[risks] Risks Digest 22.30

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Date: Tue Oct 15 2002 - 14:00:45 PDT

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    RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Tuesday 15 October 2002  Volume 22 : Issue 30
       ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann, moderator
    ***** See last item for further information, disclaimers, caveats, etc. *****
    This issue is archived at <URL:http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/22.30.html>
    and by anonymous ftp at ftp.sri.com, cd risks .
    $34M fails to fix DC payroll computers (David L. Matthews)
    Man dies after playing computer games non-stop (Mike Hogsett)
    My dishplayer and my digital phone don't play well together (William Colburn)
    Pac*Bell menu (Dave Stringer-Calvert)
    The democratic principle and "client-side" denial-of-service (Andrés Silva)
    Hazards of online translation and plagiarism (George Mannes)
    Lying 'Lie Detectors' (William Safire via Monty Solomon)
    Risk of chaining substitutions (Mich Kabay)
    Nigerian use of technology in elections (Fuzzy Gorilla)
    Re: Butterfly ballots and electronic counting (George Russell, 
      Toby Gottfried, anon123, Tony Finch, David Damerell, Scott Nicol)
    Re: Weak encryption kills wolves (Ulf Lindqvist, Erling Kristiansen)
    REVIEW: "Information Warfare", Michael Erbschloe (Rob Slade)
    DIMACS Workshop on Software Security (Gary McGraw)
    Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)
    Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 09:51:59 -0400 (EDT)
    From: "David L. Matthews" <dlmat_private>
    Subject: $34M fails to fix DC payroll computers
    Washington DC officials spent more than $20 million transferring payroll
    data for city employees cutting over to a new computer system (Comprehensive
    Automated Personnel and Payroll System) from a 33-year-old system that had a
    long history of inaccurate and late paychecks.  After a year, the new system
    was no better, so they then spent another $14 million reverting back to the
    old system.  [PGN-ed]   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/
      [This saga is not atypical of other cases noted here previously,
      but RISKS readers will find many lessons of what NOT to do in the
      *Post* article.  PGN]
    Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 18:21:56 -0700
    From: Mike Hogsett <hogsettat_private>
    Subject: Man dies after playing computer games non-stop
    A 24-year-old South Korean man (identified only as Kim, a very common
    Korean name) was found dead in an Internet cafe after playing computer games
    nonstop for 86 hours, apparently without sleep or meals.  [PGN-ed]
    Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 14:29:36 -0600
    From: William Colburn <schlakeat_private>
    Subject: My dishplayer and my digital phone don't play well together
    For my telephone needs I have a Nokia 6190 with firmware V5.53.  For my
    television needs I have Dishnetwork Dishplayer running at whatever version
    they last pushed to it.  I have known for a while that my telephone and my
    dishplayer have an "interaction".  When I am about to receive a call, the
    audio on my television has a modem-like sound buried in it.  Similar sounds
    come up periodically when the telephone is sitting idle as well, probably
    some kind of background communication between it and the tower.
    Yesterday, while I was watching the Discovery Channel, an emergency came up
    and I had to make some phone calls.  I moved into the next room with my
    telephone.  After a little while of talking on the phone, and making several
    different calls, my phone suddenly synchronized with the Discovery Channel.
    The audio track that I could hear from the next room was also being played
    over my telephone.  I tried telling the person I was talking to what had
    happened, but when I talked the telephone amplified my own voice over its
    speaker (but not on the television).  I I hung up and redialed, but my
    telephone continued to play the Discovery Channel to me.  I had to power
    cycle my telephone to make it stop.  The person I was talking to knew that I
    had hung up on them, but hadn't heard anything unusual.
    If it happens again, I think I'll try changing channels on the television to
    see what happens.  Maybe I can get the audio track to a channel I'm not
    subscribed too!  :)
    The risks here, are that wireless devices could someday/somehow use the
    wrong radio signal and do bizarre and unexpected things.
    Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 13:13:54 -0700
    From: Dave Stringer-Calvert <dave_scat_private>
    Subject: Pac*Bell menu
    Less than sane pacbell menu system:
    "If you have a dead line, and cannot make calls, press 1"
    <press 1>
    "If you are calling from the line you are having problems with, press 1,
    else press 2"  [...]
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 10:50:00 +0200
    From: =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Andr=E9s?= Silva <asilvaat_private>
    Subject: The democratic principle and "client-side" denial-of-service
    Extracted from "Hacktivists target trade summit":
    A coalition of cyber-protesters plan to flood 28 websites associated with
    this weekend's free trade negotiations at the Summit of the Americas with
    page requests and e-mail messages.  ...  Dorothy E. Denning, a computer
    crime and security expert at Georgetown University, thought the group
    deserved to be regarded as a political, rather than a criminal,
    organization. "They operate openly and publicly," Denning said. "They also
    try to operate by a democratic principle, meaning lots of people have to
    protest to make it effective."  She was impressed when the group cancelled a
    cyber-protest over genetic engineering that had failed to get majority
    support in an online vote.
    In an effort to disassociate themselves from the "server-side"
    denial-of-service attacks that took down Yahoo and eBay last year, the
    electrohippies call their technique a "client-side" denial-of-service
    The difference, according to an electrohippie essay called Occasional Paper
    No. 1, is that client-side actions require thousands of individuals
    (clients) using their PCs to participate in order to be effective, while it
    only takes one person to launch a server-side attack. This is the
    "democratic principle" that impresses Denning.
    Andrés Silva
    Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 18:30:16 -0400
    From: George.Mannesat_private
    Subject: Hazards of online translation and plagiarism
    The original correction, from a student newspaper at Washington State
     The Daily Evergreen would like to sincerely apologize for an injustice
     served to the Filipino-American, Spanish-speaking and Catholic communities
     on the front page of Thursday's Evergreen.  The story "Filipino-American
     history recognized" stated that the "Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza,"
     the galleon on which the first Filipinos landed at Morro, Bay, Calif.,
     loosely translates to "The Big Ass Spanish Boat." It actually translates to
     "Our Lady of Good Peace."
     Parts of the story, including the translation above, were plagiarized from
     an inaccurate Web site.
     October is Filipino-American History Month. Members of the
     Filipino-American Student Association of WSU will hold events to celebrate
     thier history and culture all month. They should be able to celebrate
     without gross inaccuracies and poor coverage by the Evergreen.
     We hope these groups accept our deep regret.                      
    The explanation, from the *Seattle Times*:
    George Mannes  www.thestreet.com  1-212-321-5208  george.mannesat_private
    14 Wall Street - 15th Floor / New York, NY  10005
    Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 17:12:20 -0400
    From: Monty Solomon <montyat_private>
    Subject: Lying 'Lie Detectors'
    Lying 'Lie Detectors', William Safire, *The New York Times*, 10 Oct 2002
    Longtime readers of this column have noticed some recurring themes: I'm for
    personal privacy and have an affinity for the often-betrayed Kurdish
    people.  I despise state-sponsored gambling as well as the form of torture
    that calls itself the "lie detector."
    Win some, lose some. Losses: Lawmakers are playing the slots, and privacy
    has been taking a beating from both government and private snoops. But some
    wins: The Kurds we protect in northern Iraq are united and ready to join in
    a fight for freedom.  And this week, the polygraph -- that hit-and-miss
    machine measuring sweat, speedy heartbeat and other signs of nervousness --
    has been discredited as the judge of truth-telling.
    After 19 months of study, experts convened by the National Research Council,
    an arm of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, concluded that
    "national security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument,"
    and noted pointedly that "no spy has ever been caught [by] using the
    polygraph."  ...
    Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 12:17:50 -0400
    From: "Michel E. Kabay" <mekabayat_private>
    Subject: Risk of chaining substitutions
    OBSERVATIONS: A message to one of my students bounced because his e-mail
    service refused the large attachment I had sent him.
    He gave me a different e-mail address to use.  I dutifully entered it into
    the TO: field in my e-mail client and sent him the file again.
    That message bounced and I noticed that it had gone to the original address
    instead of to the desired address.
    ANALYSIS: Had I simply written the wrong address into the TO field?
    Investigation revealed that the e-mail client I am using (Outlook 2000 SR-1
    v cheerfully looked up the e-mail address in my contact list,
    found it as his secondary e-mail address, converted the secondary address
    into my student's name, then converted the name into his primary address.
    These conversions were done entirely without visible notification.  This
    sequence of events is repeatable.
    WORKAROUND: Right-clicking on the student's name in the TO field did bring
    up a little menu that allowed me to force the secondary address to be used.
    INTERPRETATION:  My guess is that 
    (1) Someone decided that when one types a name into the TO: field, it's
    helpful to look up the e-mail address and plug it into place while still
    showing the name; thus a name becomes underlined when there's a match.  So
    far so good: very useful and unobjectionable.
    (2) Someone (else?) decided that the opposite change would also be useful;
    i.e., if one writes an e-mail address into a destination field, the program
    automatically looks it up and shows the underlined name instead of the
    address.  Also reasonable.
    (3) Now a tricky bit: someone decided to allow multiple e-mail addresses in
    the Contact list.  However, the conversion from a name into an e-mail
    address always uses the *referred* address -- and there is no notification
    of this choice.  Also reasonable, albeit on shakier grounds.  After all, if
    there is a preferred address, we ought to use it, right?  And if we need to
    change it, presto! There's a pop-up menus that lets us choose from the
    alternate addresses.  Great! Works fine.
    (4) Ah, now we hit pay dirt: someone decided to allow steps (2) and (3) to
    work in sequence without user intervention.  And there we have it: typing an
    alternate address into a destination field silently converts it to the
    *wrong address*.
    1. If you override your users' inputs and propose to change their entry to
    what you think is better, tell them you're doing so and let them refuse the
    2. Don't link a series of operations together without thinking about the
    consequences of that chain of operations.
    M.E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP, AssocProf InfoAssur, Dept CompInfoSys, 
    Norwich University, Northfield VT  mkabay(at)norwich(dot)edu
    Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 11:32:32 -0400
    From: "Fuzzy Gorilla" <fuzzygorillaat_private>
    Subject: Nigerian use of technology in elections
    Nigerian officials are investing $30 million in technology (including
    BioLink fingerprint scanning) in hopes that next April's presidential
    election -- their first under a civilian government in 42 years of statehood
    -- will be peaceful.  A trial run in late September resulted in riots after
    would-be voters were informed there were no more registration forms
    (apparently having been hoarded by lower-level officials -- 70M were printed
    for 60M supposed eligible voters), with reports of shootings, lootings and
    takeovers of government and business facilities as well.  The fingerprints
    will hopefully prevent voters registering more than once, especially with
    multiple identities.  [Source: Nigeria Vote: Peace Through Tech?  Michelle
    Delio, Lycos/wired.com, 11 Oct 2002; PGN-ed]
      [Perhaps the Nigerians are still using the old African technique of
      putting a pebble into one of several competing jars.  Assuming no
      fraudulent pebbles are introduced and the pebbles are all similarly sized
      if you want to avoid actually counting them, that scheme might actually be
      more trustworthy than all-electronic voting in the absence of any
      assurance that your vote will be counted correctly (as noted previously in
      RISKS).  The pebble scheme is clearly not rock-et science, but the
      opportunities for rocking the ballot box still seem to be considerable.
      But the idea of using biometrics in the voting process may merely move
      fraud around to other parts of the process, especially if the other parts
      are inherently not trustworthy.  PGN]
      [Incidentally, PGN asked our long-time election technology expert on this
      subject to comment.  This was her response:]
        Not only that, but this also brings up a lot of human rights issues.
        Sure, "democracies" might want us to ante up our biometrics to the
        government for the "privilege" of voting.  Makes one almost want to live
        in a dictatorship!  Rebecca Mercuri
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 10:54:12 +0200
    From: George Russell <gerat_private>
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots and electronic counting (Erickson, RISKS-22.29)
    Remind me, how much did the Presidential candidates in 2000 spend on
    television advertising again?  Don't you think it might have been better
    to have spent, say, 10% of that on getting the votes counted properly?
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 19:35:42 -0700
    From: "Toby Gottfried" <tobyat_private>
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots and electronic counting (Erickson, RISKS-22.29)
    >That means *millions* of votes have to be counted in a few hours.
    "have to be"?
    Only because our society (mainly the news media) is obsessed with instant
    Oh, the horror of going to bed on election night not knowing ... not finding
    out until the next morning or the day after that ... the uncertainty ... the
    waiting ... what ever would we do ?
    Most US elections don't take effect until at least a couple of months later
    (November to January for national elections).
    Out of those 60 or so days, I could spend the first two or three not knowing
    an election outcome.  Unfortunately, the TV news people can't.
    Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 14:31:43 -0700
    From: anon123at_private
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots (Russell, RISKS-22.28)
    The California Constitution puts the burden for counting votes on the voter,
    not the government:
      SEC. 2.5.  A voter who casts a vote in an election in accordance
      with the laws of this State shall have that vote counted.
    RISK of poorly worded laws?  "A voter...shall..." vs. "the state shall count
    that vote."
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 15:09:30 +0100
    From: Tony Finch <dotat_private>
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots and other election stuff (Olsen, RISKS-22.29)
    In the UK each elected position has its own ballot paper, so you will often
    have to mark more than one piece of paper at the polling station. This
    allows the votes for each post to be counted in parallel, and it means that
    recounts can be done efficiently because counting for the second post does
    not mess up the sorting of the ballot papers for the first post.
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 12:32:31 +0100 (BST)
    From: David Damerell <damerellat_private>
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots
    >Also, look up the population of Florida and compare it with the
    >population of Britain.
    OK... Florida's population is about 16 million. Britain's population is
    about 60 million. So I'm not sure what the point is here, especially since
    our counting system would scale perfectly well to a population of 600
    The solution to the long ballot problem is surely to put the important
    selections on a separate ballot that can be easily hand-counted, and let the
    (existing, well-understood) machines deal with the assistant dog-catchers
    and whatnot.
    David Damerell <damerellat_private>
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2002 00:47:51 -0400
    From: Scott Nicol <snicolat_private>
    Subject: Re: Butterfly ballots
    The US has about double the per capita GDP of Britain.  If the Brits can
    afford it, the US certainly can.  As for trained volunteers, you'd have them
    if you recruited and trained them.  It's got to be less effort than what is
    put into the census.
      [Scott also noted the relative populations... PGN]
    Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 16:59:07 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Ulf Lindqvist <ulfat_private>
    Subject: Re: Weak encryption kills wolves (Fredriksson, RISKS-22.29)
    The original article in *Dagens Nyheter* does not mention encryption per se
    and there is no indication that any encryption has been broken (the phrase
    "broken the code" is probably used in a very generic sense).  The statement
    that anyone could triangulate the current transmitters makes me suspect that
    they are either (a) not even transponders, but transmit a signal at regular
    intervals, or (b) simple transponders that are activated by a simple tone
    signal or similar. In case (a), encryption of the signal content would not
    prevent triangulation of the radio signal by unauthorized parties.  In case
    (b), encryption of the activation signal would make it harder for the
    hunters to activate the transponder, unless replay attacks were possible. Of
    course, as long as it is active, anyone could triangulate the transponder.
    What would be a better system, from the point of view of the wolves and the
    researchers?  If the wolves could be fitted with GPS receivers, the
    transmitter could use encryption and more advanced radio techniques to send
    its position to the authorized receiver, as no triangulation would be
    Ulf Lindqvist, System Design Lab, SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Ave,
    Menlo Park CA 94025-3493, USA +1 650 859-2351 http://www.sdl.sri.com/
    Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2002 20:17:02 +0200
    From: Erling Kristiansen <erling.kristiansenat_private>
    Subject: Re: Weak encryption kills wolves (Fredriksson, RISKS-22.29)
    It seems to me that encryption is not really the issue here. Encryption
    could hide the identity of a particular wolf, but would not hide the radio
    signal as such. There is likely to be very few radio transmitters in "wolf
    country", so if you find a signal on the right frequency, it is likely to
    come from a wolf transmitter.
    What is called for is a means to make detection of the signal itself
    difficult/impossible. Spread spectrum techniques spring to mind: By
    spreading the radio signal over a wide frequency spectrum, detection is
    impossible unless you know how the spreading was done, and are able to
    "de-spread" the signal. In other words, you hide the signal in the noise for
    anybody not having the code to extract it.
    Spread spectrum is used in military systems for exactly this reason.  (And
    used in mobile telephony, but for other reasons that are not relevant to
    this subject)
    Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2002 12:42:20 -0800
    From: Rob Slade <rsladeat_private>
    Subject: REVIEW: "Information Warfare", Michael Erbschloe
    BKINFWFR.RVW   20020721
    "Information Warfare", Michael Erbschloe, 2001, 0-07-213260-4, U$29.99
    %A   Michael Erbschloe
    %C   300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario   L1N 9B6
    %D   2001
    %G   0-07-213260-4
    %I   McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne
    %O   U$29.99 800-565-5758 905-430-5134 fax: 905-430-5020
    %P   315 p.
    %T   "Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber Attacks"
    In both the preface and the introduction, the author makes a point of
    stating that this book is different from others in the field, that it does
    not simply use the old military paradigm to analyze information warfare,
    and, as a result, will be more useful to business.  It is, therefore, rather
    startling to find, in chapter one, background basics that stick strictly to
    the military model.  Everything is presented purely from the perspective of
    single attacker and single defender, and it's definitely black hat versus
    white.  The model thus constructed is weak in several areas, and would not
    seem to be able to even address a number of issues.  For example, writers
    such as Dorothy Denning (cf. BKINWRSC.RVW) postulate the potential harm that
    can arise from corrupted data and other misinformation, which may be used
    for purposes ranging from propaganda to degrading decision systems.  And
    what do we do about business situations, where today's colleague may be
    tomorrow's competitor?  Chapter two uses profligate verbiage to list a few
    points about economic impacts that will come as no surprise whatsoever to
    anyone with the slightest background in business impact analysis.  In
    chapter three, Erbschloe turns to fiction.  He proposes a scenario in which
    a gang of cyber-terrorists causes one trillion dollars worth of damage.  In
    doing so, the author demonstrates that a) his experience in information
    warfare is limited to viruses, b) his experience with viruses is limited to
    Loveletter, and c) he believes all the movie stereotypes about "hackers."
    Black hat communities are seldom as cosmopolitan as the one proposed.  They
    are never as original: multiple viruses based on the model used would
    quickly be caught by generic means.  It is also a lot easier to write simple
    virus variations than it is to break into specific targeted systems for
    specific targeted information.
    We are told, in chapter four, that in order to fight against the information
    warfare threat, all governments and militaries must get together.  (Can we
    hear a chorus of "And do it my way!" swelling in the background?)  Then we
    have a relay of military strategies in chapter five.  Supposedly chapter six
    turns to corporate strategies, but with the emphasis on terrorists and the
    FBI, we seem to be back to the military again.  A number of tables are used
    to assert that terrorists and rogue criminals are interested in attacking
    various industries.  (Proof of these statements seems to be singularly
    lacking.)  Chapter eight lists companies proposed to be in the "information
    warfare" reserve: able to provide expertise in the event of an attack.  In
    light of the recent business debacles, these lists unintentionally provide
    some of the most humorous reading in the book.  (For those who know the
    security problems of some of these companies, the lists are even funnier.)
    Tellingly, the material on the civilian "casualties" of infowar, in chapter
    nine, is the most restricted in the book.  Chapter ten seems to move into
    fiction again.  Erbschloe, without much in the way of evidence, says that
    the "geek in the basement" brigade is now about to turn pro, en masse.  (He
    also states that we are going to have a skilled and active black hat
    population of 600,000 by 2005.)  The statement, in chapter eleven, that we
    need more skilled law enforcement people is unsurprising, and also
    unhelpful.  The conclusion, in chapter twelve, that we need more money and
    attention for security is equally useless.
    This is a verbose reiteration of minor points that are evident to anyone
    with any background in security, let alone specialists in the information
    warfare field.  Mind you, the book was probably not intended for experts.
    However, readers with no knowledge of data security are likely to be misled.
    They will feel that they have been taught about information warfare.  They
    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002   BKINFWFR.RVW   20020721
    rsladeat_private  rsladeat_private  sladeat_private p1at_private
    http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev    or    http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
    Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 17:20:39 -0400 
    From: Gary McGraw <gemat_private>
    Subject: DIMACS Workshop on Software Security
    Dates: January 6-7, 2003
    Location: DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University
      Gary McGraw, chair, Cigital, gemat_private 
      Ed Felten, Princeton University, feltenat_private 
      Virgil Gligor, University of Maryland, gligorat_private 
      Dave Wagner, University of California at Berkeley, dawat_private 
    Invited Speakers:
    * Brian Kernighan, Princeton University: 
      Coding Excellence: Security as a Side Effect of Good Software 
    * Michael Howard, Microsoft: 
      The Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Initiative from the Inside
    * Dan Geer, @STake:
      Software Security in the Big Picture: Repeating ourselves all over again
    WWW Information: http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/Workshops/Software/
    The security of computer systems and networks has become increasingly
    limited by the quality and security of the software running on these
    machines.  Researchers have estimated that more than half of all
    vulnerabilities are due to buffer overruns, an embarrassingly elementary
    class of bugs.  All too often systems are hacked by exploiting software
    bugs.  In short, a central and critical aspect of the security problem is a
    software problem.  How can we deal with this?
    The Software Security Workshop will explore these issues. The scope of the
    workshop will include security engineering, architecture and implementation
    risks, security analysis, mobile and malicious code, education and training,
    and open research issues.  In recent years many promising techniques have
    arisen from connections between computer security, programming languages,
    and software engineering, and one goal is to bring these communities closer
    together and crystallize the subfield of software security.
    Date: 29 Mar 2002 (LAST-MODIFIED)
    From: RISKS-requestat_private
    Subject: Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)
     The RISKS Forum is a MODERATED digest.  Its Usenet equivalent is comp.risks.
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    End of RISKS-FORUM Digest 22.30

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