Barbara Tuchman, in her classic _The Guns of August_, makes a strong case that WWI started because of interleaved alert systems. The issue then was mobilization time in days versus flight time in minutes, but the positive feedback effect was the same. Worth reading by anybody interested in interactions among large systems.
The Feb '88 issue of Unix Review (vol 6, #2) takes "Safe and Secure" as its theme. I found it to be worthwhile reading. Especially useful were Tom Berson's interview with Colonel Roger Schell and an article on cost considerations of security by Gligor & Chandersekaran. If you've got an hour, go find yourself a copy. Happy reading.
Flames aside, there is one good outcome of Richard Brandow's message: On March 2, any MacII user who assumes (as the Chicago Tribune reporter did) that viruses were just an urban legend, will learn otherwise in an easy way, and take appropriate steps to protect his Mac. Amos Shapir National Semiconductor 7C/266 1135 Kern st. Sunnyvale (408) 721-8161 firstname.lastname@example.org till March 1, 88; Then back to email@example.com
[Note: LTAC = Legal Technology Advisory Council. PGN] I have some additional information, which judging from the response I got to my message, may be of interest to enough people to warrant putting it in Risks. Apparently, there are committees like the IEEE Working Groups that LTAC has formed to develop a draft of the guidelines or criteria on which the software will be evaluated. These working groups include representatives from all interested parties, including those who build and sell the software. The guidelines are developed by a concensus process — there is no majority vote. The criteria are discussed until all agree. The guidelines statement is then sent to companies who sell that particular type of software. If a company submits their software to be tested, they receive an exception letter which states where the software does not meet the criteria. This letter provides enough information so that the vendor can replicate the erroneous behavior. The software must satisfy all the mandatory criteria. There are also some preferred criteria which specify additional features that would be nice to include in such software. LTAC has two categories: Standard means that one half the preferred criteria are included and Advanced means that two thirds of the preferred criteria are included. The vendor is given a chance to fix any of the problems mentioned in the exception letter. The same tests are used for each of the software packages of a certain type, e.g., all docketing programs are submitted to the same set of test cases. (I assume that additional test cases are written for special claims by the vendor). The reviews provided for each approved software package are extensive and do not just say "yes" or "no." They are 30-60 pages long and describe the features of the software and the detailed results of the testing process. The review is sent to the vendor first to get their comments. If there are errors in the review and the vendor does not point this out and later discovers them, then the vendor must pay for reprinting the review. A previous Risks message mentioned the problem of the cost of the review. It IS expensive. For example, a single-user Time, Accounting, and Billing system will cost the vendor $27,000 to go through the review process. On the other hand, it seems like vendors could get the published guidelines and provide a warranty themselves if they wanted to — I am sure that would satisfy their customers and also save them the money. The cost of LTAC is not covered by the charges, by the way. Over the three years of existence, the ABA has contributed over $1,000,000 to LTAC. So LTAC is not only non-profit, it is operating at a deficit. One should note that the cost of getting a UL rating is many times greater than the cost of getting the ABA software approval. I do not believe that an LTAC-type operation will solve all our problems with software. But it is an interesting phenomenon to watch the purchasers get together and demand that vendors are truthful and accept responsibility for their products and their claims about their products when government is not taking adequate steps to protect them.
RE: RISKS 6.27 Robert Kennedy <jrk%computer-lab.cambridge.ac.uk@NSS.Cs.Ucl.AC.UK> <> Furthermore, UL, as far as I know, doesn't say whether or not the products <> perform as advertised. They only say whether they are safe or not. Not even that! They license you to mark your units as having met their *minimum* safety standards, as inspected by their engineers. They do not claim it's safe or that they have looked at everything, or that they have written a perfect standard. They will not tell you how to make it safer, only whether or not it meets their interpretation of a given paragraph in a standard. From my readings of Product Liability Cases, it appears that a manufacturer is often held strictly liable for damage or injuries which occurred as a result of the product *regardless* of it's adherence to safety standards. Safety certification efforts by the vendor *DO* help disprove negligence. Note that UL (et al) assumes *no* liability for your product or its use. If you invoke their mantle during litigation, they may start their own investigation of the incident and issue an affadavit as to any deviations found in the unit. This is tantamount to an indictment, should *anything* be found and places the onus clearly on the defendant to now prove irrelevance of each defect to the claimed injury. (Talk about a two-edged sword!) The point is: you cannot hide behind someone else's evaluation if you are the product experts or could have hired one. UL does not claim to be expert, only an inspector and promulgator of Standards. The same would probably hold for a software test agency. It establishes a minimum acceptance, not a quality goal. Barry C. Nelson /Senior Systems Engineer / BBN Communications Corporation / 70 Fawcett Street, Cambridge, MA "This document contains statements of opinion by the author that are not attributable to BBN Communications Corporation or its management." [Some of this was also noted in a contemporaneous message from Ronni Rosenberg. PGN]
In RISKS 6:27, Jonathan Kamens asks: > [...]Can the administration of a supposedly user-privacy-secure system > censor the material that is made accessible on it? Is the presence of > a filesystem on a machine evidence that the administration "supports" > the contents of the filesystem? The answers are, I suggest, "yes" and "it depends". In general, the owner/operator/manager of a computer system has the legal authority to say what can be done with it, and has the legal responsibility to reject unlawful activities where it is aware of them. (There is, of course, a gray area in deciding how much effort must be expended in discovering whether there are any such unlawful uses being made of the system.) For example, if the operator of a BBS is aware that a certain message contains pirated credit card numbers and does not remove the it from the system, then the damaged parties (the credit card holder and/or the issuer) probably have a right of action. If it is not reasonable to expect the operator to screen the messages (Compuserve for example) then there should be no right of action as long as the operator has not been made aware of the improper use. From a legal standpoint I doubt that there is any significance in the question of whether the data was in a private or public file. Once the nature of the material is known the operator may be required to act. Even if the material is not unlawful, the operator of the computer system still has every right to establish policy governing how that system is to be used. If a user doesn't like the policy an attempt can be made to change it, but that's all. Even if the material isn't illegal, management has a valid concern for public relations which isn't helped by allowing the facility to become known as a repository for feelthy peechurs. It's like a newspaper, where the policy is set by the publisher. If the editor doesn't like it, tough. In the case cited in the RISKS entry the Project Athena management was apparently responding to negative publicity which could damage its reputation with individuals who are in a position to affect its business. There doesn't even have to be the extreme of "dirty" material. If the system management wants to declare that game programs are not to be placed on the system, that's their prerogative. If you insist on playing Adventure on the system, you're not welcome. A final note: there is a difference between the legal authority to set policy for a system and the ethical exercise of that right. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Hazelwood student newspaper is a case in point: however ill-considered the specific decision may have been, the school as publisher had the final say on the contents of the paper. Joe Morris
Maybe Project Athena lets you use their resources for any purpose you want. Here in the corporate world, we're allowed to use company resources only for company business. Not that my manager can go snooping into my files (he can't, except under certain exceptional conditions). But if there's a disk space shortage then I could be asked to justify the space I'm consuming. If I honestly say that I'm storing dirty pictures, then I'll be told that it's not a legitimate business use of the system. If I lie, then I deserve to be disciplined. Jay Elinsky, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY
This isn't specifically about the xpix incident, but deals with a very relevant RISK. Many users of "public" computer systems (e.g., a university mainframe) are unaware of policies governing the use of the hardware/software. On our systems at Boston University, anything created on any university-owned mainframe is basically the property of Boston University (there are possible exceptions but they aren't the subject at hand). This means that if a student created a nifty program, s/he would be unable to copyright that program independently of the university. Now, the RISK of this is that the university doesn't make this publicly known (I found out about it after one of my programs turned out to be valuable — I didn't want to sell it but several people commented that the copyright notice I put on it was invalid). From the university's point of view (and probably that of MIT with regards to Athena), they own the system and thus can dictate the use of its resources. If they don't like something, they reserve the right to destroy it/alter it/sell it/whatever. If that is the policy with Athena, an independent user making his files world-readable could just be shut down by the system manager. With regards to copyrights, is it really legal for a university (or other entity) to claim copyright to anything made on their system without the writer's specific permission (eg signing a paper saying that anything done on a company's system is the property of the company unless the company releases it)? I would liken the source on the machine to typing on a piece of paper. The way something is expressed on the paper should be the property of the person that expresses it, not that of the owner of the paper (in the mind of this programmer, at least), which is what I thought was the idea behind the copyright law. This would seem to follow the common practice, too, since people buy programs, music, books, etc but the writer maintains ownership of the expression although the buyer owns the medium. Food for thought. jim frost firstname.lastname@example.org
In RISKS 6.27, Jonathan Kamens speaks of a broader subject than computer pornography. He asks of what ARE your rights on a semi- public (i.e. a system at an institution or workplace) system. I'll just stick in some of the obvious answers after a little backround. ;-) > I am sure you can imagine what kinds of graphics they contained. > After the xpix directories had existed for about a week, the director > of Project Athena announced that complaints about the boys and girls > directories had been made by a dean; the dean had said that she had > received complaints from students. The xpix directory was soon > thereafter made totally inaccessible to Athena users. > First of all, is what Athena did legitimate? Who administers the system? This discussion raged for the longest of times on a system at the University of RI. There was a communications database used by the students for informal chats and discussion groups. The notes sent by some users had a tendency to be abusive and affronting. After a number of users complained to the computing center, the offensive notes, and sometimes entire discussion groups were edited or removed by the staff. The basis for the decision was that PARTICIPATE (the name of the database) was a system maintained resource, so therefore was subject to editing by the staff. If you wanted to be abusive, you had your own account space to be abusive in. > Was it really worth it for Athena to install the directory > protections if there are ways to get around them and the net result is > less efficient use of system resources? See explanation above...... > What are the possible implications of Project Athena's decision? It sounds to me you have a half-way decent administator :-) Although I (here comes the opinion) wouldn't allow them in the first place. > Can the administration of a supposedly user-privacy-secure system > censor the material that is made accessible on it? If it's a system resource, they should. If its your own files located in the directory space provided to you by the system, and the files are not HARMFUL to the system, no. > Is the presence of a filesystem on a machine evidence that the > administration "supports" the contents of the filesystem? That's why the administration EDITS it. Freedom of speech applies to a LOT of areas. This is NOT one of them. They are providing you with space and utilities to perform a specific function. Learn. If you want pornography, go to the local drugstore. Admitted, a system might have a LOT of free space for nonesuch like this, but it also takes more effort to maintain it. CPU time spent copying and reading the data, paper wasted printing it, time spent making archives of the data, time spent restoring the data, the wear and tear on the digitizer. The mind boggles when you consider all of this. Don Mac Phee p.s. All standard disclaimers apply.
***> From: email@example.com (Mark Brader) ***> > The FCC's private radio bureau reported [of the Chase, MD, accident] ***> > that "This terrible collision could have been avoided had the ***> > locomotives been under the control of a central computer." ***> It could also have been avoided if the turnout in question had had ***> a "derail". This device, as the name suggests, would derail one train -- ***> in this case, the locomotives — rather than letting it onto the through ***> line where it could (and did) collide with, Mark brings up a valid point. Unfortunately, that section of track (Just south of the Gunpowder River bridges) has no derails. I haven't been on that section of track, but the layout diagrams I have seen never mentioned a derail. As I recall (since the docs are not in front of me) the track looks like this: Gunpow Bridge <------------A----------------*-C-----------------------> To Washington / To New York <------------B--------------/ The Conrail train, on track B, had ignored at least one warning signal. It ended up going through a stop signal right before it reached the switch. The Engineer hit the brakes as the train went through the switch, and ultimately stopped at point C. At the same time, the AMTRAK train had been approaching the same point on track A. It's reported speed was around 100 MPH. On some sections of AMTRAK's Northeast corridor, 125 MPH is the speed limit. There has been some question as to how wise it is to run trains so fast, when only some of them are under Automatic Train Control (ATC). All AMTRAK trains in the area are under ATC, the CONRAIL trains aren't. Since the CONRAIL train couldn't outrun the AMTRAK, and they couldn't back up (An article in the Washintonian Magazine suggested the engineer of the CONRAIL train considered backing up until the AMTRAK came into view) Impact occurred. A derail switch would have (probably) saved the AMTRAK train. Gunpow Bridge <------------A----------------*------------------------> To Washington / To New York <------------B--------------*--D--! If the derail was installed (Track D) the CONRAIL train would have passed the STOP signal and instead of being forced onto track A would proceed on to track D. The AMTRAK train may have shot by without even knowing there was a problem. The risk here is that the CONRAIL locomotive still would have crashed, the lives of the CONRAIL train crew would be threatened, and if the crash was bad enough it could still spill back onto the "A" track. It seems forcing CONRAIL into using ATC would be a better idea. John McMahon
I don't think that the magnetic clasps on purses could degauss or fully erase credit cards. The magnets may introduce some noise on the magnetic stripe but it should still be legible electronically. First, you need a sufficient strength to really erase. How much is enough? You have to exceed the coercivity of the magnetic stripe on the card. Most of the cards are using a quality magnetic stripe to prevent overwriting by the criminal element. Second, why would the purse manufacturer use a "high coercivity" magnet to keep the purse closed. He is probably going to use the cheapest magnet he can find to do the job. If its too expensive, he'll figure a way to bring back snaps. I think the damage is probably being done in the stores where everyone seems to have an on-line reader. No offense to the hard working clerks but have you really watched how they "read" a card on the reader. How often have they had to reread the card and then, "punch" the numbers into the reader or cash register or call the credit card service bureau. The card could be bad but the reader might be "dirty" or the clerk could be "reading" the card wrong. Concerning the eelskin metalic particles introduced in the tanning process (RISKS-6.25), the stripe on the credit card is a modified magnet. It will when placed near particles which could be magnetized, attract them. The particles could then "dirty" the reader. Which in turn "dirties" another card. Since some of the other conversations in RISKS have been about viruses, this might be a description of a "particle virus". Jack Holleran
> Several cases have been reported here recently in which calls from cellular > telephones to the 911 emergency number have been seriously misdirected due to > automated load shedding by the cellular nodes. The problem arises when the > node nearest a caller is overloaded and a call automatically gets switched to > the next nearest node. For example a person calling 911 in Oakville, Ont. > was redirected to St. Catharines, Ont which is about 85 km away. A low-tech, non-computer solution is easily available. The 911 (or police, fire, ambulance, whatever) dispatchers in adjacent jurisdictions simply monitor one another's radio transmissions. While this is technically in violation of FCC rules, the Commission knows it is done and condones it in the interests of life and safety. For example, state and local police here have, in earlier days, monitored one another's transmissions to coordinate problems as have fire departments in adjacent jurisdictions. Brint
Legal Issues of Computer Graphics Susan Hubbell Nycum Date: February 23, Tuesday (4th Tuesday of the Month) Time: 8 PM Location: Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), 3333 Coyote Hill Road Bay Area ACM/SIGGRAPH Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics Ms. Nycum will speak on the legal issues involving computer graphics. The focus will be on proprietary protection including the recent developments in copyright for screen displays and patents for user interfaces. (Ms. Nycum is a partner of the international law firm of Baker and McKenzie resident in the Palo Alto Office, specializing in the legal aspects of high technology including computers and communications — proprietary-rights, licensing technology transfer, governmental regulation, privacy, computer crime, licensing, litigation and general advice to high technology companies and organizations using high technology products and services.)
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