use be covered under our comprehensive vehicle insurance,
or with a separate rider?  When it burns, are the fumes toxic?

Video of L.A. "hoverboard" fire

  We already know hoverboards can catch fire. But this new video of an
  incident in Los Angeles brings it home. It was the first known hoverboard
  explosion in the city, the L.A. Fire Department told the Los Angeles
  Times, and it was a doozy.

Cisco joins Juniper in thorough checking (Bank Info Sec)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Wed, 30 Dec 2015 00:09:50 -0600
Juniper found the unauthorized code, via an internal audit.  This implies
some kind of intruder, into Juniper, put it there.

So Cisco is conducting a similar audit, of their systems.

Are other outfits going to take similar steps?

Analysis of VW Dieselgate SW

Henry Baker <>
Wed, 30 Dec 2015 15:37:17 -0800
FYI—Terrific analysis of the VW Dieselgate software:

Presentation slides (30MBytes):

Presentation video 65-minutes (550MBytes):

Bottom line:

The computer software has two different modes, one of which is far more
efficient in its use of the additive Adblue (urea); the less efficient model
is selected only when running the standardized test.

Millions of Voter Records Posted, and Some Fear Hacker Field Day

Monty Solomon <>
Wed, 30 Dec 2015 16:10:47 -0500
Names, phone numbers and demographic information was included in 191 million voter records mysteriously published over the last week.

2 Bankers Charged With Creating AT Cards to Steal From Accounts

Monty Solomon <>
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 05:16:36 -0500
Two men were accused of forging documents and creating cards for automated
teller machines to withdraw $400,000 from 15 accounts of elderly and dead

Microsoft may have your encryption key; here's how to take it back

Monty Solomon <>
Thu, 31 Dec 2015 21:31:55 -0500

Re: Hotmail and how not to block spam (Levine, RISKS-29.18)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Mon, 28 Dec 2015 13:16:42 -0800
> Mailers who grouse about their wonderful mail getting blocked this way
> invariably turn out to be sending "greymail", it's not exactly spam, but
> the recipients care whether they get it.

It is not that easy.  I have received E-mails that are plausible as being
something I asked for and forgot about.  This would also be a way to sneak
spam, but it might be that I forgot about signing up.  If I can not remember
asking for it, I toss it.  I can see where the people who flag as spam are
coming from.

I had an interesting experience several years ago.  I used to have the
E-mail address <>.  I moved out of that ISP's area.
Twenty months later, I came back to the area.  I signed up with the same
ISP.  My E-mail address was then <>.  For whatever reason, the
ISP had dropped the "qmail.".  However, E-mail addresses with "qmail." got
routed to the address without it.  Shortly after, I started getting E-mails
from on-line mags that I had previously subscribed to.  Apparently, they did
not notice over a year's worth of bounce messages and continued sending.

There are also risks here.  What it had been someone else who had gotten
that E-mail address?  1) The person gets mailbombed.  2) There might be
enough identifiable information to cause trouble in some cases.

Re: Lie-detecting Software uses Machine Learning to Achieve 75% accuracy (RISKS-29.18)

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 17:27:03 -0500
> What one would want is separate performance figures for false
> positives and false negatives. Those are mostly not identical, and
> might actually be very different.
> One would hope that the false positive (accusing somebody of lying,
> when actually truthful) rate is significantly lower than the false
> negative (not detecting a liar) rate in this case.

Diagnostic testing, and its fraternal twin information retrieval, have a
defined set of terms for all this, including the headline word "accuracy".
I offer this cheat sheet on the topic:

Re: Driverless Cars

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 17:45:39 -0600
Wall Street Journal via Levine
> teaching them to drive like people, by cutting corners, edging into
> intersections and crossing double-yellow lines.

There are lead times for people writing articles for magazines, such that
what they write may have been a few months prior to when article published.
Not everyone can read every article on changes attempted.

Re: Driverless Cars

"John R. Levine" <>
29 Dec 2015 19:30:06 -0500
The WSJ article was published in September, reporting on a conference in
July.  The *Analog* article was in the December issue.

There's nothing secret about the stuff the WSJ was reporting on, so the
author of the other article just missed it.  Tsk, tsk.

Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security

Jeremy Epstein <>
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 11:43:04 -0500
Since 2011, Applied Computer Security Associates, sponsor of the ACSAC and
NSPW conferences, has offered scholarships for women in security-related
undergraduate and masters' degree programs through the Scholarships for
Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS,

Thanks to a $250,000 4-year contribution by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)
in early 2014, ACSA expanded our program to award 11 scholarships for the
2014-15 academic year, and 16 for the 2015-16 academic year. The Committee
on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), an arm of the
Computing Research Alliance, led selection of scholarship winners.
Information about the 27 SWSIS Scholars (scholarship winners) is available

ACSA, CRA-W, and HPE are pleased to announce that applications for 2016-17
scholarships are accepted Dec 28 2015 - Feb 29 2016.

To apply, an applicant must provide:
* An essay describing her interest and background in the information
  security field.
* A current transcript.
* A resume or CV.
* At least two letters of reference (typically from faculty members).
* Her university name and class status.

The scholarship is renewable for a second year subject to availability of
funds, given proof of satisfactory academic progress.  Preference is for US
citizens or permanent residents; funds are available for use at any US
campus of a US university.

More information at or

Jeremy Epstein, Director, Scholarship Programs
Applied Computer Security Associates, Inc.

Rebecca Wright, CRA-W Director for SWSIS
Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women in
Computing Research

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