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RISKS Digest 28.57

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Software says "'Dr' Must Be Male"!

Chris Drewe <e767pmk@yahoo.co.uk>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 20:51:05 +0000

There's a column-filler item in today's local newspaper (can't see it on-line) about one Dr Louise Selby, a pediatrician, who registered with a gym club in Cambridge, England. She found that her security code wouldn't allow her access to the ladies' changing room. Problem turned out to be the gym's membership software, which assumed that anybody with the title 'Dr' was male; only work-round was for her to use another title. The gym club apologised and said that it was bought-in software (not named), adding that they hadn't specified this feature and hoped to fix it.

[In Germany, if her husband were also a Dr, she would be Frau Doktor Doktor Selby, and presumably German software would have no problem with that. PGN]

Computer "glitch" meant info not shared with defense lawyers

Jeremy Epstein <jeremy.j.epstein@gmail.com>

Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2015 10:10:20 -0400

The articles aren't completely clear to me, but it seems that a commercial product called I/Leads used in Washington DC brings together data from multiple police data sources, for required sharing with defense attorneys. However, the program doesn't bring all the data in that it should, meaning that defense attorneys were missing access to data which could have affected their cases. The prosecutors are now reviewing the cases to see what was left out to determine it was substantive; defense attorneys say that's not for the prosecutors to decide.

“Police described the missing information as mostly administrative and redundant, and prosecutors agree that some could be found in other easily accessible reports. But prosecutors said that omitted data also included detailed descriptions by officers of suspects' appearance, demeanor, and attitude—information lawyers on both sides of courtroom could find crucial.''

On the one hand, leaving out information that might be relevant is obviously a big problem. On the other hand, it's only because the information is computerized that it's even feasible to gather all together. Doubtless defense attorneys have far more information from police files now than they had a few decades ago, as a result of computerization.

Defense attorneys are asking the court for more information about what went wrong.

<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/09/AR2009040904300.html>

"U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan set a March 27 deadline for the U.S. Attorney's Office to report on the government's understanding of the extent to which the problem could affect any of about two dozen federal criminal cases pending before him and filed since 2011. Prosecutors were also told to explain decisions to disclose or not to disclose any piece of information that is found to have been withheld."

I've seen nothing to indicate whether the problem is generic to the I/Leads software, or if it's something unique to the Washington DC configuration of the software.

One item I found puzzling, but not specifically related to this problem, was a statement that I/Leads "which went online in 2012, is being replaced starting in August 2015." That seems like an awfully short lifespan for a system of this sort, given the usual timelines for developing enterprise-type systems.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/dc-prosecutors-say-computer-glitch-may-have-caused-evidence-problems/2015/03/17/ec5c1c5e-ccca-11e4-8c54-ffb5ba6f2f69_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/police-say-they-are-not-to-blame-for-information-omitted-from-reports/2015/03/18/d4ce5afe-cda9-11e4-a2a7-9517a3a70506_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/federal-judge-orders-prosecutors-to-detail-dc-police-evidence-problems/2015/03/19/d58e93e6-ce53-11e4-8a46-b1dc9be5a8ff_story.html

Australia's iVote subject to FREAK?

Rob Slade <rmslade@shaw.ca>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:17:30 -0800

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/22/ivote_hack/

Australia's iVote is busted already

Dave Horsfall <dave@horsfall.org>

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:44:50 +1100 (EST)

No need for me to post a follow-up to my previous message; this link says it all.

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/03/the-big-security-flaw-in-nsw-online-voting/

“If you're one of the 66,000 people from New South Wales who voted in the state election using iVote between Monday March 16 and midday on Saturday March 21, your vote could have been exposed or changed without you knowing.''

Plus

Amazon Wins Approval to Test Delivery Drones Outdoors

NYTimes <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:16:52 -0400

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/technology/amazon-wins-approval-to-test-delivery-drones-outdoors.html

While Amazon can now move its tests from inside a warehouse, the retailer still has a long way to go to realize its vision of autonomous delivery drones.

Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Making Gene-Edited Babies

NYTimes <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:21:43 -0400

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/science/biologists-call-for-halt-to-gene-editing-technique-in-humans.html

A group of biologists, including the scientist who developed the technique, has called for a worldwide moratorium on using the method to change human DNA.

"Unconstitutional": [India] Supreme Court Scraps Section 66A, Protects Online Freedom of Speech

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:06:10 -0700

NDTV via NNSquad http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/freedom-of-speech-online-section-66-a-is-struck-down-by-supreme-court-749104

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has scrapped a contentious law that was seen as a major infringement of the freedom of speech online because it allowed the arrest of a person for posting offensive content. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, introduced in 2000, has been declared unconstitutional. Describing the law as "vague in its entirety," the judges said, it encroaches upon "the public's right to know."

EFF: International Coalition Launches 'Manila Principles' to Protect Freedom of Expression Worldwide

David Farber <ip@listbox.com>

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:38:58 -0400

New 'Best Practice' Roadmap to Protect Rights and Promote Innovation Manila -- An international coalition launched the Manila Principles on Internet Liability today—a roadmap for the global community to protect online freedom of expression and innovation around the world.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Senior Global Policy Analyst Jeremy Malcolm, who helped spearhead the principles: “All communication across the Internet is facilitated by intermediaries: service providers, social networks, search engines, and more. These services are all routinely asked to take down content, and their policies for responding are often muddled, heavy-handed, or inconsistent. That results in censorship and the limiting of people's rights... Our goal is to protect everyone's freedom of expression with a framework of safeguards and best practices for responding to requests for content removal.'' [...]

The principles and supporting documents can be found online at https://www.manilaprinciples.org/>, where other organizations and members of the public can also express their own endorsement of the principles.

Penn State Fraternity's Secret Facebook Photos May Lead to Criminal Charges

NYTimes <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 21:15:47 -0400

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/us/penn-state-fraternitys-secret-facebook-photos-may-lead-to-criminal-charges.html

A clandestine website—with images of drugs, hazing and nude, unconscious women—was the subject of a police inquiry that led to the suspension of a fraternity's chapter at Penn State.

Westjet Knows How To Play Along

Lyndon Nerenberg <lyndon@orthanc.ca>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:07:52 -0700

The National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/23/westjet-airlines-has-a-little-fun-with-indiscriminate-scammers-who-call-their-calgary-headquarters/

The scam artists who call you up and pretend to be offering prizes from WestJet Airlines Ltd. are indiscriminate—so much so that they even call WestJet's headquarters in Calgary.

“It proves to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have no idea who they're calling,'' WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said in an interview.

The long-running phone scam has become such an annoyance for WestJet that the company's employees have started to have a little fun with the fraudsters.

Shades of the email cretins ignorant enough to spam the IETF lists ... (I still get the occasional missive directed at <rfc-crammd5@orthanc.ca> - a corruption of the <lyndon+rfc-crammd5@orthanc.ca> contact address from a long(!) expired Internet.)

Cancer genetic tests offered on websites often not all they promise to be, Dana-Farber study finds

The Boston Globe via John Day <jeanjour@comcast.net>

Date: Mar 21, 2015 11:10 AM

Big Data is the greatest threat to science since the Church went after Galileo for disproving a heathen. (I never did understand that.) ;-) All indications are that it might succeed, given we are well along the road to stagnation. [via Dave Farber's IP distribution, in response to a message from Bob Frankston on *The Globe* article: http://goo.gl/L9sVYd. PGN]

Web: Amazon Adds Fire TV, Stick Features

Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:57:07 -0400

- - ------ Forwarded Message -------- Subject: web: Amazon Adds Fire TV, Stick Features | http://www.twice.com Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:56:09 -0400

My response to friend who sent the pointer:

Firestick is plugged into a TV we don't watch much so I haven't really worked it (between Netflix DVDs arriving and cable shows—haven't cut cord yet) .

http://www.twice.com/news/video/amazon-adds-fire-tv-stick-features/56502

...and, of course, updates over the air—Oh joy, another attack surface. Same as Roku—on my network. I haven't heard of them being hacked, but still—updates for Roku/Firestick I don't/can't control, on devices with software I can't see/audit. Give me source code or give me ... risks.

Gabriel Goldberg, Computers and Publishing, Inc. gabe@gabegold.com 3401 Silver Maple Place, Falls Church, VA 22042 (703) 204-0433 LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/gabegold Twitter: GabeG0

Google warns of unauthorized TLS certificates trusted by almost all OSes

Ars <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 17:13:46 -0700

Ars via NNSquad http://arstechnica.com/security/2015/03/google-warns-of-unauthorized-tls-certificates-trusted-by-almost-all-oses/

"The bogus transport layer security certificates are trusted by all major operating systems and browsers, although a fall-back mechanism known as public key pinning prevented the Chrome and Firefox browsers from accepting those that vouched for the authenticity of Google properties, Google security engineer Adam Langley wrote in a blog post published Monday. The certificates were issued by Egypt-based MCS Holdings, an intermediate certificate authority that operates under the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). The Chinese domain registrar and certificate authority, in turn, is included in root stores for virtually all OSes and browsers. The issuance of the unauthorized certificates represents a major breach of rules established by certificate authorities and browser makers."

The only thing missing that keeps this from being a true "Groundhog Day" experience is "I Got You Babe" playing every morning at 6 AM.

Pointing Fingers in Apple Pay Fraud

NYTimes <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:04:30 -0400

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/17/business/banks-find-fraud-abounds-in-apple-pay.html

Some of the nation's banks are privately complaining that Apple Pay may not be so great after all, but the banks may largely have themselves to blame.

Cell towers lack emergency contact signage

Dan Jacobson <jidanni@jidanni.org>

Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2015 13:14:17 +0800

Have you ever spotted something broken on a cellar tower and tried to report it? As there is deliberately not any ownership signage on the entire site, one can only turn to government databases, which in many countries have location details removed as well. Millions of dollars worth of equipment without any contact number!

FCC issues RFC on CSRIC IV Cybersecurity Risk Management and Assurance Recommendations

Werner U <werneru@gmail.com>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:21:47 +0100

I just came across this Public Notice at FCC.GOV issued March 19, 2015 an RFC (Comment Date 29 May 2015). I don't recall if/how we've alerted the RISKS-community to such items in the past, but I think it might be appropriate to call your attention, at least, to the item. I append the full text version below for your consideration and (surely necessary) trimming. Regards, ---Werner

CSRIC IV Cybersecurity Risk Management and Assurance Recommendations <https://www.fcc.gov/document/csric-iv-cybersecurity-risk-management-and-assurance-recommendations> (also available on website as PDF and WORD-document)

[HUGE item pruned for RISKS. PGN]

FTC opens new office to protect you from the Internet of Things

Werner U <werneru@gmail.com>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:50:56 +0100

[source: The Verge, 23 Mar 2015]

FTC opens new office to protect you from the Internet of Things http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/23/8278127/ftc-office-technology-research-investigation-otri-announced

The FTC says it'll be broadening its scope with the launch of a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation, described by the agency as "the next generation in consumer protection." The new division succeeds and replaces the FTC's current Mobile Technology Unit, which focused on safeguarding children from deceptive mobile apps and overseeing other smartphone-centric topics.

But technology never sits still. In 2015, we're faced with the growing Internet of Things cars that get faster with software updates and the expanding smart home. The FTC thinks now's the time to widen its net so that it may protect consumer interest across every facet of technology. Specifically, the OTRI will keep an eye on "privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things," according to the agency.

"We believe OTRI will be an instrumental source for research and information on technology's impact on consumers," wrote chief technologist Ashkan Soltani in a blog post. Along with announcing the new office, the FTC says it'll be recruiting new technologists and opening up other positions as well. Among those is a Technology Policy Research Fellowship, which is aimed at recent graduates "with that rare education in both technology and policy." In this role, among other duties, fellows will "provide technical expertise to FTC attorneys and investigators"—probably to make sure they never publicly say anything foolish. As part of the changes, the FTC says it will be inviting more staff to publish posts on its Tech@FTC blog "about technical research findings and technology related issues affecting consumers."

"GoDaddy accounts vulnerable to social engineering and Photoshop"

Steve Ragan <genew@telus.net>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 11:55:18 -0700

Steve Ragan, CSO Online* GoDaddy's layered verification protections defeated by a phone call and four hours in Photoshop http://www.csoonline.com/article/2898128/disaster-recovery/godaddy-accounts-vulnerable-to-social-engineering-and-photoshop.html

opening text:

On Tuesday, my personal account at GoDaddy was compromised. I knew it was coming, but considering the layered account protections used by the world's largest domain registrar, I didn't think my attacker would be successful.

I was wrong. He was able to gain control over my account within days, and all he needed to do was speak to customer support and submit a Photoshopped ID.

Apple Pay: Bridging Online and Big Box Fraud

Krebs <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2015 07:43:52 -0700

Apple Pay: Bridging Online and Big Box Fraud

Krebs via NNSquad http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/03/apple-pay-bridging-online-and-big-box-fraud/

"Lost amid the media firestorm these past few weeks about fraudsters turning to Apple Pay is this stark and rather unsettling reality: Apple Pay makes it possible for cyber thieves to buy high-priced merchandise from brick-and-mortar stores using stolen credit and debit card numbers that were heretofore only useful for online fraud."

Hacking BIOS Chips Isn't Just the NSA's Domain Anymore

Kim Zetter via ACM TechNews <technews@hq.acm.org>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:07:30 -0400 (EDT)

ACM TechNews, Monday, March 23, 2015 (c) 2015 INFORMATION, INC. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.

Kim Zetter, *WiReD* News, 20 Mar 2015

Two security researchers have demonstrated proof-of-concept malware capable of remotely infecting the BIOS chips of multiple systems. Xeno Kovah and Corey Kallenberg, former defense contractors who founded their own BIOS security firm, demonstrated their malware last week at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The malware, which they call LightEater, uses several incursion vulnerabilities to gain access to the system management mode (SMM) on systems with Intel processors. Access to the SMM enables the malware to gain escalated privileges above and beyond administrator and root-level access. With this access, the malware can rewrite the contents of the BIOS chip that makes the infection persistent and stealthy. From there, the malware can install rootkits, steal passwords, and access data on the system. It also is capable of reading data from the system's memory, which means it potentially could subvert systems using the Tails operating system used by journalists and others attempting to maintain secrecy. Kovah and Kallenberg say they have contacted the manufacturers of the vulnerable systems they have identified and patches are forthcoming. However, there is a very weak track record of users applying BIOS patches even when they are made available. http://orange.hosting.lsoft.com/trk/click?ref=znwrbbrs9_5-d820x2c8f4x059384&

Government Spies Admit That Cyber Armageddon Is Unlikely

Slashdot <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2015 22:00:22 -0700

Slashdot via NNSquad http://yro.slashdot.org/story/15/03/21/0253243/government-spies-admit-that-cyber-armageddon-is-unlikelyhttp://yro.slashdot.org/story/15/03/21/0253243/government-spies-admit-that-cyber-armageddon-is-unlikely

So it's interesting to note a recent statement by the U.S. intelligence community that pours a bucket of cold water over all of this. According to government spies the likelihood of a cyber Armageddon is "remote." And this raises some unsettling questions about our ability to trust government officials and why they might be tempted to fall back on such blatant hyperbole.

It's like many of us have been saying all along. This is mostly about money and power for the cyberscare-industrial complex—not about realistic threat scenarios.

House Judiciary Committee tries to be cool, fails oh so miserably

Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2015 10:50:33 -0700

Apparently the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee wants to let us all know how "cool" they are about Internet memes. In the process, they've instead demonstrated juvenile behavior in the form of a "press release" that would embarrass any self-respecting 8-year-old.

I know what you'll be thinking—somebody must have hacked the site. Apparently not.

U.S. House via NNSquad http://judiciary.house.gov/index.cfm/2015/3/at-the-flick-of-a-switch

Researchers Uncover Way to Hack BIOS and Undermine Secure OSs

WiReD <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:05:40 -0700

Wired via NNSquad http://www.wired.com/2015/03/researchers-uncover-way-hack-bios-undermine-secure-operating-systems/

"Their malware, dubbed LightEater, uses the incursion vulnerabilities to break into and hijack the system management mode to gain escalated privileges on the system. System management mode, or SMM, is an operations mode in Intel processors that firmware uses to do certain functions with high-level system privileges that exceed even administrative and root-level privileges, Kovah notes. Using this mode, they can rewrite the contents of the BIOS chip to install an implant that gives them a persistent and stealth foothold. From there, they can install root kits and steal passwords and other data from the system. But more significantly, SMM gives their malware the ability to read all data and code that appears in a machine's memory. This would allow their malware, Kovah points out, to subvert any computer using the Tails operating system--the security and privacy-oriented operating system Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald used to handle NSA documents Snowden leaked. By reading data in memory, they could steal the encryption key of a Tails user to unlock encrypted data or swipe files and other content as it appears in memory. Tails is meant to be run from a secure USB flash drive or other removable media--so that conceivably it won't be affected by viruses or other malware that may have infected the computer. It operates in the computer's memory and once the operating system is shut down, Tails scrubs the RAM to erase any traces of its activity. But because the LightEater malware uses the system management mode to read the contents of memory, it can grab the data while in memory before it gets scrubbed and store it in a safe place from which it can later be exfiltrated. And it can do this while all the while remaining stealth."

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Twitter puts trillions of tweets up for sale to data miners

The Guardian <lauren@vortex.com>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:21:07 -0700

*The Guardian* via NNSquad http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/18/twitter-puts-trillions-tweets-for-sale-data-miners

"Computer systems are already aggregating trillions of tweets from the microblogging site, sorting and sifting through countless conversations, following the banter and blustering, ideas and opinions of its 288 million users in search of commercial opportunities. It is not only commercial interests that are mining the data. Academics are using it to gauge the mood in a football crowd, and trying to shed light on whether Premier League players such as Manchester United's Radamel Falcao are overpaid - with a team of researchers from Reading, Dundee and Cambridge universities testing whether top-flight footballers' salaries are related purely to performance on the pitch or can be boosted by popularity on social media."

Cisco: Tor for US SnailMail needed?

Darren Pauli <hbaker1@pipeline.com>

Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 11:00:07 -0700

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/18/want_to_dodge_nsa_supply_chain_taps_ask_cisco_for_a_dead_drop/

Darren Pauli, 18 Mar 2015 Cisco posts kit to empty houses to dodge NSA chop shops; Kit sent to SmallCo of Nowheresville to avoid NSA interception profiles

Cisco will ship boxes to vacant addresses in a bid to foil the NSA, security chief John Stewart says. The dead-drop shipments help to foil a Snowden-revealed operation whereby the NSA would intercept networking kit and install backdoors before boxes reached customers.

The interception campaign was revealed last May.

Speaking at a Cisco Live press panel in Melbourne today, Stewart says the Borg will ship to fake identities for its most sensitive customers, in the hope that the NSA's interceptions are targeted.

"We ship [boxes] to an address that's has nothing to do with the customer, and then you have no idea who ultimately it is going to," Stewart says.

"When customers are truly worried ... it causes other issues to make [interception] more difficult in that [agencies] don't quite know where that router is going so its very hard to target - you'd have to target all of them.

There is always going to be inherent risk."

Stewart says some customers drive up to a distributor and pick up hardware at the door.

He says nothing could guarantee protection against the NSA, however. "If you had a machine in an airtight area ... I stop the controls by which I mitigate risk when I ship it," he says, adding that hardware technologies can make malicious tampering "incredibly hard".

Cisco has poked around its routers for possible spy chips, but to date has not found anything because it necessarily does not know what NSA taps may look like, according to Stewart.

After the hacking campaign Borg boss John Chambers wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama saying the spying would undermine the global tech industry.

911's deadly flaw: Lack of location data

USA Today <monty@roscom.com>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 07:53:28 -0400

911's deadly flaw: Lack of location data [Old topic here; still problematic. PGN]

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/22/cellphone-911-lack-location-data/23570499/

Re: As We Age, Smartphones Don't Make Us Stupid ...

Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 21:19:12 -0700

Mr. Weinstein:

Regarding your post "As We Age, Smartphones Don't Make Us Stupid—They're Our Saviors", I have a *partial* rebuttal which will be appearing on my blog.

I am also putting this on my blog for release on 12:03 PM PDT on Wednesday. (http://genew.ca/2015/03/25/re-as-we-age-smartphones-dont-make-us-stupid-theyre-our-saviors/).

***** Start of Blog Post ***** [...] Mr. Weinstein's article "As We Age, Smartphones Don't Make Us Stupid -- They're Our Saviors" appeared in RISKS-28.56 and on his Website at http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001094.html.

He starts: "Throughout human history, pretty much every development or invention that increased our information storage and management capabilities has had its loud and voracious naysayers." and gives historical examples.

Another paragraph is, 'The crux of most arguments against having quick access to information seem to largely parallel the attempts not that many years ago (and in some venues, still continuing) to routinely ban calculators from physics and other similar subject tests, on the grounds that not doing the math by hand was somehow—perhaps in a moral judgment "You'll go to hell!" kind of sense—horribly cheating.'

I can see his point, but I also see the other side. The benefits of a new method of dealing with things can be loudly touted while the disadvantages are ignored.

I had an example of this in university. For one of my courses, the instructor stated, near the beginning of the course, that he was considering allowing us to use laptops on the midterm and the final exams. No Net connection would be allowed, but each student could put whatever data he wanted on his systems. We already would be allowed to bring whatever hard copy we wanted.

The idea of this was very popular with the students in the back row in class: the ones who sat there because then they could plug in their systems.

The midterm came and went. I noticed a couple weeks after that we had not had the option of using computers. Since it was of no interest to me, I shrugged. The topic came up again near the end of the course. There was a lot of racket from the students who wanted to use computers. I finally managed to get a word in edgewise that I was concerned that an exam could favour computer use and that I did not think that I should have to spend several hundred dollars (more) to write a final. The instructor said that that would be considered. Since he was straightshooter, I left it at that.

On Thursday of the first week of exams, it was time to write the final for this course. I brought my course notes and assignments as well as three textbooks that I had and thought might be of use. The exam looked reasonable, and I got to it. I only had to refer to my materials a few times. I left figuring that I had done quite well.

Wait, wait, wait.

A week later, I still had not seen my grade up. I was on campus and ran across the instructor and asked how it was going. He must have just finished the marking. He told me (words are a close paraphrase), "I've got two things to tell you. In general, the students who did not use computers did better than those who did, and two, you got the only A+."

Naturally, I was pleased with the A+, but why the difference between the two groups? I puzzled over it for a few months and finally came up with what I think is the reason.

I minored in Math, and on a course on linear programming, I was studying for the midterm with another student. We were trying a question, and it just was not working out. We decided to check the text. The other student was looking at it for a few minutes and did not figure it out, so I asked to have a look. There was a section that I thought was wrong or ambiguous. I suggested reading it a bit differently than we had. That turned out to be it.

If we had not done this, but had instead referred to the text during the exam, we would have lost time. It is no surprise to me now why students in the other course who used computers did not do so well. It is one thing to look something up like the capital of California, but it is quite another when one has to understand the material that one finds more than trivially.

I think that people who rely overly on computers can all too easily shortchange themselves. ***** End of Blog Post *****

Re: As We Age, Smartphones Don't Make Us Stupid ...

Gene Wirchenko <>