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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.

Hewlett Packard Makes Haven Commercially Available

July 19, 2016

The article InformationWeek titled HPE’s Machine Learning APIs, MIT’s Sports Analytics Trends: Big Data Roundup analyzes Haven OnDemand, a large part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s big data strategy. For a look at the smart software coming out of HP Enterprise, check out this video. The article states,

“HPE’s announcement this week brings HPE Haven OnDemand as a service on the Microsoft Azure platform and provides more than 60 APIs and services that deliver deep learning analytics on a wide range of data, including text, audio, image, social, Web, and video. Customers can start with a freemium service that enables development and testing for free, and grow into a usage and SLA-based commercial model for enterprises.”

You may notice from the video that the visualizations look a great deal like Autonomy IDOL’s visualizations from the early 2000s. That is, dated, especially when compared to visualizations from other firms. But Idol may have a new name: Haven. According to the article, that name is actually a relaxed acronym for Hadoop, Autonomy IDOL, HP Vertica, Enterprise Security Products, and “n” or infinite applications. HPE promises that this cloud platform with machine learning APIs will assist companies in growing mobile and enterprise applications. The question is, “Can 1990s technology provide what 2016 managers expects?”

 

Chelsea Kerwin, July 19, 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.

Attivio Targets Profitability by the End of 2016 Through $31M Financing Round

July 18, 2016

The article on VentureBeat titled Attivio Raises $31 Million to Help Companies Make Sense of Big Data discusses the promises of profitability that Attivio has made since its inception in 2007. According to Crunchbase, the search vendor has raised over $100 million from four investors. In March 2016, the company closed a financing round at $31M with the expectation of becoming profitable within 2016. The article explains,

“Our increased investment underscores our belief that Attivio has game-changing capabilities for enterprises that have yet to unlock the full value of Big Data,” said Oak Investment Partners’ managing partner, Edward F. Glassmeyer. Attivio also highlighted such recent business victories as landing lab equipment maker Thermo Fisher Scientific as a client and partnering with medical informatics shop PerkinElmer. Oak Investment Partners, General Electric Pension Trust, and Tenth Avenue Holdings participated in the investment, which pushed Attivio’s funding to at least $102 million.”

In the VentureBeat Profile about the deal, Stephen Baker, CEO of Attivio makes it clear that 2015 was a turning point for the company, or in his words, “a watershed year.” Attivio prides itself on both speeding up the data preparation process and empowering their customers to “achieve true Data Dexterity.”  And hopefully they will also be profitable, soon.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, July 18, 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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Technology Does Not Level the Playing Field

July 12, 2016

Among the many articles about how too much automation of the labor force will devastate humanity, I found another piece that describes how technology as tools are a false equalizer.  The Atlantic published the piece titled: “Technology, The Faux Equalizer.”  What we tend to forget is that technology consists of tools made by humans.  These tools have consistently become more complicated as society has advanced.  The article acknowledges this by having us remember one hundred years ago, when electricity was a luxurious novelty.  Only the wealthy and those with grid access used electricity, but now it is as common as daylight.

This example points to how brand new technology is only available to a limited percentage of people.  Technological process and social progress are not mutually inclusive.  Another example provided, notes that Gutenberg’s printing press did not revolutionize printing for society, but rather the discovery of cheaper materials to make books.  Until technology is available for everyone it is not beneficial:

“Just compare the steady flow of venture capital into Silicon Valley with the dearth of funding for other technological projects, like critical infrastructure improvements to water safety, public transit, disintegrating bridges, and so on. ‘With this dynamic in mind, I would suggest that there is greater truth to the opposite of Pichai’s statement,’ said Andrew Russell, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. ‘Every jump in technology draws attention and capital away from existing technologies used by the 99 percent, which therefore undermines equality, and reduces the ability for people to get onto the ‘playing field’ in the first place.’”

In science-fiction films depicting the future, we imagine that technology lessens the gap between everyone around the world, but we need to be reminded that the future is now.  Only a few people have access to the future, compare the average lifestyle of Europeans and Americans versus many African and Middle East nations.  History tells us that this is the trend we will always follow.

Oh, oh. We thought technology would fix any problem. Perhaps technology exacerbates old sores and creates new wounds? Just an idle question.

 

Whitney Grace,  July 12, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

VirtualWorks Purchases Natural Language Processing Firm

July 8, 2016

Another day, another merger. PR Newswire released a story, VirtualWorks and Language Tools Announce Merger, which covers Virtual Works’ purchase of Language Tools. In Language Tools, they will inherit computational linguistics and natural language processing technologies. Virtual Works is an enterprise search firm. Erik Baklid, Chief Executive Officer of VirtualWorks is quoted in the article,

“We are incredibly excited about what this combined merger means to the future of our business. The potential to analyze and make sense of the vast unstructured data that exists for enterprises, both internally and externally, cannot be understated. Our underlying technology offers a sophisticated solution to extract meaning from text in a systematic way without the shortcomings of machine learning. We are well positioned to bring to market applications that provide insight, never before possible, into the vast majority of data that is out there.”

This is another case of a company positioning themselves as a leader in enterprise search. Are they anything special? Well, the news release mentions several core technologies will be bolstered due to the merger: text analytics, data management, and discovery techniques. We will have to wait and see what their future holds in regards to the enterprise search and business intelligence sector they seek to be a leader in.

Megan Feil, July 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

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