The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 71

Monday, 22nd 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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Aviation Experts Urge Caution on Releasing Self-Driving Cars
I Just Drove Eight Hours on Tesla Autopilot and Lived to Tell the Tale
The New York Times and The Associated Press!!
"The Internet" vs "internet" and other sundry thoughts
Richard Bos
"Android malware being spread via Google Adsense"
Snowden Junior
The NSA leak is real, Snowden documents confirm
Sam Biddle
Cisco confirms NSA-linked zeroday targeted its firewalls for years
Ars Technica
"Microsoft changes Win7/8.1 updates, pushes even harder for Windows 10"
Woody Leonhard
People ignore software security warnings up to 90% of the time
Comcast's $70 gigabit offer good only in cities with Google Fiber
Chemistry group throws out election results after fears of vote rigging
Re: How to hack an election in seven minutes
Richard Bos
Re: Facebook will bypass web adblockers, but offer ad targeting opt-outs
Richard Bos
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Aviation Experts Urge Caution on Releasing Self-Driving Cars (WSJ)

Monty Solomon <>
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 12:12:25 -0400

I Just Drove Eight Hours on Tesla Autopilot and Lived to Tell the Tale

Monty Solomon <>
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 12:28:24 -0400

  [If you believe in basing probabilities on past experience, the odds of
  not living to tell the tale are one in a tens of thousands for Tesla X and
  S computer-assisted cars, and zero in millions of miles for Google
  self-driving cars.  PGN]

The New York Times and The Associated Press!!

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 14:41:04 PDT
In an Irony of Ironies, Sunday's editorial page of *The New York Times*
(with mentions of "the internet" [all lower case]) has the following
sentence in an editorial on the shortage of vaccines for the current
epidemic of yellow fever in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo:

  Angola couldn't account for a million doses [the W.H.O.] sent it early
  this year, The Associated Press recently reported.

My apologies to *The Times*: all these years in RISKS I have been mistakenly
referring to this newspaper as *the New York Times*, when actually the
Masthead clearly says its name is "The New York Times".  So now we must
refer to "The Associated Press" (although as previously noted, I think they
have earned the lower-case "the associated press") and "The Boston Globe"
and so on.  However, to be utterly consistent, I will also consistently now
refer to "The Internet" rather than my previous otherwise use of "the
Internet" (certainly a proper term) rather than the emerging media's
preference the amorphous use of "the internet".  (I actually learned the
proper use of unique proper names in my high school, which our then
long-time Principal Elizabeth Jean Brown consistently reminded us is
"The Rye High School"!)  Cheers!

Note that *The NY Times* is apparently using W.H.O. (as an incomplete
initialism for The World Health Organization), presumably because WHO would
be confusing as an mistakenly emphatic version of "who" if lower-cased—an
example I could have noted in my rant in RISKS-29.68.  I presume it would
otherwise be "The WHO" (which conjures up Dr Seuss), or "the Who" (which
conjures up the English rock band).  Yes, consistency is the hobgoblin of
little minds, so I'm certainly not trying to be consistent—just perhaps a
little annoying to some RISKS readers in pointing out a pervasive lack of
consistency elsewhere.  Maybe the doubters might now realize why it should
be "The Internet".  PGN

"The Internet" vs "internet" and other sundry thoughts (PGN, R 29 68)

Richard Bos
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 13:13:58 GMT
I'll add the Dutch perspective, here, just for comparison: according to the
Green Booklet, which contains spelling regulations for the Dutch language,
the *official* name of a *unique* institution gets a capital letter; the
same name when applied to a general category does not. This can get a little
weird at first sight. For example, Dutch capitalises the British Parliament,
but not the German parliament, because the UK Parliament is officially
called that, while the German one is the Bundestag, which is *a* parliament.

The issue is now to determine whether the Internet, or the internet, is an
official institution with an official name, or merely the largest and most
well-regulated example of an inter-network. I offer no opinion in this case
(the Green Booklet certainly doesn't!), I merely note how Dutch would
capitalise the word in each case. In fact, I can see arguments for both

Brand names also get capitals by default. So do names of companies and
organisations. In the latter cases (and presumably the former, though I
can't find this noted explicitly) the trademark holder can decide to write
his own name lower-case after all, and the public is supposed to follow
suit. However, whatever the i/Internet is, as far as I know it's not a legal
trademark.  (Also, genericised trademarks get decapitalised, so "aspirine"
is a generic analgesic while "Aspirine" is (still?) the specific Bayer
product; but the whole discussion is whether I/internet has become
genericised enough, so that doesn't help us here.)

"Android malware being spread via Google Adsense"

Gene Wirchenko <>
Thu, 18 Aug 2016 09:27:44 -0700
InfoWorld, 17 Aug 2016
Google's Adsense advertising program is used by many sites across the
Internet. But Android users should beware of some nasty malware that
is being spread by Google's Adsense network.

selected text:

     More at Neowin

  [I like to quote a relevant portion so RISKS readers can determine whether
  they should go to the full article.  Neowin disables cut-and-paste on the
  article on my computer.  Let InfoWorld get the hits.]

Snowden Junior (motherboard)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:41:45 -0500
"It's Snowden Junior" - Former NSA Employees Say NSA Hack Is The Work Of A
  "Rogue Insider"
Motherboard, 18 Aug 2016, zero hedge

The last time an NSA insider claimed that a rogue agent originating at the
spy agency itself may be the source of the recent Democratic server (and
George Soros) hacks and subsequent leaks, was three weeks ago when former
NSA employee, William Binney said that " NSA Has All Of Hillary's Deleted
Emails, It May Be The Leak
> ."

Now, in the aftermath of the latest major hack, one involving none other
than the NSA's special operations team, the "Equation Group" by a mysterious
hacker collective calling itself "The Shadow Brokers" which even the likes
of Edward Snowden
<> hinted may have been done by
Russia, speculation has returned that this latest, and most troubling hack
yet, was also an inside job.

In an interview with Motherboard, titled " Former NSA Staffers: Rogue
Insider Could Be Behind NSA Data Dump
<> " an anonymous insider has said that the chances of a hacker
remotely breaking into the National Security Agency's systems are very
unlikely. Despite accusations that the leak is Russia's meddling, the data
dropped online under the name "the Shadow Brokers" would have required
someone with the ability to access the NSA's server, the former NSA employee
told the news outlet.

As Motherboard puts it, an insider could have stolen the NSA hacking tools
from the NSA, in a similar fashion to how former NSA contractor Edward
Snowden stole an untold number of the spy agency's top secret documents.
This theory is being pushed by someone who claims to be, himself, a former
NSA insider. [...]

The NSA leak is real, Snowden documents confirm (Sam Biddle)

Hendricks Dewayne <>
August 21, 2016 at 1:46:10 AM GMT+9
Sam Biddle, 19 Aug 2016  [Re: RISKS-29.69.70]

On Monday, a hacking group calling itself the ShadowBrokers announced an
auction for what it claimed were cyberweapons made by the NSA. Based on
never-before-published documents provided by the whistleblower Edward
Snowden, The Intercept can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA
software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect
computers worldwide.

The provenance of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week
among cybersecurity experts, and while it remains unclear how the software
leaked, one thing is now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the
NSA's virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency.

The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an agency
manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden,
and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA
operators to track their use of one malware program using a specific
16-character string, ace02468bdf13579.  That exact same string appears
throughout the ShadowBrokers leak in code associated with the same program,

SECONDDATE plays a specialized role inside a complex global system built by
the U.S. government to infect and monitor what one document estimated to be
millions of computers around the world. Its release by ShadowBrokers,
alongside dozens of other malicious tools, marks the first time any full
copies of the NSA's offensive software have been available to the public,
providing a glimpse at how an elaborate system outlined in the Snowden
documents looks when deployed in the real world, as well as concrete
evidence that NSA hackers don't always have the last word when it comes to
computer exploitation.

But malicious software of this sophistication doesn't just pose a threat to
foreign governments, Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green
told The Intercept:

  The danger of these exploits is that they can be used to target anyone who
  is using a vulnerable router. This is the equivalent of leaving
  lockpicking tools lying around a high school cafeteria. It's worse, in
  fact, because many of these exploits are not available through any other
  means, so they're just now coming to the attention of the firewall and
  router manufacturers that need to fix them, as well as the customers that
  are vulnerable.

So the risk is twofold: first, that the person or persons who stole this
information might have used them against us. If this is indeed Russia, then
one assumes that they probably have their own exploits, but there's no need
to give them any more. And now that the exploits have been released, we run
the risk that ordinary criminals will use them against corporate targets.

The NSA did not respond to questions concerning ShadowBrokers, the Snowden documents, or its malware.

Cisco confirms NSA-linked zeroday targeted its firewalls for years

Lauren Weinstein <>
Wed, 17 Aug 2016 16:20:56 -0700
Ars Technica via  NNSquad

  To exploit the vulnerability, an attacker must control a computer already
  authorized to access the firewall or the firewall must have been
  misconfigured to omit this standard safeguard.  "It's still a critical
  vulnerability even though it requires access to the internal or management
  network, as once exploited it gives the attacker the opportunity to
  monitor all network traffic," Mustafa Al-Bassam, a security researcher,
  told Ars. "I wouldn't imagine it would be difficult for the NSA to get
  access to a device in a large company's internal network, especially if it
  was a datacenter."

Depends on the company, of course. But still another reason why moving away
from enterprise firewall models toward individual device/user authentication
models is important.

"Microsoft changes Win7/8.1 updates, pushes even harder for Windows 10" (Woody Leonhard)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Thu, 18 Aug 2016 09:39:10 -0700
Woody Leonhard, InfoWorld, 16 Aug, 2016
Starting in October, patches will be cumulative and Win7/8.1
customers will effectively cede control of their PCs to Microsoft
Microsoft changes Win7/8.1 updates, pushes even harder for Windows 10

opening text:

Windows 7 and 8.1 have had a good run, but that's about to come to a
close. According to new guidelines, Microsoft will start rolling out Windows
7 and 8.1 (as well as Server 2008 R2, 2012, and 2012 R2) patches in
undifferentiated monthly blobs. The patches will be cumulative, which
eliminates the need to exercise judgment in selecting the patches you
want. At the same time, though, the new approach severely hampers your
ability to recover from bad patches—and it allows Microsoft to put
anything it wants on your Win7/8.1 PC.

  If you haven't yet read Nathan Mercer's Aug. 15 post on further
  simplifying servicing models for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, I suggest you
  do so now.

People ignore software security warnings up to 90% of the time

Lauren Weinstein <>
Wed, 17 Aug 2016 16:54:31 -0700 via NNSquad

  A new study from BYU, in collaboration with Google Chrome engineers, finds
  the status quo of warning messages appearing haphazardly—while people
  are typing, watching a video, uploading files, etc.—results in up to 90
  percent of users disregarding them.  Researchers found these times are
  less effective because of "dual task interference," a neural limitation
  where even simple tasks can't be simultaneously performed without
  significant performance loss. Or, in human terms, multitasking.

It's not just a matter of when they're presented. Another aspect of the
problem is that people stop paying attention to these warnings because they
simply don't trust them. They've been bombarded by so many fake warnings and
crooked false alarms—and in millions of cases burned by them—that they
simply refuse to react to new warnings on a reliable basis because they
don't have the expertise to judge if they're real or not. A completely
sensible attitude in key respects from their standpoints, unfortunately.

Comcast's $70 gigabit offer good only in cities with Google Fiber

Lauren Weinstein <>
Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:56:33 -0700

  But when Comcast announced gigabit Internet for parts of Chicago this
  week, the no-contract price of $139.95 was the only one mentioned. The
  difference, as DSLRreports wrote today, is that there's no Google Fiber
  providing competition in Chicago yet. While Google Fiber has tentative
  plans to expand to Chicago, its $70 gigabit Internet service is already
  available in parts of Atlanta and Nashville ...  Unlike Google Fiber and
  AT&T's GigaPower fiber service, Comcast's gigabit cable doesn't offer
  symmetrical speeds. New DOCSIS 3.1 (Data over Cable Service Interface
  Specification) technology dramatically increases download speeds, but the
  Comcast offering is just 35Mbps upstream. Comcast does have a symmetrical
  2Gbps residential Internet service that uses fiber, but it costs $300 a
  month with installation and activation fees of up to $1,000.

If this doesn't shine a floodlight on the impact of competition in the
ISP access marketplace, nothing can. Proof that when a dominant ISP
doesn't have effective competition, they feel free to screw consumers.
It's right there in black and white!

Chemistry group throws out election results after fears of vote rigging

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Fri, 19 Aug 2016 14:18:14 PDT

Re: How to hack an election in seven minutes (Ben Wofford, RISKS-29.68)

Richard Bos
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 13:13:58 GMT
And another bit of Dutch perspective: this happened in our country, too, and
I don't think anyone wants the voting machines back. (Then again, we don't
vote for prison directors or dog inspectors, and we don't have half a dozen
elections on the same day.)

Re: Facebook will bypass web adblockers, but offer ad targeting opt-outs (LW, RISKS-29.68)

Richard Bos
Sun, 21 Aug 2016 13:13:58 GMT
> It should be noted that Google has *long* offered detailed controls to users
> over both local and third-party ad targeting, at:

Well, except that (1) this setting *demands* that you accept third-party
cookies, which is in itself a privacy risk - and Google knows that; and (2)
it works properly only if you're permanently logged in to a Google account,
which ditto and ditto.  "Do No Evil" is less and less applicable.

Just use an ad blocker; it's a necessity these days, not so much to stop
seeing ads (I don't care much about static, silent, non-executing ads) as to
stop the malware, both the intentional kind and the ones that lag your
machine out of sheer incompetence. These kinds of ads keep appearing despite
the advertisers' and advertisement vendors' "best" efforts; unless and until
they *provably* clean up their act, an ad blocker is a requirement for
safely browsing the web. And Google isn't even the worst, merely the largest
-- but they're hardly to be trusted, either.

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