_The Health Service Journal_, 12 September, 1991. Nottingham splashes out \pounds 300,000 to bridge HISS gap Nottingham City Hospital has been forced to spend more than \pounds 300,000 on a stopgap computer system because of delays to its wide-ranging hospital information support system (HISS). The hospital is one of the pilot sites selected by the Department of Health to test the ISS concept, which involves computerising almost every aspect of hospital operation at a cost of millions of pounds. But clinical directors at the hospital have said that they cannot wait until the HISS is fully installed, according to HISS project manager Andy Norman. The hospital is spending the cash on a case-mix system from ACT Medisys, which will collect and sift data from existing systems for costing, audit and other purposes. Installation of the case-mix software and hardware has already started. In contrast the HISS, which is being part-funded by the DoH, is unlikely to be fully installed for two or three years. Even by NHS [National Health Service — pcl] standards the purchase of the HISS for Nottingham has been protracted. Nottingham's HISS will require a substantial amount of programming work, unlike previous HISS projects which were largely based around existing packages, often already in use in the US. The project will be based around a detailed abstract description of how the NHS operates known as the common basic specification. The contract was supposed to have been awarded at the end of last year. Mr Norman said last week that the contract would be awarded by the end of October. IBM has recently quit chasing the contract, saying that the two-year bidding process had wasted too many resources.
_The Health Service Journal_, 12 September 1991. A 21-year-old supplies clerk with Berkshire County Council has been jailed for two years after stealing \pounds 120,000, using the council's computers. A senior manager had left the password to the payments system by the computer screen. [Yet another example of password insecurity. There is no record of what sanctions, if any, were taken against the manager — pcl]
Just a quick note to mention that Sprint is apparently using customers' SS#s as the main portion of their experimental voice-activated calling card system. While Sprint claims this isn't a problem, since the system is only supposed to respond to the callers' own voice (I suppose time will tell how well this system really works!), the problems of people overhearing your SS#, and then using it for other non-calling-card purposes, are obvious. I don't know at this time if Sprint plans to continue using SS#s after their system passes beyond the experimental stage, but it wouldn't surprise me, given their lack of concern over customer privacy in the past. By the way, I'm still arguing with them about their system that allows anyone to interrogate account balances using nothing but the 10 digit telephone number--no passcodes, no controls, and no way for customers to "opt-out" of the system. I'll report back if anything changes in this area... --Lauren--
Recently I opened my phone bill and found it to be five times its normal size (in both dollars and pages!). Looking over the 50+ pages of charges and remembering a recent _60_Minutes_ program, it became clear to me that someone had gotten hold of my AT&T calling card number and passed it to friends and relatives all over the American Hemisphere. The best part of the experience was a note from the AT&T billing system which followed nine pages of charges to (and from) places I have never been or called: "*After analyzing your AT&T long distance calls on this bill, we find you could have saved money with the AT&T Reach Out America Plan with the AT&T calling card discount for your direct-dialed out-of-state calls..." Thomson Kuhn, American College of Physicians 70007.5444@@compuserve.com
Computer Weekly, 28Nov91 A complaint to the data protection registrar has raised the issue of whether address lists compiled by contract staff agencies which then go bust can be sold to other companies. Computer contractor Ian Dallison has complained after the employment Department told him that a regulation stating that only agencies can only pass on information when finding a person a job does not apply if an agency goes bust. Dallison first wrote to the data protection registrar's office and to the Employment Department in the summer after being contacted by two agencies and a timeshare company which had bought the address list of a bankrupt agency from the liquidator. The Employment Department's Employment Agency Licensing Office has only just come back with its negative reply - and Dallison is now pursuing the matter with assistant data protection registrar John Lamidey. Lamidey says this issue arises in the insurance business when a small broker goes out of business and another firm takes up its clients. But in Dallison's case the relationship between the individuals and the new owners is different. "The Data Protection Act says you have to tell people what you intend to do with the personal information when you collect it - but you can't predict that you'll go out of business and the list will be sold," Lampidey says. "This circumstance probably wasn't thought up when the Act was drawn up" One point raised by Lampidey is that a Liquidator takes control of a company and in effect becomes the owner of the data and therefore legally responsible for it. He is considering where this leaves the liquidator in cases like Dallison's. Dylan. firstname.lastname@example.org || ...!uunet!uknet!ibmpcug!dylan
This is from memory of what I've read in the local papers and an article on the BBC2 motoring programme "Top Gear". I live in Cambridge so I do have an interest in preventing this lunacy. Objective from now on.... CAMBRIDGE, England: This ancient university city suffers from bad traffic congestion during most of the day, and a risky solution has been proposed. All cars (vehicles?) registered within 15 or 20 miles of the city will be fitted with a box, connected to the speedometer (presumably) and the ignition system, which has a slot in it for a phonecard-like card. The box is enabled and disabled by microwave transmitters on the 7 roads in and out of the city. While the box is enabled, so the proposal goes, if you travel less than some small distance in a certain time (I think it was the order of 300 metres in 30 seconds) you are deemed to be, and be causing, congestion, and the your special card, which is in the slot in the box on the dashboard, will have its credits debited. If the card runs out, you allowed a short way into debt on the card, and then the engine cuts out (whether this is until you are no longer "congested" or not is unclear). You can get your card "recharged", or buy a new card (?) at machines on street corners, post offices and the like, by handing over money. Visitors will be directed by signs to one of a number of ticket machines where a "day-pass" can be bought for a fixed fee. The idea is that this charging will cause people not to travel at times of congestion to avoid paying the charges needed to keep their vehicles going at these times, thus reducing the congestion. This is how it is different from other "road pricing" schemes - it only charges if you travel in, and thus cause, congestion. There are many risks here - I present some in no particular order: * if the system is expensive enough to be a deterrent to travelling during congested periods people will disconnect the box - it can't be hard. If it is cheap enough that they won't do this, it won't be a deterrent, and will thus only be a small income source. * companies with offices in the city may have to pay the charges to attract employees - thus the deterrant value disappears. * people in traffic jams will stop the engine for 30 seconds until there is a large gap in front then speed down it and stop the engine again to avoid the charge, unless the system detects this, leading to more congestion behind these people. * visitors to the city pay a fixed fee - there is no deterrent for them, and unless there are _many_ spot checks no reason to buy the pass at all. * immobilised vehicles will cause more congestion, unless a rapid removal service exists - and how does that get through? * what if the box breaks? And what if I break it? This is very difficult to police. The implications for my car for example are complex too, as it is owned by a company 200 miles away and leased to my employer. Maybe I will count as a visitor, but as I live in the city I'd not enjoy having to pay a daily visitors' fee. * microwave transmitters on routes in and out of the city. Most of these are two-lane roads, one in either direction. Can transmitters be made directional enough to only get cars in the one lane - or travelling in one direction? Or will the box simply toggle its state on exposure to the signal? This is very unsafe, suppose it doesn't turn off and your engine then cuts in London where you can't recharge your card? Will Cambridge City pay your parking/other fines and costs? * car repairs - often require the car to sit in my drive or in a garage with the engine running, not moving. The system would charge me for this. * speedometer cable failure is not uncommon on older cars. It is illegal to drive a car like this, because the total mileage clock isn't incrementing (and you can't tell your speed). But the box would think you're always stationary and charge you on top of any other trouble you get on the way directly to the car spares shop for a new cable. ;-) * all the other risks associated with cards that contain money, and adding a system capable of cutting the engine to a car. Only some of these are computer or sensor failure risks - the others are system design risks. But the more special cases you put in to handle these other risks the more complex and failure prone the computer in the box becomes. For example: (conjecture) box only stays "on" for one hour regardless of whether it sees a turn-off signal, plus turn-on repeaters around the city interior fixes the non-turn-off problem. Maybe. And so on. More conjecture: The only way I can see to make this safe (safer) is to supply a pass-card or key to everyone as well, which allows you to progress for free, but if you are caught using it _on the city streets_ you get fined. This would require spot checks to police it, and it must not be trivial to change the card in the slot, but the slot and the display on the box must be visible through the window. Reality: Politically active friends do not believe that this will be implemented, for various reasons, one being that it would annoy too many voters. I believe the same. However it is worrying that such a dangerous system is being seriously studied, when straightforward tollbooths with time dependent charges would do the same job IMHO. Hugo Tyson, Harlequin Limited, Barrington Hall, Barrington, Cambridge, CB2 5RG England; Tel. (UK) 0223 872522 (International) +44 223 872522
Taken from "Column 8" in the "Sydney Morning Herald", 2nd Dec 91: ``Queen Elizabeth II Research Institute for Mothers and Infants is a section of the University of Sydney's Faculty of Medicine. In the best traditions of a computer mailing list gone berserk, it received an invitation the other day to join the New York Academy of Sciences. It began: "Dear Queen Elizabeth, It is my pleasure, indeed, to extend to you this invitation to membership..."''
Further to the item by Graeme Tozer in RISKS-12.62, the official explanation of why leaves delay trains, contained in the leaflet recently distributed by Network Southeast to its commuters, is that the effect is mechanical. Wheels slip on the rails, or lock during braking, causing overheating due to friction resulting in cracking, or wearing flat spots on the circumference. Damaged wheels need to be replaced or repaired, hence available rolling stock is depleted, hence delays. No mention of computers. This is odd, because I cannot remember such disruption being caused by leaves in any previous year. Snow is a different matter, particularly the "wrong kind" of snow - the fine powdery stuff that gets into brake units. Perhaps we have the "wrong kind" of leaves this year! :-) Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton Sq., London EC1V 0HB +44(0)71-253-4399 Ext. 4162/3/1 JANET email@example.com
A few comments on Dr. Brunnstein et al.'s proposal to create a bureaucracy to manage antiviral certification: Some aspects of the proposal are beneficial, e.g., creation of an organization that evaluates antiviral products. "Consumer reports" -style journals are useful as long as they are accurate. They make the marketplace more efficient by reducing the cost of obtaining information. But much of the proposal is stifling. For instance, the creation of a "certification" that one is a "trusted party" creates what the military calls a "security clearance". A result will be conferences with closed-doors. Should we licence owners of tech manuals too? The concern that " (2) ensuring that decisions restricting the flow of knowledge of details of malware do not result in undesirable side-effects." is mentioned but not discussed at length. Indeed, some people believe that "security through secrecy" is fundamentally flawed. Yet many aspects of the proposal have precisely that problem. In sum, the creation of a software testing house specializing in anti-malware is a good research topic and a useful idea; the creation of an academic/industrial "trustworthy" clearance is a dangerous one. Instead of secrecy, we should have dissemination of both caveats and solutions to security problems. David Honig
[Previous poster describes firing practices implemented to prevent computer sabotage by people that were just fired.] This also shows that the management is not very confident in their backups. Then again, does the fact that my site has very reliable backs make it easier to fire me?
As I advise my clients, terminations should be timely and complete. What constitutes timely and complete is a function of the nature of the termination, the role of the employee, the residual relationship, and the culture of the institution. If the termination is hostile, timely means immediate and complete means that all privileges, and tokens of privilege be collected or revoked immediately. This includes keys, identification, signature cards, and logon IDs. This often means that separation pay is given in lieu of notice. In the case of mass layoffs, a presumption of some hostility [must exist. ???] Sometimes, even in the case of voluntary termination, for example when the employee gives notice of her intent to leave, the sensitivity of the role may be such that timely means immediate and pay in lieu of notice is indicated. For example, some organizations do not want people who have given notice to continue in management roles. Personally, I would not want those who have given notice to continue to function as operators, system or security administrators, or system or application programmers. On the other hand, senior employees with significant reputations to protect may be considered safe. It is not uncommon to provide such employees with office privileges to facilitate finding a new job. Likewise, those employees to whom large sums of money are payable over time are usually safe. Retirees are not likely to put their retirements at risk by taking a parting shot. Many organizations give permanent credentials to their retirees. Most will provide offices to retired long-tenure founders or even CEOs. Finally the culture of the institution may influence what constitutes timely. Some institutions or industries, as a matter of practice, do not offer long tenure employment; there employees do not expect it. The only question about termination is when, not if. These organizations enjoy a reputation of "friendly" terminations and often maintain mutually beneficial relations with their "alumni" for decades. Here again, timely means less than immediate. All but the most amicable separations involve some risk. Computers may aggravate this risk to the extent that they empower individuals, blur the lines between what belongs to the institution and that which belongs to the individual, mask the consequences of the user's actions from him, are so attractive that the individual is reluctant to be separated from them, or makes us dependent upon the special knowledge of one or two individuals. The first risk is the one that concerns most management. With a few key-strokes, the terminated employee might be able to wipe out or erase a great deal of information very quickly. Likewise he might be able to create a trap door that would make it impossible to exclude him. Management lacks confidence in the effectiveness of the controls that it has over the behavior of the system. The risk of the exercise of power by the separated individual may be aggravated by the tendency of the computer to distance the user from the consequences of his acts. For example, an employee whose personal controls might not permit him to set fire to the files might easily be able to erase them. I still have a diskette marked "VM Files" that contains data that I down-loaded from "my" VM system on the occasion of my retirement from IBM. This diskette contains a copy of my personal telephone directory, as well as copies of several papers that I wrote while a user of that system. I am satisfied that I have sufficient rights in that data, and that after I left, they were simply erased by the system managers. Of course I honored my employment agreement that required that I not disclose any IBM Confidential data for one year after my retirement. Nonetheless, my own separation illustrates many of the conflicts that might arise between the rights of the institution and those of the individual. I also remember that one of the most difficult things for me to part with upon my retirement was access to that system and the network that I accessed through it. It has taken me years to replace it. I continued to use if for almost a month after my termination until my account was finally revoked. I can easily sympathize with the anxiety of a suddenly terminated employee who can no longer access "his" system and "his" data. I can also sympathize with the concern of management that a terminated employee might steal their data. Finally, many institutions are dependent upon the special knowledge of a few individuals, mostly programmers, whose untimely separation might deprive the organization of knowledge that they require to properly manage their systems. Many managers would feel prevented from immediately separating such people who gave notice of their intent to leave. Conversely, the risk of termination can be reduced by computer controls that involve multiple people in sensitive duties, clarify the division of rights between the institution and the individual, make the effects of computer operations explicit, or which reduce the dependence of the institution on the special knowledge of individuals by encapsulating that special knowledge within the system. It should be noted that when management errs on the safe side in terminations they tend to embarrass both the separated employees and themselves; they may look both paranoid and insensitive. On the other hand, if they err in the direction of risk and something goes wrong, they will appear to be imprudent. Few managers will always, or even ever, walk this difficult line to the satisfaction of everyone. When few employees used computers in the course of their jobs, those employees could be treated differently on separation than others. When all employees use computers, the capability for orderly separation will require that we control computers in a more appropriate manner in the normal course of events. William Hugh Murray, Executive Consultant, Information System Security 21 Locust Avenue, Suite 2D, New Canaan, Connecticut 06840 203 966 4769
... The report cited recent "penetrations" of "U.S. military computers" at "the Pentagon" during the Gulf War. I heard this report, originally, on NPR and continue to have questions: 1. Were the computers really at "the Pentagon?" 2. If not, where were they? 3. Was classified information compromised? 4. If not, what sort of information was compromised? The press might consider the computer from which this note is posted as a "Pentagon" computer because it is owned and operated by the US Army. My data files might be reported by a naive reporter as containing "military" information. In fact, they contain information on information theory, algebraic coding theory, decoding, and associated bibliographies. Apart from the slightly sensational aspects of reporting "breaking into Pentagon computers," the article talks about how hackers can cover their tracks, appearing to have been anywhere in the world other than where they actually were at the time of hacking. Such discussions could be cited as evidence that tracing of the access path to Internet computers should be performed. This, in turn, could easily lead to exactly the same arguments seen here and in other forums (fora?) about telephone privacy vis a vis Calling Number ID. Is history about to repeat itself (again)? _Brint
Ultimately there is data somewhere deep in the bowels of a system. A 6 vs D could easily have been a data error in a table. Or it could have been in the definition of a symbolic constant. Giving a value a name doesn't make it correct and might even obscure errors. Even worse, errors in error paths are very difficult to check when they only show up in system-wide interactions in a very big system. It is amazing how well systems work despite serious errors until a particular set of conditions arise. I'm sympathetic to approaches to minimize errors such as using closed loop systems, redundancy etc but I'm afraid of people making the assumption that perfection is achievable. The challenge is to make the systems resilient though not perfect. In something like the SS7 collapse the question is not whether we can discover the bugs beforehand, but that the system is so complicated that there weren't the firewalls to limit the collapse. The two issues are related. If we expect failure then we should design firewalls independent of the complex failure recovery modes of the system. Of course, this too is ideal since both the system design and the firewall design might suffer from the same systemic assumptions. One product design I did involved dialup communications with two levels of protocols. I made the assumption that the recovery approach for any nontrivial error was to hangup the phone. Partially these was because I didn't want to spend limited RAM and programming resources. But also because I didn't see the point of using complicated algorithms when a simpler approach would work. Since I don't know anything more about the SS7 collapse than the "6" vs "d" (more likely than "D" (a good example of how newspapers can mislead with the most innocuous of changes)), none of this might apply.
I fail to see how such symbolic constants can be defined other than in terms of a hexadecimal (or binary or ...) constant or other symbolic constant(s). You still have to have constants somewhere, even if it's only zero and the successor function. :-) In any case, the typographic error could just as well have been in the definition of the symbolic constant. Symbolic names may well help, but are no panacea. It's not really fair to be jumping to conclusions about the style of DSC software.
I would *love* to see the actual line of code. Is there any chance of getting it out of them? I don't see how someone could accidentally type D for 6 or vice-versa - too far apart. I wonder if somehow or other this code was scanned in - or (HHOS) typed in by a 'coder' like in the old days from a 'coding sheet'? :-) Just using symbolic constants to hide your typing mistakes in another file isn't much of an improvement by the way. NASA-style red/black tiger teams might help a little, but I'm not sure what else would. From what I've heard of the state of the formal methods art, things haven't improved much since when I was a student in the seventies...
I've had at least one bug creep into a program despite such care: I was careful to use symbolic constants even if I only used the constant once... then proceeded to insert a typo into the declaration of the constant. Don't make unwarranted assumptions. That's a RISK in itself. Brandon S. Allbery, KF8NH [18.104.22.168] allbery@NCoast.ORG
Actually the conclusion that the data was HEX is not inevitable; the difference between the binary representations of ``d'' and ``6'' in ASCII is three bits (just as the difference between a ``6'' and ``d'' in HEX is three bits). Thus, the comments about the use of ``cryptic hexadecimal constants'' are not necessarily relevant to this problem. Paul S. Miner, 1 Gregg Road / Mail Stop 130, NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia 23665-5225
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