Many moons ago there were several up-link spoofings, including Captain Midnight interrupting HBO to protest signal scrambling. (See RISKS-2.49, RISKS-3.24, SEN 11 3, 11 5.) As a result of that case, the U.S. Congress passed a law making satellite hacking a felony. The first person convicted under that law is Thomas M. Haynie, an employee of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) who preempted the Playboy Channel in 1987 with a religious message. (See RISKS-5.36, SEN 12 4.) The detective work to identify the culprit used a form of electronic fingerprinting to identify the character generator as a Knox K50, of which only five were located in satellite ground stations. Sentencing is set for 7 Dec 90, with the max being 11 years in prison and $350,000 in fines. [Update culled from IEEE The Institute, December 1990, p.6.]
>From the New York Times: Severed Phone Line Disrupts Chicago Zone A contractor planting trees severed a high-capacity telephone line in a Chicago suburb yesterday morning, leaving 150,000 people without long-distance and most local telephone service and disrupting businesses across a wide area. Teller machines at some banks were paralyzed, and flights at O'Hare International Airport were delayed because the air traffic control tower there temporarily lost contact with the main Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control centers for the Chicago area. The Illinois Bell Telephone Company said the line was accidentally cut at 10:02 AM, Central daylight time, and cautioned that full service would not be restored until midnight. About half the calls blocked by the severed cable were being electronically routed around the break by mid afternoon, said Michael E. LeBeau, an Illinois Bell Official. People calling telephones with area code 706 in the affected towns recevied a "fast, busy signal," said Gloria A. Pope, a spokeswoman for the utility. Some flights at O'Hare were delayed by up to two hours but safety was not affected, said James A. Dermody, a spokesman for the F.A.A. The New York Times (National Edition), Tuesday, 16 October 1990, page A14. Commentary: Numerous functions and services in large, complex, systems may be dependent on apparently distant or unrelated events. Such large systems intrinsically have 'latent failures' within them, i.e. failures which are only apparent under a specific set of (often obscure) triggering conditions [Reason J, Human Error, Cambridge U. Press, 1990]. The combination of the contractor digging, the location of the cable, the signals routed through it, the nature of the use of those signals, the time of day, and a host of other factors must join in confluence in order to produce the outcome. Other large systems failures, including Three Mile Island, the Vincennes, the Stark, Challenger, and especially Apollo-13, display this same confluence of (apparently) unlikely events and conditions. The current state of understanding of complex system failures [cf. Rasmussen J, Information Processing and Human-Machine Interaction: An Approach to Cognitive Engineering. New York: North-Holand, 1986] and complex system successes [cf. Rochlin GI, et al., The Self-Designing High-Reliability Organization: Aircraft Carrier Flight Operations at Sea, Naval War College Review, Autumn, 1987, pp.76-90] is that failures are virtually never the result of a single fault and that arguments about the nature of causality which focus on single faults mistake the intrinsic nature of these systems. The disasters which arise in complex systems nearly always have an apparent trigger (e.g. captain's failure to follow procedures for ship navigation) but the event produces disastrous consequences only in a particular setting (i.e. limited navigation tools, schedule pressures, limited manning levels, faulty communications links, faulty superveilance) and that removing the possibility of the particular trigger event does not markedly enhance system safety [for a good example, read the complete report see Marine Accident Report, Grounding of the U.S. Tankship Exxon Valdez on Bligh Reef..., NTSB/MAR-90/04, Washington, D.C.: National Transportation Safety Board, 1990]. Similarly, the recent Hubble telescope issues are gradually becoming focussed on the nature of the project as a large system rather than on the single test/single fault approach [Waldrop MM. Hubble:The Case of the Single Point Failure. Science 1990, 249: 735-6]. The issues of complex, high-risk/high-reliability system failures arise in numerous disciplines, almost all of which rely on computers to provide information to human operators. Faults and failures of such systems produce intense pressures to modify the system components in such a way as to forestall their recurrence. Unfortunately there is little evidence that these pressures are effective in increasing overall system safety [Bowman E, Kunreuther H. Post-Bhopal Behavior at a Chemical Company. Journal of Management Studies, 1988, 25:4]. Large systems represent such significant investments that they are difficult to abandon [Ross J, Staw BM. Expo 87: An Escalation Prototype. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1986, 31:274-297] and it is very difficult to know that retroengineering has produced a markedly more reliable system. The Shuttle may be an example of such a system. It represents a such a large component of the space program that scrapping it and starting over is virtually impossible and there is certainly no guarentee that any new system would not be equally fragile. A rare example of abandonment of a large technical system in favor of another design for primary safety reasons is the new generation of nuclear power generating systems [Golay MW, Todreas NE. Advanced Light Water Reactors. Scientific American, April, 1990], although the technical features of these 'intrinsically safe' plants are difficult to assess. Arguments about whether a computer is 'expert', or 'advising' human operators are unlikely to produce much useful progress towards developing safer large systems. Indeed, these arguments tend to results in polarized discussions about the roles of technological elements versus the roles of human operators which are little more than the sort of 'hunt for proximal cause' which is described above. The risks of large, computerized system failures are those which accrue to the system rather than to the components. It is clear, however, that pressures during design to meet specific performance, economical, or political requirements may lead to designs which are destined to operate near the extremes of the safety envelope. These pressures, in turn, lead to systems designed to perform more and more at the edge of the safety envelope [Andrewa EL. Sensing the Presence of Potential Problems. New York Times, Sunday 6 May 1990, p.F6]. [Andrews?] It is particularly instructive to examine the roles of human operators in these systems as they are actually practiced by the operators (rather than as they are defined by rules and procedures, doctine, etc.). In many, even most, such systems, the operators are highly skilled individuals who have developed novel and often quite elegant means for achieving system performance with tools which are only partially suited to the purpose. For example, aircraft pilots modify their environment in a number of ways, including hanging notes on the consoles with paper clips, using the flight management systems in unorthodox ways to plan their flight, etc. Anesthesiologists modify their equipment configurations to preserve certain, critical features of the data display in order to maintain specific relationships on the screen [Cook, et al., The Natural History of Introducing New Information Technology into a High-Risk Environment. Proc. of the Human Factors Society 34th Annual Meeting. Santa Clara, CA: Human Factors Society, 1990, pp. 429-433]. These adaptations are a source of information about the nature of operations, system critical performance areas, etc. and may provide means for improving system feartures in order to produce more robust systems [Hollnagel E. The Design of Fault Tolerant Systems: Prevention is Better Than Cure. 2nd European Meeting on Cognitive Science Approaches to Process Control, Sienna, Italy, 24-27 October, 1989]. Remarkably, operators usually understand the system performance in ways which the designers do not, and achieve safe and efficient operation through various means. The loss of telephone connection is a particular kind of fault in a large system, one which stresses various system elements in various ways. In this case, it did not apparently cause any airplane crashes, destroy any bank records, etc. But it is particularly instructive to consider what the nature of the arguments would be if there had been an incident at O'Hare, say the collision on the ground of a taxiing and landing aircraft, or a near miss because the handoff to air traffic control was blocked. In these cases the communications system would have come under intense scrutiny (much as did the one in Valdez after the Exxon tanker disaster). What is fascinating about computer associated risks, at least to some, is that some components of the system are resilient and flexible in ways that minimize the effects of component failures. Much of this flexibility resides in the human operators of complex computerized equipment and much of the obstacle to improving safety and mimizing computer-associated risks depends on the care with which computer system designers produce devices which meaningfully enhance that flexibility. Richard I. Cook, M.D. Cognitive Systems Engineering Laboratory The Ohio State University [Don't forget the classical case of logical redundancy compromised by a lack of physical redundancy, the ARPANET routing between NY and New England via 7 logical circuits, all of which went through the same fiber-optic cable, and all of which were cut in one swell foop on 12 Dec 86. (See RISKS-4.30 and SEN 12 1, January 1987.) PGN]
A recent posting described an answering machine, without any dial-out capability, which somehow managed to dial 911 when juice from a decaying tomato dripped on it. there was speculation about undocumented "autodial" features in the phone. I have an alternate explanation: Although most modern telephones use DTMF (tone) dialing, some older phones use "pulse dialing", in which the circuit is broken in rapid sequence [In my younger years, I used to be able to dial any number on a telephone by banging on the switchhook - I did this just in case the dial broke, not so I could dial out from phones with locks on the dials :)]. Modern telephone switches recognize both pulse and DTMF dialing, except where DTMF tones are filtered out for customers who don't pay a surcharge for DTMF service. So...It is very possible that the tomato juice was causing some sort of electrical condition that resulted in the machine rapidly going on and off line in an intermittent manner. Although unlikely, it is possible that this resulted in 9 rapid on/off cycles, followed by two single on/off cycles at a lower pace. Rob Boudrie firstname.lastname@example.org
Naif that I am, I always thought that gerrymandering was a "bad word," a practice that no modern thinking person would speak of except to denounce. Wrongo. Under the headline "GOP hopes high tech will give it edge in redistricting", the Boston Globe (November 18, 1990, page 5) mentions "how bad the GOP has been at gerrymandering in the past" (i.e. that they did it ineffectually, not egregiously) but that they "have learned a lot about redistricting in the intervening nine years." "There's no big secret about this; we haven't been very good in the last few decades at this redistricting game," [political director of the Republican National Committee Norman] Cummings said in an interview. "You'd always like more, of course, but we're in much better shape now compared to 10 years ago... and the Democrats could be in for a surprise before it's all over." After discussing the implications of the shifts in party balance due to the recent elections, the article finally gets to the "high tech" part, describing how the Republicans "plan legal assaults, assisted by new computer capabilities." This strategy is based mainly on the Civil Rights Act of 1982, which mandates that districts with a majority of blacks, Hispanics, or other minorities must be drawn wherever possible. With that in mind, the GOP has devised software allowing anyone with a computer to draw alternative lines and has arranged for civil rights groups to obtain it for free. The intent is for minorities, who tend to vote Democratic, to be grouped together, leaving more Republicans in adjoining areas. "What the Republicans want to do is go in and create one black district that will result in weakening three or four Democratic districts to make them Republican or at least competitive," said Howard Schloss, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Neat trick; use a law which was intended to protect minorities, when they had less political power, against them now that they have more; and dangle bait (the software) which will let them do your job for you. It may be working: An initial foray into tinkering with minority districts, partly by using the GOP's software, was to be made this weekend in Texas by several groups whose function is to get more minorities involved in the political process; they include the Southwest Voters Project and the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund. Those organizations' work has tended to benefit Democrats in the past, but Republican officials hope that is about to change. "Both minorities and the Republican Party have been the victims of gerrymandering by the Democrats," said Benjamin Ginsberg, the Republican National Committee's chief legal counsel, who plans to attend the strategy session in San Antonio. "So this is a natural alliance for the redistricting process." Once again, the underlying RISKs are as old as the hills, but a bit of computer assist can allow them to be exploited ever-so-much-more-so effectively. Steve Summit email@example.com
Catching up on my reading, I found a very interesting piece in the Aug 13 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. The next series of GOES weather satellites are experiencing serious development problems: the main mirrors of their imaging systems warp when exposed to extreme temperatures. (To head off the inevitable question: this is *completely* unrelated to the Hubble telescope's mirror problems.) To quote: The design for the new mirrors was derived from Ford [prime contractor] and ITT [instrument subcontractor] experience in developing smaller mirrors for the Indian Insat spacecraft. A computer model of the mirrors initially used to verify their stability showed that they were designed properly. That model was based on 30 data points across the mirrors. But during thermal vacuum testing in late 1989, when the mirrors were integrated with the sounder and imager telescopes, the instruments began to show anomalies... [initially thought to be possibly due to other problems]. ITT engineers were not completely sure what caused the problem, however, so they devised a more complex computer model of the mirrors that used 1600 data points instead of 30. The improved tests showed that the mirrors had a thermal warpage problem... This adds to the problems of the new GOES series, which is already far over budget and two years behind schedule. The schedule is starting to look like a major problem, because NOAA is already down to one operational satellite in orbit, and two are really needed for full coverage of the Americas. Originally the first replacement was scheduled for launch this year, but now even the current target of Feb 1992 is looking optimistic. Henry Spencer at U of Toronto Zoology firstname.lastname@example.org utzoo!henry
Lotus claims that if you don't want to be in the database you can write a letter to: Lotus Development Corp. Attn: Market Name Referral Service 55 Cambridge Parkway Cambridge, MA 02142 --Dan Aronson, Thinking Machines Corporation [Also noted by email@example.com (Rick Noah Zucker)]
AFCEA's 2nd Annual Military / Government Computing Conference and Exposition Dates: February 5-7, 1991 Location: Hyatt Regency, Crystal City, Arlington, VA Additional Information: The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 4400 Fair Lakes Court Fairfax, Virginia 22033-3899 (703) 631-6225 Theme: Information Systems Solutions Today & Tomorrow Concurrent tutorial sessions will be presented on February 5; Four technical tracks will be presented on February 6-7. Technology Advances (February 6); Information Systems Applications (February 7); Software Development / Maintainence (February 6-7); and Systems Security Solutions --- Security / Privacy, Integrity and Availability (February 6-7). February 5, 1991 Concurrent Tutorial Sessions Tutorial Co-Chairmen Mr. Larry Walker, Director, Command Control and Planning, CONTEL Federal Systems LTC Calvin Hastie, USA Office of the Director of Information Systems C4 Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Management Division I Open Systems Architecture Improving the Software Process Mr. J. Mogilensky, Director of the SW Process Enhancement Program, CONTEL Federal Systems MLS-A Critical Technology Col. Bill Freestoner, USA, Program Manager Defense Communications Agency II Expert Systems in Artificial Intelligence Imaging / Graphics Personal Authentication Via Biometrics III Evolutionary Systems Acquisition D. Shore, Technical Director, AFCEA Dr. S. Starr, The MITRE Corporation Dr. S. Albert, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Institute for Systems Analysis Information Engineering Mr. J. Weyland, Senior Associate, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. Technology Advances (February 6, 1991) Track Co-Chairmen: Dr. Paul Oliver, Vice President, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. Mr. John Carabello, Dean, Information Resources Management College, National Defense University * Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems Moderator: Dr. Larry Medsker, Chairman, Computer Science and Information Systems, American University * Imaging and Graphic Systems Moderator: Dr. Alan Salisbury, President, CONTEL Technology Center * Information Engineering Moderator: Mr. Jon Whalen, Senior Associate, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. Information Systems Application (February 7, 1991) Track Co-Chairmen BGen J. Ronald Carey, USAR Program Manager, Reserve Component Automation System, National Guard Bureau Mr. Thomas L. Hewitt, President Federal Sources, Inc. * Panel: Managing Large Systems BGen. John F. Phillips, USAF, Commander Logistics Management Systems, Air Force Logistics Command Wright-Patterson AFB Mr. Edward G. Lewis, Assistant Secretary Information Resources Management, Department of Veteran Affairs Mr. Frank DeGeorge, Inspector General, Department of Commerce Mr. Robert Cook, Chief Executive Officer The Systems Center * Wrap-up of the 101st Congress and Expectations for the 102nd Congress on Issues and Legislation Effecting Information Technology Application Presenter: Mr. Steven Ryan, Attorney, Former General Counsel for Senator John Glenn's Government Affairs Committee * A Success Story of How USAA Achieved a Paperless Office with Information Technology Presenter: MGen. Donal Lasher, USA (Ret.), Senior Vice President, USAA Insurance Company * A Successful Turnaround in a Major Government Application Presenter: Mr. Thomas P. Giammo, Assistant Commisioner for Information Systems, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Department of Commerce * The United States Postal Service in 1995 Presenter: Dr. Bernard J. Bennington, Director of Communications and Technology, U.S. Postal Service Software Development / Maintenance (February 6-7, 1991) Track Co-Chairmen: Mr. Anthony M. Valetta, Program Executive Officer Standard Army Management Information Systems, Department of the Army Mr. John Turner, Associate Administrator, National Aerospace System Development, Federal Aviation Administration * Maintaining Quality in the Software Development Presenter: Mr. James Emery, Professor of Decision Sciences, Wharton School of Business * Grand Design vs Evolutionary Development / Acquisition * Panel: Prototyping Moderator: Dr. Michael F. McGrath, Director of CALS Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense * Panel: Managing the Corporate Information Management (CIM) Life Cycle Moderator: Mr. John Gioia, President, Robbins-Gioia, Inc. * Panel: Modernization / Uptrade / Re-engineering Moderator: Dr. Paul Oliver, Vice President, Booz, Allen & Hamilton Panelists: Mr. Phil Kiviat, Vice President, Chartways Technology Mr. George Baird, Senior Associate, Booz, Allen & Hamilton Mr. Roger Kerchaw, Program Director, Educational Testing Services * Panel: Maintainability Modeator: Mr. John Caron, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Technical Assistance, General Services Administration * Panel: Software Re-Use Moderator: Mr. Mitchell J. Bassman, Senior Scientist, Special Projects Division, Computer Sciences Corporation * Panel: Ada Moderator: Dr. Clay Stewart, Associate Director, C3I Center George Mason University Panelists: Dr. Win Royce, TRW Mr. Paul Mauro, Hughes Systems Security Solutions Security / Privacy, Integrity and Availability (February 6-7, 1991) Track Co-Chairmen: Mr. Patrick Gallagher, Director National Computer Security Center, National Security Agency Mr. James H. Burrows, Director of National Computer Systems Laboratory National Institute of Standards and Technology * Panel: Computer Security Applications Experiences: National Security Moderator: Mr. Patrick Gallagher, Director, National Computer Security Center, National Security Agency * Panel: Computer Security Applications Experiences: Civilian / Commercial Moderator: Mr. James H. Burrows, Director of National Computer Systems Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology * Panel: Computer Security Procurement Experiences Moderator: Ms. Barbara Guttman, Computer Specialist, National Institute of Standards and Technology Panelists: Mr. Hal Tipton, Director and Past President, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Inc. * Panel: Voice / Data Security Applications Moderator: Mr. Ray Fitzgerald, Central Intelligence Agency Chairman: STS/SISS Joint STU-III Working Group * Panel: Network Security --- Applications Moderator: Mr. Curt Barker, Senior COMSEC Analyst, Trusted Information Systems, Inc. * Panel: Protection Against Malicious Software Moderator: Mr. Dennis Steinauer, Manager of Computer Security Management and Evaluation, National Institute of Standards and Technology * Panel: Where are We Going? Moderator: Mr. Steve Walker, President Trusted Information Systems, Inc.
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