Facebook: Chock Full of Good Ideas

December 31, 2019

Investigators are not a priority for Facebook. How does DarkCyber know this? “WhatsApp to Add ‘Disappearing Messages’ Feature Soon” explained a function that may make those managing interesting groups to have more control over content.

Here’s the statement which caught the attention of our alert service:

With the ‘Delete Messages’ feature, group admins will able to select a specific duration for messages on the group and once a message crosses the duration, it will be automatically deleted, news portal GSMArena reported recently. Initially, the new feature was expected to be available for both individual chats and group chats, but now the report claims that the feature will be limited to group chats only. The ‘Delete Messages’ feature for group chats will make it easy for the admins to manage old messages and chats.

How many coordinators will find this new feature helpful? Too many.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2019

Amazon: What Does the S Team Do without a Policeware Leader?

December 9, 2019

GeekWire published the members of Jeff Bezos’ S Team. The idea is that the TV show A Team has been upgraded by 17 letters. There is an S Team member for fashion and for Alexa, but none for policeware. You can get the list of S Team members in “Amazon Expands Bezos’ Elite ‘S-Team,’ Adding 6 Execs from Emerging Branches of the Company.” Perhaps the omission of a public sector Amazon manager signals that the company is not interested in government contracts, work for law enforcement departments, and countries interested in using Amazon’s blockchain technology? That is a possibility. DarkCyber believes that there is a commitment at Amazon for policeware and developing services to assist authorities in determining if tax returns are on the up and up. The apparent exclusion of a designated policeware “owner” suggests that the company wants to continue its low profile approach to this high potential revenue sector.

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2019

Europol Crackdown Factoids

November 28, 2019

Europol Goes After IS Propaganda Online” contained several interesting items:

Telegram was the online service provider “that contained the most extremism related material.”

Companies cooperating with Europol were Dropbox, Files.fm, Instagram, Google, Telegram.

Crackdowns force content elsewhere.

Is there a solution for encrypted messaging and online channels for activities such as grooming and recruitment?

Yes. The write up states that one approach is to mount “an effort to limit the space for extremist groups to recruit people online.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2019

Blockchains: A Role in Human Trafficking Investigations?

October 25, 2019

Human trafficking is one of the greatest evils in history as well as modern day. The Internet facilitates easy communication human traffickers, but they do not conduct their business in plain sight. They use the dark web to cover their sadistic business tracks. The Next Web explains that human traffickers might be easier to find than before in, “How A Blockchain-Based Digital ID System Could Help Tackle Human Trafficking.”

It is estimated that 20-40 million people are human trafficked, bringing in profits of $150 billion a year. Those are outrageous numbers! Emerging technologies such as data sharing and blockchain are becoming the favorable way to traffic people, but these technologies could also save the victims.

Digital IDs would be the key to blockchain technology. Human trafficking victims are denied resources that could help them escape, such as phones, computers, and other mobile technology. The victims are also stripped of any physical identification like passports or driver’s licenses. What if victims had a digital ID, made unique due to a fingerprint or eye scan, that cannot be stolen and would be easy to track?

“Once this is saved on a blockchain, the information is immutable and as such can not be forged, meaning traffickers wouldn’t be able to tamper it or change a victim’s identity. A strategy often used by traffickers to get their victims across border controls.

Importantly, blockchain technology is also decentralized, meaning that the embedded data is far more secure than it would be on a centralized server.

As a borderless technology, blockchain ID documentation and tracking can take place anywhere — so long as the parties involved are able to cooperate and collaborate while pledging to input the correct data.”

In other words, it is still the work of science fiction, but the possibility to make it a reality is not that far off.

Whitney Grace, October 25, 2019

MIT Thinks the Ideas of US Attorney General Are Not Good

October 4, 2019

Let’s put this article “Facebook Is Being Asked to Give Access to Encrypted Messages. It’s a Bad Idea” is perspective. First, a number of countries have taken steps to deal with the unexpected consequences of encrypted real time messages. Example? Australia. The issues range from the application of a non slick coating to routine criminal misbehavior to larger-scale actions. Example: Paris night club bombing.

MIT, as you may recall, tried to push under a mattress in Baker House, some interesting information; specifically:

As a result, I am not sure I am convinced that the arguments set forth in the “Facebook Is Being Asked” write up is in alignment of with my 76 year old ethical compass.

There are some involved in law enforcement and intelligence activities seeking ways to deal with the threats — yes, threats — from bright-as-a-button engineers’ innovation machines.

The problem is that when an institution aligned with Jeffrey Epstein suggests that the US Attorney General has a bad idea, why not focus on the processes which created the MIT-Epstein tie up. Once that’s fixed, maybe — just maybe — I will view MIT’s and its instruments’ pronouncements as objective, credible, and in the best interests of dealing with certain problems certain bright-as-a-button innovators have created.

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2019

Roy Cohn Documents Released by FBI

September 30, 2019

If you are interested in Roy Cohn, a New York attorney, new information is available. Released by the FBI, the documents contain about 700 pages of information. You can access the data at this link. The documents are redacted. Mr. Cohn interacted with a number of individuals with a high profile. Mr. Cohn died in 1986, that’s 33 years ago. The New York Post ran a photo of Mr. Cohn with a youthful President Trump and mentioned some of Mr. Cohn’s high profile activities.

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2019

Should Social Media Algorithms be Used to Predict Crime?

September 18, 2019

Do we want Thought Police? Because this is how you get Thought Police. Though tragedies like the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton are horrifying, some “solutions” are bound to do more harm than good. President Trump’s recent call for social-media companies to predict who will become a mass shooter so authorities can preemptively move against them is right out of Orwell’s 1984. Digital Trends asks, “Can Social Media Predict Mass Shootings Before They Happen?” Technically, it probably can, but with limited accuracy. Journalist Mathew Katz writes:

“Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon already use algorithms to predict your interests, your behaviors, and crucially, what you like to buy. Sometimes, an algorithm can get your personality right – like when Spotify somehow manages to put together a playlist full of new music you love. In theory, companies could use the same technology to flag potential shooters. ‘To an algorithm, the scoring of your propensity [to] purchase a particular pair of shoes is not very different from the scoring of your propensity to become a mass murderer—the main difference is the data set being scored,’ wrote technology and marketing consultant Shelly Palmer in a newsletter on Sunday. But preventing mass shootings before they happen raises some thorny legal questions: how do you determine if someone is just angry online rather than someone who could actually carry out a shooting? Can you arrest someone if a computer thinks they’ll eventually become a shooter?”

That is what we must decide as a society. We also need to ask whether algorithms are really up to the task. We learn:

“The Partnership on AI, an organization looking at the future of artificial intelligence, conducted an intensive study on algorithmic tools that try to ‘predict’ crime. Their conclusion? ‘These tools should not be used alone to make decisions to detain or to continue detention.’”

But we all know that once people get an easy-to-use tool, the ease-of-use can quickly trump accuracy. Think of how often you see ads online for products you would never buy, Katz prompts. Then consider how it would feel to be arrested for a crime you would never commit.

Cynthia Murrell, September 18, 2019

Code Skill for Everyone? An Interesting Question

August 8, 2019

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft want “everyone” to code. Not so fast.

Necessity is the mother of invention and prisoners are some of the most ingenious individuals when it comes to making food, tattoo machines, booze, and shanks. Prisoners also prove their dexterity in hiding contraband items and getting them into prisons. Books were being used to get contraband items into prisons and it got so bad many prisons have forbidden people to send books to those behind bars. Specific books have also been banned by prisons because of their content and Oregon and other states are taking a stand by forbidding books that teach code. Motherboard Vice shares why in the article, “Prisons Are Banning Books That Teach Prisoners How To Code.”

Oregon’s Department of Corrections wants to set the record straight that not all technology-related books are banned, but each one that is sent through the mail room is assessed to see if it presents “a clear and present danger.” Some of the books that are deemed unsuitable include Microsoft Excel 2016 for Dummies, Google Adsense for Dummies, and Windows 10 For Dummies. It is not surprising that Black Hat Python by Justin Seitz is on the list, because it does include hacking tricks and black hat is dubbed black hat for a reason.

However, basic programming languages are not inherently a clear and present danger. Some of the content in the books is outdated and not a danger to the prison. Then again prisons, like most federal organizations, are notoriously under budgeted and could still be running on Windows 98 or even worse Windows ME. Not allowing prisoners to gain computer literacy skills is more harmful, because you need to be sufficient in computers for even the most basic jobs. Without the proper skills, it is much easier to slip back into a life of crime.

But…

“Officials at the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) argue, however, that knowledge of even these basic programs can pose a threat to prisons. ‘Not only do we have to think about classic prison escape and riot efforts like digging holes, jumping fences and starting fires, modernity requires that we also protect our prisons and the public against data system breaches and malware,’ DOC spokesperson Jennifer Black said in an emailed statement. ‘It is a balancing act we are actively trying to achieve.’”

That is a good point, but…

“According to Rutgers law professor Todd Clear, security concerns are overblown because learning to hack can require more than reading a book (for example, unrestricted internet access and some savvy comrades), and prison staff can monitor prisoners’ activities. “They are different places, no doubt, but the security claim is often specious,’ he said.”

In Oregon’s defense 98% of books and magazines sent into prisons are approved. Items that are banned based on “based on IT experience, DOC technical architecture and DOC’s mandate to run safe and secure institutions for all.” Coding classes, where offered, are popular among inmates.

Should prisoners be given access to educational classes, so they improve their lives and break free of the prison system? Perhaps the “everyone” push needs a footnote?

Whitney Grace, August 8, 2019

Trovicor: A Slogan as an Equation

August 2, 2019

We spotted this slogan on the Trovicor Web site:

The Trovicor formula: Actionable Intelligence = f (data generation; fusion; analysis; visualization)

The function consists of four buzzwords used by vendors of policeware and intelware:

  • Data generation (which suggests metadata assigned to intercepted, scraped, or provided content objects)
  • Fusion (which means in DarkCyber’s world a single index to disparate data)
  • Analysis (numerical recipes to identify patterns or other interesting data
  • Virtualization (use of technology to replace old school methods like 1950s’ style physical wire taps, software defined components, and software centric widgets).

The buzzwords make it easy to identify other companies providing somewhat similar services.

Trovicor maintains a low profile. But obtaining open source information about the company may be a helpful activity.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2019

Palantir: Did ICE Paid $60 Million for an App

August 2, 2019

DarkCyber spotted a short article in Counterpunch. The title?

Records Show Palantir Made $60 Million Contracting with ICE for Mobile App

The write up said:

A critical July 2019 exposé from WNYC based on documents obtained via FOIA request shows how Palantir’s proprietary software, in this case the FALCON mobile app, is essential to the removal operations of ICE and related agencies. As WNYC explained, “FALCON mobile allows agents in the field to search through a fusion of law enforcement databases that include information on people’s immigration histories, family relationships, and past border crossings.”

Counterpunch then shared its own research findings:

Counterpunch has learned that since 2016, Palantir has made more than $60 million in contract awards from ICE for access to FALCON and for Operations & Maintenance (O&M) for the mobile application. This, of course, is solely for FALCON and related services, and likely just scratches the surface of the true scope of Palantir’s profits from collaboration with ICE, to say nothing of Palantir’s lucrative relations with other government agencies such as CIA, DoD, etc.

The write up covers some other information about Palantir. DarkCyber finds the $60 million for an app interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2019

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