I'm another user of Fidelity's Money Line, and am now just a tad more nervous. This last horror story confirms my latent suspicions. Fidelity EFTS transfers can be initiated automatically via their "FAST" telephone system. By calling an 800 number, and entering a sequence of some 20-30 digits, you can (1) get the status of your account (balance, last investment, redemption, and dividend), (2) transfer between two existing accounts, (3) transfer into a NEW account (in any of 60+ funds), and (4) initiate an EFTS transfer from your bank account (if preauthorized). Apparently all Fidelity accounts are born with FAST access. All you (or anyone else) need to commit fiscal mayhem are your Fidelity account number and a security code which (are you ready for this?) consists of the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. All of Salander's troubles might have come from a malicious "friend" on the telephone. Even without slurping up funds from the bank, such a prankster could create dozens of accounts for you in obscure funds. (Everything is confirmed by mail, of course.) I had thought that the 24-hr human assistance line would have been sufficient to correct any random computer errors. Their attitude has been good, in my experience. However, one particularly chatty operator did let on that, while she thought the FAST service was generally good, she strongly recommended calling the assistance line for transactions. "The computer line has no backup," she said. I note that my discount brokerage is similarly lenient in telephone transactions. They don't have touchtone transactions, but they do take orders over the phone with only my account number and no independent verification. There outta be a law. And now my bank has installed "TeleService" with features similar to Fidelity.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. But why didn't you handle the problem with the bank from the beginning? Around here, I don't think a bank can release funds except upon your authorization; and if you revoke that authorization, they may no longer release funds. Then, upon occasion of the very first error, you simply close the bank account and withdraw all your money. Fidelity is left "holding the bag," as it were. I hope that, by sharing our experiences with the risks of computer systems, we become more savvy at dealing with them. We're users as well as developers. [I think we must all respond more forcefully when confronted with such human-caused and other computer horrors. Perhaps a Ralph Nader-like group might be appropriate, but individual action can also have an effect, especially in quantity — carefully worded nasty letters, withdrawals of accounts, threats of lawsuits, and so on. PGN]
Brad writes that there is no way to make USENET news secure, which is perfectly correct (as has been pointed out.) He goes on to say that "I think lots of people have got secure uucp mail, at least within their organization, these days." Sorry, 'taint so. First, on any BSD UNIX system except 4.3, and probably on any other UNIX V7-based system, mail on any machine can be trivially forged, because they all use the "getlogin()" routine to determine the sender. (4.3 does it right — it uses "getpwuid(getuid())".) Look at that routine sometime — it's one of the easiest to spoof. If you have an SMTP mailer, things get to be even more fun. SMTP does not do verification! Just connect to your SMTP mailer as would a foreign host, and you're off. (To test this, we forged a letter from Opus the Penguin at WhiteHouse.ARPA — this was before domaining — asking someone for pickled herring heads for lunch, but if none were handy, for anything but squid. Confused the heck out of the recipient until he asked the local mail guru, me, what happened.) There is an effort by the Internet Advisory Board Task Force on Privacy to do something about protecting mail privacy and allowing it to be authenticated. The task force proposal will be transparent, so it can be dropped onto any SMTP implementation. If you're interested in this, grab a copy of RFC 989 from the NIC. Matt Bishop
Perhaps this is all fallout from cost-effective technology in one area far outstripping advances in others? It is marvelously cheap to implement functions in silicon, but actuators and displays are still (relatively) expensive. Thus one has the digital watch with 37 functions, each accessed by some unique manipulation of only four buttons. For the VCR, providing a screen display requires a (fairly inexpensive?) character generator, but what about for a (non-video) telephone? From a human factors viewpoint the effective bandwidth of the interface limits the number of truly useful functions. But from a marketing viewpoint the ability to advertise a maximum number of (technically useful) functions is very attractive, and may carry the day. I suspect, therefore, that this is going to get worse before it gets better. Mark
I'm putting together a bibliography concerning the certification of computer professionals, and I would appreciate some help. I would like references to material about (a) pros and cons of certification (b) efforts related to certification (c) certification methods (d) current practice in other fields (e) history of certification in other fields Depending on the length of the resulting bibliography, I'll either post it to RISKS or post an announcement about it. Thanks in advance. John Shore firstname.lastname@example.org ...seismo!epiwrl!shore [We have noted previously the question of whether certification might help reduce risks resulting from human foibles during development, maintenance, etc. John's request is thus very relevant here. I look forward to the results! PGN]
"Reliability and Risk", a multiprojector presentation on the computational aspects of the Strategic Defense Initiative, will be given on Wednesday, April 29, 7:30p.m. at the Old Town Hall, in Chelmsford Center. Please forward this to anyone whom you feel would be interested. Thank you. --Joe RELIABILITY AND RISK: COMPUTERS AND NUCLEAR WAR A 34-minute slide/tape presentation Reliability and Risk... ...investigates whether computer errors in key military systems--some of them unpreventable errors--could trigger an inadvertent nuclear war. ...features technical, political, and military experts discussing the role of computers at the heart of civilian and military systems, from the space shuttle to nuclear weapons to Star Wars; ...describes the ways in which all large, complex computer systems make mistakes--often unexpected and unpreventable mistakes: o The 46-cent computer chip failure that led to a high-priority military alert. o The software error that led to the destruction of the first Venus probe. o The design flaw that caused a missile early-warning computer to mistake the rising moon for a fleet of Soviet missiles. ...explores the growing reliance on computerized decision making and how a computer error could trigger a disaster, especially in a time of crisis. ...explains why we should not rely exclusively on computers to make critical, life-and-death decisions. ...uses straightforward language and graphics and is recommended for all audiences. No technical knowledge is required. ...received a Gold Award in the Association for Multi Image New England competition in November, 1986--the largest multi-image competition in the country. Speakers in Reliability and Risk include: o Lt. General James A. Abrahamson, Director, Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) o Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, Ph.D., US Air Force (retired), Former Director, Advanced Space Programs Development o Dr. Robert S. Cooper, Former Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) o Dr. Arthur Macy Cox, Advisor to President Carter, SALT II Negotiations, and Director, American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations o Admiral Noel Gaylor (retired), former Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet o Dr. James Ionson, Director, SDIO Office of Innovative Science and Technology o Severo Ornstein, Computer Scientist (retired) and Founder, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility o Professor David Parnas, Computer Scientist, Resigned from SDIO Panel on Computing in Support of Battle Management o Dr. John Pike, Associate Director, Federation of American Scientists o Dr. William Ury, Director, Harvard Nuclear Negotiation Project o Actress Lee Grant as narrator and many others Reliability and Risk was produced by Interlock Media Associates and CPSR/Boston
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