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 29

Tuesday 11 June 2019


U.S. Customs and Border Protection says photos of travelers into and out of the country were recently taken in a data breach
How AI Could Be Weaponized to Spread Disinformation
Major HSM vulnerabilities impact banks, cloud providers, governments
Hawaiian Airlines' software glitch blamed for flight delays, cancellations
Hawaii News Now
GPS Degraded Across Much of U.S., ADS-B Impacted
The Catch-22 that broke the Internet
Brian Barrett
For two hours, a large chunk of European mobile traffic was rerouted through China
Catalin Cimpanu
Spam, Anti-Spam, Data, and Drugs
Paul Vixie
Amazon's Home Surveillance Company Is Putting Suspected Petty Thieves in its Advertisements
Project ExplAIn - interim report Rob Slade)
Facial recognition in schools: keep them safe?
Database of 3D objects stolen
The Register
Careless bitcoin blackmail
Jose Maria Mateos
Google has warned U.S. of security risks from banning Huawei
Some Real News About Fake News
David A. Graham
Dave Crocker
Re: U.S. visas now need five years of your social media
Amos Shapir
Re: Phishing calls
Dmitri Maziuk
John Levine
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says photos of travelers into and out of the country were recently taken in a data breach (WashPost)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 10 Jun 2019 14:35:58 PDT

How AI Could Be Weaponized to Spread Disinformation (NYTimes)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Sun, 9 Jun 2019 11:53:45 PDT
The New York Times, 7 Jun 2019

The world's top artificial intelligence labs are honing technology that can
mimic how humans write, which could one day help disinformation campaigns go
undetected by generating huge amounts of subtly different messages.

Major HSM vulnerabilities impact banks, cloud providers, governments (ZDNet)

David Balenson <>
Mon, 10 Jun 2019 18:06:58 +0000

Hawaiian Airlines' software glitch blamed for flight delays, cancellations (Hawaii News Now)

Monty Solomon <>
Mon, 10 Jun 2019 16:51:24 -0400

GPS Degraded Across Much of U.S., ADS-B Impacted (rntfnd)

geoff goodfellow <>
June 11, 2019 at 12:53:23 AM GMT+9
Blog Editor's Note: Even as a Presidential Advisory Board was discussing GPS
as the Gold Standard for satellite-based navigation last week, the system
may have been operating in a degraded mode.

On Sunday the Federal Aviation Administration held a teleconference to
discuss the issue that seems to have persisted for several days.  While not
`failing', GPS signal quality seems to have degraded and this is impacting
some equipment and services. Specifically, the aviation safety Automatic
Dependent Surveillance Broadcast system has been impacted across much of the
United States. FAA has posted the following map depicting the areas

These problems have delayed and canceled flights, possibly by the thousands.
The FAA seems to have addressed some of this problem by issuing waivers for
some aircraft to fly without operable ADS-B safety systems, as long as they
stay on pre-planned routes and below 28,000 ft altitude.

Speculation on some on-line forums point to specific manufacturers'
equipment and aircraft that are primarily effected. Previous degradation in
GPS signal quality, such as the SVN-23 caused problem in January 2016, have
shown that equipment from different vendors react differently to the
problem. Some are unaffected, some go offline, and some just perform poorly.

The January 2016 SVN-23 degradation caused much of the nation's ADS-B system
to be unavailable for much of the day. Other receivers and systems were
impacted also. Cellular networks, first responder systems, digital
broadcast, and numerous other systems were impacted.

Watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center seemed unaware of
the problem early Monday morning, but promised to investigate and respond.

Much of the information for this post was gleaned from the below posting on  [...]

The Catch-22 that broke the Internet (Brian Barrett)

Jim Reisert AD1C <>
Sat, 8 Jun 2019 23:10:10 -0600
Brian Barrett,, 8 Jun 2019
Google's big outage also blocked access to the tools Google needed to fix it.


  Which is exactly what played out on Sunday. Google says its engineers were
  aware of the problem within two minutes. And yet!  “Debugging the problem
  was significantly hampered by failure of tools competing over use of the
  now-congested network,'' the company wrote in a detailed postmortem.
  “Furthermore, the scope and scale of the outage, and collateral damage to
  tooling as a result of network congestion, made it initially difficult to
  precisely identify impact and communicate accurately with customers.''
  [Source: ??? PGN]

For two hours, a large chunk of European mobile traffic was rerouted through China (Catalin Cimpanu)

Gene Wirchenko <>
Sun, 09 Jun 2019 18:31:36 -0700
Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day | June 7, 2019
It was China Telecom, again. The same ISP accused last year of "hijacking
the vital Internet backbone of western countries."

opening text:

For more than two hours on Thursday, June 6, a large chunk of European
mobile traffic was rerouted through the infrastructure of China Telecom,
China's third-largest telco and Internet service provider (ISP).

The incident occurred because of a BGP route leak at Swiss data center
colocation company Safe Host, which accidentally leaked over 70,000 routes
from its internal routing table to the Chinese ISP.

The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which is used to reroute traffic at the
ISP level, has been known to be problematic to work with, and BGP leaks
happen all the time.

However, there are safeguards and safety procedures that providers usually
set up to prevent BGP route leaks from influencing each other's networks.

  [So why have I read multiple articles about BGP problems?  I remember when
  we covered BGP during my BCS degree, and it seemed to me at the time to be
  somewhat questionable security-wise.  Regarding BGP, I am pleased to be
  right and would rather be wrong.]

Spam, Anti-Spam, Data, and Drugs

Paul Vixie <>
Mon, 10 Jun 2019 23:48:22 +0000
Paul Vixie (CEO, Farsight Security), I Want a New Drug, 3 Jun 2019 Infosec

  [Included in totality, with permission at my request.
  Possible lessons regarding legal risks.  PGN]

Slightly over 20 years ago, I co-founded the first anti-spam company, called
MAPS. It was 'spam' spelled backwards, and also the Mail Abuse Prevention
System.  My co-founder was Dave Rand, and we were quite sure that the low
cost of sending e-mail would cause an explosion of network abuse, where
unethical advertisers would cheerfully externalize their costs onto the
overall economy, and equally sure that spam would be like a noxious weed
that overruns its ecosystem, because nothing eats it. We were, sadly,
correct.  Even more sadly, lawsuits against us by unethical advertisers cost
millions of dollars, such that we ultimately had to sell the company just to
pay our own lawyers.  Lessons learned? First, no good deed goes
unpunished. Second, check the water temperature before diving in.

Somewhere along the line we started to joke that spam was like a drug, and
spammers were addicts, and they would do anything, up to and including
selling their own children to sex traffickers, if it meant they could spam
for one more day.  This may seem overly severe if you weren't in the
security business at the time and you didn't see the depths of depravity to
which unethical advertisers swam in order to bypass any and all controls
against their work.  With two decades of perspective, I can certainly see it
as `gallows humor' and maybe not as darkly funny today as it seemed at the
time. I share this story with you to give you a glimpse into the minds of a
couple of perennial do- gooders as we lost the Internet's first culture war.
But also to familiarize you with the meme, `X is like a drug.'

Because, data is like a drug. It's not as some say, `the new
oil,' because while oil moves nations, it won't pivot an entire
economy from top to bottom.  Only a handful of megacorporations and their
supply chains thrive or die on changes in the market for oil. Data, by
comparison, affects everybody. Like a drug, it can reform and pervert what
were stable systems or morality, literally making good people do bad things,
which they somehow justify. Also, there is no escape for the non-addicts; we
are at constant risk in every zone of our personal and professional lives
due to the insatiable need for more data by addicts and their enablers. They
will take our data no matter what depths of depravity they must swim to, and
their justification for it will sound like cheap equivocations to the
non-addicts who are their victims.

In the new virtual economy, value chains are not anchored by physical
assets, and what a company can deliver is quite a bit more diverse than what
they can get paid for. When I first heard that if I wasn't paying for a
product, then I was the product, I knew it was so. I've tried to find some
friend at Google who can charge me money to remember everything they know
about me and use it to provide me services but never share that data with
anyone else.  Unfortunately, there is no amount of money I could pay to
Google that would be worth as much to them as the many uses they can make of
my personal information. There won't be a Private Google for me or for any
of us, any more than the online news and other services I pay subscription
fees for can offer me an ad-free experience or keep my personal information
entirely private.

However, unopposed trends accelerate, and right now the General Data
Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the only thing slowing the world's sell-off
of whatever actual privacy any of us still have left, and I am not at all
sanguine about Ireland's slow-rolling protection of the American technical
industry's anti-privacy practices[1]. We must, every person, every family,
every company, every state and every nation, diligently notice and defend
against every data predator and every privacy abuse no matter how benign it
may seem. If you're shredding your junk mail to defend your family against
identity theft but then playing Pokemon Go during idle times as you go about
your daily business, then you're hugging a tree without noticing the fire
engulfing the forest around you. Many of the companies who can observe your
activities will leverage your data to constrain your future choices in small
ways which add up to a form of `digital serfdom' for you in the aggregate.

Closer to home and immediately to hand, I am dumping my company's online
expense reporting platform, after warning them several times, and getting
only lame and misleading answers each time. They've turned on what they call
`Smart Scan' for all our employees, and have removed any control for turning
it off again, and this has been called a `policy change.'  What this means
is that the personally identifiable information of our employees as they
travel the world was simply too valuable for them to leave in our hands --
they can't compete in the global data marketplace if they don't extract
every possible one or zero from any information that comes into their
orbit. Note that this is a paid commercial service, and I would pay more to
keep our employees' privacy safe, but that option has not been and will not
be offered to us. For the moment, this means we'll go back to e-mailed
spreadsheets, while we audit the privacy policies of potential new online
expense reporting services.

Sadly, last time we did a search with such audits, every single provider we
evaluated, failed, usually for more than one cause. This may help explain
why I've lost my capability to be astonished by the findings in this year's
Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report[2] (DBIR). It's a stunning piece
of work and should be compelling in its own right. However, the data we're
losing piecemeal due to surveillance capitalism is of gargantually greater
magnitude than the data we're losing due to criminal breaches of our online
infrastructure, and should concern all of us far more. I fear that we are
all numb, and if we ponder the circumstances of our privacy it's to wonder
where it will end or how it can end. Perhaps a motorcycling holiday in
Scotland will restore my capacity for outrage. I'll try that and get back to


Amazon's Home Surveillance Company Is Putting Suspected Petty Thieves in its Advertisements (Vice)

Monty Solomon <>
Fri, 7 Jun 2019 16:54:10 -0400
Ring, Amazon's doorbell company, posted a video of a woman suspected of a
crime and asked users to call the cops with information.

Project ExplAIn - interim report

Rob Slade <>
Sun, 9 Jun 2019 09:30:17 -0800
An interim report on Project ExplAIn, from the Alan Turing Institute and the
UK Information Commissioner's Office, has been released.
The purpose of this project, according to the ICO, is to develop `practical
guidance' for organizations on complying with UK data protection law when
using artificial intelligence decision-making systems.

This report is potentially very important, and probably deserves more
attention than one, quick, reactionary post in reply.  However, at a first

I am somewhat heartened by the realization, and emphasis, right up front,
that one size definitely does not fit all with regard to artificial
intelligence, even in regard to generic guidance and policy.  But that does
put into question the value of a 30 page report.

Under the subheading of "Why is The Alan Turing Institute working on this?",
the issue of "Explainability" is raised.  Explainability is fairly easy in
programs using expert system approaches.  However as one gets into areas
such as genetic programming and neural networks explainability becomes much
more difficult to assess with any certainty.  These are areas where we,
essentially, *expect* the machines to surprise us with programs and
decisions that we couldn't come up with on our own.  (A later mention of
this in regard to the "citizen juries" seems to amount to an opinion survey.
In addition, the choice of "accuracy" over explainability seems to indicate
a misunderstanding that explainability is one of the only measures we have
for the reliability of accuracy.  Still later in the report the issue of
this dichotomy is raised but dismissed.)

Under the subheading of "What is an AI decision?", there is an
acknowledgment that AI is a catch-all term for a range of technologies.
However, the section then goes on to emphasize machine learning, which may
limit the overall scope and outcome.  The document then goes on to discuss
GDPR, seemingly without directly raising the issue of privacy.  However, at
this point it does not address the technical issue of the danger of using
unedited masses of "real" data for the development and testing of AI
systems, specifically those using machine learning technologies.  The lack
of this consideration is concerning, in regard to the overall value of the
final outcomes of the report.

Ultimately, this interim report is a disappointment.  The methodology seems
to be little more than an opinion survey, and a number of important areas in
regard to guidance on pursuing work with AI systems seems to be either out
of scope or dismissed.

Facial recognition in schools: keep them safe? (NYTimes)

Monty Solomon <>
Fri, 7 Jun 2019 15:22:04 -0400
This week my daughter's school became the first in the nation to pilot
facial-recognition software. The technology's potential is chilling.

Database of 3D objects stolen (The Register)

"Arthur T." <>
Sat, 08 Jun 2019 20:41:47 -0400
UAB Planner5D "spent years and millions of dollars compiling the dataset"
which was made too-easily accessible on its site, protected only by their
TOS. They're suing the company who scraped the data and Facebook, who funded
that company and also used the data.

Careless bitcoin blackmail

José María Mateos <>
Sat, 8 Jun 2019 06:10:36 -0400
Remember that new spam / blackmail form that sent you one of your old
passwords and said that your machine had been hacked and you had been
recorded while visiting a porn site, and demanded a payment in bitcoin?

Not surprisingly, spam filters started blocking all that garbage
immediately; the threat is always written in the same way, so one can assume
Bayes works reasonably well. Of course, the next step to try to avoid this
is to replace the entire text with an image containing the text itself.

An image that says that the bitcoin address to which the payment needs to be
sent is case-sensitive, so one would rather copy and paste it.

But how am I supposed to pay now?

Google has warned U.S. of security risks from banning Huawei (ISC2)

Dan Jacobson <>
Sun, 09 Jun 2019 21:04:17 +0800

'Google said that by stopping it from doing business with Huawei, the U.S.
risks creating two kinds of Android operating system—the genuine version
and a hybrid one, said the FT report, adding, "The hybrid one is likely to
have more bugs in it than the Google one, and so could put Huawei phones
more at risk of being hacked, not least by China."'

Some Real News About Fake News (David A. Graham)

Dewayne Hendricks <>
June 8, 2019 at 9:53:32 PM GMT+9
David A. Graham, *The Atlantic*, 7 Jun 2019, via Dave Farber

It's not just making people believe false things—a new study suggests
it's also making them less likely to consume or accept information.

The rise of fake news in the American popular consciousness is one of the
remarkable growth stories in recent year—a dizzying climb to make any
Silicon Valley unicorn jealous. Just a few years ago, the phrase was
meaningless. Today, according to a new Pew Research Center study, Americans
rate it as a larger problem than racism, climate change, or terrorism.

But remarkable though that may seem, it's not actually what's most
interesting about the study. Pew finds that Americans have deeply divergent
views about fake news and different responses to it, which suggest that the
emphasis on misinformation might actually run the risk of making people,
especially conservatives, less well informed. More than making people
believe false things, the rise of fake news is making it harder for people
to see the truth.

Pew doesn't define what it calls `made-up news', which is a reasonable
choice in the context of a poll, but matters a great deal in interpreting
it. The term has come to mean different things to different people. It was
coined to describe deliberately false articles created by Potemkin news
sites and spread on social media. But in a deliberate effort to muddy the
waters, President Donald Trump began labeling news coverage that was
unfavorable to him `fake news'.  (Indeed, Pew finds that Americans blame
politicians and their aides, more than the press, activist groups, or
foreign actors, for the problem of made-up news.) Now when Trump's
supporters refer to `fake news', they often seem to mean mainstream news
they dislike, whereas when others do so, they mean bogus information spread
by fringe actors.

If Pew's data are taken to mean that people find this latter category more
dangerous than climate change, that is almost certainly an overreaction. As
the political scientist Brendan Nyhan wrote in February, summarizing the
state of research in the field:

Relatively few people consumed this form of content directly during the 2016
campaign, and even fewer did so before the 2018 election. Fake news
consumption is concentrated among a narrow subset of Americans with the most
conservative news diets. And, most notably, no credible evidence exists that
exposure to fake news changed the outcome of the 2016 election.

Pew finds a significant gap between Democrats' and Republicans' views on the
seriousness of the problem with made-up news, though:

This looks a lot like a split over the definition of fake news, rather than
the actual problem. Put differently, Republicans may well be responding not
to out-and-out fakery, but to bias—real or perceived—in news
coverage. It would make sense that conservatives would be primed to accept
the idea of widespread bias in the press after a decades-long campaign
against the credibility of the mainstream press. Indeed, Republicans are
about three times more likely than Democrats (58 percent versus 20 percent)
to say that journalists create a lot of fake news, though they still assign
more blame to both politicians and activist groups.

How do people respond when they sense fake news? Here again, the partisan
splits are notable. [...]

Some Real News About Fake News (RISKS-31.29)

Dave Crocker <>
June 9, 2019 at 9:29:12 PM GMT+9
  [Also via Dave Farber]

It's not just making people believe false things—a new study suggests
it's also making them less likely to consume or accept information.

Consider the possibility that the Atlantic article is, itself, fake news about research done by Pew.

As always, the Pew folk did a careful bit of survey research and used
appropriate language in describing it.  Surveys mostly are good for finding
out about people's feelings and attitudes.  They are almost always terrible
at determining "cause" and as we regularly see, can be challenging at
predicting actual behavior.

I quoted the Atlantic's summary of the article, above, because Pew doesn't
say anything about "making people believe".  And because the Atlantic
perpetuates the myth that consumers of information are relatively passive,
whereas the reality is that we choose what we consume.  (The Atlantic does
note that people report doing more fact-checking.)

There is always plenty of legitimate information available.  And there is
plenty of legitimate information about information sources that regularly
produce fake news.  So if someone regularly sees fake news, it's because
they choose to.

Most of us, most of the time, decide what we want to believe and then seek
confirmation of it.  It's actually hard work and significant angst to look
for diverse sources of serious information, thoughtfully consider what is
provided, and then judge it flexibly.

We need to understand why folk choose to consume fake news and we aren't
going to find that out with a survey.

Re: U.S. visas now need five years of your social media (RISKS-31.28)

Amos Shapir <>
Sun, 9 Jun 2019 13:44:53 +0300
It seems that this question on the visa request form has the same role of
other questions, such as "are you a Nazi / Communist"—They do not really
want an answer, since the true answer is rather easy to obtain, and is not
really a solid reason to deny a visa; but it's a question that real
criminals and terrorists are likely to lie on, so they can charge them with
lying on a federal form if caught.

Re: Phishing calls (Slade, RISKS-31.28)

Dmitri Maziuk <>
Sat, 8 Jun 2019 10:28:04 -0500
The other day my wife got a call very similar to what Rob describes.  She
hung up too, of course, logged on to the bank's site, and found a slew of
charges from a supermarket chain in another state, all in different stores,
all under $100.

The problem is robocalls crying wolf.

Re: Phishing calls (Slade, RISKS-31.28)

"John Levine" <>
8 Jun 2019 15:46:48 -0400
All Visa cards start with 4 but the second digit varies depending on
the bank.  Mine start with 40, 46, and 49.

There's a 10% chance that any particular card starts with 45, so they got
lucky.  This is typical for robophish, make up details and crank out the
calls until the details match those of a sucker.

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