Online Drugs Trade Needs Surgical Strikes

October 25, 2016

Despite shutdown of Silk Road by the FBI in 2013, online drug trade through Dark Net is thriving. Only military-precision like surgical strikes on vendors and marketplaces using technological methods can solve this problem.

RAND Corporation in its research papaer titled Taking Stock of the Online Drugs Trade says that –

Illegal drug transactions on cryptomarkets have tripled since 2013, with revenues doubling. But at $12-21 (€10.5-18.5) million a month, this is clearly a niche market compared to the traditional offline market, estimated at $2.3 (€2) billion a month in Europe alone.

The primary goal of the research paper was to determine first, the size and scope of cryptomarkets and second, to device avenues for law enforcement agencies to intervene these illegal practices. Though the report covered the entire Europe, the role of Netherlands, in particular, was studied in this report. This was owing to the fact that Netherlands has the highest rate of consumption of drugs acquired using cryptomarkets.

Some interesting findings of the report include –

  • Though revenues have doubled, drug cryptomarkets are still niche and generate revenues of $21 million/month as compared to $2.1 billion in offline trade.
  • Cannabis still is the most in demand followed by stimulants like cocaine and ecstasy-type drugs
  • Vendors from US, Australia, Canada and Western Europe dominate the online marketplace

Apart from following the conventional methods of disrupting the drug trade (dismantling logistics, undercover operations, and taking down marketplaces), the only new method suggested includes the use of Big Data techniques.

Cryptomarkets are going to thrive, and the only way to tackle this threat is by following the money (in this case, the cryptocurrencies). But who is going to bell the cat?

Vishal Ingole, October 25, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

eBay and Corrigon: Heading in the Right Direction?

October 14, 2016

I find eBay fascinating. Many things for sale; for example, $3,000 Teddy bears. I wonder what those are.

I read “eBay to Acquire Corrigon Ltd.” Interesting. I learned about Corrigon, an Israel-based image search and analysis outfit, about seven years ago. The company’s technology can “look” at a digital image and recognize objects in the image. Coirrigon’s pitch, as I recall it, introduced me to the concept of “dynamic browsing.” I thought most browsing was, by definition, was dynamic, but why ask questions which marketers cannot or will not answer. The buzzwords are the intellectual food which gives me Delhi belly.

One application of Corrigon’s technology is to identify objects in a photo can create a link to a shopping site where one can purchase that object. For instance, I am looking at this image:


The Corrigon system will, in theory, point me to this type of entry on another Web site:


What if I really want the model’s shirt? Well, that may be an issue.

Corrigon has some law enforcement and intelligence applications as well. My hunch is that eBay wants to allow a person to see something, buy something.

The method adds layers and performs image parsing. The method is fine but the approach can add compute cycles. Latency when shopping is a bit of brown bread.

The write up informed me that:

Corrigon’s technology and expertise will contribute to eBay’s efforts with image recognition, classification and image enhancements as part of its structured data initiative. There are three parts to eBay’s structured data initiative: first, collect the data; second, process and enrich the data; and third, create product experiences.Corrigon will support the second and third parts – processing and enriching the data and creating product experiences.

Let’s think about how an eBay user accesses information in the digital flea market now. A person navigates to the site and plugs in keywords. The system then generates a bewildering array of options and some listings. A user then scans and clicks the laundry list of listing. Then the user reads individual listings. Then the user presumably buys the best listing. Heaven help the user who needs to hunt for the link to ask the seller a question. Etc. etc. etc.

eBay’s purchase of Corrigon is going to make eBay into a zippier shopping experience. Well, that’s the theory.

eBay’s challenge is my fave Craigslist and obviously the Bezos beastie. I asked myself, “Perhaps eBay should do some interface work and poke around its core search functionality?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2016

Watch out for Falling Burritos

September 22, 2016

Amazon and Wal-Mart are already trying to deliver packages by drones, but now a Mexican restaurant wants in on the automated delivery game.  Bloomberg Technology tells the story in “Alphabet And Chipotle Are Bringing Burrito Delivery Drones To Campus.”  If you think you can now order a burrito and have it delivered to you via drone, sorry to

tell you that the service is only available on the Virginia Tech campus.  Alphabet Inc. unit Project Wing has teamed up with Chipotle Mexican Grill for the food delivery service.

Self-guided hybrid drones will deliver the burritos.  The burritos will come from a nearby food truck, so the navigation will be accurate and also so the food will be fresh.  The best part is that when the drones are making the delivery, they will hover and lower the burritos with a winch.

While the drones will be automated, human pilots will be nearby to protect people on campus from falling burritos and in case the drones veer from their flight pattern.  The FAA approved the burrito delivering drone test, but the association is hesitant to clear unmanned drones for bigger deliver routes.

…the experiment will not assess one of the major technology hurdles facing drone deliveries: creation of a low-level air-traffic system that can maintain order as the skies become more crowded with unmanned vehicles. NASA is working with Project Wing and other companies to develop the framework for such a system. Data from the tests will be provided to the FAA to help the agency develop new rules allowing deliveries…

The drone burrito delivery at Virginia Tech is believed to be the most complex delivery flight operation in the US.  It is a test for a not too distant future when unmanned drones deliver packages and food.  It will increase the amount of vehicles in the sky, but it will also put the delivery business in jeopardy.  Once more things change and more jobs become obsolete.

Whitney Grace, September 22, 2016
Sponsored by, 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:

SLI Search: Loss Narrows for $35 Million Business

September 14, 2016

SLI Systems offers an eCommerce search system. If you followed the history of NBC’s search efforts, you may know that SLI Systems has some DNA from Snap Search. The company is an interesting one. It competes with EasyAsk, another eCommerce search vendor.

SLI released its financial results in a news release titled “SLI Systems Announces Financial Research for the Year to 30 June 2016.” (Some news releases have the ability to disappear or become a pay to play feature. The release was online an free as of September 6, 2016.)

The write up confirmed what most stakeholders in search and content processing systems may avoid thinking about: Generating revenue in today’s economic climate is difficult.

SLI Systems is a $35 million dollar company. The firm lost several big accounts for a range of reasons. The good news is that instead of losing $7 million in FY2015, SLI reported a before tax loss of $162,000. There are no details about what caused the hefty loss 12 months ago or what a new management team to reduce the shortfall by almost $8 million. Great management? Magic?

I circled this chunk of management explanation:

SLI Systems Chairman Greg Cross said: “The 2016 financial year has been a period of significant change for the company. Chris Brennan took over as Chief Executive Officer in October 2015 and since then we have recruited three key executives: a new Chief Revenue Officer, a new Chief Marketing Officer and a new Vice President of Customer Success. Drawing on the expertise of these new recruits and the broader management team, SLI has put in place new business processes and organizational structures to lift the performance of the business for the long term.

He added:

“The company remains in a strong financial position. Although we expect net cash outflows in the coming year as we return to a growth trajectory, we remain confident that we have sufficient cash resources to support the company’s plan. We are looking forward to the remainder of the year with cautious optimism,” Mr. Cross said.

SLI is based in New Zealand. The mot recent version of the company’s Web site does not make it easy to locate the company’s address at 78 – 106 Manchester Street. Christchurch 8011. New Zealand. New Zealand Phone: 0800 754 797. The company’s office appears to be in the Enterprise Precinct Innovation Center. The firm has an office in San Jose, California. SLI’s office locations are available at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2016

Intuitive Interfaces Matter on Dark Web Sites Too

September 1, 2016

Did you know some sites on the Dark Web have a sleek look and intuitive user experience?  VeriClouds published this information, including screenshots and more in a piece called Dark Web: Sophisticated eCommerce platform trading in your personal information. Channels for cybercriminals allow users to search for Dark Web commodities such as personal or sensitive information by: category, product type, price, sale type, location and shipping options. Mirroring the processes and policies of traditional retail, some sellers also have refund options. The article states:

Platforms like these are so much more than just rudimentary command line setups or chat rooms. They offer many of the same features as online stores like Amazon or Ebay with vendor ratings, buyer feedback, detailed search options and facilitated transaction and delivery services. Collections of data are presented with detailed descriptions (similar to an ecommerce product pages), and some even provide tutorials on how to best utilize that data to scam victims.

On one level, this report shows us how much an intuitive user experience has become the expectation, not an added bonus — anywhere on the web. Related to this heightened expectation for even intangible “things” to have an effective look and feel, we are reminded this is the information age. As information is a commodity, it is no surprise to see the rise in cyber theft of such invisible goods on the Dark Web or otherwise. For example, as the article mentioned, last year’s estimate by the Federal Trade Commission showed 9.9 million victims of identity theft.

Megan Feil, September 1, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Dark Web Purchases Potentially More Challenging Than Media Portrays

August 8, 2016

German TV journalists recently discovered acquiring weapons on the Dark Web may be more challenging than media coverage suggests. Vice’s Motherboard published an article on this called TV Journalists Try Buying AK-47 on Dark Web, Fail. Producers for German channel ARD, working for a show “Fear of terror—how vulnerable is Germany” lost about $800 in bitcoin during the attempted transaction through a middleman. We learned,

“It’s not totally clear if this was because the seller wasn’t legitimate, or whether the package had been intercepted. Regardless, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise: The dark web gun trade is rife with scammers. One con-artist previously told Motherboard he would ask legal sellers to send him photos of weapons next to a piece of paper with his username. From here, he would “just send a bag of sugar,” when an order came in. And undercover law enforcement agents also sell weapons in order to identify potential customers.”

Motherboard is careful to reference cases of successful Dark Web gun sales. Not that readers would be so quick to assume guns cannot be easily purchased on the Dark Web after seeing numerous media coverage that is the case. For the average reader, is the knowledge of the Dark Web from media or personal experience? We see a lot of articles reporting number of web sites that exist, perhaps because of the inability to accurately report a number of users on the Dark Web. While that may not be retrievable, perhaps the number of Tor downloads may be.


Megan Feil, August 8, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link:


Semantify Secures Second Funding Round

August 4, 2016

Data-management firm Semantify has secured more funding, we learn from “KGC Capital Invests in Semantify, Leaders in Cognitive Discovery and Analytics” at Benzinga. The write-up tells us primary investor KGC Capital was joined by KDWC Venture Fund and Bridge Investments in making the investment, as well as by existing investors (including its founder, Vishy Dasari.) The funds from this Series A funding round will be used to address increased delivery, distribution, and packaging needs.

The press release describes Semantify’s platform:

“Semantify automates connecting information in real time from multiple silos, and empowers non-technical users to independently gain relevant, contextual, and actionable insights using a free form and friction-free query interface, across both structured and unstructured content. With Semantify, there would be no need to depend on data experts to code queries and blend, curate, index and prepare data or to replicate data in a new database. A new generation self-service enterprise Ad-hoc discovery and analytics platform, it combines natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and advanced semantic modeling capabilities, in a single seamless proprietary platform. This makes it a pioneer in democratization of independent, on demand information access to potentially hundreds of millions of users in the enterprise and e-commerce world.”

Semantify cites their “fundamentally unique” approach to developing data-management technology as the force behind their rapid deployment cycles, low maintenance needs, and lowered costs. Formerly based in Delaware, the company is moving their headquarters to Chicago (where their investors are based). Semantify was founded in 2008. The company is also hiring; their About page declares, toward the bottom: “Growing fast. We need people;” as of this writing, they are seeking database/ BI experts, QA specialists, data scientists & knowledge modelers, business analysts, program & project managers, and team leads.



Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



Amazon: Not the Corner Store? Big Insight

July 21, 2016

I love Amazon almost as much as I love Google. I would have a tough time deciding which of these services warrants more of my affection, trust, and respect. I said to myself “Bummer” when I read “Amazon’s Dominance Is Bad for Your Business.” I recently ordered a paperback from Amazon and noticed that the 150 page monograph was a $1,000, not $10. Anyone could have clicked the incorrect link between the correctly priced volume and the used discounted books. Amazon respected my klutziness, and I think I got my money back after I sent the $1000 paperback back to the outstanding merchant. This firm obviously valued its paperback more highly than the half dozen vendors selling the same paperback for $10. What more could one want? (One of my goslings asked me, “Why does Amazon list certain products at vastly inflated prices? I don’t know. I love Amazon. Love is blind.)

The write up includes a quote allegedly generated by the world’s smartest person, Jeff Bezos; to wit:

“…Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

I like that. Google’s meat eating dinosaur is, after all, dead unless the team solving death brings T Rex back to life. A cheetah is a here and now creature able to snag small, sickly, or inept prey with a batting average a major league player would covet.

The write up also states:

Amazon has done a very good job with search and discovery on mobile,” BloomReach marketing chief Joelle Kaufman said. “They are capturing the lion’s share of mobile revenue. Consumers said they start on a cellphone and they use it as a research tool. But 81 percent want to buy on that laptop/desktop.”

Google, it seems, is an also ran in the shopping search sector. But what about Amazon’s competitors and merchants who do not want to sell their products via Amazon?

The answer is, according to the write up:

There are still a plethora of avenues to make sales through, and portals to gain consumer attention. Despite Amazon’s utter dominance in the U.S. e-retail market, you can still grow your business, and become highly successful along the way. Just remember the importance of content, social media, and a great attitude. If David had submitted to Goliath’s size before the battle had begun, he never would have realized his own strength and capabilities.

This sounds like Google Adwords, Snapchat, and YouTube videos to me? Those work really well for mom and pop merchants (at least for the small number remaining in the good, old USA), small businesses, and unfunded start ups.

Is what’s good for Amazon good for us or was it “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA”? When will Amazon address the shortcomings I find in Amazon search? Maybe never. If it is not broken, why try to fix it. That’s why suggested prices are irrelevant in the Amazon jungle.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2016

Try the Amazon Brand Computer Chip

July 14, 2016

Amazon offers its clients cloud storage, software development help, and more services via their Amazon Service Works.  The global retailer is also taking on electronics and cable TV with the Kindle and Amazon Fire TV, but now, according to Trusted Reviews, “Amazon Now Selling Own-Brand Computer Chips.”  Amazon wants to diversify its offerings even more with its own brand of computer chips.

The Amazon brand computer chips are made by Annapurna Labs that the company purchased last year.  Amazon recently announced these chips are now available to the open market and the ARM-based processors can be used in home gateways, WiFi routers, and networked attached storage devices.  They are meant to be used as cheap alternatives for home smart devices and data centers, nothing that can compete on the scale of Qualcomm.

The purpose of a capitalistic society is to drive competition and Intel has the computer chip marker monopoly:

“However, it does mark a notable challenge to another major chip manufacturer. As Bloomberg points out, Intel currently has the data-centre infrastructure field pretty much to itself, with a whopping 99% share of the server chip market. Amazon’s entry to this one-sided market could start to change that, although it won’t initially be targeting the kind of high-end servers that represent Intel’s stronghold. Amazon appears to be attacking the low-power edges of the market, which could see it powering (or at least helping to power) that hottest of networks, the Internet of Things.”

Great, Amazon is still working on developing other products, but we want to know when they are going to deploy image search.


Whitney Grace,  July 14, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Twiggle Challenges Amazon

July 11, 2016

Twiggle sounds like the name for a character in a children’s show.  Rather Twiggle is the name of an Israeli startup.  It is working on the algorithms and other operating factors to power ecommerce search, using machine learning techniques, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing.  Venture Beat shares an insightful story about how Twiggle is not going to compete with Google, but rather Amazon’s A9: “Twiggle Raises $12.5 Million To Challenge A9 Ecommerce Search Engine.”

The story explains that:

“Rather than going up against well-established search giants like Google, Twiggle is working more along the lines of A9, a search and ad-tech subsidiary created by Amazon more than a decade ago. While A9 is what Amazon itself uses to power search across its myriad properties, the technology has also been opened to third-party online retailers. And it’s this territory Twiggle is now looking to encroach on.”

Twiggle has not released its technology, but interested users can request early access and it is already being incorporated by some big players in the eCommerce game (or so we’re told).

Twiggle functions similar to A9 with the ultimate goal of converting potential customers into paying customers.  Twiggle uses keywords to generate results based on keywords and it might transition into a visual search where users submit an image to find like items.  Natural language processing will also take regular human conversation and turn it into results.

The series A round funding of $12.5 million was led by Naspers with other contributors. Yahoo Japan, State of Mind Ventures, and Sir Ronald Cohen.  Twiggle says it is not copying A9 and has powerful search technology behind it, but are the rebranding the same product under a new title?  When they deliver the goods, then the tests will tell.


Whitney Grace,  July 11, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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