The RISKS Digest
Volume 31 Issue 82

Wednesday, 13th May 2020

Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator

Please try the URL privacy information feature enabled by clicking the flashlight icon above. This will reveal two icons after each link the body of the digest. The shield takes you to a breakdown of Terms of Service for the site - however only a small number of sites are covered at the moment. The flashlight take you to an analysis of the various trackers etc. that the linked site delivers. Please let the website maintainer know if you find this useful or not. As a RISKS reader, you will probably not be surprised by what is revealed…


All California voters will receive mail-in ballots for November
Agencies warn states: Internet voting is “High Risk”
7 New Flaws Affect All Thunderbolt-equipped Computers Sold in the Last 9 Years
Teen Hacker and Crew of Evil Geniuses Accused of $24 Million Crypto Theft
How a Facebook Bug Took Down Spotify, TikTok, and Other Major iOS Apps
The Year the Internet Thought She Was MacKenzie Bezos
Federal agencies' quiet warning on Internet voting gets a tepid response from state officials
Eric Geller
Beware of these futuristic background checks
Microsoft and Intel Think They Can Identify Malware By Its Looks
Patch Tuesday
Neuralink Will Do Human Brain Implants in Less Than a Year
Elon Musk
A Portal Between Digital and Physical Worlds? It's Close to Reality
Hollywood Reporter
As we shelter in place in the pandemic, more employers are using software to track our work—and us
COVID-19 expert- Coronavirus will rage 'until it infects everybody it possibly can'
USA Today
Re: COVID SW model is a steaming pile …
Re: Coronavirus New York Shock- Two-Thirds Of Recent Patients Infected While Staying At Home
geoff goodfellow
Re: Models
Roderick Rees
Re: Trading computer can't handle negative numbers
John Levine
Info on RISKS (comp.risks)

All California voters will receive mail-in ballots for November (NYTimes)

“Peter G. Neumann” <>
Fri, 8 May 2020 17:30:24 PDT


Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Friday ordered ballots to be sent to the state's 20.6 million voters for the November election, becoming the first state to alter their voting plans for the general election in response to the public health concerns wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Agencies warn states: Internet voting is “High Risk” (Politico)

“Peter G. Neumann” <>
Satd, 9 May 2020 12:11:13 PDT

A group of federal agencies offered their most blunt warning to date on Friday about the security risks of Internet voting. CISA, the FBI, the Election Assistance Commission and NIST combined on the guidance distributed to states. “Electronic ballot return, the digital return of a voted ballot by the voter, creates significant security risks to the confidentiality of ballot and voter data (e.g., voter privacy and ballot secrecy), integrity of the voted ballot, and availability of the system,” reads the document, first reported by The Guardian.

“We view electronic ballot return as high risk.” […]


7 New Flaws Affect All Thunderbolt-equipped Computers Sold in the Last 9 Years (WiReD)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <>
Mon, 11 May 2020 13:00:12 -1000


A cybersecurity researcher today uncovers a set of 7 new unpatchable hardware vulnerabilities that affect all desktops and laptops sold in the past 9 years with Thunderbolt, or Thunderbolt-compatible USB-C ports.

Collectively dubbed ‘ThunderSpy,’ the vulnerabilities can be exploited in 9 realistic evil-maid attack scenarios, primarily to steal data or read/write all of the system memory of a locked or sleeping computer—even when drives are protected with full disk encryption.

In a nutshell, if you think someone with a few minutes of physical access to your computer—regardless of the location—can cause any form of significant harm to you, you're at risk for an evil maid attack.

According to Bj=C3=B6rn Ruytenberg of the Eindhoven University of Technology, the ThunderSpy attack <> “may require opening a target laptop's case with a screwdriver, [but] it leaves no trace of intrusion and can be pulled off in just a few minutes.”

In other words, the flaw is not linked to the network activity or any related component, and thus can't be exploited remotely. […]

[Gabe Goldberg noted
Thunderbolt Flaws Expose Millions of PCs to Hands-On Hacking (WiReD) The so-called Thunderspy attack takes less than five minutes to pull off with physical access to a device, and it affects any PC manufactured before 2019.

For earlier work on this subject, see Thunderclap:]

Teen Hacker and Crew of Evil Geniuses Accused of $24 Million Crypto Theft (Bloomberg)

Monty Solomon <>
Sat, 9 May 2020 11:15:36 -0400

A 15-year-old and his crew of ‘evil computer geniuses’ stole $24 million in cryptocurrency, an adviser accuses.

How a Facebook Bug Took Down Spotify, TikTok, and Other Major iOS Apps (WiReD)

Gabe Goldberg <>
Sat, 9 May 2020 12:28:15 -0400

Thank a tiny change to a software development kit for widespread crashes Wednesday, including the Spotify and TikTok apps.

A little after 6pm ET on 6 May, the system started blinking red for iOS developer Clay Jones. Like many devs, Jones uses a Google product called Crashlytics to keep tabs on when his app stops working. Out of nowhere, it registered tens of thousands of crashes. It also pointed to the cause: a chunk of code that Jones's app incorporates to let people log in with their Facebook accounts.

By 6:30 pm, Jones had filed a bug report about the flaw in Facebook's software development kit on GitHub, the code repository. He provided succinct answers to a standardized form:

What do you want to achieve? We are using FBSDK in our app as an authentication option.

What do you expect to happen? I would like FBSDK to not crash.

Who can argue with that?

The Year the Internet Thought She Was MacKenzie Bezos (WiReD)

Gabe Goldberg <>
Mon, 11 May 2020 00:33:49 -0400

After the billionaire announced she would give away her fortune, Google's algorithm decided the best way to reach her was by contacting the author.

Federal agencies' quiet warning on Internet voting gets a tepid response from state officials (Eric Geller)

“Peter G. Neumann” <>
Mon, 11 May 2020 11:49:24 PDT

Eric Geller, Politico, 11 May 2020

A warning from federal agencies about the “significant security risks” of online voting is getting only a muted reaction from national groups representing election officials, while frustrating lawmakers who want to see even stronger admonitions about a technology that some states are already testing.

The advisory [attached], which four federal agencies quietly sent to state and local governments last week, warns that casting ballots over the Internet “creates significant security risks … should be limited to voters who have no other means to return their ballot and have it counted.” “Securing the return of voted ballots via the Internet while ensuring ballot integrity and maintaining voter privacy is difficult, if not impossible, at this time,” said the document from CISA, the FBI, the Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Wall Street Journal first reported<> the issuance of the eight-page memo Friday, after The Guardian published a story on an earlier draft that had explicitly advised against purchasing the technology. But while election integrity advocates praised the warning, the message's intended recipients reacted more tepidly. <> <> <>

“The states will ultimately do their own risk assessments and decide how to manage risk, while also ensuring access for their voters,” Maria Benson, communications director for the National Association of Secretaries of State, told POLITICO.

A spokesperson for the National Association of State Election Directors declined to comment, saying the organization “doesn't have a position on this issue.”

At the same time, lawmakers who welcomed the advisory also called for the Trump administration to release it publicly to raise awareness of the dangers surrounding Internet voting.

“While I appreciate that DHS is warning election officials about the dangerous security risks posed by online voting, it absolutely should release its guidance to the public as well,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading proponent of increased election security, told POLITICO. “Americans have a right to know whether their election systems are safe, or if their votes could depend on companies peddling digital snake oil.”

CISA and its partners began working on the memo in early April, according to a staffer at one of the agencies involved.

“It was quite an impressive effort to get federal agencies to sign off on a document like this in a relatively short period of time,” said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss a private document.

Beware of these futuristic background checks (

Richard Stein <>
Tue, 12 May 2020 09:58:08 +0800

“Checkr is one of many companies automating aspects of the hiring process and cutting down on costs. Some of these companies are using artificial intelligence to scan through resumes, analyze facial expressions during video job interviews, compare criminal records, and even judge applicants' social media behavior. And in a pandemic, where the companies still hiring are likely already seeing a surge in applications and eager to find ways to streamline the recruiting process, technology that makes hiring quicker and easier sounds appealing.”

”But experts have expressed skepticism about the role that AI can actually play in hiring. The technology doesn't always work and can exacerbate bias and privacy problems. Inevitably, it also raises bigger questions of how powerful AI should become.”

A person's name and date of birth comprise two profiling attributes. Correlating these attributes and correctly attributing innocence or criminality, let alone go/no-go to hire, using globally distributed information sources is fraught with misalignment potential.

“Checkr has become a favorite of gig economy firms, including Uber, Instacart, Shipt, Postmates, and Lyft. On its website, Checkr argues that AI can ultimately drive down the cost of bringing on a new hire by helping process background-checks in two ways. First, the technology helps verify that a given criminal record belongs to the person whose background is being checked. Second, the AI assists in comparing the names of criminal charges that have different names in different places. What might be reported as ‘petty theft’ in one locale could be reported as ‘petit larceny’ somewhere else.”

The dictionary to align and correlate terminology, and correctly associate names with crimes or innocence, must be challenging to maintain especially across jurisdictions (nations, states, counties, etc.).

How can any client customer be confident of candidate employee's investigation findings? Disclosure of false-negative, false-positive and data drop-out statistics should be mandatory, part of an SLA, for high-volume uses. Without this information, reliability of investigatory findings appears problematic.

An AI-based background investigation service, without sufficient human oversight and audit, appears to be a convenient employer due diligence shirk. The ‘terms of service’ probably requires the client company to indemnify against hiring and employee outcomes based on the background investigation findings. GIGO.

See on algorithmic adjudication of marijuana case backlogs. by Henry Baker cautions about AI applied by the DoD to continuously monitor individuals entrusted with restricted information access clearance.

Microsoft and Intel Think They Can Identify Malware By Its Looks (Lifewire)

Gabe Goldberg <>
Wed, 13 May 2020 13:36:10 -0400

Using deep learning to spot viruses

Detecting malware, especially zero-day attacks (viruses security software has never encountered before) is difficult. Using, essentially, visual pattern matching could stop these attacks dead in their tracks.

Promises, promises…

Patch Tuesday (Threatpost)

“Peter G. Neumann” <>
Wed, 13 May 2020 10:52:43 PDT

Guess how many vulnerabilities does MS patch tuesday fix this month







happy patch tuesday!

Neuralink Will Do Human Brain Implants in Less Than a Year (Elon Musk)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <>
Fri, 8 May 2020 13:10:29 -1000

“We are already a cyborg to some degree.”


For the second time in two years, entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk sat down with podcaster Joe Rogan to chat about the future of AI and its role in the symbiosis of man and machine.

In their conversation, Musk revealed that the secretive brain stimulation link startup Neuralink, which he co-founded, is close to starting testing in actual humans.

“We're not testing people yet, but I think it won't be too long,” Musk told Rogan. “We may be able to implant a neural link in less than a year in a person I think.”

The news comes after Musk teased in February that the brain-computer interface startup was working on an awesome new version. […]

A Portal Between Digital and Physical Worlds? It's Close to Reality (Hollywood Reporter)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <>
Fri, 8 May 2020 13:12:05 -1000

Development of mirror worlds is accelerating during COVID-19 as Hollywood increases its virtual production, says Magnopus co-founder and CEO Ben Grossmann, one of THR's Top Hollywood Innovators.


Ben Grossmann wants to marry the physical and the digital, exploring what he describes as a mirror world—a “connection between a physical place and a digital copy of that place, so that it becomes accessible to anyone, anywhere.”

The VFX vet is one of three Oscar winners who founded L.A.-based Magnopus, which has been innovating in areas like VR, AR and AI. Combining these opens up the potential to create what he calls a “new kind of movie theater” or other immersive environments: “We've been working on creating a digital twin of a very large site that's a few square kilometers, so that it will exist both in a physical world that people can go to and in a digital copy of that world that people can go to,” he says of the site whose location is still under wraps. “Then we've been connecting those two worlds, so people in the physical world can look through a lens and see the digital world around them. People in the digital world will also have portals to see what the physical world looks like.”

“It's almost like a telepresence for physical people and digital people. We've had hundreds of people working on it for years and we still have a ways to go before it just works.”

He believes such development will only accelerate during COVID-19. “Instead of just looking through a camera's lens and having a video conference, you can feel like you're in the same place with another person. This has to become a reality because right now people realize they can't travel, they can't spend time with other people in physical places. Even when they do come back, people are gonna have to behave differently.” […]

As we shelter in place in the pandemic, more employers are using software to track our work—and us (NYTimes)

Lauren Weinstein <>
Sun, 10 May 2020 08:35:43 -0700

COVID-19 expert- Coronavirus will rage 'until it infects everybody it possibly can' (USA Today)

the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <>
Tue, 12 May 2020 17:38:49 -1000


A high-profile infectious disease researcher warns COVID-19 is in the early stages of attacking the world, which makes it difficult to relax stay-at-home orders without putting most Americans at risk.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the initial wave of outbreaks in cities such as New York City, where one in five people have been infected, represent a fraction of the illness and death yet to come.

“This damn virus is going to keep going until it infects everybody it possibly can,” Osterholm said Monday during a meeting with the USA TODAY Editorial Board. “It surely won't slow down until it hits 60 to 70%” of the population, the number that would create herd immunity and halt the spread of the virus.

Start the day smarter:Get USA TODAY's Daily Briefing in your inbox

Even if new cases begin to fade this summer, it might be an indicator that the new coronavirus is following a seasonal pattern similar to the flu.

During the 1918 flu pandemic that sickened one-third of the world's population, New York City and Chicago were hit hard in the first wave of illness that largely bypassed other cities such as Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The second wave of illness was much more severe nationwide. […]

Re: COVID SW model is a steaming pile … (Baker, RISKS-31.81)

Wols Lists <>
Sat, 9 May 2020 09:58:22 +0100

> This problem makes the code unusable for scientific purposes, given that a > key part of the scientific method is the ability to replicate results.

Are you saying that Astronomy is not a science? We can't reproduce results there!

And actually, who cares if the PRNG is actually a true RNG. THE KEY part of the scientific method is the ability to accurately predict the result of future experiments (or to predict what we will find when we dig in to the past).

The difficulty we have at the moment, is that we don't have enough past to accurately predict what we will find if we look. and we really don't want to run the expected future because we don't like what it is likely to be!

To my mind, the correct approach here is, given a TRUE RNG, are the results pretty much the same from run to run (which validates the model as MATHEMATICALLY correct), and do the model results closely match what we observe (which validates the SCIENTIFIC part). The problem is, as noted above, the lack of past observation and fear of future observation.

Re: Coronavirus New York Shock- Two-Thirds Of Recent Patients Infected While Staying At Home (goodfellow in RISKS-31.81)

geoff goodfellow <>
Sat, 9 May 2020 11:51:52 -1000
[PGN replied to geoff's earlier message: Perhaps living in an appartment complex with other folks coming and going? PGN (and meant to suggest central air conditioning, as in the Legionaire's Disease cases)]

Unlike, say, in Europe where heating and cooling is effectuated by “individual” apparatuses in each room, say, by a radiator (for heat) and a wall or window mounted AC unit (for coolth), here in the US we generally/most have/use ducting/ventilating from a “central” HVAC place/device/unit.

ERGO, it would seem that the NY “spreading” of stayed at home (multi-floored apartment'd) folks is most likely done by the centralized HVAC systems that a given building or floor has that suck up the “contaminant” from neighboring/other units “intake” then combine them at the central HVAC “plant” and then redistribute them back all all… :(

Re: Models (RISKS-31.81)

Roderick Rees <>
Sun, 10 May 2020 10:43:37 -0700

The nonsense of the imperial model as described by “Sue Denim” is just what should have been expected. All logic, including computed logic, works by applying a set of procedural rules to a set of inputs which include descriptions, definitions and assumptions, all of which are incomplete and in some ways wrong; they may be useful but should always be doubted. The only way to get a result that can sensibly be trusted is to Analyse the Requirements and other inputs before you start the calculation. It is evident that such analysis was not run by Imperial (and is not common elsewhere, especially in commercial programs that are in competition with other commercial programs).

Re: Trading computer can't handle negative numbers (Baker, RISKS-31.81)

“John Levine” <>
8 May 2020 20:59:49 -0400

It serves them right, because Interactive Brokers were incredibly irresponsible.

It is no secret that futures trading is very risky, and trading oil futures is particularly risky as they approach the date at which the contract matures. None of IB's customers are actually in the oil business, so they all have to close out their trades before that date since they have no way to take physical possession of the oil. Futures trading is heavily leveraged, i.e., the customer borrows most of the money, so every futures broker has complex systems to ensure that customers don't borrow more than they'll be able to pay back.

The exchange told IB a week ahead that prices might go negative. IB decided that a week wasn't enough time to write and test changes to their software, which is reasonable, so they ignored the warning, which was not. What they should have done is to close out their customers' oil futures and not trade them until they could update their software to handle it. They didn't, they let their customers trade based on false prices and broken debt limits, so IB ended up holding the bag for $100M. Bad move, totally self-inflicted injury.

Later in the article there are some whiny quotes from IB's owner like:

[ most people had traded out of May contracts in favor of June, so there were few May buyers left ] “That's how it’s possible for these contracts to go absolutely crazy and close at a price that has no economic justification,” Peterffy said. “The issue is whose responsibility is this?”

When its your customers on your platform, It's your responsibility, dude.


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