Computer underground Digest Wed Apr 14 1999 Volume 11 : Issue 24

Computer underground Digest    Wed  14 Apr, 1999   Volume 11 : Issue 24
                           ISSN  1004-042X

       Editor: Jim Thomas (
       News Editor: Gordon Meyer (
       Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
       Cop y Editor:       Etaion Shrdlu, III
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                          Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
                          Ian Dickinson
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CONTENTS, #11.24 (Wed, 14 Apr, 1999)

File 1--Virtuality and the Atomization of Experience (NetFuture)
File 2--SANS Newsbites Vol. 1 Num. 3
File 3--Yahoo and Users' Privacy (Telecom Digest Reprint)
File 4--Salon, the Well: Internet's Literati Unite (WashPost excerpt)
File 5--Justice Department Appeals Anti-Censorship (CDT reprint)
File 6--Cu Digest Header Info (unchanged since 10 Jan, 1999)



Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 10:47:20 -0500
From: Stephen Talbott 
Subject: File 1--Virtuality and the Atomization of Experience (NetFuture)


                    Technology and Human Responsibility
Issue #87     A Publication of The Nature Institute      March 30, 1999
             Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (
           On the Web:
     You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.

NETFUTURE is a reader-supported publication.

 Virtuality and the Atomization of Experience

The technologist's dream of virtual reality is straightforward in the way
that only technological dreams can be:  reproduce all the "sensory inputs"
properly associated with the desired virtual experience, and you will have
created a virtual reality wholly indistinguishable from the corresponding
"real reality".

This vision is startlingly naive in its artificial reduction of the human
being to a set of isolated sensory mechanisms.  University of Montana
philosopher Albert Borgmann makes this point beautifully in his book,
*Crossing the Postmodern Divide* (University of Chicago, 1992).  He asks
us to imagine a professional woman who,

   after a most stressful morning, is running in her favorite winter
   landscape.  New snow is sparkling in the sun, yet the footing is
   perfect.  Snow geese are vigorously rising from the river.  Then it is
   quiet but for the scolding of the Steller's jays.  A snowshoe hare up
   ahead is hopping along the trail.  There, suddenly, is a crashing in
   the brush, a gigantic leaping and pouncing; a mountain lion has taken
   the hare and is loping back up the slope.  Quiet once more settles on
   the valley.  A herd of elk is browsing in the distance.  The trail is
   rising.  The runner is extending herself; she reaches the crest of the
   incline; another quarter mile and the trailhead comes into view. (p.

Borgmann then asks:  Does it matter whether this activity was real or
hyperreal (as he calls the fully realized ideal of virtuality)?  He
answers by the simple device of carrying the scenario one step further.
The woman comes to the end of her run, walks to her car parked near the
trailhead, and drives back through the snowy valley to her office:

   She is elated.  People spend years in the mountains without ever seeing
   a lion.  To see one at the height of a hunt is a rare blessing.  And
   she feels blessed also to live in a region wide and wild enough to
   support mountain lions, and on a continent hospitable enough for geese
   to nest in the North and winter in the South.  She revels in the
   severity of the early winter that has driven the snow geese south from
   Canada and the elk down from the high country.  The snow must already
   be ten feet deep on the peaks and ridges.  There will likely be a heavy
   runoff in the spring and strong river flows throughout the summer.
   This is where she wants to be.

This contrasts with an entirely different conclusion:

   The vista is dimming, the running surface is slowing down, the ceiling
   lights are coming on.  She goes to the locker room, showers, changes,
   and steps into a muggy, hazy afternoon in the high-rise canyon of a big
   city.  All that was true of the real sun would now be false.  The
   hyperreal run would have revealed nothing about her surroundings, would
   have bestowed no blessings on her, and would not have been an occasion
   for her to affirm her world.

What the naive notion of virtual reality leaves out is context.  That is,
what it leaves out is just about everything -- certainly just about
everything that gives an experience its enduring meaning, everything that
makes it possible for us to weave a connected whole out of our lives.  As
Borgmann notes, it is the desire to create a readily transferable,
disposable experience that requires the experience to be extracted from
its context.  Reality has the unfortunate tendency to keep relating one
thing to another, and those relations must be broken if you want a nice,
reliable, commoditized experience.

This helps us to see that virtual reality is in one sense just the
perfected extreme of a tendency toward decontextualization evident
throughout modern life.  As an item in INNOVATION (June 29, 1998) put it:

   In the late agrarian economy, mothers mixed birthday cakes from basic
   ingredients; in the good-based industrial economy, they made them from
   Betty Crocker pre-mixed ingredients; and when the service economy took
   hold, parents ordered cakes from the bakery store.  Now, busy parents
   buy neither the ingredients nor the cake:  they buy the experience
   itself, at places like Chuck E. Cheese, the Discovery Zone, or the
   Mining Company, which throw the whole party as a memorable event for

That's all correct except for the "memorable" part.  Something memorable
may certainly happen at the party -- the birthday girl may, for example,
break her arm.  But the party itself as an integrated part of her life
will not likely be memorable -- not, say, in the way that a carefully
prepared, home-brewed event might have been.  Most of the connections
between the party and the rest of her life have been severed.  She will
walk away from the recreation center in much the same way as the young
woman walked away from the virtual spa.  While her interactions with her
playmates had more elements of reality than the simulated hiking
experiences, the entire affair took place as if on an island in the middle
of nowhere (and getting to it, of course, involved little more than a
quick, hermetically sealed passage within that pre-eminent vehicle of
decontextualization, the automobile).

As is true of so many aspects of the computer, its virtuality and powers
of decontextualization are merely the perfection of tendencies we were
already assiduously cultivating.  That's one reason why sound critical
assessment of digital technologies is so difficult:  in many respects we
*are* the computer, and it is therefore difficult to gain the distance
required for valid assessment of the role of computing in our lives.

(For notes on Borgmann's important work, *Technology and the Character of
Contemporary Life*, see NF #64.)


                          ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

NETFUTURE is a freely distributed newsletter dealing with technology and
human responsibility.  It is published by The Nature Institute, 169 Route
21C, Ghent NY 12075 (tel: 518-672-0116).  Postings occur roughly every
couple of weeks.  The editor is Steve Talbott, author of *The Future Does
Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst*.

Copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute.

You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.  You may
also redistribute individual articles in their entirety, provided the
NETFUTURE url and this paragraph are attached.

NETFUTURE is supported by freely given user contributions, and could not
survive without them.  For details and special offers, see

Current and past issues of NETFUTURE are available on the Web:

To subscribe to NETFUTURE send the message, "subscribe netfuture
yourfirstname yourlastname", to .  No
subject line is needed.  To unsubscribe, send the message, "signoff

Send comments or material for publication to Steve Talbott

If you have problems subscribing or unsubscribing, send mail to:


Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 20:45:48 -0600 (MDT)
From: The SANS Institute 
Subject: File 2--SANS Newsbites Vol. 1 Num. 3

                  The SANS Weekly Security News Overview
Volume 1, Number 3                                      April 13, 1999
                          Editorial Team:
      Kathy Bradford, Bill Murray, Alan Paller, Eugene Schultz



09 April 1999: Defense Satellites Monitor Criminals on Release Programs
09 April 1999: US Criticized for Lacking Clear Privacy Policy
08 April 1999: The First Cyberwar (actual article title from WSJ)
08 April 1999: Legislator is Drafting E-Consumer Privacy Bill
08 April 1999: Internet is an Increasingly Popular Target of Legislation
08 April 1999: Yahoo Demo Site Exposes Personal Data, Temporarily
07 April 1999: Energy Department Computer Work Suspended
06 April 1999: Dangerous Precedent Set in Tracking Alleged Melissa Perpetrator
06 April 1999: Privacy Advocates & IT Industry May Favor Different
	       Encryption Bills and in the same article: Virginia First
	       State to Enact Internet Policies
06 April 1999: Aptiva Virus
05 April 1999: FTC Wants to Know About Internet Privacy
05 April 1999: On-line Anonymity Relinquished by Court Order

09 April 1999: Defense Satellites Monitor Criminals on Release Programs

In a system some deem Orwellian,  US Military satellites, once used to
guide nuclear missiles, are very possibly being used to monitor people
on parole and probation. The Pentagon began leasing satellite time
after the end of the Cold War.

09 April 1999: US Criticized for Lacking Clear Privacy Policy

While the European Union (EU) has established a "privacy directive"
already adopted by nearly half of its 15 members, the US has no such
blanket policy, a position which may hinder commercial relations with
the EU.,4,34869,00.html

08 April 1999: The First Cyberwar (that's the actual article title)

Yugoslavian computers have been bombarding in-boxes of US computers with
email critical of the NATO bombing.  A software consultant in Belgrade
says he hates spam (unsolicited email) but sees no alternative to making
public his plight.  (The Wall Street Journal, 8 April 1999)

08 April 1999: Legislator is Drafting E-Consumer Privacy Bill

Senator Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) wants to pass legislation which
would ensure the right of individuals to know what personal data websites
collect about them, the right know how those sites use that information,
and the right to legal recourse if that data is abused.

08 April 1999: Internet is an Increasingly Popular Target of Legislation

Whether they're pushing for federal regulation or for self-regulation,
Washington lawmakers are jumping on the Internet bandwagon.

08 April 1999: Yahoo Demo Site Exposes Personal Data, Temporarily

Yahoo says it has fixed a demo site which exposed the orders, partial
credit card numbers, and map links of customers of one of its store

07 April 1999: Energy Department Computer Work Suspended

Scientific work has been halted at Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence-
Livermore nuclear laboratories in the wake of problematic security
ratings, and amid allegations of Chinese espionage.

Further to this item, Newsbites co-editor Gene Schultz adds that the
personal residence of the accused employee was recently searched by
Federal agents.

06 April 1999: Dangerous Precedent Set in Tracking Alleged Melissa

Now that electronic identifiers have been used to find David L. Smith,
some lawyers are concerned that such methods will become "legitimized.",4586,2237838,00.html

06 April 1999: Privacy Advocates & IT Industry May Favor Different
               Encryption Bills

While software developers and computer companies support the SAFE bill's
virtual elimination of export controls, privacy advocates may  prefer
Senator McCain's new bill because it would not impinge on civil liberties.

In the same article:  Virginia First State to Enact Internet Policies

06 April 1999: Aptiva Virus

IBM has confirmed "several thousand of its Aptiva PCs have been exposed
to a virus" that may make the PC unusable.  The virus may erase the
contents of the infected computer's hard disk when the date on the
computer reads 4-26.,4586,2237581,00.html

05 April 1999: FTC Wants to Know About Internet Privacy

The FTC will soon receive a report on Internet collection and use of
personal data, and promises regulation if clear policies are not being
posted and implemented.

05 April 1999: On-line Anonymity Surrendered by Court Order

Yahoo surrendered the identities of several Raytheon employees who had
posted messages on a message board.  However, since Raytheon filed a
breach of contract suit rather than a libel or slander suit, this case
might not involve free speech issues.

== End ==

Email , if possible with your SD number (in the headers),
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Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 01:16:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: File 3--Yahoo and Users' Privacy (Telecom Digest Reprint)

Source: TELECOM Digest     Wed, 14 Apr 99    Volume 19 : Issue 48

((MODERATORS' NOTE:  For those not familiar with Pat Townson's
TELECOM DIGEST, it's an exceptional resource.  From the header
of TcD:
   "TELECOM Digest is an electronic journal devoted mostly but
   not exclusively to telecommunications topics.  It is
   circulated anywhere there is email, in addition to various
   telecom forums on a variety of public service systems and
   networks including Compuserve and America On Line. It is also
   gatewayed to Usenet where it appears as the moderated
   newsgroup 'comp.dcom.telecom'. Subscriptions are available to
   qualified organizations and individual readers. Write and tell
   us how you qualify:
                    * * ======"  ))

Date--Tue, 13 Apr 1999 01:04:54 -0400
From--Monty Solomon 
Subject--Yahoo Asked to Reveal User Names, Again

By Beth Lipton
Staff Writer, CNET
April 12, 1999, 5 a.m. PT

Yahoo once again is being asked to reveal the names of people who
posted items to its message boards, according to reports.

Restaurant chain Shoney's wants Yahoo to reveal the names of people
who posted confidential information about it on the message boards,
using the names of some of the firm's executives, including its
president and chairman, the Associated Press reported.,4,34932,00.html


From--Monty Solomon 
Subject--Yahoo Privacy Holes Signal Need for Standards
Date--Tue, 13 Apr 1999 19:16:28 -0400

By Troy Wolverton
Staff Writer, CNET
April 13, 1999, 8:50 a.m. PT

When Yahoo acknowledged last week that a demonstration on Yahoo Store
was revealing customer order information, it was only the latest major
site among several to face a privacy breach.

Just over the last few weeks, the likes of Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo,
Excite, and Macromedia have faced problems in protecting users'
personal data.

Though the breaches varied in seriousness and reach, the sheer number
of them underscores what Hong Kong's privacy chief and other
international officials said last week at the Computers, Freedom &
Privacy conference in Washington: Although the United States dominates
in Net innovation, usage, and investment, its data protection policies
are lacking and are beginning to trail those of the rest of the world.,4,35027,00.html

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I don't know what is going on with
Yahoo lately, but they seem to really be slipping up in a lot of
ways. Some of their software is just perfectly buggy, and a letter
to their suggested addresses just gets back a form answer saying
they will look at it. Nothing ever really gets fixed.

As one example, consider the previously nice product they offered
called the Yahoo Ticker. If you have a Yahoo personal front page (what
they call MyYahoo) the news ticker software would read the headlines
on each story as well as the weather for the place you selected, and
then scroll it across your desktop whether you were on line with them
or not. It was a great product, free of any advertising, etc. A small
Yahoo icon at the end of the ribbon allowed you to click to get mail.
A click on any headline on the ticker got you the associated story.

Then one day it got broken. It would work only on the condition that
the user *never* made any modifications on his MyYahoo page as to
layout, type of content, etc. If you made those changes, the ticker
suddenly went out of synch. Ditto their companion service called the
javaticker. You brought up a certain web page at any size desired on
your screen and at any location, their news ticker would play off your
MyYahoo headlines, weather, etc. It was great!  Now the javaticker
just displays endlessly the message, 'unable to parse content' and the
desktop ticker just endlessly displays either the word 'weather:' over
and over again or the message, 'click here to configure ticker', but
needless to say, clicking does nothing.

Three or four emails to Yahoo customer support went unanswered. I then
called them on the phone at their office in Santa Clara, CA at the
number 408-731-3300 and got tossed into someone's voicemail who did
not call back. When I called the next day, I spoke to a person named
Matt on the direct number 408-530-5167 who said he was responsible for
the ticker product, and that it was 'the server on our end' which was
sending out the sour data. He assured me it would probably be fixed
'in a few days'.  Now two weeks later, the ticker is still broken.

I am not really surprised that they have bugs all over the place
there. Time and again you get stuck in a loop when reading and
erasing email, then trying to exit back to MyYahoo. Ditto when you
use the facility for changing and/or rearranging your personal MyYahoo
page. Email gets answered saying 'we will look into it'  if it gets
answered at all. Maybe this latest fiasco will cause some changes to
be made.

Should I just dump all their software off my machine totally and be
done with them? I dunno, free email accounts, web pages, chat rooms
and newsfeeds to AP/Reuters are pretty scarce on the net these days
aren't they? Maybe I better suck up to them, and stay on their good
side at Yahoo, if I want to be able to keep my barely used email
account with them.

If someone at Yahoo is reading this, *please* fix the ticker server
and the problems with MyYahoo home pages. After you fix the bugs with
your merchants and credit cards of course; I can certainly understand
your priorities. But Yahoo should understand there are plenty of
services which have front pages with news available and willing to
take any Yahoo user who wants to migrate to them.  PAT]


Date: Thu, 8 Apr 1999 10:22:02 EDT
Subject: File 4--Salon, the Well: Internet's Literati Unite (WashPost excerpt)

By John Schwartz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 1999; Page E1

The feisty online magazine Salon will acquire the Well, one of
the Internet's best-known online communities, the companies
announced yesterday.

The move is a little like a newspaper buying the bar where its
reporters hang out and drink after work -- many Salon staffers
spend a great deal of time in discussions on the Well. But Scott
Rosenberg, Salon's director of site development, said "the
difference is that the corner bar and the newspaper are in
fundamentally different businesses, whereas Salon and the Well
are really in very similar businesses."

That business can be summed up in a single word -- and one of the
hottest words for Internet companies on Wall Street: "Community."

Internet companies such as GeoCities Inc. have staked their
reputations on providing that sense of belonging that makes
virtual communities work, and makes customers stick around
instead of click around.

Since Salon has long been rumored to be preparing an initial
public offering, the Well purchase could shore up its claims to
community status.


The Well is a 14-year-old "conferencing system" -- a trailblazing
site for discussion of thousands of topics. Wired magazine has
called it "the world's most influential online community,"
despite its relatively tiny base of 7,000 customers who pay $10
to $15 monthly. The service attracts a literate crowd that has
found ways to transcend the bitter flame wars that overrun so
many talk sites. Its name began as an acronym for Whole Earth
'Lectronic Link, a sly reference to co-founder Stewart Brand's
Whole Earth Catalog.



Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 18:34:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ari Schwartz 
Subject: File 5--Justice Department Appeals Anti-Censorship (CDT reprint)

 CDT POLICY POST Volume 5, Number 6                  April 5, 1999


The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a federal appeals court to set aside
a lower court injunction blocking enforcement of the 1998 Children's Online
Protection Act (COPA).

COPA was Congress' second attempt to regulate content on the Internet,
criminalizing web sites that allow young people to have access to
material that is "harmful to minors."  In February, Federal Judge Lowell
Reed of Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction order preventing
enforcement of COPA pending a final decision on the law's merits.

Judge Reed concluded that the law was likely unconstitutional and that its
enforcement, unless blocked, would cause irreparable harm to websites and
users.  Judge Reed found that the law's provision requiring websites with
material that could be harmful to minors to place "adult verification screens"
in front of that material was an undue burden on speech.


This case has been followed closely by computer users and Internet publishers
because of the tremendous impact enforcement of the COPA statute would have
on the Internet community. Anyone who published material that was "harmful to
minors" and sexually explicit could be subject to criminal and civil penalties
including jail.  Fortunately,
the preliminary injunction remains in place during the government's appeal, so
the law cannot be enforced at this time.

Following Judge Reed's injunction, the Justice Department had the choice of
proceeding to a full trial on the merits of the case, or appealing the
preliminary order.  Last Friday, April 2, the Justice Department choose the
latter path.

This means that a three judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit will hear the appeal later this year. In this respect, COPA is
unlike Congress' first attempt to regulate content on the Internet, the
Communications Decency Act, which included a provision that gave it a "fast
track" to the Supreme Court.  Instead, COPA will follow the ordinary rules of
procedure, which means that the case may spend several years in the trial and
appellate process before the courts make a final ruling on its
constitutionality. The record on appeal will consist of material from the
6-day hearing in Philadelphia during January 1999.

In order to succeed with this appeal, the Deparment of Justice will have to
prove that Judge Reed "abused his discretion" in issuing a preliminary
injunction against enforcement of COPA.  This is a difficult standard of
review for the government, particularly as Judge Reed's decision included
detailed findings of fact that he used to support and explain his ruling.



The Philadeplphia challenge to COPA's constitutionality was filed by the ACLU
on behalf of itself and 16 other plaintiffs.

CDT, in cooperation with a diverse group of organizations representing
mainstream publishers, filed an amicus brief, arguing that user-controlled
filtering and blocking software and other user-controlled technologies were
more effective and less restrictive means of protecting children than
government mandates.

* Text of COPA:

* The amicus brief filed by CDT and others in this case:

* Full text of Judge Reed's decision:

* Policy Post 5.3 - Philadelphia Court Blocks Enforcement of the Child
Online Protection Act:

* Policy Post 5.2 - Coalition of Industry and Civil Liberties Groups
Challenge Internet Censorship Legislation:


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Post news distribution list.  CDT Policy Posts, the regular news publication
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