Big Brother Now in Corporate Avatar

October 31, 2016

Companies in the US are now tracking employee movements and interactions to determine how productive their assets are. Badges created by Humanyze; embedded in employee IDs track these key indicators and suggest appropriate measures to help improve employee productivity.

An article published on Business Insider titled Employees at a dozen Fortune 500 companies wear digital badges that watch and listen to their every move reveals:

Humanyze visualizes the data as webs of social interaction that reveal who’s talking to whom on a by-the-second basis. The goal: Revolutionize how companies think about how they organize themselves.

The badges though only track employees who have explicitly given permission to track their working hours, imagination is the only inhibiting factor that will determine how the meta-data can be used. For instance, as the badges are being embedded into employee IDs (that already have chips), it can also be used by someone with right tools to track the movement of an employee beyond working hours.

Social engineering in the past has been used in the past to breach IT security at large organizations. With Humanyze badges, hackers now will have one more weapon in their arsenal.

One worrisome aspect of these badges becomes apparent here:

But the badges are already around the necks of more than 10,000 employees in the US, Waber says. They’ve led to wild insights. One client moves the coffee machine around each night, so the next morning employees in nearby departments naturally talk more.

The ironic part is, companies are exposing themselves to this threat. Google, Facebook, Amazon are already tracking people online. With services like Humanyze, the Big Brother has also entered the corporate domain. The question is not how the data will be used by hacked; it’s just when?

Vishal Ingole October 31, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Tries to Hide Big Wizards. A Mystery or a Harbinger of Wagon Circling??

October 27, 2016

I read “A Google Mystery: The Names and Bios of the Company’s Top Execs Are No Longer Listed on Its Website.” The main point of the write up is that a Google page listing some of the big dogs in the digital kennel have gone missing. I highlighted this passage:

If you needed to know who oversees financial maters for parent company Alphabet (Ruth Porat), or know who the CEO of the core Google internet business is (Sundar Pichai), or if you wanted to get a sense of who is leading businesses like smart home appliance maker Nest, the company’s investor relations page won’t be of much help. Right now, the company’s management page just takes you to an Error 404 page.

Is this a mystery? Here in Harrod’s Creek, we suggest that the GOOG is doing a bit of self preservation. If you are watching folks head out the door to hotter and potentially more lucrative companies, why make it dead simple for a home economics major to identify a Googler to hunt down at a conference.

The problem Google faces is a slide to mediocrity. The ad outfit is ageing and not particularly well. A CFO is raining on the math club’s parade. Revenue from mobile searches poses more of a challenge than the good old Yahoo inspired ad words for desktop computers. The costs just keep on rising. The competitors keep on coming. Hello, Snapchat. Searching for products? Good morning, Amazon. Think about it. There is  unfortunately a limited supply of wizards. When a big dog wanders, one has to settle for maybe two smaller dogs which hopefully will add up to the big dog right now.

Mediocrity is baked into the replacement hiring process. Ergo. Make it difficult to figure out who does what. Dodge stories like “Google Ventures Founder Latest Executive to Depart Alphabet.”

If you really want to know who does what at the ad outfit, consider these resources:

  1. Take a look at Google journal articles. Capture the names of the authors. Look for authors with multiple papers in a particular niche. The data provide useful pointers to who does what.
  2. Examine Google patent documents. Perform inventor entity analysis. Metrics point to folks who may be competent in a particular field.
  3. Those odd ACM, database, and advanced computing conference presentations are important. Suck down the programs, perform textual analysis, and you have useful data about who knows and does what.

If that’s too tough, point your browser at Boardroom Insiders and copy the list of executives and hunt for Googlers at softball games on the fields off El Camino in Palo Alto. There’s often beer after a co-ed game and recruitment fest. The same method works for a number of Sillycon Valley outfits. No dumpster diving required, and the process works from right here in rural Kentucky.

There is no correlation between IQ and players’ ability to catch a ball, But you might be able to convert a Googler into a Xoogler with a nifty move.

The Google is circling its wagons. Nothing but a logical response to the increasing pressure the company faces in hiring, cost control, competition, and its legacy technology. A Web page take down may be a harbinger, not a mystery.

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

Explain Cloud Analytics Like I Am Five

October 10, 2016

One of Reddit’s popular subreddits is “explain to me like I’m five,” where redditors post questions they have about science, math, computing, engineering, politics, and other topics.  Outside of reading textbooks or questioning experts in person, this subreddit allows intellectual discussion on a global basis…as long as the comments remain mature.  “Explain to me like I’m five” is like the favorite For Dummies book series.

While Internet forums and Reddit itself have made the series semi-obsolete, For Dummies books are still a reliable reference tool when you don’t want to search and scroll on the Internet.  As companies move towards cloud-based systems, you can be sure there will be a slew of cloud computing For Dummies books.

Open Source Magazine shares that “Analytics For Dummies” is available for a free download!

Cloud analytics is dramatically altering business intelligence. Some businesses will capitalize on these promising new technologies and gain key insights that’ll help them gain competitive advantage. And others won’t.  Whether you’re a business leader, an IT manager, or an analyst, we want to help you and the people you need to influence with a free copy of “Cloud Analytics for Dummies,” the essential guide to this explosive new space for business intelligence.

For Dummies books usually retail around twenty dollars, so this offers the chance for a free, updated manual on the growing cloud analytics field and you can save a few dollars.

Whitney Grace, October 10, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Business Intelligence Take on the Direction of Media

October 7, 2016

The article on Business Insider titled The Top 7 Predictions For the Future of Media offers a long gaze into the crystal ball. With significant research over the past six years including interviews with key industry players, the article posits that the future is clear for those willing to sit through the IGNITION Conference presentation put together by BI’s co-founder and CEO Henry Blodget. The article sums up the current state of uncertainty in media,

Users are moving away from desktop and toward mobile. Social media referrals are overtaking search. Consumers are cutting their cords and saying goodbye to traditional pay-TV. Messaging apps are threatening email. And smart devices are starting to connect everything around us. These changes in trends can disrupt our businesses, our portfolios, and even our lives. But they don’t have to…Those who are well informed and well prepared don’t see innovation as a threat; they see it as an opportunity.

The article overviews some of the major takeaways from the presentation such as: Newspapers will soon be joined by TV networks in their frustrating battle for relevance. The article also mentions that the much-discussed ad blocking crisis will “resolve itself,” with the caustic note that we should all be “careful what [we] wish for.” Not much interest in finding information however. The full report is available through BI for free after signing up.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 7, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Investigating a Palantir Founder: Is This a Good Idea?

September 29, 2016

I like the idea of researching technology and companies. I like to know something about the founders, but I am not too interested in their hobbies, the name of their dog, or how they spend their vacation days.

I read “MuckRock & Vice Announce Fellowship to Investigate Peter Thiel.” If the write up is accurate, which for the purposes of this blog post, is the operative assumption, I have a question: “Will this effort backfire?”

I understand that law enforcement and certain government agencies need to develop profiles and bubble gum cards about people of interest. When a person runs for a political office, journalists like to dig into the candidates’ past. But a lawyer and entrepreneur? Interesting.

The write up informed me:

I’m [author of the article cited above] not so sure how much Thiel-related info is really FOIA-able, this may put to the test Thiel’s stated claim that he wasn’t against journalism that made him look bad, in funding lawyer Charles Harder to sue Gawker into oblivion, but rather to “send a message” about protecting privacy. Of course, when you try to silence the press, there’s always a chance that the press decides to turn an even bigger spotlight on you.

Fascinating maneuver by MuckRock and Vice. I wonder if these outfits understand how tools like Palantir Gotham work, the tools’s capabilities, and the unintended consequences of collecting information about one of the beloved professionals involved in PayPal?

Worth monitoring from afar. Those lucky fellowship winners may learn quite a bit from the exercise. Did I mention that I wanted to monitor the trajectory of this “real news” adventure from afar. Really afar.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2016

Cairo Authorities Perform Bitcoin Sting

September 8, 2016

Egyptian authorities refuse to let a 30-year-old dentist get away with trading in digital currency, despite there being no law on the books to prohibit the practice.  The Merkle informs us, “Egyptian Dentist Apprehended in Bitcoin Sting Operation in Cairo.” Reporter Traderman reveals:

According to today’s post on the facebook page of The Ministry of the Interior, Mr. Ahmed was captured with $13,900 in cash, as well as a cellular phone and a smart tablet that were used in the trading operation. Authorities setup Ahmed by contacting him about a potential deal on LocalBitcoins, where Ahmed was selling the digital currency for $570 per coin.

The investigation was carried out with the cooperation of the Cairo Department of Public Safety and the Cairo Security Directorate. Mr. Ahmed has apparently confessed to trading bitcoin, but it is unclear what specific law Mr. Ahmed was breaking, as there are no regulations on digital currencies in Egypt.

The write-up tells us manufacturer AMECO, based in Cairo, has been accepting bitcoin apparently unmolested since 2014. Traderman also notes that, as of their writing, about seven Egyptian bitcoin vendors operating on LocalBitcoins, all of whom seem to be running modest operations. It will be interesting to see whether law-enforcement continues to crack down on bitcoin within their borders, and, if so, what justification authorities may offer. Perhaps they will go so far as to pass a law.

Cynthia Murrell, September 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Business Intelligence: Four Generalized Hurdles

August 30, 2016

Business intelligence, like government intelligence, may be an oxymoron. Nevertheless, doing “intelligence” is a big business. That’s why Palantir Technologies is hoping lawyers can crack open the US Army’s coin purse.

I read “4 Huge Challenges Facing CIOs and IT Leaders.” I quite like the use of “chief information officer” and “information technology leaders” in the headline. CIOs seems to be struggling to meet their budgets, deal with security issues, and attend conferences. The notional “information technology leader” is busy reading reports from mid tier consulting firms, dealing with the all-too-frequent emergencies, and removing malware from senior executives’ computing devices.

The write up identifies four “challenges” these busy professionals must convert to opportunities in their spare time. What are these “challenges”? Here’s my translation of MBA speak into Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky lingo:

  1. Executives have to write checks and push aside bureaucratic baloney to that business intelligence can move forward. If the top dog doesn’t care, well, you can always check out Facebook and read Reddit.
  2. Get something done when  you said you would complete the task. Good luck with that. Meetings, approvals, crashes [see the comment above about information technology professionals’ time allocation], and software that simply doesn’t work are enemies of finishing a job. I assume that the people performing business intelligence know what they are doing most of the time when they are not sure what the objective of the project is.
  3. Normalizing, vetting, and processing data. Yikes, this challenge has been in the fast lanes of the information superhighway for more than 50 years. Hey, that XML is just great, isn’t it?
  4. Getting users to use the business intelligence outputs. If the users don’t understand the outputs, don’t trust the outputs, or prefer their own methods—up date that link graph thing on Microsoft LinkedIn.

When one steps back from this list of challenges, the issues are not new. The more chaotic the business environment is perceived to be, the less likely converting these opportunities into a career win may be.

Even when a system does deliver useful outputs like Palantir Gotham, getting acceptance is a very difficult challenge. A person without the resources of Palantir might find the conversion of these challenges a bit of a challenge in itself.

May I suggest that the solution is to start small, demonstrate value, and move forward? How popular is that approach? Not very.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2016

Need a Mentor? See Here

August 3, 2016

Does your business need a mentor? How about any students or budding entrepreneurs you know? Such a guide can be invaluable, especially to a small business, but Google and Bing may not be the best places to pose that query. Business magazine Inc. has rounded up “Ten Top Platforms for Finding a Mentor in 22016.” Writer John Boitnott introduces the list:

“Many startup founders have learned that by working with a mentor, they enjoy a collaboration through which they can learn and grow. They usually also gain access to a much more experienced entrepreneur’s extensive network, which can help as they seek funding or gather resources. For students, mentors can provide the insight they need as they make decisions about their future. One of the biggest problems entrepreneurs and students have, however, is finding a good mentor when their professional networks are limited. Fortunately, technology has come up with an answer. Here are nine great platforms helping to connect mentors and mentees in 2016.”

Boitnott  lists the following mentor-discovery resources: Music platform Envelop offers workshops for performers and listeners. Mogul focuses on helping female entrepreneurs via a 27/7 advice hotline. From within classrooms, iCouldBe connects high-school students to potential mentors. Also for high-school students, iMentor is specifically active in low-income communities. MentorNet works to support STEM students through a community of dedicated mentors, while the free, U.K.-based Horse’s Mouth supports a loosely-organized platform where participants share ideas. Also free, Find a Mentor matches potential protégés with adult mentors. SCORE supplies tools like workshops and document templates for small businesses. Cloud-based MentorCity serves entrepreneurs, students, and nonprofits, and it maintains a free online registry where mentors can match their skill sets to the needs of inquiring minds.

Who knew so much professional guidance was out there, made possible by today’s technology, and much of it for free?  For more information on each entry, see the full article.

 

 

Cynthia Murrell, August 3, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

 

Big Data Is Just a Myth

August 1, 2016

Remember in the 1979 hit The Muppet Movie there was a running gag where Kermit the Frog kept saying, “It’s a myth.  A myth!”  Then a woman named Myth would appear out of nowhere and say, “Yes?”  It was a funny random gag, but while it is a myth that frogs give warts, most of the myths related to big data may or not be.  Data Science Central decided to explain some of the myths in, “Debunking The 68 Most Common Myths About Big Data-Part 2.”

Some of the prior myths debunked in the first part were that big data was the newest power word, an end all solution for companies, only meant for big companies, and that it was complicated and expensive.  In truth, anyone can benefit from big data with a decent implementation plan and with someone who knows how to take charge of it.

Big data, in fact, can be integrated with preexisting systems, although it takes time and knowledge to link the new and the old together (it is not as difficult as it seems).  Keeping on that same thought, users need to realize that there is not a one size fits all big data solution.  Big data is a solution that requires analytical, storage, and other software.  It cannot be purchased like other proprietary software and it needs to be individualized for each organization.

One myth that is has converted into truth is that big data relies on Hadoop storage.  It used to be Hadoop  managed a market of many, but bow it is an integral bit of software needed to get the big data job done.  One of the most prevalent myths is it only belongs in the IT department:

“Here’s the core of the issue.  Big Data gives companies the greatly enhanced ability to reap benefits from data-driven insights and to make better decisions.  These are strategic issues.

You know who is most likely to be clamoring for Big Data?  Not IT.  Most likely it’s sales, marketing, pricing, logistics, and production forecasting.  All areas that tend to reap outsize rewards from better forward views of the business.”

Big data is becoming more of an essential tool for organizations in every field as it tells them more about how they operate and their shortcomings.  Big data offers a very detailed examination of these issues; the biggest issue users need to deal with is how they will use it?

 

Whitney Grace, August 1, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Interview with an Ethical Hacker

July 20, 2016

We’ve checked out a write-up on one of the white-hats working for IBM at Business Insider— “Here’s What It’s Really Like to Be a Hacker at One of the World’s Biggest Tech Companies.”  We wonder, does this wizard use Watson? The article profiles Charles Henderson. After summarizing the “ethical hacker’s” background, the article describes some of his process:

“The first thing I do every morning is catch up on what happened when I was sleeping. The cool thing is, since I run a global team, when I’m sleeping there are teams conducting research and working engagements with customers. So in the morning I start by asking, ‘Did we find any critical flaws?’ ‘Do I need to tell a client we found a vulnerability and begin working to fix it?’ From there, I am working with my team to plan penetration tests and make sure we have the resources we need to address the issues we have found. There isn’t an hour that goes by that I don’t find a cool, new way of doing something, which means my days are both unpredictable and exciting.

“I also do a lot of research myself. I like to look at consumer electronic devices, anything from planes to trains to automobiles to mobile devices. I try to find ways to break into or break apart these devices, to find new flaws and vulnerabilities.”

Henderson also mentions meeting with clients around the world to consult on security issues, and lists some projects his team has tackled. For example, a “physical penetration test” which involved stealing a corporate vehicle, and sending “tiger teams” to burgle client buildings. His favorite moments, though, are those when he is able to fix a vulnerability before it is exploited. Henderson closes with this bit of advice for aspiring hackers: “Always be curious. Never take anything at face value.”

 

 

Cynthia Murrell, July 20, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark
Web meet up on July 26, 2016.
Information is at this link: http://bit.ly/29tVKpx.

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