The RISKS Digest
Volume 7 Issue 66

Thursday, 20th October 1988

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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o British computer calls Northern Ireland a "Region Unknown"
John Murray
o "Brain" virus shows up in Hong Kong
Dave Horsfall
o A Credit Card Fraud
Brian Randell
o Nausea-inducing propellor
Mike Trout
o Re: Ear-itating performance
Jan Wolitzky
Ken Johnson
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

British computer calls Northern Ireland a "Region Unknown"

John Murray <>
20 Oct 88 18:25:36 GMT
Paraphrased from The Irish Times (Dublin), Oct 15 1988:

'A computer error resulted in the gross domestic product of Northern
Ireland being underestimated by more than 10 percent between 1983 and
1986. [A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Economic Council] said
that the sluggishness evidenced by the statistics "could have under-
mined the confidence of potential investors".'

. . . . 'Over 70 percent of the North's GDP consists of estimates of
income [which] are calculated at Newcastle-on-Tyne [England] from
income tax returns and information in the Dept. of Health & Social
Services. It appears that between 1983 and 1986 an error in the
computer programme responsible for extracting the relevant data cate-
gorised a growing number of earners in the North as "region unknown".'

[Further discussion follows about how the error may have supplemented
the region's other problems.]

"Brain" virus shows up in Hong Kong

Dave Horsfall <>
Tue, 18 Oct 88 13:34:27 est
On the off-chance that you haven't had enough of virus reports, here's
another one from Computing Australia, 17th October, 1988:

``HK consultants hit by overseas virus

  A leading firm of financial consultants has become the first main-
  stream business in Hong Kong to be affected by a computer virus.
  The Business International consultancy reported last week the "Brain"
  virus — well-known elsewhere in the world, but never before seen
  in Hong Kong — had appeared on some disks.  ...  BI was playing down
  the significance of the find last week, with a company spokeswoman
  saying the virus had not reappeared and that no data had been lost.''

The article goes on further to discuss the origin of the Brain virus,
and makes the amazing observation "[it] does not destroy data, but
scrambles it beyond recognition".  I dunno, I would certainly regard
data "scrambled beyond recognition" as being "destroyed".

Dave Horsfall (VK2KFU),  Alcatel-STC Australia,,  ...munnari!!dave

A Credit Card Fraud

Brian Randell <>
Tue, 18 Oct 88 11:51:07 +0100
This story, from Saturday's Guardian newspaper, comes from what sounds like an
interesting study of computer-related crime. It is reprinted here in full,
without permission. (The # sign is used to represent the pounds sterling sign.)
The risk in the particular fraud described would appear to have arisen - said
he with 20:20 hindsight, but no personal expertise in credit card fraud
- because of the latencies in, and inadequacies of, the means by which input
validity checks were performed.

Brian Randell

#9M Credit Card Fraudster Cleans Up With a Full House

[by] Peter Large
Technology Editor
[Guardian, 15 Oct. 1988, p.11]

Credit card companies were robbed of #6 million to #9 million within two weeks
by an eight stage, one-man fraud. The recipe used was this:

1: Take a mortgage on a house that has already changed hands once in the past
five years.

2: Advertise a bogus job overseas at a juicy salary (that brings 4,000

3: Send the job applicants a form demanding the same details as those required
for a credit-card application.

4: The hard work: transfer that information to the application forms of
several smallish credit-card and store-card operators, forging the signatures
and substituting the address of the safe house for the real address (that
ensures that any check with the electoral roll draws a blank, without
indicating a bogus applicant).

5: The fast work: spend or draw cash to the maximum possible - and within one
day - on each card as it arrives at the safe house.

6: To outpace the tracing, complete the operation within two weeks, even though
there are still many cards to spare.

7: Disappear.

8: Don't pay for the advert.

The case - he was never caught - was reported yesterday in the BIS group's
annual study of computer-related crime. Bill Farquhar, co-author of the report,
said the crime was discovered, much too late, when a clerk entering details
into a computer noted the same handwriting on different applications from the
same address.

Mr Farquhar said #3 million was traced from bank to building society to another
bank, before it was transferred abroad. But the total take was at least #6
million and probably #9 million, he said. The police found an empty house
carpeted with cards.

The report shows how computer fraud is spreading: the 225 cases traced by BIS
in the past year netted an average of #389,000, compared with #31,000 in 1983.
BIS reckons 90 per cent of computer crime is not reported by firms - or not
traced at all.

Firms so fear the publicity that some give the criminals golden handshakes and
glowing references to pass on to their next victim."
                                                  [Also noted by blf@scol.uucp]

Nausea-inducing propeller (Re: RISKS DIGEST 7.64)

Mike Trout <>
17 Oct 88 18:35:47 GMT
In RISKS-FORUM Digest Volume 7 : Issue 64, Marshall Jose discusses how an
unwanted 28 kHz spike at a Stevie Wonder tour was inducing irritability and
impatience among artists, crew, and audience.  Our illustrious moderator Peter
also mentioned how the anapest beat of a particular rock tune could cause
alarming physical effects on certain people. 

This brings to mind the story of the infamous XF-84H, an airplane whose tale
appears every now and then in rec.aviation.  You may remember the old F-84
Thunderstreak/flash/whatever; in those days jet engines left a great deal to be
desired in both maximum power output and reliability.  Accordingly, somebody
got the bright idea of putting a super turboprop on the front of an F-84.
Tests showed the plane (designated the XF-84H) to have lots of reliable power 
and acceleration, but there was an unexpected side effect nobody predicted: 
ground crews working with the XF-84H began suffering from uncontrollable
nausea.  The cause was traced to the plane's monstrous propeller blades, which
of necessity were spinning at supersonic speeds and apparently setting up some
physiologically harmful harmonics.  The project was scrapped; the only XF-84H
built is on display at some AFB in California, I believe.

There seems to be little hard data in circulation about this project; it is
mentioned briefly in various authoritative publications but the details are
always sketchy.  Some questions that come to mind:  What kind of harmonics
would induce nausea, rather than something like irritability as in the Stevie
Wonder 28 kHz spike?  Why was the pilot apparently not affected?  Why is nausea
NOT induced by other supersonically-spinning propellers (which occasionally
crop up on various general aviation aircraft)?  I'm sure that USAF and Republic 
Aviation reports on this incident exist somewhere; anybody know any more?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Michael Trout (miket@brspyr1)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
BRS Information Technologies, 1200 Rt. 7, Latham, N.Y. 12110  (518) 783-1161

Re: Ear-itating performance

Mon, 17 Oct 88 08:59 EDT
         For one of his tours, Stevie Wonder contracted with Northwest Sound
    to build a set of PA speakers of extraordinary capability — response
    nearly flat out to 45 kHz, etc. . . . .
         Finally, during one show, one of the sound guys was examining
    the audio spectrum analyzer screen, and mistakenly pushed the 20 kHz -
    200 kHz range button instead of the 2 kHz - 20 kHz button.  Imagine
    his alarm at the sight of a potent 28 kHz component, the product of
    all the synthesizers' DAC update clocks. . . . .

If the DAC clock rate was 28 KHz, the synthesizers' Nyquist frequency (the
highest frequency that could be reproduced) would have been only 14 KHz,
which is pretty crummy and wouldn't have required a fancy sound system.

Jan Wolitzky, AT&T Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ; 201 582-2998; mhuxd!wolit
(Affiliation given for identification purposes only)


Tue, 18 Oct 88 17:56:23 EST
Subject: Ear-itation
    A few years back , some pseudoscientists expressed a concern that the
"anapestic" beat was so counter to the natural beat of the heart that
the hearer's health and proper heart-functioning could be threatened
by hearing this beat.  In other words, when the thumping "We Are the
Champions" anapestic (and irritating) beat is heard at sporting events,
there is a major health risk!  Bah, I say!
   Concerning the 28K Hz problem - aren't we continually bombarding
animals with much higher hearing ranges (dogs, birds(?), bats) with
sounds in the post-20K Hz range?  And does Stevie Wonder, with a
higher dependence on his sense of hearing, notice the irritating
noises more than the person with normal senses?

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