• RISKS Digest 31.20

    From Sean Dennis@1:18/200 to All on Wed Apr 24 15:30:49 2019
    RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest Tuesday 23 April 2019 Volume 31 : Issue 20

    ACM FORUM ON RISKS TO THE PUBLIC IN COMPUTERS AND RELATED SYSTEMS (comp.risks) Peter G. Neumann, moderator, chmn ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

    ***** See last item for further information, disclaimers, caveats, etc. ***** This issue is archived at <http://www.risks.org> as
    The current issue can also be found at

    A Marriage Made in Hell": The growing partnership between Russia's
    government and cybercriminals (CBS)
    The Mueller Report includes lots of information on Russian election
    interference (PGN)
    Sometimes Bitcoin makes you easier to trace ... (CNN)
    How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer
    (IEEE Spectrum)
    A video showed a parked Tesla Model S exploding in Shanghai (qz.com)
    Roman Mars Mazda virus (Jeremy Epstein)
    Nokia 9 buggy update lets anyone bypass fingerprint scanner with a
    pack of gum (Catalin Cimpanu)
    How sovereign citizens helped swindle $1 billion from the government
    they disavow (NYTimes)
    How *not* to kill a news cycle ... (Rob Slade)
    "Can Facebook be trusted with a virtual assistant?" (Computerworld)
    The trouble with tech unicorns Tech's new stars have it all --
    Silicon Valley Came to Kansas Schools. That Started a Rebellion (NYTimes) Domain transfer at gunpoint ... (CNN via Rob Slade)
    Battle for .amazon Domain Pits Retailer Against South American Nations
    Should AI be used to catch shoplifters? (cnn.com)
    Facebook Uses Mueller Report to Distract from Security Breach (The Register) Facial Recognition in NYC (NYTimes)
    An Interesting Juxtaposition in RISKS 31.18 (Gene Wirchenko)
    Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)


    Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2019 07:27:27 -1000
    From: the keyboard of geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
    Subject: A Marriage Made in Hell": The growing partnership between Russia's
    government and cybercriminals (CBS)


    Assessing the threats in the new "code war":

    A new war is taking place online -- and the former head of national security
    at the Justice Department says Russia is the biggest threat



    Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2019 9:31:14 PDT
    From: "Peter G. Neumann" <neumann@csl.sri.com>
    Subject: The Mueller Report includes lots of information on Russian election
    interference (various sources)

    Here are just three recent items:

    National: Mueller report highlights scope of election security challenge
    (The Washington Post) https://www.ccn.com/mueller-report-russian-bitcoin-use-2016-election-manipulati

    Mueller Report: Russia Funded US Election Snooping, Manipulation with
    Bitcoin (CCN) https://www.ccn.com/mueller-report-russian-bitcoin-use-2016-election-manipulati

    Mueller report says Russian hacking once went through Arizona server
    (Cronkite News) https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2019/04/19/mueller-report-says-russian-hacking-o


    Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2019 12:10:16 -0700
    From: Rob Slade <rmslade@shaw.ca>
    Subject: Sometimes Bitcoin makes you easier to trace ... (CNN)

    Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, are seen as being anonymous, like cash transactions.

    Not quite.

    Bitcoin, and the blockchain, may be encrypted, but, once you've identified
    an account of note, you can get all kinds of information about transactions.



    Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2019 01:06:56 -0400
    From: Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
    Subject: How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer
    (IEEE Spectrum)



    Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2019 14:06:19 +0800
    From: Richard Stein <rmstein@ieee.org>
    Subject: A video showed a parked Tesla Model S exploding in Shanghai (qz.com)


    From the video, the vehicle appears to be in a quiescent state.

    Henry Baker noted the vehicle fire risk at home while charging in http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/30/76%23subj14.1

    The energy density of aiLithium storage battery, per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_air_battery

    In the same table, TNT (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinitrotoluene) is
    4.1 MJ/kg.

    Risk: Fire via electric-vehicle battery thermal runaway.


    Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 09:53:23 -0400
    From: Jeremy Epstein <jeremy.j.epstein@gmail.com>
    Subject: Roman Mars Mazda virus

    A flaw in the MP3 player in some Mazda cars causes the MP3 player to lock up when playing a particular podcast. The problem appears to be the use of the string "%I" in the name of the podcast, which (based on discussions with the author of the software) seems to be causing problems with the URI interpretation software. Unfortunately, the podcast doesn't explore a step further, looking at whether the flaw can be exploited to take control of vehicle systems, for example.

    The podcast is interesting listening even for geeks (although the answer was fairly obvious from the beginning), simply to understand how a non-technical person tries to solve a technical problem. I'd imagine it's the same as a doctor watching a parent trying to figure out why a baby is crying, without having much data on how to distinguish the trivial (wet diaper, hungry) from
    a serious illness.



    Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2019 10:43:41 -0700
    From: Gene Wirchenko <gene@shaw.ca>
    Subject: Nokia 9 buggy update lets anyone bypass fingerprint scanner with a
    pack of gum (Catalin Cimpanu)

    Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day | 22 Apr 2019
    Only Nokia 9 PureView handsets appear to be impacted. https://www.zdnet.com/article/nokia-9-buggy-update-lets-anyone-bypass-fingerpri

    selected text:

    A buggy update for Nokia 9 PureView handsets has apparently impacted the smartphone model's in-screen fingerprint scanner, which can now be bypassed using unregistered fingerprints or even with something as banal as a pack of gum.

    The update was meant to improve the phone's in-screen fingerprint scanner module --so that users won't have to press their fingers too hard on the
    screen before the phone unlocks-- yet it had the exact opposite effect the company hoped for.

    While initially, the reported issues appeared to be new, a video recorded by another user showed the same problem (unlocking phones with unregistered fingerprints) even before the v4.22 update, meaning that the update just
    made the unlocking bug worse than it already was.

    This means that rolling back the faulty v4.22 firmware update, or waiting on v4.21, won't fix the fingerprint scanner problems, as even before this
    patch, the scanner appeared to have a pretty high false negatives rate, allowing strangers to bypass the phone's screenlock.

    In the meantime, users are advised to switched to another mode of authentication, such as using facial recognition, a PIN code, or a password.


    Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 15:15:44 -0400
    From: Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
    Subject: How sovereign citizens helped swindle $1 billion from the
    government they disavow (NYTimes)

    Sovereigns, who sometimes call themselves `freemen' or `state citizens',
    have no foundational document, but broadly they subscribe to an alternate version of American history. The tale can vary from sovereign to sovereign,
    but it goes roughly like this: At some point, a corporation secretly usurped the United States government, then went bankrupt and sought aid from international bankers. As collateral, the corporation offered the financiers ... us. As sovereigns tell it, your birth certificate and Social Security
    card are not benign documents, but contracts that enslave you.

    There is, they believe, a pathway to freedom: Renounce these contracts or otherwise assert your sovereignty. (Mr. Morton said he once told the Social Security Administration, ``I don't want this number.'' Then no one -- not
    the taxman, not the police -- can tell you what to do. Not all sovereigns
    are con men, but their belief system lends itself to deceit. You might
    declare yourself a `diplomat' from a nonexistent country. (Mr. Morton represented the Republic of New Lemuria and the Dominion of Melchizedek.) Or start a fake Native American tribe. Or blow off a court case because the American flag in the courtroom has gold fringe. Some sovereigns have even lashed out violently at law enforcement officers, which is why they're considered a domestic terrorism threat.


    The risk? Crooks, fools, and an IRS starved for funds.


    Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2019 12:15:09 -0700
    From: Rob Slade <rmslade@shaw.ca>
    Subject: How *not* to kill a news cycle ...

    OK, now, I don't want to get accused of "controversial political statements"
    so I'm not naming any names, all right?

    But lets, hypothetically and purely for the sake of argument, say that some document or piece of news is going to come out, and you want to minimize the attention paid to it. (Lets call it the Miller Time Report, just for illustrative purposes.)

    Now, the *right* way to ensure that bad news is buried is to release but distract. For example, if you are a company called "Fact"book, and you have yet another egregious failure of security and privacy to report, you do it
    an hour after the release of the Miller Time Report, which you know lots of people are interested in. In fact, if you have two pieces of bad news,
    release them both at the same time, just after the Miller Time Report, and
    that way lots of people don't actually realize that you made two mistakes, since they are all mostly interested in the Miller Time Report and won't
    read yours in any detail.

    Now, if you are responsible for releasing the Miller Time Report, and it's a huge report (say, something along the lines of 400 pages), you might think
    it clever to release it in a difficult format, like an unsearchable PDF.
    This means that people can't go searching for details they think might be in it. People, even reporters, are basically lazy, and you might think that
    this will discourage them from actually having to read the whole report.

    That's actually a bad idea, on two counts. First, it's not that hard for technically adept people to run the document through OCR (optical character recognition) and create a searchable document, and release that themselves.

    The second issue is that, while most people *are* basically lazy, when a
    whole bunch of people are interested in something, then, even if you make it difficult, they will put in the work. And, if you make it hard for them to find the highlights, then, by forcing them to read the whole thing, you risk the fact that they will, over time, find all kinds of interesting bits and pieces. And, because it's taking them time to read the whole thing, the
    bits and pieces get released as they are found, and that extends the "news cycle" for the Miller Time Report. A kind kind of corollary of the
    Streisand Effect takes over, and what you tried to minimize gets extended, instead.


    Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2019 18:56:51 -0700
    From: Gene Wirchenko <gene@shaw.ca>
    Subject: "Can Facebook be trusted with a virtual assistant?" (Computerworld)


    Mike Elgan, Computerworld,
    A look at recent news has a lot to tell us about Facebook's trustworthiness.

    [Given the list of offenses, the author's answer is no.]


    Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2019 07:26:36 -1000
    From: geoff goodfellow <geoff@iconia.com>
    Subject: The trouble with tech unicorns Tech's new stars have it all --
    except a path to high profits (The Economist)

    Millions of users, cool brands and charismatic bosses are not enough


    Investors often describe the world of business in terms of animals, such as bears, bulls, hawks, doves and dogs. Right now, mere ponies are being
    presented as unicorns: privately held tech firms worth over $1bn that are supposedly strong and world-beating -- miraculous almost. Next month Uber will raise some $10bn in what may turn out to be this year's biggest initial
    public offering (ipo). It will be America's third-biggest-ever tech ipo,
    after Alibaba and Facebook. Airbnb and WeWork could follow Lyft, which has already floated, and Pinterest, which was set to do so as The Economist
    went to press. In China, an ipo wave that began last year rumbles on.
    Thanks to fashionable products and armies of users, these firms have a
    total valuation in the hundreds of billions of dollars. They and their venture-capital (vc) backers are rushing to sell shares at high prices to mutual funds and pension schemes run for ordinary people. There is,
    however, a problem with the unicorns: their business models.

    As we report this week, a dozen unicorns that have listed, or are likely to, posted combined losses of $14bn last year. Their cumulative losses are $47bn (see Briefing). Their services, from ride-hailing to office rental, are
    often deeply discounted in order to supercharge revenue growth. The justification for this is the Silicon Valley doctrine of `blitz-scaling' in order to conquer `winner-takes-all' markets -- or in plain English,
    conducting a high-speed land grab in the hope of finding gold.

    Yet some unicorns lack the economies of scale and barriers to entry that
    their promoters proclaim. At the same time, tighter regulation will
    constrain their freedom to move fast and break things. Investors should
    demand lower prices in the ipos, or stay away. Tech entrepreneurs and their backers need to rethink what has become an unsustainable approach to
    building firms and commercialising ideas.

    Today's unicorn-breeding industry would not have been possible 25 years
    ago. In 1994 only $6bn flowed into vc funds, which doled out cheques in the single-digit millions. Before Amazon staged its ipo in 1997 it had raised a total of only $10m. Three things changed. Growing fast became easier thanks
    to cloud computing, smartphones and social media, which let startups spread rapidly around the world. Low interest rates left investors chasing
    returns. And a tiny elite of superstar firms, including Google, Facebook and China's Alibaba and Tencent, proved that huge markets, high profits and
    natural monopolies, along with limited physical assets and light regulation, were the secret to untold riches. Suddenly tech became all about applying
    this magic formula to as many industries as possible, using piles of money
    to speed up the process.

    Make no mistake, the unicorns are more substantial than the turkeys of the
    2000 tech bubble, such as Pets.com, which went bust ten months after its
    ipo. Ride apps are more convenient than taxis, food delivery is lightning quick, and streaming music is better than downloading files. Like Google
    and Alibaba, the unicorns have large user bases. Their core businesses can avoid owning physical assets by outsourcing their it to cloud providers. As
    ipo documents point out, their sales are growing fast...

    [...] https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/04/17/techs-new-stars-have-it-all-except


    Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2019 13:39:58 -0400
    From: Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
    Subject: Silicon Valley Came to Kansas Schools. That Started a Rebellion

    "We're allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like
    zombies," said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited
    his son's fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of
    the school.



    Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2019 12:17:12 -0700
    From: Rob Slade <rmslade@shaw.ca>
    Subject: Domain transfer at gunpoint ... (CNN)

    No, this is not the way to do a domain transfer ... https://lite.cnn.io/en/article/h_f12d9a252633c427e47b1109a0af7d85


    Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 02:18:13 -0400
    From: Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
    Subject: Battle for .amazon Domain Pits Retailer Against South American
    Nations (E-Week)



    Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 11:51:36 +0800
    From: Richard Stein <rmstein@ieee.org>
    Subject: Should AI be used to catch shoplifters? (cnn.com)


    New artificial intelligence software is being used in Japan to monitor the
    body language of shoppers and look for signs that they are planning to shoplift. "The software, which is made by a Tokyo startup called Vaak,
    differs from similar products that work by matching faces to criminal
    records. Instead, VaakEye uses behavior to predict criminal action."

    Perhaps a more effective use of AI would be to deter its own deployment?
    Wait...that means AI needs common sense and contextual awareness to
    ethically perceive and judge its own actions. No sense holding back the
    kitchen sink from being thrown -- throw that too!

    Risk: AI interpolation of human intent to shoplift.

    Do these bits automatically summon authorities for a Slurpee takedown?


    Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2019 11:28:54 -0400
    From: Charles Dunlop <cdunlop@umich.edu>
    Subject: Facebook Uses Mueller Report to Distract from Security Breach
    (The Register)

    It's common practice for organizations to release bad news at the end of a week, hoping that it will be buried. But Facebook hit a bonanza, when at
    the end of this week the news focus was on the Muller report. See



    Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2019 01:04:40 -0400
    From: Gabe Goldberg <gabe@gabegold.com>
    Subject: Facial Recognition in NYC (NYTimes)

    Most people pass through some type of public space in their daily routine --- sidewalks, roads, train stations. Thousands walk through Bryant Park every
    day. But we generally think that a detailed log of our location, and a list
    of the people we're with, is private. Facial recognition, applied to the web
    of cameras that already exists in most cities, is a threat to that privacy.


    Privacy? How quaint.


    Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2019 21:40:21 -0700
    From: Gene Wirchenko <gene@shaw.ca>
    Subject: An Interesting Juxtaposition in RISKS-31.18

    RISKS-31.18 has interesting juxtaposition of articles: "Not a burglar after all" and "Computers Turn an Ear on New York City (Scientific American)". In the second article, what is going to be the authority for what sounds represent? The first article has a case of police officers not being able
    to identify what sights and sounds represented. They were concerned, and it could have been a serious situation.

    Misidentification could have severe consequences. This could be similar to GPSs. Some are meant for general use and some for specific areas. (An
    example of this is truckers going through villages with roads ill-suited for this because of the trucker using a run-of-the-garden GPS. Or is that run-through-the-garden?)


    Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:11:11 -0800
    From: RISKS-request@csl.sri.com
    Subject: Abridged info on RISKS (comp.risks)

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