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Its Official: Facebook and the Dark Web

February 5, 2016

A piece from Nextgov suggests just how ubiquitous the Dark Web could become. Published as Facebook is giving users a new way to access it on the ‘Dark Web’, this article tells us “a sizeable community” of its users are also Dark Web users; Facebook has not released exact figures. Why are people using the Dark Web for everyday internet browsing purposes? The article states:

“Facebook’s Tor site is one way for people to access their accounts when the regular Facebook site is blocked by governments—such as when Bangladesh cut off access to Facebook, its Messenger and Whatsapp chat platforms, and messaging app Viber for about three weeks in November 2015. As the ban took effect, the overall number of Tor users in Bangladesh spiked by about 10 times, to more than 20,000 a day. When the ban was lifted, the number dropped back to its previous level.”

Public perception of the darknet is changing. If there was any metric to lend credibility to the Dark Web being increasingly used for mainstream purposes, it is Facebook adding a .onion address. Individual’s desire for security, uninterrupted and expansive internet access will only contribute to the Dark Web’s user base. While the Silk Road-type element is sure to remain as well, it will be interesting to see how things evolve.

 

Megan Feil, February 5, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Wants ISIS to Stay Off the Regular Web

January 29, 2016

Propaganda from the Islamic State (Isis) exists not only in the Dark Web, but is also infiltrating the familiar internet. A Wired article discusses the best case scenario to stop such information from spreading in their article Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the Dark Web’. Google describes ISIS only existing in the Dark Web as success. This information helps explain why,

“As Isis has become more prominent in Syria and Iraq, social media, alongside traditional offline methods, have have been used to spread the group’s messages and recruit members. In 2014 analysis of the group’s online activity showed that they routinely hijack hashtags, use bots, and post gruesome videos to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The UK’s internet counter terrorism unit claims to remove 1,000 illegal pieces of terrorism related content from the internet each week — it says that roughly 800 of these are to do with Syria and Iraq. The group claims in the 12 months before June 2012 that 39,000 internet takedowns were completed.”

The director of Google Ideas is quoted as describing ISIS’ tactics ranging from communication to spamming to typical email scams; he explains they are not “tech-savy.” Unfortunately, tech chops is not a requirement for effective marketing, so the question still remains whether containing this group and their messages to the Dark Web is possible — and whether that means success with growing numbers of people using the Dark Web.

 

Megan Feil, January 29, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Critics Blast Zuckerbergs Free Internet

January 26, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg is giving the subcontinent India access to free Internet.  In some eyes Zuckerberg is being generous, but his critics are saying he’s doing it to gain control of a 1.2 billion untapped market.  The New York Post shares Zuckerberg’s magnanimous act in “Mark Zuckerberg Defends His Free Internet Bid In India.”

Zuckerberg’s free Internet in India is dubbed “Free Basics” and it offers full access to Facebook and other affiliated sites, while blocking access to Google, Twitter, and other rivals.  Free Basics’s partner Indian telecom partner Reliance Communication was forced to temporarily shut down service.

Critics are angry with Zuckerberg, claiming he is violating net neutrality and it comes as a slap in the face after he defended it within the United States.  Free Basics could potentially ruin Internet competition in India and gain an iron grasp on a developing market.  An even more intriguing piece to the story is that Free Basics was formerly named Internet.org, but Zuckerberg was forced to change it so new Internet users would not think that Facebook and related Web sites were all that existed.

“The local tech entrepreneur warned that ‘the incentive to invest in better, faster and cheaper access to the entire Internet will be replaced with one of providing better, faster and cheaper access to [Facebook’s] websites and apps’…In his Monday op-ed piece, Zuckerberg at times sounded exasperated as he insisted that the limited access provided by Free Basics was better than no access at all.”

Free Basics has already been deployed in thirty-five countries and provides free Internet for fifteen million people.

What’s the problem with wanting one’s way like blocking our competitors’ services? Absolutely nothing, if you rule the world. If not, there may be push back. I learned this in kindergarten.  Zuckerberg can expect lots of push back.

 

Whitney Grace, January 26, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Islamic State Is Now a Convenient App

December 28, 2015

It used to be that if you wanted to be an enemy of western civilization you had to have ties to a derelict organization or even visit an enemy nation.  It was difficult, especially with the limits of communication in pre-Internet days.  Western Union and secret radio signals only went so far, but now with the Internet insurgent recruitment is just a few mouse clicks away or even an app download.  The Telegraph reports that the “Islamic State Releases Its Own Smartphone App” to spread propaganda and pollute Islam’s true message.

Islamic State (Isil) released an Android app to disseminate the terrorist group’s radical propaganda.  The app was brought to light by hacktivist Ghost Security Group, who uncovered directions to install the app on the encrypted message service Telegram.  Ghost Security says that the app publishes propaganda from Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State’s propaganda channel, such as beheadings and warnings about terrorist attacks.  It goes to show that despite limited resources, if one is tech savvy and has an Internet connection the possibilities are endless.

” ‘They want to create a broadcast capability that is more secure than just leveraging Twitter and Facebook,’ ” Michael Smith of Kronos Advisory, a company that acts as a conduit between GhostSec and the US government, told CS Monitor.

‘[Isil] has always been looking for a way to provide easy access to all of the material.’ ”

Isil might have the ability to create propaganda and an app, but they do have a limited reach.  In order to find this app, one has to dig within the Internet and find instructions.  Hacktivist organizations like Ghost Security and Anonymous are using their technology skills to combat terrorist organizations with success.  Most terrorist group propaganda will not be found within the first page of search results, one has to work to find them, but not that hard.

 

Whitney Grace, December 28, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Bye-Bye Paid Reviews

December 22, 2015

One has to admit that this sounds like a sweet way to make a few quick dollars: write a fake online review about a product or service highlighting good points and sellable features, post it on your social media accounts, Amazon, your blog, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and then collect a few bucks.  While Twitter might slowly be losing the social media race against Facebook and Instagram, the UK Telegraph says that the social network has another useful purpose: “Has Twitter Finally Killed The Mess Of The False Online Review?”

Fake reviews cost consumers millions of dollars each year, because they believe that first hand accounts from regular people trump a corporate advertising account.  However, it spawned a big market for people to spend a few dollars to pay someone write a fake review and give a product/service a positive spin.  The consumer is getting tired of fake reviews, as are online retailers like Amazon and the US government, which has even drafted the Consumer Review Freedom Act.

Twitter is jumping into action using big data moves like real time data sentimental analysis, location-based apps that search social media content for content, and algorithms to analyze tweets

“Chief executive Giles Palmer believes that apps such as Twizoo are only the start of how products and businesses are evaluated, especially as social media continues to evolve. ‘Until recently, social media monitoring has been a listening business where companies and brands have kept an eye on what their customers are doing, but not doing too much about it…But with mobile customers are after products and goods where they want to make an instant decision based on instant data. What’s more they want that data to be reliable and to be truthful; Twitter provides that.’”

Consumers are being more discerning about the products and services they purchase, but they also trust reviews to help them evaluate them so they will not be duped.  High praise for Twitter for proving how social media is valuable as a learning tool and also for proving it is still a worthwhile network.

 

Whitney Grace, December22, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Vic Gundotra Restarts His Career

December 2, 2015

Google+ is a social media failure and its creator Vic Gundotra doesn’t like talking about.  No one can blame him after he created the social media equivalent of the ET Atari videogame, often dubbed the worst videogame in history.  According to Mashable in the article, “Here’s What You Do After Google+: Start Fresh,” Gundotra left Google and was gun shy to accept another job in the technology field.  He continued to get daily job offers as he spent over a year traveling and spending time with his family, but he finally decided to focus on his career again by accepting a job with AliveCor.

AliveCor is a heath startup that has received FDA approval to use mobile devices to detect heart problems.  Gundotra was interested in taking a job with a health technology startup after his father suffered from two heart attacks.

“AliveCor, while a big step removed from working on building a social network, nonetheless got him excited because of his interests in machine learning and wearable health. It also appealed to him on a more personal level.”

The health tech startup is proud to announce their new employee, but they do not include Google+ in the list of accomplishments in the press release.  Gundotra recognizes he did good work at Google, but that his vision for social network to compete with Twitter and Facebook was a washout.  He’s eager to move onto more fruitful endeavors, especially technology that will make people’s lives better.

Whitney Grace, December 2, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Individualized Facebook Search

November 27, 2015

Facebook search is a puzzle.  If you want to find a specific post that you remember seeing on a person’s profile, you cannot find it unless it is posted to their timeline.  It is a consistent headache, especially if you become obsessed with finding that post.  Mashable alerts us to a new Facebook pilot program, “Facebook May Soon Let You Search Individual Profile Pages.”  Facebook’s new pilot program allows users to search for posts within a profile.

The new search feature is only available to pilot program participants.  Based on how the feedback, Facebook will evaluate the search function and announce a potential release date.

“Facebook says it’s a small pilot program going around the U.S. for iPhone and desktop and that users have requested an easier way to search for posts within a person’s profile. The feature is limited in nature and only showing up for a select group of people who are part of the pilot program. The social network will be evaluating feedback based on the pilot. No plans for an official rollout have been announced at this time.?”

The search feature shows up on user profiles as a basic search box with the description “search this profile” with the standard magnifying glass graphic.  It is a simple addition to a profile’s dashboard and it does not take up much space, but it does present a powerful tool.

Facebook is a social media platform that has ingrained itself into the function of business intelligence to regular socialization. As we rely more on it for daily functions, information needs to be easy to recall and access.  The profile search feature will probably be a standard Facebook dashboard function by 2016.

Whitney Grace, November 27, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Axel Springer Snaps Up Business Insider

November 24, 2015

I often find myself at Business Insider, reading about a recent development. That’s why I was intrigued by the article, “Sold! Axel Springer Bets Big on Digital, Buys Business Insider” at re/code. Though for me the name conjures an image of a sensationalistic talk-show host with a bandana and a wide vocal range, Axel Springer is actually a publisher based in Germany, and has been around since 1946. We note that they also own stake in the Qwant search engine, and their website touts they are now the “leading digital publisher in Europe.” This is one traditional publisher that is taking the world’s shift to the digital realm head on.

Writer Peter Kafka sees a connection between this acquisition and Axel Springer’s failed bid to buy the venerable Financial Times. He writes:

“Axel Springer is a Berlin-based publisher best known as the owner of newspapers Die Welt and Bild. In July, it missed its chance to buy the Financial Times, the august, 127-year-old business news publisher, when it was outbid at the last second by Japan’s Nikkei. Business Insider shares very little in common with the FT, other than they both deal with financial topics: While the FT has built out its own digital operations in recent years, it’s a subscription-based business whose stock-in-trade is sober, restrained reporting. Business Insider is a fast-twitch publisher, pitched at readers who’ve grown up on the Web and based on a free, ad-supported business model. While the site was famous for its you-bet-you’ll-keep-clicking headlines and slideshows, it also did plenty of serious reporting; in the last year it has been on an expansion binge, adding a British outpost, a new tech site and a new gambit that’s supposed to create viral content that lives on platforms like Facebook. Today’s transaction appears to link the FT and BI: Industry executives think Springer’s inability to land the Financial Times made them that much hungrier to get Business Insider.”

Perhaps, but this deal may be a wise choice nevertheless. Digital news and information is here to stay, and Business Insider seems to have figured out the format. We’ll see how Axel Springer leverages that know-how.

Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook Acts in Its Own Best Interest

November 19, 2015

The article titled Petition: Facebook Betrayed Us By Secretly Lobbying for Surveillance Bill on BoingBoing complains that Facebook has been somewhat two-faced regarding privacy laws and cyber surveillance. The article claims that Facebook publicly opposed the Cybersercurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) while secretly lobbying to push it through. The article explains,

“Facebook has come under public fire for its permissive use of user data and pioneering privacy-invasive experiments in the past. They have also supported previous versions of the cybersecurity info-sharing bills, and their chief Senate lobbyist, Myriah Jordan, worked as General Counsel for CISA’s sponsor, Senator Richard Burr, immediately before moving to Facebook. Facebook has declined to take a public position on CISA, but in recent days sources have confirmed that in fact Facebook is quietly lobbying the Senate to pass it.”

This quotation does beg the question of why anyone would believe that Facebook opposes CISA, given its history. It is, after all, a public company that will earn money in any acceptable way it can. The petition to make Facebook be more transparent about its position on CISA seems more like a request for an apology from a company for being a company than anything else.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 19, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Drone and Balloon WiFi Coming to the Sky near You

November 10, 2015

Google and Facebook have put their differences aside to expand Internet access to four billion people.  Technology Review explains in “Facebook;s Internet Drone Team Is Collaborating With Google’s Stratospheric Balloons Project” how both companies have filed documented with the US Federal Communications Commission to push international law to make it easier to have aircraft fly 12.5 miles or 20 kilometers above the Earth, placing it in the stratosphere.

Google has been working on balloons that float in the stratosphere that function as aerial cell towers and Facebook is designing drones the size of aircraft that are tethered to the ground that serve the same purpose.  While the companies are working together, they will not state how.  Both Google and Facebook are working on similar projects, but the aerial cell towers marks a joint effort where they putting aside their difference (for the most part) to improve information access.

“However, even if Google and Facebook work together, corporations alone cannot truly spread Internet access as widely as is needed to promote equitable access to education and other necessities, says Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at MIT’s Media Lab and founder of the One Laptop Per Child Project.  ‘I think that connectivity will become a human right,’ said Negroponte, opening the session at which Facebook and Google’s Maguire and DeVaul spoke. Ensuring that everyone gets that right requires the Internet to be operated similar to public roads, and provided by governments, he said.”

Quality Internet access not only could curb poor education, but it could also improve daily living.  People in developing countries would be able to browse information to remedy solutions and even combat traditional practices that do more harm than good.

Some of the biggest obstacles will be who will maintain the aerial cell towers and also if they will pose any sort of environmental danger.

Whitney Grace, November 10, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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