The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 67

Monday, 15th August 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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The "internet" and the "associated press": Mini-editorial
"The Internet vs. "the internet"
Lauren Weinstein
How to hack an election in seven minutes
Ben Wofford
Cyber Protections Contemplated for U.S. Election Systems
Mark Rockwell
FTC vows to crack down on sponsored internet [Internet!] posts
Risk From Linux Kernel Hidden in Windows 10 Exposed at Black Hat
Young man [shot to death] while playing Pokemon at [San Francisco] tourist attraction
If you're at the Rio Olympics, you've probably already been hacked
Daily Dot
US military uses 8-inch floppy disks to coordinate nuclear force operations
"Flaw in Samsung Pay lets hackers wirelessly skim credit cards"
Zack Whittaker
Re: NSA Fans: Be careful what you wish for
Peter Houppermans
Re: BBC to deploy detection vans to snoop on [I]nternet users
Chris Drewe
Re: Study: 78% of Resold Drives Still Contain Readable Personal or Business Data
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

The "internet" and the "associated press": Mini-editorial

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 18:12:00 PDT
Apparently, the "associated press" has caved in to the brits, who like lower
case on acronyms and many proper nouns.  "The Internet" is a proper noun and
deserves its initial capital in American usage.  There is only *one*
Internet.  That is precisely the foundational notion of its conceptual
existence.  For years, I have been surreptitiously coercing the random
occurrence of "the internet" to be "the Internet".  If we were to follow the
Associated Press insisting on referring to "the internet", from now on I
suppose I will now have to refer the "associated press" and "ap", along with
britain and england and the uk in lower case only, and change all acronyms
to lower case as well as the brits often to do (e.g., nsa, cia, darpa).
which is ok unless you are referring to an acronym that is actually an
english word—which becomes horribly ambiguous in some contexts.  Think of
the recursive acronym GNU (GNU is Not Unix) vs gnu or even the compromise
Gnu.  Also, sometimes we see acronyms with initial caps (such as Darpa).
However, if the disassociated press would choose that as a "compromise"
standard, we would have to resort to "the Us" and "the Uk", which would
really be yUky.  But any use of lower-case letters that screws up the
primary purpose of an acromym—where each upper-case letter can be
expanded.  (Thus, we use "DoD" for the Department of Defense, because the
"of" is not capitalized.)  I think it is evident that this decision by the
ap is truly execrable, absurd, and ridiculous.

Furthermore, this type of anal absurdity might be what leads the ap to write
N.S.A. and N.A.S.A. instead of NSA and NASA, although no one in their right
minds would write nsa and nasa without leading to NASAl blockage.  An
acronym is not equivalent to "ACRONYM" unless it really it is used to avoid
spelling out A Curiously Ridiculous Offensive Noun You Mean.  Writing
A.C.R.O.N.Y.M in that case would be even more utterly ridiculous.  Thus, the
distinction between an acronym and a word needs to be made by using
upper-case letters consistently.

Similarly, "the web" should be written as "the Web", because it is short for
"the World-Wide Web", and should be distinguished from other kinds of webs.

One more absurdity: The brits call people from Argentina Argentynes, and the
network tennis announcers seem to pick up on that—as if Argentina were
pronounced ArgenTYNA.  You may have noticed that RISKS is an international
venue, and therefore I make no attempt to change british english to American
English here for submissions from the uk.  But I think the associated press
is no longer worthy of dictating absurd and inconsistent conventions, and
will be reduced to the lower case forever after in this venue, because the
other associated presses (not "the associated press") seem to be caving in
as well.

Finally, for those of you who have not read my website (or Website if you
are a purist), I have considered "comparing ACLs and RNGs".  You have three
choices with an acronym—you can pronounce them (a) as if they are words
(ackle), or (b) sequences of letters (R-N-G), or (c) expansions based on
what is referred to by each letter (access-control lists and random-number
generators).  In the case of my example, ACLs and RNGs are of course
typically treated as case (a) and (b), respectively—as in "ackles and
are-en-jes".  (This gives us a lovely new kind of mixed metaphor.)

"The Internet" vs. "the internet"

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 19:08:42 -0700
"Internet" vs. "internet"

Please do me a personal favor. Don't fall into the trap of using the term
"internet" instead of "Internet" when discussing our global communications
wonder.  The clowns behind the AP Style Guide recently decreed it to be a
lower-case word, and most mainstream journalistic outlets are sheepishly
following suite.  It's possible to argue about Web vis-a-vis web, but
Internet is not negotiable. Please continue to use Internet in any of your
own writing, and if you care to make this preference known to media here,
there, and everywhere, that would be dandy as well. Thanks.

How to hack an election in seven minutes (Ben Wofford)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Fri, 5 Aug 2016 5:09:56 PDT
Ben Wofford, Politico, 5 Aug 2016

When Princeton Professor Andrew Appel decided to hack into a voting machine,
he didn't try to mimic the Russian attackers who hacked into the DNC's
database last month. He didn't write malicious code, or linger near a
polling place where the machines can go unguarded for days.

Instead, he bought one online.

With a few cursory clicks of a mouse, Appel parted with $82 and became the
owner of an ungainly metallic giant called the Sequoia AVC Advantage, one of
the oldest and vulnerable, electronic voting machines in the United States
(among other places it's deployed in Louisiana, New Jersey, Virginia, and
Pennsylvania). No sooner did a team of bewildered deliverymen roll the
250-pound device into a conference room near Appel's cramped, third-floor
office than the professor set to work. He summoned a graduate student named
Alex Halderman, who could pick the machine's lock in seven
seconds.  Clutching a screwdriver, he deftly wedged out the four ROM chips --
they weren't soldered into the circuit board, as sense might dictate --
making it simple to replace them with one of his own: A version of modified
firmware that could throw off the machine's results, subtly altering the
tally of votes, never to betray a hint to the voter. The attack was
concluded in minutes. To mark the achievement, his student snapped a photo
<> of Appel's oblong features, messy
black locks and a salt-and-pepper beard—grinning for the camera, fists
still on the circuit board, as if to look directly into the eyes of the
American taxpayer: Don't look at me—you're the one who paid for this

Appel's mischief might be called an occupational asset: He is part of a
diligent corps of so-called cyber-academics --professors who have spent the
last decade serving their country by relentlessly hacking it. Electronic
voting machines—particularly a design called Direct Recording Electronic,
or DREs—took off in 2002, in the wake of Bush v. Gore. For the ensuing 15
years, Appel and his colleagues have deployed every manner of stunt to
convince the public that the system is pervasively unsecure and vulnerable.
Beginning in the late nineties, Appel and his colleague, Ed Felten, a
pioneer in computer engineering now serving in the White House Office of
Science and Technology Police, marshaled their Princeton students together
at the Center for Information Technology Policy (where Felten is still
director). There, they relentlessly hacked one voting machine after another,
transforming the center into a kind of Hall of Fame for tech mediocrity:
reprogramming one popular machine to play Pac-Man; infecting popular models
with self-duplicating malware; discovering keys to voting machine locks that
could be ordered on eBay. Eventually, the work of the professors and
Ph.D. students grew into a singular conviction: It was only a matter of
time, they feared, before a national election—an irresistible target --
would invite an attempt at a coordinated cyberattack.

The revelation this month that a cyberattack on the Democratic National
Committee is the handiwork of Russian state security personnel has set off
alarm bells across the country: Some officials have suggested that 2016
could see more serious efforts to interfere directly with the American
election. The DNC hack, in a way, has compelled the public to ask the
precise question the Princeton group hoped they'd have asked earlier, back
when they were turning voting machines into arcade games: If motivated
programmers could pull a stunt like this, couldn't they tinker with the
results in November through the machines we use to vote?

This week, the notion has been transformed from an implausible plotline in a
Phillip K. Dick novel into a deadly serious threat, outlined in detail by a
raft of government security officials. “This isn't a crazy hypothetical
anymore,'' says Dan Wallach, one of the Felten-Appel alums and now a
computer science professor at Rice.  “Once you bring nation states' cyber
activity into the game?''  He snorts with pity. “These machines, they
barely work in a friendly environment.''

The powers that be seem duly convinced. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh
Johnson recently conceded
the “longer-term investments we need to make in the cybersecurity of our
election process.''  A statement by 31 security luminaries at the Aspen
Institute issued a public statement
“Our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments
and terrorist groups.'' Declared Wired
“America's Electronic Voting Machines Are Scarily Easy Targets.''  For the
Princeton group, it's precisely the alarm they've been trying to sound for
most of the new millennium.

  [Long but super article, the rest PGN-truncated for RISKS.  Read it and
  weep.  We've been beating this drum since the very first issue of RISKS,
  31 years ago this week.  PGN]

Cyber Protections Contemplated for U.S. Election Systems

"ACM TechNews" <>
Mon, 8 Aug 2016 12:14:55 -0400 (EDT)
Mark Rockwell, *Federal Computer Week*, 5 Aug 2016
via ACM TechNews, 8 Aug 2016

Following repeated hacks of Democratic National Committee systems by
attackers who could be associated with the Russian government, the Obama
administration is considering boosting cyber protections for U.S. election
systems by classifying them as critical infrastructure, which would put them
under the protection of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  "We
have to carefully consider whether our election system is critical
infrastructure, like the financial system or the power grid," says DHS
secretary Jeh Johnson.  Presidential assistant Lisa Monaco says the reaction
to those who hack election systems in the U.S. might resemble what happened
in response to the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which crossed
a threshold into being destructive and coercive.  She notes the U.S.
government attributed the Sony attack to North Korea and hit the country
with sanctions.  In addition, the government also prosecuted Chinese
military personnel who hacked into U.S. companies' systems to steal data,
and recently indicted Iranian hackers for a series of cyberattacks.  Monaco
says a deliberate intrusion to coerce or influence the U.S. political
process is a "serious, serious issue," which could require a new type of

  [More editorial rant to the journalists who use "Cyber" as a noun.  It is
  a combining form, so the title could have been "Cyberprotections".  PGN]

FTC vows to crack down on sponsored internet [Internet!] posts (Engadget)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 18:50:54 -0700
via NNSquad

  The FTC's settlement with Warner Bros. over poor disclosure in sponsored
  internet [Internet! - I don't care what AP says - Lauren] posts was just
  the beginning.  The Commission tells Bloomberg that the government is
  planning a crackdown on paid posts that will require both stars and
  advertisers to be much more explicit when telling viewers that it's a paid
  piece. A disclosure through a social hashtag or a below-the-fold YouTube
  description won't be enough—the FTC wants celebrities to reveal their
  endorsements up front, and to mention them in videos. There's "no
  effective disclosure" if people don't see it, the agency says.

I hope everyone involved with the development of the Net will make an effort
to explain and *demonstrate* to the distinguished authors of the "AP Style
Guide" that the term is "Internet" not "internet"—we can argue about
"Web" vs. "web", but "Internet" is not up for negotiation!

Risk From Linux Kernel Hidden in Windows 10 Exposed at Black Hat (EWeek)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 20:42:20 -0700
via NNSquad

  Embedded within some versions of the latest Windows 10 update is a
  capability to run Linux. Unfortunately, that capability has flaws, which
  Alex Ionescu, chief architect at Crowdstrike, detailed in a session at the
  Black Hat USA security conference here and referred to as the Linux kernel
  hidden in Windows 10.  In an interview with eWEEK, Ionescu provided
  additional detail on the issues he found and has already reported to
  Microsoft.  The embedded Linux inside of Windows was first announced by
  Microsoft in March at the Build conference and bring some Ubuntu Linux
  capabilities to Microsoft's users.  Ionescu said he reported issues to
  Microsoft during the beta period and some have already been fixed. The
  larger issue, though, is that there is now a new potential attack surface
  that organizations need to know about and risks that need to be mitigated,
  he said.

Young man [shot to death] while playing Pokemon at [San Francisco] tourist attraction

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 19:55:31 -0700
via NNSquad

  A college student has been shot to death while playing "Pokemon Go" at a
  tourist attraction in San Francisco.  Authorities say 20-year-old Calvin
  Riley was shot Saturday night by an unknown assailant at Aquatic Park near
  Ghiradelli Square.  The U.S. Park police and local homicide detectives are
  investigating what led to the shooting.  A family friend told KGO-TV Riley
  and a friend were playing the popular mobile game when someone came up and
  shot the young man in the back and ran away. John Kirby said no
  confrontation or words were exchanged before the shooting.

If you're at the Rio Olympics, you've probably already been hacked

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 7 Aug 2016 18:05:42 -0700
via NNSquad

  While athletes head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete for medals in the
  2016 Summer Olympic Games, hackers in the area have their eyes on a
  different prize: the personal information of unsuspecting travelers.
  According to a new report from mobile security firm Skycure, visitors to
  the former capital of Brazil are being targeted by malicious actors who
  have set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots designed to steal information from
  connected devices. These phony wireless networks were spotted by Skycure
  around the city, but they were most prominent in locations where travelers
  were most likely to look for a place to connect, like shopping malls,
  well-known coffee shops, and hotels.

US military uses 8-inch floppy disks to coordinate nuclear force operations (CNBC)

Dan Jacobson <>
Fri, 05 Aug 2016 21:52:59 +0800

The U.S. Defense Department is still using—after several decades --
8-inch floppy disks in a computer system that coordinates the

"Flaw in Samsung Pay lets hackers wirelessly skim credit cards" (Zack Whittaker)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Fri, 05 Aug 2016 17:36:24 -0700
Zack Whittaker, ZDNet, 6 Aug 2016
The tokens that are used to make purchases can be easily stolen and
used in other hardware to make fraudulent transactions.

Re: NSA Fans: Be careful what you wish for (RISKS-29.66)

Sat, 6 Aug 2016 09:56:52 +0200
"Better to address these vulnerabilities before they are exploited than to
invite a crisis of democracy even more alarming than a reality-TV star
seeking the presidency."

And what, pray, suggests that that exploitation is not happened right now?

In the UK they already had to retrospectively change the law because GCHQ
wasn't exactly colouring inside the lines.  Given the fact that nobody ever
gets as much as a demotion for abuse of these apparati, I'd venture that
that ship has sailed.

Re: BBC to deploy detection vans to snoop on internet users

Chris Drewe <>
Sat, 06 Aug 2016 21:30:08 +0100
Item in newspaper about the authorities possibly intercepting wi-fi
communications in people's houses to check for violations of BBC TV

BBC to deploy detection vans to snoop on Internet users, 6 Aug 2016

> The BBC is to spy on [I]nternet users in their homes by deploying a new
> generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching
> its programmes online.

> BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from
> private Wi-Fi networks in homes to sniff out those who have not paid the
> licence fee.

> The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new
> technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies,
> to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the
> iPlayer must have a TV licence.

> "Detection vans can identify viewing on a non-TV device in the same way
> that they can detect viewing on a television set" Sir Amyas Morse,
> National Audit Office

Re: Study: 78% of Resold Drives Still Contain Readable Personal or Business Data (RISKS-29.64)

Wols Lists <>
Sat, 6 Aug 2016 19:23:42 +0100
> And if you don't you'll zap your home disk. So I would use 'sdz' in such
> examples.

Well, if I did that to my two desktops, I wouldn't lose anything
(important). Just Windows Vista.

One system has two mirrored disks, the other is multiboot with anything
of value on sdb and sdc.

I do agree with sdz, but don't agree with sweeping assumptions ... I
generally avoid having my home data on sda ...

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