suspicious text alteration

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suspicious text alteration

linux-39
Hi,
   I noticed something very suspicious the other day while using emacs.
   I'm sure I saw a text character on my screen (far from my cursor or
   mouse pointer) change to a different character on it's own.
   I have noticed this a couple of times before in the past, but
   instantly ignored it assuming it was my imagination.

   Here is a list of possibilities I can think of:

        1) I was hallucinating - it was late, but I did not feel tired,
           and double checked myself.
        2) Software error - I was using emacs 22.3. and did not have any
           modes running that could do something like that.
        3) Harware error - the machine had been running for a long time,
           but is less than one year old. However there is a minor
           problem - when I alter the screen brightness using the fn key
           the brightness indicator that appears is usually garbage.
           Sometimes it appears as normal though.
        4) Cosmic rays - I have read that computer memory chips can be
           altered by cosmic ray interference, and that this is not uncommon:
           http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2008/03/do-we-need-cosmic-ray-alerts-for.html       
           http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7335322.stm
        5) Hacker/Root kit - could someone disrupt my workflow by
           installing a rootkit which subtly alters text? or maybe a
           hacker is doing it directly? I did have an SVN server & SSH
           server connected to the internet, and frequently used instant
           messaging with people I don't know very well.

    Can anyone give me advice? Am I being too paranoid? too relaxed?
    Has anyone else had the same problem or heard/read about it?

--
aleblanc


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Re: suspicious text alteration

Allan Wind
On 2009-02-03T18:38:19, [hidden email] wrote:
>    I noticed something very suspicious the other day while using emacs.
>    I'm sure I saw a text character on my screen (far from my cursor or
>    mouse pointer) change to a different character on it's own.
>    I have noticed this a couple of times before in the past, but
>    instantly ignored it assuming it was my imagination.

>    Here is a list of possibilities I can think of:
>
>         1) I was hallucinating - it was late, but I did not feel tired,
>            and double checked myself.

If you save the file do you get the unchanged or changed character?  If
you paste the affected session somewhere do you get the unchanged or
changed character?

>         2) Software error - I was using emacs 22.3. and did not have any
>            modes running that could do something like that.

Switch to another editor, say vim :-), and see if the problem occurs
there.  Seriously it would be a good data point to rule out emacs as
culprit

>         3) Harware error - the machine had been running for a long time,
>            but is less than one year old. However there is a minor
>            problem - when I alter the screen brightness using the fn key
>            the brightness indicator that appears is usually garbage.
>            Sometimes it appears as normal though.

If you have another graphics card then I would try that.  Random bytes
swapping in system memory would cause a crash much sooner than you will
notice display issues, however memory on your graphics card may not
cause any other ill effects.

>         4) Cosmic rays - I have read that computer memory chips can be
>            altered by cosmic ray interference, and that this is not uncommon:
>            http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2008/03/do-we-need-cosmic-ray-alerts-for.html       
>            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7335322.stm

Same as 3).

>         5) Hacker/Root kit - could someone disrupt my workflow by
>            installing a rootkit which subtly alters text? or maybe a
>            hacker is doing it directly? I did have an SVN server & SSH
>            server connected to the internet, and frequently used instant
>            messaging with people I don't know very well.

Prank?  Root kits usually wants to stay undetected to steal passwords,
or use your box as spam relay.


/Allan
--
Allan Wind
Life Integrity, LLC
http://lifeintegrity.com


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Re: suspicious text alteration

Michael Loftis
In reply to this post by linux-39


--On February 3, 2009 6:38:19 PM +0000 [hidden email] wrote:

> Hi,
>    I noticed something very suspicious the other day while using emacs.
>    I'm sure I saw a text character on my screen (far from my cursor or
>    mouse pointer) change to a different character on it's own.
>    I have noticed this a couple of times before in the past, but
>    instantly ignored it assuming it was my imagination.
>
>    Here is a list of possibilities I can think of:

Sounds like either bad video ram, or bad ram, or a badly behaved video
driver.  To rule out bad system ram (or if your ram is shared) use
memtest86 or memtest86+, for bad video ram, I'm not sure of anything out
there to test dedicated VRAM.  But if your vram is shared you can try
physically swapping your DIMMs (Eg move dimm0 to dimm1 and dimm1 to dimm0)
and testing again.  Another possibility is that you've got something in
your case shorting the video bits, or a motherboard failure (there's a
bunch of well documented problems with nvidia and other bga package
systems).

I highly doubt it's anything security related.

>
>         1) I was hallucinating - it was late, but I did not feel tired,
>            and double checked myself.
>         2) Software error - I was using emacs 22.3. and did not have any
>            modes running that could do something like that.
>         3) Harware error - the machine had been running for a long time,
>            but is less than one year old. However there is a minor
>            problem - when I alter the screen brightness using the fn key
>            the brightness indicator that appears is usually garbage.
>            Sometimes it appears as normal though.
>         4) Cosmic rays - I have read that computer memory chips can be
>            altered by cosmic ray interference, and that this is not
> uncommon:
> http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2008/03/do-we-need-cosmic-ray
> -alerts-for.html
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7335322.stm
>         5) Hacker/Root kit - could someone disrupt my workflow by
>            installing a rootkit which subtly alters text? or maybe a
>            hacker is doing it directly? I did have an SVN server & SSH
>            server connected to the internet, and frequently used instant
>            messaging with people I don't know very well.
>
>     Can anyone give me advice? Am I being too paranoid? too relaxed?
>     Has anyone else had the same problem or heard/read about it?
>
> --
> aleblanc
>
>
> --
> To UNSUBSCRIBE, email to [hidden email]
> with a subject of "unsubscribe". Trouble? Contact
> [hidden email]
>



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"Genius might be described as a supreme capacity for getting its possessors
into trouble of all kinds."
-- Samuel Butler


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Re: suspicious text alteration

Rolf Kutz-2
In reply to this post by Allan Wind
On 03/02/09 14:42 -0500, Allan Wind wrote:
>
>Prank?  Root kits usually wants to stay undetected to steal passwords,
>or use your box as spam relay.

There used to be a worm in the 1990ies that would
make letters from a terminal "fall" down.

regards, Rolf

--
... But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' ...

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