NSO Does Not Play the Facebook Game

January 16, 2020

We spotted a write up in Techdirt, an interesting publication indeed. The story is “Malware Marketer NSO Group Looks Like It’s Blowing Off Facebook’s Lawsuit.”

The title suggested to some of the DarkCyber team that NSO is a not so good company. It is a malware marketer. Furthermore, the company is “blowing off” Facebook’s lawsuit.

The Facebook case asserts that the NSO Group exploited WhatsApp. The goal? Compromise an actor’s mobile device via software. This approach is known as an attack vector created by Facebook.

NSO, as DarkCyber has noted in this blog and our videos, has been generating media attention. Specialized software companies providing technology to government entities generally prefer to maintain a lower profile.

What’s the status of Facebook’s legal action? Techdirt states:

Facebook’s lawsuit is going nowhere fast. While it’s not uncommon for there to be a delay between the filing of a complaint and the defendant’s response, NSO hasn’t filed anything — not even a notice of appearance from its corporate counsel — since the filing of the suit.

NSO is not a US company. It is owned by a Japanese firm and most of the technical operations are still under the umbrella of Israeli citizens.

DarkCyber thinks that Facebook’s challenge to NSO was an interesting action.

First, NSO responds to its customers’ needs. This means that outfits like Facebook which often drag their running shoe shod feet when it comes to dealing with government requests for data invites attention from specialist firms. Look in the mirror, Facebookers.

Second, Facebook wants to encrypt everything, create its own walled garden, and operate like a country. Okay, Facebookers, that attitude invites some special attention. Look in the mirror, Facebookers.

Third, the challenge to NSO strikes DarkCyber like an New Age slow cooker calling a microwave an unnecessary luxury. Nope. Look in the mirror, Facebooks, or in this case, in the reflection in the slow cooker’s aluminum skin.

Net net: Facebook may want to think a bit harder about the resources available to specialist software firms. Why? Nothing special, of course.

Stephen E Arnold, February 16, 2020

MIT and Ethics for the 21st Century: A New Spin on Academia, Ethics, and Technology

January 13, 2020

Yes, a new spin. There is nothing like spin, particularly when an august institution has accepted money from an interesting person. Who is this fascinating individual?

Jeffrey Epstein, alleged procurer, human trafficker, and hobnobber with really great and wonderful people.

I read, with some disgust, “Eight Revelations from MIT’s Jeffrey Epstein Report,” which was conveniently published in Technology Review, an organ of truth and insight affiliated with MIT. For context, I had just completed “Alphabet’s Top Lawyer to Retire after Google Founders Leave,” which appeared in the Bloomberg news-iverse. You remember Bloomberg, the outfit which reported with some nifty assertions that motherboard spying was afoot.

But to MIT and Epstein, then a comment about the sterling outfit Google.

MIT’s write up explained that MIT was prudent. Instead of accepting $10 million from the interesting and now allegedly deceased Mr. Epstein, the university accepted a mere $800,000. Such restraint. And that’s the subtitle for the write up!

What are the eight teachings derived from the fraternization, support, and joy of accepting the interesting Mr. Epstein? Here you go, gentle reader:

  1. The relationship for money extended over 15 years. Such tenacity.
  2. The hook up with Mr. Epstein were happenstance. Maybe MIT was seduced?
  3. The $10 million didn’t happen, but the donations had to be anonymous. Such judgment.
  4. It was the MIT Corporation, not the real school.
  5. Mr. Epstein prevaricated about his donations. Quite a surprise, of course. Lies, deception, manipulation, etc. etc.
  6. Mr. Epstein attended real MIT events, like the funeral for “AI pioneer Marvin Minsky.” An icon, of course.
  7. No big wheels like Bill Gates were involved in directing Mr. Epstein’s money. Perhaps a bit of color on this point would be helpful.
  8. A real MIT professional asserted that Mr. Epstein was a person whom MIT “should treat with respect.”

And the write up concludes, “The Media Lab [a unit of MIT] rejected $25,000, Mr. Epstein tried to donate in 2019. Another example of judgment.

To sum up, quite a write up about an institution which I assume offers a course in ethics. Well, maybe not. Full disclosure: I was quote in the MIT Technology Review late in 2019. I was not thrilled with that association with an outfit will to treat Mr. Epstein with respect.

Now to the Google. The world’s largest online advertising agency seems to be channeling the antics of Madison Avenue in the 1950s. In this episode of the Science Club Explores Biological Impulses”, I learned:

David Drummond, the legal chief of Google parent Alphabet Inc. and a company veteran, stepped down following questions about his conduct at the technology giant.

The conduct may have involved another Googler. What do two Googlers create? Why another Googler it seems. Who knew that Madison Avenue extended from New York City to Mountain View, California.

Net net: Two outfits with people who should have known about propriety demonstrated poor judgment. Look for slightly used ethical compasses on eBay. Lightly used but likely to manifest flawed outputs.

I would suggest that certain non technical behaviors qualify as grounds for viewing MIT and Google as very poorly managed institutions staffed by individuals who operate from a position above the “madding crowd.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2020

Google and Open Innovation: A Tiny Ripple, the Flap of a Butterfly Wing?

January 7, 2020

The US government is rethinking its approach to commercial artificial intelligence or to application programming interfaces nature. “The Case for Open Innovation” is interesting.

The write up, allegedly written by a senior vice president and legal eagle at Google, states:

Software programs work better when they work together. Open software interfaces let smartphone apps and other services connect across devices and operating systems. And interoperability—the ability of different software systems to exchange information—lets people mix and match great features, and helps developers create new products that work across platforms. The result? Consumers get more choices for how they use software tools; developers and startups can challenge bigger incumbents; and businesses can move data from one platform to another without missing a beat. This kind of open and collaborative innovation, from scientific peer-reviewed papers to open-source software, has been key to America’s achievements in science and technology.

The Googler emphasizes that Google is fighting Oracle’s claim that the online ad company improperly used Oracle’s intellectual property.

The write up claims:

That’s why today we filed our opening Supreme Court brief in Oracle’s lawsuit against us. We’re asking the Court to reaffirm the importance of the software interoperability that has allowed millions of developers to write millions of applications that work on billions of devices.

After reading this, I jotted down factors which have facilitated information exchange:

  • Technical experts from other countries working for US companies in the US
  • Desire to reduce costs
  • Need to piggyback to avoid reinventing the wheel
  • Presence of staff who worked on a technology when it was developed at a different company
  • Importance of an acquiring firm to maximize the financial return of its purchase of a company and technology; for example, Sun Microsystems and Java.

Also, the ideas of openness and interoperability are interesting, particularly when articulated by commercial firms eager to establish revenue, user, and customer locks. The context of the actions taken by the US government to address export of smart software may be sucked into this particular legal dispute. Export controls seem to be different from the intent of open innovation.

The timing is important. In this particular case of Google versus Oracle, timing play a significant role. The court’s decision or non decision might unsettle today’s context of commerce and politics.

Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2020

Open Source: A Good to Be Exploited?

December 25, 2019

Is Amazon Web Services taking undue advantage of open source software, or is it simply giving its users what they want (or perhaps both)? It seems to be a matter of perspective. ZDNet reports, “AWS Hits Back at Open-Source Software Critics: Claims that AWS is Strip-Mining Open-Source Software is ‘Silly and Off-Base,’ Says Exec.” The defense is in response to a piece (paywalled) in the New York Times in which open-source creators complained the company takes the liberty of freely integrating their work into its profitable platform. Writer Liam Tung specifies:

“According to the New York Times report, several rivals have discussed bringing antitrust complaints against AWS. Bloomberg reported this month that the Federal Trade Commission has asked software companies about AWS. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told the NYT that ‘people are afraid that Amazon’s ambitions are endless’. Cloudflare operates a large content distribution network, which competes with a subsection of AWS.”

We also learn that open-source firms are shifting their licensing terms in response to such cloudy business practices from IBM and others, as well as Amazon. MongoDB’s Server Side Public License is one example. Elastic, maker of Elasticsearch, has also placed limits on how cloud companies may use its software.

AWS VP Andi Gutmans, however, insists this is much ado about nothing. Tung quotes the executive:

“‘The [Times] story is largely talking about open source software projects and companies who’ve tried to build businesses around commercializing that open-source software. These open-source projects enable any company to utilize this software on-premises or in the cloud, and build services around it. AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source,’ Gutmans said. He noted that AWS contributes to open-source projects such as Linux, Java, Kubernetes, Xen, KVM, Chromium, Robot Operating System, Apache Lucene, Redis, s2n, FreeRTOS and Elasticsearch.

“‘A number of maintainers of open-source projects build commercial companies around the open-source project. A small set of outliers see it as a zero-sum game and want to be the only ones able to freely monetize managed services around these open-source projects,’ he added.”

And the remediation process? Lawyers are standing by.

Cynthia Murrell, December 25, 2019

From the Home of Evil Corp.: Streaming Demons Stir the Pot

December 17, 2019

DarkCyber spotted this write up: “Russia’s 3rd-Largest Internet Company Is Suing Twitch for $3 Billion, Wants It Banned in the Country.” The story asserts that Rambler Group, which figures in other interesting activities, is:

planning to sue the Amazon-owned streaming site for 180 billion rubles ($2.82 billion) in a Russian court. It claims that Twitch breached its exclusive broadcast rights to Premier League games more than 36,000 times between August and November. The company also seeks a permanent ban on Twitch in Russia.

DarkCyber recalls stories about Evil Corp.; for example, this one: “‘Evil Corp’: Feds Charge Russians in Massive $100 million Bank Hacking Scheme.” That write up reported:

“Evil Corp.,” a name reminiscent of the nickname for the key malevolent corporation in the popular television drama “Mr. Robot,” is “run by a group of individuals based in Moscow, Russia, who have years of experience and well-developed, trusted relationships with each other,” according to a Treasury Department press release. The criminal group used a type of malware known as “Dridex,” which worked to evade common anti-virus software and spread through emailed phishing campaigns.

Bookends, peanut butter and jelly, or ham and eggs?

These two alleged legal actions raise a number of questions:

  1. Which is more evil? Stealing soccer broadcasts or individual’s money?
  2. Why aren’t certain content types just blocked? China seems to be reasonably adept at filtering?
  3. Will soccer fans stop looking for low cost pirate streams or will gamers give up on Amazon Twitch because of a legal action?
  4. Who is behind pirated content? (Some of the key players may be a surprise, DarkCyber believes.)

Worth monitoring these symmetrical legal actions? Yep.

Stephen E Arnold, December 17, 2019

Google Faces Anti-Trust Allegations in Georgia

December 9, 2019

Countries large and small are thinking about Google.

Once again, Google is being charged with anti-competitive behavior. We have grown used to seeing such lawsuits proceed in the EU, but this time the allegations come from a company based in Atlanta. The Hindu Business Line reports, “Google Accused by Rival of Anti-Trust Violations in Ad Market.” The write-up specifies:

“Advertising technology company Inform Inc alleges that Google has used its monopoly power in internet search and mobile operating systems to undermine competition in the ad market. Inform claims that while it posted revenue of more than $100 million from 2014 to 2016 from its online ad services, Google’s conduct effectively put Inform out of business, according to the complaint filed Monday in federal court in Atlanta. The totality of Google’s illegal and anti-competitive conduct across multiple, inter-related markets demonstrates a frightening march to online and digital dominance, the company said in the suit. The lawsuit comes on the heels of antitrust investigations into Google by state attorneys general, the Justice Department and Congress. Google’s control over the technology that delivers ads across the web are a focus of all the probes.”

Inform provides online video ad services to publishers and advertisers, so it is in direct competition with those services from Google. Interesting timing—earlier this year, Inform agreed to a merger with digital advertising firm Bright Mountain Media, based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Cynthia Murrell, December 9, 2019

Apple, Google Redraw Maps upon Russian Demand

December 7, 2019

Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union, and most of the world have all refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia following the 2014 annexation. Apple, though, seems to have taken Russia’s side—at least as far as anyone who uses Apple Maps or Apple’s weather app from within Russia can see. There, Crimea has been cemented as part of Russia in the online references. Everywhere else Crimea shows as a separate territory. The BBC reports, “Apple Changes Crimea Map to Meet Russian Demands.” The write-up states:

“The State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, said in a statement: ‘Crimea and Sevastopol now appear on Apple devices as Russian territory.’ Russia treats the naval port city of Sevastopol as a separate region. The BBC tested several iPhones in Moscow and it appears the change affects devices set up to use the Russian edition of Apple’s App Store. Apple had been in talks with Russia for several months over what the State Duma described as ‘inaccuracy’ in the way Crimea was labelled. The tech giant originally suggested it could show Crimea as undefined territory – part of neither Russia nor Ukraine. But Vasily Piskaryov, chairman of the Duma security and anti-corruption committee, said Apple had complied with the Russian constitution. He said representatives of the company were reminded that labelling Crimea as part of Ukrainian territory was a criminal offence under Russian law, according to Interfax news agency. ‘There is no going back,’ Mr Piskaryov said. ‘Today, with Apple, the situation is closed – we have received everything we wanted.’”

Apple was not the first to cave on this issue, however; we learn Google did the same thing with Google Maps back in March. Why would tech companies agree to support Russia’s claim when most of the world does not? Apple has made no comment on the issue, but it looks like the almighty ruble is indeed a powerful thing.

Cynthia Murrell, December 7, 2019

Amazon Trumped?

December 5, 2019

DarkCyber does not have a dog in this fight. The fight? Jeff Bezos versus the President of the United States. If the information in “Trump Bezos Round 2: Amazon Faces Broad Antitrust Probe of Cloud Business” is accurate, lawyers involved in the matter will have a very good chance to generate some billable hours.

The write up reminds the reader that Amazon lost the $10 billion Department of Defense JEDI deal. Amazon then sued on the basis of the President’s pushing back against Amazon.

The write up reports:

But now, as Bloomberg details, investigators at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have been asking software companies recently about practices around Amazon’s cloud unit, known as Amazon Web Services. Specifically, the outreach by the FTC signals that the agency, which is already looking at Amazon’s conduct in its vast online retail business, is taking a broader look at the company to determine whether it could be violating antitrust laws and harming competition.

Interesting. Mr. Bezos has  money and a newspaper. The President has presidential things. Will presidential things trump the Bezos bulldozer?

In a comment to the write up, Sticky_Pickles said: “When you try to sue the government…”

But DarkCyber is thinking of the lawyers working on the matter. Winners.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2019

Xnor Touch Points

November 29, 2019

If you are not familiar with Xnor.ai, navigate to the company’s Web site and read the cultural information. There is a reference to diversity, the company being a “high growth start up,” and something called “ethics touch points.”

I think one of the touch points is not honoring deals with licensee, but my information comes from a razzle dazzle publication. “Wyze’s AI-Powered Person Detection Feature Will Temporarily Disappear Next Year” asserts:

Wyze’s security cameras will temporarily lose their person detection feature in January 2020 after the AI startup it partnered with on the feature abruptly terminated their agreement. In a post on its forums, Wyze said that its agreement with Xnor.ai included a clause allowing the startup to terminate the contract “at any moment without reason.”

There’s a reference to “mistakes,” in the tradition of 21st century information, there’s no definition of mistake.

I noted this passage: passage “Wyze’s low prices come with risks.”

Back up.

What’s an ethical touch point? Xnor.ai states:

Xnor is actively engaging in conversations around the ethical implications of AI within our society through “ethics touch points” that exist within our normal working patterns. These touch points allow is to actively review specific AI use cases and make informed decisions without compromising the speed in which we operate as a start-up.

Maybe recognizing a face is not good? When is recognizing a face good? I struggle with the concept of ethics mostly because I am flooded with examples of ethical crossroads each day. Was a certain lawyer in Ukraine for himself or for others? Was the fuselage failure of a 777 a mistake or a downstream consequence of an ethical log jam? Was the disappearance of certain map identifiers a glitch or an example of situational ethical analysis?

With about $15 million in funding, Xnor.ai the two year old company is an interesting one. What’s interesting is that Madrona Ventures may find itself with some thorns in its britches after pushing through the thicket of ethical touch points.

In 2017, Pymnts.com ran a story with this headline: “AI Startup Xnor.ai Raises $2.6M To Bring AI To All Devices.” See the word “all.”

That should have come with a footnote maybe? Other possibilities are: [a] the technology does not work, [b] Wyze did not pay a bill, [c] Xnor.ai has done what Aristotle did ineffectively.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2019

Turkey Day: Forgetting a Murderer?

November 28, 2019

Who knows if one can forget a murder or a murderer? If the information is not available, then the murderer may not be a murderer. The logic seems a bit hippy dippy, almost millennial, but it is turkey day with time to ponder “German Ex-Con Wins Right to Have Any Murders He May Have Committed Forgotten” reports:

Although the case stretches back to the early Eighties, the issue really emerged when German magazine Der Spiegel published some archive articles about the case in 1999. In 2002, Gunther The Ripper was released from jail, and in 2009 became aware that the articles were floating about. Gunther argued that the news articles were inhibiting his “ability to develop his personality,” and went to federal court.

If a murder were committed and the victim a child, will the parents forget? What if this story is accurate and the murderer wants to work coaching a youth football team, would the alleged murderer forget he may have killed before?

Ah, forget it.

Stephen E Arnold, November 28, 2019

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta