The Sunday, May 12 edition of the New York Daily News has the front-page headline "The Brain Drain — City faces flood of novice teachers". One of the hopeful new teachers, who will replace old-timers lured out by a retirement incentive, is a 23-year-old student teacher in English, whose name and alma mater I will omit even though they're given in the article. His cooperating teacher gives him high marks for energy and creativity. "[He] concedes, however, that spelling and grammar are not his strong suits, and that he is working hard not to repeat spelling mistakes such as `hatrid', `envolved', or `increduluous' when he writes on the blackboard or in homework assignments. `I'm a child of the computer. I'm used to pushing 'spellcheck' and that corrects the words'". As I said above, he's a student teacher in English. Jay Elinsky, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY [Good speling and gramar arent everything but it shure helps. I include this item here to remind us that discipline can easily stifle creativity, but that creativity without discipline may be of very limited value. It clearly helps to have some discipline, energy, creativity, and perhaps even some intelligence! PGN]
[Forwarded to RISKS by Jerry Leichter <email@example.com> and Jim Horning] This Is The Network: The Apple Engineering Network. The Apple Engineering Network has about 100 IP subnets, 224 AppleTalk zones, and over 600 AppleTalk networks. It stretches from Tokyo, Japan, to Paris, France, with half a dozen locations in the U.S., and 40 buildings in the Silicon Valley. It is interconnected with the Internet in three places: two in the Silicon Valley, and one in Boston. It supports almost 10,000 users every day. When things go wrong with E-mail on this network, it's my problem. My name is Fair. I carry a badge. [insert theme from "Dragnet"] The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed so as to finger the guilty. It was early evening, on a Monday. I was working the swing shift out of Engineering Computer Operations under the command of Richard Herndon. I don't have a partner. While I was reading my E-mail that evening, I noticed that the load average on apple.com, our VAX-8650, had climbed way out of its normal range to just over 72. Upon investigation, I found that thousands of Internet hosts were trying to send us an error message. I also found 2,000+ copies of this error message already in our queue. I immediately shut down the sendmail daemon which was offering SMTP service on our VAX. I examined the error message, and reconstructed the following sequence of events: We have a large community of users who use QuickMail, a popular macintosh based E-mail system from CE Software. In order to make it possible for these users to communicate with other users who have chosen to use other E-mail systems, ECO supports a QuickMail to Internet E-mail gateway. We use RFC822 Internet mail format, and RFC821 SMTP as our common intermediate E-mail standard, and we gateway everything that we can to that standard, to promote interoperability. The gateway that we installed for this purpose is MAIL*LINK SMTP from Starnine Systems. This product is also known as GatorMail-Q from Cayman Systems. It does gateway duty for all of the 3,500 QuickMail users on the Apple Engineering Network. Many of our users subscribe, from QuickMail, to Internet mailing lists which are delivered to them through this gateway. One such user, Mark E. Davis, is on the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list, to discuss some alternatives to ASCII with the other members of that list. Sometime on Monday, he replied to a message that he recieved from the mailing list. He composed a one paragraph comment on the original message, and hit the "send" button. Somewhere in the process of that reply, either QuickMail or MAIL*LINK SMTP mangled the "To:" field of the message. The important part is that the "To:" field contained exactly one "<" character, without a matching ">" character. This minor point caused the massive devastation, because it interacted with a bug in sendmail. Note that this syntax error in the "To:" field has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual recipient list, which is handled separately, and which, in this case, was perfectly correct. The message made it out of the Apple Engineering Network, and over to Sun Microsystems, where it was exploded out to all the recipients of the email@example.com mailing list. Sendmail, arguably the standard SMTP daemon and mailer for UNIX, doesn't like "To:" fields which are constructed as described. What it does about this is the real problem: it sends an error message back to the sender of the message, AND delivers the original message onward to whatever specified destinations are listed in the recipient list. This is deadly. The effect was that every sendmail daemon on every host which touched the bad message sent an error message back to us about it. I have often dreaded the possibility that one day, every host on the Internet (all 400,000 of them) would try to send us a message, all at once. On monday, we got a taste of what that must be like. I don't know how many people are on the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list, but I've heard from Postmasters in Sweden, Japan, Korea, Australia, Britain, France, and all over the U.S. I speculate that the list has at least 200 recipients, and about 25% of them are actually UUCP sites that are MX'd on the Internet. I destroyed about 4,000 copies of the error message in our queues here at Apple Computer. After I turned off our SMTP daemon, our secondary MX sites got whacked. We have a secondary MX site so that when we're down, someone else will collect our mail in one place, and deliver it to us in an orderly fashion, rather than have every host which has a message for us jump on us the very second that we come back up. Our secondary MX is the CSNET Relay (relay.cs.net and relay2.cs.net). They eventually destroyed over 11,000 copies of the error message in the queues on the two relay machines. Their postmistress was at wit's end when I spoke to her. She wanted to know what had hit her machines. It seems that for every one machine that had successfully contacted apple.com and delivered a copy of that error message, there were three hosts which couldn't get ahold of apple.com because we were overloaded from all the mail, and so they contacted the CSNET Relay instead. I also heard from CSNET that UUNET, a major MX site for many other hosts, had destroyed 2,000 copies of the error message. I presume that their modems were very busy delivering copies of the error message from outlying UUCP sites back to us at Apple Computer. This instantiation of this problem has abated for the moment, but I'm still spending a lot of time answering E-mail queries from postmasters all over the world. The next day, I replaced the current release of MAIL*LINK SMTP with a beta test version of their next release. It has not shown the header mangling bug, yet. The final chapter of this horror story has yet to be written. The versions of sendmail with this behavior are still out there on hundreds of thousands of computers, waiting for another chance to bury some unlucky site in error messages. Are you next? [insert theme from "The Twilight Zone"] just the vax, ma'am, Erik E. Fair apple!fair email@example.com
> >From: John Graham-Cumming <John.Graham-Cumming@prg.oxford.ac.uk> > Has anyone else had a similar problem with piping and LOGIN? On many Unix's with BSD features you can fool, not login, but 'su -' (simulate a login) which might "do the job" of of fooling the user (his utmp entry will be wrong). To accomplish this you must use the TIOCSTI ioctl in a clever way (I am reluctant to say more). I think that the getpass(3) routine could probably be modified to limit this attack by messing with the terminal's distinguished process group (TIOCSPGRP). Mark Seecof, Publishing Systems Department, Los Angeles Times, Times-Mirror Square, Los Angeles, California 90053 213-237-5000
Remember all the risks we unknowingly took in our youth? Driving without seatbelts, using lawnmowers without automatic shutoffs, etc.? Well, there were computing risks like those, too. Recently wandering through the library stacks, I came across "Programming the IBM 1620" by Clarence B. Germain (Prentice-Hall, 1962). (The 1620 was a scientific machine with variable word length and 1-5 KIPS — don't ask about SPECmarks.) I was going over the control panel description when I came upon the following: Finally, we should mention the EMERGENCY OFF SWITCH... It removes all power from the machine instantly. Damage to the machine results from its use, and a customer engineer is required to turn the machine back on. Unless the computer is struck by lightning while you are using it, do NOT touch this switch; it is for emergency use only. Men were men in those days, and giants strode the earth. Martin Ewing, Yale University
Not all rude behavior should be criminal. The Dutch have always tolerated behavior that other people have criminalized. Who are we to tell the Dutch what level of rude behavior they should be prepared to tolerate? >Thus, the ball is bounced back in the case of the attacked American >computers. Ah, there is the rub. The behavior of the Dutch students is not confined to their country. Are we prohibited from telling the Dutch what level of rude behavior we are prepared to tolerate? Not only are the Dutch not prepared to call that behavior criminal, they do not appear to be inclined to label it rude. Not only are they not prepared to invoke criminal sanctions, so far they have refused to invoke social sanctions. While they contend that criminal sanctions are not warranted, they continue to fund the little rowdies. While they seem to object to being labelled a rogue nation, otherwise responsible citizens of that nation insist upon defending and justifying this behavior and trying to blame the victims. While they clearly have the option to confine this behavior within their own borders, they do not do so. What are the rest of us to do? Have we no choice but to provide the playpen for brats? HJW's assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, this is not an issue of the security of American systems. While our systems may not be more secure than those in the Netherlands, they are no less so. Neither are they less secure than those in the rest of the internet. While our systems are the targets of these attacks, it is the systems in Europe, specifically including those in the Netherlands, that are paying the cost of attack. Our systems are the targets, but we are no more the victims than the rest of the internet. Given the number of systems in the internet, the level of security is a given; it cannot change much in a short time. Given the law of large numbers, given a normal distribution of security in systems within the net, the net will always be vulnerable to this kind of attack. "Computers at Risk," the report cited by HJW, would have you believe that the problem is one of the systems shipped by vendors. If vendors did a better job of design and chose safer defaults, the problem would be solved. Would God that that were so. It would be lovely to have to deal with only thousands of vendors instead of millions of users. While good design and safe defaults may be necessary to security, they are not sufficient. Do any of you seriously believe that there is any security that a vendor can put into a system that users cannot compromise away? Do you believe that if a vendor could do so, that all of us his competitors would follow his lead? That no vendor could be successful selling performance and function at the expense of security, or that none of the systems that he sold on that basis could find their way into the net? This is not simply an issue of the security of the systems within the net. The security of the net is, only in part, a function of the security of the systems in it, it is also influenced by other properties and behavior of those nodes. If you can believe the report, the Wily Hacker used the system of the Mitre Corporation as it was intended to be used. However, that intention so reduced the Wily Hacker's normal and expected cost of attack that it put the rest of net at risk. In taking his scientific/law-enforcement response to the attack, Cliff Stoll put his neighbors at risk. Now, he was at least watching to be sure that the Wily Hacker was not too successful, but wouldn't you expect your neighbor to pull the plug on him? Note that the security of a given system does not protect it. My system may be sufficiently resistant to outsiders to keep the Dutch students out. However, it does not keep them from using the adjacent system to attack me. The attack is a problem without regard to its success. It consumes some cycles, but it consumes an inordinate amount of communication capacity. So, what are we to do? Assume that the Dutch students continue their rude behavior. Assume that their elders continue to fund them and smile tolerantly on the little hoodlums. Must we simply tolerate it? Have we no other open options? How long will we tolerate this abuse before we break the connection? Now, I was not surprised at the response when I suggested this remedy last month. I expected that a community dependent upon connectivity would be reluctant to use that connectivity as a control mechanism. I was a little amused at the over-statement that was used to attack the idea. I did not suggest that we ostracize Holland (Go back and read it if you must) though I did say that we should be prepared to do so. I did not even suggest that we permanently bar any systems from the net. It did not occur to me that anyone would think that the disconnections would need to be permanent or even of long duration. One of these days I will learn that if you leave room to be misconstrued, you can expect to be. I only said that if you get rude traffic, break the connection to the system that it is coming from. Tell them why you have done so. If they are not the origin, invite them to follow your example. (Of course you can restore the connection as soon as the rude traffic stops.) That is all I said to do. If everybody does that, the rude traffic will be isolated at its source. Now, the originators may continue to send the rude traffic, but I doubt it. If no system will listen, who will they send it to? Their elders may continue to fund "their experiments," but I doubt it. If we stop playing victim, the fun will go out of their playing bully. I have to confess that I was surprised that some readers concluded that I advocated having data police and that I was nominating myself for the job. Let me make it clear. What I want is an orderly network that needs no policing. What I want is the kind of orderly well-behaved network that we have enjoyed for almost two decades. To the extent that there is any requirement for policing, what I am proposing is self-policing. What I am resisting is the idea that between what is illegal and what we can prevent, we must expect and tolerate everything else. What I am resisting is the idea that our only hope for order is to appeal to the authority of the law. Finally, let me conclude with a regret. I regret that this has become a national issue. I particularly regret that the nation involved is the Netherlands. I hope they take no more offense at my rhetoric than is intended. If all the world were as civilized as the Netherlands, it would be a better place. Nonetheless I am convinced that the rhetoric is indicated and I hope that it gets their attention. I am concerned that these otherwise most orderly of people appear not to understand that they are fostering mischief. I am concerned that they seem not to realize that they are setting in motion forces which they cannot control and inflicting damage on public order which may not be reversible. William Hugh Murray, Executive Consultant, Information System Security 21 Locust Avenue, Suite 2D, New Canaan, Connecticut 06840 203 966 4769
I'm sorry to keep this topic going, but I am rather distressed by this. People keep writing as if "unauthorised entry" were only a threat to big universities and Government sites, as if the only reason for a site to be vulnerable is negligence or incompetence. "It's easy, just put a B2 layer in between your net and the rest of the world!" "It's *just*, you only have to convince the court that your system was secure." That's not my perspective. I'm worried about small organisations (as I said before, I have a particular charity in mind) for whom an 80386 running UNIX V.3 is a *large* expenditure, for whom buying an extra PC would be a financial hardship. These people could benefit a lot from being on the net. E-mail could save them a lot of money. Remote access could cut down on consultants' fees (no need to make a physical trip). There must be many thousands of small businesses in the same situation. *These* people are vulnerable to "unauthorised entry" too. Why would anyone break into a system with no juicy data sets &c? Well, why do people spray graffiti all over the trains? Why do people try to burn down schools? Would anyone really break into a charity's computer and destroy files if they thought they could get away with it? YES! Whatever "security" requirement is demanded of a victim before the courts will protect them should not be more than the victim could (a) reasonably be expected to know about, not being a computer expert (b) reasonably be expected to afford, bearing in mind the cost of the data and computer system.
Ed Ravin <elr%trintex@uunet.UU.NET> quotes The Economist on the UK Data Protection Act, saying that in order to evade the right to personal information about you held on computer, reporters write anticipated obituaries on paper. A far worse example was (possibly is) the university I attended. In those days it was University College Cardiff. It did not allow students to see their records, and held them on paper in order avoid having to do this. Processing was done by computer under a DPA clause which permits temporary storage for a limited time without having to have the data registered. Then the data was printed out and the magnetic media erased. The next time it was needed it was re-keyed. I found this to be a truly stunning way of doing things. I also glanced through the report which preceded to the DPA. There was mention made of this issue. Many of the experts who gave evidence stressed that the distinction between computerised data and manually held data is an arbitrary one. The report noted that this was probably true but that the protection of paper files was outside their brief, so they could not consider it. Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Paul Johnson +44 245 73331 firstname.lastname@example.org
> When the subject is no longer in a position to demand his right to freedom of information, the obituary is then put into the computer for publication. This was not the reason why manually held records were excluded from the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 1984. British law does *not* 'let individuals look at computerised information that others may hold about them'. Perhaps Mr. Ravin should read the Act. His faith in British law is touching, but is quite misplaced. Chaz
When we at the university were looking at the implications of the so-called Data Protection Act I was led to asking the questions about the use of scanners. We were concerned with the procesing of examination marks, and as we include second year results in out final examination we wondered if printing them and deleting the files, and then scanning would be OK. The opinion we got was that if you intend to re-enter the information then it still comes under the DPA. (The court case inquiring what I intended to do could have been interesting. :-) ) However in the case of obituaries the situation is different. The DPA does not apply to information about dead people, as that is not personal. An amusing sideline to this is we considered the holding of bibliographies, which were then searched, which would be personal data, and so we would have to register under the law. However if we sent the university hit squad round we could save the serious offence of holding unauthorised personal data, if at the expense of a murder or two. ==John ffitch
When I referred to "Dagobert Duck" in my RISKS-11.58 posting, I did not realise that this personality is called Scrooge McDuck in Anglosaxon (and, I believe) American parlance. I trust that the identification was unambiguous by context!
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