[risks] Risks Digest 23.05

From: RISKS List Owner (risko@private)
Date: Wed Dec 03 2003 - 14:52:12 PST

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    RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Weds 3 December 2003  Volume 23 : Issue 05
       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 http://www.risks.org as
    The current issue can be found at
    Two loose screws killed Disneyland rider (PGN)
    US railroad uses Wi-Fi to run 'driverless' trains (Lars Kongshem)
    Nuclear plan shut down by lightning strike (Fuzzy Gorilla)
    Tanker Truck Shutdown Via Satellite (Fuzzy Gorilla)
    Microsoft Windows, Auto Edition (Andrew Whitby)
    What Bill Gates Says About Security (from InformIT) (Dawn Cohen)
    Another large gas bill (Amos Shapir)
    UK MoD scraps 120-million-pound computer project (Fuzzy Gorilla)
    How Much Is Privacy Worth? (Monty Solomon)
    Government e-mails apparently sent to hairdresser (Neil Youngman)
    'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, LA officials say
      (Henry Baker)
    Security subtleties (identity withheld by request)
    Man trapped for hours by payphone (Mark Brader)
    Debian security breach and forensic analysis (Gerrit Muller)
    Re: Security patching: a story from the trenches (Walter Dnes)
    Dangerous looking e-mail from quickbooks (Kyle York)
    Re: In-Security clearance (Peter H. Coffin)
    Re: Amber Alert, Coming to the Inbox Nearest You (Timothy Knox)
    Re: Cehck tihs out! (Rodney Hoffman)
    ANNOUNCE: New mailing list for secure application development, SC-L 
      (Kenneth R. van Wyk)
    Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)
    Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2003 15:17:15 -0800 (PST)
    From: Peter G Neumann <neumann@private>
    Subject: Two loose screws killed Disneyland rider
    Improper maintenance and inadequate operator training are being blamed for
    the death of the rider of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster
    at Disneyland on 5 Sep 2003.  The lead car lost its rear-wheel assembly and
    hit the tunnel roof, causing the following passenger car to go underneath
    it.  The train had just been returned to service after routine maintenance
    three days earlier.  Unusual noises were noted on the first 12 trips of the
    day, and operators had planned to take the train off line after the 13th
    ride -- which never finished.  Subsequent analysis showed that two screws
    had not been properly tightened.  [PGN-ed from cnn.com]
    Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 11:52:30 -0800
    From: Lars Kongshem <lars.kongshem@private>
    Subject: US railroad uses Wi-Fi to run 'driverless' trains
    "The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) has found a
    novel use for Wi-Fi.  It has started using the wireless networking
    technology to control trains remotely. BNSF locomotives carry freight across
    the continental US.  However, it is using wireless technology to move units
    around its rail yards....  (Drivers) operate a control panel that mirrors
    what they'd see if they were sitting in the cab.  Their instructions are
    relayed to each loco via the 'industrial strength' WLAN."
    Given Wi-Fi's security problems, this novel use of 802.11 certainly gives a
    new meaning to the word "loco"!
    [Source: *The Register*, Nov 20 2003]
    Lars Kongshem, 2220 Taylor St. Suite D, San Francisco, CA 94133
    1-415.606.5277 lars.kongshem@private + http://www.kongshem.com
      [Of course, if they were carrying fruit, it would be PLUM LOCO.  PGN]
    Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 21:30:42 -0500
    From: Fuzzy Gorilla <fuzzygorilla@private>
    Subject: Nuclear plan shut down by lightning strike
    A 15 Sep 2003 lightning strike in Chester County, Pennsylvania, shut down a
    pair of nuclear reactors 36 miles away at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power
    Station.  Early that morning, lightning struck a PECO power line in East
    Bradford Township, near West Chester.  A circuit breaker failed to isolate
    the damaged power line, cutting off electricity to more than 100,000 PECO
    customers and three PECO/Exelon plants -- Peach Bottom, Conowingo (Md.)
    Hydroelectric Station and Muddy Run Pumped Storage Facility in Holtwood.
    ...  At least two complications occurred at Peach Bottom as the reactors
    were shutting down, according to a preliminary report issued by the NRC.
    One of four emergency generators failed, and a safety relief valve used to
    control steam pressure initially stuck open.  The NRC has decided to
    penalize Exelon because the September shutdown was the fourth at Unit 2 in
    less than a year.
    The reactor tripped off unexpectedly 21 Dec 2002, when a computer failure
    caused steam isolation valves to close. On 21 Apr, the valves closed and
    shut the reactor again because of instrument problems on an air line.  The
    unit also was down from 22 Jul to 1 Aug because of generator problems.
    [Source: Article by Rebecca J. Ritzel, (Lancaster) *Intelligencer Journal*,
    date not available, but prior to 19 Nov, anticipating a public meeting of
    Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials; PGN-ed, but URL no longer valid.]
    Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 21:05:12 -0500
    From: Fuzzy Gorilla <fuzzygorilla@private>
    Subject: Tanker Truck Shutdown Via Satellite
    [The obvious RISKS -- when mandated by law, that a terrorist would be
    unaware of the need to disable the system; and that no cracker would ever
    find out the needed signal and shut down a truck for 'fun'; and that no GPS
    or other systems failure might cause a truck to be shut down incorrectly by
    law enforcement -- are probably obvious to any RISKS reader.]
    Satellite Security Systems (S3), in cooperation with the California Highway
    Patrol (CHP) and InterState Oil Company, dramatically demonstrated the first
    wireless remote shutdown of a fully loaded moving petrochemical tanker
    truck.  From S3's headquarters in San Diego (530 miles away), "satellite
    communications were used to disable the truck in seconds, proving S3's
    GlobalGuard and FleetGuard a viable solution to the challenge of controlling
    rogue hazardous waste vehicles that could pose a threat to homeland
    While the California state government may be voting as early as January on
    Assembly Bill (AB) 575 (requiring truck disabling devices, global
    positioning or other "location reporting systems" on hazardous material
    haulers), the CHP has been tasked with researching various technologies to
    support these regulatory initiatives.  [PGN-ed from *SpaceDaily*, 4 Nov 2003]
    Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 12:44:07 +1000 (GMT+1000)
    From: Andrew Whitby <s358831@private>
    Subject: Microsoft Windows, Auto Edition
    The Associated Press reports:
      First Microsoft set out to put a computer in every home. Now the software
      giant hopes to put one in every vehicle, too.  "We'd like to have one of
      our operating systems in every car on Earth," said Dick Brass, the
      vice-president of Microsoft's automotive business unit. "It's a lofty
      goal."  Cars with the Microsoft software will speak up when it's time for
      an oil change. They'll warn drivers about wrecks on the road ahead and
      scout alternative routes. They will pay freeway tolls automatically. The
      software running their brakes will upgrade itself wirelessly.
    I can see it now. "A security update is available for your braking system.
    Press okay to begin installation."
    Apparently the RISKS are not obvious to everyone.
    Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 11:48:34 -0500
    From: "Dawn Cohen" <COHEND@private>
    Subject: What Bill Gates Says About Security (from InformIT)
    InformIT, 13 Nov 2003: What Bill Gates Says About Security
    "You don't need perfect code to avoid security problems. There are things
    we're doing that are making code closer to perfect, in terms of tools and
    security audits and things like that. But there are two other techniques:
    one is called firewalling, and the other is called keeping the software up
    to date. None of these problems (viruses and worms) happened to people who
    did either one of those things. If you had your firewall set up the right
    way * when I say firewall I include scanning E-mail and scanning file
    transfer -- you wouldn't have had a problem.
    "But did we have the tools that made that easy and automatic and that you
    could really audit that you had done it? No. Microsoft in particular and the
    industry in general didn't have it.  "The second is just the updating
    thing. Anybody who kept their software up to date didn't run into any of
    those problems, because the fixes preceded the exploit. Now the times
    between when the vulnerability was published and when somebody has exploited
    it, those have been going down, but in every case at this stage we've had
    the fix out before the exploit."....  "Actually, all the forms of Unix (as
    well as Linux) have had more vulnerabilities per line of code. They don't
    propagate as much because they're not as dense as our system is, so the
    things that prevent the propagation are particularly important for our
    Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2003 13:31:32 +0200
    From: amos083@private
    Subject: Another large gas bill
    Commenting on a complaint from a Mr Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill,
    a spokesman for North Westgas said, "We agree it was rather high for the
    time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used up
    during the explosion that destroyed his house."  (*The Daily Telegraph*)
    Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 20:46:03 -0500
    From: Fuzzy Gorilla <fuzzygorilla@private>
    Subject: UK MoD scraps 120-million-pound computer project
    Sources: John Leyden, 6 Nov 2003, The Register,
    Sara Arnott, 5 Nov 2003,
    Britain's Ministry of Defence squandered 118 million pounds on a computer
    system that was axed before ever being used.  The Defence Stores Management
    Solution was designed to modernise the MoD's inventories of equipment.
    (Hardware valued at 12.2 million pounds was salvaged and not included in the
    118M figure.)  The system had been expected to save 650 million pounds in
    its first ten years.  A report on the collapse of the project (begun in
    1999) was released in mid-November.  Reasons given included "developments in
    defence logistics" had rendered the project obsolete, but also indicated
    management weaknesses at every level: "The MoD had no framework to assess
    and manage deliverability once projects were launched; the DLO lacked
    effective change management support and co-ordination; and the BCP suffered
    from poor financial governance, weak benefits management, poor
    communications and a failure to establish an effective programme management
    organisation.  ... The review also noted weaknesses in the scrutiny and
    approvals process.  Although BCP projects, including the DSMS, did not meet
    the Department's requirements in important areas -- especially on
    affordability and benefits management -- the projects were not rejected,"
    Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2003 09:01:22 -0500
    From: Monty Solomon <monty@private>
    Subject: How Much Is Privacy Worth?
    The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today over whether the federal
    government should reimburse individuals whose sensitive data was disclosed
    illegally, even if no harm can be proven.  The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits
    the government from disclosing private information intentionally, without
    the individual's consent, and provides for a $1,000 minimum fine if the
    individual is "adversely affected."  In the case, known as Doe v. Chao, the
    Department of Labor distributed the Social Security number of a coal miner
    who was appealing for black lung benefits.  Since 1969, the Labor Department
    has used miners' Social Security numbers as their case numbers on documents
    shared with coal companies, insurance companies and lawyers for all
    sides. Those documents also were published in court filings that later ended
    up in legal databases.  [Ryan Singel, wired.com, 3 Dec 2003; PGN-ed] 
    Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 21:21:40 +0000
    From: Neil Youngman <n.youngman@private>
    Subject: Government e-mails apparently sent to hairdresser
    According to this BBC article, a hairdresser called Ronnie Campbell received
    e-mails apparently intended for a Member of Parliament (MP), called Ronnie
    Campbell. Usual RISKS apply.
    Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2003 23:09:22 -0800
    From: Henry Baker <hbaker1@private>
    Subject: 'Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, LA officials say
    FYI -- In Tinseltown, bus 'slaves' must go to the end of the line...  This
    gives a whole new meaning to 'PC' language.  Please update your cable labels.
    Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers, and
    contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment,
    saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive -- after someone had filed
    a discrimination complaint with LA County's Office of Affirmative Action
    Compliance.  "Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles
    County, this is not an acceptable identification label," Joe Sandoval,
    division manager of purchasing and contract services, said in a memo sent to
    County vendors.  [PGN-ed from Reuters item]
    Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2003
    From: [identity withheld by request]
    Subject: Security subtleties
    I work at a large institution which shall remain nameless.  I was recently
    involved in the evaluation of a product from a company which I will call
    Company X.  The product consists of a Linux server that is sealed in a way
    that it is impossible to open the box without leaving evidence of tampering.
    During the course of the normal operation of the product it was installed
    behind our firewall, and it made copies of sensitive data accessible on our
    The loan agreement stipulated that before the box could be returned, our
    sensitive data had to be deleted from the disks.  The box had a built-in
    "self-destruct" feature that was supposed to accomplish this.
    Unfortunately, self-destruct was a little too thorough: it not only erased
    all the data, but it erased the operating system as well, leaving the box
    The problem with this is no doubt immediately obvious to long-time Risks
    readers: if the box is unbootable then we have no way of verifying that the
    data is in fact gone.  For all we know, self-destruct only erases the boot
    I raised this objection with representatives of Company X.  They suggested
    that instead of running self-destruct that I use the standard Web-based
    control interface to erase the data.  No, this wouldn't work either, I
    explained, because again there is no way to verify that the data has
    actually been erased.  For all we know, the only thing that is actually
    erased is a symlink.
    They suggested "running a big magnet over the box."  Same problem of course.
    I pointed out that the only way for us to verify that the data was in fact
    gone would be to examine the disk, which meant one way or another obtaining
    either root or physical access.  They refused to allow this because (they
    said) they were concerned about us stealing the software.
    We went back and forth about this literally for months, and I was astonished
    how hard it was for people to grasp the concept that just because you can't
    see the data through an HTTP interface doesn't mean it's not there. We
    finally arrived at the following compromise: Company X would send a
    representative to our site where the rep would witness the invocation of the
    self-destruct feature, after which we would open the box, remove the disks,
    and install them on another machine where they could be examined and/or
    further wiped.
    The big day finally arrived, and we ran self-destruct according to the
    directions.  Oddly, there was no indication when the process was finished.
    We waited five minutes (the prescribed amount of time).  At that point the
    company rep said he wanted to log in to the machine to make sure that it had
    worked properly.  I was shocked, shocked! to discover that in fact
    self-destruct seemed to have done absolutely nothing.  All the files were
    still there, both our data and those of Company X.
    At that point the rep typed "rm -rf /".  He then proceeded to open the box,
    take out the disk (turned out there was only one), and give it to me.  He
    then took the box (sans disk) with him and left.
    This story is fraught with subtle ironies, not least of which is the amount
    of trouble Company X went through to prevent us from stealing their
    software, only to leave it with us in a pretty easily recoverable form (to
    say nothing of the fact that in the interim we had actually purchased the
    product, so if we wanted to open it up and steal their software nothing
    would have prevented us from doing so).
    But the most worrisome aspect of this story is that apparently, among many
    dozens of customers who evaluated the product, I was the only one to raise
    any security concerns.  Company X's attitude throughout the whole affair
    was, essentially, "Gee, we never thought of that.  No one else ever
    complained."  (And Company X has a reputation for technical savvy.)
    So I'm off to go through Company X's dumpsters.  I expect to be able to
    retire off what I find there.
    Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 14:36:33 -0500 (EST)
    From: msb@private (Mark Brader)
    Subject: Man trapped for hours by payphone
    A man in East St. Louis got his middle finger stuck in a payphone's
    coin-return slot.  Fortunately, this also meant that when he realized
    he needed to call 911, there was a payphone conveniently... *at hand*.
    Eventually the phone was removed and taken, with the victim, to a
    hospital emergency room where doctors managed to pry them apart.
    See e.g. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-3402400,00.html>.
      [This is known as giving him the finger back.  An overzealous knee-jerk
      response to this episode might be to get rid of the few payphones that
      remain.  PGN]
    Date: Wed, 03 Dec 2003 12:41:24 +0100
    From: Gerrit Muller <gerrit.muller@private>
    Subject: Debian security breach and forensic analysis
    The text below was send to me by Auke Jilderda. The original e-mail is
    from the debian mailing list.
    This is a very readable and interesting case description of an intrusion
    of a software repository.
    The Debian Project                                http://www.debian.org/
    Debian Investigation Report                             press@private
    December 2nd, 2003
    Debian Investigation Report after Server Compromises
    The Debian administration team and security experts are finally able to
    pinpoint the method used to break-in into four project machines.  However,
    the person who did this has not yet been uncovered.  The package archives
    were not altered by the intruder.
    The Debian administration and security teams have checked these archives
    (security, us, non-us) quite early on in the investigation and
    re-installation process.  That's why the project was able to open up the
    security archive again and confirm that the stable update (3.0r2) wasn't
     [Truncated for RISKS.  See <http://www.debian.org/> for the complete
     report.  PGN]
    Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2003 16:49:17 -0500
    From: Walter Dnes <waltdnes@private>
    Subject: Re: Security patching: a story from the trenches (Rex Black, R-23.03)
    A more accurate subject would be "Risks of updating Internet-insecure
    computers via the Internet".  Rex Black had a computer that was not secure
    to connect to the Internet.  So he connected to the Internet in order to
    download patches secure the computer; what's wrong with this picture ?
    Browsing through my router logs, I see approximately 3 hits per minute on
    port 135 today, i.e. approximately one every 20 seconds.  The Blaster patch
    is 918576 bytes, which would take 3 minutes to download on a v90 dialup.  A
    33.6 dialup will take approximately 4 minutes.  During this timespan he
    would get 9 to 12 hits on port 135, and be COM-promised (sorry) long before
    the download was complete.
    This is prime example of why he needed yet another computer, preferably with
    a different enough OS that it is not vulnerable at the same moment.  I
    downloaded the Blaster patch from Microsoft's website using Mozilla Firebird
    on a linux Machine.  A Mac running Safari would probably have worked just as
    well.  The patch is small enough to fit on a floppy and could have been
    moved to the laptop that way.
    Even if the patch was too large for a floppy, he could've used another
    computer to check Norton's and/or Microsoft's website, and find out which
    ports to block to temporarily protect himself whilst downloading the patch.
    So much for criticism, what solution do I offer?  I suggest a "safe mode"
    Internet connection option be available for these situations.  It would
    require stateful firewalling that would, by default, reject *ANY* packets
    from IP addresses and ports that the machine had not initiated a connection
    with.  Actually, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the average home user 100% of
    the time.  The only holes normally necessary to allow in the firewall would
    be for...
     * NETBEUI for other *LOCAL* machines; *NOT* including machines on the
       Internet side of the connection
     * Active-mode mode FTP initiates a second connection back to the
       client.  Stateful firewalling can handle this.
    Other exceptions would be to allow file-sharing over a VPN.  If the
    user feels *REALLY* confident and adventurous, allow external
    connections for P2P applications.
    Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 16:00:46 -0800
    From: Kyle York <kyork@private>
    Subject: Dangerous looking e-mail from quickbooks
    I just received an e-mail from quickbooks that my credit card information
    was soon to expire and I should immediately call a toll-free number to
    renew it. A quick look at the headers made me immediatly suspicious:
      Received: from mta1.primary.ddc.dartmail.net ([])
         by **my machine** with esmtp (Exim 3.35 #1 (Debian))
         id 1ALnfP-0005xu-00
         for <**me**>; Mon, 17 Nov 2003 10:00:03 -0800
      X-MID: <Kilauea73191-16006-99081021-3@private>
      Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 13:01:21 -0500 (EST)
      Message-Id: <Kilauea73191-16006-99081021-3@private>
      From: QuickBooks Payroll Services 
      To: **me**
      Subject: QuickBooks Critical Notice - Credit Card Expiration Reminder
    Note the two relays, and how the From: line doesn't match the Message-Id.
    Both flonetwork.com an ddartmail.net are aliases for doubleclick.net which
    made me even more suspicious. In the body of the e-mail was a toll-free
    number that doesn't appear anywhere on www.quickbooks.com.
    It turns out this was legitimate e-mail, but given the number of scams how
    many people would really pay attention if it wasn't?  And how many spam
    filters would have kicked it out due to the problems noted?
    Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2003 19:50:32 -0600
    From: hellsop@private (Peter H. Coffin)
    Subject: Re: In-Security clearance (RISKS-23.04)
    I would be greatly interested to learn if this installer referenced by the
    unknown submitter is the same "Netopsystems FEAD Recomposer" which is used
    to package Adobe Acrobat Reader version 6. There are a nontrivial number of
    reports (both on the web and on USENET) of the installer failing to work on
    many Windows 2000 machines, usually with the same "hourglass then nothing
    apparently has happened" symptoms, but has also various other reported
    issues, such as leaking memory and creating CPU loops sufficient to require
    hardware resets of the computers running the installer, in addition to more
    trivial assumptions like listing Windows 2000 as supported but only actually
    supporting Service Pack 2 of Windows 2000.
    If it is this same installer, this would be extremely interesting for use as
    an installer for a security clearance application submitter for the US. The
    FEAD system is published by Netopsystems AG, Berlin, Germany.
    Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2003 15:55:54 -0800
    From: Timothy Knox <tdk@private>
    Subject: Re: Amber Alert, Coming to the Inbox Nearest You (Mercuri, R-23.04)
    One other response, that I have used to some good effect, is to find the
    hoax details on an urban legends website (I personally recommend
    <http://www.snopes.com/>) and reply-to-all with the URL. It may not stop
    them all (there are none so blind as those who will not see), but it does
    help some. At least one person wrote me back, thanking me for pointing them
    to the site.
    Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2003 14:59:16 -0800
    From: "Rodney Hoffman" <rodney@private>
    Subject: Re: Cehck tihs out! (RISKS-22.91)
    Matt Davis at Cambridge has posted a response to this:
       "Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't
        mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, ..."
    See http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/~matt.davis/Cmabrigde/
    where Davis says, "I've written this page, to try to explain the science
    behind this meme. There are elements of truth in this, but also some things
    which scientists studying the psychology of language (psycholinguists) know
    to be incorrect. ... To my knowledge, there's no-one in Cambridge UK who is
    currently doing research on this topic."
    The page also includes samples in many other languages.
    Date: Sun, 30 Nov 2003 16:22:57 -0500
    From: "Kenneth R. van Wyk" <Ken@private>
    Subject: ANNOUNCE: New mailing list for secure application development, SC-L
    I would like to announce the availability of a new and free resource to the 
    software security community, the SC-L e-mail discussion forum.  The moderated 
    forum is open to the public.  The group's purpose is, "to further the state 
    of the practice of developing secure software, by providing a free and open, 
    objectively moderated, forum for the discussion of issues related to secure 
    coding practices throughout a software development lifecycle process 
    (including architecture, requirements and specifications, design, 
    implementation, deployment, and operations)."  (The complete text of the 
    group's charter, including its acceptable and unacceptable usage policies, 
    can be found at http://www.securecoding.org/list/charter.php.)
    To subscribe to the list, simply connect to http://www.securecoding.org/list 
    and follow the directions on the form.  Submissions should be sent (by 
    subscribers only) to sc-l@private
    Ken van Wyk, Moderator, SC-L mailing list  ken@private
    Date: 7 Oct 2003 (LAST-MODIFIED)
    From: RISKS-request@private
    Subject: Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)
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    End of RISKS-FORUM Digest 23.05

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