The Farewell Dossier

Thomas Shaddack shaddack at
Tue Feb 3 10:03:33 PST 2004

>  "The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was
> programmed to go haywire," writes Reed, "to reset pump speeds and valve
> settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline
> joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion
> and fire ever seen from space."

Russians did one BIG mistake: they entrusted a critical system into the
hands of a single electronical system. Safety systems should be a
multi-level combination of approaches; from mechanical safety valves
(which may be as simple as a thinner patch of metal with defined pressure
resistance mounted over a pipeline tap, so when an overpressure happens
the line blows in a known, easy to guard and inspect (and replace) place,
instead in a weld or junction somewhere) to a diverse array of monitoring
tools sourced by multiple vendors. In case of full dependence on foreign
(and hostile) source, the acquired system has to be thoroughly
reverse-engineered and audited. In cases where it is
impossible/impractical, eg. big computer systems, another system should
check a subset of the results of the main computer, and alert about
possible discrepancies.

As added advantage, this approach catches not only intentional sabotages,
but also natural mishaps.

This story wasn't a success of US sabotage by far as much as it was a
blatant failure of Soviet engineering.

God is. His name is Murphy. Engineer defensively.

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