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Its Hacker Season

August 21, 2015

One of the quintessential cartoon feuds exists between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as they argue whether or not it is duck or rabbit hunting season.  Whoever wins gets the lovely prize of having their face blown off, thankfully cartoon violence does not obey the rules of life and death.  The ensuing argument ends with hilarious consequences, but everyday another type of big game is always in season: your personal information.  Hackers are constantly searching for ways to break into vulnerable systems and steal valuable information.

One a personal level it is frightening to be hacked, but corporations stand risk millions of dollars, customer information, trade secrets, and their reputations if their systems get hacked.   There are many companies that specialize in software to prevent potential hackings, but Cybereason offers unique selling points in the article, “Introducing Cybereason: Real-Time Automated Cyber Hunting.”

“This is why Cybereason exists, to bring the fight against hackers off of the frontlines and into the depths of your environment, where they lurk after gaining unnoticed access. Security needs to be about having an ever-watchful eye over your endpoints, servers, and network, and the Cybereason platform will allow you to perform real-time, automated hunting across your entire environment.”

On their Web site they posted a product video that feeds on the US’s culture of fear and they present an Armageddon like situation complete with a female voice over artist with a British accent, a Guy Fawkes mask, and Matrix-like graphics.  My favorite bit is when Cybereason is made to resemble a secret intelligence agency of superheroes.

Despite the clichéd video, it does give a thorough visualization of what Cybereason’s software and services can do.  The fear factor might be a selling point for some clients, but I’d rather hear hard facts and direct solutions.  It takes out the dramatic elements and actually tells me what the product can do for me.  You have to love Cybereason’s ending phrase, “Let the hunt begin.” It makes me want to respond with, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”

Whitney Grace, August 21, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Compare Trump to Lincoln with Watson Personality Insights

August 19, 2015

IBM’s Watson is employing its capabilities in a new and interesting way: BoingBoing asks, “What Does Your Writing Say About You? IBM Watson Personality Insights Will Tell You.” The software derives cognitive and social characteristics about people from their writings, using linguistic analytics. I never thought I’d see a direct, graphically represented comparison between speeches of Donald Trump and Abe Lincoln, but there it is. There are actually some similarities; they’re both businessmen turned politicians, after all. Reporter Andrea James shares Watson’s take on Trump’s “We Need Brain” speech from the recent Republican primary debate:

“You are a bit dependent, somewhat verbose and boisterous. You are susceptible to stress: you are easily overwhelmed in stressful situations. You are emotionally aware: you are aware of your feelings and how to express them. And you are prone to worry: you tend to worry about things that might happen. Your choices are driven by a desire for efficiency. You consider both independence and helping others to guide a large part of what you do. You like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them. And you think it is important to take care of the people around you.”

For comparison, see the write-up for the analysis of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (rest assured, Lincoln does come out looking better than Trump). The article also supplies this link, where you can submit between 3500 and 6000 words for Watson’s psychoanalysis; as James notes, you can submit writing penned by yourself, a friend, or an enemy (or some random blogger, perhaps.) To investigate the software’s methodology, click here.

Cynthia Murrell, August 19, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Mid Tier Consulting Firm Identifies the New Economy

August 16, 2015

The information economy is officially over. There is a new economy in town, and you need to listen up. I can hear R Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant in Platoon saying, “You are dumb, Private Pyle, but do you expect me to believe that you don’t know left from right?”

I read “Big Data Fades to the Algorithm Economy.” I thought Big Data was the future. Guess I was wrong again. I learned that “Algorithms are all around us.” Gee, I did not know that.

I learned:

For organizations, the opportunity will first center on monetizing their proprietary algorithms by offering licensing to other non-competing organizations. For example, a supply chain company can license its just-in-time logistics algorithms to a refrigerator manufacturer that seeks to partner with a grocery chain to automatically replenish food based on your eating habits. Why invent or slowly develop sophisticated algorithms at huge cost when you can license and implement them quickly at low cost?

There is “fevered questioning” underway. Gee, I did not know that. In my experience, I see more “fevered confusion.”

But the fix is “proprietary algorithms.”

Okay, what is an algorithm?

A formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem. To be an algorithm, a set of rules must be unambiguous and have a clear stopping point. Algorithms can be expressed in any language, from natural languages like English or French to programming languages like FORTRAN.

It seems to me that a procedure qualifies as an algorithm if it works. A proprietary algorithm is, I assume, a trade secret.

I am delighted that math is not involved; otherwise, there is the problem with companies built on procedures endlessly recycled from books like Algorithms in a Nutshell, Algorithms, The Art of Computer Programming, and other standard texts with loads of numerical recipes.

I understand. The mid tier consulting firm is defining a business process as an algorithm. Magic. Well, if Big Data won’t sell – If enterprise search won’t sell — If content management won’t sell, just go with algorithms.

How quickly will McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, and SRI pick up on this conceptual breakthrough? Any moment now. I assume each company’s blue chip consultants know left from right — usually. Other outfits may get confused. Left? Right?

Stephen E Arnold, August 16, 2015

ABC.xyz: Just Big Enough

August 15, 2015

I read a remarkable write up called “Week in Tech: Google Was Only the Beginning for Larry and Sergey.” The write up asserts:

Google simply wasn’t big enough to house Alphabet’s ambition.

Shouldn’t that be Messrs. Brin’s and Page’s ambition?

Nevertheless, the article bubbles with enthusiasm; for example:

And that’s just how low on the list of priorities the little subsidiary company by the name of Google had become in the eyes of its co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  It’s almost as if they now see their parenting job complete and they’re happy to wave Google off to lead its own life. Now tech’s most terrific twosome have a new litter of offspring, which have even bigger potential to change the world.

I talked for about 40 minutes with a bright reporter from a major Canadian publication. The topic was Alphabet. My view was slightly different from the one in this evanescent Trusted Review write up.

My comments to the journalist focused on these points:

  1. After the Backrub years and the Google years (think in terms of two decades), Alphabet and Google have one revenue stream: Online advertising. Google has tried with math club sticktoativity. But the efforts have come to naught. Nothing makes money like the modified GoTo.com/Overture.com/Yahoo.com online advertising method.In short, Google remains the one trick revenue pony as Steve Ballmer, MBA, said.
  2. The management expertise at Google is not up to Jack Welch-type standards. With lots of “presidents” possible, the burden of figuring out how to diversify revenue shifts from Messrs. Brin and Page to others.
  3. Google faces a person (Margrethe Vestager) in the European Commission who is not too happy with Google’s approach to search results. Whom will this person and her stalwart team sue? Alphabet or the old fashioned Google? Perhaps this shift in company structure is a fairly clumsy move to get ready for the down checks which seem to be rolling down the information highway.
  4. Search is no longer interesting. The notion of the “all the world’s information” may be  more difficult than solving the problem of life extension, generating revenue from the China and Russian markets, and dealing with the natterings of mere elected officials.

I am not anti Google. Hey, that outfit paid for Tyson’s dog food for several years. I am just not star struck because so much of Google’s early success resulted from three historical events which the cheerleaders don’t know. I think these folks cut history class when the information was presented.

First, Alta Vista tanked, and Messrs. Brin and Page scooped up some talent who possessed the raw engineering experience and expertise to build a variant of the Kleinberg CLEVER system, mix in the Alta Vista memory stuff, and cook up some useful search outputs until the IPO.

Second, Yahoo was unable to do much with its online ad business. The Googlers, like Raphael, entered the Domus Aurea and received inspiration. Prior to the IPO, the inspiration had a price tag, but the revenue free Google suddenly had a business model, not objective search results.

Third, the competition in the period from 1996 (early Backrub) to 2002 (functioning Google search) was clueless. There was the waffling of Fast Search & Transfer, the cluelessness of Yahoo’s management, and the portal mania which swept through Web search. Good systems like Muscat and Hotbot never had a chance. The Google emerged as the victor after the opposing armies went to Shake Shack to ponder their future.

Now the Alphabet Google reorganization makes official the end of a search era. Like enterprise search, some useful functions emerged. But the precision, recall, and relevance has morphed into something less useful to me but not to the author of “Google Was Only the Beginning.” I like the past tense too.

What’s next?

Cognitive computing and Watson? Smart software which understands Farsi slang? Humans who know how to locate, vet, and process information? Big Data and Hadoop plus open source wrappers? Videos on a smartphone? Predictive methods which deliver information before I know I need that information. An Uber like service for high value competitive intelligence?

Oh, right. We have the mobile Google methods. And they are about ads. Boring. Why not go to the moon, invent nano methods to address genetic disorders, and use balloons to deliver Internet access to Sri Lanka?

Which Alphabet letters will spell $60 billion a year in the original Google’s ramp time?

Stephen E Arnold, August 15, 2015

Oracle: The Ostrich Syndrome

August 14, 2015

I read “Oracle’s Chief Security Officer Mary Ann Davidson Just Made as Rookie Mistake.” No, it has nothing to do with trying to breathe life into Oracle Secure Enterprise Search or increasing the content processing speed of Endeca. Those might be really difficult tasks.

According to the write up:

Oracle Chief Security Officer Mary Ann Davidson was forced to remove a blog post after she made a mistake that made her sound out of touch with the security space. In her online post, she claimed that security researchers who point out flaws in Oracle software may be in violation of the company’s license agreement. She said reverse engineering is not allowed under the company’s own TOS.

Quite a good idea if one is struggling with the Java thing, open source database annoyances, and push back about certain licensing policies and fees.

I read this and thought of the creature which buries its head in the sand.

To make the issue more interesting, Oracle removed the post which allegedly said:

“If we determine as part of our analysis that scan results could only have come from reverse engineering, we send a letter to the sinning customer, and a different letter to the sinning consultant-acting-on-customer’s behalf – reminding them of the terms of the Oracle license agreement that preclude reverse engineering, So Please Stop It Already”

I love the “already.” There is a robust market sector which identifies and provides information about vulnerabilities to those who are not into the ostrich approach to information.

Isn’t this disappearing, revisionistic information trend fascinating. What you do not know cannot possibly harm you. Ignorance is bliss. Be happy.

Stephen E Arnold, August 14, 2014

Google: Just an Index Entry

August 11, 2015

The world is spinning. Google is Alphabet. The pundits are out in force. To get the scoop straight from the leaders of the math club, navigate to “Google Announces Plans for New Operating Structure.” My view is easy to articulate.

First, Google, the search company, is a one trick revenue pony. The math club has not been able to generate significant, organic revenue from bake sales, Loon balloons, and head mounted computers. These activities generate questions about focus, cost control, and management capabilities. The new CFO is curious. Stakeholders are curious. Those seeking relevant search results are curious. The fix is to legitimize doing many things is to create a holding company and converting Google into one index entry.,

Second, the new name Alphabet allows the president of the math club to do anything from A to Z. Clever right? The shift will not increase the organic revenue from home grown products. After 15 years, the GOOG continues to ride the whale that GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo beached long, long ago. Who remembers? Not many, judging from the commentaries I have scanned. An A to Z company has to fill out those index entries.

Third, the stock tweaks will be good news for some stakeholders. But, like the splitting of Hewlett Packard into two companies, MBA plays cannot change the fact that the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from online advertising.

In short, I can stop harping about relevance, precision, and recall when I mention search. Google as an objective search system is paying the bills.

The thrill of the world’s information and all that jazz is gone. Will Alphabet come up with significant new revenue streams? I will wait and see. I might even search Watson for an answer if that technology moves beyond PR and marketing fireworks.

I won’t pose the query to Google. Time to dust off the links to Mojeek.com and Gibiru.com.

Stephen E Arnold, August 11, 2015

How Do We Fail Thee? Let Me Say Some Ways

August 9, 2015

I read “Post Mortems.” The write up is an earthworm. That is my jargon for a list of disconnected items. Humans love lists. Right, Moses? This list points to information about failures. Most of the items have brief comments such as:

Kickstarter. Primary DB became inconsistent with all replicas, which wasn’t detected until a query failed. This was caused by a MySQL bug which sometimes caused order by to be ignored.

and

Microsoft. A bad config took down Azure storage.

Interesting. Hopefully the earthworm will be fattened with examples like “Germans in ‘Brains Off, Just Follow Orders’ Hospital Data Centre Faff.” the main idea is some dutiful workers removed air conditioners from a server room.

Stephen E Arnold, August 9, 2015

Sorry, Experts. NLP and Semantic Technology Will Guarantee Higher Precision and Recall

August 3, 2015

I read “5 Reasons for Developers to Build NLP and Semantic Search Skills” is one of those bait and switch write ups. The title suggests that NLP and semantic search are “skills.” The content of the article presents without factual substantiation assertions about the differences between Web search and enterprise search. The reality is that both are more closely related than they appear to some “experts.” Neither works particularly well for reasons which have to do with cost control, system management, and focus. The technology is, from my point of view, more stable than some search mavens believe.

Here’s the passage I highlighted in pale mauve because I did not have purple:

It at times feels magical that Search engines know, with unbelievable accuracy, exactly what you are looking for. This is the result of a heavy investment in NLP and Semantic technologies. These, along with speech-recognition, have the potential of enabling a future where search will transform into a smart machine that uses “connected knowledge” to answer significantly complex questions – a Star Trek Computer may not be too far away after all, if Amit Singhal – brain behind Google’s search engine evolution, has be to believed.

More remarkable was the introduction of the phrase “big, unstructured data.” I also found the notion of “commoditization” of data science amusing.

One idea warrants comment. The article calls attention to the “widening gap between enterprise search platforms and general purpose search engines.” Anyone who has attempted to index Web content quickly learns that it is a fruit basket which is in the process of being shoved into a blender. The notion of the enterprise search system was to process the content normally found inside an organization. But guess what? After the first query run on a restricted domain of content, the user says, “I need access to Internet content.” The “gap” is one of perception. The underlying components of the system and much of the gee whiz technology are similar. The fact that the Web search systems have been shaped to handle a restricted body of content is lost on some folks. Similarly the enterprise search systems are struggling because they, like Web search engines, cannot handle efficiently and automatically certain types of content. In short, neither works particularly well.

Will NLP and semantic skills help a developer? Not too much if the search system is not focused, the content is not reliable, and functions poorly defined. Forget big data, little data, and unstructured or structured data. Get the basics wrong and one has a lousy search system, which sadly, is more common than not.

Stephen E Arnold, August 3, 2015

Organizations Should Consider Office 365 Utilization

July 30, 2015

Office 365 has been a bit contentious within the community. While Microsoft touts it as a solution that gives users more of the social and mobile components they were wishing for, it has not been widely adopted. IT Web gives some reasons to consider the upgrade in its article, “Why You Should Migrate SharePoint to Office 365.”

The article says:

“Although SharePoint as a technology has matured a great deal over the years, I still see many businesses struggling with issues related to on-premises SharePoint, says Simon Hepburn, director of bSOLVe . . . You may be thinking: ‘Are things really that different using SharePoint on Office 365?’ Office 365 is constantly evolving and as I will explain, this evolution brings with it opportunities that your business should seriously consider exploring.’”

Of course the irony is that with the new SharePoint 2016 upgrade, Microsoft is giving users a promise to stand behind on-premise installations, but they are continuing to integrate and promote the Office 365 components. Only time and feedback will dictate the continued direction of the enterprise solution. In the meantime, stay tuned to Stephen E. Arnold and his Web service, ArnoldIT.com. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and his dedicated SharePoint feed is a one-stop-shop for all the latest news, tips, and tricks.

Emily Rae Aldridge, July 30, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

 

Instagram’s Search Feature Is A Vast Improvement

July 27, 2015

Instagram apparently knows more about your life than you or your friends.  The new search overhaul comes with new features that reveal more information than you ever expected to get from Instagram. VentureBeat reviews the new search feature and explains how it works: “Hands-On: Instagram’s New Search And Explore Features Are A Massive Improvement.”

Many of the features are self-explanatory, but have improved interactivity and increased the amount of eye candy.

  • Users can Explore Posts, which are random photos from all over Instagram and they can be viewed as a list or thumbnails.
  • The Discover People feature suggests possible people for users to follow. According the article, it dives deep into your personal social network and suggests people you never thought Instagram knew about.
  • Curated Collections offer content based off pre-selected categories that pull photos from users’ uploads.

Trending tags is another new feature:

“Trending Tags is Instagram’s attempt at gauging the platform’s pulse. If you’ve ever wondered what most people on Instagram are posting about, trending tags has the answer. These seemed very random and oddly insightful.”

Instagram is quickly becoming a more popular social media platform than Facebook and Twitter for some people.  Its new search feature makes it more appealing to users and increases information discovery.  Be sure that you will be spending hours on it.

Whitney Grace, July 27, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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