Intelligence Industry Becoming Privatized and Concentrated

March 10, 2017

Monopolies aren’t just for telecoms and zipper manufacturers. The Nation reveals a much scarier example in its article, “5 Corporations Now Dominate Our Privatized Intelligence Industry.” Reporter Tim Shorrock outlines the latest merger that brings us to this point, one between Pentagon &  NSA contractor Leidos Holdings and a division of Lockheed Martin called Information Systems and Global Solutions. Shorrock writes:

The sheer size of the new entity makes Leidos one of the most powerful companies in the intelligence-contracting industry, which is worth about $50 billion today. According to a comprehensive study I’ve just completed on public and private employment in intelligence, Leidos is now the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.

Yes, that’s 80 percent. For the first time since spy agencies began outsourcing their core analytic and operational work in the late 1990s, the bulk of the contracted work goes to a handful of companies: Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, and CACI International. This concentration of ‘pure plays’—a Wall Street term for companies that makes one product for a single market—marks a fundamental shift in an industry that was once a highly diverse mix of large military contractors, small and medium technology companies, and tiny ‘Beltway Bandits’ surrounding Washington, D.C.

I should mention that our beloved leader, Stephen E Arnold, used to work as a gopher for one of these five companies, Booz Allen Hamilton. Shorrock details the reasons such concentrated power is a problem in the intelligence industry, and shares the profile he has made on each company. He also elaborates on the methods he used to analyze the shadowy workforce they employ. (You’ll be unsurprised to learn it can be difficult to gather data on intelligence workers.) See the article for those details, and for Shorrock’s discussion of negligence by the media and by Congress on this matter. We can agree that most folks don’t seem to be aware of this trend, or of its potential repercussions.

Cynthia Murrell, March 10, 2016

 

 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Emulating IBM?

March 3, 2017

I read “HPE Misses Q1 Revenue Estimates.” The interesting point to me is that HPE seems to be following in IBM footsteps: Declining revenues, interesting explanations. Stakeholders cannot spend explanations in my experience. The write up references the HPE top dog who allegedly said:

I believe HOPE remains on the right track.

HOPE is a product. Believe it or not? The write up points out that HOPE’s revenue was eroding across the companies lines of business. What’s the fix? The right leadership team.

Rah, rah.

Perhaps HPE will prevail in its legal machinations related to the company’s purchase of Autonomy? Perhaps the “right leadership team” will understand that emulating IBM’s chatter about the future may not be enough to deal with the present market climate.

Oh, one more question: Will the “right leadership team” understand the phrase caveat emptor? HPE continues to try to find ways to shift the burden of Hewlett Packard’s own decisions to others.

Could some stakeholders rightly ask, “How about shifting to revenue growth?”

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2017

Dark Web Drug Dealers Busted in Finland

March 1, 2017

Law enforcement’s focus on the Dark Web seems to be paying off, as we learn from the write-up, “Finland: Dark Web Drug Operation Exposed” at Hetq, an outlet of the Association of Investigative Journalists. In what was described as Finland’s largest drug bust, authorities seized over a million dollars’ worth of narcotics from a network selling their wares on the Dark Web. We learn:

The network is alleged to have imported €2 million (US$ 2.2 million) worth of drugs between 2014 and 2016, selling them on the dark web site Silkkitie. More than 40 kilograms of powdered narcotics, such as amphetamine, heroin and cocaine, as well as 40,000 ecstasy tablets and 30,000 LSD blotters were smuggled into Finland from the Netherlands and Germany, and then sold on the site. …

As part of the investigation, customs officers in April seized at least €1.1 million worth of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and ecstasy in the coastal town of Kustavi. The same month, police arrested three Finnish citizens.

The write-up notes that Silkkitie users communicated through encrypted messages under pseudonyms, and that Bitcoin was the currency used. We’re also reminded that Silkkitie, a.k.a. Valhalla, is one of the Dark Web’s most popular drug marketplaces. The Finnish site was launched in 2013.

Cynthia Murrell, March 1, 2017

Dark Pools Demystified

February 13, 2017

Have you ever heard of dark pools? You may be hearing more about them as Bitcoin pioneer Jered Kenna and TradeZero offer digital currency dark pool trading. According to this International Business Times article, these two have created the world’s first dark pool exchange for Bitcoin. Their plan is to eventually scale to include other digital currencies. What is a dark pool? It is a private exchange to trade securities in a way where large transactions can occur without impacting the marketing. This means it can be used to avoid adverse price movements. We learned,

The Bitcoin market is less liquid than traditional FX and hence more volatile. Dark pool trading in Bitcoin would be useful to mainstream investors who may want to make large trades in Bitcoin, or use it as a currency hedge without alerting the market to their positions. Kenna, who launched the first US Bitcoin exchange in 2011, brings a wealth of experience to the table. He told IBTimes UK: “Dark pool trading certainly mitigates volatility where individuals making large trades are concerned.

Apparently, the size of the trade one would need to impact the Bitcoin market in is much smaller than what traditional traders experience. Jared Kenna appears to be projecting the future of Bitcoin, and non-traditional currencies in general, to explode. Why else would there be such a need for this kind of service? This is something we will be keeping an eye on, especially as it may come to be more interconnected with Dark Web matters.

Megan Feil, February 13, 2017

Alphabet: The Bets Are Losing Less

February 1, 2017

I read “Alphabet’s Bets Beyond Search Are Starting to Pay Off.” Nothing like a story which uses the name of this blog. The main point is that the Alphabet Google thing continues to make money from online advertising. This particular discussion of Alphabet’s financials included this stat3ement:

In the fourth quarter, Alphabet’s other bets recorded $262 million in revenue, a healthy jump from $150 million in the fourth quarter a year ago. But more importantly, the company’s losses in the division shrank from the previous year, from $1.2 billion in Q4 2015 to around $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter this year. Google’s other bets consists of products like Nest, and while this represents a tiny fraction of Google’s overall business, it’s important because it represents a lot of the market Google envisions itself occupying in the years to come — and it’s equally important to see strong performance in that category.

These moon shots and bets are among the best funded start ups in history. For more than 15 years the company has been saddled with Steve Ballmer’s “one trick pony” observation. Reducing loses of $100 million is a positive step forward. There is that loss of $1.1 billion, however.

The “beyond search” plays have, in our view, not moved too far from online advertising.

Stephen E Arnold, February 1, 2017

IBM Watson: Now About Generating Big Revenue

January 27, 2017

To IBM’s credit, since the “weather” changed, IBM’s Watson marketing has been less fun for me. I did enjoy reading “Elementary, My Dear IBM: When Will Watson Make Money?” I prefer the concept of substantial, sustainable revenue which generates profits for stakeholders, but the write up’s title is pretty good.

After asking this important question, the write up states:

IBM Watson has taken heat from Wall Street for not adding to Big Blue’s revenue as the company reported a 19th successive quarter of decline.

That’s quite a track record. Nineteen of anything in a row is difficult to pull off. Way to go, IBM.

I highlighted this passage as well:

But quizzing executives following IBM’s financial report on the fourth quarter of 2016, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty noted that although Watson was getting a “pretty significant share of the press” – to put it mildly – unlike the other businesses that it was cited alongside, Watson was “not contributing to revenue”. Huberty probed when Watson would start bringing in money. IBM admitted to shaving spent a combined $16bn on R&D and acquisitions during 2016, including buying 15 companies such as the $2.6bn acquisition of Truven Health Analytics.

I put a Big Blue exclamation point next to this passage. IBM’s CFO commented about Watson’s payoff this way:

revenue would come through Watson serving IBM’s strategic imperatives and cognitive software. Watson is the “silver thread” running though Watson Health and Financial Services, IBM’s IoT and security, he said. “Watson is firmly, firmly established as the silver thread that runs through those cognitive solutions and you can see all of that in the solution software performance.”

Okay, shareholders, there’s your answer. What can one weave with silver thread? How about some silver thread pants for the executive who needs to slay financial dragons in World of Warcraft.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2017

The Software Behind the Web Sites

January 17, 2017

Have you ever visited an awesome Web site or been curious how an organization manages their Web presence?  While we know the answer is some type of software, we usually are not given a specific name.  Venture Beat reports that it is possible to figure out the software in the article, “SimilarTech’s Profiler Tells You All Of The Technologies That Web Companies Are Using.”

SimilarTech is a tool designed to crawl the Internet to analyze what technologies, including software, Web site operators use.  SimiliarTech is also used to detect which online payment tools are the most popular.  It does not come as a surprise that PayPal is the most widely used, with PayPal Subscribe and Alipay in second and third places.

Tracking what technology and software companies utilize for the Web is a boon for salespeople, recruiters, and business development professionals who want a competitive edge as well as:

Overall, SimilarTech provides big data insights about technology adoption and usage analytics for the entire internet, providing access to data that simply wasn’t available before. The insights are used by marketing and sales professionals for website profiling, lead generation, competitive analysis, and business intelligence.

SimiliarTech can also locate contact information for personnel responsible for Web operations, in other words new potential clients.

This tool is kind of like the mailing houses of the past. Mailing houses have data about people, places, organizations, etc. and can generate contact information lists of specific clientele for companies.  SimiliarTech offers the contact information, but it does one better by finding the technologies people use for Web site operation.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2016

Google Drones Down, Loon Balloons Up

January 16, 2017

I read “Alphabet Grounds Titan Solar-Powered Drones, Shifts to Project Loon Instead.” Whatever is going on at Google seems to make life tough for those involved in high school science projects. Bummer. Drones down. Balloons still aloft.

The write up explains:

One of X’s most hopeful initiatives involves providing universal internet access via sky-based wireless routers. One of them, Project Loon, uses high-altitude balloons to loft the routers in the air, and that project is still on track. Another, dubbed Titan and using fixed-wing solar-powered drones, isn’t so lucky…

I learned:

Titan made high-altitude, solar-powered drones that can stay in the air for extended periods of time and could likely serve a variety of purposes for Alphabet. The idea at the time seemed to be to combine the Titan drones with Project Loon balloons to provide internet access to underserved areas of the globe, but it appears that idea has been abandoned.

Alphabet Google needs to find a way to deal with the Alexafication of search. Ad revenue could be the next thing coming down. Will Loon balloons keep the company’s Yahoo-inspired online ad contraption aloft?

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2017

Improve Your B2B Search with Klevu

January 6, 2017

Ecommerce sites rely on a strong search tool to bring potential customers to their online stores and to find specific products without a hassle.  B2B based companies have the same goal, but they need an entire different approach although they still rely on search.  If you run a B2B company, you might want to take a gander at Klevu and their solutions: “Search Requirements For A B2B Retailer.”

In the blog post, Klevu explains that B2B companies have multiple customer groups that allow different pricing, products, discounts, etc.  The customers see prices based on allocation from the store, but they cannot use a single price for every item.  Search is also affected by this outcome.  Klevu came out with the Klevu Magneto plugin to:

With the help of our partners and our in-house expertise, we came up with a solution that allows such group prices to automatically work with Klevu. The Klevu Magneto plugin fetches the group prices and, at the time of showing the search results, Klevu’s JavaScript determines the relevant price for rendering. We’ve also ensure that this works in Ajax / quick search as well, as this was an important requirement.

The Klevu Magneto plugin also has an SKU search option, maintaining the same landing page within search results, and instant faceted search.  Klevu researched the issues that its B2B customers had the most problems with and created solutions.  They are actively pursuing ways to resolve bothersome issues that pop up and this is just the start for them.

Whitney Grace, January 6, 2017

Bank App Does Not Play Well with Tor Browser

December 22, 2016

Bank apps are a convenient way to access and keep track of your accounts.  They are mainly used on mobile devices and are advertised for the user on the go.  One UK bank app, however, refuses to play nice with devices that have the Tor browser, reports the Register in the article, “Tor Torpedoed!  Tesco Bank App Won’t Run With Privacy Tool Installed.”

Tesco is a popular bank present in supermarkets, but if you want to protect your online privacy by using the Tor browser on your mobile device the Tesco app will not work on said device.  Marcus Davage, the mainframe database administrator, alerted Tesco patrons that in order to use the Tesco app, they needed to delete the Tor browser.  Why is this happening?

The issue appears to be related to security. Tesco’s help site notes that the Android app checks for malware and other possible security risks (such as the phone being rooted) upon launching and, in this case, the Tor software triggers an alert.  The Tor Project makes two apps for Android, the aforementioned Orbot and the Orfox browser, both of which allow users to encrypt their data traffic using the Tor network. According to the Play Store, Orbot has been downloaded more than five million times by Android users.

App developers need to take into account that the Tor browser is not malware.  Many users are concerned with their online privacy and protecting their personal information, so Tor needs to be recognized as a safe application.

Whitney Grace, December 22, 2016

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