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On May 13, 1988, the day they allegedly embezzled $70 million from First National Bank of Chicago, two key players met in the waiting room at the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Suburban Station. Armand Moore, convicted swindler said by prosecutors to have masterminded the crime, was quick to assure bank employee Gabriel Taylor that the plan had gone off without a hitch. "You did fine. Everything went great," Moore told Taylor. "Just sit tight. I won't forget to give you your share of the loot." Confident that all was well, Moore and the other co-schemers went out to look at new Jaguars and Cadillacs the next day. But by Monday morning, May 16, the scheme had begun to unravel. Gabriel Taylor decided it best to begin cooperating with the government, and seven men, including Moore and another employee of First National Bank were indicted by a federal grand jury in the case two days later. First National has said it anticipates no loss to itself or its customers in the case. Although $19.8 million remained at large for several days following the exposure of the scheme, the bank has now retrieved it after filing suit against Citibank, which at first had refused to return it. The effort failed 'only by the merest happenstance. This was a big near-miss,' according to Robert Edwards, a Hagerstown, MD consultant on money transfer security. In the case at hand, about $70 million was sent out of the bank in just 64 minutes by wire transfer that Friday morning. Several trillion dollars per week is moved around the country by wire transfer, in which funds are moved from one bank to another by electronic debits and credits to interbank account at the institutions involved. First National has been busily telling everyone who would listen that the attempt was foiled because of 'the effeciency of our system, and the many controls we use....'. Cynical insiders at the bank and members of the financial community in Chicago say that is nonsense. The scheme was a relatively simple minded one which failed because of the perpetrators' greed and apparent lack of sophistication. "It's not the hackers and phreakers who are making trouble in most cases," said Edwards. "It's the employees who are working us over. When you have collusion between an employee and somebody on the outside, it is almost impossible to prevent fraud like this." He added, "The wire transfer business is extremely risky at best. This is one of the nightmares you live with." In the First National case, the plot allegedly centered on Moore, known by his street name of 'The Chairman'. Moore came from his home in Detroit about the first of May to meet with his cousin Herschel Bailey of Chicago, one of those charged in the scheme. Bailey knew Otis Wilson, who had worked at First National for six years in the wire room. He was also aquainted with Gabriel Taylor, another wire room employee. Both Taylor and Moore were low-level employees at First National. Both were young guys from the south side of Chicago who had gotten jobs at the bank as older teenagers a few years before. There were several planning meetings at the downtown Quality Inn hotel, according to federal prosecutors. To entice the two bank employees, Moore flashed photographs of Rolls-Royce automobiles and luxury yachts, according to Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Stone and Scott Mendeloff. Moore allegedly promised Taylor and Wilson he would give them $28 million of the loot in exchange for their cooperation. At first, Moore wanted to steal $232 million, but Taylor convinced him that was just too greedy and risky. Taylor and Bailey allegedly provided the others with confidential information regarding wire transfers, including the words and phrases bank employees would say to one another on the phone. They allegedly provided confidential information about the accounts of several large corporate customers of First National. They studied computer printouts to determine which of these various customers had the highest amount of protection against overdrafts, and which had the highest volume of transactions in their account, meaning that missing funds would be difficult to immediatly reconcile. They rejected several of the accounts they reviewed, including Hilton Hotels Corp., for which the limits were too low. The men allegedly selected three companies — Merrill Lynch & Co,. United Airlines and Brown-Forman Corp. They called First National, purporting to be with those companies, requesting wire transfers. Taylor arranged to be the person who made confirming telephone calls, the government claims. Under First National's procedures, the employee who receives the customer's request for a wire transfer cannot also be the employee who makes the confirming phone call. Furthermore, a third employee is required to actually operate the electronics involved in passing the money. Prosecutors said the plan called for Taylor to hang up the phone if he was the person who received the incoming call. Calls to the wire room are routed automatically by a call distributor-like system; no one knows who will get which incoming phone call. Keeping alert to the incoming calls, which were expected at certain times, Taylor then managed to get the task of making the callbacks, but instead of calling the actual companies involved, he called his accomplices at Bailey's house on the south side. Although the bank keeps a computerized record of all outgoing calls from phones in the wire room, the log was seldom checked and in any event was never checked immediately. The money was transferred to accounts of Austrian banks at Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank in New York that Friday morning between 8:30 and 9:34 AM. Later Friday, Moore and another of his accomplices met with officials of another Chicago bank to discuss how they could move money from an overseas account and convert it to cash here in Chicago. The scheme was derailed early Monday when United Airlines officials noticed a big overdraft in one of its accounts and immediately called First National. Brown-Forman did the same. What the schemers did not realize was that not only are the dialed digits recorded, *but the conversations are also*. They also did not realize that due to the size of the Merrill Lynch account, one employee at First National is assigned full time to handle only that account and attend to the needs of that very large customer. On coming to work Monday morning, the first thing that person did was review the latest printout for the customer. The overdraft was immediately noted, and since no other employee at the bank is ever authorized to debit or credit the customer's account or do maintenance on the account, it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. A call to the responsible party at Merrill Lynch confirmed that they had not requested a transfer either. Bank employees who wish to remain anonymous said it was naive to assume the large overdrafts would not be noticed in a matter of hours. "It's the greed that killed them," said one bank executive. It's not really clear why the money was not moved out of the United States to the banks in Vienna on Friday rather than waiting for Monday. Although the bank executive said the schemers were stupid about the whole thing, he admitted there were flaws in First National's system also. He said Taylor should not have been able to know for sure that he would be the employee to make the 'confirming phone call'. The person in the wire room who handles the confirmation should be selected at random just like the person who receives the call in the first place. The person actually doing the transfer should likewise be selected at random. By making it predictable to either party, a scam is that much easier. The scheme would have eventually foundered anyway. You don't just withdraw $70 million from a bank in Austria without pretty thorough feedback and checking. ABOUT THE DEFENDANTS - Gabriel Moore and Otis Wilson apparently had no prior criminal background. Both have elected to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of Armand Moore, a several times convicted con man. Both are free on recognizance bond pending their own trials. While its hard to feel sympathy for them, I *do* feel a twinge of sympathy. Both were (probably) very poorly paid clerks. They saw billions of dollars pass through their hands daily. When an older man, suave and sophisticated, takes them out to dinner, hovers over them, showers them with attention and offers to help them achieve the kind of riches they and their families could never legitimately have, it was too much temptation for them to resist. Wouldn't *you* find it hard? I know I would.... In all probability, based on the sentencing guidelines in federal court here, when they are tried, based on their pleas of guilt, the court will find them guilty. The government will make no recommendation as to appropriate punishment, and they will receive federal probation, probably for two to four years. Obviously, they are blackballed from any further employment in banking/credit card/other financial operations. They face their families and friends as convicted felons. If Armand Moore and his other associates — the people who would have actually benefitted from the scheme (you don't *really* think they planned to cut those two kids in on it if they could help it, do you?) — are convicted, most likely they will face hard time. A curious dilemma arose regarding $19.8 million transferred to Citibank that Friday morning. *Citibank refused at first to give it back*. According to Citibank, all regulations regarding wire transfers were followed. The proper things were done, the proper words and phrases uttered, all was in order. Why, they asked, should *we* have to handle security at First National? They argued that wire transfers were intended to be immediate credits, and that if First National was now saying in effect that under some conditions their word on wires was not good, then why bother with a wire? First National responded by filing suit the same day, Monday, May 16 in court in New York City, demanding that their money be returned to them. After some negotiations between Citibank and First National, *most* of the $19.8 million was returned. Citibank now says apparently they had better stop accepting wire transfers from First National altogether, or at least subject them to normal clearing procedures, for you never know when First National might come back a few hours — or a weekend — later and say it was in error. Internal controls at First National have been so poor in recent years that in fact a lot of smaller banks throughout the country have begun holding their paper for clearance — even cashier's checks and drafts — simply because when 'errors' have occurred in the past, First National has taken what is percieved by many banks as a very uppity attitude toward investigation and restitution. Mr. Edwards of Hagerstown called it 'sheer happenstance that it failed.' I think I agree. Patrick Townson@cup.portal.com, PO Box 1003, Chicago, IL 60690-1003 (ps: Hinsdale seems to be rehabilitated - finally - as of the past few days! Rumors of terrorist activity/arson at the switch are totally unfounded.)
>Does anyone wish optimisers were more forthcoming about the changes they make? In general, I agree with your point. For example, some source-to-source parallelizing compilers can simply list their output; the output language is the input language, and often you can tell what input generated what output. However, there are two possible pitfalls. One RISK is that if a compiler always puts out reams of messages, a user comes to ignore them, and may not notice the important ones. Another problem is that super-optimizers super-mangle code. A change made by a super-optimizers after many passes may have little or no relation to the original source, and so a message may be totally inappropriate. As one (possibly poor) example, consider the job of doing subscript checking in Pascal. Suppose that you already have a very good flow-analysis pass in your compiler. The straightforward approach would be to change var a, b: array [0 .. 10] of integer; i: 0 .. 255; ... a[i] := b[i]; into if (i < 0 or i > 10) then abort(some message about a); if (i < 0 or i > 10) then abort(some message about b); a[i] := b[i]; I say ``straightforward'' because these statements can be generated mechanically, yet it can be easily improved (if you have the good pass as above). A super-optimizer could remove the second ``if'', knowing that there is no return from abort and hence no path in which i is out-of-bound can reach the second ``if''. It could notice that ``i'' is non-negative and remove ``i < 0 or''. If the original statement were enclosed in for i := 0 to 10 do begin ... end (a common case for arrays) then it could remove all the subscript-checking code. The alternative would be to special-case the subscript-checking pass to insert the checks only when necessary. That would be far more error-prone and more specialized. (There are many other optimizations that introduce dead code; see your local Dragon book. In fact, because users rarely write dead code, dead-code-elimination passes exist to clean up after the compiler itself.) Alas, designing proper messages controlled by reasonable compiler options is not an easy task.
In Risks 6.94, J M Hicks <cudat@CU.WARWICK.AC.UK> asked: >Does anyone wish optimisers were more forthcoming about the changes they make? Yes, and for this reason, I've always liked the IBM translators, and particularly the PL/I optimising compiler. PL/I told you (as a warning-level message) when it detected and deleted unreachable code. PL/I also gave you a complete attribute and cross-reference list, marking the difference between reference and assignment. These are features I really miss in the C compilers I use now (including the IBM one, strangely). I have had a number of philosophical discussions with people who feel that such functionality (a) does not belong in a timesharing or micro environment (because it produces long 'listings') and (b) does not belong in the compiler. While there might be a use for a tool that reads the defined reference language and produces such information (like LINT and XREF), I find it very useful when the compiler itself tells me. Amongst other things, it is reassuring me that it has the same understanding of the source code as I (and perhaps the reference language) have. In the same issue, Klaus Brunnstein wrote: > When analysing the missing redundancy in the ... `Deutsche > Bundes-Post', ... > our DATEX-P network has only one central communications controller > per area. ... Despite many discussions and arguments ... the Post > office managers argue that today, redundancy does not pay To make this a little more concrete, here in Bonn, the central switch is in a little building on the banks of the Rhine. For a variety of reasons, the Rhine floods every year. The last two years have been particularly bad. Both Datex-P traffic and voice traffic in Bonn was badly hampered for days this year because of minimal redundancy. Nothing was done after last years flood, and I sincerely doubt that anything is being done about it now. Michael
We at UMCP have just discovered (the hard way) that there is a major security hole in a program called "rpc.rexd" on sun workstations. This program is intended to facilitate a form of remote execution between appropriate workstations; the front-end program which is used to request the remote execution is called simply "on". Unfortunately, "rpc.rexd" fails (miserably) in its check of whether the requesters should have the permission to do what they ask for. Because of the way on/rexd works, anyone who wishes can, given root access to his own machine, become any uid he wants on any other machine running rex *anywhere on the Internet*. (Luckily, root appears to be the only exception to this rule, if that is some small consolation.) The authentication test in the Sun3.2 rex daemon appears to proceed as: get the remote user id out of Unix-flavored authentication if it's zero, then deny access if getpwuid(remoteuid) is not NULL then grant access else deny access In other words, any non-zero user identifier which happens to correspond to a valid user on the target machine can be used to gain the privileges of that user. There is no check to see whether that user has granted "trusted" status to the originating user and host (normally done via a file called ".rhosts" in many networked Unix systems), nor is there any check to see whether a system administrator has generically granted such a trusted status to the originating machine. If you're running rexd and you're connected to a network, and if there are people or places on your net whom you don't trust, then we suggest not running rexd. To see if you are running it now, look in your /etc/servers table. If the "rpc.rexd" line is missing or commented out, you're OK. Sun does not enable this daemon in the /etc/servers you read off the installation tapes. There are several ways that this problem seems relevent to the risks forum. The most obvious is the risk of blindly trusting a vendor to ship you software that performs at least `reasonable' security checks. We will not belabor that point here. Instead, we provide yet another testimony to how closely we must all watch what goes on our machines: innocent intentions can still lead to big headaches. Most of the Suns in our network ran version 3.0 of the Sun OS, served by a large central fileserver. Rex daemons were not readily available for this version, and there was no hole. However, many individual research groups have suns of their own. One day, a guru running one of these individual Suns decided to be the first on his block to upgrade to release 3.2. He was not a staff member in our department, but was in fact trusted with superuser access to the fileserver. A well-intentioned chap, as he upgraded his owner's machine, he also installed the new, cute looking goodies from the distribution on the department fileserver so that all might benefit from his efforts. Hence, the normal scrutiny we would subject a new piece of software to was bypassed. Whether or not we would have found the hole when doing our normal installation of this software is unclear, to be sure, but we would at least liked to have had a shot at finding it. You can only speculate at where we have hidden the body of the late, otherwise well-intentioned, guru who installed the rex daemon. Pete Cottrell, Steve Miller, Jim Purtilo, Chris Torek
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