[excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle, 10 May 1990] ... Jean Olivier, NASA's deputy manager of the Hubble project, said that when they designed pointing instructions for the telescope, astronomers relied on star charts made in the 1950s. But the stars have moved since then from Earth's vantage point. The mistake was made when the scientists factored in the extent of that movement. They corrected in the wrong direction and "instead of subtracting it they added it or vice versa," Olivier said. ... [end of excerpt] However, I've heard that the Daily Telegraph attributed the miscalculation to programmer error; a programmer mistyped the addition as a subtraction. I'm more likely to believe the Chronicle's report, as the media nowadays prefer to attribute errors to "computer error" if they can; otherwise they'll try to attribute it to "programmer error". Saying that the scientists messed up is much less exciting-sounding and doesn't sell as many papers. --rjc
>EXCERPTED From The Detroit News, Thursday, May 10, 1990, Section B, p.1: FEDS PULL PLUG ON HACKERS Computer-fraud raid hits two homes in Michigan By Joel J. Smith, Detroit News Staff Writer Secret Service agents got a big surprise when they raided a Jackson-area home as part of an investigation of a nationwide computer credit card and telephone fraud scheme. They found a manual that details how almost anybody can use a computer to steal. It also describes how to avoid detection by federal agents. On Wednesday, James G. Huse, Jr., special agent in charge of the Secret Service office in Detroit, said the manual was discovered when his agents and Michigan State Police detectives broke into a home in Clark Lake, near Jackson, on Tuesday. Agents, who also raided a home in Temperance, Mich., near the Ohio border, confiscated thousands of dollars in computer equipment suspected of being used by computer buffs — known as hackers — in the scheme. The raids were part of a national computer fraud investigation called Operation Sundevil in which 150 agents simultaneously executed 28 search warrants in 16 U.S. cities. Forty-two computer systems and 23,000 computer disks were seized across the country. The nationwide network reportedly has bilked phone companies of $50 million. Huse said the Secret Service has evidence that computers in both of the Michigan homes were used to obtain merchandise with illegally obtained credit card numbers. He said long-distance telephone calls from the homes also were billed to unsuspecting third parties. There were no arrests, because it was not known exactly who was using the computers at the homes. Huse also said there was no evidence that the suspects were working together. Rather, they probably were sharing information someone had put into a national computer "bulletin board". [...]
Narrative in a nutshell: Requirement: Fly to Toulouse from London late on Sunday 6th May (but not too late to get a good French meal!). Install and check software for demo at workshop in 2 weeks' time. Return afternoon of Monday 7th May. Implementation: Travel agent books Dan-Air flight. Sends tickets in folder with "6/5/90" scribbled on cover (no proper itinerary provided). Understand from secretary flight is 1430 from Gatwick. Bug: Check ticket at 0530 Sunday morning. (Academic life isn't as relaxed as it used to be pre-Thatcher :-) Flight actually booked for 1430 Saturday 5th May. Ring travel agent in panic. Agent apologises for cock-up. Promises no problem: rebook flight for 1430 Sunday, flight nowhere near full. Grateful relief. Begin to feel sorry I woke his wife up so early. Operation: Uneventful flight out. Nice dinner. Software works (!! :-). Arrive Toulouse airport for return flight. Another bug: "You don't seem to be booked on this flight, monsieur! But I see that your ticket is valid. No problem! The flight is not full. We can book you a seat." "But how the..." "Mais oui! If you did not show up for the outward flight, your return booking would be automatically cancelled. But as it happens, we have spare seats, so do not worry!" Diagnosis: Minor communications problem, aggravated by Dan-Air's natural assumption that someone who hadn't bothered to turn up to fly *out* to Toulouse wouldn't be turning up *in* Toulouse to fly *back*. But wait... In-depth diagnosis (Courtesy of Ralph Adam, offering consultancy at the usual City University rate in the Saddlers' Bar, Thursday 11th May, late): Dan-Air use the Texas Air Services airline booking system "System 1". (This is one of the 'big four', all based in the US, and is owned by US Airlines.) Built into this database is a requirement that a return flight be reconfirmed after departure on the outward leg of the journey. The reason is to prevent passengers in the US buying a return ticket (cheaper than a single in some cases) and using the return half only. My problem on return had nothing to do with Dan-Air. It was a side-effect of an attempt to close a loophole in the ticket price structure of various US airlines. The database is physically situated in the US. On-line access for seat booking is, well, on-line. Any other information retrieval requires 3 to 4 weeks of bureaucratic delay. If the flight had been full, if I had been stuck in Toulouse for a couple of days, and if I had raised hell (Oh, no! Not another hot oysters in champagne and steak tartare at the Brasserie des Beaux Arts! 'Allo, 'allo! C'est moi encore! Il n'y avait plus de places sur l'avion. Ah, ton mari! Quelle bonne surprise! :-), it might have taken a month to answer my query about why the return flight had been cancelled (assuming the travel agent and airline didn't already know!). I am assured by Ralph that this sort of thing is old hat to veteran readers of RISKS, but if anyone is interested in the economics of airline booking systems, the following should be a good read: Adam R.: "A Licence to Steal", J. of Information Science, Iss. 2, 1990 Peter Mellor, Centre for Software Reliability, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB Tel.: +44 (0)71-253-4399 Ext. 4162/3/1
The following is extracted from a front page article in today's DAILY MIRROR. The 2 inch high headline reads: F R E E P H O N E T H E W O R L D "BRITISH TELECOM is being conned out of millions by fiddlers making free international calls ... using a BT gadget. Shocked Telecom chiefs secretly tried to withdraw the GBP 9.95 "magic box" which is supposed to be used with phone answering machines — a month ago. But the DAILY MIRROR can disclose they are still on sale in BT stores." ... "And there is a thriving black market for them on street corners and in pubs where they are changing hands for up to GBP 1000. The 3in x 2in device, known as a remote interrogator, is designed to enable people to phone home and pick up messages from their answering machines. But cheats have discovered that by using it in some phone boxes and pressing two vital numbers, they can call anywhere in Britain or the world without charge." --- There's a full colour photograph of the "device" on the front-page. It appears to be a simple 12-key DTMF tone dialler. I seriously doubt that they are changing hands for GBP 1000, but if they are, I have this bridge that their purchasers might also be interested in .... The risk management (or utter lack of it) in this case is so obvious that I'll refrain from adding any further comment. Nigel Roberts. Tel: +44 860 57 860 0
I recently had an unpleasant taste of the disadvantages of the caller identification that may be more widespread soon. A few weeks ago I called the university police's business line from my office phone and asked a few minutes of questions about how to find out about outstanding warrants (I had heard of someone getting arrested while renewing his driver's liscence). I informed the officer that I spoke with that this was entirely moot. After receiving my replies, I thought that was the end of it. Thus you can imagine my surprise and annoyance to find that two uniformed, armed officers and their sargeant came to my workplace (having located that using the campus centrex's caller-id ability on phones with appropriate displays), spoke with my coworkers, knocked on my office door, and via suprise and intimidation verified my ID. This permitted them to run a warrant check on me. I was clean, which was no surprise to me. They skulked away shortly thereafter. Conversations with the chief of police indicated that the rather zealous instigating officer's behavior was within "acceptable" bounds, and if you raise "enough" suspicion (on a slow day?), this constitutes justification for nosing about your workplace. The RISK is that the officer wouldn't have been able to easily trace the number except for the abilities of the private exchange.
Summary of report on All Things Considered (NPR), Friday, May 11, 1990: Private LInes, Inc. of Beverly Hills provides a telephone service for those wanting to avoid automatic number indentification. You simply call a 900 number which then lets you call out through Private Lines WATS numbers. ANI at the receiving end of course then displays only the Beverly Hills number of Private Lines. NPR interviewed president of Private LInes who defended need for such a service. He of course said that the service was not intended to help obscene callers and their rates would make obscene calling through Private LInes a very expensive habit ($2/minute, I think). (NPR noted that ANI had already resulted in several arrests of obscene callers in the Atlantic Southern area where ANI is heavily promoted for that purpose.) He cited the following legitimate reasons for avoiding ANI and any billing record of the numbers called. (1) Boss is quietly working on a merger deal and doesn't want secretaries and accountants in the firm noticing a sudden increase in calls to a particular other firm. (2) Separated spouse wants to call kids but doesn't want spouse to know from where he or she is calling. (3) Caller to crisis line or crime tip line wants to guarantee annonymity. Gary McClelland email@example.com
[As root@csl,] I received several replies from people who got two copies of RISKS 9.89. All these people have one thing in common....BITNET !! I have asked these people for the headers of the RISKS digests in hopes of narrowing it down to one listserv machine. I will keep you up to date on my findings, -E- [The above problem was clearly a BITNET problem. Later news indicates the surprise discovery of a lurking CHRON problem that forced another pass over a random sublist when a time-out occurred. The resulting cleanup -- without changes to our sendmail — has resulted in no duplicate mailing problems on our end for the last four four issues. Perhaps our main woes are over. Stay tuned for details. PGN]
New England Journal of Medicine, 3 May 1990, has a letter to the editor, p. 1323, titled "Laser-printer rhinitis".
The purpose of this posting is to thank those who recently posted regarding the possible environmental hazards of photocopiers — and to invite them to repost to the SAFETY list at UVMVM! Peter Jones (514)-987-3542
**CALL FOR PAPERS** Second IFIP Working Conference on DEPENDABLE COMPUTING FOR CRITICAL APPLICATIONS Can we rely on computers? Hotel Park Tucson, Tucson, Arizona, USA February 18-20, 1991 Organized by IFIP Working Group 10.4 on Dependable Computing and Fault Tolerance This is the second Working Conference on this topic, following a successful initial conference held in August, 1989, on the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara (USA). As evidenced by papers that were presented and discussed at that meeting, critical applications of computing systems are concerned with differing service properties, relating to both the nature of proper service and the system's ability to deliver it. These include thresholds of performance and real-time responsiveness that demark loss of proper service (failure), continuity of proper service, ability to avoid catastrophic failures, and prevention of deliberate privacy intrusions. The notion of dependability, defined as the trustworthiness of computer service such that reliance can justifiably be placed on this service, enables these various concerns to be subsumed within a single conceptual framework. Dependability thus includes as special cases such attributes as reliability, availability, safety, and security. In keeping with the goals of the previous conference, the aim of this meeting is to encourage further integration of theory, techniques, and tools for specifying, designing, implementing, assessing, validating, operating, and maintaining computer systems that are dependable in the broad sense. Of particular, but not exclusive, interest are presentations that address combinations of dependability attributes, e.g., safety and security, through studies of either a theoretical or an applied nature. Submitting a Paper: Five copies (in English) of original work should be submitted by August 13, 1990, to the Program Chair: John F. Meyer, EECS Department, 2114B EECS Bldg., The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2122, USA Tel: +(1) 313 763 0037 Fax: +(1) 313 763 4617 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Papers should be limited to 6000 words, full page figures being counted as 300 words. Each paper should include a short abstract and a list of keywords indicating subject classification. Important Dates: Submission deadline: August 13, 1990 Acceptance notification: November 25, 1990 Camera-ready copy due: January 14, 1991 General Chair R.D. Schlichting The University of Arizona, USA Vice-General Chair J.J. Quisquater Philips Research, Belgium Program Committee J. Abraham (USA), A. Costes (Fr.), M.C. Gaudel (Fr.), V. Gligor (USA), J. Goldberg (USA), D. Gollmann (FRG), G. Hagelin (Sweden), H. Ihara (Japan), H. Kopetz (Aus.), J. Lala (USA), C. Landwehr (USA), G. Le Lann (Fr.), J. McDermid (UK), M. Morganti (Italy), J.M. Rata (Fr.), D. Rennels (USA), J. Rushby (USA), E. Schmitter (FRG), S. Shrivastava (UK), D. Siewiorek (USA), L. Simoncini (Italy), R. Turn (USA), U. Voges (FRG)
The *Journal Of Systems and Software* is preparing a special issue on Computing and Ethics. Although the major emphasis will be ethical issues faced by the Computing Professional, other subjects will be considered. Please send your papers by July 1, 1990 to: Donald Gotterbarn The Wichita State University Computer Science, Box 83 Wichita, KS 67208 Send questions by email to: email@example.com.UKans.EDU, firstname.lastname@example.org
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