Google and the EU: Bureaucracy Versus Clicks

July 2, 2020

The Google is providing a “free” Web search system. The European Union seems unwilling or unable to understand the logic of providing a “free” service.

EU Throws New Rule Book at Google, Tech Giants in Competition Search” explains:

Driven in large part by a conclusion that multiple antitrust actions against Google have been ineffectual, the EU’s new strategy aims to lay down ground rules for data-sharing and how digital marketplaces operate.

What’s the EU going to do?

So as US antitrust enforcers prepare yet another possible case against Google, the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) could instead force big tech firms to offer smaller rivals access to data on reasonable, standardized and non-discriminatory terms.

Sounds good. The problem may be that Google — like other US technology centric monopolies — operate in a digital environment.

Regulatory authorities operate in a bureaucratic environment. Like the Great Firewall of China, digital information seeps through barriers.

Maybe the regulators should consider other options? Meetings, fines, and white papers are ideal complements to levying fines which appear to have minimal impact.

Like advertisers boycotting Facebook, the digital monopolies continue to accrue clicks and revenue.

After two decades of consistent digital behavior, regulatory methods seem to be consistently ineffective.

Stephen E Arnold, July 2, 2020

Russian Hacker: Maybe a Tattoo and New Opportunities for Friendship?

June 29, 2020

In my Dark Web 2020 lecture in July for the “now virtual” US National Cyber Crime Conference, I will review some of the information my study team has gathered about Russian digital crime factories. Some of these are hidden in plain sight. Others are less visible. In this interesting world, surprises are not uncommon. “Russian Cybercrime Boss Burkov Gets 9 Years” describes how “a well connected Russian hacker once described as an asset of supreme importance” booked a one-way ticket to prison. The write up explains that:

Aleksei Burkov of St. Petersburg, Russia admitted to running CardPlanet, a site that sold more than 150,000 stolen credit card accounts, and to being a founder of DirectConnection — a closely guarded underground community that attracted some of the world’s most-wanted Russian hackers.

Mr. Burkov (kopa to his Dark Web and hacker colleagues) operated DirectConnection (now offline). If you are interested in the legal explanation of Mr. Burkov’s activities, the indictment was online as of June 29, 2020, at this link. Some documents return cheerful 404 errors, and DarkCyber understands your pain.

Will Mr. Burkov share some of his knowledge about Russian cyber crime, a type of wrong doing that has been ignored by some authorities in Mr. Putin’s government? DarkCyber surmises that he may become a chatty Kathie once he experiences the delights of a sojourn in America.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2020

 

Social Media and Clueless Youth

June 23, 2020

This is a reminder about youth and a general lack of understanding that people don’t know what they don’t know. That’s the reason Google type search systems try to deliver answers, even if the user is a clueless youth.

Navigate to “Masked Arsonist Might’ve Gotten Away with It If She Hadn’t Left Etsy Review.” The write up is semi amusing. A clueless youth burned down a fast food joint. The wizardette wore a mask, no surprise in the Rona Era, 2020 CM (CM means common mask, not common moron).

Unaware that some online services index comments, process images, generate useful metatags, and deliver a user friendly specialized software system to law enforcement, the clueless youth was:

  1. Processed by graph analytics
  2. Matched via pattern identification methods
  3. Identified
  4. Geo located
  5. Snagged (that’s what old people like me think about when law enforcement arrests an alleged arsonist. Burning a fast food joint? Amazing. The food may be questionable, but why not write do a TikTok to the manager. Fire is a tactic of an annoyed loyal follower of Attila.)

Net net: Certain law enforcement specialized software systems perform useful functions. Plus, clueless youth have an opportunity about criminal justice without the slick image of a Judge Judy presiding.

Stephen E Arnold, June 23, 2020

Real Estate Firm Wants to Be Real

June 19, 2020

Digital business listings can be just as lucrative as physical property holdings. The right domain name can sell for thousands and videogames sell digital objects and upgrades in micro transactions. When a digital holding that belongs to you, however, is “stolen” it can be difficult to reclaim it. The Fisher Group shares how this happened to them in the blog post, “Google Gave Away Our Business Listing To A Competitor And Our Fight To Get It Back.”

A real estate firm associated with Summit Sotheby’s had their Google Business account merged with another agent’s. There was not an explanation for the sudden merger and the firm was forced to rely on webmaster support manned entirely by volunteers. The forums offered no help and the real estate firm spent over year trying to track down someone who could assist them.

The real estate firm wanted their old page back, because I had positive reviews from clients and through hard work they reached the top of searches for their area. Without anywhere else to turn, they were forced to write a plea:

“So at this point we’ve decided to write about it more publicly in hopes of getting the attention of someone at Google who can help us out with this unique and annoying situation. We’ll be also seeing what the SEO community thinks and if they’ve had this experience before, we certainly couldn’t find anyone else with this issue searching around on Reddit, Facebook groups and other SEO forums.

While we’re sad we’re losing out on some business, we would like to see that this doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future because we know how precious those reviews can be to businesses of all sizes.”

The issue still is not resolved. Remember: If one is not findable in Google, one may not exist or be “real.”

Whitney Grace, June 19, 2020

Google and Pirate Sites

June 16, 2020

DarkCyber is preparing for the National Cyber Crime Conference lectures: Two live and one on pre-recorded video. We noted in our feed this article: “Popular Pirate Sites Slowly ‘Disappear’ From Google’s Top Search Results.” The write up states:

Over the past few months, it has become harder and harder to find the homepages of some popular pirate sites. Instead, Google points people to Wikipedia pages or entirely different – sometimes scammy – sites that use the same name. We’ll address a few examples here, contrasting our findings with Bing and DuckDuckGo.

Interesting.

Some DarkCyber readers may want to note that pointers to stolen software are findable in Google’s YouTube service. Here’s a results page for illegal and cracks of Photoshop CC6:

image

Why are these results appearing? There are other examples of content protected by copyright and other regulations. Try queries for other popular software.

The videos are either tutorials with links in comments, download locations within the videos as static text, or often amusing videos of the steps one must follow to get the software up and running, often with malware along for the ride.

How does one find this information? Just type the name of the software and the secret word “crack” or a synonym.

If the information in the cited article is correct, whatever Google is doing to filter search results, the story may be incomplete.

Doesn’t Google have a list of stops words which allow certain content to be blocked? Doesn’t Google have supreme domination of smart software? Doesn’t Google have its eye on the legal ball?

DarkCyber sure doesn’t know the answer. Now what about partners who recycle Google search results for their metasearch systems? There is another story there, but DarkCyber is not a “real news” outfit like Fox News which altered via Photoshop some images. Who owns Fox News? Isn’t it Mr. Murdoch, who also owns the Wall Street Journal?

Are there any similarities in corporate gyroscopes between some of these large, globe spanning companies? Nah.

Stephen E Arnold, June 16, 2020

How to Spark Interest in Desktop Linux? Microsoft Tries a Fresh Approach

June 12, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Removing “Annoying” Windows 10 Features is a DMCA Violation, Microsoft Says.” The write up asserts:

Ninjutsu OS, a new software tool that heavily modifies Windows 10 with a huge number of tweaks, mods and extra tools, has been hit with a DMCA complaint by Microsoft. According to the copyright notice, the customizing, tweaking and disabling of Windows 10 features, even when that improves privacy, amounts to a violation of Microsoft’s software license.

The write up presents a list of Ninjutsu enabled functions which violate the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act):

  • Customize Windows 10 with powerful tweak and optimize.
  • Protect your privacy by tweak and customize Windows 10.
  • Disable many of the annoying features built into Windows.
  • Unwanted Windows components removal.
  • Remove/Disable many Windows programs and services.

The implications of this Microsoft action are interesting to contemplate. DarkCyber believes that Microsoft may have found a way to increase usage of Linux on the desktop.

Stephen E Arnold, June 12, 2020

Are High-Technology Companies Obstructionist?

June 11, 2020

When one talks about high-technology companies, the conversation skips over outfits like Siemens, China Mobile, and Telefónica. The parties to the conversation understand that the code “high tech” refers to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and similar outfits. Baidu and TenCent type outfits cooperate in some countries, just less so in other countries.

ASIO Chief Hits Out at Obstructive Tech Companies” is an amplification of US Department of Justice calls for providing enforcement officials with backdoors when data are encrypted. Australia’s intelligence agency is called the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, shortened to ASIO. The article points out hat in December 2018 laws came into effect that added “encryption busting powers.”

The bulk of the article consists of statements made by Australia’s spy agency chief Mike Burgess. The selected comments make clear that some high-technology companies have been slow to cooperate. The write up reports:

“As a society, whether we know it or not, we’ve accepted the fact that the police or ASIO can get a warrant to bug someone’s car or someone’s house. Why should cyberspace be any different? “Yet every time we have these conversations with the private sector companies they kind of push back and say, ‘Uh, no, we’re not so sure about that’.”—Mr. Burgess.

The main point is that high-technology companies often adopt the apocryphal  mañana approach when minutes count.

DarkCyber anticipates increased requests for encryption backdoors from other members of the Five Eyes. Some of those involved with this group are not amused with going slow.

Stephen E Arnold, June 11, 2020

A Peek into Google and Palantir Contracts: The UK National Health Service Versions

June 8, 2020

Curious about the legalese, terms, and conditions of US companies licensing and servicing government entities in the United Kingdom require? Good news. You can (at least as of June 6, 2020 at 0600 US Eastern time) can read allegedly complete contracts for software and services.

A contract from Faculty.ai is also available. Founded in 2014, Faculty.ai does not have the cachet of a Google. If you want to look at that contract, it is for now at https://tinyurl.com/ya3kzolw.

The deals are between these firms and an entity doing government business under the name of NHSX which seems to mean “a joint unit bringing together teams from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement to drive the digital transformation of care. COVID-19 Response.”

Are there some interesting details in these documents? Yep. Will these be shared in this blog post? Nope. You will learn some of the DarkCyber’s team insight if you attend our National Crime Conference presentation about investigative tools and systems.

Not invited? For fee briefings are still offered. Contact benkent2020 at yahoo dot com.

Stephen E Arnold, June 8, 2020

Bloomberg on Trump and Twitter: News or Advice from Left Field?

June 1, 2020

I read “Twitter-Trump Spat Signals New Chapter for Social Media.” News, Dear Abby, or a wanna be consultant CxO memo? The write up has a news hook: “Twitter Inc. added a fact-check warning label to two of president’s posts about mail-in voting.  In response, Trump threatened in a set of tweets Wednesday to “strongly regulate or close” down social-media platforms.”

What’s interesting about the write up is that the “news” story shoots into an interesting direction: Consulting and legal advice combined in one “real news” story:

Now, with another presidential election just months away, they made a calculated gamble that it was time to take a stand. It will be hard to retreat from here. When the dust settles, Trump’s threats will likely be seen as political theater without any lasting ramifications for Twitter’s business. Technology companies will challenge the president’s executive order in court on the grounds he can’t unilaterally change precedent without Congressional approval.

Is this Bloomberg’s official position? Nah, that would imply accountability for using news as a platform for a well written blog type commentary. The “author” has an email address, but Bloomberg adds:

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Fascinating. “Real news” with advice, a slightly “annoyed parent” tone, and a disclaimer. Hey, we published this, but we are not really backing up the writer or the content. Are we on the “Verge” of a new type of “real news”?

There you go.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2020

And You Thought Brexit Was Screwed Up?

May 26, 2020

Nope, DarkCyber does not know if the information in “Open Letter on Confidential Dealings in Facebook Case” is “real news.” What’s interesting in the write up is this table:

image

The key point is that three years have passed and not much has happened. The main point is that Brexit may be a speedier bureaucratic process than enforcing the GDPR.

I do love the “accept cookies now” messages. That is one way to measure progress.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2020

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