From the Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 1988: ``Careless talk: it's a message machine Alan wasn't at home when his girlfriend Donna called him yesterday morning. Nor could he take his father's call. Or a call from his other girlfriend, Jenny. I know this because Alan owns an answering machine just like mine. It is so similar, in fact, that my remote control unit _lets_me_listen_to_his_messages_ [emphasis mine!]. The machine in question is a Tandy, but the 'Herald' has discovered that anyone can listen to messages left on most of thre many thousands of answering machines already in people's homes. This is because most remote-control answering machines have primitive codes, and many have none at all. [ ... 14,000 like this sold in a three-week sale ... ] [ ... how the remote tone coders work - just one of four tones ] [ ... Tandy had sold "tens and tens of thousands" of this model - the TAD-212 - and similar machines in 2 years ... ] Dick Smith Stores [a consumer electronics chain] also sell answering machines which are activated by voice pattern. [The product manager] said the group had sold more than 20,000 such machines. By talking for a set period of time, keeping quiet for a set period of time, and then talking again, the machines can be activated. He said every machine responded to the same voice code. "You would not recommend that anybody leave vital information on an answering machine," he said. Ms. Phillipa Smith of the Consumers' Association said the privacy and security problems associated with these machines were "quite obvious". "I think most consumers would assume there was a built-in personal- identification system," she said. "This really is an area where technology has outstipped the law." Dave Horsfall (VK2KFU), Alcatel-STC Australia, email@example.com
The following appeared in "Computing Australia" (affectionately known as "Confusing Australia") 20 June 1988 and appears to define a new form of virus: ``Virus shoots down flight reservations Hundreds of travel agents in two states went offline after a virus caused a system crash. Staffs of Travel Industry Automated Systems (TIAS) last week told of their "organised panic" as the virus spread through the Multi Access Airline Reservation System (MAARS), which covers agents in New South Wales and Queensland. TIAS technical manager Michel Radecki said the virus appeared in the form of corupted statistical data on June 9 soon after software changes. Software supplier Memorex Telex said an onsite power interruption on the night of June 8 was believed to have caused the problem. The company's manager of airline applications and support, Alan Sitters, said data was not disk-converted [?] during the interruption, resulting in incomplete information entry into the network. He said the cause was external and the MAARS software was not at fault. Radecki said about 450 users were offline for several hours over two days as Memorex Telex trouble-shooters joined inhouse staff to fix the problem. TIAS staff had staff shut the 275-user queuing system to pinpoint the fault, but the virus quickly spread to the reservation system and information database, he said. [...] He said the software changes had been made about one week before the crash to test the integration of American Airlines [!] into the system. The TIAS network already had access to 35 airlines' reservation systems.'' So, a power failure causes corruption of input data, and with no apparent sanity-checking, goes on to corrupt other data. Is this a virus? If it looks like a crow, and sounds like a crow... -- Dave Horsfall (VK2KFU), Alcatel-STC Australia, firstname.lastname@example.org dave%stcns3.stc.OZ.AU@uunet.UU.NET, ...munnari!stcns3.stc.OZ.AU!dave
The airbus story seems to have been dropped from today's news, probably being overshadowed by the Paris Train crash (which killed 57). There were some more details yesterday, but I don't have them to hand. It seems however that the blame for the crash is being placed squarely on pilot error. Apparently the pilot had TURNED OFF the computer for the demonstration flight and was flying the aircraft at 30 feet, 70 feet below the minimum safety level. The pilot has said that he requested more power from the engines but it arrived to late (from film of the accident you can hear the power coming on just when the plane clipped the top of the trees). I believe that manslaughter proceedings may be brought against the pilot. British Airways have stated that they are satisfied the cause of the crash was not any design fault in the aircraft and have resumed service with their own A-320s. It is amazing that more lives were not lost in the crash as there was a large explosion a few seconds after the planes came down. The only recognizable features in the burnt out wreckage are the tailfin and part of the left wing. The planes automatic escape chutes, which opened as soon as the plane crashed, seem to have been the reason that so many people were able to leave the plane so quickly. Many people clearly have their lives to thank for this safety feature. In accidents such as this there are usually some other contributory factors but for the moment pilot (and co-pilot) error is the main source of blame. The risks: perhaps the major risk was the lack of faith the pilot had in the computer (French pilots have been voicing concerns for some time about the aircraft's safety) so the major question is why was the computer turned off?
West German newsmedia began to report about possible risks of the Fly-by-wire technology of the Airbus A-320 only after a spokesman of Cockpit, an international pilots association, said that his organisation had severe doubt about the `official' version (as having been published by the responsible French minister a few hours after the accident) that the pilot made severe mistakes. In the meantime, public authorities in France, UK and Germany as well as Airbus Industries (through the chairman of the board, MP Strauss from Bavaria) interprete video-films showing the `demonstration flight' including the final phase with the following arguments: 1. `demonstration flights' aimed at demonstrating the aerodynamic limits (e.g. low height, low velocity) are only allowed without passengers, with small amount of kerosene and only with specially educated test pilots; since Mulhouse airport is only a very small airport, a demonstration flight would have never been allowed by the French authorities; the two French pilots, though Air France's most experienced Airbus pilots, were not properly educated; 2. the pilots have (against rules) switched to `manual control'; as can been seen in the videos, the plane was as low as 30 feet at a velocity of only 140 Knots; the trees shortly after the end of the runway were about 40 feet tall, but the pilots could not see the tree-tops because of the elevation of the plane's nose in the simulated landing procedure; 3. while the pilots say, that the engines didnot follow their signal `speed-up', the officials say, that this signal was given too late; assuming that the simulated approach was done under `running idle' conditions, the engines need 8-10 seconds to accelerate to max. RPM; from the moment where the engines really began to accelerate, until the moment where the plane reached at top of the first trees, only 5-6 seconds were past. Despite the official version (which allowed the French, UK and German Airbus A-320 planes to be in the air again after 1 day of flight prohibition), several questions are un-answered: a. Did the pilots fly under `manual control'(as the officials argue, while some experts said that such a mode doesnot exist for simulated landing)? b. If under manual control, did the pilots fly (contrary to experienced behaviour) with the engines running idle (then needing 8-10 seconds to accelerate the engines), or did they run with `drag gas' (German: Schleppgas) after which the engines need only 2-4 seconds for maximum RPM? In both cases, why did the engines only react on gas-giving with retardation? (Cockpit officials say, that experienced pilots fly such manoevers with drag gas: this reaction time would have allowed to avoid the accident when all other technical conditions are in good orfer; they trust their colleagues statement that the engines didnot react instantaneously, and they continue to speek of a technical problem) c. Was the demonstration flight authorized? The Airbus was transferred to Air France only 2 days before, and evidently this was its public maiden flight. The very fast reaction of government and industry is not surprising: Airbus Industries hopes to build and sell more than 500 Airbus A-320 models in the next 10 years. Though the governments of France, UK and FRG are responsible for airtraffic safety, they have also invested more than 10 Billion Dollars into the diverse models, and they are interested in minimizing the risks from prize guarantees which they have overtaken also for A-320. It seems rather doubtful whether guaranteed security was the reason that the responsible French minister excluded any technical risk before technical investigations could have given enough evidence. Though severe problems with computerized equipment in military aircraft have recently drawn public interest to safety in airtraffic, the A-320 accident for the first time draws public attention to risks of overreliance on computers. Officials as well as technicians argue that the technical system is much safer than any other plane before or even today; if there is any risk, than it is `only the risk of the human operators'. If you leave the `holistic approach' aside (according to which the security of a system consisting of humans and machine is not greater than the least secure component), there remain also design considerations to be analysed: If a pilot cannot see, in the typical approach configuration `nose up', the ground several 100 meters before his nose, is it responsible to have a `manual landing mode' at all? (In this case, the demonstration of slow, low flight would have been impossible, but also no victims!) As pilots control involves human errors, automatic control also involves human decisions, namely those of designers and programmers; even if they were flight experts, they cannot foresee (not only in todays limitations, gut generally) all situations of the `real application situation'. A totally computerized system like the A-320 where no mechanical aid helps to correct electronic shortcomings is by its very design principles less adaptible to unforeseen real world events. Unfortunately, it is not so unprobable that several more accidents may falsify the official optimism which describes this plane as `the most secure plane ever built'; but fortunately, public media begin (at least in FRG) to wake up from such dreams. Klaus Brunnstein Univ.Hamburg FRG
In an interview on the BBC World Service this morning, an aviation expert commented that some pilot errors cannot be easily remedied by computer. In particular, once the landing gear is down, the on-board computers assume that the pilot intends to fly the plane down to ground level, otherwise the A320 could not land until it ran out of fuel. This implies the existence of elaborate lockouts - what if the pilot intends to make a wheels-up landing (for whatever reason)? Laura Halliday email@example.com
How about "rm *>o" instead of "rm *.o" this can be caused on many keyboards by holding the shift key down a little bit too long. Don Sterk at Amdahl pointed this one out to me, after it happened to him once. The shell creates the file "o" then rm removes it and everything else. Joe Eykholt
A few questions and comments about disaster planning and the recent Illinois Bell central-office (C)) fire in Hinsdale Ill. This seems to be the first time that such a relatively small fire has destroyed so much communications capability. The Hinsdale CO was apparently carrying most (if not all) of the communications traffic for lots of large, information-intensive businesses. ***Is this CO typical of others around the country? Many (or most) of the companies involved had placed the probability of interruption of the carrier's service as fairly low. ***Is this typical of companies that depend on communications common-carriers? According to interviews in "Network World," many of the network managers of the affected companies were "shocked" at the lack of a fire-control system. This has led to threats of litigation. *** Any comments? Even though this was a communications failure, and no customer's equipment was damaged, several companies were forced into their full-scale disaster plans, because they either had not addressed loss of communications separately or these "mini-disaster-plans" were not workable (e.g. the backup phone lines also went through the same CO). This is *much* more expensive than just restoring communications would have been (United Stationers, Inc. spent nearly $600,000 to move to its backup data center). *** How many companies would be in the same situation if this happened to them? Has anyone (or any organization) announced plans to try to conduct a large-scale multi-company post-mortem examination of the incident? This would appear to be a golden opportunity to examine a wide range of disaster plans, produced by many different organizations and determine which features of each plan were most or least useful. This could lead to better overall disaster planning for the industry as a whole. Tom Perrine hamachi!tots!tep@NOSC.MIL (last resort:Perrine@DOCKMASTER.ARPA) Logicon(Tactical and Training Systems Division) San Diego CA (619) 455-1330
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