RISKS Digest 31.19

Saturday 20 April 2019

AA 300 JFK-LAX incident

CBS via PGN <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 15:04:30 PDT

On 10 Apr 2019, an American Airlines Airbus A321 jet `nearly crashed' during takeoff at JFK. The wing apparently scraped the ground and hit a sign and light pole during takeoff, bending the wing. "We were banking, uncontrolled bank 45 degrees to the left," a pilot could be heard saying on the air traffic control audio of the incident. It was evidently an `uncommanded roll to the left', with no explanation yet as to the cause. Although the plane did manage to take off, it then returned to JFK 28 minutes later.

1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident

Dan Jacobson <>

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 11:47:21 +0800

"...the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. Petrov judged the reports to be a false alarm, and his decision to disobey orders, against Soviet military protocol, is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in large-scale nuclear war. Investigation later confirmed that the Soviet satellite warning system had indeed malfunctioned."

[In RISKS-3.39, 18 Aug 1986, we had a "Nuclear false alarm" item, contributed by Robert Stroud. That case triggered nuclear attack sirens in Edinburgh. PGN]

Contractor identifies new problems with phase 2 of the Silver Line

WashPost <>

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 19:36:28 -0400

The structures that support the Dulles Airport Metro station's glass wall are cracked and lack proper reinforcement.

Keith Couch, project director for CRC, downplayed the problems at the Dulles station, saying that officials are working to find a solution. He said the fact that the problems were discovered before the project was completed is a sign that the company's quality control program is working. CRC's inspections and quality control have come under criticism as the project's problems have mounted.

Project executive director Charles Stark characterized the issues at the Dulles station as a “workmanship problem.”

"QC is working" to detect workmanship problems.

"workmanship" appears in article once, as does "improve"—but referring to schedule, not workmanship.

The risk? Nothing changing.

"Fallible machines, fallible humans"

The Straits Times and Financial Times <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 14:04:14 +0800

Robert Wright byline, behind paywalls as:

1) "Fallible machines, fallible humans," via retrieved on 17APR2019;

2) "Autonomous machines: industry grapples with Boeing lessons" via

The cited news articles discuss technology-dependent systems (medical infusion pumps, aircraft, industrial robotic manufacturing) and their dependency on human engagement to monitor activity.

Today's AI cannot independently comprehend context: they can match patterns, but cannot rationalize the recognized pattern in a way that emulates a human's mind.

No machine can be programmed today to process contextual awareness and independently act to preserve and protect human life during an emergency. An organization or individual expecting this outcome apparently believes that science fiction is real. They must be disabused of this fallacy.

In the FT and Straits Times articles, Mark Sujan of University of Warwick asks, "How do we ensure that the system knows enough about the world within which it's operation? That's a complex thing."

As noted by Don Norman (see for example), "The real RISK in computer system design is NOT human error. It is designers who are content to blame human error and thereby wash their hands of responsibility."

Demonstrating system behavior when subjected to erroneous or negative input stimulus can reveal more about system safety-readiness and resilience than demonstration of behavior under nominal stimulus conditions. Anomalous system states, in a simulator, can instruct and refine operational readiness.

Successful and effective system operation depends on informed, trained, and engaged human oversight. Safety critical system operators must possess perspicacity. Clear indicators of anomalous behavior, and insightful operator reaction to them, are essential to ensure a safe outcome.

A computerized YouTube fact-checking tool goes very wrong: In flaming Notre Dame, it somehow sees 9/11 tragedy

WashPost <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 16:17:13 +0800

"If the algorithm saw a video of tall structures engulfed in smoke and inferred that it was related to the attack on the World Trade Center, that speaks well of the state of the art in video system understanding, that it would see the similarity to 9/11. There was a point where that would have been impossible.

"But the algorithms lack the comprehension of human context or common sense, making them woefully unprepared for news events. YouTube, he said, is poorly equipped to fix such problems now and probably will remain so for years to come.

"'They have to depend on these algorithms, but they all have sorts of failure modes. And they can't fly under the radar anymore,' Domingos said. 'It's not just whack-a-mole. It's a losing game.'"

Risk: Brand outrage incidence frequency multiplies with business accumulation of technical debt.

Election systems in 50 states were targeted in 2016

DHS/FBI via Ars Technica <>

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 9:09:05 PDT

*A joint intelligence bulletin (JIB) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation to state and local authorities regarding Russian hacking activities during the 2016 presidential election. While the bulletin contains no new technical information, it is the first official report to confirm that the Russian reconnaissance and hacking efforts in advance of the election went well beyond the 21 states confirmed in previous reports.*

Mysterious operative haunted Kaspersky critics

AP <>

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:13:57 +0100

The Associated Press has learned that the mysterious man (who said his name was Lucas Lambert) spent several months last year investigating critics of Kaspersky Lab, organizing at least four meetings with cybersecurity experts in London and New York.

Samsung's $2,000 folding phone is breaking for some users after two days


Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 19:39:58 -0400

Samsung's Galaxy Fold is already breaking. Reviewers who got the device are seeing flickering screens. Some think because a protective film was removed. But CNBC's unit is also broken and we did not remove the film.

Samsung's $2,000 folding phone is breaking for some users after two days

Gadget gimmick for its own sake? I use two PC monitors for Windows but don't have windows span their border—bezels would be intrusive. I can't see using this phone with a single app spanning the displays and am skeptical about people paying that much for two separate screens—if it even operates that way. Surprise, the hinge is a likely failure point.

Cyberspies Hijacked the Internet Domains of Entire Countries

WiReD <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 20:41:13 -0400

The discovery of a new, sophisticated team of hackers spying on dozens of government targets is never good news. But one team of cyberspies has pulled off that scale of espionage with a rare and troubling trick, exploiting a weak link in the Internet's cybersecurity that experts have warned about for years: DNS hijacking, a technique that meddles with the fundamental address book of the Internet.

Researchers at Cisco's Talos security division on Wednesday revealed that a hacker group it's calling Sea Turtle carried out a broad campaign of espionage via DNS hijacking, hitting 40 different organizations. In the process, they went so far as to compromise multiple country-code top-level domains—the suffixes like or .ru that end a foreign web address -- putting all the traffic of every domain in multiple countries at risk.

The hackers' victims include telecoms, Internet service providers, and domain registrars responsible for implementing the domain name system. But the majority of the victims and the ultimate targets, Cisco believes, were a collection of mostly governmental organizations, including ministries of foreign affairs, intelligence agencies, military targets, and energy-related groups, all based in the Middle East and North Africa. By corrupting the Internet's directory system, hackers were able to silently use "man in the middle" attacks to intercept all Internet data from email to web traffic sent to those victim organizations.

Man Bites Dog Dept: MSFT supports human rights!!

Reuters <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 21:24:08 -0700

[Once again, I had to carefully check the date on this article to make sure that it wasn't April 1st!]

As much as I applaud the zeal of all the newly converted, I'm far too cynical to believe a word of Brad Smith, given the *second* article about Microsoft, below. Perhaps St. Augustine's prayer is more appropriate for Microsoft: "Please God, make me good, but not just yet".

My prayer for Microsoft: "May the Farce be with you!" *

(* See below.)

Microsoft turned down facial-recognition sales on human rights concerns

Joseph Menn April 16, 2019 / 11:33 PM / Updated a day ago

PALO ALTO (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp recently rejected a California law enforcement agency's request to install facial recognition technology in officers' cars and body cameras due to human rights concerns, company President Brad Smith said on Tuesday.

Microsoft concluded it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning because the artificial intelligence has been trained on mostly white and male pictures.

AI has more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, multiple research projects have found.

"Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan" against a database of suspects, Smith said without naming the agency. After thinking through the uneven impact, "we said this technology is not your answer."

Speaking at a Stanford University conference on "human-centered artificial intelligence," Smith said Microsoft had also declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras blanketing the capital city of an unnamed country that the nonprofit Freedom House had deemed not free. Smith said it would have suppressed freedom of assembly there.

On the other hand, Microsoft did agree to provide the technology to an American prison, after the company concluded that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed institution.

Smith explained the decisions as part of a commitment to human rights that he said was increasingly critical as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct blanket surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

Microsoft said in December it would be open about shortcomings in its facial recognition and asked customers to be transparent about how they intended to use it, while stopping short of ruling out sales to police.

Smith has called for greater regulation of facial recognition and other uses of artificial intelligence, and he warned Tuesday that without that, companies amassing the most data might win the race to develop the best AI in a "race to the bottom."

He shared the stage with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged tech companies to refrain from building new tools without weighing their impact.

"Please embody the human rights approach when you are developing technology," said Bachelet, a former president of Chile.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to name the prospective customers the company turned down.

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Lisa Shumaker

Frank Konkel, 17 Apr 2019

Microsoft Unveils Two Secret Data Centers Built for Classified Government Data

... Microsoft's announcement is part of the company's plan to compete with Amazon--the only company cleared to host the CIA and Defense Department's secret and top secret classified data--and comes as both companies compete for a $10 billion military cloud contract called *JEDI*. ...

Microsoft Email Hack Shows the Lurking Danger of Customer Support

WiReD <>

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2019 20:22:03 -0400

On Friday night, Microsoft sent notification emails to an unknown number of its individual email users—across Outlook, MSN, and Hotmail—warning them about a data breach. Between January 1 and March 28 of this year, hackers used a set of stolen credentials for a Microsoft customer support platform to access account data like email addresses in messages, message subject lines, and folder names inside accounts. By Sunday, it acknowledged that the problem was actually much worse.

After tech news site Motherboard showed Microsoft evidence from a source that the scope of the incident was more extensive, the company revised its initial statement, saying instead that for about 6 percent of users who received a notification, hackers could also access the text of their messages and any attachments. Microsoft had previously denied to TechCrunch that full email messages were affected.

As China Hacked, U.S. Businesses Turned A Blind Eye <>

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2019 12:33:07 +0800

"Technology theft and other unfair business practices originating from China are costing the American economy more than $57 billion a year, White House officials believe, and they expect that figure to grow.

"Yet an investigation by NPR and the PBS television show Frontline into why three successive administrations failed to stop cyberhacking from China found an unlikely obstacle for the government—the victims themselves."

Why do for-profit organizations, possessing vast stores of valuable intellectual property, apparently accept and anticipate theft of this content? Because the PRC marketplace is "too big" to ignore.

US businesses display a remarkable, and convenient, myopia when it suits their primary objective: capture and realize revenue. Corporations are inured to theft and breach, exhausted by defense against the inevitable.

Businesses budget for theft losses and pay insurance premiums as an operational expense. No longer is an eyelash of concern raised. These expenses are considered leakage. (See the movie classic "Casino."). Business continuity is the objective.

When pushed against the wall (if revenue capture is threatened by 'unfavorable or unfair' competition), business can prevail upon political governance to embargo foreign-products, or savage their competitor's product capabilities like HuaWei 5G per

A calculated brand outrage assault and reputation sabotage campaign can tip procurement scales against certain suppliers.

Given visible product defect escape and zero-day density reports (as noted in RISKS-31.16 and elsewhere), how do data breach and IP theft incidents arising from deployed gear (be they domestic or foreign), constitute a favorable outcome for dependent end-users and businesses?

Whether the PRC or the US/EU "wins the contest" for most rapacious and effective data breach and IP theft exploitation capabilities is immaterial to governments.

International economic dominance—hegemony—appears to motivate PRC IP theft and intrusion frequency: Become the world's largest economy and bask in the bragging rights limelight by any conceivable means. The US/EU apparently do not enlist their intelligence services for this purpose, at least as vigorously engaged or as visibly compared to the #2 global economy.

Risks: Exhausted business strategies and weak operational practices that rely on government intervention to rebalance the marketplace. Insufficient or ineffective safeguards applied to suppress IP Internet theft, intrusions, and digital data exfiltration.

Wipro customers hacked, says Krebs. Nothing to see here, says Wipro

TechBeacon <>

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 13:38:48 -0400

Facebook has admitted to unintentionally uploading the address books of 1.5 million users without consent

The Guardian <>

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 08:05:53 -1000


Facebook has admitted to `unintentionally' uploading the address books of 1.5 million users without consent, and says it will delete the collected data and notify those affected.

The discovery follows criticism of Facebook by security experts for a feature that asked new users for their email password as part of the sign-up process. As well as exposing users to potential security breaches, those who provided passwords found that, immediately after their email was verified, the site began importing contacts without asking for permission.

Facebook has now admitted it was wrong to do so, and said the upload was inadvertent. “Last month we stopped offering email password verification as an option for people verifying their account when signing up for Facebook for the first time,'' the company said. “When we looked into the steps people were going through to verify their accounts we found that in some cases people's email contacts were also unintentionally uploaded to Facebook when they created their account, We estimate that up to 1.5 million people's email contacts may have been uploaded. These contacts were not shared with anyone and we're deleting them. We've fixed the underlying issue and are notifying people whose contacts were imported. People can also review and manage the contacts they share with Facebook in their settings.''

The issue was first noticed in early April, when the Daily Beast reported on Facebook's practice of asking for email passwords to verify new users. The feature, which allows Facebook to automatically log in to a webmail account to effectively click the link on an email verification itself, was apparently intended to smooth the workflow for signing up for a new account.

But security experts said the practice was `beyond sketchy', noting that it gave Facebook access to a large amount of personal data and may have led to users adopting unsafe practices around password confidentiality. The company was “practically fishing for passwords you are not supposed to know,'' according to cybersecurity tweeter e-sushi who first raised concern about the feature, which Facebook says has existed since 2016...

Utah Bans Police From Searching Digital Data Without A Warrant, Closes Fourth Amendment Loophole

Forbes <>

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 11:00:29 -0400

AppleWatch or AnkleMonitor: You Decide

Henry Baker <>

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 07:01:53 -0700

"Ankle monitor" and Fitbit/AppleWatch are becoming indistinguishable in the new world of Chinese/Uber/AirBnB-style Social Credit Systems.

Three excellent 11-16 minute videos of Big Tech's version of Social Credit Systems in action. Well done, with high production values.

This dystopian world is no longer "far into the future", but already here.



Published on Apr 9, 2019

Jai's celebratory social media post affects her access to vital medication. Her attempts to circumvent the system leads to even more dire consequences.

Written by: Nehal El-Hadi Directed by: Josh Lyon


Published on Apr 9, 2019

A smart city tracks and analyzes a woman walking through the city. Things she does are interpreted and logged by the city system, but are they drawing an accurate picture of the woman?

Written by: Madeline Ashby Directed by: Farhad Pakdel

A Model Employee

Published on Mar 29, 2019

To keep her day job at a local restaurant, Neeta, an aspiring DJ, has to wear a tracking wristband. As it tracks her life outside of work, she tries to fool the system, but a new device upgrade means trouble.

Written by: Tim Maughan Directed by: Leila Khalilzadeh

Fintech fiddles as home burns: 97% of apps lack basic security

TechBeacon <>

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 18:46:56 -0400

This is not fine. A white-hat researcher examined 30 financial apps, looking for information security issues—worryingly, all but one of them were insecure.

The failures were mind-numbingly familiar, and dead easy to find. It's as if the industry has learned nothing and is walking around with a sign on its back, saying, “Rob me.”