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Truth or Fiction: US Army Cannot Count Money

August 24, 2016

I believe everything I read on the Internet. When the information comes from a real journalism type outfit, I am no Doubting Thomas. I wish to point out that the write up “US Army Fudged Its Accounts by Trillions of Dollars, Auditor Finds” strikes me as fiction. Just to keep the math straight, here’s a summary of numbers:

  • 1,000 is one thousand
  • 10,000 is ten one thousands
  • 100,000 is ten ten thousands
  • Let’s jump up a bit.
  • One million is 1,000,000
  • A billion is 1,000,000,000
  • A trillion is 1,000,000,000,000.

In Zimbabwe there was a $10 trillion dollar bill. So misplacing a bill is easy to do:

image

My recollection from my days at Booz, Allen is that most humanoids have difficult with quantities over 1,000. Imagine what happens when one has to think about trillions or a one followed by 12 zeros.

image

If the write up is on the money, the US Army is composed of individuals who cannot deal with big numbers or money. I learned:

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

How can a US federal entity make up numbers? The Department of Defense is into Windows and Excel. The US Army has a fancy data aggregation and analysis system called Distributed Common Ground or DCGS-A.

The write up stated:

The report affirms a 2013 Reuters series revealing how the Defense Department falsified accounting on a large scale as it scrambled to close its books. As a result, there has been no way to know how the Defense Department – far and away the biggest chunk of Congress’ annual budget – spends the public’s money. The new report focused on the Army’s General Fund, the bigger of its two main accounts, with assets of $282.6 billion in 2015. The Army lost or didn’t keep required data, and much of the data it had was inaccurate, the IG said.

I was surprised an auditor was able to assemble the needed information. I highlighted this statement from the source article:

The IG report also blamed DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Service] , saying it too made unjustified changes to numbers. For example, two DFAS computer systems showed different values of supplies for missiles and ammunition, the report noted – but rather than solving the disparity, DFAS personnel inserted a false “correction” to make the numbers match. DFAS also could not make accurate year-end Army financial statements because more than 16,000 financial data files had vanished from its computer system. Faulty computer programming and employees’ inability to detect the flaw were at fault, the IG said.

Trillions. Hmmm. Why not put DCGS-A on the forensic team? If that system does not work, why not let Palantir Gotham have a go at figuring out where the money went? Another option is IBM i2 Analyst’s Notebook, right?

Yes, government integrity. There’s a Web site for that too: https://www.oge.gov/.

Did you know that?

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2016

Russia Versus Alphabet Google: Mr. Putin May Use an iPhone

August 24, 2016

I read “Out-Of-Court Settlement Between Google & Russia Won’t Happen.” I assume the write up is accurate because everything on the Internet is true blue. The Alphabet Google thing has been jousting with a mere nation state over its approach to Android’s market methods.

Alphabet Google tried for an out of court settlement to negotiate the matter. Whipping out the checkbook is one part of the Alphabet Google business strategy when nation states become too big for their britches.

According to the write up:

In this case, the issue is that Google’s licensing rules require manufacturers to include a number of Google applications should they wish to install and use Android, the open-source operating system, on their smartphones and tablets. Google’s Russian competitor, Yandex, complained to the authorities in 2014 that Google was forcing manufacturers to both include the Google Search and other services along with the Google Play Store on Android-powered devices, but also that Google blocked manufacturers from installing competitor services.

Short summary: Bad, bad Alphabet Google. The fine for this flaunting of Russian laws is around US$6.5 billion. Russia seems to want cash and the Alphabet Google matter to go away for a short time.

I do not understand why mere nation states like Russia cannot get with the Alphabet Google program. Is the new Alphabet Google going to impose trade restrictions on Russia? Will Alphabet Google accuse Russia of violating human rights because companies are people too? Will Alphabet Google ask Android users to protest in front of the FSB office in Moscow? Does Mr. Putin use an iPhone?

So many questions.

Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2016

No More Data Mining for Intelligence

August 23, 2016

The U.S. intelligence community will no longer receive information from Dataminr, which serves as a Twitter “fire hose” (Twitter owns five percent of Dataminr). An article, Twitter Turns Off Fire Hose For Intelligence Community from ThreatPost offers the story. A Twitter spokesperson stated they have had a longstanding policy against selling data for surveillance. However, the Journal reported their arrangement was terminated after a CIA test program concluded. The article continues,

Dataminr is the only company allowed to sell data culled from the Twitter fire hose. It mines Tweets and correlates that data with location data and other sources, and fires off alerts to subscribers of breaking news. Reportedly, Dataminr subscribers knew about the recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris before mainstream media had reported the news. The Journal said its inside the intelligence community said the government isn’t pleased with the decision and hopes to convince Twitter to reconsider.

User data shared on social media has such a myriad of potential applications for business, law enforcement, education, journalism and countless other sectors. This story highlights how applications for journalism may be better received than applications for government intelligence. This is something worth noticing.

Megan Feil, August 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

IBM Takes Its University Initiative to Scotland

August 22, 2016

The article on Inside HPC titled IBM Partners with University of Aberdeen to Drive Cognitive Computing illustrates the circumstances of the first Scottish university partnership with IBM. IBM has been collecting goodwill and potential data analysts from US colleges lately, so it is no surprise that this endeavor has been sent abroad. The article details,

In June 2015, the UK government unveiled plans for a £313 million partnership with IBM to boost big data research in the UK. Following an initial investment of £113 million to expand the Hartree Centre at Daresbury over the next five years, IBM also agreed to provide further support to the project with a package of technology and onsite expertise worth up to £200 million. This included 24 IBM researchers, stationed at the Hartree Centre, to work side-by-side with existing researchers.

The University of Aberdeen will begin by administering the IBM cognitive computing technology in computer science courses in addition to ongoing academic research with Watson. In a sense, the students exposed to Watson in college are being trained to seek jobs in the industry, for IBM. They will have insider experience and goodwill toward the company. It really is one of the largest nets cast for prospective job applicants in industry history.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 22, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph     There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Google Maps: Suddenly Exciting

August 18, 2016

The Alphabet Google thing wants to do maps its way. That’s fine. The Sillycon Valley outfit often perceives that its “logical” approach is the one true way. Not everyone is riding Google’s self driving car, however.

Two write ups caught my eye only because I noticed the dust up over naming places in the Crimea. I assume the Crimea is a nifty place and that the residents are thrilled to have Google adjust map names to make their life easier.

The first write up concerns Palestine. Navigate to the delightfully named article “Palestine Is Exactly Where It Was. Google Cannot You See!” The main point of the write up is:

Search engine Google has removed Palestine from its maps service on July 25 and replaced it with Israel

But Google says, “Palestine was never on Google Maps after claims it had been airbrushed away.” This point appeared in a story in the UK newspaper The Telegraph. Google apparently uses a dashed line to display a “disputed” terrritory. Adding a bit of spice to the story was this statement in the rejoinder:

Google said in a response that Palestine had never been marked as a territory on its map, but that a glitch in the software had resulted in Palestinian areas being removed. “There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps,” said a spokesman for Google. “However, we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip’. We’re working quickly to get these labels back to the area.”

A glitch is nothing new in Harrod’s Creek. My steam powered computer and Bell+Howell camera are often persnickety. In the contentious part of world in which Palestine exists, the Google change has caught some attention.

The other story is about South Korea. Point your easily monitored browser at “Google Accused of Getting Free Ride on Map Data.” The issue, as i understand it, is the location of the map data. The notion of distributed computing is A OKAY with the Alphabet Google thing, but the concept seems to run counter to the wishes of a nation state. I learned:

Google’s recent attempts to carry South Korea’s geographical information outside the nation is mired in controversy. Those who oppose Google’s use and storage of the Korean map data overseas argue that sensitive security data, including locations of military facilities, would be exposed to external threats and Google wants to get a free ride by accessing the data for which the government and Korean firms spent trillions of won to develop.

The idea of using Google’s existing systems is not making some folks happy in
South Korea.

How will Google plot a course through the dangerous shoals of online maps. I experienced one solution a couple of years ago. Google did not include a location on a Google map. That works. Fortunately I was standing outside the Washington, DC eatery called Cuba Libre when I noticed the restaurant was not on the map.

If it is not on Google, the restaurant did not exist, at least at that point in time in front of the physical restaurant.

Logical, of course.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2016

Content Cannot Be Searched If It Is Not There

August 16, 2016

Google Europe is already dealing with a slew of “right to be forgotten” requests, but Twitter had its own recent fight with deletion related issue.  TechCrunch shares the story about “Deleted Tweet Archive PostGhost Shut Down After Twitter Cease And Desist” order.  PostGhost was a Web site that archived tweets from famous public figures.  PostGhost gained its own fame for recording deleted tweets.

The idea behind PostGhost was to allow a transparent and accurate record.  The Library of Congress already does something similar as it archives every Tweet.  Twitter, however, did not like PostGhost and sent them a cease and desist threatening to remove their API access.  Apparently,Google it is illegal to post deleted tweets, something that evolved from the European “right to be forgotten” laws.

So is PostGhost or Twitter wrong?

“There are two schools of thought when something like this happens. The first is that it’s Twitter’s prerogative to censor anything and all the things. It’s their sandbox and we just play in it.  The second school of thought says that Twitter is free-riding on our time and attention and in exchange for that they should work with their readers and users in a sane way.”

Twitter is a platform for a small percentage of users, the famous and public figures, who instantly have access to millions of people when they voice their thoughts.  When these figures put their thoughts on the Internet it has more meaning than the average tweet.  Other Web sites do the same, but it looks like public figures are exempt from this rule.  Why?  I am guessing money is exchanging hands.

 

Whitney Grace, August 16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

As a.I. Scientists Forge Ahead Teaching Robots to Hunt Prey, White House Discusses Regulations And “Understandings”

August 15, 2016

The article on Engadget titled Scientists Are Teaching Robots How to Hunt Down Prey marks advancements in artificial intelligence that may well feed into an A.I. arms race. The scientists working on this project at the University of Zurich see their work in a much less harmful way. The ability to search for and retrieve prey involves identifying and tracking a target. Some of the applications mentioned are futuristic shopping carts or luggage that can follow around its owner. Whether the scientists are experiencing severe tunnel vision or are actually just terrifically naïve is unknown. The article explains,

“The predator robot’s hardware is actually modeled directly after members of the animal kingdom, as the robot uses a special “silicon retina” that mimics the human eye. Delbruck is the inventor, created as part of the VISUALISE project. It allows robots to track with pixels that detect changes in illumination and transmit information in real time instead of a slower series of frames like a regular camera uses.”

Meanwhile, conversations about an A.I. arms race are also occurring, as illustrated by the article on ZDNet titled White House: We’re “Clear-Eyed” About Weaponizing A.I. Humans have a long history of short-sightedness when it comes to weapons technology, perhaps starting with the initial reasoning behind the invention of dynamite. The creator stated that he believed he had created a weapon so terrible that no one would ever dare use it. Obviously, that didn’t work out. But the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, claims that by establishing a “code of conduct and set of understandings” we can prevent a repetition of history. Commencing eyebrow raise.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 15, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Snowden Makes Rare Comment on Putin’s Politics

August 15, 2016

I off hand heard a comment from someone living in Russia that President Vladimir Putin was returning the country to a time resembling the Soviet days.  To my western ears, that does not sound good.  Things are about to get worse for Russian citizens due to a new law the government signed into law.  Yahoo Tech reports in the article that “Putin Signs Controversial Anti-Terror Measures Into Law” that these new laws are meant to be anti-terror laws, but are better referred to as “Big Brother” laws.

The new laws give the government greater surveillance powers of its citizens.  This means that under the guise of providing extra security communications-based companies will be forced to store people’s calls, messages, photos, videos, and metadata for three years.  The companies must also allow security services full access to all the data and any encryption tools necessary.  It gets even worse:

“They also criminalise several offences, lower the age of criminal responsibility to 14 for some crimes and extend prison sentences for online crimes like abetting terrorism.  The passage of the bills through Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament sent shockwaves through the internet and telecoms industries.”

Communications-based companies are worried that the new laws will cut into their profit margins.  It is predicted that the new infrastructure necessary to store the massive amount of data will cost four times the industry’s annual profit.  It is recommended that a tax on the entire industry, then use that money to build the infrastructure would be a better option.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in Russia for asylum, made a rare comment on Russia’s politics via Twitter about the new laws:

“ ‘Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned,’ he said, adding that he would criticise the law despite fearing retaliation from Russian authorities.”

Snowden wrote what is already written on the wall when it comes to Russia: Putin is changing the country for the worse and it is scary to imagine where it will go next.

 

Whitney Grace, August 15, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

USAGov Wants More Followers on Snapchat

August 12, 2016

The article on GCN titled Tracking the Ephemeral: USAGov’s Plan for Snapchat portrays the somewhat desperate attempts of the government to reach out to millennials. Perhaps shocking to non-users of the self-immolating picture app, Snapchat claims over a hundred million active users each day, mostly comprised of 13 to 34 year olds. The General Service Administration of USAGov plans to use Snapchat to study the success of their outreach like how many followers they receive and how many views their content gets. The article mentions,

“And while the videos and multimedia that make up “Snapchat stories” disappear after just 24 hours, the USAGov team believes the engagement metrics will provide lasting value. Snapchat lets account owners see how many people are watching each story, if they watch the whole story and when and where they stop before it’s over — allowing USAGov to analyze what kind of content works best.”

If you are wondering how this plan is affected by the Federal Records Acts which stipulates documentation of content, GSA is way ahead of you with a strategy of downloading each story and saving it as a record. All in all the government is coming across as a somewhat clingy boyfriend trying to find out what is up with his ex by using her favorite social media outlet. Not a great look for the US government. But at least they aren’t using ChatRoulette.

 

Chelsea Kerwin, August 12, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Auditing Algorithms: The Impossible Dream

August 8, 2016

Remember this lyric:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
And to run where
the brave dare not go

Yep, killing windmills.

I read “Make Algorithms Accountable.” You may find it online at this link. No promises because the source is a “real journalist’s dream,” the New York Times.

The main point of the write up is to express an impossible dream. Those who craft numerical recipes have to have their algorithms audited. Not the algorithm assembler, mind you, the algorithm itself.

I noted this passage:

…advocates for big data due process argue that much more must be done to assure the appropriateness and accuracy of algorithm results. An algorithm is a procedure or set of instructions often used by a computer to solve a problem. Many algorithms are secret.

A conundrum not as difficult as solving death, but a kissing cousin as some in Harrod’s Creek say.

Are algorithms biased? Do squirrels get shot in Harrod’s Creek? In case you are wondering, the answer is yes. The recipe is not the problem. There are cooks in the mix.

I can hear this now:

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march,
march into hell
For that heavenly cause

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2016

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