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Ignoring Search Updates are a Security Risk

April 23, 2015

Searching is an essential function for basic Internet use and it is a vital function in enterprise systems.  While searching on the Internet with a search engine might not seem like a security risk, the comparable action on enterprise search could be potentially dangerous.  Security Enterprises points out the potential security risks in the article, “SearchBlox Vulnerabilities Underscore Importance Of Updating Enterprise Search Tools.”

Recently the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute CERT Division compiled a list of all the security risks from SearchBlox’s software.  They included ways for hackers to view private information, upload files, cross-site (XSS) scripting, and cross-site request forgeries.  Enterprise security developers can learn from SearchBlox’s vulnerabilities by being aware and repairing them before a hacker discovers the information leak.

The problem, however, might come from within an organization rather than out:

“Of all the possible threats, the ability for cybercriminals to conduct XSS attacks from within the product’s default search box is likely the most concerning, Threatpost reported. On the other hand, anyone trying to take advantage of such SearchBlox vulnerabilities would need to be an authenticated user, though there is no shortage of stories about insider threats within the enterprise.”

The article alludes that SearchBlox’s vulnerabilities came from day-to-day activities that keep an organization running.  Using SearchBlox as an example, other organizations with enterprise systems will be able to learn where their own products need patches so the same issues don’t happen with them.  So what do you take away: most hackers are probably insiders and look for holes in the ordinary, everyday routines.

Whitney Grace, April 23, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Microsoft Improves Search, Again, with Delve

April 20, 2015

The article titled Microsoft Beefs Up Office 365’s Delve, Aims To Complete Its Rollout By May on Computerworld discusses the improvements to the enterprise search and discovery app Delve. Delve was built for Office 365’s Office Graph machine learning engine, and helps create and analyze detailed data on users by linking to content through card icons. The article states,

“Based on what it learns about the user’s work, it determines which files, colleagues, documents and data are most relevant and important at any given point, and displays links to them in a graphically rich, card-based dashboard. Delve provides this assistance in real time, so that users can prioritize their work and find the information they need as they participate in whatever work projects and tasks they’re involved in.”

This means that Delve can figure that a user’s upcoming meeting will be about a particular topic with particular colleagues, and then collect information that is relevant in a timely manner for display in the dashboard. Microsoft is currently working to make Delve capable of analyzing email content within Exchange Online attachments. Yammer actions will also be performable in the near future from the Delve interface. It can also, of course, be used more traditionally as a search engine, but Microsoft has big plans for more dynamic and innovative capabilities.

Chelsea Kerwin, April 20, 2014

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

The Law of Moore: Is Information Retrieval an Exception?

April 17, 2015

I read “Moore’s Law Is Dead, Long Live Moore’s Law.” The “law” cooked up by a chip company suggests that in technology stuff gets better, faster, and cheaper.” With electronic brains getting, better, faster, cheaper, it follows that phones are more wonderful every few weeks. The logic applies to laptops, intelligence in automobiles, and airline related functions.

The article focuses on the Intel-like world of computer parts. The write up makes this point which I highlighted:

From 2005 through 2014, Moore’s Law continued — but the emphasis was on improving cost by driving down the expense of each additional transistor. Those transistors might not run more quickly than their predecessors, but they were often more power-efficient and less expensive to build.

Yep, the cheaper point is significant. The article then tracks to a point that warranted a yellow highlight:

After 50 years, Moore’s Law has become cultural shorthand for innovation itself. When Intel, or Nvidia, or Samsung refer to Moore’s Law in this context, they’re referring to the continuous application of decades of knowledge and ingenuity across hundreds of products. It’s a way of acknowledging the tremendous collaboration that continues to occur from the fab line to the living room, the result of painstaking research aimed to bring a platform’s capabilities a little more in line with what users want. Is that marketing? You bet. But it’s not just marketing.

These two points sparked my thinking about the discipline of enterprise information access. Enterprise search relies on a wide range of computing operations. If these operations are indeed getting better, faster, and cheaper, does it make sense to assume that information retrieval is also getting better, faster, and cheaper?

What is happening from my point of view is that the basic design of enterprise information access systems has not changed significantly in the last decade, maybe longer. There is the content acquisition module, the normalization or transformation module, the indexing module, the query processing module, the administrative module, and other bits and pieces.

The outputs from today’s information access systems do not vary much from the outputs available from systems on offer a decade ago. Endeca generated visual reports by 2003. Relationship maps were available from Inxight and Semio (remember that outfit) even earlier. Smart software like the long forgotten Inference system winnowed results on what the user sought in his or her query. Linguistic functions were the heart and soul of Delphes. Statistical procedures were the backbone of PLS, based on Cornell wizardry.

Search and retrieval has benefited from faster hardware. But the computational burdens piled on available resources have made it possible to layer on function after function. The ability to make layers of content processing and filtering work has done little to ameliorate the grousing about many enterprise search systems.

The fix has not been to deliver a solution significantly different from what Autonomy and Fast Search offered in 2001. The fix has been to shift from what users’ need to deal with business questions to:

  • Business intelligence
  • Semantics
  • Natural language processing
  • Cognitive computing
  • Metadata
  • Visualization
  • Text analytics.

I know I am missing some of the chestnuts. The point is that information access may be lagging behind certain other sectors; for example, voice search via a mobile device. When I review a “new” search solution, I often find myself with the same sense of wonder I had when I first walked through the Smithsonian Museum: Interesting but mostly old stuff.

Just a thought that enterprise search is delivering less, not “Moore.”

Stephen E Arnold, April 17, 2015

The Enterprise is a Jungle Search

April 16, 2015

The word collaboration has become one of those corporate power words like “synergy” and “KISS method.”  Many people groan inwardly at new ways to “collaborate,” because it usually means another tool they have to learn and will fall out of use in under a year.  With the myriad of ways to collaborate digitally, getting any actual collaborating done is difficult.  The SAP News blog says enterprise collaboration might be getting a little easier in the article, “EnterpriseJungle Tames Enterprise Search.”

EnterpriseJungle created an application with the SAP Hana Cloud Platform to help companies connect quickly find and connect with experts within or outside their company.  The Principal at EnterpriseJungle states that a company’s people search is vital tool to locate and harness information.

“ ‘Large companies are desperate to get a handle on understanding and accessing the expertise available to them at any given moment,’ said Sinclair. ‘Our solutions help companies solve fundamental questions like how do we find the people who are fantastic at what they do, but only known to their closest core group of co-workers? And, how do we easily bring their knowledge and expertise to the front line with minimal extra work? If we can help get information to employees that need it, we’re fundamentally making their lives easier, and making the company’s life easier.’ “

After a description of how EnterpriseJungle’s works and its usefulness for companies, it makes a claim to offer Google-like search results.  While it might be a people search tool, the application is capable of much more.  It can help people locate experts, track down skill sets, and even improve IT relations.

EnterpriseJungle is hitting on a vital tool for companies.  People search has a severe need for improvement and this might be the start of a new enterprise niche market.

Whitney Grace, April 16, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Oracle is Rocking COLLABORATE

April 15, 2015

News is already sprouting about the COLLABORATE 15: Technology and Applications Forum for the Oracle Community, Oracle’s biggest conference of the year.  BusinessWire tells us that Oracle CEO Mark Hurd and Chief Information Officer and Senior VP Mark Sunday will be keynote speakers, says “Oracle Applications Users Group Announces Oracle’s Key Role at COLLABORATE 15.”

Hurd and Sunday will be delivering key insights into Oracle and the industry at their scheduled talks:

“On Tuesday, Sunday discusses the need to keep a leadership edge in digital transformation, with a special focus on IT leadership in the cloud. Sunday will build upon his keynote from two years ago, giving attendees better insight into adopting a sound cloud strategy in order to ensure greater success.  On Wednesday, Hurd shares his insights on how Oracle continues to drive innovation and protect customer investments with applications and technology. Oracle remains the leading organization in the cloud, and Hurd’s discussion focuses on how to modernize businesses in order to thrive in this space.”

Oracle is really amping up the offerings at this year’s conference.  They will host the Oracle User Experience Usability Lab, Oracle Proactive Support Sessions, Oracle Product Roadmap Session, and more to give attendees the chance to have direct talks with Oracle experts to learn about strategies, functionality, products, and new resources to improve their experience and usage.  Attendees will also be able to take accreditation tests for key product areas.

COLLABORATE, like many conferences, offers attendees the chance to network with Oracle experts, get professional feedback, and meet others in their field.  Oracle is very involved in this conference and is dedicated to putting its staff and products at the service of its users.

Whitney Grace, April 15, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Contextual Search Recommended for Sales Pros

April 14, 2015

Sales-productivity pro Doug Winter penned “Traditional Search is Dying as Sales Organizations Make Way for “Context” for Entrepreneur. He explains how companies like Google, Apple, and Yahoo have long been developing “contextual” search, which simply means using data it has gathered about the user to deliver more relevant answers to queries, instead of relying on keywords alone. Consumers have been benefiting from this approach online for years now, and Winter says it’s time for salespeople to apply contextual search to their internal content. He writes:

“The key to how contextual search delivers on its magic is the fact that the most advanced ECM systems are, like Google’s search algorithms, much more knowledgeable about the person searching than we care to admit. What you as a sales rep see is tailored to you because when you sign in, the system knows what types of products you sell and in what geographic areas.”

“Tie in customer data from your customer relationship management (CRM) system and now the ECM knows what buying stage and industry your prospect is in. Leveraging that data, you as a rep shouldn’t then see a universe of content you have to manually sort through. Instead, according to Ring DNA, you should see just a handful of useful pieces you otherwise would have spent 30 hours a month searching for on your own.”

As long as the chosen algorithm succeeds in catching what a salesperson needs in its net, this shift could be a terrific time saver. Sales departments should do their research, however, before investing in any contextual-search tools.

Cynthia Murrell, April 14, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Bing Predicts it Will Have Decent Results

April 13, 2015

Bing is considered a search engine joke, but it might be working its way as a viable search solution…maybe.  MakeUseOf notes, “How Bing Predicts Has Become So Good” due to Microsoft actually listening to its users and improving the search results with the idea that “Bing is for doing.”  One way Microsoft is putting its search engine to work is with Bing Predicts, a tool that predicts who win competitions, weather, and other information analyzed from popular searches, social media, regional trends, and more.

It takes a bit more for Predicts to divine sporting event outcomes, for those Bing relies on historic team data, key player data, opinions from top news sources, and pre-game report predictions.

Microsoft researcher, and serial predictor David Rothschild believes the prediction engine is ‘an interesting way to show users that Bing has a lot of horsepower beyond just providing good search results.’  Data is everything. Even regular Internet users understand the translation of data to power, so Microsoft’s bold step forward with their predictions underscores the confidence in their own algorithms, and their ability to handle the data coming into Redmond.”

Other than predicting games and the next American Idol winner, Bing Predicts has application for social fields and industry.  Companies are already implementing some forms of future analysis and for social causes it can be used to predict the best ways to conserve resources, medicinal supplies, food, and even conservatism.

Whitney Grace, April 13, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Funnelback and Its Value Proposition

April 8, 2015

Short honk: I was cruising through the Web sites of search vendors which have dropped off my radar. The Funnelback Web site is now red and gray. Aside from the bold colors, the Web site introduces an interesting capability of the Funnelback system. I won’t go into the long history of Funnelback and how it became a commercial enterprise search system. I want to focus on this phrase: tangible insights. Here’s the context for the phrase:

Funnelback is a search platform that enables you to go further, faster, with tangible insights that help you transform your business.

I thought that “tangible” meant this courtesy of Dictionary.coma:

1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.

2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.

3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.

4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

I thought that “insights” meant this:

1. an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding: an insight into 18th-century life.

2. penetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth.

I remember the former president’s comment to me that my write up of Funnelback was no good. The wizard did not recall that I provided the draft to him and he delegated the editorial review to a member of his staff. The wizard, who is undoubtedly brighter than I, was criticizing his own colleague’s inputs to the document. I suppose that is an example in the addled world of big time search based on government funded research a “tangible insight.” Well, could it be an example of how addled thinking can surface because of the organization’s DNA?

Now the question: What exactly is a tangible insight output from the Funnelback system?  I am waiting because I do not want to go further or faster. I want some clear thinking when it comes to explaining what an enterprise search system actually does? Has language lost its meaning before the search engine optimizers bring semantics to their fine work?

Penetrating and real too.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2015

Enterprise Search-Splaining: Obfuscating Cost and Value Yet Again

April 8, 2015

When a bean counter tallies up the cost of an enterprise search system, the reaction, in my experience, is, “How did we get to this number?” The question is most frequently raised in larger organizations, and it is one to which enterprise search staff and their consultants often have no acceptable answer.

Search-splainers position the cost overruns, diminish the importance of the employees’ dissatisfaction with the enterprise search system, and unload glittering generalities to get a consulting deal. Meanwhile, enterprise search remains a challenged software application.

Consulting engineers, upgrades, weekend crash recoveries, optimizing, and infrastructure hassles balloon the cost of an enterprise search system. At some point, a person charged with figuring out why employees are complaining, implementing workarounds, and not using the system have to be investigated. When answers are not satisfying, financial meltdowns put search vendors out of business. Examples range from Convera and the Intel and NBA matters to the unnoticed death of Delphes, Entopia, Siderean, et al.

Search to most professionals, regardless of occupation, means Google. Bang in a word or two and Google delivers the bacon or the soy bean paste substitute. Most folks do not know the difference, nor, in my view, do they care. Google is how one finds information.

The question, “Why can’t enterprise search be like Google?”

Another question, “How can a person with a dog in the search find search-plain; that is, “prove” how important search is to kith and kin, truth and honor, sales and profit.

For most professionals, search Google style is “free.” The perception is fueled with the logs of ignorance. Google is providing objective information. Google is good. Google is the yardstick by which enterprise search is measured. Enterprise search comes up short. Implement a Google Search Appliance, and the employees don’t like that solution either.

What’s up?

Inside an organization, finding information is an essential part of a job. One cannot work on a report unless that person can locate information about the topic. Most of the data are housed in emails, PowerPoints, multiple drafts of Word documents stuffed with change tracking emendations, and maybe some paper notes. In some cases, a professional will have to speak face to face or via the phone to a colleague. The information then requires massaging, analysis, and reformation.

Ah, the corporate life is little more than one more undergraduate writing assignment with some Excel tossed in.

Read more

Enterprise Search: Mixed Messages from a Perpetual Confusion Machine

April 5, 2015

I read “Enterprise Search: The Answer to All Our Problems or Technology That Most Users Neither Need Nor Want?” The write up comes from Australia, a country with a long and quite interesting history of information retrieval. I have written about the contributions of Dr. Ron Sacks Davis, an individual whom most North American search vendors, ignore. Some of these vendors reinvented Dr. Sacks Davis’ wheels, but that is the norm in the “new” and “revolutionary” world of search and content processing. Today you can tap Funnelback, a product losing a bit of marketing steam in the last six months, to scratch your information access itch. And there are other Australian milestones to consider; for example, YourAmigo, which is now applying its technology to the search engine optimization problem.

The article which has New South Wales government spin mentions several of the enterprise search marketers’ favorite truisms; for example, find information wherever it resides and boost productivity (yep, that works in a government entity).

What I found interesting about the article is that it states, quite clearly, that “most employees don’t need or want to search for information enterprise wide.” Okay, that jibes with my team’s research. The write up states:

Most employees within these organizations work within a few discrete areas of the business and know exactly where the information they need to do their job is kept. They locate records by navigating structured network drives, document stores etc. One member of the group commented that it is interesting that employees will happily search for information online but prefer to browse for information at work. There are some ‘power users’ within these organizations who either already use or would benefit from the implementation of enterprise search technologies.

The issue, as I think about this statement is cost. Why spend massive sums to benefit a small percentage of a workforce? I think this question strikes at the heart of value, knowledge, and access assumptions.

The article points out that incoming information is classified by enterprise search systems. My take is that this is a useful function. Enterprise search, according to the article, “could be used to facilitate retention and disposal.” After decades of effort, the idea that one can eliminate digital information in order to perform a records management function strikes me as surprising. Does the statement imply that New South Wales does not have a records management system despite massive investments in content management technology.

Notice that the write up has blended enterprise search which means the user looks for content with indexing new information and disposing of old information. I find the mixture a compound with potent confusion power.

Net net: The article makes it clear that enterprise search is not exactly what some people want. Nevertheless, enterprise search performs various information functions which could—note the conditional—have some upsides.

Little wonder why marketers pitching enterprise search benefits talk in circles. The customers themselves are chasing information kangaroos. My question, “Are government entities world wide behaving in a similar fashion?” Fascinating.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2015

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