Elastic Stack Goes Into Cyber Security

September 11, 2019

The open source search company Elasticsearch has augmented its offerings with new security technology. ZDNet delves into Elasticsearch’s new endeavor in the article, “Elastic Takes the First Steps Toward Building Out Its SIEM Solution.” Elastic Stack is Elasticsearch’s open source analytics tool and it received a new update: Elastic NV. Elastic NV is a data model and UI for Security information and Event Management (SIEM).

Elasticsearch has a lot of competition, so the company decided that making its log, search, and analytics stack more utilitarian would expand its client base. The SIEM update is an appealing security solution:

“The SIEM features lay the foundations for a more fleshed-out solution going forward with the new Elastic Common Schema, an open source specification for field naming conventions and data types; think of the new common schema as a Rosetta Stone for the different types of logs, metrics, and other contextual data that is used for analyzing security events. Additionally, the 7.2 release adds a dedicated user interface for security events, featuring a timeline viewer to store evidence of an attack, pin and annotate relevant events, and provide query filtering capabilities.”

While appealing the Elastic SIEM offerings are still skeletal, but Elastic acquired Endgame-a company that designs endpoint security solutions. Elastic will probably include it in a future SIEM update.

Search is also more powerful in Elastic NV. Search used to be limited to the Elastic cloud, but it can now be used on-site end systems. Elastic is extending its services also to make a scalable search-based solution to provide insights into detecting potential threats.

Will other enterprise search vendors follow Elastic?

Whitney Grace, September 11, 2019

Enterprise Search: AI and a Low Spend

August 26, 2019

DarkCyber Read “Capacity Raises $13.2 Million to Index Emails, Files, and More with AI.” The company was founded in 2017. We noted this passage:

Capacity (formerly Jane.ai), [is] a startup developing a platform that indexes data from apps, teams, and more and enables users to search through the corpus using natural language.

Plus, the system learns and improves over time.

The company’s funding to deliver AI, multi-source enterprise search is “over $21 million.”

One of the founders is CEO David Karandish, formerly the CEO of Answers.com. He is quoted as saying:

[Capacity] is an intuitive, intelligent AI-powered Teammate who gives employees instant access to the information they need to do their jobs well.

The indexing system can process content from such systems as:

  • ADP human resource information
  • Box
  • NetSuite
  • Google Gmail
  • Microsoft Exchange
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Sage human resource information
  • Salesforce
  • ServiceNow
  • Zendesk

The system includes “a chatbot with natural language processing capabilities that integrates with popular messaging apps such as Slack and Skype.”

We noted this statement:

Capacity can deliver company-wide announcements, like daily news and event notifications, and onboard new hires by providing access to forms that need to be completed. For customers with websites that have FAQ sections, it can be made public-facing to help cut down on customer service requests.

If Capacity can deliver, outfits like LucidWorks will have some explaining to do to its investors.

Stephen E Arnold, August 26, 2019

LucidWorks: Another $100 Million

August 14, 2019

LucidWorks is an open source “search” play built on Solr. The company is fighting a battle with Elastic. Both companies are likely to face increased pressure from newcomers like Algolia and from the relentless Amazon AWS search system.

According to Crunchbase:

AI-powered search venture Lucidworks has raised $100 million from Francisco Partners and TPG Sixth Street Partners, the company announced today (first reported by Fortune’s Term Sheet).

What’s interesting is that Crunchbase did some math and stated:

The funding amounts to nearly as much (a combined $109 million) as the twelve-year-old company has raised since it was founded in 2007, according to Crunchbase data. Its last raise took place in May 2018 – a $50 million Series E led by Top Tier Capital Partners. So this round is precisely double its last raise.

A free profile of the LucidWorks system is available at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles.

How different is today’s Lucid from the system available seven or eight years ago? The publicity and marketing collateral generated by the company suggests that artificial intelligence is the core of the “new” LucidWorks.

The question is, “What type of financial payoff is necessary to deliver an upside for those investors who have provided money to the company?”

With investors expecting a dump truck of money, LucidWorks will have to:

  • Grow its revenue well beyond “search successes” like Endeca to warrant a big buy out. But Endeca hit a wall at about $100 million in revenue before Oracle bought out the company for an alleged $1 billion. Where is Endeca now?
  • Go an an acquisition spree to increase revenues and groom itself for an Autonomy type deal. Autonomy’s $700 million in revenue fetched $11 billion when the well managed Hewlett Packard snapped up the company.
  • Revolutionize something, sign up partners, resellers, and licensees, and push for an initial public offering.

The odds are that LucidWorks, which was founded in 2007, has been laboring to achieve success for 12 years. That effort has now required $209 million.

Unlike Palantir, which is essentially a search and retrieval system, LucidWorks lacks the stealth, sparkle, and cachet of its Palo Alto neighbor. Search and retrieval remains a market niche with has a reputation for generating pivots, repositionings, and massive financial shocks. Will LucidWorks follow the Convera trajectory which carried Allen & Co. into a storm?

LucidWorks has to distinguish itself as more than a cash burning machine, and that is getting more difficult, not easier, carrying the color flag which says, “Artificial intelligence.” The AI parade is choked with similar banners. Maybe AI is the secret sauce that will jump start search vendors struggling for revenue and “smart money” investors?

Stephen E Arnold, August 14, 2019

Digital Shadows Raises $10 Million For New Security Platform

August 13, 2019

Digital Shadows is a well-known provider of solutions that identify and mitigate corporate digital risks. In other words, they protect companies from digital threats. VentureBeat shares that Digital Shadows received a fresh cash infusion for their newest security platform: “Digital Shadows Raises $10 Million For Its Business Risk Intelligence Platform.” The National Australia Bank led a series C funding venture for Digital Shadows and scored $10 million for them.

The funding capital will be invested in Digital Shadows’s newest risk intelligence platform as well as allow the company to expand its support team in the Asia Pacific to provide 24/7 threat coverage. Digital Shadows plans to expand its client base from hundreds to thousands of organizations.

Digital Shadows CEO Alastair Paterson said:

“‘Demand for digital risk protection continues to flourish with significant growth in the Asia Pacific market. It’s clear that partnership with a regional specialist in NAB Ventures is exactly what is needed to drive further growth in this massive market and to expand the delivery of our SearchLight service to customers around the world,’ said Paterson, a former Detica principal consultant who partnered with chief innovation officer James Chappell in 2011 to found Digital Shadows. ‘We’re very pleased that our existing investors feel the same and have joined us on this next stage of our journey.’”

Digital Shadows’ leading product is their SearchLight server that works by having their clients register their data: email headers, keywords, employees, document-marking systems, and intellectual property. SearchLight then monitors over 100 million web data sources in over twenty-seven languages for copies. When the copies are spotted, SearchLight alerts its clients with remediation suggestions.

Digital Shadows is in a profitable market. Digital security needs reputable and intelligent companies to protect their data, because the bad actors are getting smarter.

Whitney Grace, August 13, 2019

Libra Scams Get Ahead of the Facebook Cryptocurrency Launch

August 2, 2019

A digital currency from Facebook—what could go wrong? Rampant fraud, for starters, and that’s before cryptocurrency Libra has even been put into circulation. The Verge reports, “Libra Scams Are Already Proliferating on Facebook.” Writer Jon Porter reports:

“An investigation by The Washington Post has uncovered a dozen accounts, pages, and groups across Facebook and Instagram which misleadingly claim to be official hubs for Libra, Facebook’s proposed digital currency. In some cases these pages, which were only removed after WaPo reported them to Facebook, offered to sell Libra at a discount through third-party websites. Given the proliferation of cryptocurrency scams seen in recent years, it’s not surprising that scammers have descended on Libra given its widespread attention. However, it’s far more surprising that Facebook doesn’t seem to have been prepared for the influx of tricksters on its own service, especially as it struggles to assure regulators that it’s equipped to handle a global currency.”

Yes, the irony has been noted. Cryptocurrency scams have plagued Facebook’s platform before, so it is puzzling they did not take stronger measures to prevent this before even announcing Libra. The company employee in charge of Calibra, the Libra-associated digital wallet, has already been hauled into a Senate hearing. In The Next Web’s article, “Facebook Forced to Take Action Against Fraudsters Peddling Fake Libra,” writer Matthew Beedham tells us:

“Earlier this month, Facebook‘s head of Calibra, David Marcus, faced questions at a senate hearing. Marcus received numerous questions that interrogated many of Facebook‘s claims about its digital currency. Indeed, trust was a common theme and cropped up 69 times during the questioning.”

One representative went so far as to state she thinks Libra is so risky it should be ended before it even begins. Perhaps that would be wise, but what are the chances Facebook will embrace such wisdom?

Cynthia Murrell, August 2, 2019

Google: Advertising Not Enough?

August 1, 2019

DarkCyber noted a write up called “Google Is Testing a Monthly App Subscription Service for Android.” The write up asserts:

Google has been testing a monthly subscription service for apps and games, under the name Google Play Pass. The move to a subscription model has been rumored since before Apple introduced its ‘Apple Arcade‘ offering earlier in the year. The package looks almost ready to launch, with $4.99 (£4.12 in rapidly deflating Borisbucks) set as the monthly fee – not a lot considering it gives access to ‘thousands’ of apps, all without adverts and In-App Purchasing (IAP).

The revenue streams such a fee would produce are subject to the assumptions plugged into a spreadsheet. Use the “right” assumptions — that is, the ones with the biggest payback to the GOOG — and the analyst can plot the take off trajectory of a Chengdu J-20.

DarkCyber has a few questions:

  1. Are the likely economic penalties some government agencies may impose on Google sufficiently dire to warrant this “stable” revenue play?
  2. Are advertising revenues weakening so that an “old school” money making model is needed?
  3. Is Google assembling a billing model to support its initiatives in online gaming; for example, subscribers get access to pre release digital “goodies” for gamers?

Worth monitoring because this change is another signal that the “old” Google may be fading.

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2019

Owlin Pivots Attracts Funding

June 21, 2019

Financial-tech startup Owlin is bound to be celebrating—TechCrunch announces, “Owlin, the Text and News Analytics Platform for Financial Institutions, Raises $3.5M Series A.” This is especially good news, considering the company lost ground when its original backer went bankrupt; that twist cost the company two founders, we’re told. Now, though, Velocity Capital is leading this round of funding. Writer Steve O’Hear reports:

“The fundraise follows the fintech company’s pivot from a real-time news alert service to a more comprehensive ‘AI-based’ text and news analytics platform to help financial institutions assess risk. … This is seeing Owlin enable 15,000 counter-party risk managers worldwide to track risk events that are not captured by traditional credit risk metrics. ‘We are adding news and unstructured data to their risk monitoring. In the end, our clients don’t just gain insights, they also gain time,’ adds the Owlin CEO.”

Apparently, the platform is unusually successful at augmenting certain types of data, making for more accurate risk models. Regulators love that, we’re reminded. Founded in 2012, Owlin is based in Amsterdam Some of the companies global clients are Deutsche Bank, ING, Fitch Ratings, Adyen, and KPMG.

Cynthia Murrell, June 21, 2019

Palantir Salary Information

June 17, 2019

What does an engineer at Palantir Technologies earn? The question can be difficult to pin down. Team Blind ran a post which provided some insight. Keep in mind that these numbers may be horse feathers:

  • Engineer with three years of experience and a Master’s degree: $175,000 base salary, 30,000 shares over five years, and a $50,000 signing bonus
  • Engineer with three years of experience : $165,000 base, 50,000 shares over five years.

Stephen E Arnold, June 17, 2019

HP-Autonomy and the KPMG Due Diligence Document

June 15, 2019

I noted this article in The Register, a UK online publication: “HP CFO Cathie Lesjak Didn’t Even Read KPMG’s Autonomy Due Diligence Before $11bn Biz Gobble.” The write up reports that Hewlett Packard professionals did not read a report about Autonomy prepared by the accounting and consulting services firm KPMG. DarkCyber finds the information in the article interesting. We noted this statement in the Register’s write up:

Barrister Robert Miles QC asked her: “I think you didn’t, yourself, read a due diligence report prepared by KPMG, is that right?” Lesjak replied: “I did not.”

As intriguing as this exchange between Autonomy’s attorney and an HP executive involved in the astounding $11 billion purchase, the Register provides a link to the “confidential” and “draft” report about the finances of Autonomy.

Image result for buyer beware

The document is available at this link. Note: that confidential documents can be removed from public access at any time. DarkCyber, an organization with more time but fewer resources than HP, read the document online.

DarkCyber’s conclusion is that HP’s failure to read the KPMG draft deprived the HP executives of information germane to the purchase price of $11 billion.

Other items of interest to DarkCyber in the KPMG document dated August 9, 2011, were:

  • KPMG itself lacked access to certain information; for example, certain details related to Autonomy’s income taxes
  • Autonomy’s financials (top line revenue and profits) were softening after the $870 million in revenue reported in FY2010
  • Autonomy used a method known as “Tower” in order to achieve certain financial objectives; namely, obtain maximum financial benefits from its activities such as loans.

The KPMG report is a “draft” and its authors presented sufficient information (even though that information is incomplete) to call into question the purchase of Autonomy for $11 billion.

The deal did not work out for either HP or Autonomy. HP lost traction with its shareholders. Autonomy found itself mired in an unpleasant and highly visible legal battle.

DarkCyber’s view is that companies engaged in search, retrieval, content processing, and allied disciplines have an unusual track record. For example, a number of little known companies simply failed to meet their revenue objectives and went out of business. Examples include Delphes (Canada), Entopia (Israel), InQuire, and others.

Other firms engaged in Autonomy-type software and services sought buyers in order to avoid financial problems. Examples include Exalead (acquired by Dassault), Vivisimo (acquired by IBM), and others.

Convera and Fast Search & Transfer are examples of enterprise search and Autonomy-type services caught in the same business quagmire as Autonomy; that is, robust promises about technology, difficulties generating sustainable revenue, problems in satisfying customers, and problems controlling infrastructure, R&D, and customer support costs. Convera (once Excalibur) was rescued by Allen & Company but was unable to deliver satisfactory solutions to information processing needs at Intel and the NBA. Fast Search & Transfer was involved in a financial investigation related to the company’s balance sheets. Microsoft stepped in and bought Fast Search in 2008.

Most of these problems with Autonomy-type companies stemmed from a combination of these miscalculations, errors in judgment, or over optimistic marketing:

  1. Search and retrieval is difficult to define; therefore, whatever system is installed at an organization will disappoint most of a system’s users. For this reason, large companies have a specialized system for legal, one for bench chemists, one for marketing, etc. Due to disenchantment, competitors can make a sale only to face clamors for engineering fixes or termination of the contract. Sustainable revenues are, therefore, a characteristic of Autonomy-type companies. (The KPMG report makes clear that Autonomy relied on acquisitions to increase its top line revenue.)
  2. Enterprise search vendors typically over promise and under deliver. Sales professionals and marketers glibly explain the value of unlocking the hidden value of an organization’s data. The reality is that the costs of determining what data are available, who can view certain data, cleansing and validating that data, indexing the data, and then keeping the indexes up to date and in line with access privileges is a significant burden. The cost of “unlocking’ exceed the available resources and appetite for investment in many licensees of Autonomy-type search systems. (The KPMG rolls these costs into undifferentiated line items, a serious omission. These costs help explain the “you can’t get there from here” problem inherent in Autonomy-type software.)
  3. Autonomy-type systems from the period covered in the KPMG report were mostly proprietary code. Over time, these code bases became increasingly complex and at the same time more fragile. As a result, the costs of standing up a system, fine tuning it, and then tailoring it to the needs of the licensee grew over time. Like the content preparation work in item 2, the ongoing costs of the Autonomy-type system added another set of hard to control costs. (The KPMG report does not provide detail related to the costs of triage engineering to fix urgent problems, on-going fixes, and work needed to keep the foundation system current with competitors’ innovations.)

There are other issues with the KPMG which DarkCyber noticed.

Net net: KPMG did a good job making clear that the deal was likely to be a difficult one due to the tax methods, the intra company financial processes, and the mechanisms used to allow Autonomy to demonstrate growth and reasonable margins over the period of time covered by the KPMG professionals.

HP seemed oblivious to the issues “enterprise search” posed; specifically, enterprise search is a niche business delivering expensive, proprietary solutions which rarely satisfy its users regardless of the vendor involved.

HP wanted to buy and buy big and fast. Autonomy appeared to be the solution to HP’s problems. KPMG identified the issues. Impulse buy? Maybe. Uninformed buy? Looks like it. Did Autonomy buff its show car software? Of course, getting the customer to buy is the objective.

Profiles of selected Autonomy-type software vendors are available without charge at the Xenky.com Vendors Web page. You can find that collection of vendor profiles at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2019

Silicon Valley Digital Protest: Another Challenge to Modern Management Methods?

May 24, 2019

One thing you never want to do, and I highly stress never, is anger a tech savvy individual. One famous example is Seth Rogen’s 2011 film, The Interview. The film was about an American talk show host tasked with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. North Koran was not happy about The Interview. Although they denied involvement, North Korea hackers were the alleged culprits hacking the inventor of the Walkman.

Gizmodo tells another allegedly true story in the article, “Palantir’s Github Page Is The New Battleground In The Fight Against ICE.” Tech activists support hot button issues, such as immigration, global warming, and abortion. Palantir has garnered tech activists’ attention, because mom activities dubbed nefarious. Under the Freedom of Information Act, tech activists have learned that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used Palantir’s technology. Many people do not like ICE, among them are tech activists.

Palantir’s case management app was used by ICE on apprehended people at the Mexican-US border. Tech activists want Palantir employees to be aware of how there products are used. We noted this statement:

“Raising an issue on the collaborative software repositories of Github is an option open to any user, and is usually for the purpose of reporting a bug or requesting a feature. ‘The issue we are planning to raise is obvious a moral issue and an ethical issue with Palantir’s ties to ICE,’ TWC’s Noah Gordon told Gizmodo. ‘This is an appeal from tech workers to tech workers to take a principled stand against family separation and deportation.’

And we circled this passage as well:

‘We believe Palantir has certain policies when it comes to maintenance of their open-source repositories, so Palantir employees will have to manually review these issues,’ Gordon continued, ‘Our belief is if we put the honest facts of the situation directly in the face of Palantir workers they will follow up by making the right decision at work and organizing against ICE.’”

Does tech activism does work. Its impact may be increased when an initial public offering is the subject of speculation. Worth monitoring this particular example of employee action and Palantir management’s response.

Whitney Grace, May 24, 2019

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