The RISKS Digest
Volume 9 Issue 93

Monday, 21st May 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 Stamford CT 18-hour telephone switch outage affects 27,000 lines
o Irrational and nonvaledictory reasoning
o Crackdown on 1-900-STOPPER?
John M. Sulak
o P.T.U.U.I.
Robert Hardy
o Military Computer Virus Contract
Rory J. O'Connor
o Risks of Laser Printouts
Simson L. Garfinkel
o Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing, DIAC-90
Rodney Hoffman
o Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

Stamford CT 18-hour telephone switch outage affects 27,000 lines

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 21 May 1990 18:10:52 PDT
At 2:42am on Thursday, 17 May, a Number 1A ESS switch (vintage 1973) in
Stamford, Connecticut, broke down and for 18 hours blocked all residential and
most business local calls (affecting 27,000 subscribers in exchanges 324, 326,
348, 351, 356, 358, 896, 964, 965, 969, 977, 979).  (The same switch had broken
down on 19-20 December 1985 for five hours, affecting 34,000 subscribers.  Two
such outages on the same switch is a very rare occurrence indeed.)

The outage occurred while technicians were doing routine maintenance to update
the database of phones served by that switch (12 of Stamford's 17 exchanges).
The switch computer rejected the update and shut itself down.  The backup
system also failed.  The eventual return to service followed extensive remote
diagnostics from the AT&T Technology Center in Indian Hill, Illinois.  However,
the cause still remains unknown as of this afternoon (Monday).

[Source: three articles by Seth Amgott in The Advocate, Stamford CT, 18 and 19
May 1990, plus phone conversations.]

Irrational and nonvaledictory reasoning

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 21 May 1990 8:40:48 PDT
In a masterpiece of overendowing mathematical precision, the UPI reported that
East Lake High School in north Pinellas County, Florida, had computed the
grade-point averages of three graduating seniors as 4.2857142.  The headline
"Scholastic Tie — to the Seventh Decimal" suggests that no one along the way
recognized 4 and two sevenths in disguise.    Straight A records at that.

[Source: UPI item in the San Francisco Chronicle, 19 May 1990]

Crackdown on anonymous 1-900 services? (Re: McClelland, RISKS-9.91)

John M. Sulak <>
18 May 90 16:59:19 GMT
This morning CNN had a story on the federal government in the US and how they
plan to `crackdown' on 1-900 toll phone services. One such service,
1-900-STOPPER was said to allow callers to make unidentified phone calls. Of
course, the callers to 1-900 could be identified by the government by date and
time, but it would require a court order or consent of the 1-900 company.

   [... whose entire reason for existence is providing the service of
   anonymity/nonidentifiability!  PGN]


Robert Hardy <a195@mindlink.UUCP>
Sat May 19 16:29:06 1990
               Announcing the formation of P.T.U.U.I.
   (the Programmers and Technical Underdogs Union International)

This organization was formed in response to the alarming proliferation of flaky

Have you ever poured your heart and soul into an exciting project only to have
the company go under the day its ready for market?

Have any of your previous employers pulled a `Midnight Move'?

Have you worked diligently until the end of the month only to find the payroll
isn't covered?

Have you ever given your `Life's Work' to an employer only to have it stolen
and marketed behind your back?

We invite you to share your experiences and to co-operate in identifying and
disseminating the names of `non-professional' employers.

If one of our members has a bad experience, we would like to make it difficult
if not impossible to find a competent replacement.

We would like to act as an `Ombudsman' to mediate desputes.

This group is open to all competent `Hardware' and `Software' independent

Reply via E-Mail to MindLink BBS: 1-604-576-1214

    (195) Robert Hardy

PaNorAmA BBS: 1-604-281-1082
          or  1-604-271-3098
    Robert Hardy



or Write to

    P.T.U.U.I., 2994 Vincent St., Port Coquitlam, BC, V3B 5N2 Canada

P.T.U.U.I. to you, too (thanks, Tom Lehrer!)

"Peter G. Neumann" <>
Mon, 21 May 1990 18:10:52 PDT
P.T.U.U.I. reminds me of Tom Lehrer's ``Subway Song'', written while he was
riding the Boston subway in the late 1940s or very early 1950s, but
unfortunately never recorded.  Particularly for those who know and love the
`T', I recite it from memory (it is sung to the tune of ``Mother''), with
apologies to Tom if I didn't remember it correctly, and apologies in advance to
those purists who think it is irrelevant to RISKS.  (Indeed, it is much too
relevant to the foregoing contribution NOT to be included.)  Cheers!  PGN

     H is for my alma mater, Harvard,
     C is Central, next upon the line,
     K is for the cosy Kendall Station,
     C is Charles, across the foamy brine,

     P is Park Street, Boston's busy center,
     W is Washington, you see,

     Put them all together, they spell HCKC PW,      [sung with great emphasis]
     And that's just what Boston means to me.

Military Computer Virus Contract (RISKS-9.92)

Rory J. O'Connor <rjoconnor@cdp.uucp>
Sun, 20 May 90 14:25:39 PDT
I'm the reporter at the San Jose Mercury News who wrote the story on the Army's
SBIR proposal regarding computer viruses. I feel I must respond to the charge
made by Mr. Jim Vavrina of the Army Information Systems Software Center that I
mis-identified myself while researching the story. That assertion is false.

At all times, as is standard practice among professional journalists, I made it
clear to everyone I called or interviewed that I was a newspaper reporter
working on a story about this proposal. When I reached a woman named Joyce
Crisci at Ft. Monmouth, NJ, who identified herself as the project
administrator, I identified myself as a reporter. When she attempted to tell me
how to apply for the available funds, I felt she might have failed to
understand that, so I again told her I was a reporter working on a story for my
newspaper. She then answered most of my questions, but made it clear she would
not discuss any technical details nor provide me with the names of the
engineers who had written the project. The reason, she said, was that if such
information appeared in my story, it could prejudice the bidding process.

Indeed, at the conclusion of our interview, she verified the spelling of her
name and gave me her (rather complicated) mailing address and requested I send
her a copy of the article when it appeared in the newspaper.

I'm sorry Mr. Vavrina never called me to ask my side of the story about this
interview. If Mr. Vavrina thinks my story about the virus was in some way
factually incorrect, or did not fully describe the Army's project or reasoning,
I'd be happy to talk to him about it. I can be reached at (408) 920-5019, or at
MCI Mail mailbox 361-2192, or at the San Jose Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park
Drive, San Jose, CA 95190. Anyone else who would  like to discuss this story,
or the topic of computer viruses in general, may also contact me there.

Rory J. O'Connor, Computing Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Risks of Laser Printouts (RISKS-9.89,91,92)

Simson L. Garfinkel <>
Sun, 20 May 90 12:26:45 EDT
Not very surprising, considering that laser printers pump out gobs of ozone.

The old DEC LN03 laser printer had an ozone filter on it that was supposed to
be replaced at regular intervals.  The ozone filter consisted of a granulated
carbon filter.  But this is the only laser printer that I have ever seen with
such a filter.

Conference: Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing

Rodney Hoffman <>
18 May 90 13:24:18 PDT (Friday)
Here's the program and registration information for a conference of
interest, presented by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and
co-sponsored by several other organizations:

            Computer Professionals for Social Responsibilty
                           DIAC-90 SYMPOSIUM
           Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing
                             July 28, 1990

Computer technology significantly affects most segments of society, including
education, business, medicine, and the military.  Current and emerging computer
technology will exert strong influences on our lives, in areas ranging from
work to civil liberties.  The DIAC symposium considers these influences in a
broad social context - ethical, economic, political - as well as a technical
context seeking to address directly the relationship between technology and

         Gutman Conference Center / Monroe C. Gutman Library
               6 Appian Way    Cambridge, Massachusetts

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Dr. Michael Rabin, Computer Security and Privacy

  Computer security is essential not just for the protection of valuable assets
  but also for safeguarding privacy. To this end technical tools are needed for
  correctly specifying who will access what personal data and for enforcing and
  monitoring the specified regime.  These new technical tools as well as a new
  legal framework for defining the status of personal data will be presented.

  Michael Rabin is a Turing Award winner who is T.J. Watson Sr. Professor of
  Computer Science at Harvard.  He teaches and conducts research in the fields
  of computer algorithms and computer security.


Rob Kling, "Four Genres of Social Analyses of Computerization"

Paul Resnick and Mel King, "The Rainbow Pages - Building Community with Voice

Chris Hables Gray, "AI at War: A Preliminary Analysis of the Aegis System in

Hank Bromley, "Thinking about Computers and Schools, A Skeptical View"

Sue Stafford, "Software for the Detection of Code Abuse - Answers and Issues"

Judith Perrolle, Glenn Pierce, Michele Eayrs, A. Gilbert, Nightingale Rukuba,
  "The Effects of Computer Models of Global Warming on Regional Environmental
  Policies in East Africa and Southeast Asia"

Nance Goldstein, "Software R&D in the Department of Defense in the 1980s:
  Institutional Resistance to the Demand of New Information Technology"

Doris Schoenhoff, "Language, Logic and Expertise: The Human Interface of Expert

David Durlach, "Affectionate Technolology"

Joel Wolfson, "A Conduct Code: An Ethics Code with Bite"

Harold Sackman, "Developing an International Participative Code of Computer

Natalie Dandekar, "Moral Issues Involved in Protecting Computer Software as
  Intellectual Property"

David Hakken, "Machine-, Human-, or Culture-centered Computing?  A View from
  the Trenches"

PANEL DISCUSSION: Virtual Reality: What Does it Really Mean?

Co-Sponsored by American Association for Artificial Intelligence, American
Philosophical Association, Boston Computer Society, Harvard University Science,
Technology and Public Policy, MIT Science, Technology and Society Dept. in
cooperation with ACM SIGCAS and ACM SIGCHI.  DIAC-90 is partially supported by
the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 8811437, Ethics and Values
Studies Office.

The symposium will run from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Registration will start at
8:15 am.  Lunch will be provided.  A reception will follow.

For additional information, contact symposium co-chairs: Coralee Whitcomb
(617-891-3103 (weekdays), 508-945-0360 (weekends), or Peter Russo

   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

DIAC-90 Registration Form

Conference Fees:
CPSR Member         $40 __
Non-member          $50 __
Student             $25 __
Proceedings Only        $20 __

Please make checks payable to DIAC-90.  Send registration to: DIAC-90, c/o
CPSR/LA, P.O. Box 66038, Los Angeles, CA 90066-0038.

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