Palantir Technologies: Fund Raising Signal

September 6, 2019

Palantir Technologies offers products and services which serve analysts and investigators. The company was founded in 2003, and it gained some traction in a number of US government agencies. The last time I checked for Palantir’s total funding, my recollection is that the firm has ingested about $2 billion from a couple dozen funding rounds. If you subscribe to Crunchbase, you can view that service’s funding round up. An outfit known as Growjo reports that Palantir has 2,262 employees. That works out cash intake of $884,173 per employee. Palantir is a secretive outfit, so who knows about funding, the revenue, the profits or losses, and the number of full time equivalents, contractors, etc. But Palantir is one of the highest profile companies in the law enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence sectors.

I read “Palantir to Seek Funding on Private Market, Delay IPO” and noted this statement:

The company has never turned an annual profit.

Bloomberg points out that customization of the system is expensive. Automation is a priority. Sales cycles are lengthy. And some stakeholders and investors are critical of the company.

Understandable. After 16 years and allegedly zero profits, annoyance is likely to surface in the NYAC after an intense game of squash.

But I am not interested in Palantir. The information about Palantir strikes me as germane to the dozens upon dozens of Palantir competitors. Consider these questions:

  1. Intelligence, like enterprise search, requires software and services that meet the needs of users who have quite particular work processes. Why pay lots of money to customize something that will have to be changed when a surprise event tips over established procedures? Roll your own? Look for the lowest cost solution?
  2. With so many competitors, how will government agencies be able to invest in a wide range of solutions. Why not seek a single source solution and find ways to escape from the costs of procuring, acquiring, tuning, training, and changing systems? If Palantir was the home run, why haven’t Palantir customers convinced their peers and superiors to back one solution? That hasn’t happened, which makes an interesting statement in itself. Why isn’t Palantir the US government wide solution the way Oracle was a few years ago?
  3. Are the systems outputting useful, actionable information. Users of these systems who give talks at LE and intel conferences are generally quite positive. But the reality is that cyber problems remain and have not been inhibited by Palantir and similar tools or the raft of cyber intelligence innovations from companies in the UK, Germany, Israel, and China. What’s the problem? Staff turnover, complexity, training cost, reliability of outputs?

Net net: Palantir’s needing money is an interesting signal. Stealth, secrecy, good customer support, and impressive visuals of networks of bad actors — important. But maybe — just maybe — the systems are ultimately not working as advertised. Sustainable revenues, eager investors, and a home run product equivalent to Facebook or Netflix — nowhere to be found. Yellow lights are flashing in DarkCyber’s office for some intelware vendors.

Stephen E Arnold, September 6, 2019

Spy on the Competition: Sounds Good, Right?

July 11, 2019

DarkCyber noted this consumer and small business oriented write up about spying. Navigate to “7 ways to Spy on Your Competitor’s Facebook Ads [2019 Update].” The update promises to add some nifty new, useful methods to the original story.

What are the methods? Here’s a run down of four of them. You will have to navigate to the original story for the other three, or you could just not bother. Spoiler: None of the methods reference commercially available tools and services available from specialist vendors. Who’s a specialist vendor? Attend one of our LE and intel training sessions, and we will share a list of 30 firms with you.

Here are four methods we found interesting:

  1. Use services which report about a firm’s online advertising activities.
  2. Use services which report about a firm’s online advertising activities.
  3. Use services which report about a firm’s online advertising activities.
  4. Use services which report about a firm’s online advertising activities.

There you go. The spying methods.

DarkCyber wants to point out that these methods are different from the persistent tracking bug data some vendors helpfully install on one’s Internet connected device.

Plus, these methods are quite different from the approaches implemented in commercial OSINT and intercept analysis systems.

My next relatively public lecture will be in October in San Antonio. After the session, look me up. I might share a couple of solutions. Better yet write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com and sign up for a for fee intelligence systems webinar.

Stephen E Arnold, July 11, 2019

ICE Document Collection

July 10, 2019

DarkCyber noted that Mijente published a collection of US government documents. According the landing page for “Ice Papers”:

The ongoing threat of raids for mass deportations has made it necessary for us to understand the inner workings of ICE’s mass raid operations. We’ve confirmed in government documents that ICE operations are politically motivated and not at all about national security, as the administration claims. In their own words, via plans and tactics we uncovered, you will catch a glimpse into their machinations to target, harass, and expel migrants from their communities. While the documents detail information about raids planned back in 2017, we noted the “rinse-and-repeat” nature of ICE’s operations and what we can expect, as Trump reignites the threat of more raids to come after July 4th.

In the collection are documents which provide some competitive insight into Palantir Technologies. Here’s a snip from the Mijente collection. The blue text is a direct quote.

Palantir’s programs and databases were integrated into all Operation Mega planned raids. They are now part of most enforcement actions by ICE.

These raids now use powerful tech and databases in the field. ICE is given authority to use the newest technology and equipment during local operations, including FALCON, FALCON Mobile, ICE EDDIE and Cellbrite [sic] during arrests. [Source document]

  • Palantir-designed FALCON and FALCON Mobile. FALCON Mobile can scan body biometrics, including tattoos and irises. FALCON and FALCON Mobile can use “link analysis” to connect profiles and biometrics with associates and vehicles.
  • EDDIE is a mobile fingerprinting program that is attached to a mobile fingerprint collection device. These fingerprints are then put into FALCON systems, including ICE’s case management system, Integrated Case Management (ICM, see below). The fingerprints are used to identify people to see if they have criminal history or immigration history, including a final deportation order.
  • Cellbrite is a handheld unit that breaks into smartphones and downloads information – up to 3000 phones for one device. It can even extract data that was deleted from your phone.  ICE claims that they should obtain consent. (See Operation Raging Bull Field Guidance.) FALCON includes access to services provided by Cellbrite.
  • ICM was integrated into Operation Mega. All the systems mentioned above feed into the massive new ICE case management system, ICM, another Palantir Technologies product. ICM is a new intelligence system capable of linking across dozens of databases from inside and outside DHS. ICM is scheduled to be completed by September 2019.

The information is used to support the political objectives of ICE. Both HSI and the Fugitive Operations Team set up a detailed and comprehensive reporting system for arrests and deportations that focused on contact with the criminal system, not on their ties to family or communities.agencies. The reporting system, comprised of Daily Operation Reports (DORs), which included numbers arrested after an immigration raid, and “egregious write-ups,” which were summaries of certain arrests during national or local ICE operations, was aligned with ICE’s public affairs and communications system, e.g. this information usually went into ICE press releases.

DarkCyber’s view is that these types of document collections are likely to be controversial. On one hand, individuals testing intelligence analysis software are likely to find the content useful for certain queries. Those working in other fields may make use of the information in these documents in other ways.

While this information is online (as of July 9, 2019), it may warrant a quick look.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2019

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