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 30 Issue 09

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Contents

Tesla driver stranded because outside of cellphone coverage
Mark Thorson
Nissan's Path to Self-Driving Cars? Humans in Call Centers
Alex Davies via Gabe Goldberg
Automation is already here, and it's taking jobs and annoying customers
QZ
India gov banks compromised
Economic Times via Alister Wm Macintyre
Finally Revealed: Cloudflare Has Been Fighting NSL for Years
EFF
In the UK, Silent Emergency Assistance Can Come to the Rescue
Jonathan B Spira
"Pay the ransom? You won't get your data back"
Fahmida Y. Rashid
"Professionally designed ransomware Spora might be the next big thing"
Lucian Constantin
Google and the Misinformed Public
Chronicle of Higher Education
Why Google must start labeling highly ranked fake news results
Lauren Weinstein
Facebook to roll out fake news tools in Germany
BBC
"Families of ISIS victims sue Twitter for being 'weapon for terrorism'"
Sharon Gaudin
How Netflix Is Deepening Our Cultural Echo Chambers
The New York Times
Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Update Installs Chrome Browser Extension
Gabe Goldberg
Unacceptable Adobe Behavior: Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Update Installs Chrome Browser Extension
Lauren Weinstein
Surprising results on Chinese government manipulation of social media
GKing
"Forced to watch child porn for their job, Microsoft employees developed PTSD, they say"
Greg Hadley
Secret WWI telegram holds lessons for today, historians say
CBC
Browser autofill used to steal personal details in new phishing attack
The Guardian
Rudy Giuliani's Glass House
The Register
New Systems Security Engineering Web Site
Ronald S. Ross
FBI allegedly paid Geek Squad for evidence
Engadget
Congress is stupid because...
WiReD
Trump just said he's firing the people in charge of securing America's nukes
Yahoo!
Re: Command and Control
David Lesher
Re: Russian Hacking
Sam Steingold
Re: A Chilling PBS Documentary Shows How Mistakes Are Made
David Wittenberg
Re: The leap-second is a bug
Bob Frankston
Bruce Schneier's latest CRYPTO-GRAM
PGN
Garry Kasparov
PGN
Book: Jennifer Granick, American Spies
PGN
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Tesla driver stranded because outside of cellphone coverage

Mark Thorson <eee@sonic.net>
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:40:23 -0800
Tesla driver started his car using smartphone app, drove outside of
cellphone range, and got stranded when he stopped to readjust dogs' beds and
could not restart the car.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4128220

I call this a product defect.  If the car goes outside of cellphone range
without having been started with a key, it should assume that the driver has
no key.  Actually, the guy had a wireless connection to the car, so the app
should have been able to use that to restart the car, but that was not
supported.  The app required the cellphone network.

One of these days, a Tesla will be found in the desert with a couple of
skeletons in the front seats.


Nissan's Path to Self-Driving Cars? Humans in Call Centers (Alex Davies)

Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:31:48 -0500
  [What could go wrong with this? Let's count the ways...]

Alex Davies, *WiReD*, 5 Jan 2017
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/nissans-self-driving-teleoperation/

“This is it!'' Maarten Sierhuis says.  “I mean, look at this.''  He points
to a photo of road construction at an intersection in Sunnyvale, California,
near Nissan's Silicon Valley research center, which Sierhuis runs.  A line
of cones shunts traffic to the left side of the double yellow line. The
light is red. A worker holds a *Slow* sign. It's the sort of seemingly
unremarkable situation that can trigger convulsions in the brain of an
autonomous vehicle.

“There is so much cognition that you need here,'' Sierhuis says. The driver
-- or the car—has to interpret the placement of the cones and the
behavior of the human worker to understand that in this case, it's OK to
drive through a red light on the wrong side of the road. “This is not gonna
happen in the next five to ten years.''

It's a stunning admission, in its way: Nissan's R&D chief believes the truly
driverless car—something many carmakers and tech giants have promised to
deliver within five years or fewer—is an unreachable short-term goal.
Reality: one; robots: zero. Even a system that could handle 99 percent of
driving situations will cause trouble for the company trying to promote, and
make money off, the technology. “We will always need the human in the
loop,'' Sierhuis says.

But Nissan has a solution: a call center with human meatbags ready to take
command via remote control.

Call for Help

Now, if you've ever telephoned a cable provider, airline, or insurance
company for customer service, the idea of a driverless car that relies on
headset-wearing cubicle-dwellers hardly seems cutting edge.  But Sierhuis
says his team's idea, called Seamless Autonomous Mobility, is a simple,
scalable answer to the fiendish problem of making robot drivers do
everything humans can.

Other players in the autonomous field aren't about to announce their tech
can't match the vagaries of the real world, but they have looked into remote
human backups—*teleoperation*, in the parlance of the business.  It's
going to be massively important,” says Karl Iagnemma, co-founder and CEO of
self-driving startup nuTonomy, which is developing a remote control
system. Even cars that can handle just about anything will have the
occasional failure, even if that's being hit by another vehicle. And in that

case, you want a human around to decide what to do.  It's like an elevator,
Iagnemma says: You don't need a human operator, but you've still got a
button to call for help when you need it.

Google's self-driving car outfit, Waymo, has studied the idea, a
spokesperson says. Uber declined to comment on teleoperation, but in 2015
the company filed a patent for a system that would let an autonomous vehicle
follow a human-driven car, or get help from a remote operator. Stealthy
self-driving car startup Zoox has a patent for a “teleoperation system and
method for trajectory modification of autonomous vehicles''; Toyota has one
for “remote operation of autonomous vehicle in unexpected environment.''

Now, Nissan's cubicle-based drivers aren't emergency backups. If the car
hits black ice, it's in charge of staying on the road. There's no feasible
way to get the human into the loop in time to act. But they can help out
when the car encounters conditions it's unsure how to handle.  If a Nissan
happened upon the construction scene from Sierhuis' photo, it would stop and
ping its control center. A human operator would look around using the car's
cameras and other sensors and issue new instructions—direct control would
pose latency issues. Like: When it's safe, cross the double yellow and get
back to the right side after 20 yards. Or a new instruction set could ensure
packages and disabled passengers get dropped off in exactly the right spot,
and help assess potentially dangerous situations on the road. But most of
all, the teleoperator is there to make sure the car's doesn't just shut down
when it's too dumb to know what's going on. [...]


Automation is already here, and it's taking jobs and annoying customers

Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:56:13 -0500
If you've been stuck in an airport because of delays recently, you already
know how bad a highly automated society will be.
https://qz.com/881454/automation-is-already-here-and-its-taking-jobs-and-annoying-customers/


India gov banks compromised (Economic Times)

"Alister Wm Macintyre \(Wow\)" <macwheel99@wowway.com>
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 11:37:41 -0600
Banks learn from major breaches, that many of them have serious
cybersecurity weaknesses in access to SWIFT and other services, but somehow
are slow to implement protection from cybercrime hitting them again and
again.  Also many governments impose safety rules on business, which are not
applied to governments.

They are real good at blaming SWIFT, when it was the banks being breached by
hackers that made this possible.  Yes, there is bogus info communicated via
SWIFT, but this was made possible by the banks being compromised first.

Hackers infiltrate govt-owned bank systems to create fake trade docs

The banks discovered that their SWIFT systems—the global financial
messaging service banks use to move millions of dollars and documents across
borders every day—have been compromised.

January 16, 2017, 08:13 IST

Indian banks are waking up to a new kind of cyber attack. Hackers recently
infiltrated the systems of three government-owned banks—two head
headquartered in Mumbai and one in Kolkata—to create fake trade documents
that may have been used to raise finance abroad or facilitate dealings in
banned items.

The banks in question discovered that their SWIFT systems—the global
financial messaging service banks use to move millions of dollars and
documents across borders every day—have been compromised to create fake
documents. [...]

http://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/technology/hackers-infiltrate-govt-owned-bank-systems-to-create-fake-trade-docs/56583688
https://www.databreaches.net/hackers-infiltrate-indian-govt-owned-bank-systems-to-create-fake-trade-docs/

It started with 3 banks owned by the Gov of India.  It did not stop there.
There is more than one scam in progress, enabled by poor security banking
practices in India.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/ed-attaches-39-offices-at-world-trade-park/articleshow/56250971.cms

Several nations push a cashless society, with inadequate planning, leading
to a mountain of problems, of their own making.
(Recently India, Venezuela).
http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/govt-advised-rbi-on-note-ban-1-day-before-modi-s-announcement-report-117011000251_1.html
http://swarajyamag.com/economy/how-demonetisation-choked-pakistans-fake-currency-influx-into-india


Finally Revealed: Cloudflare Has Been Fighting NSL for Years (EFF)

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:06:05 -0800
via NNSquad
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/01/finally-revealed-cloudflare-has-been-fighting-nsls-years

  We're happy to be able to announce that Cloudflare is the second
  courageous client in EFF's long-running lawsuit challenging the
  government's unconstitutional national security letter (NSL) authority.
  Cloudflare, a provider of web performance and security services, just
  published its new transparency report announcing it has been fighting the
  NSL statute since 2013.  Like EFF's other client, CREDO, Cloudflare took a
  stand against the FBI's use of unilateral, perpetual NSL gag orders that
  resulted in a secret court battle stretching several years and counting.
  The litigation—seeking a ruling that the NSL power is unconstitutional
 —continues, but we're pleased that we can at long last publicly applaud
  Cloudflare for fighting on behalf of its customers.  Now more than ever we
  need the technology community to stand with users in the courts. We hope
  others will follow Cloudflare's example.


In the UK, Silent Emergency Assistance Can Come to the Rescue

Jonathan B Spira <jonathan.spira@accuramediagroup.com>
Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 12:49 AM
Traveler Alert via Dave Farber

Knowing about the "Silent Solution," the U.K.'s emergency service for those
in situations who cannot for whatever speak, could save a life.

http://www.frequentbusinesstraveler.com/2017/01/traveler-alert-in-u-k-silent-emergency-assistance-can-come-to-the-rescue/


"Pay the ransom? You won't get your data back" (Fahmida Y. Rashid)

Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:34:07 -0800
Fahmida Y. Rashid, InfoWorld, 11 Jan 2017
Admins, act now to avoid ransomware and other forms of extortion --
you won't likely get your data back even when you pay
http://www.infoworld.com/article/3156573/security/pay-the-ransom-you-wont-get-your-data-back.html

selected text:

As ransomware attacks soared last year, opinions divided on whether victims
should pay the ransom to recover their encrypted data. A year ago, it looked
like there was a good chance that paying meant getting the data back, but
that seems to be no longer the case.

In fact, many ransom payments are going to criminals who didn't compromise
the database in the first place. One attacker steals the data, wipes the
database, and leaves behind the ransom note. Another attacker comes along
and overwrites the ransom note with their own, and other attackers keep
piggybacking on top of each other. At this point, there's no reason to pay
because victims don't know who actually has their database.


"Professionally designed ransomware Spora might be the next big thing" (Lucian Constantin)

Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:05:28 -0800
Lucian Constantin, InfoWorld, 11 Jan 2017
The new ransomware program features strong offline decryption and a
new payment scheme.
http://www.infoworld.com/article/3156967/security/professionally-designed-ransomware-spora-might-be-the-next-big-thing.html

Security researchers have found a new ransomware program dubbed Spora that
can perform strong offline file encryption and brings several innovations to
the ransom payment model.

The malware has targeted Russian-speaking users so far, but its authors have
also created an English version of their decryption portal, suggesting they
will likely expand their attacks to other countries soon.


Google and the Misinformed Public (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 08:20:06 -0800
Chronicle of Higher Education, via NNSquad
http://www.chronicle.com/article/Googlethe-Misinformed/238868

  Digital media platforms like Google and Facebook may disavow
  responsibility for the results of their algorithms, but they can have
  tremendous—and disturbing—social effects.  Racist and sexist bias,
  misinformation, and profiling are frequently unnoticed byproducts of those
  algorithms. And unlike public institutions (like the library), Google and
  Facebook have no transparent curation process by which the public can
  judge the credibility or legitimacy of the information they propagate.
  That misinformation can be debilitating for a democracy—and in some
  instances deadly for its citizens.


Why Google must start labeling highly ranked fake news results

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:14:10 -0800
via NNSquad
IMAGE AT: https://plus.google.com/+LaurenWeinstein/posts/VY2THHRhcio?sfc=true

Here's another obvious example. In the run-up to the election a fake
transcript claimed that Hillary Clinton had called Sanders supporters a
"bucket of losers." The usual right-wing hate sites started spreading this
immediately, and some mainstream media (including FOX News) treated it as
legit, even though it was almost immediately determined to be completely
faked. Yet as you can see, months later, the top Google search result for
the search:

  bucket of losers
or
  clinton bucket of losers

still presents the fake story as real—at one of the origin sites for the
fake itself. The majority of the other links on the first SRP also present
the story as legit. A few links expose the story as fake, but truncation of
the headline texts in the search results make this less than obvious to the
casual viewer. Overall, the page gives an extremely misleading
representation, and in particular the lack of labeling of the top link
(which I believe has maintained that position for an extended period of
time) is extremely problematic.


Facebook to roll out fake news tools in Germany (BBC)

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Sun, 15 Jan 2017 12:12:29 -0800
BBC via NNSquad
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38631847

  The world's largest social network said it would enable German users to
  flag potentially false stories.  The stories will then be passed to
  third-party fact-checkers and if found to be unreliable, will be marked in
  users' news feeds as "disputed".  It is the first major rollout of the
  fake news features announced by Facebook in December.  "Last month we
  announced measures to tackle the challenge of fake news on Facebook," the
  company said on Sunday in a German-language statement.

Good. Facebook should do the same thing here, and Google needs to get on the
ball and follow Facebook's lead, especially here in the USA.  The exact
mechanisms and flows may be different and more highly automated, but the
status quo is untenable.

REFERENCES:

https://lauren.vortex.com/2017/01/08/my-mock-up-for-labeling-fake-news-on-google-search

https://lauren.vortex.com/2016/12/06/action-items-what-google-facebook-and-others-should-be-doing-right-now-about-fake-news


"Families of ISIS victims sue Twitter for being 'weapon for terrorism'" (Sharon Gaudin)

Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:57:54 -0800
Sharon Gaudin, Computerworld, 11 Jan 2017
Analysts question whether a social network can be held responsible
for users' actions
http://www.infoworld.com/article/3156611/social-networking/families-of-isis-victims-sue-twitter-for-being-weapon-for-terrorism.html

selected text:

The families of three Americans killed in ISIS terror attacks are suing
Twitter for allegedly knowingly providing support for the terrorist group
and acting as a "powerful weapon for terrorism."

"While I certainly can sympathize with the families, it's hard for me to see
how Twitter can be held responsible for the rise of ISIS and their terror
activities," said Dan Olds, an analyst with OrionX.  "Let's imagine the
world a few decades ago, before the Internet.  Would someone try to hold
AT&T responsible for criminal activities that were planned over the
telephone? Or is the printing press manufacturer responsible for magazines
that encourage terrorism that were printed using presses they built and
sold? "

"There is no way of effectively policing those sites based upon affiliation
or behavior," Shimmin said. "Twitter itself has gone to some extreme
measures to single out and remove accounts engaged in this sort of
thing. That will help, and I think such efforts are a moral responsibility
for Twitter and other social networking vendors, but those actions can't
rule out future misuse."


How Netflix Is Deepening Our Cultural Echo Chambers

Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:17:21 -0500
http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/technology/how-netflix-is-deepening-our-cultural-echo-chambers.html

There was a lot to criticize about broadcast TV, but it brought the nation
together.  Streaming services are doing the opposite.


Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Update Installs Chrome Browser Extension

Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:54:12 -0500
Adobe released yesterday Acrobat Reader DC 15.023.20053 that included fixes
for 29 security issues. Along with the security fixes, this update package
also silently installs the Adobe Acrobat extension into the user's Chrome
web browser.

The installation process is covert, but the next time users open their
Chrome browser, they'll be notified by Chrome's security systems that a new
extension has been added.

https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/software/adobe-acrobat-reader-dc-update-installs-chrome-browser-extension/

...complete with scary permissions and monitoring.


Unacceptable Adobe Behavior: Adobe Acrobat Reader DC Update Installs Chrome Browser Extension

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:05:14 -0800
NNSquad
https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/software/adobe-acrobat-reader-dc-update-installs-chrome-browser-extension/

  The latest Adobe Acrobat Reader security update (15.023.20053), besides
  delivering security updates, also secretly installs the Adobe Acrobat
  extension in the user's Chrome browser. There is no mention of this
  "special package" on Acrobat's changelog, and surprise-surprise, the
  extension comes with anonymous data collection turned on by default.

Completely unacceptable. If this isn't against Google's TOS, it should be.
Adobe should be utterly ashamed of themselves. I recommend that users REFUSE
to enable this extension when the Chrome popup asks to enable it. Click
"Remove from Chrome" instead. And let Adobe know how you feel about this
sort of behavior.


Surprising results on Chinese government manipulation of social media (GKing)

Mark Thorson <eee@sonic.net>
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:48:31 -0800
Clever study finds surprising results on Chinese government manipulation of
social media.  Contrary to widespread belief, manipulators are paid
employees, not piecework workers (derided as "50c party" for alleged rate
per posting), and they do not vociferously defend government policy.
Instead, they try to distract undesirable threads onto other subjects.

http://gking.harvard.edu/50c


"Forced to watch child porn for their job, Microsoft employees developed PTSD, they say"

Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:35:08 -0800
Greg Hadley, McClatchyDC, 11 Jan 2017
Two former Microsoft employees have accused the tech giant of failing
to help them after they suffered from PTSD as a result of their job.
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article125953194.html

opening text:

Child abuse. Pornography. Bestiality. Murder.

As part of their job, moderators for social websites have to view some of
the most disturbing videos and photos on the Internet. Once the employees
have determined that the images violate the company's community standards
and the law, they delete the accounts of the people who posted them and
report the incidents to the National Center for Missing & Exploited
Children, per federal law.

Unsurprisingly, having to watch upsetting content like that every day takes
a toll on moderators. But two Microsoft employees say their company, one of
the largest in the world, failed to provide them with proper support as
their mental health deteriorated and they began showing symptoms of
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.


Secret WWI telegram holds lessons for today, historians say (CBC)

geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:16:24 -1000
CBC, The Canadian Press, 15 Jan 2017

NEWPORT, R.I.—In a secret telegram a century ago, Germany tried to get
Mexico to join its side during World War I by offering it territory in the
United States. Britain intercepted, deciphered and shared the "Zimmermann
Telegram."

Historians, seeing parallels to today, say there's a lot to be learned.
[...]

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/secret-wwi-telegram-holds-lessons-134300998.html


Browser autofill used to steal personal details in new phishing attack (The Guardian)

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:30:15 -0800
NNSquad
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/10/browser-autofill-used-to-steal-personal-details-in-new-phising-attack-chrome-safari

  Your browser or password manager's autofill might be inadvertently giving
  away your information to unscrupulous phishers using hidden text boxes on
  sites.  Finnish web developer and hacker Viljami Kuosmanen discovered that
  several web browsers, including Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari and Opera,
  as well as some plugins and utilities such as LastPass, can be tricked
  into giving away a user's personal information through their profile-based
  autofill systems.


Rudy Giuliani's Glass House (PGN)

"Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:57:57 PST
Evidently the website of his company is riddled with security flaws.
  https://twitter.com/fienen/status/819657572483563520
  Giuliani Security:
  - Expired SSL
  - Doesn't force https
  - Exposed CMS login
  - Uses Flash
  - Using EOL PHP version
  - SSL Lab grade of F

  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/01/13/giuliani_joomla_outdated_site/


New Systems Security Engineering Web Site

"Ross, Ronald S. (Fed)" <ronald.ross@nist.gov>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 21:05:00 +0000
The new Systems Security Engineering (SSE) web site is now live on CSRC.
Check out http://csrc.nist.gov under the Hot Topics section. Or go directly to
<http://csrc.nist.gov/sse>.

  Systems security engineering contributes to a broad-based and holistic
  security perspective and focus within the systems engineering effort.
  This ensures that stakeholder protection needs and security concerns
  associated with the system are properly identified and addressed in all
  systems engineering tasks throughout the system life cycle.

Ron S. Ross, Ph.D.
Project Leader
FISMA Implementation Project
Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative
Systems Security Engineering Initiative

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Attn: Computer Security Division
100 Bureau Drive (Mailstop 7730)
Gaithersburg, MD  20899-7730

  [RISKS has from its beginning been an advocate of sound engineering,
  particularly as it relates to the development of trustworthy critical
  computer-based systems, in hardware and software.  This NIST Systems
  Security Engineering Project seems like a worthy step in that direction.
  In particular, consider its first report, NIST Special Publication
  800-160, Systems Security Engineering: Considerations for a
  Multidisciplinary Approach in the Engineering of Trustworthy Secure
  Systems.  Some of that report will be particularly relevant to those of
  you developing trustworthy systems with safety requirements, because such
  systems must also be secure, and reliable, and much more.  PGN]


FBI allegedly paid Geek Squad for evidence (Engadget)

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:49:42 -0800
via NNSquad
https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/11/fbi-allegedly-paid-geek-squad-for-evidence/

  Last May, the defense in a child pornography trial alleged that the FBI
  used a member of electronics retailer Best Buy's tech support team, Geek
  Squad, to peer into the accused's computer on the hunt for evidence of
  child pornography. Since then, the defense's lawyers revealed that the FBI
  had cultivated at least eight of the company's IT handyfolk over a
  four-year period to serve as confidential informants, who all received
  some payment for turning over data.  Obviously, this raises serious
  questions about whether sending devices into the repair shop forfeits a
  person's right to privacy or unreasonable search and seizure.


Congress is stupid because... (WiReD)

Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 23:09:38 -0500
...Congress has been stupid for a while:

Two decades ago, Congress picked a particularly bad way to save money.

Lawmakers, in a frenzy of federal budget-cutting, decided to fire their own
dedicated corps of advisers on science and technology. The Office of
Technology Assessment (OTA)—a group of about 140 primarily PhD experts
who educated members of Congress and performed deep-dive studies to inform
legislation—was disbanded in order to save taxpayers about $20 million a
year. But the cut was ultimately costly. Failures ranging from an unworkable
cybersecurity bill to lawmakers' ineffective oversight of NSA surveillance
programs are directly attributable to Congress' inability to make sense of
technology issues, and at least partially attributable to the elimination of
the OTA.

In its budget-cutting zeal over the past two decades, Congress also reduced
funding for committee staff by roughly a third—meaning many of the
economists, issue experts, and agency veterans responsible for managing
fact-finding hearings and designing major legislation lost their jobs. So,
too, did dozens of researchers at Congress' other leading analytical
agencies, the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research
Service. Today, America's legislative research agencies have 20 percent less
staff than they did in 1979.

https://www.wired.com/2017/01/universities-must-help-educate-woefully-uninformed-lawmakers/


Trump just said he's firing the people in charge of securing America's nukes

Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 10:43:09 -0500
President-elect Trump's cleansing of Obama appointees continues at pace
today, as /Gizmodo /reports that the head of the National Nuclear Security
Administration (NNSA) will be clearing out his desk on January 20th.

The NNSA is the agency in charge of the day-to-day administration of
America's stockpile of nuclear weapons. It's a $12-billion-a-year
organization that's a crucial component of the nuclear deterrent, and until
Trump appoints and confirms replacements, it will be leaderless.

As Gizmodo explains, the implications of having no director or deputy
running the NNSA are worrying. In addition to the day-to-day administration
of the nuclear stockpile, the execs would normally be in charge of securing
the NNSA's budget in Congress, and working with the new administration on
the nuclear rebuild that Trump has promised.

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/trump-just-said-firing-people-charge-securing-america-180751230.html

What could go wrong with THAT?

Gabriel Goldberg, Computers and Publishing, Inc.       gabe@gabegold.com
3401 Silver Maple Place, Falls Church, VA 22042           (703) 204-0433


Re: Command and Control (RISKS-38.08)

David Lesher <wb8foz@panix.com>
Sat, 14 Jan 2017 14:39:51 -0500
I highly recommend this documentary, and further the book it was based on.
It's a chilling look at many aspects including individual heroism midst the
USAF dithering and indecision.... while Rome burned err Arkansas nearly
vaporized.

But [spoiler alert..] the most chilling statement to me was late in the
film. RISKS readers know too well about large systems' reluctance to learn
from their failures. (ref: Dyson's "Make *new* mistakes...") But the weapons
expert at Sandia charged with that failure analysis discovered only years
into his tasking that USAF had been hiding the majority of their incidents
from him....


Re: Russian Hacking (Mills, RISKS-30.08)

Sam Steingold <sds@gnu.org>
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:35:54 -0500
Unilateral disarmament does not work, 20th century is a sufficient lesson.
Unilateral declarations are usually not perceived as binding and thus are
even less meaningful.

International treaties only make sense when all sides perceive and treat
them as binding.  Here, again, the experience with the USSR (e.g.,
Krasnoyarsk radar) teaches us that our counter-parties are likely to follow
the treaties only as far as we can detect and prove violations.  IOW, we are
in the "wild west" wrt the cyber warfare and are likely to remain there for
the foreseeable future (as long as the attack source cannot be reliably
verified to the complete satisfaction of laymen - like, e.g., the source of
an artillery shell can be today).  This is a sorry state, but the way out is
not "forswearing violence".

> ... But in today's bizarre political debate, hacking another nation's
> systems may be deemed more reprehensible than assassination or bombing
> their capitol city.

In a way, it is.

Direct and obvious violence forces a certain level of responsibility on
the agents: we cannot deny what we did and this makes us think twice
before we do that.

Covert action, like computer hacking, allows for "plausible deniability" and
thus lowers perceived cost of intervention.

Sam Steingold (http://sds.podval.org/) on darwin
http://steingoldpsychology.com http://www.childpsy.net


Re: A Chilling PBS Documentary Shows How Mistakes Are Made (RISKS-30.08)

David Wittenberg <dkw@cs.brandeis.edu>
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 14:52:37 -0500
For those with a longer attention span, I recommend the book this show
is based on:
  Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the
  Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser.


Re: The leap-second is a bug

"Bob Frankston" <Bob2@bob.ma>
11 Jan 2017 10:27:53 -0500
Why is the millisecond precise position of the sun more important than all
other uses of time?

As I explained in http://rmf.vc/MediumLeapSeconds, it is impossible to
handle the leap-second "properly" because it requires undefining the
minute.  There is no reason to have a so-called leap second.

Very simply we are dealing with two timescales:

TAI which is similar to what is in our computers - epoch + seconds. If we
want to convert to the human representation of hh:mm:ss we can do so and we
can convert back. We use this notation for everyday uses such as train
schedules.

UTC which is about tracking the sun. We can compute UTC from TAI using
additional knowledge about the rotation of the Earth but only for past
values of UTC. We cannot do this conversion for the future because we don't
have the knowledge. There is no reason to make UTC the standard for day to
day use. We don't need millisecond accuracy when we have time zones that can
be hours off from the position of the sun on earth.

In 5000 years, if observers on earth really care about their mechanical
clocks, we can add another daylight-style adjustment in our conversion from
TAI to hh:mm:ss and be done with it.

As I note in my essay the obsession with sundial compatibility creates many
problems with the Cloudflare problem being only the latest. For example
computer database simply don't handle it so even if we care about
millisecond accuracy we don't know whether the time value takes it into
account so we have an uncertainty of nearly a minute!

What puzzles me is why such an effort to try to handle the leap-second when
it cannot be done and is not needed for day-to-day-use. Those who care need
more precision than UTC and already deal with it. The rest of us keep
running into new bugs as we try to do the impossible.


Bruce Schneier's latest CRYPTO-GRAM

"Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:12:15 PST
https://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram/archives/2017/0115.html
Bruce's 15 Jan 2017 issue includes these these items among others:

  Attributing the DNC Hacks to Russia
  Are We Becoming More Moral Faster Than We're Becoming More Dangerous?
  Security Risks of TSA PreCheck
  Law Enforcement Access to IoT Data


Garry Kasparov

"Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
Tue, 17 Jan 2017 7:50:30 PST
Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World
Must Be Stopped
http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/hardcover/winter-is-coming/9781610396202

Trump, Putin and the Dangers of Fake News
<https://www.the-parallax.com/2017/01/16/kasparov-trump-putin-fake-news/>


Book: Jennifer Granick, American Spies

"Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 9:36:37 PST
  Jennifer Granick
  American Spies:
    Modern Surveillance,
    Why You Should Care,
    and What to Do About It
  Cambridge University Press, 2017
  http://www.americanspies.com/

Jennifer Granick's book shows how surveillance law has fallen behind
surveillance technology, giving American spies vast new power, and guides
the reader through proposals for reining in massive surveillance with the
ultimate goal of reform.

U.S. intelligence agencies—the eponymous American Spies—are
exceedingly aggressive, pushing and sometimes bursting through the
technological, legal and political boundaries of lawful surveillance.
Written for a general audience by a surveillance law expert, this book
educates readers about how the reality of modern surveillance differs from
popular understanding.  Weaving the history of American surveillance—from
J. Edgar Hoover through the tragedy of September 11th to the fusion centers
and mosque infiltrators of today—the book shows that mass surveillance
and democracy are fundamentally incompatible.  Granick shows how
surveillance law has fallen behind while surveillance technology has given
American Spies vast new powers.  She skillfully guides the reader through
proposals for reining in massive surveillance with the ultimate goal of
surveillance reform.

Granick is an expert on computer crime and security, electronic
surveillance, security vulnerability disclosure, encryption policy and the
Fourth Amendment.  In March of 2016, she received Duo Security's Women in
Security Academic Award for her expertise in the field, as well as her
direction and guidance for young women in the security industry.  Before
teaching at Stanford, Granick practiced criminal defense law in California.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AmericanSpiesBook/

  Also, see an item from Kathleen Gabel, Stanford news online, 10 Jan 2017:
  Stanford Law's Jennifer Granick winner of the Palmer Prize
  http://news.stanford.edu/thedish/2017/01/10/stanford-laws-jennifer-granick-wins-palmer-prize-for-new-book/

  Jennifer Granick, lecturer-in-law and director of civil liberties at the
  Stanford Center for Internet and Society, won the 2016 IIT Chicago-Kent
  College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize for her book American
  Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What to Do About It.

  The award honors scholarship exploring the tension between civil liberties
  and national security in contemporary American society.

  The IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize
  was established to encourage and reward public debate among scholars on
  current issues affecting the rights of individuals and the
  responsibilities of governments throughout the world.

[The other co-winner of the prize is Laura K. Donohue, for her book, The
Future of Foreign Intelligence: Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age,
Oxford University Press, 2016.]

  [It is intriguing that these books were both published in the UK
  (reflecting the centuries-old British competition between Cambridge and
  Oxford), and written by distinguished women.  However, I presume
  knighthood will not be forthcoming for either the Sir-Veillers, or the
  Sur-Veiled.  In any event, it is very timely to have books seriously
  digging in to this particular topic.]

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