The RISKS Digest
Volume 33 Issue 58

Sunday, 18th December 2022

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

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

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What Would Plato Think about ChatGPT?
Zeynep Tufekci via PGN
Re: Dreams of a Future in Big Tech Dim for Computer Science Students
Pete Resiak
Pretty-smart AI
Glenn Story
ChatGPT: Smart, but Not Smart Enough
The New Stack via Gabe Goldberg
A Literature Major's Experience as a Real-Estate AI Bot's Operator
n+1 Magazine
Why local elevator rescues have reached a new high
Sue Dremann
How a secret software change allowed FTX to use client money
Researcher Exploits Power Supply to Transmit, Steal Data from PC
Michaek Kan
Russian Software Company Pretending to Be American
Bruce Schneier
Blockchain Fails to Gain Traction in the Enterprise
Database of British Columbians' personal health information is 'disturbingly' vulnerable: privacy watchdog
Major Canadian grocery chain says cyberattack cost $25 million
Cyber Posture Trends in China, Russia, the United States and the EU
SIPRI via Diego Latella
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

What Would Plato Think about ChatGPT? (Zeynep Tufekci)

Peter G Neumann <>
Sun, 18 Dec 2022 13:12:46 PST
Zeynep Tufekci, *The New York Times*,  Opinion, 18 Dec 2022

Plato mourned the invention of the alphabet, worred that the use of text
would threaten memory-based arts of rhetoric.  In his *Dialogues*, arguing
through the voice of Thamus, the Egyptian king of the gods, Plato claimed
the use of this more modern technology would create “forgetfulness in the
learners; soulds, because they will not use their memories.'' and that those
who adopt it would “appear to be omniscient and will generally know
nothing,'' with “the show of wisdom without the reality.''

If Plato were alive today, would he say similar things about ChatGPT?

The way forward is not to just lament supplanted skills, as Plato did, but
also to recognize that as more complex skills become essential, our society
must equitably educate people to develop them.  And then it always goes back
to the basics.  Value people as people, not just as bundles of skills.  And
that isn't something that ChatGPT can tell us how to do.

  [This is a long article worthy reading seriously, and very relevant to
  RISKS.  I have included just the first and last pargraphs here.  However,
  the article strikes a chord with my plaintive cries that fundamentals
  needed for total-system trustworthihiness are almost totally ignored in
  today's academic curricula, and therefore not surprisingly almost
  completely absent in practice.  PGN]

Re: Dreams of a Future in Big Tech Dim for Computer Science Students (RISKS-33.57)

Pete Resiak <>
Sun, 11 Dec 2022 08:52:34 +0100
A young friend graduated from a state university a few years ago with a BS
in computer science.  He learned how to program in a couple of popular
languages, but so far as I could tell, nothing about system-oriented
thinking or about hardware or software architecture or anything in the
history and development of current computing or indeed any theory at all.
(He's stably employed today maintaining web pages for a defense contractor,
and happy with the job.)  We seem not to have any common grounds for talking
about computing.

Pretty-smart AI

Glenn Story <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 15:07:28 -0800
I saw something on the web about an AI product called GPT-3.  I decided to
try it:

Here's the result:

  Q = my question as entered
  A = GPT-3's response
  C = my comment on the answer
  G = what google says about the same question

Q: what is a lambda expression?
A: A lambda expression is an anonymous function that can be used to create
   delegates or expression tree types.
C: Correct.
G: A lambda expression is *a short block of code which takes in parameters
   and returns a value*. Lambda expressions are similar to methods, but they
   do not need a name and they can be implemented right in the body of a

Q: What is the difference between lento and adagio?
A: Lento is a tempo marking that indicates a slow and leisurely pace, while
   adagio is a tempo marking that indicates a slower and more solemn pace.
C: Correct.
G: *Lento—slowly (40--45 BPM)*
   *Largo—broadly (45--50 BPM)*
   *Adagio—slow and stately (literally, at ease=) (55--65 BPM)*

Q: How does it compare with Allegro?
A: Allegro is a tempo marking that indicates a fast and lively pace,
   faster than both lento and adagio.
C: Correct
G: (Wrong) OrCAD is known as the most popular schematic capture tool in the
   Cadence suite, while Allegro is Cadence's flagship PCB layout tool.
   Cadence also sells a ...

Q: what are the three meanings of "static" in C++?
A: The three meanings of "static" in C++ are: 1) a variable or function that
   has static storage duration, 2) a variable or function that has internal
   linkage, and 3) a class member that is shared by all objects of the same
C: Mostly correct, although a little vague.
G: (Right but vague) Static is a keyword in C and C++ which is used to
   declare a special type of a variable or a function inside or outside of a

Q: What is a sarangi? A: A sarangi is a bowed string instrument from
   India that is used in Hindustani classical music.
C: Correct
G: (Text + picture) The s=C4=81rang=C4=AB is a bowed, short-necked string
   instrument played in traditional music from South Asia—Punjabi folk
   music, Rajasthani folk music, and Boro ...

Q: What musical notation is used for the shakuhachi?
A: The shakuhachi is typically notated in a five-line staff with a key
   signature of one flat.
C: Incorrect. The musical notation for the shakuhachi is written in
   vertical columns of katakana characters with the columns arranged right
   to left.
G: *Staff notation and graphic notation* are sometimes used to notate
   music for shakuhachi, usually in modern music when shakuhachi is used in
   conjunction with Western musical instruments.
[image: image.png]

Q: Your previous answer was incorrect.
A: Unknown.
C: No comment
G: N/A

Q: What is machine-language op-code for add on an IBM 1620?
A: The machine-language op-code for add on an IBM 1620 is "ADD".
C: Incorrect. ADD is the *Assembly*-language op-code. The distinction
   between machine-language (numeric) and assembly-language (symbolic) is
   often misunderstood even by software engineers. The correct answer is 21.
G: Gave no answer but supplied several references.

Q: What is RISC-V?
A: RISC-V is an open-source instruction-set architecture (ISA) based on
   established reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) principles.
C: Correct.
G: (Longer but better) RISC-V is an open standard instruction set
   architecture based on established RISC principles. Unlike most other ISA
   designs, RISC-V is provided under open source licenses that do not
   require fees to use.  [*]

Q: How many op-codes does it define? A: RISC-V defines over 200 op-codes.
C: I have no idea. Sounds high.
G: (wrong) To define an opcode, use the opcode element. You can specify *up
   to 228* opcodes. Q: How about ARM? A: ARM defines over 160 op-codes.
C: Again, I don't know. I'm surprised that ARM has a smaller number than
G: (Gave no answer but showed references to ARM in general.)

CONCLUSION: This AI seems to be approximately as accurate as Google's with
the exception that Google does not remember any context from one question
to the next, so that use of pronouns in a question confuses it, but not
that of this GPT-3 interface. The latter does a good job of deciphering
what such backward references refer to.

  * PGN Footnote: [The RISC-Foundation has standardized on the formal RISC-V
   specification from the University of Cambridge SAIL specification used as
   the basis for CHERI-RISC-V.]

     [Don't believe what you read on the Internet unless you deeply
     understand the contextual issues and are able to discard clearly false
     information—especially when it comes to conspiracy theories.  PGN]

ChatGPT: Smart, but Not Smart Enough (The New Stack)

Gabe Goldberg <>
Fri, 16 Dec 2022 15:12:52 -0500
OpenAI's hot generative AI solution is fun to play with and good for
creating some things, but when it comes to writing secure code it's just not
smart enough.

A Literature Major's Experience as a Real-Estate AI Bot's Operator (n+1 Magazine)

Amos Shapir <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 17:19:35 +0200
This is an interesting article detailing the experience of a humanities
major who was tasked with baby-sitting a real estate AI bot.  Very
insightful (and rather long).

Why local elevator rescues have reached a new high (Sue Dremann)

Peter Neumann <>
Sun, 18 Dec 2022 15:33:35 PST
Sue Dremann, *Palo Alto Weekly*, 16 Dec 2022

What goes up don't always come down.  That's the issue with Palo Alto and
Stanford.  The breakdowns catalogued by PulsePoint show that *elevator
rescues* are not just local, and occur all over San Mateo and Santa Clara
counties, and growing.  In 2021, Stanford had 41 and Palo Alto 25.  In 2022,
the numbers are 38 in Stanford and 36 in Palo Alto year to date through 6
Nov, with six more recorded since then—80 or more this year compared with
66 last year.  The worst spots seem to be a parking lot in Palo Alto and two
residence buildings at Stanford.  2227 permits exist in the extended local
area, but 1460 of those have expired permits.  The same problem is noted

I have mentioned in past RISKS issues some of the risks in elevators that
automatically go to the bottom (not good when flooded) or to the top (not
good in upper-level fires), rather than hanging in between floors so that is
impossible to get out of the stuck elevator.  Overall, elevators may be a
lose-lose situation, even if designed to be resilent under failures and
power outages.

How a secret software change allowed FTX to use client money (Reuters)

Ellen Ullman <>
December 14, 2022 8:36:22 JST

13 Dec 2022 (Reuters) In mid-2020, FTX's chief engineer made a secret change
to the cryptocurrency exchange's software.  He tweaked the code to exempt
Alameda Research, a hedge fund owned by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, from
a feature on the trading platform that would have automatically sold off
Alameda's assets if it was losing too much borrowed money.

In a note explaining the change, the engineer, Nishad Singh, emphasized that
FTX should never sell Alameda's positions.  “Be extra careful not to
liquidate,'' Singh wrote in the comment in the platform's code, which it
showed he helped author. Reuters reviewed the code base, which has not been
previously reported.

  [They needed Roto-Reuters to root out the risks.  PGN]

Researcher Exploits Power Supply to Transmit, Steal Data from PC (Michaek Kan)

ACM TechNews <>
Wed, 14 Dec 2022 11:36:56 -0500 (EST)
Michael Kan, *PC Magazine*, 12 Dec 2022

Mordechai Guri at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev transmitted
stolen data from a personal computer by manipulating the device's power
supply. "By regulating the workload of the CPU [central processing unit], it
is possible to govern its power consumption and hence control the momentary
switching frequency of the SMPS (switch-mode power supplies)," Guri
explained. "The electromagnetic radiation generated by this intentional
process can be received from a distance using appropriate antennas." Guri
said malware installed on a universal serial bus drive could infect the
target PC, but suggested banning smartphone use around the computer as a

Russian Software Company Pretending to Be American (Bruce Schneier)

Peter Neumann <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 21:11:33 PST
  [From Bruce Schneier's <> CRYPTO-GRAM, 15 Dec 2022]


Computer code developed by a company called Pushwoosh is in about 8,000 Apple and Google smartphone apps. The company pretends to
be American when it is actually Russian.

According to company documents publicly filed in Russia and reviewed by
Reuters “Pushwoosh is headquartered in the Siberian town of Novosibirsk''
where it is registered as a software company that also carries out data
processing. It employs around 40 people and reported revenue of 143,270,000
rubles ($2.4 mln) last year. Pushwoosh is registered with the Russian
government to pay taxes in Russia.

On social media and in U.S. regulatory filings, however, it presents itself
as a U.S. company, based at various times in California, Maryland, and
Washington DC, Reuters found.

Blockchain Fails to Gain Traction in the Enterprise (WSJ)

ACM TechNews <>
Fri, 16 Dec 2022 12:08:00 -0500 (EST)
Isabelle Bousquette, *The Wall Street Journal*, 15 Dec 2022
via ACM TechNews

Blockchain technology's widespread enterprise adoption has failed to
materialize, with a project by Danish shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk
and IBM's TradeLens to create a shipment-tracking platform the latest to be
discontinued. Blockchain's complexity, the time needed to get a blockchain
running, and problems recruiting participants have stymied major
initiatives. IBM's Kathryn Guarini said blockchain demands changes to
technology and business models that are difficult to drive forward, adding
that enterprise blockchain has taken longer to bring change to business than
originally predicted. Some experts maintain smaller projects involving fewer
participants, with definite returns on investment and no sector-wide
transformative ambitions, could reap greater success.

Database of British Columbians' personal health information is 'disturbingly' vulnerable: privacy watchdog (CBC)

Matthew Kruk <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 19:45:26 -0700

Millions of highly sensitive personal health records about people accessing
health care in British Columbia have been left "disturbingly" vulnerable to
leaks after the provincewide health authority failed to address security
concerns in recent years, a new report has found.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. published a
report Thursday saying the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) has
known about the "troubling" level of exposure since it audited its own
system in 2019, but hasn't done enough to address the issue.

“There is an enormous volume of sensitive personal information that, if
breached, could cause a significant list of harms including embarrassment,
loss of dignity, family breakdowns, and even physical harm to individuals if
it was accessed improperly,'' read the report from the privacy watchdog.

Major Canadian grocery chain says cyberattack cost $25 million (CBC)

Matthew Kruk <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 18:12:14 -0700
  [See RISKS-33.51 and .53 for earlier reports.  PGN]

The parent company of the Sobeys grocery store chain says a cyberattack last
month will cost $25 million.  The grocery store operator disclosed the
estimate in second quarter results released Thursday by Empire Co.  "Empire
estimates, based on available information, that the financial impact on
fiscal 2023 annual net earnings will be approximately $25 million, net of
insurance recoveries," the company said.

The report does not clarify the nature of the attack, whether it was
ransomware or if any ransom was paid.

Cyber Posture Trends in China, Russia, the United States and the EU (SIPRI)

"Diego.Latella" <>
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 13:12:12 +0100
Lora Saalman, Fei Fu and Larisa Saveleva Dovgal

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