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 6 Issue 89

Sunday 22 May 1988


o Computer problems in the Connecticut State Lottery
Rodney Hoffman
o Worms in evaluation copies of software
Steve Philipson
o Comments from the "Bell System" on the Hinsdale Fire
Mike Eastman
o Illinois Bell Fire
Bradley W. Dolan
o Smoke detectors and electrical equipment
John Bruner
o Halon environmental impact citation
Jeffrey R Kell
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Computer problems in the Connecticut State Lottery

Rodney Hoffman <>
20 May 88 07:52:52 PDT (Friday)
The following account is slightly edited from a story by Dennis Hevesi in the
New York Times (Thursday, May 12, 1988, p. 12), with the headline CONNECTICUT
SUSPENDS LOTTERY GAMES.  I don't read the NYTimes every day, so I'm not sure
what has happened since.

On Sunday (May 8), the Connecticut State Lottery went on line with its new
computer system.  But yesterday, with the alarm sounded by two ticket sellers
who knew they weren't entitled to $16,500, the entire system was shut down for
24 hours for repairs.  The problems included the printing of tickets with the
previous day's date, duplication of serial numbers, and malfunctions in the
1,853 computer terminals that have been installed so far.

After 8 p.m. Monday, ticket sales are terminated.  At 8:05, lottery officials
announce on television the day's winning numbers.  One pharmacy owner and one
liquor store owner, friends who both sell lottery tickets played a Lotto number
for Tuesday, May 10.  But the sale was recorded as a Monday sale.  They tried
one of Monday's winning numbers,
and it came out with a Monday, May 9 date.  With a few plays, the total amount
of their winnings was $16,500.  They stopped.

On Tuesday morning, they filled out the forms at the lottery office, and were
given their checks for $6,750.30, after tax.  They then said, "These tickets are
a fraud."  But officials kept saying the tickets were legitimate.  Investigators
were called. "I pointed out there's a big problem with the system.  At first,
they could not believe it.  Then they treated us like criminals.  Now they're
apologizing like crazy.  They did give us back the $6 we spent on the tickets."

The big loser, it may turn out, could be General Instruments Corporation of
Hunt Valley, Md., which was installing lottery terminals in the state under a
five-year, $40-million contract.  "We have a liquidated-damages clause in the
contract, which basically says they replace our losses in case of system
downtime," a lottery official said.  "They're looking at big penalties.  A week
could be over $3 million."

Worms in evaluation copies of software (Woody, RISKS-6.86)

Steve Philipson <>
Thu, 19 May 88 15:50:55 PDT
> The risks I see here are philosophical ones to the academic community. 

There is a tremendous difference between putting protective "worms" in your own
software, and putting in destructive worms or trojan horses.  The developer is
justified in protecting his software from unauthorized use.  There is nothing
unethical in using a security measure that only restricts use of the protected
code or makes that software non-functional if misuse is detected.  It is not
reasonable to include code to inflict damage on an unauthorized user as
retribution or revenge.  The later is also poor business practice, as such code
might destroy data belonging to a legitimate user.  This will certainly hurt
sales, and possibly subject the vendor to legal liability.

Comments from the "Bell System"

Mike Eastman <ihuxz!>
18 May 88 23:06:59 GMT
"boyle" posted an article in RISKS-6.81 indicating surprise that the Hinsdale
office did not have alternate trunking or redundancy.
The poster wanted comments from THE BELL SYSTEM.

As of Jan 1, 1984 the Bell System was abolished when the Justice Dept had AT&T
officially divest itself of the local operating companies. At that time, seven
NEW regional independent Bell holding companies began operating.

This was a RISK that was thrust upon the public. That risk being seven
independent local operating companies and many more long distance companies
working together to provide one cohesive telephone network with the same
objectives in mind as before divestiture - guaranteed phone service to the

As to alternate trunking policy, AT&T generally contracts for more than one
access route into each LATA. I believe that BOTH of those were in the same Ill.
Bell cable vault that burned. Notice that AT&T (or any other long distance
company) has little control over what Ill Bell puts in its cable vaults.

I would hope that it is general policy that critical hubs in the local network
have alternate routes. But, with divestiture, this is now something that the
operating companies and the state utility commissions work out. The idea of
divestiture was to set rate structures such that one pays the TRUE cost of
providing each type of service.  Could it be that alternate trunking is just
too expensive to provide the public?  It is obvious that it was too expensive
for the subscribers in the western suburbs of Chicago!

To sum up, I think it is silly to ask a non-existent organization
("the Bell System") to comment on risks.

Mike Eastman    ihnp4!ihuxz!mfe    (312) 979-4111
AT&T Bell Laboratories  Rm. 4C-321  Naperville, IL 60566

            [Perhaps "boyle" was thinking of the "Virtual Bell System"?  PGN]

Illinois Bell Fire

Fri May 20 20:39:29 1988
Daniel Faigin writes:
> certain industries, such as nuclear ... all alarms are
> treated as real emergencies until proved otherwise.

My experience has been that, at any given time, there may be 20-100 alarms
indicating in a nuclear power plant control room.  New ones come in (on a good
day) every few minutes.  Realistically, they can't all be immediately treated
as valid.  99% will eventually prove to be spurious or trivial.  Alarms serve
to focus attention on a *potential* problem. The reactor operator must judge
the validity of each alarm and decide what response is appropriate.  If no
judgement was needed, the alarm input could as well be hardwired to produce the
desired response.

I suspect that similar conditions prevail in Bell's remote monitoring location.
Fire alarms are notorious for spurious indication.  Hot days, impaired
ventilation, dust, etc. can erroneously activate various types of fire alarms.
The maligned technician probably received several - maybe dozens - of false
alarms per month from different monitored sites. He probably spent the infamous
10 minutes trying to confirm or deny the existence of a real problem (which
would have been simpler had there been a human at the switching office).

<Brad Dolan> sun!portal!!bdolan@Sun.COM
(Opinions expressed herein are my own... and I only understand
about half of what I know!)

smoke detectors and electrical equipment

John Bruner <>
Fri, 20 May 88 08:27:02 PDT
Another risk of automatic alarms is created by the inappropriate
choice of technology.  The VAX and Sun computers for my group at LLNL
are located in two machine rooms.  Each machine room is equipped with
smoke detectors which are checked on a regular basis.  The machine
rooms are often unmanned.

Two years ago someone in an office near one of the machine rooms
reported smelling smoke.  When several of us entered the machine room
the smoke was so thick that we could not see the other side of the
room; however, none of the smoke detectors had sounded an alarm.

The smoke detectors "passed" subsequent tests, including cigarette
smoke.  We finally determined that the smoke came from an insulation
fire in one of the air conditioners.  The insulation smoke didn't
ionize, rendering the detectors ineffective.  (We replaced them with
optically-based detectors.)

I don't know who originally installed the smoke detectors, but after
the initial incorrect decision was made we had no clue that part of
our fire alarm system was useless.  The testing procedure did not
detect the unsuitability of this type of detector for our particular

  John Bruner (Supercomputer R&D, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) ...!lll-crg!mordor!jdb      (415) 422-0759

Halon environmental impact citation (Re: RISKS-6.87)

Fri, 20 May 88 09:23:27 EDT
  >Subject: Halon environmental impact citation
  >There are currently no good substitutes for halon, but according to SN, they
  >"are released far more frequently during tests than during fires."  Of
  >course, failure to conduct tests has risks of its own! I'm sure they can be
  >minimized by designing equipment to be tested under dry run conditions.
  >Does anyone know if this is actually being done?

Our latest system, installed in 1986, was initially tested using small tanks
charged with Freon that were valve-compatible with the Halon tanks (although
much smaller in volume).  As best I can recall the system has *never* been
tested with actual Halon, but this test does verify the operation of the actual
valve assemblies.  [Electronics and solenoids are Pyrotronics, release valves
are Pyr-A-Lon].

The Freon tests are not much better on the ozone layer, but better than dumping
the whole system (and much less expensive).  The added security of the test is
that equipment is left in the room during the dump to measure the Freon
concentration, as a double check of your "dosage" and degree of airseal.

I do not know of tests done with any inert or otherwise harmless gas.  The
reliability of the test could very well be affected (CO2 would generate a small
snowstorm, temperature/pressure variance in the valves with other gases).

Jeffrey R Kell, Dir Tech Services, Admin Computing, 117 Hunter Hall 
Univ of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN 37403 (615)-755-4551


Mike Fischbein <>
Fri, 20 May 88 07:20:51 EDT
There are reasons besides philosophic satisfaction and independence of
electricity (as mentioned by Mr. Brunow in RISKS Vol 6, Issue 88) to maintain
proficiency in celestial navigation.  US Naval vessels have many redundant
sources of electricity, and are probably not immediately concerned with
navigation if all are gone.  All the electronic methods of navigation require
external devices in predictable and accessible locations; defending these
usually delicate installations would be extremely difficult at best.  (Inertial
systems require external input to prevent drifting off the correct dead
reckoning position) The stars, sun, moon, and planets are available under
nearly all conditions and can give accurate results easily and quickly with
moderate practice.
Michael Fischbein    ...!seismo!decuac!csmunix!icase!msf

These are my opinions and not necessarily official views of any organization.

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