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Sell Your Soul for a next to Nothing on the Dark Web

October 13, 2015

The article on ZDNet titled The Price of Your Identity in the Dark Web? No More Than a Dollar provides the startlingly cheap value of stolen data on the Dark Web. We have gotten used to hearing about data breaches at companies that we know and use (ahem, Ashley Madison), but what happens next? The article explains,

“Burrowing into the Dark Web — a small area of the Deep Web which is not accessible unless via the Tor Onion network — stolen data for sale is easy to find. Accounts belonging to US mobile operators can be purchased for as little as $14 each, while compromised eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Uber accounts are also for sale. PayPal and eBay accounts which have a few months or years of transaction history can be sold for up to $300 each.”

According to the  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse the most common industries affected by data breaches are healthcare, government, retail, and education sectors. But it also stresses that a high number of data breaches are not caused by hackers or malicious persons at all. Instead, unintended disclosure is often the culprit. Dishearteningly, there is really no way to escape being a target besides living out some Ron Swanson off the grid fantasy scenario. Every organization that collects personal information is a potential breach target. It is up to the organizations to protect the information, and while many are making that a top priority, most have a long way to go.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 13, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Woof: Mobile Search Is the Big Dog

October 12, 2015

Tiny screen. Lots of eye balls. Many opportunities. What happens to the old school business model of the Alphabet Google thing? One wizard read some posts and did some Googling to provide some insight into this potentially annoying shift into the way pesky humans do information.

Navigate to “Worldwide, More Than Half Of Google’s Searches Happen On Mobile: Google Also Says It Has Indexed 100 Billion Links within Apps.” Okay, big numbers. Maybe rounded a bit, but let’s look at the beef, not the ersatz crunch in the search taco:

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that desktop searches have diminished. Stats on desktop search from comScore routinely show the overall amount has risen from month to month. Rather, it’s that mobile searches have been a growing new segment that have caught up and now overtaken desktop search. On the whole, desktop search has grown. As a percentage, it has dropped. That’s because we’re living in what I’ve called an “always-on search world,” where we’re always able to search.

Yep, I like that always on angle. Very 24×7.

Several thoughts:

  1. The Google remains dependent on online advertising and that seems unlikely to change.
  2. The mobile environment seems to be Google’s new Comstock lode
  3. The management shifts at the Google may be more about revenue than they appear
  4. Alphabet Google continues to chug along. No flashing yellow lights for the Google fans.

Here in Harrod’s Creek I sense some Google fatigue particularly by mobile users who don’t know where online information comes from. Just a few short years ago, the answer was Google. Now, there might be a different perception of search brand power. SEO professionals, start your engines.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2015

CFO Ruth Porat Leads Transparency Directive at Alphabet Google

October 12, 2015

The article titled Google Opens Up to Wall Street on The Wall Street Journal describes the transparency efforts ramping up at Google under the direction of new CFO Ruth Porat. It seems that as risks go up for the “Alphabet” Google thing, the company wants to be more transparent to the Wall Street crowd.

“The new approach has contributed to recent gains in Google shares, Mr. Mahaney said. Google shares are up about 15% in the past three months, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index has dropped about 8%. Google still doesn’t offer revenue or earnings forecasts, as many companies do. But Ms. Porat is trying to provide insight to help investors better understand how Google runs its business and help analysts more easily build financial models. A Google spokesman declined to comment.”

The most impactful initiative the article discusses is “Office Hours,” or analyst and investor briefings wherein Google speaks to public information that will effect expenses, such as the seasonal hiring of recent college graduates. Investor and analyst briefings of this sort are common at most companies, although they skirt securities regulations. As long as Google only discusses already publicly disclosed information in the sessions they are safe.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 12, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Alphabet Google: Dreams of a Churning Welchian

October 10, 2015

I like the name General Electric. I liked the acronym GE. I am not sure about or I like the idea of an industrial company emulating GE or one of its Welchian variants. I am okay with GE becoming a software company. GE still makes jet engines, which in time of war may become a hot selling item.

Alphabet Google does not suggest a new version of GE. Alphabet Google does remind some Wall Street wizards of GE. That’s probably because there was a GE centric case at their business school and general awareness of Mr. Welch’s books and personal life. Who knew excitement brewed at the Harvard Business Review? Not me.

I read a woulda coulda shoulda write up called “Google’s Alphabet Could Become the Next GE.” Since we are dealing with supposition and hypothesis, let’s follow the logic.

According to the write up:

For GE, the success of the light bulb became a foundation for diversification and market dominance in areas like aircraft engines, oil and gas, and financial services. Similarly, the success of Google search will be the foundation to new products and services like hardware division Nest, its Life Sciences unit, and shipping, logistics, and shopping service, Express.

GE made stuff. Google sells ads. GE made more stuff, dallied in finance and a number of other disciplines and is now reinventing itself. I think Siemens is doing the same thing.

Google does bits and now wants to do many, many other things. The interests range from balloons to solving death, from doing evil to do the right thing, from controlling mobile phones to making money from said phones.

The write up asserts that Google can make a lot of money from home automation, life sciences (the death thing), local commerce, and broadband (just like AT&T and Verizon, bless their copper wire Bell heads). If these bets were not sufficient, the write up suggests that Alphabet can spell money with virtual reality, drones, and investments.

No mention of robots which are likely to be a hot property if there is a rapid shift from humans on the front line to robots in formation.

The write up points out that the parallel is not perfect. Okay, nice hedge. But it seems to me that my view from Harrod’s Creek is slightly different:

  1. Google (the old ad thing) is under lots of legal pressure. The reorganization may put some other folks in depositions and in court rooms.
  2. The big dogs at Google are bored and want to do more interesting things. Solving death is probably interesting because disease, ageing, and weird protein dances can trim one’s options. The efforts are, from my vantage point, math and science club projects. My hunch is that significant revenue may arrive but one has to sell something people want; for example, light bulbs.
  3. The search business is not an intellectual challenge. Search is now commoditized. There are alternatives to Google if one pokes around a bit. Academic interests? Well, check out General search? A combination of Yandex with one of the start up search systems like or might fill the gap. Want a pizza? Let the iPhone deliver.

Net net: Google is more like a microwaved version of Jimmy Ling’s vision. The structure, the diversity, and the sheer complexity of the LTV operation may be in Alphabet’s future.

Let’s talk turkey. Google’s revenue derives from ads. Prior to the Google IPO a legal dust up with Yahoo about the Overture/GoTo business model was resolved. Hooray for struggling Yahoo. Since the IPO Google has been unable to diversify its revenues. Look at the digital Wal-Mart-type outfit that Amazon has become. Good or bad, Amazon has diversified its revenues. To top off its success, Amazon won’t sell stuff from Google which won’t show Amazon videos. Yikes. Google has remained for more than a decade what Steve Ballmer called a one trick pony.

Now I am supposed to believe that this one trick parva equitum will morph into Northern Dancer’s progeny. I am skeptical, but I don’t have to earn my living whipping up excitement for a company increasingly well known in legal circles. Even Jack Welch dreams about what could be I assume. We know analysts do. Google does science projects.

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2015

Google Express Pales in Comparison to Amazon Prime

October 5, 2015

The article on Business Insider titled Google Should Be Very Scared of What Amazon Built, According to Investor Bill Gurley, details Gurley’s comments. Amazon Prime, according to Gurley, is challenging Google’s top dog position by offering inventory in addition to search capabilities. Shopping on Google might seem like a waste of time to many Prime members, who go directly to Amazon to search for what they are looking for. The article explains,

“Over many years, Amazon has built up this logistics framework and their one click feature and their Prime program to the point where the consumer has zero anxiety about the quality of the product, immense trust about the deliverability, down to a day and a half for most people, less than a day for some items. They trust on price. That doesn’t mean they are the absolute lowest price, but people don’t think Amazon’s trying to get ’em.”

Gurley estimates that Amazon may have as many as 90 million Prime Members loyal to their search engine for shopping, and using Google only as a last resort. Google Express, which most of us have never heard of, was Google’s “lame” answer to Amazon Prime, but without the years of planning and creating worldwide distribution centers. However, the article does not address that people use Google for quite a bit more than shopping, and Amazon Prime is limited that way.

Chelsea Kerwin, October 5, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Alphabet Spells a Digital Ling Temco Vought

October 4, 2015

I read “O Is for Official: Google to Morph into Alphabet Today.” Here’s the MBA (not technology) maneuver:

The Wall Street maneuver doesn’t alter day-to-day operations at any of the companies. Though, as we’ve reported [the we is the real journalistic outfit Recode], the financial engineering will give Alphabet more room to justify its spending to investors, and more leverage to scoop up companies. Inside the corporate campuses the move may, if implemented as designed, give the companies more room to innovate and provide employees with more space to feel entrepreneurial.

Fine with me. I would point out that the shift from DEC Alta Vista engineering to “financial engineering” is, like 2006, an important turning point for the Backrub wizards. Messrs Brin and Page have moved from National Science Foundation thinking to the world of Jimmy Ling and T Boone Pickens.

The parallel for me is Tyco (which did not work out for the art lover at the company) and my favorite roll up Ling Temco Vought. As you may recall, the okay outfit Ling Electric Co. “morphed” into Ling Temco Vought and then, at the end of the trail, LTV Corp. and finally into LTV Steel. From circuits to commodities between 1947 and 2000 when the outfit filed for bankruptcy.

I recall that someone with lots of money told me that Jimmy Ling “invented” the modern conglomerate. I don’t buy that. I think of his innovation as what I call the three Rs: Roll up, Restate, and Rename. As I was finishing graduate school, LTV grew from $35 million in turnover to about $4.0 billion. Nifty.

The notion of diversification complemented strong positions in certain sectors like aerospace.

What happened was that there was pushback and investigations. The company lost touch with some markets, reorganized, and eventually ended up bankrupt. There are a number of books and business school case studies about LTV’s exciting journey.

The point is that the Alphabet Google is embarking on a journey which may allow me to watch AG follow LTV’s footsteps down a path which, one hopes, leads to a brighter, less contentious future.

Now the big question, “Is this shift or morph as the article states a good thing?” Yep, some stakeholders, lots of lawyers, and many pundits have a digital Comstock to mine. The Alphabet Google thing may be a digital variant of Ling Temco Vought.

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2015

Google Flu Trends: Smart Software in Action

October 2, 2015

i read “What We Can Learn from the Epic Failure of Google Flu Trends.” I like history. In grade school in the 1950s, there was not much talk about predicting the flu.

Flash forward to 2008. According to the write up:

In 2008, researchers from Google explored this [prediction based on users’ queries] potential, claiming that they could “nowcast” the flu based on people’s searches. The essential idea, published in a paper in Nature, was that when people are sick with the flu, many search for flu-related information on Google, providing almost instant signals of overall flu prevalence.

Then what? Failure. The write up reminded me:

GFT failed—and failed spectacularly—missing at the peak of the 2013 flu season by 140 percent. When Google quietly euthanized the program, called Google Flu Trends (GFT), it turned the poster child of big data into the poster child of the foibles of big data.

The point is that Big Data are going to be darned useful. I agree. For now I will temper my enthusiasm for Google’s beating death and IBM Watson curing cancer. I want to be conservative and get a flu shot.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2015

A Xoogler Predicts Spike in Online Ad Rates

October 2, 2015

Yep, AOL, which is now part of Verizon, is not the world beater it was in the days of CD ROM spam. Today’s AOL top dog is a former Google wizards, officially known as a Xoogler.

The Xoogler makes an interesting observation, faithfully recorded for the Mad Ave types in “Why AOL’s Tim Armstrong Says Advertising Is about to Get Exponentially More Expensive.” I like the word exponentially. It triggers this type of image in my mind:

Think Super Bowl or pre-indictment World Cup ad rates.

The write up reports that wizard Xoogler says:

“Everyone is spending all their time talking about ad blocking right now,” he said. “Everyone should be spending all of their time talking about why consumers feel the need to block ads.”

The fix, therefore, is more money to reach consumers:

“You’re going to have to pay a lot of money to convert someone,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Good news for the Google? Opportunities for other online ad vendors like Facebook?

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2015

Google Faces Sanctions over Refusal to Embrace Right to Be Forgotten Ruling

October 2, 2015

The article on Reuters titled France Rejects Google Appeal on Cleaning Up Search Results Globally explores the ramifications of Europe’s recently passed Right to be Forgotten law. The law stipulates that search engines be compelled by requests to remove information. Google has made some attempts to yield to the law, granting 40% of the 320,000 requests to remove incorrect, irrelevant, or controversial information, but only on the European version of its sites. The article delves into the current state of affairs,

“The French authority, the CNIL, in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including The company refused in July and requested that the CNIL abandon its efforts, which the regulator officially refused to do on Monday…France is the first European country to open a legal process to punish Google for not applying the right to be forgotten globally.”

Google countered that while the company was happy to meet the French and European standards in Europe, they did not see how the European law could be globally enforced. This refusal will almost certainly be met with fines and sanctions, but that may be the least of Alphabet Google’s troubles considering its ongoing disapproval by Europe.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 02, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Learn about Google via a Click Generating Listicle

September 28, 2015

Desperate for clicks on your Web site. Follow the lead of “17 things You Didn’t Know about Google.” The idea is simple. Cook up a catchy title like “17 Things,” relate the title to the number of years Google has been in business, and break up a list into individual Web pages. Listicle magic.

I flipped through this article to see what gems about Google the authors mined from the wealth of Alphabet Google content available via a Google search.

Here are three “things” I highlighted as representative of the intellectual depth of the listicle.

  1. Google used to be called Backrub. Alas, there is no mention of the influences upon the founder. Clever or an oversight?
  2. Google is a derivative of a mathematical term. Omitted is the misspelling that yielded Google. Alphabets can be confusing.
  3. Google is scanning books. I wonder if the authors and publishers know about this?

Fill your mind. Absorb the other 14 facts. Be enriched.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2015

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