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Squiz and Verint Team up to Save the Government from Itself

February 9, 2016

The article titled Verint and Squiz Announce Partnership to Further Enable Digital Transformation for Government  on BusinessWire conveys the global ambitions of the two companies. The article positions Verint, an intel-centric company, and Squiz, an Australian content management company, as the last hope for the world’s governments (on the local, regional, and national level.) While things may not be so dire as all that, the merger is aimed at improving governmental organization, digital management, and customer engagement. The article explains,

“Today, national, regional and local governments across the world are implementing digital transformation strategies, reflecting the need to proactively help deliver citizen services and develop smarter cities. A key focus of such strategies is to help make government services accessible and provide support to their citizens and businesses when needed. This shift to digital is more responsive to citizen and community needs, typically reducing phone or contact center call volumes, and helps government organizations identify monetary savings.”

It will come as no surprise to learn that government bureaucracy is causing obstacles when it comes to updating IT processes. Together, Squiz and Verint hope to aid officials in implementing streamlined, modernized procedures and IT systems while focusing on customer-facing features and ensuring intuitive, user-friendly interfaces. Verint in particular emphasizes superior engagement practices through its Verint Engagement Management service.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 9, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Google Versus Russia: Does Google Have SU 35 Capabilities?

February 6, 2016

I read “Kremlin Considering Google Tax on Technology Services.” The article suggests that Russia may tax online services. The services named include Google, Facebook, and Apple. I know that Facebook works hard to avoid certain conflicts. Apple has its hands full with the specter of not having any hot products in 2016. So the Google?

The world’s most valuable company may have to pay more than a UK “get out of jail” fine if the write up is accurate. I learned from the “real” news source:

Klimenko, an early Russian Internet innovator, was appointed as President Vladimir Putin’s Internet adviser in December.  His suggestion of a kind of value-added tax on technology services in Russia comes only days after he asserted that Google, Facebook, and other social-media companies will be blocked in Russia “sooner or later” if they do not comply with a law enacted in August requiring them to locate facilities that store Russia data in Russia. And it comes after Russian news agencies reported that Putin on January 29 signed an executive order asking federal agencies to work with Klimenko on amending legislation to ensure equal operating conditions for companies within Russia with respect to the Internet.

Google may get a chance to demonstrate its potency if Russia boosts taxes. I recall that Mr. Brin’s space flight did not work out. Will this new chess match result in Google’s sitting on the sidelines in Russia?

Worth monitoring. Now about that source and its “real” journalists? Nah, never mind.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2016

Its Official: Facebook and the Dark Web

February 5, 2016

A piece from Nextgov suggests just how ubiquitous the Dark Web could become. Published as Facebook is giving users a new way to access it on the ‘Dark Web’, this article tells us “a sizeable community” of its users are also Dark Web users; Facebook has not released exact figures. Why are people using the Dark Web for everyday internet browsing purposes? The article states:

“Facebook’s Tor site is one way for people to access their accounts when the regular Facebook site is blocked by governments—such as when Bangladesh cut off access to Facebook, its Messenger and Whatsapp chat platforms, and messaging app Viber for about three weeks in November 2015. As the ban took effect, the overall number of Tor users in Bangladesh spiked by about 10 times, to more than 20,000 a day. When the ban was lifted, the number dropped back to its previous level.”

Public perception of the darknet is changing. If there was any metric to lend credibility to the Dark Web being increasingly used for mainstream purposes, it is Facebook adding a .onion address. Individual’s desire for security, uninterrupted and expansive internet access will only contribute to the Dark Web’s user base. While the Silk Road-type element is sure to remain as well, it will be interesting to see how things evolve.


Megan Feil, February 5, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

UK Tax and Google: Cue Sinatra Singing Regrets, I Have a Few

February 2, 2016

This corporate tax thing is pretty exciting. I recall that in some of my early jobs, corporate taxes were mostly routine. Halliburton had a system, and it seemed to work in a swell way.

I read “Google Tax Deal ‘Not a Glorious Moment’, says Minister.” According to the write up:

Business secretary Sajid Javid says he shared Britons’ sense of injustice as criticism grows of agreement with tech firm.

Confused? I am. The “real” news story revealed:

The admission by the business secretary, Sajid Javid, came as a senior executive from Google claimed he could not say how much UK profit has been generated by the technology firm in the past decade, or how many meetings had been held between the company’s executives and ministers. It follows the announcement nine days ago that the government came to an agreement with Google in which £130m will be paid in back taxes covering the past decade.

I thought that Googlers used Google’s cloud services for calendaring, spreadsheets, and the like. I thought that it was easy for Google services users to check out who met whom and when. I thought is was pretty easy to set up an updating spreadsheet which calculated the tax owed on certain revenue items.

I obviously was wrong. That happens a lot.

The British government which strives to appear organized is apparently confused. I learned:

Peter Barron, head of communications at Google across Europe, told the Andrew Marr Show he could not answer questions about Google’s profits over the past decade despite reports that it had made £7.2bn and therefore is paying less than 3% in corporation tax on its UK profits.

The sums strike me as trivial. For example, I learned:

Google is expected to announce on Monday that it has amassed £30bn of profits from non-US sales in Bermuda, where companies are not liable to pay corporation tax. The UK is Google’s largest non-US market, accounting for 11% of its global revenues, according to documents filed in America. The Observer revealed that the UK government has been privately lobbying the EU to remove Bermuda from an official blacklist. Barron said the arrangement in Bermuda had no impact on the amount of tax it pays in the UK. “It’s very, very important to make it clear that the Bermuda arrangement has absolutely no bearing on the amount of tax that we pay in the UK. No bearing whatsoever,” he said. When asked how much of the £30bn may have come from the UK, he said: “I don’t know the answer, I haven’t got the answer [at] my fingertips, except I would say that about 10% of global revenues come from the UK.”

Like Google’s position regarding the alleged problems with its self driving cars, humans are making problems. I believe it. Troublesome humans. Use algorithms.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2016

Tor-n Agenda? Good Question

January 11, 2016

I want to steer clear of the thrashing about the Tor Project. I do want to point you to the blurring of the lines between the Clear or Open Web (what you can see in Firefox or Chrome) and the Dark Web (what you can access via the Tor software bundle). My view is that the boundary between open and closed Webs is getting broader.

Navigate to “Two Months after FBI Debacle, Tor Project Still Can’t Get an Answer from CMU.” The write up is about understanding what academics can do and what they cannot talk about.

The write up also talks about “defensive” issues related to Tor. Among the most important are increasingly consumer-y apps; for example, Mumble. The issue of US government funding has some interesting implications.

I learned in the write up:

I would like to see Tor funded to the point where they’re not funded in the way they grow the network based on funding priorities. I would like to see Tor respected as a freedom-enhancing technology, and I’d like to see the world not throwing negative stuff in there along with it. I want them to get that this is really important.

The statement comes from Shari Steele, Executive Director of the Tor Project.

How will the concept of Tor usage mesh with that of those who fund the system? Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2016

The Long Goodbye of Internet Freedom Heralded by CISA

January 8, 2016

The article on MotherBoard titled Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America paints a bleak picture of our access to the “open internet.” In spite of the net neutrality win this year, broadband adoption is decreasing, and the number of poor Americans forced to choose between broadband and smartphone internet is on the rise. In addition to these unfortunate trends,

“Congress and President Obama made the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act a law by including it in a massive budget bill (as an extra gift, Congress stripped away some of the few privacy provisions in what many civil liberties groups are calling a “surveillance bill”)… Finally, the FBI and NSA have taken strong stands against encryption, one of the few ways that activists, journalists, regular citizens, and yes, criminals and terrorists can communicate with each other without the government spying.”

What this means for search and for our access to the Internet in general, is yet to be seen. The effects of security laws and encryption opposition will obviously be far-reaching, but at what point do we stop getting the information that we need to be informed citizens?

And when you search, if it is not findable, does the information exist?


Chelsea Kerwin, January 8, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Data Managers as Data Librarians

December 31, 2015

The tools of a librarian may be the key to better data governance, according to an article at InFocus titled, “What Librarians Can Teach Us About Managing Big Data.” Writer Joseph Dossantos begins by outlining the plight data managers often find themselves in: executives can talk a big game about big data, but want to foist all the responsibility onto their overworked and outdated IT departments. The article asserts, though, that today’s emphasis on data analysis will force a shift in perspective and approach—data organization will come to resemble the Dewey Decimal System. Dossantos writes:

“Traditional Data Warehouses do not work unless there a common vocabulary and understanding of a problem, but consider how things work in academia.  Every day, tenured professors  and students pore over raw material looking for new insights into the past and new ways to explain culture, politics, and philosophy.  Their sources of choice:  archived photographs, primary documents found in a city hall, monastery or excavation site, scrolls from a long-abandoned cave, or voice recordings from the Oval office – in short, anything in any kind of format.  And who can help them find what they are looking for?  A skilled librarian who knows how to effectively search for not only books, but primary source material across the world, who can understand, create, and navigate a catalog to accelerate a researcher’s efforts.”

The article goes on to discuss the influence of the “Wikipedia mindset;” data accuracy and whether it matters; and devising structures to address different researchers’ needs. See the article for details on each of these (especially on meeting different needs.) The write-up concludes with a call for data-governance professionals to think of themselves as “data librarians.” Is this approach the key to more effective data search and analysis?

Cynthia Murrell, December 31, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Ins and Outs of Hacking Software

December 23, 2015

Hacking software is and could be a potential problem.  While some government agencies, hacktivist organizations, and software companies are trying to use it for good, terrorist groups, digital thieves, and even law enforcement agencies can use it to spy and steal data from individuals.  The Technology Review shares some interesting stories about how software is being used for benign and harmful purposes in “The Growth Industry Helping Governments Hack Terrorists, Criminals, And Political Opponents.”

The company Hacking Team is discussed at length and its Remote Control System software, which can worm its way through security holes in a device and steal valuable information.  Governments from around the globe have used the software for crime deterrence and to keep tabs on enemies, but other entities used the software for harmful acts including spying and hacking into political opponents computers.

Within the United States, it is illegal to use a Remote Control System without proper authority, but often this happens:

“When police get access to new surveillance technologies, they are often quickly deployed before any sort of oversight is in place to regulate their use. In the United States, the abuse of Stingrays—devices that sweep up information from cell phones in given area—has become common. For example, the sheriff of San Bernardino County, near Los Angeles, deployed them over 300 times without a warrant in the space of less than two years. That problem is only being addressed now, years after it emerged, with the FBI now requiring a warrant to use Stingrays, and efforts underway to force local law enforcement to do the same. It’s easy to imagine a similar pattern of abuse with hacking tools, which are far more powerful and invasive than other surveillance technologies that police currently use.”

It is scary how the software is being used and how governments are skirting around its own laws to use it.  It reminds me of how gun control is always controversial topic.  Whenever there is a mass shooting, debates rage about how the shooting would never had happened if there was stricter gun control to keep weapons out of the hands of psychopaths.  While the shooter was blamed for the incident, people also place a lot of blame on the gun, as if it was more responsible.  As spying, control, and other software becomes more powerful and ingrained in our lives, I imagine there will be debates about “software control” and determining who has the right to use certain programs.

Whitney Grace, December 23, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

When the Data Cannot Be Trusted

December 22, 2015

A post at Foreign Policy, “Cyber Spying Is Out, Cyber Lying Is In,” reveals that it may be more important now than ever before to check the source, facts, and provenance of digital information. Unfortunately, search and content processing systems do not do a great job of separating baloney from prime rib.

Journalist Elias Groll tells us that the experts are concerned about hacking’s new approach:

“In public appearances and congressional testimony in recent months, America’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned of what they describe as the next great threat in cyberspace: hackers not just stealing data but altering it, threatening military operations, key infrastructure, and broad swaths of corporate America. It’s the kind of attack they say would be difficult to detect and capable of seriously damaging public trust in the most basic aspects of both military systems and a broader economy in which tens of millions of people conduct financial and health-related transactions online….

“Drones could beam back images of an empty battlefield that is actually full of enemy fighters. Assembly robots could put together cars using dimensions that have been subtly altered, ruining the vehicles. Government personnel records could be modified by a foreign intelligence service to cast suspicion on a skilled operative.”

Though such attacks have not yet become commonplace, there are several examples to cite. Groll first points to the Stuxnet worm, which fooled Iranian engineers into thinking their centrifuges were a-okay when it had actually sabotaged them into over-pressurizing. (That was a little joint project by the U.S. and Israel.) See the article for more examples, real and hypothesized. Not all experts agree that this is a growing threat, but I, for one, am glad our intelligence agencies are treating it like one.

Cynthia Murrell, December 22, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Bill Legislation Is More Complicated than Sitting on Capitol Hill

December 14, 2015

When I was in civics class back in the day and learning about how a bill became an official law in the United States, my teacher played Schoolhouse Rock’s famous “I’m Just a Bill” song.  While that annoying retro earworm still makes the education rounds, the lyrics need to be updated to record some of the new digital “paperwork” that goes into tracking a bill.  Engaging Cities focuses on legislation data in “When Lobbyists Write Legislation, This Data Mining Tool Traces The Paper Trail.”

While the process to make a bill might seem simple according to Schoolhouse Rock, it is actually complicated and is even crazier as technology pushes more bills through the legislation process.  In 2014, there were 70,000 state bills introduced across the country and no one has the time to read all of them.  Technology can do a much better and faster job.

“ A prototype toolpresented in September at Bloomberg’s Data for Good Exchange 2015 conference, mines the Sunlight Foundation’s database of more than 500,000 bills and 200,000 resolutions for the 50 states from 2007 to 2015. It also compares them to 1,500 pieces of “model legislation” written by a few lobbying groups that made their work available, such as the conservative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the liberal group the State Innovation Exchange(formerly called ALICE).”

A data-mining tool for government legislation would increase government transparency.  The software tracks earmarks in the bills to track how the Congressmen are benefiting their states with these projects.  The software analyzed earmarks as far back as 1995 and it showed that there are more than anyone knew.   The goal of the project is to scour the data that the US government makes available and help people interpret it, while also encouraging them to be active within the laws of the land.

The article uses the metaphor “need in a haystack” to describe all of the government data.  Government transparency is good, but when they overload people with information it makes them overwhelmed.

Whitney Grace, December 14, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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