The RISKS Digest
Volume 29 Issue 81

Tuesday, 4th October 2016

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…


Internet: Quo Vadis—Where are you going?
Karl Auerbach via Geoff Goodfellow
Two items on election system integrity
Source code for IoT botnet Mirai Released Krebs 1 Oct
Werner U
Leaking Beeps: Here's A Reason to Kick Pagers out of Hospitals
Natasha Hellberg via Werner U
AMPAS's Work on Digital Preservation
Lauren Weinstein
Re: Risks of using URLs that people imagine are spammers in posts
John Levine
Keith F. Lynch
John Levine
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Internet: Quo Vadis—Where are you going? (Karl Auerbach)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <>
Mon, 3 Oct 2016 19:00:21 -1000
Karl Auerbach's blog:

  [PGN-excerpted.  The text is Karl's, except for being PGN-ed for RISKS
  proper-noun usage of the "Internet"]

I do not believe that the Future Internet will be a Utopia.  Nor do I
believe that the Future Internet will be like some beautiful angel, bringing
peace, virtue, equality, and justice.

  [Not visible on my screen in text at precisely this point, the text "Big
  Brother" subliminally appeared when I copied the surrounding text into
  this issue!  On a little inspection, it was clear that this resulted from
  a lovely screen shot related to Orwell's "1984" to the right of the text.
  Karl, that is VERY CLEVER!  PGN]

Instead I believe that there are strong, probably irresistible, forces
working to lock down and partition The Internet.

I believe that the Future Internet will be composed of *islands*.

These islands will tend to coincide with countries, cultures, or companies.

There will be barriers between these islands.  And to cross those barriers
there will be explicit bridges between various islands.

Network traffic that moves over these bridges will be observed, monitored,
regulated, limited, and taxed.

The Future Internet will be used as a tool for power, control, and wealth.

And to a large degree the users of this Future Internet will not care about

This paper describes this future—a future more likely than the halcyon
world painted by others.

  [Subliminally, OrWell that ends NotWell!  Island, ULand, WeAllLand
  in the same pickle, but perhaps on different Islands.  PGN]

Two items on election system integrity

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Tue, 4 Oct 2016 13:31:51 PDT
1. California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that permits
   voters to take selfies with their completed ballot.

There are at least two problems with this bill.  First, ballot choices are
supposed to be private.  Second, a voter could take multiple selfies, e.g.,
one for one candidate and the other for another—perhaps in hopes of
selling his/her ballot choices multiply.  Please do not forget the 2010
Kentucky Clay County convictions for five defendants (including a former
circuit-court judge) over three election cycles (2002, 2004, 2006), for
vote-buying and election rigging.  In 2006, they selectively misinformed
voters that "click here to cast your ballot" actually cast your ballot, when
ballot choices could still be altered by a hidden item that said "click here
to change your ballot"; they then were able to change the ballot choices on
those folks who believed them, as desired.  (See RISKS-25.76 and 25.77.)

This is another case of let the seller beware, as well as the buyer.

2. Bob Sullivan recently interviewed Harri Hursti relating to the Russians
   reportedly hacking into voter registration databases.  The result is a
   fascinating and very thoughtful piece.  (Harri is well known for his
   appearance in the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy".  Also, see
   RISKS-23.94, 24.42, 26.91, 27.11.)

Source code_for IoT botnet Mirai Released Krebs 1 Oct

Werner U <>
Mon, 3 Oct 2016 09:13:12 +0200
  [Given Real-World events and dynamics, a nasty cyberwar becomes more
  likely in the near future...  have you come across any write-ups advising
  folks that they need to prepare for it, and how?  the virtual-world
  equivalent of preparing for an approaching hurricane? ...]

Source Code for IoT Botnet Mirai Released

The source code that powers the Internet of Things (IoT) botnet responsible
for launching the historically large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)
attack against KrebsOnSecurity last month has been publicly released,
virtually guaranteeing that the Internet will soon be flooded with attacks
from many new botnets powered by insecure routers, IP cameras, digital video
recorders and other easily hackable devices.  The leak of the source code
was announced Friday on the English-language hacking community *Hackforums*.
The malware, dubbed *Mirai*, spreads to vulnerable devices by continuously
scanning the Internet for IoT systems protected by factory default or
hard-coded usernames and passwords.


Vulnerable devices are then seeded with malicious software that turns them
into bots, forcing them to report to a central control server that can be
used as a staging ground for launching powerful DDoS attacks designed to
knock Web sites offline.  The Hackforums user who released the code, using
the nickname *Anna-senpai*, told forum members the source code was being
released in response to increased scrutiny from the security
industry.  [...]

Sources tell KrebsOnSecurity that Mirai is one of at least two malware
families that are currently being used to quickly assemble very large
IoT-based DDoS armies. The other dominant strain of IoT malware, dubbed
*Bashlight*, functions similarly to Mirai in that it also infects systems
via default usernames and passwords on IoT devices.

According to research from security firm *Level3 Communications*, the
Bashlight botnet currently is responsible for enslaving nearly a million IoT
devices and is in direct competition with botnets based on Mirai. [...]

Infected systems can be cleaned up by simply rebooting them—thus wiping
the malicious code from memory. But experts say there is so much constant
scanning going on for vulnerable systems that *vulnerable IoT devices can be
re-infected within minutes of a reboot*. Only changing the default password
protects them from rapidly being reinfected on reboot. [...]

My guess is that (if it's not already happening) there will soon be many
Internet users complaining to their ISPs about slow Internet speeds as a
result of hacked IoT devices on their network hogging all the bandwidth. On
the bright side, if that happens it may help to lessen the number of
vulnerable systems.

On the not-so-cheerful side, there are plenty of new, default-insecure IoT
devices being plugged into the Internet each day. *Gartner Inc.* forecasts
<> that 6.4 billion connected
things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will
reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get
connected each day, Gartner estimates.

For more on what we can and must do about the dawning IoT nightmare, see the
second half of this week's story, The Democratization of Censorship
In the meantime, this post
from *Sucuri Inc. *points to some of the hardware makers whose
default-insecure products are powering this IoT mess.

  [If you have difficulties downloading it, you might try this URL:

Leaking Beeps: Here's A Reason to Kick Pagers out of Hospitals (Natasha Hellberg)

Werner U <>
Mon, 3 Oct 2016 06:23:23 +0200
Natasha Hellberg (Senior Threat Researcher)
TrendMicro, Targeted Attacks, 26 Sep 2016,

Today, the Trend Micro Forward-Looking Threat Research team released the
paper *Leaking Beeps: Unencrypted Pager Messages in the Healthcare
Industry*, our research about a weakness we identified in pager
technology. If you are concerned about keeping your health information
private, I would highly recommend you read through it.  I, for one, was not
expecting the findings we made.  Pagers are secure, right?  We've used them
for decades, they are hard to monitor, and that's why some of our most
trusted industries use them, including the healthcare sector.

Nope. Wrong. All it took to see hospital information* in clear text *from
hundreds of miles (or kilometers if you are a non-US person like me) away is
an SDR software and a USB dongle.  Frankly, I was stunned.  The problem with
pagers—like many other technologies—is that they were designed and
developed in a bygone era, and very few people go back to see if current
technologies easily break the trust we had in these older ones or not (by
virtue of making ease of monitoring—accidental or intentional --
something easily done by a common person).

...READ MORE at:

AMPAS' Work on Digital Preservation

Lauren Weinstein <>
Mon, 3 Oct 2016 09:07:29 -0700
via NNSquad

On the topic of digital preservation and future compatibility: I want to
point out the truly excellent work being done in this area by AMPAS (Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—the Oscar folks) on preserving
digital assets into the future. As you can imagine, with the move of
virtually all motion picture production into digital media, this is an area
of enormous concern to them—and to me!  They've issued two "Digital
Dilemma" reports to date that are important reading:


I strongly recommend reading these, before it's too late.

Re: Risks of using URLs that people imagine are spammers in posts (Lynch, R 29 80)

"John Levine" <>
3 Oct 2016 21:09:24 -0000
>"Russian intelligence services seem responsible for hacking German
> political groups" cited a URL on the notorious spam website --
> c o n s t a n t c o n t a c t . c o m
> I expect that lots of people didn't get the digest for that reason, ...

That seems unlikely.  C.C is a large email service provider whose target
market is small businesses and non-profits, including very small ones like
PTAs and boy scout troops.  While they certainly get their share of sleazy
signups, in my experience they do a good job of managing what they send, and
their mail is cleaner than competitors like Sendgrid.  The PTAs and scout
troop members actively want the mail and would be unhappy if overeager spam
filters discarded it.

The particular message had one line of text and a URL, which is a pattern
I've seen in vast amounts of phish and malware.  As likely as not it was the
text+url rather than the particular domain.  I also happen to know the guy
who hosts your mail and would be surprised if he were blocking mail based on
oversimple domain checks.

But the real problem is that you can't tell.  It disappeared, you can't tell

  [The following two messages may be ignored if you are not into this
  thread.  I thought about rejecting them, but decided that the discussion
  was worth sharing.  PGN]

Re: Risks of using URLs that people imagine are spammers in posts

"Keith F. Lynch" <>
Mon, 3 Oct 2016 18:32:24 -0400 (EDT)
If you're correct, then I'm at risk of being sued for libel.  But I'm
not worried about it, since truth is a defense.

I roll my own procmail filters, and they log exactly why.  Mostly so I can
remove any filters which are no longer catching anything.  CC is in no
danger of being removed.  Here are some recent catches.  (I've removed
"" so that this message doesn't trigger the same filter.)  Except
for the Risks Digest, I've never signed up for any of these lists.  All of
these unrequested messages are obviously advertising.  Unsolicited
advertising email is spam by definition.  CC is a spam site.

Why would anyone consent to having their mailbox stuffed with random ads?
It's just not plausible that enough people would do so for a viable business
model.  CC's defense is as plausible as a burglars defense that he only
breaks into houses whose owners consented to have their windows smashed and
their valuables taken in the middle of the night, and if on very rare
occasions he makes a mistake and steals from a home whose owner didn't
consent, well, he's working hard at all times to make sure it doesn't happen
again.  Do you think any jury is that gullible?

And yet people continue to believe spammer claims that everyone opted in,
and even if they didn't, all they have to do is "just press delete" and send
an email asking to be removed.

Before I got wise, I sent several tens of thousands of remove requests, and
signed up with a similar number of remove lists, including more than a dozen
"universal" or "global" remove lists.  The only result?  More spam than

Each spammer ought to be locked up with a computer, until he has "just
pressed delete" once for every spam he caused to be sent.  Twice a day he'd
get an email saying that his meal is ready, and if he accidentally deletes
that message, he misses that meal, so he'd have to pay attention to every
message just like all of his victims who wanted to get any use of email have
to.  How long would his sentence be?  Well, a billion seconds is more than
30 years, and plenty of spammers have sent more than a billion spams.  A few
send more than that many every day, more than a trillion over their career.
As such, some individual spammers are responsible for a loss of useful life
comparable to that of the 9/11 terrorists.  Instead of stealing about a
billion seconds from each of 3000 people, they steal about 3000 seconds from
each of a billion people.

Have you noticed how difficult it's become to find anyone's email address?
More and more people are treating it as private, so as to keep their mailbox
from being choked with spam.  Indeed, revealing email addresses is often
considered a data breach.

Anyhow, here are my recent CC spams, as logged by procmail:

  [PGN-pruned 61 of Keith's logged messages, clearly gratuitous for RISKS.]

Re: Risks of using URLs that people imagine are spammers in posts

"John R. Levine" <>
3 Oct 2016 19:20:30 -0400
Sorry to burst your bubble, but if I showed your rant to CC, I expect
their response would be wry amusement.

> Unsolicited advertising email is spam by definition.  CC is a spam site.

If your standard is that you reject mail from anyone who's ever sent you
spam, it's hard to think of any non-trivial mail system whose mail you would
accept.  Pretty much every university in the country has sent spam to my
users as has Comcast, Verizon, Yahoo, and of course we get tons from Gmail,
currently mostly sleazy Indian SEO.  But if you want to block CC, go ahead,
they won't mind.

I go to MAAWG meetings with both a lot of email service providers and all of
the large consumer mail systems.  Really, CC is not a problem.  Sure, they
have clueless customers who scrape addresses off the net or who buy lists
("but he said it was 100% double opt-in") and they do a reasonably good but
not perfect job of policing those customers.  In my experience, when I
report spam they fire the customer (for real, I have a zillion spam traps
and if they were washing individual addresses, I'd know.)

If the clueless little customers didn't use someone like CC, they'd be
sending mail using bcc from their desktop mail program, with nobody handling
bounces, or watching their mail quality.  Be careful what you wish for.

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