Techno-Grousing: A New Analytic Method?

July 3, 2020

Two items snagged my attention as my team and I were finishing the pre-recorded lecture about Amazon policeware for the upcoming National Cyber Crime Conference.

The first is a mostly context free item from a Silicon Valley type “real” news outfit. The article’s title is:

Hany Farid Says a Reckoning Is Coming for Toxic Social Media

The item comes from one of the technology emission centers in the San Francisco / Silicon Valley region: A professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

What’s interesting is that Hany Farid is activating a klaxon that hoots:

In five years, I expect us to have long since reached the boiling point that leads to reining in an almost entirely unregulated technology sector to contend with how technology has been weaponized against individuals, society, and democracy.

Insight? Prediction? Anticipatory avoidance?

After decades of supporting, advocating, and cheerleading technology — now, this moment, is the time to be aware that change is coming. Who is responsible? The media is a candidate, people who disseminate misinformation, and bad actors.

Sounds good. What about educators? Well, not mentioned.

The other item comes from the Jakarta Post. You can find the story at this link. I have learned that mentioning the entity the story discusses results in my blog post being skipped by certain indexing systems. Hey, that’s a surprise, right?

The point of the write up is that a certain social media site is now struggling with increased feistiness among otherwise PR influenced users.

What’s interesting is that suddenly, like the insight du jour from the Berkeley professor, nastiness is determined to be undesirable.

The fix for the social media outfit is simple: Get out of line and you will be blocked from the service. There’s nothing so comforting as hitting the big red cancel button.

Turning battleships quickly can have interesting consequences. The question is, “What if the battleship’s turn has unforeseen consequences?”

Stephen E Arnold, July 3, 2020

MIT and Being Smart

July 3, 2020

When I hear “MIT”, I think Jeffrey Epstein. Sorry. Imprinting at work. I read “MIT Apologizes, Permanently Pulls Offline Huge Dataset That Taught AI Systems to Use Racist, Misogynistic Slurs.” Yep, that the MIT which trains smart people today.

The write up reports:

Vinay Prabhu, chief scientist at UnifyID, a privacy startup in Silicon Valley, and Abeba Birhane, a PhD candidate at University College Dublin in Ireland, pored over the MIT database and discovered thousands of images labeled with racist slurs for Black and Asian people, and derogatory terms used to describe women. They revealed their findings in a paper undergoing peer review for the 2021 Workshop on Applications of Computer Vision conference.

Presumably the demise of Mr. Epstein prevented him from scrutinizing the dataset for appropriate candidates.

Error corrected. Apology emitted. Another outstanding example of academic excellence engraved in digital history.

Stephen E Arnold, July 3, 2020

Governance, Data Management, Digital Revolution! Yeah, Right

May 29, 2020

The digital revolution is not going as planned if the information in a recent Beta News’ article is correct. The headline tells the tale:

Three Quarters of Organizations Fail to Complete Legacy System Modernizations.

The statement is surprising to DarkCyber. The write up explains:

New research from Advanced shows that 74 percent of organizations have started a legacy system modernization project but failed to complete it.

Plus there is more:

The report also suggests a disconnect between business and technical teams could be to blame. CIOs and heads of IT are more interested in the technology landscape of their organization as a whole, whereas enterprise architects are more internally focused.

How does one complete modernization projects? Wave a magic wand? Hire retired people who built the system? Use a mobile app? Organize via Microsoft Teams? Hold Zoom meetings? No, the answer is:

“Collaboration is absolutely essential to successful modernization,” says Brandon Edenfield, managing director of application modernization at Advanced. “To achieve this, technical teams must ensure that senior leadership see the value and broader business impact of these efforts in terms they can understand. Without full commitment and buy-in from the C-Suite, these projects run the risk of complete failure.”

DarkCyber wishes to offer a handful of observations. You may interpret these as reasons for dead end digital renovations:

  1. Cost. The estimates are incorrect and the bean counters choke off funds.
  2. Complexity. The 20 somethings and the MBAs afflicted with spreadsheet fever have under estimated how difficult the rework actually is.
  3. Craziness. The manager with the bright idea leaves or gets fired and in the chaotic aftermath, the project goes away.

Yep, the three Cs and probably the reason for the dismal performance of the modern data management, governance, and digital revolution in most companies. Change is somewhat more difficult that some people armed with PowerPoints and consulting babble wish to know.

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2020

Google: App Quality Control?

May 21, 2020

It appears APT group OceanLotus, believed to originate in Vietnam, managed to play Google Play and other app marketplaces for half a decade. DarkReading reports, “5-Year-Long Cyber Espionage Campaign Hid in Google Play.” The attack campaign, dubbed “PhantomLance” by Kaspersky and called “Operation Oceanmobile” by BlackBerry researchers, mainly targeted Android users in Southeast Asia. The malware managed to evade detection in part by changing up its code over time. BlackBerry published their investigation last October, while Kaspersky recently revealed new details. The malicious code was hidden in utility apps like ad blockers, Flash plug-ins, and cache cleaners as well as (interestingly) Vietnamese apps for finding local churches and bars. Writer Kelly Jackson Higgins cites Kaspersky researcher Alexey Firsh:

“Firsh says he and his team decided to dig deeper into a Trojan backdoor that was first revealed in a July 2019 report by researchers at Dr. Web. The relatively unusual backdoor, they found, dated back to at least December 2015, the registration date of one of the domains used in the campaign, according to Firsh. The latest sample of the spying malware was present in apps on Google Play in November 2019, he says, when Kaspersky notified Google. … The attackers created several versions of the backdoor, with dozens of samples, and when an app first went up in Google Play or other app stores, it didn’t contain malware: That was added later in the form of an update, after the user had installed it.”

Sneaky. The attackers also used different encryption keys and separate infrastructures. They even went to the trouble of writing realistic privacy policies for each app, maintaining customer service emails addresses where they actually answered questions, and creating a fake developer profile on GitHub to look legit. Higgins explains what the software was up to:

“The malware performs the usual spy stuff, gathering geolocation information, call logs, contact lists, and SMS messages, as well as information on the victim’s device, such as model, operating system, and installed apps. ‘But we see that it also has the ability to execute special shell commands from the [C2] server and download additional payloads on the victim’s device,’ Firsh explains.”

Also known as APT32, OceanLotus has targeted Vietnamese dissidents, journalists, and other citizens as well as industries in China, the Philippines, Germany, the UK, and the US.

Cynthia Murrell, May 21, 2020

Harvard Channels MIT: Academic Funding Magnetism

May 20, 2020

The study of mathematical principles that guide evolution is a fascinating field, and Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics is a worthy research and teaching program. Its goals include, among others, finding cures for cancer and for infectious diseases. Unfortunately, like many poised in an ivory tower, its director seems to have been afflicted with greed. The Harvard Crimson Reveals, “FAS Places Prof. Nowak on Leave after Report Finds Epstein Used His Program to Rehabilitate Image.” Reporter James S. Bikales writes:

“A University report found Epstein attempted to use Harvard and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, which Nowak directs, as a tool to rehabilitate his image following his 2008 conviction for solicitation of minors for prostitution. Epstein likely made more than 40 visits to PED’s offices at One Brattle Square between 2010 and 2018, according to the report, which also states that Nowak approved the posting of flattering and false descriptions of Epstein’s philanthropy and support of Harvard on the PED website.”

Though no evidence was found that donations from the (alleged) underage-sex-ring facilitator and serial abuser were accepted after his conviction, he had donated millions to the PED in the recent past. Epstein also helped facilitate a John Templeton Foundation grant to the program in 2015, which was accepted. Certain pre-conviction perks were also supplied to the convict-to-be, including a fellowship he was unqualified for and an office complete with keycode access to the PED building. There is no evidence Epstein interacted with students during his approximately 40 visits, aside from sitting in on one undergrad math class.

While awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking and sexually assaulting at least 80 underage girls, Epstein died in August 2019 in his prison cell. Though likely to be less dramatic, Nowak’s fate is still to be decided pending an investigation.

Cynthia Murrell, May 20, 2020

SEO: Let Us Hustle, Everyone

May 4, 2020

I was horrified in 2013 when I read “Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Get Your Company More Traffic, Increase Brand Impact, and Amplify Your Online Presence.” I assume Ramanathan Guha, one of the semantic sparkplugs, may have to breathe deeply and do Zen things when he ponders how his semantic inventions have been applied.

One idea for “semantic” was to deal with ambiguity and provide improved recall for Web content. I am not to thrash around in the Semantic Web kiddy pool with over inflated natural language processing methods, the sprites of SPARQL, and Watson-esque methods that can figure out “meaning” in human utterances. No, no.

I want to point out that crazy suggestions for fooling Google’s bastardized relevance methods into presenting a user with increasingly less and less relevant information. Here’s an example: A query for “Peruvian Machu Picchu stone masonry.” Pretty specific. Here’s what the GOOG delivers:

stone masonry

The top hit is from a travel agency. Number two is a Wikipedia article. Number three is a collection of pictures.

I don’t know about you, but I am not confident in a travel agency’s take on Mesolithic quarrying. The Wikipedia entry raises the question, “Says who?” And the pictures. I don’t need pictures, I need data about quarrying: Where, chemical composition of stone, tools, etc.

But that’s the search engine optimization world at work. Travel agencies are experts because they put a word in their sales material. Notice that the wondrous Google ad matching algorithm did NOT generate explicit travel advertisements. This begs the question,  “What’s the problem, Google smart software ad matching thing?”

The goal of search engine optimization is to outfox an increasingly mixed up Google and the clueless user who wants information on a specific topic; for example, Peruvian Machu Picchu stone masonry,” NOT a pitch for a tours. The sacred valley gateway to Machu Picchu becomes under ham fisted SEO manipulations, the Valley of Tricked Customers, populated with users wondering, “I meant masonry information, not a tour.”

Let’s put David Amerland and his ilk aside. At least, the almost respectable SEO bilkadoodles (a cross between a street savvy fox and pink miniature poodle) write books and contribute to Search Engine Journal, one of the advocates of helping Google display unrelated content.

No, let’s take a quick look at an outfit which is a breed of interest to SEO veterinarians: Woobound.com.

Woobound.com came across my lidar when I received this email on Friday, May 1, 2020. Note that the text is unedited:

Hi ,
My name is Christian from Woobound, Helping you get through remote work challenges!

I’ve been looking up content related to Seo, Digital Marketing & Lead Generation for Finance topic and noticed that you published one on your site http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/2016/04/06/nasdaq-joins-the-party-for-investing-in-intelligence/

I liked what I have read so far, and I think we can agree on all your points. In fact, we have written and published similar content on the same topic which also touches on some of the Seo, Digital Marketing & Lead Generation for Finance tips/topics featured in your article.

We thought your readers might find it as a useful resource, and you can find it here: https://woobound.com/seo-financial-advisor/
Think it would make a nice addition to your page? I’m also keen to know your feedback or thoughts on our writing as well.

We also have a blog manukakitchen.com and we’re happy to give you a link in return.

Keep up the great work at arnoldit.com and stay safe

Best

Christian

I noted several issues which this spam email poked in my face:

  1. The email is signed Christian, but the email address is for jeffrey@woobound.com. A fake name is a flashing yellow light.
    image
    The warning light is now pulsing.
  2. The Christian Arriola / Jeffrey entity is following what is a trend in getting useless content in order to pump up a loser blog. (I receive these “please, take my content and link to me” requests frequently. As I was assembling this post, an entity called andreea.sauciuc@cognitiveseo.com begged me to respond to her earlier requests for me to talk to her. No, doesn’t work with these thoughtless, clueless individuals.) The Christian Jeffrey entity called my attention to a story from 2016 about finance, and it seems to Christian Jeffrey that a story related to “seo-financial-advisor” and Manuka Kitchen. The entities are either stupid humans or stupid software bots. The common denominator is “stupid.”
  3. The Christian Arriola / Jeffrey entity is confident that the entity and I agree. Wrong. The fake praise is even more obtuse than the links to subjects of zero interest to me and the DarkCyber team. What’s most inept? Assuming that I am going to agree with this Christian Arriola / Jeffrey or that I will craft a five star review of the Amerland SEO book?

What’s up with this Christian Arriola / Jeffrey entity, please?

Curious I did some checking of open source content. What do you know? The Christian Arriola / Jeffrey reinvented himself in 2018. Here’s a before behavioral modification in the food aisle and the fashion forward Christian Arriola / Jeffrey of the here and now. The image comes from Facebook. Of course, this Christian possibly named Arriola is a Facebooker and an Instagramer to boot:

`fat christian

The “less pizza” diet seems to have had zero impact on the fashion sense of the entity Christian Jeffrey. You can check out the girl friends (numerous), the dog, the favorite cities, and the entity’s most loved pizza restaurants at this link.

A little more exploration revealed a cornucopia of search engine optimization rubbish presented in a series of YouTube videos. You can experience these discharges (effluent, not prison) by clicking on this image:a hustle show

The Christian Jeffrey program does not present the name of the top hustler who operates the program.

Compared to the Poland China output in the Amerland book, the content in these videos might challenge a trippe of hungry pygmy goats.

Let’s look at an example:

a pimp look

The image is similar to those my team has reviewed as part of our work for a tribunal focused on human trafficking and child sex crime.

The program is part of the “show” — now mercifully discontinued — called The Hustle. This particular video features images of hot flames, a visage with what seems to be a Hustle smirk, a VW sedan, footage in a bar, and includes the statement “My life is proving my mom and dad wrong.”

With some trepidation, I asked some of my team to “watch” videos prepared by the Christian Arriola / Jeffrey entity.

Here’s the scorecard I received for three of the eight videos my team viewed. Please, note that each person watched two videos because as one of the DarkCyber team said, “I can’t stand this vlogger and the content. Two’s the limit for me.” I listen, so I said, “Okay, team two shows.”

Programs were rated on a scale of one to 10. One is an F or failure; 10 is a great program with solid content. Here we go:

Show 1: How to Be a Podcaster. Score: 2. Comment: Mostly correct but geared to a person who cannot read. On the Hustle Web site, the link to this program and the free series of which it is allegedly a part does not resolve. Dead links are not what SEO experts report as helpful.

Show 2: Best Keywords for Massage Therapist. Score 1. Comment: Distasteful subject. Seems like a way to build traffic for in call and outcall prostitution services.

Show 3: Make Money with SEMrush. Score 1. Comment: Superficial. Seems to suggest that anyone — even a person with zero education and a questionable reputation — can become a search engine optimization expert.

DarkCyber provided the Christian Arriola / Jeffrey entity with some questions, a routine part of our data collection process. Here are the questions Christian Jeffrey declined to answer:

Would you be kind enough to explain the use of dual names?

One of the team took a gander at the LinkedIn profile associated with one of the names the “Hustle” expert used in his communications to me. Here’s what one of the DarkCyber team learned:

  • One job at the present time: “Associate Director of SEO” for Nexstar Digital. This is a full time position. Engaged for one year.
  • Another job at the present time: “Search Engine Optimization SEO Consultant”. Engaged for nine years.
  • A third job at the present time: Podcast Host and content marketing strategy. Engaged for three years. Note that the video podcast went into what seems to be permanent hiatus “one year ago.”
  • Education: Five years to get a BA degree in “business administration, marketing, and computer information systems.”
  • An entity named Carlos Rosado said, “One of the most complete SEO managers I have ever worked with.”
  • Christian Jeffrey is interested in AT&T and the Hotel Group, among others.

The DarkCyber team member’s opinion based on viewing the Hustle programs and the LinkedIn profile:

The fact that the person Christian Arriola / Jeffrey uses one name for LinkedIn and omits his name from the “Hustle” podcast raises red flags. Also, the information presented in the LinkedIn biography makes clear that this individual presents three “jobs” of which two are his own endeavors. This is another warning light. Multiple gigs are understandable today, but to list one’s own projects as full time jobs leads me to believe that this individual is one with a bit of professional fluidity or “stretch.”

Net Net: SEO is a discipline which plays a cat-and-mouse game with Google. Making a Web page appear when the content of that Web page is not germane to the user’s query is in some ways beyond marketing. The practice edges into intellectual dishonesty. Maybe the behavior is not in the same class as illegal weapons dealing, contraband, human trafficking, and child sex crime? But the facts presented in open source support these conclusions:

  1. SEO practitioners do shade or shape what Google displays.
  2. Individual practitioners may embrace methods associated with criminal behavior; that is, the use of aliases in a professional setting like LinkedIn and email to entities like ArnoldIT.
  3. The expertise required to deliver for fee SEO services may depend on the use of questionable software tools developed by other SEO “experts” and may not work. (Alexa Ranking reports that the Woobound.com site ranks at 7,313,183. DarkCyber finds it peculiar that an SEO expert cannot generate traffic or YouTube views for that matter.)

If you have to decide between the Amerland book’s advice and the “expertise” peddled by Christian Arriola / Jeffrey, look further. You’ll probably save time and money and avoid the “hustle.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2020

New Speak: Editorial Control Becomes Custom Results

March 5, 2020

Just a small thing. Newspapers, magazines, and book editors (well, once in a while) once exercised editorial control. The idea was simple: Reasonably well-educated people who were sober (one hoped) would screen and select content to appear in their respective content outputs. A “content output” in the Okay, Boomer hay day were printed artifacts: A daily paper (no reminders about yellow journalism, please), magazines (no snide comments about multi-year renewal offers a few weeks after a new subscription was started, and books (please, no remarks about samizdat).

Pinterest Is Combating Corona Virus Misinformation with Custom Search Results” says:

The company told The Verge it’s introducing a “custom search experience” to ensure its users can get reliable information when they turn to the platform for information about the epidemic. With the new experience in place, the next time you search for “Corona Virus” and “COVID-19,” Pinterest will surface curated pins created by the World Health Organization.

Yikes, adulting. Now let’s use simple words like “selected,” “editorial judgment,” “controls,” etc. “Old speak” still works.

Progress, modest but still progress.

Stephen E Arnold, March 5, 2020

Amazon: Buying More Innovation

February 26, 2020

DarkCyber noted the article “Amazon Acquires Turkish Startup Datarow.” The word “startup” is rather loosely applied. Datarow was founded in 2016. Not a spring chicken in DarkCyber’s view is a four year old outfit.

What’s interesting about this acquisition is that it provides the sometimes unartful Amazon with an outfit that specializes in making easier-to-use data tools. The firm appears to have been built around AWS Redshift.

image

The company’s quite wonky Web site says:

We’re proud to have created an innovative tool that facilitates data exploration and visualization for data analysts in Amazon Redshift, providing users with an easy to use interface to create tables, load data, author queries, perform visual analysis, and collaborate with others to share SQL code, analysis, and results. Together with AWS, we look forward to taking our tool to the next level for customers.

The company provides what it calls “data governance,” a term which DarkCyber means “get your act together” with regard to information. This is easier said than done, but it is a hot button among companies struggling to reduce costs, comply with assorted rules and regulations, and figure out what’s actually happening in their lines of business. Profit and loss statements are not up to the job of dealing with diverse content, audio, video, real time data, and tweets. Well, neither is Amazon, but that’s not germane.

Will Amazon AWS Redshift (love the naming, don’t you?) become easier to use? Perhaps Datarow will become responsible for the AWS Web site?

Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2020

Twitter: Embracing Management Maturity?

January 20, 2020

Twitter has a new initiative in 2020 to keep academic researchers honest, although it is not advertised in that manner. TechCrunch shares the details in the article, “Twitter Offers More Support To Researchers-To ‘Keep Us Accountable.’” Twitter’s new support for academic researchers is a new hub called “Twitter Data for Academic Researchers” and it has easier access to Twitter’s information and support about its APIs. Within the hub, one can apply for a developer account, links for researcher tools, and information about the APIs Twitter offers.

Twitter apparently added the Twitter Data for Academic Researchers hub this year based off researchers’ demands. The social media platform states they want to encourage communication and offer more support between developers. One reason Twitter wants more transparency and easier communication with its developers is due to the United States’s 2020 presidential election. Twitter, like most social media platforms, wants to cut down the number of bots and/or false news reports that effected the 2016 election. There is also the need to tamper down these accounts on a regular basis:

“Tracking conversation flow on Twitter also still means playing a game of ‘bot or not’ — one that has major implications for the health of democracies. And in Europe Twitter is one of a number of platform giants which, in 2018, signed up to a voluntary Code of Practice on disinformation that commits it to addressing fake accounts and online bots, as well as to empowering the research community to monitor online disinformation via “privacy-compliant” access to platform data.”

Twitter wants to support its developer community, but the transparency also makes it easier for Twitter to hold people responsible for their actions. They are keeping tabs on how their technology is used, while also assisting developers with their work. It is a great idea and if trouble arises, it might make it easier to track down the bad actors who started the mess. It is also another score for Twitter, because Facebook does not support academics well. Facebook has altered its APIs for researchers and Facebook does not want to stop false information spreading.

Whitney Grace, January 20, 2020

MIT and Ethics for the 21st Century: A New Spin on Academia, Ethics, and Technology

January 13, 2020

Yes, a new spin. There is nothing like spin, particularly when an august institution has accepted money from an interesting person. Who is this fascinating individual?

Jeffrey Epstein, alleged procurer, human trafficker, and hobnobber with really great and wonderful people.

I read, with some disgust, “Eight Revelations from MIT’s Jeffrey Epstein Report,” which was conveniently published in Technology Review, an organ of truth and insight affiliated with MIT. For context, I had just completed “Alphabet’s Top Lawyer to Retire after Google Founders Leave,” which appeared in the Bloomberg news-iverse. You remember Bloomberg, the outfit which reported with some nifty assertions that motherboard spying was afoot.

But to MIT and Epstein, then a comment about the sterling outfit Google.

MIT’s write up explained that MIT was prudent. Instead of accepting $10 million from the interesting and now allegedly deceased Mr. Epstein, the university accepted a mere $800,000. Such restraint. And that’s the subtitle for the write up!

What are the eight teachings derived from the fraternization, support, and joy of accepting the interesting Mr. Epstein? Here you go, gentle reader:

  1. The relationship for money extended over 15 years. Such tenacity.
  2. The hook up with Mr. Epstein were happenstance. Maybe MIT was seduced?
  3. The $10 million didn’t happen, but the donations had to be anonymous. Such judgment.
  4. It was the MIT Corporation, not the real school.
  5. Mr. Epstein prevaricated about his donations. Quite a surprise, of course. Lies, deception, manipulation, etc. etc.
  6. Mr. Epstein attended real MIT events, like the funeral for “AI pioneer Marvin Minsky.” An icon, of course.
  7. No big wheels like Bill Gates were involved in directing Mr. Epstein’s money. Perhaps a bit of color on this point would be helpful.
  8. A real MIT professional asserted that Mr. Epstein was a person whom MIT “should treat with respect.”

And the write up concludes, “The Media Lab [a unit of MIT] rejected $25,000, Mr. Epstein tried to donate in 2019. Another example of judgment.

To sum up, quite a write up about an institution which I assume offers a course in ethics. Well, maybe not. Full disclosure: I was quote in the MIT Technology Review late in 2019. I was not thrilled with that association with an outfit will to treat Mr. Epstein with respect.

Now to the Google. The world’s largest online advertising agency seems to be channeling the antics of Madison Avenue in the 1950s. In this episode of the Science Club Explores Biological Impulses”, I learned:

David Drummond, the legal chief of Google parent Alphabet Inc. and a company veteran, stepped down following questions about his conduct at the technology giant.

The conduct may have involved another Googler. What do two Googlers create? Why another Googler it seems. Who knew that Madison Avenue extended from New York City to Mountain View, California.

Net net: Two outfits with people who should have known about propriety demonstrated poor judgment. Look for slightly used ethical compasses on eBay. Lightly used but likely to manifest flawed outputs.

I would suggest that certain non technical behaviors qualify as grounds for viewing MIT and Google as very poorly managed institutions staffed by individuals who operate from a position above the “madding crowd.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2020

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