System Crash Fails Swiss Bank Theft (Information Week, July 11, 1988) Only a chance system crash prevented an attempted computer crime from becoming Britain's, and possibly Europe's, largest recorded theft. A manager at the London branch of the Union Bank of Switzerland issued an instruction to transfer 82 million Swiss francs ($54.1 million) to a branch of Credit Suisse in Lyon, a small town near Lausanne. The payment instruction was sent via the Swift international interbank network, which handles nearly a million payment messages per day. A computer breakdown at the Swiss end apparently forced the bank staff to make manual checks of payment instructions that would normally be processed automatically. Suspicions were aroused, and Swiss police were waiting to pounce on the man who arrived to collect the cash. Two men have been arrested in Switzerland, in addition to the London-based, British employee of UBS. Swift officials in Brussels emphasized that the security of the network had not been compromised, and that what happened was not strictly a computer crime. Genuine computer crimes, in which a secure operating system is breached by an outsider to effect fraudulent transactions, are thought to be rare. [sounds like a rather "convenient" definition to me... -Dave] More common, and more worrisome to large financial service companies, are cases in which fraudulent transaction instructions received on paper are entered into systems as if they were genuine. The Swift network then has no way of knowing it is carrying a fraudulent transaction. Protection against these crimes relies on the fact that each transaction is supposed to be ratified by a number of people in different locations. Collusion among several managers would be required for these frauds to succeed. In this case, however, it appears that security at UBS was inadequate: It should not have been possible for one man to enter a fraudulent transaction of such high value [meaning that he should have been able to enter one of lesser value? -Dave] into the Swift network even if it appeared to have come from a genuine telegram ordering payment. - Philip Hunter, London --Dave Curry, Purdue University
Aegis System At The Heart Of Vincennes Investigation (Information Week, July 11, 1988) Unanswered questions about the Persian Gulf engagement in which the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iranian jetliner have focused attention on the Navy's Aegis automated weapon system. Aegis is widely considered one of the most sophisticated uses of automation in the armed forces. Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, has referred to it as "Star Wars at sea." Part of Aegis' uniqueness is that, like SDI, Aegis is more a concept than a specific weapon system. It was developed by RCA's Missile and Surface Radar unit under a contract to synthesize a weapon system capable of fighting air, surface, and submarine threats simultaneously. Aegis combines input from four phased-array radars (which employ hundreds of tiny radar beams to scan the entire horizon without causing the gaps in surveillance created by rotating dish radars) - using UYK-7 computers manufactured by Unisys - to create a graphic display of all air, surface, and subsurface targets on video screens in the ship's combat information center (CIC), including information on the target's speeds and direction. The radars scan an area that reaches out in all directions from the ship in the shape of a bowl or shield, hence the name Aegis. The ship's sensors also track whether the target is friend or foe, neutral, or assumed friend or foe, based on visual identification or encrypted electronic signals. All of this information - tracks, data, displays - and almost all communications in or out of the ship's CIC is automatically recorded in Aegis' computer. This is the data Navy investigators will examine when they attempt to discover what went wrong on the Vincennes. Although Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has referred to Aegis as "the most carefully tested combat system ever built," the system was deliberately designed for human input - VISUAL IDENTIFICATION OF TARGETS, OPERATOR ASSIGNED FRIEND-OR-FOE STATUS [emphasis mine], and operator selected targets - and is, thus, subject to human error. - Christpher Hord
Much of the commentary on this incident treats it as 'a land far away in a time long ago'; it's not - it's an immediate question not just for Iran, but the whole of SE Asia and Australasia: ALL the traffic between here and Europe overflies the Gulf, much of it staging through Bahrein or Dubai. Until now that hasn't worried me much - a 747 at 25,000 plus feet ought to be safe, so I thought. But now I wonder - could a DC10 on its final descent into Dubai on an unpredicted track - perhaps avoiding a storm - look like an attack on US vessels? What if an Iranian Mirage had accidentally crossed its track earlier? Even scarier, what if that Mirage deliberately followed it in? Seems like a reasonable way to get closer to the task force vessels. Improbable? So is the present story on mistaking an airbus for an F14. The point is, this was not just an unlucky worst case event; it was actually one of the better possible scenarios from the US point of view - imagine if it had been an Air India or Qantas jet that was downed. The US forces in the Gulf seem to be in a virtually impossible situation. They cannot afford to assume the best - that a target is innocuous until proven otherwise; they also cannot afford to assume the worst - that a target should be blasted unless proven friendly. On the other hand, the airlines involved don't have much alternative either as there are no other corridors available. Further disasters don't seem unlikely from here.
I believe we've previously discussed the "RISKS of 'binary' thinking" in this forum; i.e., recognizing only dichotomies - one/zero, right/wrong ... Our computer thinking - which we sometimes use to debug code - encourages that; ditto our legal system. In defense of CAPT Will Rogers, I spoke of tragedy; I'd bet that Will agrees with that conclusion. I'd also guess that he would agree with George Will ["This Week with David Brinkley", ABC, Sunday 10 Jul 88] that his actions were "... morally defensible under the circumstances;" BUT that he would not dispute Sam Donaldson's point [ibid.] that the outcome was NOT morally desirable. Some readers of this journal did not see me blame the USN, so they assumed that I found the "fault" with the Iranians. In fact, I found no fault; if I had, I think I would have suggested we debate the methods [at least, and perhaps motives, too] of those who put USN warships in "harm's way" without bothering to declare war. If others want to pursue that debate, then I suggest we move it to ARMS-D. [email@example.com] In RISKS, I suggest we have a hard look at the generic problem of doing systems - offensive, defensive, process monitoring, banking ... that ordinarily have, historically, used "binary logic" when indeed they probably ought to evolve into "expert systems" that use NOT ONLY classical logic [e.g., Boolean] BUT ALSO [occasionally] "fuzzy logic." This discussion might quickly spread to include "neural network" kinds of logic, in which the failure of several bits [gates] has only slight impact on the outcome, perhaps not even noticeable. Bob
Considering the discussion about the Iranian A300 incident, I wondered about the implications of current efforts to automate air traffic control. Perhaps if the Iranian ATC and the US Navy Aegis system were fully automated then the chances of an unfortunate incident happening might have been different? This article tells of current US plans in that area: FAA BEGINS PLAN TO FULLY AUTOMATE ATC FUNCTIONS [ from Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 27, 1988, p 73 ] [ used without permission ] SALT LAKE CITY--FAA Administrator Allan McArtor has begun a three-phase plan to progressively automate air traffic control functions that eventually would automate most functions and limit human controllers to supervisory and emergency functions. In a speech here dedicating the last of the FAA's 20 Host ATC computer systems, McArtor said the automated network would rely on computers and satellite tracking to choose the best, safest and most fuel- and time-efficient routes for aircraft. It would also space them more efficiently than human controllers can. The agency already is working on Phase 1 of the automated en route air traffic control system (AERA) plan, McArtor said. When functional, this computer software upgrade will allow controllers to evaluate routes requested by pilots for potential conflicts with other aircraft, prohibited airspace and flow control restrictions. The second phase, scheduled to be operational by the late 1990s, would give controllers several solutions to traffic problems. Any route chosen by the controller would be communicated automatically to the aircraft by digital data link. The final part of the AERA plan--and admittedly the most ambitious, McArtor said--would upgrade air traffic control software to allow totally automatic air traffic operations. Computers would detect and resolve traffic control problems, make decisions, and offer clearances to aircraft without human intervention. However, air traffic still would be supervised by humans, McArtor said.... Satellite tracking and communications technology will be key to the AERA effort and future ATC system modernization, McArtor said
Discussing the question of the altimeter display in the Airbus involved in the flyby crash in France in RISKS 7:20, Henry Spencer comments: <> Does the Airbus model in question display altitude in feet or meters? > [Question raised regarding whether the Air France Airbus was at 30 > feet or 30 meters...] > >Unless I am greatly mistaken, in feet. ... At the risk of a case of foot-in-mouth disease (since I have no experience flying as a crewmember in Europe), my Jeppesen manuals (flying charts) seem to contradict Henry's comment. The following is extracted from the Jeppesen J-Aid, "Tables and Codes" section, pp. 27-30 (dated 26 February 88): UNITS OF MEASUREMENTS TO BE USED IN AIR AND GROUND OPERATIONS So that there would be no misunderstanding as to what units of measure (as mitres or feet) were used in each country, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) provided a recommended table from which countries could choose either the table labeled "ICAO" or the table labeled "Blue". In 1979, ICAO revised Annex 5 and replaced the "ICAO or Blue" choice with "International Standard" (SI) and non-SI. [...] [excerpts from the definition matrix:] Measurement of: ICAO Blue SI non-SI --------------- ---- ---- -- ------ Distances used in Nautical miles Nautical miles km nm navigation reports and tenths and tenths Relatively short metres metres m distances Altitudes, elevations metres feet m ft and heights [...] Dimensional units to be used in air/ground communications applicable for the following countries or FIRS: [excerpts] France: ICAO (8) (60) Switzerland: SI/non-SI United Kingdom: Blue (63) United States: Blue (33) [Relevant footnotes:] (8) Altitudes and heights on IAL charts in feet (33) Relatively short distances in feet [...] (60) [...] (63) [...] There are presently 69 footnotes explaining non-standardized measurements. The international aviation community, in other words, doesn't have the universal system of measurements which would be nice for everybody, and it's not at all unlikely that some pilots could become mixed up over a readout. On the other hand, anyone who would fly a transport with passengers aboard on a low pass without significant experience at the controls of that make-and-model... Joe Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A user posted this notice on our bulletin board: Subject: Mouse Injury Category: Computer hazard Text: Add another to the list of computer-induced medical problems. In frantic, last 8 days before publication haste I used the mouse madly in formatting the handbook for employees, and managed to inflame the joint of my index finger so thoroughly that I'm now in a splint and taking nasty pills. Had I known this could cause a problem, I'd have used keyboard commands whenever possible, as I normally do. [...]
Clifford Johnson asks, ...at what perceived "odds" -- 50-50, 60-40, 90-10 ? -- does a commander have "sufficient cause" to "declare" a radar blip, that might be hostile or might be a commercial flight, officially "hostile," so as to shoot it down? The short answer is that there is no such threshold probability. The question presumes the the commander faces a one-shot shoot/no-shoot decision to be taken on the basis of information assessed at an instant in time. More realistically, the commander's options at any instant t are (1) shoot, and (2) wait an increment delta-t and decide again at t + delta-t. During that interval, the ship is either attacked or it gains further information about the blip (the mere absence of an attack counts as information). The "shooting threshold" depends on the time t, the likelihood of attack during the next delta-t, and the prospects for collecting further information in the subsequent time intervals. In the general case, the threshold can behave arbitrarily over time. If we insist on framing this as a one-shot decision, the commander has two options and there are two basic states of nature distinguished by whether the blip is an F14 or a civilian aircraft. Thus, there are four possible consequences: C1 - (shoot, F14) C2 - (shoot, civilian) C3 - (no shoot, F14) C4 - (no shoot, civilian) I suspect that even ranking these consequences by desirability will be controversial, except that C1 and C4 are obviously preferred to C2 and C3. Let du(F14) be the difference in utility between the better and worse actions given the blip is an F14. That is, du(F14) = u(C1) - u(C3), and similarly let du(civ) = u(C4) - u(C2). The one-shot decision recommended by this simple model is to shoot iff the probability that the blip is an F14 is greater than p*, where p* = du(civ) / [ du(civ) + du(F14) ]. Note that p* = 1/2 exactly if du(civ) = du(F14), that is if the differences between the "wrong" and "right" actions are the same for both possible states. The threshold is greater or less than 1/2 as the civilian or F14 consequences are considered relatively more or less significant. It should also be emphasized that these terms are not simply "the value of civilian versus military lives." Again, this model is outrageously simplistic because it entirely ignores the dynamic nature of the actual decision and the important role of prospective information. Johnson's second question is given the shortness of the response time, what could be the best odds attainable in a realistic attack scenario, even assuming the best computer technology the United States could field? There are no general limits to the extremity of the posterior odds, regardless of technology, simply because the priors can be arbitrarily extreme. In particular situations, however, limitations of the sensing technology do bound the final assessment. --Mike Wellman.
> ...at what perceived "odds" -- 50-50, 60-40, 90-10 ? -- does a > The short answer is that there is no such threshold probability... Yes and no, mostly no. Time passes, and in all circumstances what you say holds true only until a "use them or don't use them" decision deadline dictated by the particular threat perceived. After this time, the intended defense is ineffective. Curiously, in the Iran shootdown it has been reported that the decision came a little late, which perhaps suggests that the Captain panicked just when the flight turned towards its center corridoor, which happened to be in the direction of the ship. This would mean that the flight was shot down *because it responded* to the strident warnings. If the threat of missile attack had been usual (supposing arguendo that F-14's could deliver missiles), the plane would have been hit after it had released its missiles. I don't contest your game theory -- such utilities are increasingly being incorporated into online military battle managers. In the envisaged naval battle management system, the decision would presumably be recommended in such utilitarian terms to the Captain or remote Admiral. This means that such values as we have speculated about really are being written into military hardware that actually or virtually executes its own Rules of Engagement. I shudder. > given the shortness of the response time, what could be the best > odds attainable in a realistic attack scenario, ... > There are no general limits to the extremity of the posterior odds, ... > In particular situations, however, limitations of the sensing technology > do bound the final assessment. The final point counts, I agree, but an uncontrolled risk-amplification may in general occur in real-time guestimation of the background or a priori probabilities of a threat. Calling an alert, or issuance of a strategic warning, which is what the Gulf forces got over the July weekend, does exactly that, it vastly distorts a priori probabilities. And I say "distort" with academic rigor, for it is a well-proven tenet of war that a strategic warning is highly unreliable but easy to believe. Just like a sale isn't final until a check is signed, or rather, until the computers say so, so hostilities may not occur until a first shot is fired, or rather, until the computers say so. Then the firing of the first shot then places a priori odds beyond reason, permitting a commander to see threats even from directions that shots have not been fired from. Clearly, it is in everyone's interests that a priori probabilities of conflict are not unreasonably figured. Without questioning good military intentions, I am concerned that the likelihood of civilian deaths features insufficiently in the U.S. Rules of Engagement. Witness the destruction of a mental hospital in Grenada, of many civilians in the Libyan raid, and now of a civilian jet -- and so far, the military has not been faulted for any of these mishaps, on the basic grounds that civilian deaths were due to tragic technical glitches tolerable in the circumstances. I am most concerned that the nuclear SIOP implicitly contains a priori estimates of threat probabilities which are unreasonably boosted to protect the Air Force and the defense establishment. This in effect devalues civilian consequences, and heigthens the danger. And yet the nuclear hair-trigger is so unopposed that the Strategic Air Command is *celebrating* 1988 as "The Year of the SAC Alert Force," in commemoration of the 30-year-old alert called for SAC's bombers on October 1, 1957.
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