Digital Currency Has a Wide Reach

April 23, 2018

Beyond Search was under the impression that financing for certain types of activities related to anti-establishment activities has been handled informally. For example, in some countries, informal money transfer systems operate. The practice is sometimes spelled hawala.

The idea is not a new one. Trust among those perceived to be in a particular extended family or social, political, or religious group helps ensure that money moves from Point A to Point B. The system is not digital, but it has been durable, existing for centuries.

Crypto currency like Bitcoin have been gaining a foothold as legitimate forms of financial transaction over the last several years. However, one of the richest areas in the world, The Middle East, has long been aware of the alternatives to bank regulated money.

For some individuals, certain beliefs have prohibited some Islamic investors from using crypto currency, though that may change according to a recent Economic Times story, “Crypto Currency Traders Use Old Gold to Lure Islamic Investors.”

According to the story, “OneGram, is issuing a gold-backed crypto currency — part of efforts to convince Muslims that investing in crypto currencies complies with their faith. We learned:

“But because they are products of financial engineering and objects of speculation, crypto currencies sit uneasily with Islam. Sharia principles, in addition to banning interest payments, emphasize real economic activity based on physical assets and frown on pure monetary speculation.”

The Islamic world may not have to wait long. Recently a 22-page research paper was released that declared Bitcoin is compliant with Sharia Law and therefore acceptable in the Islamic religion. We are not ready to fully buy into this, since the story appeared on Bitcoin’s own Web site. However, if this is true, it could mean another massive surge in investors as the crypto currency gains more and more momentum.

As Reuters reported, Iran is taking action with regard to digital currency. “Iran Central Bank Bans Crypto Currency Dealings” states:

 Iran’s central bank has banned the country’s banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, over money-laundering concerns.

If barriers to crypto currency are erected, how will money move? Perhaps the old fashioned way?

For more information, learn more about CyberOSINT (the Dark Web) here or the Dark Web Notebook at www.xenky.com/darkwebnotebook. We cover some of these topics in our weekly video news program DarkCyber. The video is available on the Beyond Search Web site here and on Vimeo by searching “Arnold DarkCyber.”

Patrick Roland, April 23, 2018

MailChimp Swings Away from Cryptocurrency

April 19, 2018

Marketing automation platform MailChimp has made some customers very unhappy with a recent decision. Future Society declares, “MailChimp is Shutting Down ICO and Blockchain-Related Emails, and People Are Freaking Out.” Though one user charged the company with exercising “centralized capricious power,” MailChimp points to its (updated) Acceptable Use Policy, which does prohibit processing cryptocurrency transactions across their platform. Writer Foster Kamer tells us:

“We asked a few more questions about how MailChimp can actually delineate between emails from people involved in the shilling and profiteering of blockchain and ICOs versus people having news-related discussions of blockchain and ICOs (because, LOL, in the current moment, most non-algorithmic humans have a justifiably tough time distinguishing between the two). We’ll update here if they respond. In the meantime, it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch (1) which companies follow MailChimp’s lead, (2) which companies capitalize off of the fact that they nixed this entire segment of people from their platform and go all in on blockchain, sweeping ’em up in MailChimp’s place, and (3) watching all of blockchain and ICO Twitter collectively lose their minds about feeling censored and repressed.”

Kamer has little sympathy for those objecting to MailChimp’s move, and points out they are free to take their email marketing needs to another business. We wonder, though, whether this action signifies a trend. Founded in 2001, MailChimp is based in Atlanta, and they happen to be hiring for several positions as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, April 19, 2018

IBM and Investor Patience

April 18, 2018

Why have investors apparently lost patience with IBM?

Many reasons. We suggest that Watson and its smart software hyperbole may be contributing factors. To cite one example:

It appears Watson is like a Barbie doll. Barbie is notorious for her numerous careers and varied skilled set from working on the space shuttle to expert fashionista to a school teacher. Watson has a similar career trajectory, simply inject glitter and pink into its motherboard. Watson has now entered the VR/AR game word, says The Next Web in the article, “IBM And Unity Are Teaming Up To Bring Watson’s AI To VR And AR Games.”

IBM and Unity have teamed up to bring Watson’s AI capabilities to the popular gaming engine. Unity is mostly known for Pokemon Go and Star Trek Bridge Crew, but now developers will be able to download the IBM Watson Unity SDK for free. The IBM Watson Unity SDK gives users free access to Watson’s AI suite. The biggest problem with Unity based games is that other than Pokemon Go and Star Trek Bridge Crew most of them have not broken into the mainstream, but Watson’s AI suite could change that.

The potential Watson’s AI brings to Unity goes beyond basic augmented and virtual reality gaming:

“…practicing surgeon could stay immersed in a surgery simulator by using voice control. It’s an immersion breaker for a user to have to turn and either wait for menu popups or stop what they’re doing and grab a game pad to access menus and change ‘tools’ during an exercise.With Watson on board the same hypothetical surgery simulator would function much more like the real world. The user could simply say “Hand me a sponge” and the game engine could process that command using Watson’s speech processing ability.Watson’s voice recognition, speech-to-text, and image recognition features make for a promising addition to the Unity game engine and will, hopefully, propel VR/AR into the mainstream.”

Will this type of assertion get IBM back in the good graces of stakeholders? Watson might or could deliver better games, but revenue, not marketing, is the measure of success.

No success, no patience.

Whitney Grace, April 18, 2018

Google Does Not Buy Kentucky

March 28, 2018

Short honk: I read “MAP: A Look at Google’s Growing Empire.”

image

Google seems to like the Left Coast and the Right Coast. Bankrupt-loving Illinois makes the list along with Iowa, Texas, and ski country. But nothing in Kentucky. I assume the Commonwealth needs more than a morally questionable university, bourbon, horse racing, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a couple of riverboats.

Stephen E Arnold, March 28, 2018

Short Honk: Publishers Are Financially Aware, Well, Sort Of

March 11, 2018

I assume that “Hedge Fund Alden Siphoned 100s of Millions from Newspapers in Scheme to Gamble on Other Investments, Suit Says” is accurate.  If not, the write up underscores the state of “real” journalism. If the article is accurate, it underscores the state of “real” news business expertise. Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, March 11, 2018

Racism and Artificial Intelligence Become a Hot Topic

March 8, 2018

Here’s a scary thought: What if AI and machine learning inadvertently (or purposely) discriminate? Impossible, you say. How can an algorithm see race? Some of the brightest minds in the business have some shocking insight into this idea and it isn’t pretty, as we learned in a recent NextWeb story, “The future of FinTech is racist, according to this anonymous data scientist.”

According to the story:

Anybody that says, “We’re an AI company that’s making smarter loans”: racist. Absolutely, 100%.

I was actually floored, during the last Super Bowl I saw this SoFi ad that said, “We discriminate.” I was just sitting there watching this game like I cannot believe it — it’s either they don’t know, which is terrifying, or they know and they don’t give a shit, which is also terrifying.

I don’t know how that court case is going to work out, but I can tell you in the next ten years, there’s going to be a court case about it. And I would not be surprised if SoFi lost for discrimination. And in general, I think it’s going to be an increasingly important question about the way that we handle protected classes generally, and maybe race specifically, in data science models of this type.

It doesn’t end there. One future looking scientist had similar things to say, stating that if AI recognizes racism as a pattern, it might not have the intelligence not to proliferate it in many aspects of life. Haunting. Ideally, this will be the point in history where ethicists step in and help guide this crucial moment in our world.

Patrick Roland, March 8, 2018

Quote to Note: Silicon Valley and Substantive Content

March 2, 2018

I like the way the light shines after a person collects millions per year and then realizes that Silicon Valley reality is plastic fantastic. I read “Katie Couric Slams Her Time at Yahoo: It ‘Was Not Fulfilling’.” (No word on how fulfilling depositing the pay checks were, however.)

Here’s the quote I found notable:

Major tech companies seem to value content for clicks.

No fooling?

Stephen E Arnold, March 2, 2018

A BitCoin Crackdown Will Not Stop The Flood

February 19, 2018

Bitcoin’s rocketing value has put a spotlight on this intentionally shadowy money system. Now, with all that attention governments are starting to crack down. However, we don’t think that’ll help. We were tipped off to this trend from a recent BitCoinIst story, “AUSTRALIAN BANKS REPORTEDLY FREEZING THE ACCOUNTS OF BITCOIN USERS.”

According to the story:

The Australian banks which have been accused of freezing accounts of Bitcoin users have been listed as the National Australia Bank, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Westpac Banking Corporation. The claim was made in a tweet saying that user activity associated with certain websites (BTC Markets, CoinSpot Australia, CoinJar, and Coinbase) have been affected as triggering suspicious activity on Australian users’ bank accounts.

 

Should your bank refuse to make a payment of your money, then you are rendered powerless to access your own money. The banks’ heavy handedness in this regard only gives further fuel to those proponents of decentralized money that lie outside of institutional control, such as Bitcoin and the rest of cryptocurrency. That Australian banks are still not providing fail-safes to their customers when they fall foul of unspecified account flagging is not portraying the country’s banks in a positive manner at all.

While it is worth applauding Australia’s attempt at stopping criminal activity this way, it’s only part of the oldest story in the book. As soon as someone solves a problem, two new ones crop up. Those being new cryptocurrencies, like Monero, which criminals are beginning to flock to. Fat chance stopping this flood of trouble.

Patrick Roland, February 19, 2018

Digital Currencies: Now You Have It, Now You Do Not

February 2, 2018

We noted an interesting assertion in “Cryptocurrency ICOs: It’s Impossible to Police What You Can’t See.” The passage points attention to the ease with which initial coin offerings and tokens can be converted into “scams.” We noted:

ICOs have paved the way for so-called “exit scams,” in which fake companies launch an ICO and make off with investor proceeds. BitConnect is one of the latest companies which wound up its exchange operations, crashing the price of its BitConnect Coin (BCC) in the process. Investors were promised converted funds in BCC, but as their original investment had to be made in ETH, they have suffered countless losses as BCC’s value crashed and burned, leading many to believe the whole system was a scam — and one, unfortunately, which has cost its investors millions of dollars.

We loved this quote, attributed to Arianne King, managing partner and Solicitor Advocate of Al Bawardi Critchlow:

“It’s hard to police what you can’t even see.”

The Beyond Search DarkCyber research team would like to point out that modest strides have been made in deanonymizing some activities related to digital currencies.

The write up pointed out:

Investor cryptocurrency funds can be whisked away to multiple wallets and potentially “washed” through Dark Web services to become extremely difficult to track, and without cold, hard currency in a scammer’s bank account, little can be done.

Online is an interesting “environment,” fostering fake news, teen anxiety, and good old fashioned fraud.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2018

FnaS or Fake News as a Service Is Now a Thing

January 30, 2018

The above acronym “FNaS” is our own invention for “fake news as a service”; if you did not catch on it is a play on SaS or software as a service.  We never thought that this was a possible job, but someone saw a niche and filled it.  According to Unhinged Group in the article, “Fake News ‘As A Service’ Booming Among Cybercrooks” describes how this is a new market for ne’er do wells.  It does make sense that fake news would be a booming business because there are many organizations and people who want to take advantage of the public’s gullibility.

This is especially true for political and religious folks, who have a lot of power to sway those in power.  Digital Shadows, however, conducted a research survey and discovered that fake news services are hired to damage reputations and cause financial distress for organizations through disinformation campaigns.

How does this work?

The firm’s research stated that these services are often associated with “Pump and Dump” scams, schemes that aggressively promote penny stocks to inflate their prices before the inevitable crash and burn. Scammers buy low, hope that their promotions let the sell high, then flee with their loot and little regard for other investors.

A cryptocurrency variant of the same schemes has evolved and involves gradually purchasing major shares in altcoin (cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin) and drumming up interest in the coin through posts on social media. The tool then trades these coins between multiple accounts, driving the price up, before selling to unsuspecting traders on currency exchanges looking to buy while prices are still rising.

One “Pump and Dump” service analysis discovered that they made an equivalent of $326,000 for ne’er do wells in less than two months.  Even worse is that Digital Shadows found more than ten services that sell social media bot software for as low as $7.

It is not difficult to create a fake “legitimate” news site.  All it takes is a fake domain, cloning services, and backlinking to exploit these fake news stories.  Real legitimate news outlets and retailers are also targets.  Anyone and anything can be a target.

Whitney Grace, January 30, 2018

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