The RISKS Digest
Volume 9 Issue 82

Friday, 20th April 1990

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 A320 news
Henry Spencer
o The Danger of Airbags
Jeff Deifik
o Re: Risks of computerized publishing
Paolo Mattiangeli
o Postal Employees and cross-matching
Brinton Cooper
o "It's a Computer Error"
Lindsay F. Marshall
o Re: London Tube Train
Clive Feather
o London Underground Low-Tech
o Virus outbreak in China!
R.Gowans via MCGDRKG in Virus-L
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

A320 news

Thu, 19 Apr 90 00:23:29 EDT
The latest A320, um, news, from Flight International 14 March...

As most readers know, the official conclusion of the inquiry into the first
A320 crash (the airshow at Habsheim in 1988) was pilot error: they were flying
too low and too slowly with engines at very low power, and increased power too
late to avert the crash.  This was corroborated, in detail, by the flight data
recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

The pilots have recently been charging that the FDR and CVR recordings were
tampered with by the investigators.  The last straw, apparently, came when the
pilots' lawyer asked India's prime minister to keep the French investigators
away from data on the Bangalore crash on grounds that they might tamper with it

The French Minister of Transport, his Director of Civil Aviation, and the head
of the accident-investigation office are suing the pilots for libel.

            Henry Spencer at U of Toronto Zoology       uunet!attcan!utzoo!henry

The Danger of Airbags

Wed 18 Apr 90 10:24:43-PST
Recently, I saw an airbag malfunction.  I was with the Porsche Owners Club at
Willow Springs International Raceway.  A 1989 Porsche 944 turbo was braking,
going downhill, when a grey cloud of smoke came out of the passanger
compartment.  The airbags had gone off, but fortunatly the driver didn't loose
control.  The front windshield was broken from the passanger side airbag, and
the driver's arm was bruised.  The driver had the traditional safety equimpent
including, including 6 point harness, helmet, and fire-resistant gloves, suit,
and shoes.  I suggested that the sensors be tested or replaced, or that the
system be disabled.  The car had sticky, but street-legal tires.  The estimated
cost to repair was $1000.  The car was out of warranty, but the driver said he
hoped Porsche would pay for it.  The RISKS are obvious.

    Jeff Deifik

Re: Risks of computerized publishing (Spencer, RISKS-9.80)

Wed, 18 Apr 90 18:42:25 ITA
I wonder if I'm in mistake when I think that such things aren't essential
faults of computerization. This kind of mistakes depend, in my opinion, on
people using computers in a silly way, giving the machine unappropriate
responsibilities. If a publisher sets a book for publishing in a traditional
way, he double-checks the films before sending them to the printer; it seems
that computerized publisher do not. I think this is misunderstanding what a
computer can do.

Postal Employees and cross-matching

Brinton Cooper <abc@BRL.MIL>
Thu, 19 Apr 90 9:41:28 EDT
>From the "Weekly Federal Employees' News Digest":

The US Postal Service this month will begin checking its payroll records to
identify employees who are delinquent on government payments for various
reasons.  The computer matching will continue for 18 months.

USPS is combining its data banks for individuals who are late paying on Housing
and Urban Development Department loans (including housing assistance), certain
veterans benefits, student loans, Small Business Administration programs, loans
from the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services
and for exceeding salary limitations under the dual compensation law.

USPS published details of these and other USPS computer matching efforts in the
March 20 Federal Register.  USPS listed Betty Sheriff as a contact at:

"It's a Computer Error"

"Lindsay F. Marshall" <>
Thu, 19 Apr 90 15:13:41 BST
I have noticed a recent upsurge in UK news reports of "Computer
Errors". Not of the major catastrophe kind, but of the "bill for
$0.00" sort. This seems to be intimately related to the introduction
of the Poll tax. I wonder if any other RISKS subscribers have noticed
this phenomenon (not the poll tax, the computer errors) ?


Lindsay.Marshall, Computing Laboratory, The University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
NE1 7RU +44-91-222-8267

Re: London Tube Train (RISKS-9.81)

Clive Feather <clive@ixi.UUCP>
Thu, 19 Apr 90 07:42:20 bst
> But he was certainly optimistic to think that he could CATCH UP with his
> train, since the automatic controls clearly are designed to prevent that.

The following train would have been allowed to proceed up to about 100m behind
his train, which would be sitting at the next station (Pimlico). He could then
have walked along the track and boarded it (there is a door in the front of the
driver's cab). I hope the driver of the second train would have turned off the
automatics when he did this :-)

> Actually, the train is not COMPLETELY automatic; the opening and closing of
> doors is controlled manually.  But perhaps there is an interlock that keeps
> the train from taking off again after a time-out without the doors having
> been opened?  Otherwise it might just have kept on going.

Once the train has received an "at station" signal from the track, the
automatic system is turned off. To turn it back on again, the following must
hold simultaneously:

    - the cab windows are proved to be shut (microswitches, I presume)
    - the track is sending code 4200 (start train, accelerate to 80 km/h)
    - the driver is pressing both START buttons

It would appear from the above incident that "train doors shut" is tested
further down the logic, so there is a RISK here.

Clive D.W. Feather, IXI Limited, 62-74 Burleigh Street, Cambridge  U.K.

London Underground Low-Tech

Thu, 19 Apr 90
Recently there was a question in this forum regarding how much control the
operator of a train in the Underground has over the system.  This was in
regards to the near head-on collision that was avoided when the operator on one
train saw approaching headlights and "shut down" the train power locally.

This is actually accomplished through a wonderfully low-tech system.  If you
have ever ridden the Underground, you may have noticed a pair of bare wires
mounted on the wall of the tunnel that is always zipping by.  That pair of
low-voltage wires fulfills two functions.  First, it provides an emergency
communications path.  An operator can simply reach out of his window and clip a
lineman's test set phone (or similar device) onto each lead and be in
communications with a central point.

Secondly, if the wires are SHORTED together (there is enough slack in the
mounting to make it possible to do this easily with your hand through the
operator window), power is automatically cut to the section of track in the
area where the short was applied (the power is restored through manual
operations later).  Simple, and it WORKS!

The Underground is loaded with all sorts of nifty low-tech operational control
and safety systems that have been in use for many, many decades (remember that
the Underground was the first real subway system in the world) including some
wonderful old lifts.  When in London, be sure to check out the London Transport
Museum as well!

Virus outbreak in China! (PC)

Wed, 18 Apr 90 20:43:00 -0000
   [FROM VIRUS-L Digest   Friday, 20 Apr 1990    Volume 3 : Issue 78]

I thought I would forward this to the group as a matter of interest. It was
taken from JBH Online (Wed. 18th April 1990)
- - - - - - - - - - - Start of forwarded note - - - - - - - - - -
China:  Computer viruses reported                                       BBC

    The China Daily newspaper reports that a large scale infection of the
country's computers began last Friday, 13 April, when several computer
viruses, including the Jerusalem virus, are believed to have been time
activated.  At least six separate computer viruses have been identified in
Beijing alone.  The BBC is introducing its report of the China Daily
story by referring to the large scale infection as "sabotage."

R.Gowans, Dept Civil Eng, U.M.I.S.T, Sackville Street, Manchester M60 1QD UK

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