The RISKS Digest
Volume 32 Issue 93

Monday, 22nd November 2021

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…

Contents

FBI e-mail system breach
Reuters
Do-It-Yourself artificial pancreas given approval by team of experts
MedicalXpress.com
International Space Station nearly struck by Chinese satellite debris
JPost
DoS Sabotage by Telegram
Bertrand Meyer
Palestinians Were Targeted by Israeli Firm’s Spyware, Experts Say
NYTimes via Jan Wolitzky
Congress mandates new car technology to stop drunken driving
techxplore.com
Thermal Grease Degradation is an underappreciated hazard
Bob Gezelter
Unconsidered automatic filtering creates damaging side-effects
Bob Gezelter
QR codes, URL's, and restaurants
Jerry Leichter
“Political Ads During 2020 Presidential Election Cycle Collected Personal Information, Spread Misleading Information”
UWash
Algorithmic Tracking ‘Damaging Mental Health’ of UK Workers
Dan Milmo
Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published
Nature
Ransomware operators have a compliance department
Matt Levine
Bipartisan bill would force Big Tech to offer algorithm-free feeds, search results
Ars Technica via Lauren Weinstein
Edge and Windows 11 ” the return of Microsoft's IE fiasco?
Computerworld
Google 2021 AI Principles Progress Update
Googleleapis
You've Got an Enemy at Chase!
Paul Robinson
UK regulator seeks to improve the privacy of video conferencing
Peter Houppermans
Cryptocurrency, NTFs or other such digital assets faces a quantum computing problem
CNET
Security Vulnerabilities in Computer Memories
????
These Parents Built a School App. Then the City Called the Cops
WiReD
Cars Are Going Electric. What Happens to the Used Batteries?
WiReD
Open Source Doesn't Mean More Software Is Better Software
WiReD
The Era Of D.C.’s New (771) Area Code Has Begun
DCist
Hackers Targeted Apple Devices in Hong Kong for Widespread Attack
WiReD
This Company Tapped AI for Its Website”and Landed in Court
WiReD
Contract lawyers face a growing invasion of surveillance programs that monitor their work
WashPost
The next normal: Algorithms will take over college, from admissions to advising
WashPost
Google loses appeal against $2.7 billion antitrust fine over its comparison-shopping practices in Europe
Fortune
Caller ID fun
Comcast
Debris From Test of Russian Antisatellite Weapon Forces Astronauts to Shelter
NYTimes
Apple announces-Self Service Repair
Apple via Gabe Goldberg
Re: Trojan Source Bug Threatens the Security of All Code
Henry Baker
Re: SpaceX Under Fire After Autonomous Rocket Hits Pedestrian
Mark Brader Scott Dorsey
Re: spider bites, or Using Google search to deliver customers or worse
John Levine
Facebook 3rd party single-sign-on failure
Paul Robinson
After a pandemic, fire season, and now floods, are you ready to get trained for emergencies and disasters?
Rob Slade
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

FBI e-mail system breach

<Peter G Neumann>
Sun, 14 Nov 2021 10:06:23 -0500

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/hackers-compromise-fbis-external-email-system-bloomberg-news-2021-11-13/

13 Nov 2021 (Reuters)—Hackers compromised a Federal Bureau of Investigation email system on Saturday and sent tens of thousands of messages warning of a possible cyberattack, according to the agency and security specialists.

Fake emails appeared to come from a legitimate FBI email address ending in @ic.fbi.gov, the FBI said in a statement.

Although the hardware impacted by the incident “was taken offline quickly upon discovery of the issue,” the FBI said, “This is an ongoing situation.”

The hackers sent tens of thousands of emails warning of a possible cyberattack, threat-tracking organization Spamhaus Project said on its Twitter account.


Do-It-Yourself artificial pancreas given approval by team of experts (MedicalXpress.com)

“Richard Stein” <rmstein@ieee.org>
Wed, 17 Nov 2021 09:40:13 +0800

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-11-do-it-yourself-artificial-pancreas-team-experts.html

“Dominic Nutt, 54 from South West London, was diagnosed with diabetes aged 15. He has a personalized algorithm that controls his glucose monitor and insulin pump automatically. He manages the process through a smartphone, putting in when he eats carbohydrates or exercises, as this affects his blood sugar.”

The DIY diabetic management combination confers life-sustaining convenience and freedom from the routine finger prick, blood glucose measurement, and insulin injection protocol.

The artificial pancreas systems likely apply Bluetooth to communicate and coordinate their operation. See “Guidelines for the use of Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) and Sensors in the School Setting” retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org/sites/default/files/2019-06/CGM guidelines.pdf on 15NOV2021 for typical deployed solution identified for juveniles.

A comp.risks search returns ~100 submissions containing “bluetooth” since ~OCT2000.

One way to learn about medical device issues traced to their patients is to visit and type in “insulin” or “glucose monitor” in the textbox. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfPCD/PCDSimpleSearch.cfm

17 TPLC product code records are returned for insulin (e.g., product code OZO) and 9 product code records (e.g., product code QLG) materialize. Each product code links to tabulations for 5 years of manufacturer device and patient problems submitted to the FDA as medical device reports (MDRs). Interpreting the MDRs is another matter: significant subject matter expertise required.

Each MDR documents a product defect escape, with many characterized as “No Consequences Or Impact To Patient” or “No Clinical Signs, Symptoms or Conditions”—meaning that a patient might have been involuntary compelled to visit their physician to check on the device's behavior and verify their condition.


International Space Station nearly struck by Chinese satellite debris (JPost)

geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
Fri, 12 Nov 2021 13:33:19 -0700

Space debris has become a major concern for all satellites orbiting the Earth, not just the football-field-sized ISS […] https://www.jpost.com/science/international-space-station-nearly-struck-by-chinese-satellite-debris-684809


DoS Sabotage by Telegram

Bertrand Meyer <Bertrand.Meyer@inf.ethz.ch>
Wed, 10 Nov 2021 17:26:40 +0100

Antivax activists are not limited to the US. To promote Covid vaccination, the Swiss confederation is financing a set of concerts with star performers, free but requiring registration to control the number of participants, e.g. to 500 yesterday in Lausanne. It looks like anti-vaccine activists colluded through a Telegram group to sabotage the events, by reserving many of the seats with no intent to show up. As a result, fewer than 100 people (50 per some sources) actually attended. See https://bit.ly/3qr7Neg (French), https://bit.ly/30a4spf (German).


Palestinians Were Targeted by Israeli Firm’s Spyware, Experts Say

“Jan Wolitzky” <jan.wolitzky@gmail.com>
Mon, 8 Nov 2021 10:23:03 -0500

International hacking experts said on Monday that Palestinians belonging to rights groups recently outlawed by Israel had been targeted by spyware made by the Israeli technology firm NSO Group. The accusations put the relationship between the Israeli government and the company, recently blacklisted by the United States, under renewed scrutiny.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/08/world/middleeast/nso-israel-palestinians-spyware.html

Also: Palestinians: Israeli NSO spyware found on officials’ phones

JERUSALEM (AP) ” The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Thursday said it has detected spyware developed by the Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group on the phones of three senior officials and accused Israel of using the military-grade Pegasus software to eavesdrop on them.

The Palestinian accusations against NSO came as the embattled Israeli firm acknowledged that it had called off the appointment of its incoming chief executive in the wake of U.S. accusations that its spyware has been used by repressive governments around the world.

Thursday’s announcement by the Foreign Ministry marked the first time Palestinian officials have claimed NSO software was used to spy on them.

https://apnews.com/article/technology-business-israel-software-spyware-1fab8f8b88e8a7181887728e3e6bc39d


Congress mandates new car technology to stop drunken driving (techxplore.com)

“Richard Stein” <rmstein@ieee.org>
Thu, 11 Nov 2021 08:56:45 +0800

https://techxplore.com/news/2021-11-congress-mandates-car-technology-drunken.html

“Congress has created a new requirement for automakers: Find a high-tech way to keep drunken people from driving cars.”

“Each year, around 10,000 people are killed due to alcohol-related crashes in the U.S., making up nearly 30% of all traffic fatalities, according to NHTSA.”

But not intoxicated or abusing other substances like methamphetamine, opiates or marijuana?

“Drugged Driving DrugFacts” from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving (retrieved on 11NOV2021) states, “According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2018, 20.5 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year and 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.”

Drugged-driving represents a significant risk.

[Hypothetical: If Theranos had not cratered, would a blood-test gizmo appear in your Tesla dashboard?]


Thermal Grease Degradation is an underappreciated hazard

Bob Gezelter <gezelter@rlgsc.com>
Wed, 10 Nov 2021 12:04:48 -0500

It has often been said that one can as easily die due to some minor component as an exotic event. Thermal grease on CPUs and other processors may be a mundane issue, but when it degrades, it can cause failures in systems large and small.

Thermal compound ensures heat transfer from CPUs to heat sinks. Eminently useful, thermal grease has a finite life, measured in significantly less than a decade. Grease degradation results in overheating and damage to processors and other components.

Thermal grease failure can masquerade as many different problems, with the common root cause being processor overheating. One could easily think that the problem is elsewhere, perhaps a failed CPU, clogged fan, or failed fan; all of which are far more costly than the US$10 for a small syringe of thermal grease.

An Intel article on replacing thermal grease can be found at: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/gaming/resources/how-to-apply-thermal-paste.html


Unconsidered automatic filtering creates damaging side-effects

Bob Gezelter <gezelter@rlgsc.com>
Mon, 15 Nov 2021 07:38:27 -0500

A real example of the old adage, “Assume makes an ass out of you and me”. In this particular case it creates an “ume”.

Those implementing “bad word” filters on www sites should carefully consider the implications of their decisions and how their filters can have consequences.

I recently saw a case of a social site which has apparently implemented a filter to remove the word “ass”, presumably among other “dirty” or offensive words. However, the implementation matched the sequence “ass”, not the word “ ass ” (no requirement for the presence of the separating spaces).

Therefore, the words “passion”, “association”, “assume”, and many others have the sequence “ass” removed, yielding “pion”, “ociation”, and “ume”, among others.

An example of how simple it is to transform proper English into something that sounds illiterate.


QR codes, URL's, and restaurants

“Jerry Leichter” <leichter@lrw.com>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 13:03:57 -0500

For years, we've been telling people not to click on links in email. Companies require their employees to go through annual training, wasting time they could be doing useful work being told “don't click on URLs in email, they might be malicious.” (Of course then the same companies turn around and send out their own emails, complete with embedded links, to those same employees.)

Many restaurants these days have “gone modern.” Rather than providing traditional menus, they put a card on the table with a QR code on it. Scan it on your phone and the menu pops up in your browser. But … why exactly should you trust the URL encoded in that QR code? You actually have less context to verify it than you do in typical email URLs! Oh, sure, it's at a restaurant you know and trust … but the last patron could have easily replaced the piece of paper the restaurant owner put there. Sure, you can - if you have the right software—look at the URL before viewing it. But the typical URL won't be managed by the restaurant itself—it'll be provided by some third party you never heard of.

There are “touchless” systems that go beyond this. Not only do you see your menu on your phone—you place your order and pay for it on the Web site the QR code brings up. If a URL in an email asked for your credit card information, you might be suspicious—but if the restaurant's entire order/pay experience is through the QR code, that's just expected. Oh, and to make it even better, these things often show up on your next credit bill as from some third party you never heard of, not the restaurant itself. Someone could probably skim a good fraction of payments from a restaurant for quite a while without either the restaurant or any customer noticing that something was amiss: The customer would see and pay an expected charge (to the wrong party, but he has no way to check); the restaurant would eventually notice that its receipts didn't match expectations, but tracking down why might take a while.

These touchless, automated systems were probably in the planning stages well before COVID, but the pandemic has greatly speeded their adoption. I haven't heard of any frauds … but I'll be astonished if it stays that way.


“Political Ads During 2020 Presidential Election Cycle Collected Personal Information, Spread Misleading Information” (UWash)

ACM TechNews <technews-editor@acm.org>
Wed, 10 Nov 2021 12:17:15 -0500 (EST)

University of Washington News (11/08/21) Sarah McQuate ; Rebecca Gourley

University of Washington (UW) researchers say online political ads during the 2020 U.S. presidential election often employed manipulative techniques, including spreading misinformation. The researchers scrolled through nearly750 news sites with a Web crawler, and studied over 1 million ads between September 2020 and January 2021; natural language processing determined almost 56,000 ads were political. UW's Miranda Wei said fake poll ads harvested personal information like email addresses, and attempted to exploit people's political leanings, “then use that information to send spam, malware, or just general email newsletters.” The most popular political ad was click-bait news that typically mentioned top politicians in sensationalist headlines, while the actual articles contained little of substance. The researchers advise Web surfers to be cautious about taking such content at face value, and to use ad blockers.

https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=znwrbbrs9_6-2d5e0x22f43dx074152&


Algorithmic Tracking ‘Damaging Mental Health’ of UK Workers (Dan Milmo)

ACM TechNews <technews-editor@acm.org>
Fri, 12 Nov 2021 12:30:14 -0500 (EST)

Dan Milmo, The Guardian, 11 Nov 2021 via ACM TechNews, Friday, November 12, 2021

A report by the UK Parliament's All-Party Parliamentary Group (AAPG) calls for new legislation to control the use of algorithms to monitor workers and set performance targets for them. The report said pervasive monitoring and target-setting technologies in particular “are associated with pronounced negative impacts on mental and physical well-being as workers experience the extreme pressure of constant, real-time micro-management and automated assessment.” The group is calling for an “accountability for algorithms act” to ensure performance-driven regimes are evaluated to assess their impact, and that workers participate in the design and use of algorithm-driven systems.

https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=znwrbbrs9_6-2d630x22f53ax074337&


Scammers impersonate guest editors to get sham papers published

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Mon, 8 Nov 2021 10:48:02 -0800

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03035-y


Ransomware operators have a compliance department (Matt Levine)

Joe Loughry <joe@netoir.com>
Wed, 10 Nov 2021 16:27:55 -0700

From Matt Levine's Money Stuff newsletter on Bloomberg, 8 November 2021:

Ransomware

In October, the infamous ransomware gang known as Conti released thousands of files stolen from the UK jewelry store Graff.

Now, the hackers would like the world to know that they regret their decision, perhaps in part because they released files belonging to very powerful people…

“We found that our sample data was not properly reviewed before being uploaded to the blog,” the hackers wrote in an announcement published on Thursday. “Conti guarantees that any information pertaining to members of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar families will be deleted without any exposure and review.”

“Our Team apologizes to His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman and any other members of the Royal Families whose names were mentioned in the publication for any inconvenience,” the hackers added.

Imagine being a big-time ransomware hacker, thinking that you're pretty tough, fancying yourself a master criminal, giving yourself an intimidating online alias, maybe even being able, in certain circumstances, to call down violence on your enemies, and then realizing one day that you'd accidentally hacked a guy who had a journalist kidnapped, tortured to death and then dismembered with a bone saw for criticizing him.

They are adding new compliance procedures to make sure this won't happen again:

The hackers also said that other than publishing the data on their site, they did not sell it or trade, and that from now on they will “implement a more rigid data review process for any future operations.”

We have talked before about the compliance function at ransomware firms. If you run a legal company, you have a compliance department to make sure that you don't do anything illegal, or at least, if your company is really big, to keep the illegality within acceptable limits. If you run a criminal gang, you have concerns that are different in degree but directionally similar: Your whole business is doing illegal things, sure, but you don't want to do too many things that are too illegal. You want to do crimes that make you money, but not crimes that get you shut down. You want to steal information from rich people and extort money from them. But not Mohammed bin Salman! Good lord!

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/newsletters/money-stuff/latest


Bipartisan bill would force Big Tech to offer algorithm-free feeds, search results

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Tue, 9 Nov 2021 14:44:48 -0800

[As nutty a concept as they come.]

As currently proposed, this concept is nuts. A search engine without prioritization is a massive, useless phone book. We're decades past that stage on the Net. -L

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/11/bill-proposes-algorithm-free-option-on-big-tech-platforms-may-portend-bigger-steps/


Edge and Windows 11 ” the return of Microsoft's IE fiasco? (Computerworld)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Fri, 19 Nov 2021 18:34:42 -0500

Microsoft, are you really planning to repeat your biggest business blunder?

This is no bug. This is a deliberate move throughout Windows to return to the past when your only real browser choice was the Microsoft choice. It backfired on the company then; I hope it backfires now.

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3641233/edge-and-windows-11-the-return-of-microsofts-ie-fiasco.html

[Lauren Weinstein noted this take on SearchEngineLand) https://searchengineland.com/windows-11-update-forces-users-into-edge-regardless-of-their-default-browser-376030


Google 2021 AI Principles Progress Update

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>
Thu, 18 Nov 2021 16:22:09 -0800

https://storage.googleapis.com/gweb-uniblog-publish-prod/documents/2021_AI_Principles_Progress_Update.pdf


You've Got an Enemy at Chase!

“Paul Robinson” <paul@paul-robinson.us>
Sat, 20 Nov 2021 09:50:35 +0000 (UTC)

My story is entitled “You've Got an Enemy at Chase!” as while I'm not sure if JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. has ever used the slogan “You've Got a Friend at Chase!” they certainly have, not a method to win friends and influence people, but instead, the abysmal performance I experienced of the type that can make you believe they hate you and ARE your enemy.

I discover (no pun intended, it's a Visa card) that my Chase credit card is missing. I think I lost it, so I'll just cancel it and have them issue a bew one. So I bring up Chase.Com and there is a big “Welcome” and “please log in” button. I click the button, a new prompt comes up where it asks for my username and password. Firefox brings up a drop-down box showing two options: a username I've used before in all UPPER CASE and the same username in all lower case. This is, in fact correct behsvior, because some websites have (the really stupid, in my opinion) “feature” (or maybe it's a bug) of case-sensitive usernames. I pick the all caps one, Firefox auto-fills the password field. I try it. Chase doesn't recognize my login, So I try the all lower case one, which Firefox auto-fills. Nope, that one doesn't work either.

Okay, I must have the wrong password, so I click on the link “forgot username/password?” This brings up a new box requesting Social Security number (quite reasonable, I fill that in) and account number (oh s---!). I try leaving the account number blank, and hit the “Next” button. I get an angry red message above the account number box saying “Account, card or application number”, and below the box, saying “Please tell us your account, card or application number to continue.” I don't know about you, but I'm not in the habit of writing down my account number in case I lose my card, and I think most people do not, either.

Well, that means I can't use their website to report my card lost, so I'll have to call them. Let's not forget voicemail systems are also software applications, just running on hardware dedicated to that purpose (and with the open-source PBX program Asterix, can be a PC running Linux).

So I call the 800 number—if you type “what is chase bank credit card phone number” Google will give you, in a nice big font—1 (800) 432-3117. So I dial the number.

It asks me for my credit card number. Then it says that if I don't have the number, press 1. It asks me to punch in my social security number. Fine. Then it asks me to punch in the full 16-digit account number.

There is a YouTuber named Undoomed, who critiques other people's videos. When the other person says something that on its face was stupid, he responds with, “Hey Moron! F---ing Moron!” This was one of those moments.

I'll make this real simple for the morons at Chase. If your voicemail system has given someone a path to use when they are missing an authentication, you're not supposed to ask them for the very same authentication they just told you that they don't have.


UK regulator seeks to improve the privacy of video conferencing

“Peter Houppermans” <peter@houppermans.net>
Mon, 8 Nov 2021 13:14:01 +0100

In July 2020, six data protection and privacy authorities from Australia, Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong SAR, China, Switzerland and the United Kingdom jointly signed an open letter to video teleconferencing (VTC) companies. The letter highlighted concerns about whether privacy safeguards were keeping pace with the rapid increase in use of VTC services during the global pandemic, and provided VTC companies with some guiding principles to address key privacy risks.''

https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2021/10/joint-statement-on-global-privacy-expectations-of-video-teleconferencing-companies/

Let's just say I have a fairly jaundiced view of what providers do in reality with such efforts, but it's not a bad thing they tart paying attention.

In general, video conferencing got a lot easier now WebRTC functionality is part of most browsers, although not all implementations are great. Firefox seems to be the best balance between multi platform functionality and avoiding Google Chrome. You can effectively roll your own service with what the Jitsi team has made available at https://jitsi.org/>, provided you protect the server component—that's where all the streams cross. iOS users best use their app as it has significantly less lag, Apple's mandated Webkit as used for Safari and Firefox appears as yet not quite up to the task.

But I digress—we're making progress here.


Cryptocurrency, NTFs or other such digital assets faces a quantum computing problem (CNET)

geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
Fri, 12 Nov 2021 13:23:31 -0700

Two cutting-edge technologies that promise to revolutionize entire fields may be on a collision course.

Cryptocurrencies hold the potential to change finance, eliminating middlemen and bringing accounts to millions of unbanked people around the world. Quantum computers could upend the way pharmaceuticals and materials are designed by bringing their extraordinary power to the process.

Here's the problem: The blockchain accounting technology that powers cryptocurrencies could be vulnerable to sophisticated attacks and forged transactions if quantum computing matures faster than efforts to future-proof digital money.

Cryptocurrencies are secured by a technology called public key cryptography. The system is ubiquitous, protecting your online purchases and scrambling your communications for anyone other than the intended recipient. The technology works by combining a public key, one that anyone can see, with a private key that's for your eyes only.

If current progress continues, quantum computers will be able to crack public key cryptography, potentially creating a serious threat to the crypto world, where some currencies are valued at hundreds of billions of dollars <https://coinmarketcap.com/>. If encryption is broken, attackers can impersonate the legitimate owners of cryptocurrency, NFT or other such digital assets. […]

<https://time.com/nextadvisor/investing/cryptocurrency/why-do-bitcoins-have-value/> <https://www.cnet.com/news/you-can-get-a-free-dc-x-palm-nft-tomorrow-what-to-know-about-the-digital-tokens-now/>s <https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/google-quantum-supremacy-only-first-taste-of-computing-revolution/> https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/crypto/cryptocurrency-faces-a-quantum-computing-problem/


Security Vulnerabilities in Computer Memories (oliver Morsch)

ACM TechNews <technews-editor@acm.org>
Wed, 17 Nov 2021 11:44:54 -0500 (EST)

Oliver Morsch, ETH Zurich (Switzerland), 15 Nov 2021 via ACM TechNews, Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH Zurich), the Netherlands' Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and semiconductor manufacturer Qualcomm Technologies identified major security flaws in dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) devices. ETH Zurich's Kaveh Razavi said the Rowhammer vulnerability in DRAMs, exploited by hackers to induce bit errors and access restricted areas inside the computer, remains unaddressed. Countermeasures designed to neutralize Rowhammer merely detect simple attacks. Razavi said the researchers' Blacksmith software, which systematically applies complex hammering patterns, found a successful exploit in each of 40 DRAM memories tested. This means current DRAM memories could remain hackable by Rowhammer attacks for years to come. https://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=znwrbbrs9_6-2d6b4x22f6e5x074830&

[See the source: https://comsec.ethz.ch/research/dram/blacksmith/]


These Parents Built a School App. Then the City Called the Cops (WiReD)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 15:14:03 -0500

In the weeks that followed, Landgren teamed up with fellow developers and parents Johan �–brink and Erik Hellman, and the trio hatched a plan. They would create an open source version of the Skolplattform and release it as an app that could be used by frustrated parents across Stockholm. Building on Landgren’s earlier work, the team opened Chrome’s developer tools, logged into the Skolplattform, and wrote down all the URLs and payloads. They took the code, which called the platform’s private API and built packages so it could run on a phone”essentially creating a layer on top of the existing, glitchy Skolplattform.

The result was the �–ppna Skolplattformen, or Open School Platform. The app was released on February 12, 2021, and all of its code is published under an open source license on GitHub. Anyone can take or use the code, with very few limitations on what they can do with it. If the city wanted to use any of the code, it could. But rather than welcome it with open arms, city officials reacted with indignation. Even before the app was released, the City of Stockholm warned Landgren that it might be illegal. […]

The police report, shared with WIRED by Landgren, references the Certezza security review, which was commissioned by the city and completed on February 17, 2021. The review concluded that the open source app wasn’t sending any sensitive information to third parties and didn’t pose a threat to users. The police report went further in clearing the �–ppna Skolplattformen developers. “All information that �–ppna Skolplattformen has used is public information that the City of Stockholm voluntarily distributed,” it said.

https://www.wired.com/story/sweden-stockholm-school-app-open-source/

The risk? Providing better U/I and making official IT look silly, so they call cops…


Cars Are Going Electric. What Happens to the Used Batteries? (WiReD)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 15:18:22 -0500

Used electric vehicle batteries could be the Achilles' heel of the transportation revolution”or the gold mine that makes it real.

When batteries can’t be fixed or reused, the company recycles some at its onsite facility. It also stores batteries. Lots of them. SNT’s main warehouse in Oklahoma City holds hundreds of electric car batteries, stacked on shelves that jut 30 feet into the air. With the Bolt recall, GM will send SNT many more.

Those batteries, and millions more like them that will eventually come off the road, are a challenge for the world’s electrified future. Automakers are pouring billions into electrification with the promise that this generation of cars will be cleaner than their gas-powered predecessors. By the end of the decade, the International Energy Agency estimates there will be between 148 million and 230 million battery-powered vehicles on the road worldwide, accounting for up to 12 percent of the global automotive fleet.

The last thing anyone wants is for those batteries to become waste. Lithium-ion batteries, like other electronics, are toxic, and can cause destructive fires that spread quickly”a danger that runs especially high when they are stored together. A recent EPA report found that lithium-ion batteries caused at least 65 fires at municiple waste facilities last year, though most were ignited by smaller batteries, like those made for cell phones and laptops. In SNT’s warehouse, bright red emergency water lines snake across the ceilings, a safeguard against calamity.

https://www.wired.com/story/cars-going-electric-what-happens-used-batteries/

A challenge for solid waste transfer stations; this is SOLID Waste.


Open Source Doesn't Mean More Software Is Better Software (WiReD)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 21:45:41 -0500

Last month, Eugen Rochko learned that the software project he started building during his university days, called Mastodon, is running Donald Trump’s new Truth Social network. This was an uncomfortable discovery, since, as Rochko told Vice, “If you want my personal opinion on Trump, I cannot stand the guy.”

Rochko’s first instinct might have been to order Trump to leave immediately”but Rochko doesn’t control Mastodon in that sort of way. It was created as free, open source software with a “copy-left” license, which means anyone can download it, run it, and change it, on the condition that they continue to work under the same license and freely share the altered version they are operating. Not only is Trump permitted to use the software for his own peculiar purposes, but the free software saves a startup like Truth Social millions of dollars in programming expenses. All Mastodon asks in return is that Truth Social then pay it forward.

But it turns out Trump isn’t a pay-it-forward kind of guy. On the Truth Social site there is currently no acknowledgment of Mastodon, and no way for someone to download the altered source code. Discovering this noncompliance gave Rochko his opening, and last week he announced that Mastodon had “sent a formal letter to Truth Social’s chief legal officer, requesting the source code to be made publicly available in compliance with the license,” which is known as AGPLv3. If Truth Social doesn’t comply within 30 days, the letter reads, the license may be permanently revoked, presumably by getting a court to make such an order.

https://www.wired.com/story/more-software-isnt-better-software/

The risks? Believing in good-faith licenses and promises…


The Era Of D.C.’s New (771) Area Code Has Begun (DCist)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Wed, 10 Nov 2021 17:17:07 -0500

The area code is what’s known as an overlay ” it will co-exist with (202) throughout D.C., unlike old-school “splits,” in which area codes were assigned to specific geographic areas. What limited criticism or concern there was around the introduction of the (771) area code was largely based on sentimental attachments to the original (202), though the Anti-Digit Dialing League ” “the premiere sensible dialing association organization” ” argued against an overlay since splits allow people to still call each other using only the seven digits of their phone number, instead of having to also dial the area code.

“Overlays continue to remain a public nuisance,” said the niche organization.

https://dcist.com/story/21/11/10/the-era-of-dcs-new-771-area-code-has-begun/

ADDL—Anti-Digit Dialing Luddites. As a kid, I tried to convince my parents that our Brooklyn phone number—TE6-0176—should be given out as all digits. I was decades ahead of NANPA.


Hackers Targeted Apple Devices in Hong Kong for Widespread Attack (WiReD)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Thu, 11 Nov 2021 17:35:56 -0500

Visitors to pro-democracy and media sites in the region were infected with malware that could download files, steal data, and more.

Since at least late August, sophisticated hackers used flaws in macOS and iOS to install malware on Apple devices that visited Hong Kong“based media and pro-democracy websites. The so-called watering hole attacks cast a wide net, indiscriminately placing a backdoor on any iPhone or Mac unfortunate enough to visit one of the affected pages.

Apple has patched the various bugs that allowed the campaign to unfold. But a report Thursday from Google's Threat Analysis Group shows how aggressive the hackers were and how broadly their reach extended. It's yet another case of previously undisclosed vulnerabilities, or zero-days, being exploited in the wild by attackers. Rather than a targeted attack that focuses on high-value targets like journalists and dissidents, though, the suspected state-backed group went for scale.

https://www.wired.com/story/ios-macos-hacks-hong-kong-watering-hole/

…so always good advice, apply updates—don't wait to long after release.


This Company Tapped AI for Its Website”and Landed in Court (WiReD)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Thu, 11 Nov 2021 17:45:42 -0500

Under pressure to make their sites accessible to visually impaired users, firms turn to software. But advocates say the tech isn't always up to the task.

Last year, Anthony Murphy, a visually impaired man who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, visited the website of eyewear retailer Eyebobs using screen reader software. Its synthesized voice attempted to read out the page’s content, as well as navigation buttons and menus. Eyebobs used artificial intelligence software from Israeli startup AccessiBe that promised to make its site easier for people with disabilities to use. But Murphy found it made it harder.

AccessiBe says it can simplify the work of making websites accessible to people with impaired vision or other challenges by “replacing a costly, manual process with an automated, state-of-the-art AI technology.” In a lawsuit filed against Eyebobs in January, Murphy alleged that the retailer failed to provide people using screen readers equal access to its services and that the technology from AccessiBe”not party to the suit”doesn’t work as advertised. […]

In his report on AccessiBe, Groves cited an image of a model wearing a white dress for sale on an ecommerce site. The alternative text provided, apparently generated by AccessiBe’s technology, was “Grass nature and summer.” In other cases, he reported, AccessiBe failed to properly add labels to forms and buttons.

On the homepage of its website, AccessiBe promises “automated web accessibility.” But support documents warn customers that its machine learning technology may not accurately interpret webpage features if it “hasn’t encountered these elements enough before.”

https://www.wired.com/story/company-tapped-ai-website-landed-court/

“Automated” doesn't necessarily mean AI. And AI isn't necessarily I.


Contract lawyers face a growing invasion of surveillance programs that monitor their work (WashPost)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Fri, 12 Nov 2021 00:20:01 -0500

Attorneys say the constant workday face scans, mandated by their bosses, are fueling fears of over-surveillance: “I will not subject myself to this indignity and the invasion of my privacy in my own home.”

The attorneys worry that if law firms, traditionally the defenders of workers’ rights, are turning to the programs, why wouldn’t every other business?

Camille Anidi, an attorney on Long Island, quickly understood the flaws of the facial recognition software her employers demanded she use when working from home. The system often failed to recognize her face or mistook the Bantu knots in her hair as unauthorized recording devices, forcing her to log back in sometimes more than 25 times a day.

When she complained, she said, her bosses brushed it off as a minor technical issue, though some of her lighter-skinned colleagues told her they didn’t have the same problem ” a common failing for some facial recognition systems, which have been shown to perform worse for people of color.

So after each logout, Anidi gritted her teeth and did what she had to do: Re-scan her face from three angles so she could get back to a job where she was often expected to review 70 documents an hour.

“I want to be able to do the work and would love the money, but it’s just that strain: I can’t look left for too long, I can’t look down, my dog can’t walk by, or I get logged out,” she said. “Then the company is looking at me like I’m the one delaying!”

Facial recognition systems have become an increasingly common element of the rapid rise in work-from-home surveillance during the coronavirus pandemic. Employers argue that they offer a simple and secure way to monitor a scattered workforce.

But for Anidi and other lawyers, they serve as a dehumanizing reminder that every second of their workday is rigorously probed and analyzed: After verifying their identity, the software judges their level of attention or distraction and kicks them out of their work networks if the system thinks they’re not focused enough. […]

Lawyers said they had been booted out of their work if they shifted slightly in their chairs, looked away for a moment or adjusted their glasses or hair. The systems, they said, also chastised them for harmless behaviors: holding a coffee mug mistaken for an unauthorized camera or listening to a podcast or the TV.

The constant interruptions have become a major annoyance in a job requiring long-term concentration and attention to detail, some lawyers said. But the errors also undercut how much work they could do, leaving some fearful it could affect their pay or their ability to secure work from the same firms later on. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/11/11/lawyer-facial-recognition-monitoring/


The next normal: Algorithms will take over college, from admissions to advising (WashPost)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Sun, 14 Nov 2021 14:26:17 -0500

Imagine being rejected from a university or advised out of your major because you’re Black, or a woman, or a first-generation college student. Imagine learning that these decisions were made by predictive analytics software that you can’t object to or opt out of. Just over a decade ago, this seemed unlikely. Now it seems difficult to stop.

That may sound futuristic, but St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London deployed this technology as early as the 1980s. Administrators trained a predictive model using historical admissions data to determine who was accepted to the medical program. It was supposed to eliminate the biases of admissions officers; unsurprisingly, it reproduced a pattern of discrimination. The demographics of incoming students skewed heavily toward White men, forcing the school to stop the practice.

Today, this is the reality faced by millions of students. This year, the Markup reported that more than 500 universities use a single company’s predictive analytics product, which assigns students an academic “risk score” based on variables that are supposedly associated with people’s ability to succeed in college ” including, at many schools, race. Black and Latino students were consistently rated as higher risk than their White or Asian peers.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/next-normal-algorithms-college/2021/11/12/366fe8dc-4264-11ec-a3aa-0255edc02eb7_story.html

And of course, no “forensic audits” of results.


Google loses appeal against $2.7 billion antitrust fine over its comparison-shopping practices in Europe (Fortune)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Sun, 14 Nov 2021 14:30:14 -0500

Google has lost its appeal against the $2.7 billion antitrust fine that was levied against it four years ago by the European Commission.

The fine was for Google’s promotion of its own comparison-shopping service in prominent boxes at the top of its search results”a practice that left competing comparison-shopping services at an unfair disadvantage, given Google’s near-total domination of search in Europe. (In Europe, unlike in the U.S., an antitrust violation can take place even if consumers are not demonstrably harmed, if a company’s actions severely harm competition.) Google was subsequently fined billions of euros twice more over other antitrust violations, and it launched an appeal in each case.

On Wednesday, the European Union’s General Court”the court that hears appeals against decisions made by the European Commission”upheld the Google Shopping fine. It mostly dismissed the company’s appeal, though it did say the Commission had not backed up its claim that Google’s conduct had anticompetitive effects on the general-search market (a factor that had no bearing on the amount of the fine). Google has not yet said whether it will further appeal this decision to the Court of Justice of the EU, its last hope.

The ruling is a huge boost to the reputation and likely future plans of Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner. Last year, the General Court annulled her mammoth $14.8 billion back-tax bill for Apple in Ireland, which was a serious blow. This time, she has prevailed, which could encourage her to keep hitting Google over other alleged violations.

“Today’s judgment delivers the clear message that Google’s conduct was unlawful, and it provides the necessary legal clarity for the market,” the Commission said in a statement. “Comparison shopping delivers an important service to consumers, at a time when e-commerce has become more and more important for retailers and consumers. As digital services have become omnipresent in our society nowadays, consumers should be able to rely on them in order to make informed and unbiased choices.”

https://fortune.com/2021/11/10/google-loses-appeal-eu-general-court-billion-antitrust-fine-comparison-shopping-practices-europe/

Competition, what a concept.


Caller ID fun (Comcast)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Tue, 16 Nov 2021 00:02:42 -0500

Comcast Rolls Out Nation’s Largest Landline Voice Verified Caller ID Solution to Combat Robocalls

These customers will now display a Verified [V] label in the caller ID when a call is authenticated as not spoofed, meaning we have been able to confirm the call is coming from the telephone number displayed.

https://corporate.comcast.com/press/releases/comcast-landline-voice-verified-caller-id-solution-to-combat-robocalls

…but:

Phone Call Mystery: A “V” Shows on my Caller ID—The mysteries of the universe “ from black holes to galaxies beyond “ we’re just not sure what’s really out there. And, when a call arrives on our phone with the caller ID starting with a V + a long string of digits, we wonder what it might be.

A V in your caller ID refers to a number from a telemarketing company. It is likely this call is Spam.

https://www.numberbarn.com/blog/phone-call-mystery-a-v-shows-on-my-caller-id/

…so, to [V or not to V?

Couple calls today had [V] and were legitimate. Is the difference just [ ]? That'll sure confuse people.


Debris From Test of Russian Antisatellite Weapon Forces Astronauts to Shelter (NYTimes)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Tue, 16 Nov 2021 00:05:14 -0500

The State Department said the cloud of debris from the missile strike added more than 1,500 pieces of sizable space junk to Earth’s orbit.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/science/russia-anti-satellite-missile-test-debris.html

Target practice…


Apple announces-Self Service Repair (Apple)

“Gabe Goldberg” <gabe@gabegold.com>
Wed, 17 Nov 2021 12:34:30 -0500

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/11/apple-announces-self-service-repair/

Interesting—I guess it's only a “risk” if some repairs are “Kids, don't try this at home”.

But old devices might be useful for practice, if parts/tools aren't too expensive.


Re: Trojan Source Bug Threatens the Security of All Code

Henry Baker <hbaker1@pipeline.com>
Sun, 07 Nov 2021 15:28:26 +0000

What could possibly go wrong? Let's see: putting snippets of trojan code on stackoverflow, whole trojan applications on github. How many people use cut&paste of cli code from web pages to get stuff done ? And where does ‘AI’ learn how to program ? https://www.wired.com/story/ai-latest-trick-writing-computer-code/


Re: SpaceX Under Fire After Autonomous Rocket Hits Pedestrian (The Onion)

Mark Brader <msb@Vex.Net>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 18:09:43 -0500 (EST)

One April 1 in the year is bad enough; why do we have to have two now?


Re: SpaceX Under Fire After Autonomous Rocket Hits Pedestrian (The Onion)

Scott Dorsey
Tue, 16 Nov 2021 09:38:18 -0500 (EST)
> How could anyone predict or plan for that?

It turns out, and this may be a surprise to many, that some people have actually been launching spacecraft from Florida since 1950, and as a consequence there is a large body of published work on the subject. In addition, NASA maintains a corrosion technology laboratory at Kennedy which provides data and assistance on request.

“Natural Environment Corrosion Testing at the Kennedy Space Center Beachside Atmosphere Corrosion Testing Site,” presented by Luz Calle at the 2017 DOD- Allied Nations Technical Corrosion Conference is a good introduction to the work being done in that environment.


Re: spider bites, or Using Google search to deliver customers or worse

“John Levine” <johnl@iecc.com>
7 Nov 2021 21:50:15 -0500
> It appears the website has found a way to recognize the Google spider and
> allow it to index their site but then lock out those using the search link
> from Google.

Every web request includes a user-agent string, and web spiders, at least the ones for legitimate search engines, have easy to recognize names like googlebot, bingbot, and applebot, along with a bunch I never heard of or didn't realize do web spidering like coccocbot, LinkedInBot, PetalBot, SeznamBot, and YandexBot.

Web sites have been returning different results to spiders about as long as there have been spiders. One reason is the one you saw, to index stuff that is behind paywalls, or more often freemium pages where you get a few free views and then it asks you to subscribe. On web sites that use lots of javascript and dynamic content, the spiders don't run the javascript so if the site wants to be indexed, it needs to return a static version of its pages.

Often this is annoying, but rarely malicious. If I come to a page that asks for money and it's not a service I already subscribe to, I don't pay.

Keep in mind that web sites can change at any time, so even if the spider sees the same content as regular users, there is no promise that the version the spider saw is the same as what you will see if you visit later.


Facebook 3rd party single-sign-on failure

“Paul Robinson” <paul@paul-robinson.us>
Sun, 7 Nov 2021 00:38:58 +0000 (UTC)

There was a website that one of the items covers a really contentious, extremely controversial, topical issue. It had a place to post a comment. At the bottom, below the text box, is a button labeled “Login to Post”. Okay, so after I entered my comment, I clicked on the button. A new window opens, and it's Facebook Authentication, where a third party has them provide a login credential. So, Firefox presents the dropdowns of all the usernames (e-mail addresses). I select paul@paul-robinson.us, and the password is autofilled. (This also means it is Facebook's authenticator and not somewhere else, like a credential stealer.)

Facebook tells me I need to authenticate, and it has sent an e-mail to my account, I need to enter the six-digit number. Now, e-mail sent to that address is auto-forwarded to my Yahoo Mail account. I open Yahoo Mail in a new tab, and interestingly enough, I've gotten a message that contains the six-digit number right in the subject, so I don't even have to open the message. I tab back, put in the number, click on the submit button, and… Firefox informs me redirection doesn't work. Try again won't. So, I decide to go direct to www.facebook.com, and login there.

I can't even go to Facebook's home page! I get the same redirect error. Dammit, I don't even use Facebook! The only reason I even have a damn Facebook account is for just this reason, when 3rd-party websites use Facebook for Single-Sign-On!

I decide maybe Firefox has a problem, so I decide to use Edge (Microsoft's replacement for Internet Exploiter). I try www.facebook.com Same error, can't redirect.

Well, I've never had a problem with it before, but I think I know what it is.

To defeat ad servers, in addition to using ad-block, I use the “Enhanced HOSTS file.” There is a text file which is located at C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts. (no extension). There is a guy who posted on his website a very comprehensive hosts file of 141K, consisting of every advertising domain (like googleadservices.com) and reroutes them to localhost (127.0.0.1), which, since I'm not running a web server, times out and the advertisement isn't served. The default Windows HOSTS file is about 1K and has maybe a dozen items. The enhanced HOSTS file at 141K has thousands of ad serving hosts that are blocked.

So I pull the HOSTS file (renaming it) and I still get the same problem. Then I realize I read the message wrong, it says if I try clearing cookies that may fix the problem. I look up how and try it. It works! I can get to Facebook, so I go back to the message and try a repost. I get the authentication page but now, after I had authenticated as requested, it says I have to contact one of my “friends” on Facebook—some of whom are members of this board—and have them give me the authentication token they would give me.

The hell with it, I'll just use create another Facebook Account under a different e-mail address. I'll use my Gmail account. So I do that, and I am logged on, so I figure I am actually logged on, the message post request should authenticate. Nope, it keeps asking me for my old account and the access code. I ask it to resend the e-mail, and I go back to Yahoo, and I notice this e-mail: [quote=“Facebook”]

Subject: you log into Facebook from somewhere new? From: Facebook <security@facebookmail.com> To: Paul Robinson Hi Paul It looks like someone tried to log into your account on November 6 at 5:51 PM using Firefox for Windows 10. We blocked the login and just want to make sure it was you, logging in from somewhere new. If you don't think this was you, please log into Facebook so we can walk you through a few steps to keep your account safe. Thanks, The Facebook team.

So, let me get this straight: despite the fact I answered their damned challenge, I'm not allowed to log in, but if I want to correct the problem, I should log in to the account that it won't allow me to log in to?

So I cleared cookies again, tried to post, and this time I get the Facebook Authentication and since I am logged in on the Gmail account, it succeeds and goes back to the original website I was trying to post on. The posting box is removed, which, I figure it was accepted, the way YouTube comments are subsumed into the comment block.

It's not there. Usually the message shows up, or a notice that the message has been held pending moderation (a typical practice for extremely controversial topics) but that isn't there either.

After everything I had to do and all the hoops I had to jump through, it's all for naught.


After a pandemic, fire season, and now floods, are you ready to get trained for emergencies and disasters?

“Rob Slade, the doting GREATgrandpa” <rmslade@shaw.ca>
Thu, 18 Nov 2021 11:06:20 -0800

As I write this, I am huddled in social isolation, while armed bands are roving the countryside, desperately searching for the last hoards of toilet paper. We are stacking the dead bodies of the victims in the forests, waiting for wildfire season, which now starts earlier every year, to deal with them, and then flood season to wash them away. This is what disaster recovery has become: an attempt to use one crisis to deal with the outcomes of another. I am writing this in the hopes that future generations may learn the folly of placing shredded or crumbled cheese into plastic bags for convenience, and Make Civilization Grate Again.

One of the tools that we security mavens, surprisingly, in my view, don't put into the toolbox is that of emergency management. We don't think about emergencies in advance, which is when we should think of them. Two years ago we were watching the continent of Australia burn. Then we got a global pandemic. Then we, in BC, had a heat dome and a huge fire season and a town burned down. Now we've got floods and mudslides and a whole town evacuated. Are you ready to think about disasters now?

Those of us in the security communities are always interested in disasters. We are forever dealing with crises, both large and small, assessing risks, planning and comparing mitigation strategies, and looking at the management of it all. When we hear of the latest disaster on the news, someone always challenges us to make contributions to charity. I up the stakes. I challenge everyone to get trained for disasters.

Unfortunately for the point I'm trying to make, I am speaking from a position of privilege. Canada has the best emergency structure in the world. British Columbia has the best emergency response management system in Canada. And the North Shore, where I live, has the best disaster training regime in BC.

Emergency response, in a major disaster, is not simply a matter of having water, generators, blankets, and rescue dogs. It has to do with organization, co-ordination, management, and, particularly, trained people. Most of them volunteers, since nobody can afford to pay for a full-time staff of all those you need to have ready in an emergency.

That's where you come in.

Get trained.

There is some emergency-measures organization that covers your area, regardless of where you live. Your local municipality probably has an office. They need volunteers. And they provide training. If you're not lucky enough to live in BC, you probably have to seek out the Red Cross or Salvation Army. If you are lucky enough to live in BC, you just need to go to your municipla offices and ask for the emergency management office. One stop volunteering.

If you volunteer, you will probably get trained. For free. (You may also get additional perks. I get my flu shots paid for every year, since I'm an emergency worker.) (OK, this year that's not such a big deal …)

First of all, you'll probably get trained on what you need for you and your family. What do you need to survive the first 72 hours (or seven days, or two weeks) following a disaster? Do you know how much water, what type of food, etc, you need, in the event of a total failure of utilities and other factors we rely on?

Then there are the skills you need to help other people. Sometimes this might relate to first aid, or structural assessment of buildings after an earthquake, etc. However, there are many necessary skills that are not quite so dramatic. Most emergency response, believe it or not, has to do with paperwork. Who is safe? Who needs care? Do families need to be reunited? Documentation of all of this is a huge effort, which goes on long after the bottles of water and hot meals have been distributed.

Then there are management skills, to co-ordinate all of the other skills. An awful lot of charity gets wasted because some people get too much help, and others don't get enough. Someone needs to oversee the efforts.

Some of the training might seem to be a bit of a waste. You will be trained in registration and referral, which is just admin. But it also teaches you that, in a major emergency, long-line rope rescues are not the major worry. It's the huge amounts of admin that must be done.

Training in all of this is available. And, in an emergency, having trained people is probably more important than having stockpiles of tents. Trained people can make or improvise shelter.

(For those who have security related certifications, like the CISSP, ongoing professional education is a requirement. A constant complaint is that training is expensive, and getting the credits costs too much. I get all kinds of training related to business continuity and disaster recovery. I get almost all of it free.)

Get trained. Volunteer. You'll get a wealth of experience that will help you plan for all kinds of events, not just for major disasters, but for the minor incidents that plague us and our companies every day. You'll be ready for the big stuff, too. You'll be able to keep yourself and those near to you safe. You'll be able to make a difference to others, certainly reducing suffering, and possibly saving lives. If and when something major happens, you will be a part of the infrastructure necessary for the response to be effective. You'll be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Now […] call your local emergency management agency and volunteer.

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