RISKS Digest 30.96

Wednesday 12 December 2018

A note on submissions to RISKS

PGN <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:11:14 PST


OK, RISKS readers, “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.'' I'm really fed up with trying to edit what some of you send me, trying to produce nice clean readable issues of RISKS, without errors. I'm not giving up on putting out RISKS issues, but the time it takes to put out each issue has recently been escalating. Please don't bother to complain about characters that are garbled. It's wasting your time. I'm not perfect.

From the very early RISKS issues in 1985, I have expressed a desire to receive messages with ASCII characters; later on, I made a plea to completely avoid attachments in Word, pdf, html, or even encoded ASCII. I process RISKS e-mail with an archaic ASCII-happy mail system, because it hugely simplifies my ability to delete more than 80% of the incoming mail sight unseen (lots of spam), and then trying to cull out and lightly edit your *good* contributions. Nevertheless, I still get smart quotes and smart apostrophes from Mac users, encodings of spaces as underscores (or some weird unprintable character) and equal signs from Windows systems that insist on encoding certain ASCII characters as non-ascii characters, rampant =E2=80 encodings, long lines split with an equal sign at the end of each line, non-ASCII From: addresses (e.g., from Mateo), copies of entire RISKS issues as attachments when you are responding to an item in a previous issue, the entire ASCII text of your would-be contributions completely duplicated in horribly fulsome html, rampant extra junk appended (from Richard Stein *), URLs that come out with %3A%2F%2F encodings, and more. UTF-8 might help a little, but is primarily useful for attachments that use it consistently. Then, for your ease of reading, I try to unscramble overly long URLs and verify my attempts at creating shorter ones, and remove all the extra cruft created by Office-365-safelinks URL enscramblings that evidently offer no real security anyway. Furthermore, I do not have time to cope with alternative approaches, such as your putting jpeg files on your website for me to view with a browser.

Perhaps needless to say, I would greatly appreciate if you can spend just a few more moments in your submissions to have a little more concern for my own well-being. ASCII is ASCII, and emacs is emacs, and I will remain a troglodyte in order to continue to moderate RISKS for you. I am sorry that I do not readily handle all of your special characters. Clearly, if RISKS had to deal with submissions in Cyrillic, Kanji, Farsi, Arabic or whatever, I would have to do things very differently—or simply completely give up running a seriously moderated digested new group (where you can create your own undigestifier if you prefer). However, if you think you have a better solution, please let me know. THANKS in advance for your consideration.


[* Footnote from each of Richard Stein's contributions in this issue: MDAwMDAwMCAgIGggICB0ICAgdCAgIHAgICBzICAgOiAgIC8gICAvICAgdyAgIHcgICB3ICAg ... ad finitum—for 77 lines of similar meaningless garbage. PGN]

Let's see who gags on this issue, where I have intentionally left in a few outliers.

The War on Truth Spreads

NYTimes <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 12:33:42 PST

An editorial with the above caption in the 10 Dec 2018 issue of *The New York Times* considers systemic incursions on freedom of the news media around the world, including the Philippines. Hungary. Saudi Arabia. Turkey, China, Russia. and even the U.S. Internet censorship and Internet misuse have both played significant roles. In short, we have vastly transcended even the horrors of George Orwell's *1984*.

Annoyed Baltimore Drivers Want City To Crack Down On 'Squeegee Kids' <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 10:39:01 +0800

How will an autonomous vehicle will address a squeegee bum assault? A horn toot? Redirection of windshield sprayers?

Your apps know where you were last night, and they're not keeping it secret

NYTimes <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 08:55:07 -1000

Every moment of every day, mobile phone apps collect detailed location data.Data reviewed by The New York Times shows over 235 million locations captured from more than 1.2 million unique devices during a three-day period in 2017.

Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it's anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is.


The millions of dots on the map trace highways, side streets and bike trails -- each one following the path of an anonymous cellphone user.

One path tracks someone from a home outside Newark to a nearby Planned Parenthood, remaining there for more than an hour. Another represents a person who travels with the mayor of New York during the day and returns to Long Island at night.

Yet another leaves a house in upstate New York at 7 a.m. and travels to a middle school 14 miles away, staying until late afternoon each school day. Only one person makes that trip: Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher. Her smartphone goes with her.

An app on the device gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin's identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot...


The 'Weird Events' That Make Machines Hallucinate

Linda Geddes <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:36:58 -0500

Linda Geddes, BBC News, 5 Dec 2018 via ACM TechNews, 10 Dec 2018

Computers can be tricked into misidentifying objects and sounds, raising issues about the real-world use of artificial intelligence (AI); experts call such glitches `adversarial examples' or `weird events'. Said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Anish Athalye, “We can think of them as inputs that we expect the network to process in one way, but the machine does something unexpected upon seeing that input.'' In one experiment, Athalye's team slightly modified the texture and coloring of certain physical objects to fool machine learning AI into thinking they were something else. MIT's Aleksander Madry said the problem may be rooted partly in the tendency to engineer machine learning frameworks to optimize their performance on average. Neural networks might be fortified against outliers by feeding them more challenging examples of whatever scientists are trying to teach them.

Barclays customers can now 'switch off' spending <>

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:13:05 +0800

“The idea is to help vulnerable customers, particularly problem gamblers, or those in serious debt.''

Cellphones, while generally indispensable for communication purposes, are gateway devices that can enable addictive behaviors. A compulsive gambler smart enough to configure a cellphone application should recognize that professional counseling and therapy is more effective than a voluntary, and easily overridden, videogame context configuration setting.

A flick of the cellphone application switch precludes a bank debt card from being used for problematic and harmful purposes at certain `classes' of vendors: “Groceries and supermarkets, restaurants, takeaways, pubs and bars, petrol stations, gambling - including websites, betting shops and lottery tickets, premium rate websites and phone lines, including TV voting, competitions and adult services.''

Risk: Financial/lifestyle surveillance and profile disclosure via data breach or explicit sale.

That a financial institution, not widely known for their altruism, promotes this application implies that an intimate profile of an addict as customer arises from consolidated spending patterns. Difficult to assess how this business intelligence might be exploited internally, or by a 3rd party if terms of service stipulate sale and reuse conditions.

Ships infected with ransomware, USB malware, worms

Catalin Cimpanu <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 11:38:44 -0800

Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day, 12 Dec 2018

Ships infected with ransomware, USB malware, worms Ships are the victims of cyber-security incidents more often than people think. Industry groups publish cyber-security guidelines to address issues.

selected text:

For example, the guidelines include the case of a mysterious virus infection of the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) that ships use for sailing.

A new-build dry bulk ship was delayed from sailing for several days because its ECDIS was infected by a virus. The ship was designed for paperless navigation and was not carrying paper charts.

[No backup!]

Ships were also impacted by ransomware, sometimes directly, while in other incidents the ransomware hit backend systems and servers used by ships already in their voyage at sea.

For example, in an incident detailed in the report, a shipowner reported not one, but two ransomware infections, both occurring due to partners, and not necessarily because of the ship's crew.

[And there are other examples given.]

Taylor Swift tracked stalkers with facial recognition tech at her concert

The Verge <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:13:09 -0500

Taylor Swift held a concert at California's Rose Bowl this past May that was monitored by a facial recognition system. The system's target? Hundreds of Swift's stalkers.

Swift's facial recognition system was built into a kiosk that displayed highlights of her rehearsals, which would secretly record onlookers' faces. According to Rolling Stone, which spoke with a concert security expert who observed the kiosk, attendees who looked at the kiosk were immediately scanned. Afterward, the data was sent to a `command post' in Nashville, Tennessee that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers.

José María (Chema) Mateos

What Happens When You Reply All to 22,000 State Workers[?]

NYTimes <>

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 01:26:32 -0500

Reply All, the scourge that has afflicted office workers everywhere, has hit 22,000 government employees in Utah.

U.S. border officers don't always delete collected traveler data <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:39:58 +0800

“Privacy advocates aren't just concerned about warrantless device searches at the border because of the potential for deliberate abuse—it's that the officials might be reckless. And unfortunately, there's evidence this is the case in the U.S. Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General has released audit findings showing that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers didn't properly follow data handling procedures in numerous instances, increasing the chances for data leaks and hurting accountability.''

Assembled and maintained by CBP, this honeypot of mobile device contacts, photos, downloads, browser history, call logs, and credit card/app profiles will likely attract ex-filtration attempts.

A comprehensive repository of personal data that can be correlated against many other dark-net sources, and maliciously exploited for profit or criminal intent.

Marriott Data Breach Is Traced to Chinese Hackers as U.S. Readies Crackdown on Beijing

NYTimes <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 10:07:20 -0500

Marriott Data Breach Is Traced to Chinese Hackers as U.S. Readies Crackdown on Beijing

The Trump administration is expected to indict hackers and roll out import restrictions out of concern that Beijing will not easily change its trade, cyber[security? privacy? ...] and economic practices.

Starwood Hotels

PGN via Mabry Tyson <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:19:45 -0800

[Thanks to Mabry Tyson.]

21 Nov 2015 (a year or so after the initiation of the intrusion currently in the news)

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. is the latest known hotel target of cyber-attackers. The company on Friday announced that hackers had injected malware into point of sale systems at some of its hotels in North America.

That malware ultimately made it possible for unauthorized parties to tap into the payment card data of some hotel guests. Starwood, which operates brands including Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, Element, and Westin, now joins the *Trump Hotel Collection and the Hilton chain* of hotels on the list of hotel data breaches.

As soon as it discovered the breach, Starwood hired outside forensics experts to investigate the depth and breadth of the attack. The result: investigators discovered malware installed in the point of sale systems of some of its restaurants, gift shops and other systems. *The company said, at this time it doesn't appear Starwood's guest reservation or preferred guest membership systems were breached.*

“Starwood certainly isn't the first company to be affected by point of sale malware. The path from discovery to recovery is well-worn at this point. In some cases this malware has been present for *more than a year.*'' While the incident may seem like a point in time, it's really a lengthy campaign of data theft, Erlin said, adding that he's surprised that fraudulent activity from stolen card data wasn't discovered sooner.

Incidentally, a better reference on the 2015 MARRIOTT intrusion (which started July 2014, and ended April 2015) is this (which refers to an earlier malware incident in 2014):

Why I'm done with Chrome / A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Cryptography Engineering <>

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 02:45:00 +0800

“One argument is that Google already spies on you via cookies and its pervasive advertising network and partnerships, so what's the big deal if they force your browser into a logged-in state? One individual I respect described the Chrome change as `making you wear two name tags instead of one'.''

Screen Time Changes Structure of Kids' Brains: Groundbreaking study

Bloomberg <>

Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2018 16:13:57 -1000

Smartphones, tablets and video games are physically changing the brains of adolescents, early results from an ongoing $300 million study funded by the National Institute of Health have shown, according to a report by *60 Minutes*.

Scientists will follow more than 11,000 nine- to 10-year-olds for a decade to see how childhood experiences impact the brain and affect emotional development and mental health. The first bits of data suggest that the onslaught of tech screens has been transformative for young people—and maybe not for the better.

In brain scans of 4,500 children, daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world. Though the difference was significant from participants who spent less screen time, NIH study director Gaya Dowling cautioned against drawing a conclusion. “We don't know if it's being caused by the screen time. We don't know if it's a bad thing. It won't be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we're seeing in this single snapshot.'' (according to an advance script)

Early results from the study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019... YOU CAN VIEW the (~13 min) segment here:

Re: Teen electrocuted while using headphones on plugged-in mobile phone

Richard M Stein <>

Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2018 16:37:24 +0800

[It is not] surprising to learn about counterfeit chargers and phony qualification labels that certify safety. Not many consumers can distinguish real labels from fake, nor are they inclined when price often determines purchase motive. Similar problem for pharmaceuticals, auto parts, and aircraft parts. Makes you wonder about drug and travel safety given forgery incident frequency. Thx.

Re: Toronto auto theft ...

Steve Lamont <>

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 14:43:59 -0800

You will note if you read the story that no one has produced an actual relay device in evidence. The rather murky surveillance video still shows the alleged miscreant carrying. . . something but whether it's a fob repeater or just a plastic bag containing standard burglar tools is entirely unclear to me.

Until I see an actual device, color me skeptical.

Re: Rudy Giuliani Says Twitter Sabotaged His Tweet

Amos Shapir <>

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:43:10 +0200

Actually this *is* Twitter's fault! (Though not in the way Giuliani thinks). It is obvious that Giuliani was not aware that Twitter is turning periods in his post into links. But did Twitter do anything to make their users—especially the less technically inclined—aware of this fact? Is there a way to turn this mis-feature off? Why did Twitter make it active by default, and in such a dumb way (the generated link was not valid as written, so it's obvious the user did not intend to enter a link there)?

I have been struggling for years with Gmail's habit of inserting links into my incoming mail. In a past project, I had to analyse data sent in by mail as rows of numbers; Gmail insists on turning some of them into links to (non existent) phone numbers and addresses, which greatly complicates automatic analysis. (I'd love to hear from anyone who knows how to turn this off).