The Risks Digest

The RISKS Digest

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Volume 29 Issue 86

Wednesday 19 October 2016


Automated machine-guns to be deployed at Turkish-Syrian border
Michael Weiner
Self-driving cars shouldn't have to choose who to protect in a crash
Frank Pasquale
Bacteria on Device Said to Infect at Least 12 Patients in Pennsylvania
97% of Java apps harbor a known security hole
Fortune via Lillie Coney
Russian Hackers Faked Gmail Password Form To Invade DNC Email System
Buzzfeed via Joly MacFie
Krebs on IoT security
Re: Undetectable election hacking?
John Levine
Anthony Youngman
Mark E. Smith
Re: Samsung discontinues Galaxy Note 7 after battery debacle
Anthony Youngman
Al Mac
David Brodbeck
Re: Lithium batteries
Peter Miller
Re: The risks of getting your email address wrong
Lindsay Marshall
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Automated machine-guns to be deployed at Turkish-Syrian border

Michael Weiner <>
19 October 2016 at 23:07:19 GMT+2
Yeni Safak, a Turkish daily, reports that a wall the Turkish government is
building along the Turkish-Syrian border will include shooting gun towers.
Thermal cameras and alert systems will detect anyone coming within 300
meters of the border line. The tower will issue warnings in three languages
to leave the area immediately. A computer-controlled machine gun will start
firing at the person if they do not comply.

  What could possibly go wrong?  It is sad that the issue of legal
  accountability for algorithms is highlighted by such an extreme case.

  [Shooting at Turkey's <border> in a barrel (gunsight>?  NOT FUNNY.  PGN]

Self-driving cars shouldn't have to choose who to protect in a crash (Frank Pasquale)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Wed, 19 Oct 2016 8:22:17 PDT
Frank Pasquale, Get Off the Trolley Problem
Slate, New America, and ASU

Imagine you are driving down a two-lane road at about 45 miles per hour,
cruising home. You see a group of kids walking home from school about 100
yards ahead. Just as you're about to pass by them, an oncoming 18-wheeler
swerves out of its lane and is about to hit you head on. You have seconds,
tops, to decide: Sacrifice yourself, or hit the children so you can avoid
the truck.

I like to think that, if asked in advance, most people would choose not to
gh into the kids. As the automation of driving advances, there's a way
to hard-code that decision into vehicles. Many cars already detect whether a
toddler in a driveway is about to be run over by a driver with a blind spot.
They even beep when other vehicles are in danger of being bumped.
Transitioning from an alert system to a hard-wired hard stop is technically
possible. And if that's possible, so is an automatic brake that would
prevent a driver from swerving to save herself at the expense of many

But the decision can also be coded the other way—to put the car
occupants' interests above all others. Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes' manager
of driver assistance systems, active safety, and ratings, appeared to push
this vision of the future of more fully autonomous vehicles in a recent
article in Car and Driver.  “You could sacrifice the car, but then the
people you've saved, you don't know what happens to them after that in
situations that are often very complex, so you save the ones you know you
can save.  If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that
one. Save the one in the car.'' (Mercedes has since said that Hugo was
*quoted incorrectly* and that “[f]or Daimler it is clear that neither
programmers nor automated systems are entitled to weigh the value of human
lives. Our development work focuses on completely avoiding dilemma situation
by, for example, implementing a risk-avoiding operating strategy in our

Some ethicists classify decisions like von Hugo's as a solution to a
*trolley problem*, after the famous series of thought experiments presented
by Judith Jarvis Thomson to challenge simple utilitarianism. Jarvis Thomson,
a professor of philosophy, stylized ethical dilemmas in a series of
hypotheticals. Would you divert an oncoming trolley away from hitting five
schoolchildren if your decision meant it killed one person instead? Would
you push a very heavy person over a bridge onto the tracks in front of the
trolley to slow it down and keep it from hitting another person? The trolley
problem was a classic example of an *intuition pump*, capable of eliciting
responses ranging from the judicious to the zany. It's even satirized in
memes .

So how do you solve a trolley problem? Some believe the answer is to give
car owners ever more granular control. Enlightened drivers might choose a
general rule of *save me first* but soften it to include more
self-sacrificial options in case of mass casualties. Or they might not. Mere
awareness that others are not willing to sacrifice for the common good could
tip the system toward selfishness, or worse. The same individualism that has
undermined U.S. organ donation rates would probably be even more influential
in driver decision-making here.

So perhaps increasingly autonomous cars should abide by common rules,
setting the same terms of safety and danger for all. The Moral Machine
project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is soliciting feedback on
user responses to ethical dilemmas. With a large enough data set on how
research subjects respond to simulated crashes, programmers might try to
assure that car code of the future reflects our current judgments (or at
least those of the people who participate in the Moral Machine). For
example, if 80 percent of subjects chose self-sacrifice in the *hit the
truck or the children* scenario at the beginning of this article, that
could become the coded rule for such tragic choices. Programmers might also
tilt the code in a more utilitarian direction, nudging automation toward
better societal outcomes.  Noodling about variations on the trolley problem
could occupy car-makers, programmers, and research subjects for years. What
if only one child were sacrificed by a decision to avoid the truck? Do
elderly persons deserve more, less, or the same consideration as children?
But a better question might be: Why are automobiles traveling so close to
pedestrians in the first place? The nonprofit safety advocacy organization
Transportation for America has studied the enormous (and troubling)
variation among pedestrian death rates in major American cities. The worst
places, such as Florida suburbs and exurbs, feature urban design that makes
it all too easy for drivers of any stripe—man or machine—to crash into
pedestrians. Safety is not just a problem of code—physical infrastructure
matters, too. And the disastrous scenario with the 18-wheeler and the group
of kids might never happen if proper dividers separate oncoming lanes of

Even if those stronger barriers don't come to pass, though, worry over
trolley problems should not freeze autonomous car initiatives. Human error
is the root cause of thousands of traffic deaths each year. The Department
of Transportation has rightly prioritized self-driving cars' development,
and local authorities could do more to advance their adoption. But the
question of who is sacrificed in tragic scenarios is not one that can be
submerged in the general utilitarian calculus of lives saved via robot
cars. Both law and software code have an expressive function as well,
favoring some of our values over others.

There will always be conflicts among cars, pedestrians, robots, drones, and
bikers over the proper share of space and respect each deserves. We need
individualistic, technical solutions to some of the problems that will
result as new modes of driving arise and robot delivery services share
sidewalks with people. But we also need holistic, big-picture thinking. As
policymakers set the rules of the road for 21st-century mobility, they
should listen to the urban planners, social scientists, and advocates who've
spent decades thinking about how to build better, more livable
communities. Transport isn't just a technical problem: It's a human and
social one, with political implications far beyond arid intellectual models
of utilitarian markets.

This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State
University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging
technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on
Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Frank Pasquale is a professor of law at the University of Maryland and
author of The Black Box Society.

  [Thanks to Marc Rotenberg for spotting this one.  PGN]

Bacteria on Device Said to Infect at Least 12 Patients in Pennsylvania

Monty Solomon <>
Sun, 16 Oct 2016 00:07:08 -0400
A CDC inquiry found that a machine used in open-heart surgery at a hospital
was probably tainted at the plant in Germany where it was made.

97% of Java apps harbor a known security hole

Lillie Coney <>
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 15:28:40 -0400

Russian Hackers Faked Gmail Password Form To Invade DNC Email System

Joly MacFie <>
October 17, 2016 at 5:42:31 PM EDT

San Francisco—Russian hackers used emails disguised to look as Gmail
security updates to hack into the computers of the Democratic National
Committee (DNC) and members of Hillary Clinton's top campaign staff,
according to a report by the SecureWorks cybersecurity company.

The emails, which were sent to DNC and Clinton staff from March 10, appeared
almost identical to the standard warnings Gmail users get asking them to
reset their passwords, the report found. Once clicked, the links took users
to a page that imitated a Google login page, but which was stealing their
password information—and downloading malware—designed by a group of
Russian hackers known as Fancy Bear.

The emails were sent to 108 members of Democratic presidential nominee
Hillary Clinton's campaign and 20 people clicked on them, at least four
people clicking more than once, Secureworks' research found. The emails were
sent to another 16 people from the DNC and four people clicked on them, the
report said.

Krebs on IoT security

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 17 Oct 2016 4:56:30 PDT
What "Things" were under attack in the Krebs revelations?

Re: Undetectable election hacking? (Smith, RISKS-29.85)

"John Levine" <>
15 Oct 2016 20:24:11 -0000
> Would you use an ATM if there was only a chance that you'd get your money
> or that your deposit would be credited to your account?

If I were trying to get my car out of a parking garage, the garage took only
cash, and closed in 15 minutes, you bet I would—and so would you.  They
won't wait, and neither will election calendars.

While it is certainly true that there is too much cruddy automated election
equipment, it's pure self-indulgence to imagine that anyone cares if a few
individuals stamp their feet and refuse to vote because they don't like the
technology.  Vastly more people in the US refuse to vote purely because they
can't be bothered to go to the polls, and there's no way anyone can tell you
from them.

If you want to fix the voting process, you fix it by pressuring election
officials to fix it.  It's not impossible—here in NY we went directly
from lever machines, which have truly awful security properties, to hand
marked paper ballots that are scanned by machine but retained so they can be
recounted by hand if need be.

By the way, I think we need a law of discourse that says anyone who compares
voting to bank ATMs immediately loses the argument.  The security and threat
models are completely totally different, and the only similarity is that
some of the machines happen to have been made by Diebold.

Re: Undetectable election hacking? (Sebes, RISKS-29.85)

Anthony Youngman <>
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 22:33:36 +0100
But how can an election be legitimate if OVER HALF the voters select
party A, and yet party B wins?

Or if party A gets 40% of the votes, and 60% of the seats; party B gets 30%
of the vote and 30% of the seats; and party C gets 30% of the vote, and 10%
of the seats?

*That* is why so many people don't vote. Why should I bother, if my vote is
so unlikely to make a difference? What's the point?  *That* is why people
are fleeing politics in droves.

(I'm a Brit. Example 1 was an election in the 1950s. Example 2 was 1982 (or
was it 1983?))

If you want people to vote, you need to convince them that the person they
*want* to vote for, stands a *decent* chance. As it stands, most people vote
for the "least worst" candidate, and too many people take the attitude "a
plague on ALL your houses!".

Re: Undetectable election hacking? ("3daygoaty" RISKS-29.85) notsp

"Mark E. Smith" <>
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 14:50:15 -0700
> "This is of course a divergent rant that takes us away from cyberrisks."

Anyone following this discussion would be aware that when I wrote "whoever
takes office," the risk is that due to the potential for hacking,
unverifiable results, and Constitutional constraints, the person who takes
office might not be the person who was elected.

> "You don't vote for your own good, you vote for the good of everyone else."

When the only viable choices are two evils, voting for a nonviable choice,
casting an informal ballot, or choosing what an individual may consider to
the be lesser of the two evils, is not for the good of anyone else, it is
for evil anyway you look at it.

> "...many Australians try to avoid voting by not registering to vote..."

Australia has begun registering voters automatically.

"Even if I live in a safe left wing seat and right wing votes appear to be
for naught, the number of right wing votes conveys information and this
affects how audacious the left wing government of this seat behaves."

That's because Australia has instant run-off voting and proportional
representation, so the number of minority votes in a given district could
affect future elections. In the US we have winner-take-all elections, so the
candidates or parties that lose by only getting 49% of the vote compared to
an opponent's 51%, have as much influence (none) as those who lose by
getting 1% of the votes to an opponent's 99%. In Australia, the losers have
a minority voice in government, in the US losers like third parties have no
seats and no voice whatsoever.

Moreover, in the US, the so-called "left" has proven to be more
audacious in carrying out right-wing policy than the right, starting
more wars, taking away more freedoms, spending more money on military
adventurism and support for foreign terrorists, and in ignoring
domestic needs.

Australians are probably more amenable to voting than US citizens because as
a British Commonwealth, you are not expected to vote, even indirectly, for
your monarch. The British monarchy is hereditary and not subject to a vote
by its subjects.

There is always the risk that a computer or a list reader might compare
apples to oranges if they have incomplete data and/or are not capable of
making such distinctions.

Re: Samsung discontinues Galaxy Note 7 after battery debacle (Kristiansen, R 29 85)

Anthony Youngman <>
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 23:02:30 +0100
The problem is not abandoned batteries, but abandoned CHARGED batteries.
Any battery that is short-circuited will discharge violently and possibly
explode (it's thought that Samsung's batteries are vulnerable to being
squeezed during manufacture, which damages the insulation between cathode
and anode. This causes lithium crystals to form which puncture the
insulation and cause a short circuit).

I have some high-capacity AA batteries which self-discharge in weeks.  These
would be harmless if abandoned. But many batteries are marketed with a fully
charged shelf life of years. These are dangerous.

But basically, the older the batteries when they are disposed of, the less
charge they hold and the quicker they discharge, so the lower the risk of an

Re: Samsung discontinues Galaxy Note 7 after battery debacle (Kristiansen, RISKS-29.85)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <>
Sun, 16 Oct 2016 06:03:24 -0500
Hopefully, most batteries will be dismantled and/or recycled in a safe
manner. But it is inevitable that some will end up in places where they
don't really belong: Landfills, incinerators, shredders, or just left or
dropped somewhere.

Improper disposal, of hazardous waste, is a familiar activity.

Proper disposal of hazardous materials has long been a topic understood by
people in the industries of those materials, but often not in the minds of
the end customers of the materials.  I think that auto batteries may be a
good model for smart phone batteries.  The batteries industry has guidance
on how to safely dispose of these products.  How many consumers pay

In recent memory, there had to be mass disposal of hover boards, after some
spectacular incidents , including several house fires.  How were those
devices disposed of, by saddened customers, and places involved in the

In my household and possession, I have batteries for: clocks; flash lights;
hearing aid; room fresheners; smoke detectors; UPS; and other products.

When we get new parts into our autos, by some auto mechanic, there are
regulations for the proper disposal of the old parts, oil and other fluids.

There are chemicals used for cooling, which need proper disposal. PCBs?

A problem comes when the end user, be it a person or a company, disposes of
technology, in ignorance of risks to the public if they are dumped any old

One of the most dangerous has been disposal of radiological materials, which
were safe in their original gadgets, but deadly when the gadgets are
dismantled by people ignorant of the poison inside, or aware, but ignorant
of long term risks.

* Wikipedia has a directory of notable incidents of improper disposal of
hazardous waste.

* St. Louis MO has an underground fire thanks to improper disposal of US
government Manhattan Project era radioactive materials.  This news from a
year ago.)

Re: Samsung discontinues Galaxy Note 7 after battery debacle (Kristiansen, RISKS-29.85)

David Brodbeck <>
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 16:03:30 -0700
Erling Kristiansen wrote:

>  Does anybody have a feel for how real this problem is?  Will discarded
>  batteries remain time bombs forever, or are they likely to degrade
>  gracefully into something less hazardous after some time?"

While I can't speak to all of those categories, I really don't expect
electric car batteries to be a problem. Disposal of junked cars is already a
HIGHLY regulated industry, with requirements for removing the fuel tank,
lead-acid battery, etc. and properly disposing of them.  Additionally, the
materials in the battery have value, so for batteries that large there'll be
an economic incentive to recover them.

Re: Lithium batteries (Kristiansen, RISKS-29.85)

Peter Miller <>
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 16:31:10 +0100
Further to Erling Kristiansen's comment about lithium batteries, if you
search using your favourite web-searcher for 'waste fire lithium' there are
numerous reports of fires in waste handling facilities around the world
which have been attributed to improperly disposed of lithium batteries. Most
problems appear to be caused by consumer devices discarded as general
municipal waste which will normally get crushed and shredded as part of the
material handling process. Many consumers will not make the effort to (or
are unable to) remove and safely discharge embedded lithium batteries before
disposing of an old/unwanted small electronic gadget in the simplest and
most convenient way possible - into the refuse (UK) / trash (US) bin. Some
people in the waste management business have expressed concern that the
problem will get worse as larger capacity batteries find their way into
consumer products.

Re: The risks of getting your email address wrong

Lindsay Marshall <>
Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:27:59 +0000
I too have terrible problems with people with the same name. There are
several Lindsay Marshalls with gmail addresses. One of them has
lindsay.m.marshall, but never uses the dots and so it becomes
lindsaymmarshall, and nobody sees the double m. Another has
lindsay.marshall1, and you can see the problem there too. Using the dots
helps of course, but many people are very skeptical when I tell them that
the dots are all ignored by gmail so can be put anywhere to help

So I get lots of invitations to women volleyball, offers of houses to rent,
dental appointments etc. The worst though are forums that I get signed up
for where there is no way to delete the login and no way to alter mailing
preferences to shut them up.

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