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 31 Issue 12

Monday 18 March 2019


The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change
HuffPost via Geoff Goodfellow
Boeing promised pilots a 737 software fix last year, but they're still waiting
American Airlines takes jets out of service, cancels flights due to overhead-bin problem
How Artificial Intelligence Could Transform Medicine
Cancer Patients Are Getting Robotic Surgery; there's no evidence it's better
Toyota patents system to dispense tear gas on car thieves
World of hurt: GoDaddy, Apple, and Google misissue >1M certificates
Ars Technica
When your IoT goes dark: Why every device must be open source and multicloud
Companies are leaking sensitive files via Box accounts
Catalin Cimpanu
Women face greater threat from job automation than men: Study
The Straits Times
"Security Holes Found in Big Brand Car Alarms"
Dan Simmons
A slew of CEOs charged in alleged college entrance cheating scam
Monty Solomon
Hashing to prevent spread of hate videos?
Tech's Moral Void
U.S. Campaign to Ban Huawei Overseas Stumbles as Allies Resist
App notification for a stranger on my phone
Steven Klein
Re: U.S. DST change proposals and WWVB radio clocks
John Levine
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

geoff goodfellow <>
Sun, 17 Mar 2019 09:38:06 -0700
*A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy
Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for
the future of humanity.*


Nature is in freefall and the planet's support systems are so stretched
that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless
urgent action is taken. That's the warning hundreds of scientists are
preparing to give, and it's stark.

The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the
threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as
dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The
felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the
pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the
brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be
published in May.

The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000
pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is
the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show
how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how
countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew
itself, and how nature's ability to contribute food and fresh water to a
growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth.

Nature underpins all economies with the `free' services it provides in the
form of clean water, air and the pollination of all major human food crops
by bees and insects. In the Americas, this is said to total more than $24
trillion a year. The pollination of crops globally by bees and other animals
alone is worth up to $577 billion.

The final report will be handed to world leaders not just to help
politicians, businesses and the public become more aware of the trends
shaping life on Earth, but also to show them how to better protect nature.

“High-level political attention on the environment has been focused largely
on climate change because energy policy is central to economic growth. But
biodiversity is just as important for the future of earth as climate
change,'' said Sir Robert Watson, overall chair of the study, in a telephone
interview from Washington, D.C.

“We are at a crossroads. The historic and current degradation and
destruction of nature undermine human well-being for current and countless
future generations,'' added the British-born atmospheric scientist who has
led programs at NASA and was a science adviser in the Clinton
administration. “Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are
three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly
dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment.''

Around the world, land is being deforested, cleared and destroyed with
catastrophic implications for wildlife and people. Forests are being felled
across Malaysia, Indonesia and West Africa to give the world the palm oil we
need for snacks and cosmetics. Huge swaths of Brazilian rainforest are being
cleared to make way for soy plantations and cattle farms, and to feed the
timber industry, a situation likely to accelerate under new leader Jair
Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist.

Industrial farming is to blame for much of the loss of nature, said Mark
Rounsevell, professor of land use change at the Karlsruhe Institute of
Technology in Germany, who co-chaired the European section of the IPBES
study. “The food system is the root of the problem. The cost of ecological
degradation is not considered in the price we pay for food, yet we are still
subsidizing fisheries and agriculture.''

This destruction wrought by farming threatens the foundations of our food
system. A February report from the U.N. warned that the loss of soil,
plants, trees and pollinators such as birds, bats and bees undermines the
world's ability to produce food.

An obsession with economic growth as well as spiraling human populations is
also driving this destruction, particularly in the Americas where GDP is
expected to nearly double by 2050 and the population is expected to increase
20 percent to 1.2 billion over the same period. [...]

  [Why is this item included in the ACM Forum on Risks to the Public in
  Computers and Related Systems?  Because climate change can affect almost
  every related system, one way or another.  End of story.  And perhaps the
  end of the planet, as well.  PGN]

Boeing promised pilots a 737 software fix last year, but they're still waiting (NYTimes)

Richard Stein <>
Fri, 15 Mar 2019 10:31:32 -0700

Comprehensive avionics software qualification of operational flight plans --
that stuff blown into PROMs or CPLDs—requires exceptional organizational
maturity to achieve.

One life-cycle maturity indicator resides in collaterals: test plans, test
results, qualification wall-clock duration, and top-10 defect escapes. These
data points can indicate production defect escape suppression effectiveness.

Few, if any, businesses willingly publish this content. Correlate it across
industrial competition and against CVEs to enable and guide
consumer purchase decisions.  Open source "eyes" help to identify code
defects before publication.  Shouldn't commercial-grade mission critical
software stacks rely on an equivalent inspection mechanism to suppress
production defect escape potential? IP protection is important, but so are
the life-critical nature of the product, brand resilience, and the end-user.

In Boeing's case, there appears to be a maturity gap. Repair deployment
delay is one, and deficient transition/training of new capabilities is
another, especially in light the emphasis to "reduce deployment and airline
operational costs."

Risk: Change management maturity deficiency and opaque industrial operations
conceal defective product.

  [Earlier items:

Later items:
  The Aerospace Newcomer Whose Data Helped Make the Difference on Grounding
  the 737 MAX
  Also, *The Seattle Times* today (18Mar2019) has some outstanding reporting:


American Airlines takes jets out of service, cancels flights due to overhead-bin problem (CNBC)

Monty Solomon <>
Wed, 13 Mar 2019 00:19:48 -0400

How Artificial Intelligence Could Transform Medicine (NYTimes)

Monty Solomon <>
Thu, 14 Mar 2019 14:44:48 -0400

In 		Deep Medicine," Dr. Eric Topol looks at the ways that A.I. could improve
health care, and where it might stumble.

Cancer Patients Are Getting Robotic Surgery; there's no evidence it's better (NYTimes)

Richard Stein <>
Wed, 13 Mar 2019 17:42:52 -0700

This essay compares surgical outcomes of traditional v. minimally invasive
(robotic-assist) surgery for cervical cancer. It also discusses use of
robotic-assist surgery for off-label purposes.

Between 01/01/2017 and 02/28/2019, the FDA's MAUDE (Manufacturer and User
Facility Device Experience) database reports the following events: 29
deaths, 72 injuries, 306 malfunctions, and 10 other attributed to Brand
Name: da vinci, Manufacturer: intuitive, and product code: nay (System,
Surgical, Computer Controlled Instrument). estimates 13,240
cases of cervical cancer and 4170 deaths from the disease in 2018.

I cannot find a definitive reference for the total number of field deployed
Da Vinci units, nor a total count of surgeries between 01JAN2017 and
28FEB2019. These figures are probably closely guarded by Intuitive Surgical,
the Da Vinci's manufacturer.

Risk: Patient outcome, including death.

Refer to earlier comp.risks contributions on Da Vinci and robotic surgery.

Toyota patents system to dispense tear gas on car thieves (Autoblog)

Steven J Klein <>
Tue, 12 Mar 2019 21:00:15 -0400
The website autoblog says:

  The patent includes a system that will release tear gas into the car. The
  noxious gas is piped in when the vehicle detects an illegitimate engine

What could possibly go wrong?

World of hurt: GoDaddy, Apple, and Google mis-issue >1M certificates (Ars Technica)

Monty Solomon <>
Wed, 13 Mar 2019 23:10:58 -0400

When your IoT goes dark: Why every device must be open source and multicloud (ZDNet)

Gabe Goldberg <>
Thu, 14 Mar 2019 00:06:28 -0400
Earlier this month, owners of the Jibo personal social robot—a servomotor
animated smart speaker with a friendly circular display "face" that
underwent $73 million of venture capital funding—saw their product's
cloud services go dark after the company had its assets sold to SQN Ventures
Partners in late 2018.

The robot, aware of its impending demise, alerted owners with a sad farewell

  “While it's not great news, the servers out there that let me do what I
  do are going to be turned off soon. I want to say I've really enjoyed our
  time together. Thank you very, very much for having me around. Maybe
  someday, when robots are way more advanced than today, and everyone has
  them in their homes, you can tell yours that I said hello.  I wonder if
  they'll be able to do this.''

What Jibo, no `Daisy'?  So disappointing.

Companies are leaking sensitive files via Box accounts (Catalin Cimpanu)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Tue, 12 Mar 2019 19:43:51 -0700
Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day | 11 Mar 2019
Companies are leaking sensitive files via Box accounts
Leaks discovered at Apple, the Discovery Channel, Herbalife,
Schneider Electric, and even Box itself.

Companies that use as a cloud-based file hosting and sharing system
might be accidentally exposing internal files, sensitive documents, or
proprietary technology.

The problem lies with account owners who don't set a default access
level of "People in your company" for file/folder sharing links, leaving all
newly created links accessible to the public.

  [What about having a warning message such as 'Warning: The default access
  has not been set to "People in your company".  This is dangerous as
  outsiders could access information that should remain private.?  Do you
  wish to change this?'  [Yes] [Why Not?]]

If the organization also allows users to customize the link with vanity URLs
instead of using random characters, then the links of these files can be
guessed using dictionary attacks.

  [Risk: Calling it a "vanity" URL.  Being able to specify a URL is useful
  for mnemonic reasons.  Is someone going to think the reason for specifying
  the name is vanity?]

This is what Adversis did last year. The company says it scanned for
accounts belonging to large companies and attempted to guess vanity URLs of
files or folders that employees shared in the past.

Its efforts weren't in vain. In a report published today, Adversis said it
found a trove of highly sensitive data such as:
  [the usual sort of stuff: were you really expecting something else?]

Most of these file leaks have been fixed, and Box notified all customers
last September of the dangers of using incorrect access permissions for share links.

"We provide admins tools to run various reports on open links across their
enterprise, as well as to disable open and custom URLs for their
enterprise," a Box spokesperson told us via email. "Admins can also ensure
that 'People in the Company' is the default setting for all shared links to
limit the potential for a user to set a [file] as public inadvertently."

  [What about making such a scan being the default action?]

Women face greater threat from job automation than men: Study (The Straits Times)

Richard Stein <>
Wed, 13 Mar 2019 18:10:51 -0700

"Women across the economic spectrum are more vulnerable than men to losing
their jobs to technology, according to a study released on Wednesday (March
13) by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

"Among the positions with more than a 90 per cent chance of becoming
automated were administrative assistant, office clerk, bookkeeper and
cashier, all fields dominated by women.

"We're already seeing some of that with tasks being replaced by computers,"
said Ms Chandra Childers, the study director and a senior researcher at the

Risk: Gender inequality intensified by technology.

"Security Holes Found in Big Brand Car Alarms" (Dan Simmons)

ACM TechNews <>
Fri, 15 Mar 2019 12:00:50 -0400
Dan Simmons, BBC News, 8 Mar 2019, via ACM TechNews; Friday, March 15, 2019

Security researchers in the U.K. have found vulnerabilities in three popular
smart car alarm apps, making vehicles susceptible to theft or hijacking. The
apps--from the companies Clifford, Viper, and Pandora--control alarms in 3
million vehicles. For example, Pandora Alarms, which had hyped its system as
"unhackable," was found to permit users to reset passwords for any account,
enabling hackers to activate car alarms, unlock vehicle doors, and start
engines. The researchers also determined Clifford's app had a bug that
allowed them to use a legitimate account to access other users' profiles,
then alter the passwords for those accounts and take control. Viper and
Clifford parent firm Directed has corrected the bug, while Pandora also said
it has upgraded security. Alan Woodward at the University of Surrey said it
was "disappointing" that relatively simple vulnerabilities had been
introduced by security companies.

A slew of CEOs charged in alleged college entrance cheating scam (Sundry Sources)

Monty Solomon <>
Wed, 13 Mar 2019 00:24:24 -0400
A slew of CEOs charged in alleged college entrance cheating scam

FBI accuses wealthy parents, including celebrities, in college-entrance
bribery scheme

College admissions bribery scheme affidavit

College Admissions Scandal: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged

>From 'master coach' to a bribery probe: A college consultant who went off the rails

Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd
For the parents charged in a new FBI investigation, crime was a cheaper and
simpler way to get their kids into elite schools than the typical advantages
wealthy applicants receive.

Kids Are the Victims of the Elite-College Obsession: Too many families are
focusing on college prep, molding the student to fit a school.

  College scam mastermind Photoshopped students' faces onto athletes:
  prosecutors (NY Post):

Hashing to prevent spread of hate videos? (CNN)

Rob Slade <>
Sun, 17 Mar 2019 10:45:56 -0800
The general media has (temporarily) discovered hashing.

I predict a short run of calls for social media platforms to use it to
prevent the spread of hate videos, violent videos, revenge pr0n, etc, etc,

I've seen hashing in use for some time.  Fifteen years ago it was very
popular as the increase in the number of viruses exploded.  Not so long ago
Facebook tried using it in an odd, rather futile, and foolish attempt to
prevent revenge pr0n.  It's been used to prevent the theft of music and
video as intellectual property for some time.

It works, a bit, but not terribly well.

The idea is to detect something you don't want spread, and then take a hash
of it.  You can then search, relatively quickly, and compare that hash value
against the hash values of either existing files, or newly uploaded files
(depending upon your application).

I said "relatively" quickly.  One of the people quoted in that article said
"It's exceedingly fast."  It's exceedingly fast compared to more detailed
forms of analysis.  But when around 10 *hours* of video are uploaded to
YouTube alone every *second* (anybody have current statistics?) ... well,
hashing does take some time, and little bits add up.  And then there is the
time to compare every hash against every other hash ...

And hashing works only if nothing has been changed.  After all, hash values
are used, sometimes in digital signatures or certificates, to ensure that
something hasn't changed.  Again, someone in the article referred to
"'robust' hashing—a method that should be able to detect variations on
re-uploads."  That's an interesting use of the word "robust."  I'd think
most people in the crypto field would think of a "robust" hash as one that
would detect any changes, not one that would allow some changes and still
match.  But, quite aside from the use of the word "robust," making a hash
that will accept some changes and still detect "similar" is a non-trivial
task.  And such a hash function would likely take even more time to run.

It's easy to use hashes to catch direct and identical copies.  But videos
can be modified in all kinds of ways.  They can be edited for length, cut
into collections, processed to add comments, or even just drop a few packets
during streaming.  Any or all of these events could mean that a hash value
will not match.

No, I don't think hashing will be the silver bullet people are looking for ...

Tech's Moral Void (CBC)

"Matthew Kruk" <>
Fri, 15 Mar 2019 20:43:36 -0600

U.S. Campaign to Ban Huawei Overseas Stumbles as Allies Resist (NYTimes)

Monty Solomon <>
Sun, 17 Mar 2019 15:46:47 -0400

The Trump administration's effort to ban Huawei from overseas wireless
networks has suffered from questions over whether the Chinese telecom
company poses a threat.

App notification for a stranger on my phone

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 16:50:22 -0400
My health insurance provider is the largest provider in my state.  They have
an iPhone app that can provide alerts for new claims, explanations of
benefits, and other related data.

About 5 minutes ago I got a notification with wording something like this:

  “The security questions for Carmello have been updated.''

I'm not Carmello; I don't know anyone by that name.

Perhaps coincidentally (though probably not), attempts to log into the app
now fail.  When I just now tried to log into the website, I got this vague

  “Error - We're sorry, login isn't available at this time. Please log in
  again later.''

Will I soon be reading about a big data breach at this insurer?  I won't be

Re: U.S. DST change proposals and WWVB radio clocks (RichW, R 31 11)

"John Levine" <>
13 Mar 2019 17:21:51 +0900
> ... I'm aware of California and Florida, for example.  At least one
> Canadian province (British Columbia) is considering doing the same.

Massachusetts, too.

For some reason, states can opt out of DST, but they can't opt for
year-round DST, so if FL or MA does year round DST, they will have to do it
by moving to the AST time zone with no DST.

If the clocks don't already handle AST, they're not really fit for purpose,
since Puerto Rico and the USVI have been on AST for a century.

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