The RISKS Digest
Volume 9 Issue 91

Sunday, 13th May 1990

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…


o Hubble Telescope pointing in the wrong direction
Raymond Chen
o "Feds Pull Plug On Hackers"
James K. Huggins
o Airline booking cancellation
Pete Mellor
o Simple tone dialler bypasses British Telecom charging
Nigel Roberts
o Risks of caller identification
David A. Honig
o Avoiding ANI by Dialing 1-900
Gary McClelland
o Duplicate Mailings of RISKS 9.89 -- BITNET
Emmett Hogan
o Re: Hazards of laser printers
Paul DuBois
Peter Jones
o IFIP Conference Call for Papers
Rick Schlichting
o CALL FOR PAPERS: Computing and Ethics
Donald Gotterbarn
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Hubble Telescope pointing in the wrong direction

Raymond Chen <raymond@bosco.Berkeley.EDU>
Fri, 11 May 90 12:53:29 PDT
[excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle, 10 May 1990]

   ... Jean Olivier, NASA's deputy manager of the Hubble project, said that
  when they designed pointing instructions for the telescope, astronomers
  relied on star charts made in the 1950s.  But the stars have moved since
  then from Earth's vantage point.  The mistake was made when the scientists
  factored in the extent of that movement.
    They corrected in the wrong direction and "instead of subtracting it they
  added it or vice versa," Olivier said. ...

[end of excerpt]

However, I've heard that the Daily Telegraph attributed the miscalculation
to programmer error; a programmer mistyped the addition as a subtraction.

I'm more likely to believe the Chronicle's report, as the media nowadays prefer
to attribute errors to "computer error" if they can; otherwise they'll try to
attribute it to "programmer error".  Saying that the scientists messed up is
much less exciting-sounding and doesn't sell as many papers.

"Feds Pull Plug On Hackers": Newspaper Article

James K. Huggins <>
Fri, 11 May 90 12:26:08 -0400
>EXCERPTED From The Detroit News, Thursday, May 10, 1990, Section B, p.1:

Computer-fraud raid hits two homes in Michigan

By Joel J. Smith, Detroit News Staff Writer

Secret Service agents got a big surprise when they raided a Jackson-area home
as part of an investigation of a nationwide computer credit card and telephone
fraud scheme.  They found a manual that details how almost anybody can use a
computer to steal.  It also describes how to avoid detection by federal agents.
On Wednesday, James G. Huse, Jr., special agent in charge of the Secret Service
office in Detroit, said the manual was discovered when his agents and Michigan
State Police detectives broke into a home in Clark Lake, near Jackson, on
Tuesday.  Agents, who also raided a home in Temperance, Mich., near the Ohio
border, confiscated thousands of dollars in computer equipment suspected of
being used by computer buffs — known as hackers — in the scheme.

The raids were part of a national computer fraud investigation called Operation
Sundevil in which 150 agents simultaneously executed 28 search warrants in 16
U.S. cities.  Forty-two computer systems and 23,000 computer disks were seized
across the country.  The nationwide network reportedly has bilked phone
companies of $50 million.  Huse said the Secret Service has evidence that
computers in both of the Michigan homes were used to obtain merchandise with
illegally obtained credit card numbers.  He said long-distance telephone calls
from the homes also were billed to unsuspecting third parties.

There were no arrests, because it was not known exactly who was using the
computers at the homes.  Huse also said there was no evidence that the suspects
were working together.  Rather, they probably were sharing information someone
had put into a national computer "bulletin board".  [...]

Airline booking cancellation (Now there's a funny thing...!)

Pete Mellor <>
Fri, 11 May 90 01:36:59 PDT
Narrative in a nutshell:

Requirement: Fly to Toulouse from London late on Sunday 6th May (but not
too late to get a good French meal!). Install and check software for demo at
workshop in 2 weeks' time.  Return afternoon of Monday 7th May.

Implementation: Travel agent books Dan-Air flight. Sends tickets in folder
with "6/5/90" scribbled on cover (no proper itinerary provided). Understand
from secretary flight is 1430 from Gatwick.

Bug: Check ticket at 0530 Sunday morning. (Academic life isn't as relaxed as it
used to be pre-Thatcher :-) Flight actually booked for 1430 Saturday 5th May.
Ring travel agent in panic. Agent apologises for cock-up. Promises no problem:
rebook flight for 1430 Sunday, flight nowhere near full. Grateful relief. Begin
to feel sorry I woke his wife up so early.

Operation: Uneventful flight out. Nice dinner. Software works (!! :-). Arrive
Toulouse airport for return flight.

Another bug: "You don't seem to be booked on this flight, monsieur! But I see
that your ticket is valid. No problem! The flight is not full. We can book you
a seat."

"But how the..."

"Mais oui! If you did not show up for the outward flight, your return booking
would be automatically cancelled. But as it happens, we have spare seats, so
do not worry!"

Diagnosis: Minor communications problem, aggravated by Dan-Air's natural
assumption that someone who hadn't bothered to turn up to fly *out* to Toulouse
wouldn't be turning up *in* Toulouse to fly *back*.

But wait...

In-depth diagnosis (Courtesy of Ralph Adam, offering consultancy at the usual
City University rate in the Saddlers' Bar, Thursday 11th May, late):

Dan-Air use the Texas Air Services airline booking system "System 1". (This is
one of the 'big four', all based in the US, and is owned by US Airlines.)
Built into this database is a requirement that a return flight be reconfirmed
after departure on the outward leg of the journey. The reason is to prevent
passengers in the US buying a return ticket (cheaper than a single in some
cases) and using the return half only. My problem on return had nothing to do
with Dan-Air. It was a side-effect of an attempt to close a loophole in the
ticket price structure of various US airlines.

The database is physically situated in the US. On-line access for seat booking
is, well, on-line. Any other information retrieval requires 3 to 4 weeks of
bureaucratic delay. If the flight had been full, if I had been stuck in
Toulouse for a couple of days, and if I had raised hell (Oh, no! Not another
hot oysters in champagne and steak tartare at the Brasserie des Beaux Arts!
'Allo, 'allo! C'est moi encore! Il n'y avait plus de places sur l'avion.
Ah, ton mari! Quelle bonne surprise! :-), it might have taken a month to answer
my query about why the return flight had been cancelled (assuming the travel
agent and airline didn't already know!).

I am assured by Ralph that this sort of thing is old hat to veteran readers
of RISKS, but if anyone is interested in the economics of airline booking
systems, the following should be a good read:

Adam R.: "A Licence to Steal", J. of Information Science, Iss. 2, 1990

Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University,
Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB  Tel.: +44 (0)71-253-4399 Ext. 4162/3/1

Simple tone dialler bypasses British Telecom charging

Nigel Roberts <>
Thu, 10 May 90 08:09:11 PDT
The following is extracted from a front page article in today's DAILY MIRROR.
The 2 inch high headline reads:

            F R E E P H O N E
            T H E   W O R L D

"BRITISH TELECOM is being conned out of millions by fiddlers making free
international calls ... using a BT gadget.

Shocked Telecom chiefs secretly tried to withdraw the GBP 9.95 "magic box"
which is supposed to be used with phone answering machines — a month ago.

But the DAILY MIRROR can disclose they are still on sale in BT stores."


"And there is a thriving black market for them on street corners and in pubs
where they are changing hands for up to GBP 1000.  The 3in x 2in device, known
as a remote interrogator, is designed to enable people to phone home and pick
up messages from their answering machines.  But cheats have discovered that by
using it in some phone boxes and pressing two vital numbers, they can call
anywhere in Britain or the world without charge."


There's a full colour photograph of the "device" on the front-page. It
appears to be a simple 12-key DTMF tone dialler. I seriously doubt that they
are changing hands for GBP 1000, but if they are, I have this bridge that
their purchasers might also be interested in ....

The risk management (or utter lack of it) in this case is so obvious that I'll
refrain from adding any further comment.

Nigel Roberts.                                       Tel: +44 860 57 860 0

risks of caller identification

"David A. Honig" <honig@bonnie.ICS.UCI.EDU>
Thu, 10 May 90 09:48:33 -0700
I recently had an unpleasant taste of the disadvantages of the caller
identification that may be more widespread soon.

A few weeks ago I called the university police's business line from my
office phone and asked a few minutes of questions about how to find
out about outstanding warrants (I had heard of someone getting
arrested while renewing his driver's liscence).  I informed the
officer that I spoke with that this was entirely moot. After receiving
my replies, I thought that was the end of it.

Thus you can imagine my surprise and annoyance to find that two
uniformed, armed officers and their sargeant came to my workplace
(having located that using the campus centrex's caller-id ability on
phones with appropriate displays), spoke with my coworkers, knocked on
my office door, and via suprise and intimidation verified my ID. This
permitted them to run a warrant check on me.  I was clean, which was
no surprise to me.  They skulked away shortly thereafter.

Conversations with the chief of police indicated that the rather
zealous instigating officer's behavior was within "acceptable" bounds,
and if you raise "enough" suspicion (on a slow day?), this constitutes
justification for nosing about your workplace.

The RISK is that the officer wouldn't have been able to easily trace
the number except for the abilities of the private exchange.

Avoiding ANI by Dialing 1-900 (Gary McClelland)

"Gary McClelland" <>
12 May 90 11:42:00 MDT
Summary of report on All Things Considered (NPR), Friday, May 11, 1990:

Private LInes, Inc. of Beverly Hills provides a telephone service for those
wanting to avoid automatic number indentification.  You simply call a 900
number which then lets you call out through Private Lines WATS numbers.  ANI at
the receiving end of course then displays only the Beverly Hills number of
Private Lines.  NPR interviewed president of Private LInes who defended need
for such a service.  He of course said that the service was not intended to
help obscene callers and their rates would make obscene calling through Private
LInes a very expensive habit ($2/minute, I think).  (NPR noted that ANI had
already resulted in several arrests of obscene callers in the Atlantic Southern
area where ANI is heavily promoted for that purpose.)  He cited the following
legitimate reasons for avoiding ANI and any billing record of the numbers
called.  (1) Boss is quietly working on a merger deal and doesn't want
secretaries and accountants in the firm noticing a sudden increase in calls to
a particular other firm. (2) Separated spouse wants to call kids but doesn't
want spouse to know from where he or she is calling.  (3) Caller to crisis
line or crime tip line wants to guarantee annonymity.

Gary McClelland

Duplicate Mailings of RISKS 9.89

Emmett Hogan <>
Mon, 07 May 90 14:17:49 -0700
[As root@csl,] I received several replies from people who got two copies of
RISKS 9.89.  All these people have one thing in common....BITNET !!

I have asked these people for the headers of the RISKS digests in
hopes of narrowing it down to one listserv machine.

I will keep you up to date on my findings,

    [The above problem was clearly a BITNET problem.  Later news indicates the
    surprise discovery of a lurking CHRON problem that forced another pass
    over a random sublist when a time-out occurred.  The resulting cleanup --
    without changes to our sendmail — has resulted in no duplicate mailing
    problems on our end for the last four four issues.  Perhaps our main woes
    are over.  Stay tuned for details.  PGN]

Re: Hazards of laser printers (RISKS-9.89) (Brain in Neutral) <Paul DuBois>
7 May 90 19:12:59 GMT
New England Journal of Medicine, 3 May 1990, has a letter to the editor,
p. 1323, titled "Laser-printer rhinitis".

Photocopier hazards

Peter Jones <MAINT@UQAM.bitnet>
Sat, 12 May 90 07:11:55 EDT
The purpose of this posting is to thank those who recently posted regarding the
possible environmental hazards of photocopiers — and to invite them to repost
to the SAFETY list at UVMVM!

Peter Jones                    (514)-987-3542

IFIP Conference Call for Papers

"Rick Schlichting" <>
Sun, 6 May 90 22:38:26 MST
                           **CALL FOR PAPERS**
                    Second IFIP Working Conference on
                        Can we rely on computers?

                 Hotel Park Tucson, Tucson, Arizona, USA
                          February 18-20, 1991
Organized by
    IFIP Working Group 10.4 on Dependable Computing and Fault Tolerance

This is the second Working Conference on this topic, following a successful
initial conference held in August, 1989, on the campus of the University of
California at Santa Barbara (USA). As evidenced by papers that were presented
and discussed at that meeting, critical applications of computing systems are
concerned with differing service properties, relating to both the nature of
proper service and the system's ability to deliver it. These include thresholds
of performance and real-time responsiveness that demark loss of proper service
(failure), continuity of proper service, ability to avoid catastrophic
failures, and prevention of deliberate privacy intrusions. The notion of
dependability, defined as the trustworthiness of computer service such that
reliance can justifiably be placed on this service, enables these various
concerns to be subsumed within a single conceptual framework.  Dependability
thus includes as special cases such attributes as reliability, availability,
safety, and security. In keeping with the goals of the previous conference, the
aim of this meeting is to encourage further integration of theory, techniques,
and tools for specifying, designing, implementing, assessing, validating,
operating, and maintaining computer systems that are dependable in the broad
sense.  Of particular, but not exclusive, interest are presentations that
address combinations of dependability attributes, e.g., safety and security,
through studies of either a theoretical or an applied nature.

Submitting a Paper: Five copies (in English) of original work should be
submitted by August 13, 1990, to the Program Chair:

    John F. Meyer, EECS Department, 2114B EECS Bldg.,
    The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2122, USA
    Tel:    +(1) 313 763 0037  Fax:    +(1) 313 763 4617

Papers should be limited to 6000 words, full page figures being counted
as 300 words. Each paper should include a short abstract and a list of
keywords indicating subject classification.

Important Dates:
    Submission deadline: August 13, 1990
    Acceptance notification: November 25, 1990
    Camera-ready copy due: January 14, 1991

General Chair
    R.D. Schlichting
    The University of Arizona, USA
Vice-General Chair
    J.J. Quisquater
    Philips Research, Belgium
Program Committee
    J. Abraham (USA), A. Costes (Fr.), M.C. Gaudel (Fr.), V. Gligor (USA),
    J. Goldberg (USA), D. Gollmann (FRG), G. Hagelin (Sweden),
    H. Ihara (Japan), H. Kopetz (Aus.), J. Lala (USA), C. Landwehr (USA),
    G. Le Lann (Fr.), J. McDermid (UK), M. Morganti (Italy),
    J.M. Rata (Fr.), D. Rennels (USA), J. Rushby (USA), E. Schmitter (FRG),
    S. Shrivastava (UK), D. Siewiorek (USA), L. Simoncini (Italy),
    R. Turn (USA), U. Voges (FRG)

CALL FOR PAPERS: Computing and Ethics

10 May 90 15:32:17 CDT
        The *Journal Of Systems and Software* is preparing
    a special issue on Computing and Ethics.  Although the
    major emphasis will be ethical issues faced by the
    Computing Professional, other subjects will be considered.

        Please send your papers by July 1, 1990 to:

        Donald Gotterbarn
        The Wichita State University
        Computer Science, Box 83
        Wichita, KS  67208

    Send questions by email to:
        gotterbarn@wsuiar.wsu.UKans.EDU, gotterbarn@twsuvax.bitnet

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