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Cybercrime as a Service Impacts Hotel Industry and Loyalty Points

February 4, 2016

The marketplaces of the Dark Web provide an interesting case study in innovation. Three types of Dark Web fraud aimed at the hotel industry, for example, was recently published on Cybel Blog. Delving into the types of cybercrime related to the hospitality industry, the article, like many others recently, discusses the preference of cybercriminals in dealing with account login information as opposed to credit cards as detectability is less likely. Travel agencies on the Dark Web are one such way cybercrime as a service exists:

“Dark Web “travel agencies” constitute a third type of fraud affecting hotel chains. These “agencies” offer room reservations at unbeatable prices. The low prices are explained by the fact that the seller is using fraud and hacking. The purchaser contacts the seller, specifying the hotel in which he wants to book a room. The seller deals with making the reservation and charges the service to the purchaser, generally at a price ranging from a quarter to a half of the true price per night of the room. Many sellers boast of making bookings without using stolen payment cards (reputed to be easy for hotels to detect), preferring to use loyalty points from hacked client accounts.”

What will they come up with next? The business to consumer (B2C) sector includes more than hotels and presents a multitude of opportunities for cybertheft. Innovation must occur on the industry side as well in order to circumvent such hacks.


Megan Feil, February 4, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Measuring Classifiers by a Rule of Thumb

February 1, 2016

Computer programmers who specialize in machine learning, artificial intelligence, data mining, data visualization, and statistics are smart individuals, but they sometimes even get stumped.  Using the same form of communication as reddit and old-fashioned forums, Cross Validated is a question an answer site run by Stack Exchange.   People can post questions related to data and relation topics and then wait for a response.  One user posted a question about “Machine Learning Classifiers”:

“I have been trying to find a good summary for the usage of popular classifiers, kind of like rules of thumb for when to use which classifier. For example, if there are lots of features, if there are millions of samples, if there are streaming samples coming in, etc., which classifier would be better suited in which scenarios?”

The response the user received was that the question was too broad.  Classifiers perform best depending on the data and the process that generates it.  It is kind of like asking the best way to organize books or your taxes, it depends on the content within the said items.

Another user replied that there was an easy way to explain the general process of understanding the best way to use classifiers.  The user directed users to the chart about “choosing the estimator”. Other users say that the chart is incomplete, because it does not include deep learning, decision trees, and logistic regression.

We say create some other diagrams and share those.  Classifiers are complex, but they are a necessity to the artificial intelligence and big data craze.


Whitney Grace, February 1, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Watson Weekly: Transforming Business for Sure

January 31, 2016

I read “8 Ways IBM Watson Analytics Is Transforming Business.” My initial reaction was, “If that were true, why is IBM stuck in a revenue decline.” IBM itself should be the exemplary case for the efficacy of IBM Watson.

IBM is struggling. I think the company has reported 15 consecutive quarters of revenue decline. Let’s see. Yes, that works out to four years of downhill sledding.

The write up ignores the obvious disconnect between what IBM asserts Watson can do and IBM’s own business performance. The reality is that if Watson were so darned wonderful, IBM’s financial results should reflect that insider advantage.

Oh, well.

Here’s the part of the write up I highlighted with my Big Blue red ink marker:

  • A Kentucky truck company is racking in the dough via Watson Analytics. Okay.
  • A company engaged in social housing and health care is figuring out how not to injure workers. Okay.
  • An outfit is identifying opportunities on the Australian stock exchange. I assume Watson is recommending IBM as a strong buy.
  • A franchised patient taxi service is analyzing data from its transport services. But where’s Uber? What is Uber using for analytics? Okay.
  • A marketing outfit in Texas takes time out from standing on line at Franklin Barbecue to correlate data. Okay but I think Franklin’s figures out customer demand by looking out the window of the restaurant.
  • A hospitality planning service firm for college sports can figure out what to do when selling yummy hot dogs and serving cold, refreshing buttermilk to thirsty sports fans. Okay.
  • A university (yes, a university with a statistics department) uses Watson to figure out how “to leverage social sentiment.” I wonder if the university queries graduates about their student loans versus employment prospects? Okay. Well, maybe not okay.
  • Another university uses Watson in its actual classes. What about IBM SPSS? Wait maybe that’s Watson analytics. Students will be almost excited as I was to do the statistics exercises, but I did not get to use Watson. I had to use a pencil and paper.

My take on this article? IBM does not have compelling use cases. In fact, these examples illustrate that IBM is struggling to dress up analytics in marketing finery.

Uber? What’s Uber using for its ride analytics?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2016

Critics Blast Zuckerbergs Free Internet

January 26, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg is giving the subcontinent India access to free Internet.  In some eyes Zuckerberg is being generous, but his critics are saying he’s doing it to gain control of a 1.2 billion untapped market.  The New York Post shares Zuckerberg’s magnanimous act in “Mark Zuckerberg Defends His Free Internet Bid In India.”

Zuckerberg’s free Internet in India is dubbed “Free Basics” and it offers full access to Facebook and other affiliated sites, while blocking access to Google, Twitter, and other rivals.  Free Basics’s partner Indian telecom partner Reliance Communication was forced to temporarily shut down service.

Critics are angry with Zuckerberg, claiming he is violating net neutrality and it comes as a slap in the face after he defended it within the United States.  Free Basics could potentially ruin Internet competition in India and gain an iron grasp on a developing market.  An even more intriguing piece to the story is that Free Basics was formerly named, but Zuckerberg was forced to change it so new Internet users would not think that Facebook and related Web sites were all that existed.

“The local tech entrepreneur warned that ‘the incentive to invest in better, faster and cheaper access to the entire Internet will be replaced with one of providing better, faster and cheaper access to [Facebook’s] websites and apps’…In his Monday op-ed piece, Zuckerberg at times sounded exasperated as he insisted that the limited access provided by Free Basics was better than no access at all.”

Free Basics has already been deployed in thirty-five countries and provides free Internet for fifteen million people.

What’s the problem with wanting one’s way like blocking our competitors’ services? Absolutely nothing, if you rule the world. If not, there may be push back. I learned this in kindergarten.  Zuckerberg can expect lots of push back.


Whitney Grace, January 26, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Weekly Watson: Smart T Shirts and Maybe Digital Unmentionables

January 25, 2016

IBM’s economic news has been an island of stability for doom sayers. The company’s 15th consecutive quarter of revenue declines does not require an economic Stonehenge to predict.

I was delighted to see a bit of good news about IBM’s continuing effort to publicize Watson. As you know if you read this blog, Watson is a confection of open source, home brew code, and acquired technology. Assembled in a Lego like fashion, Watson does recipes, cures cancer, and performs miracles which would make St. Jerome, the patron saint of librarians, uncomfortable.

The latest medical achievement-to-be of Watson is described in “IBM and Under Armour Look to Transform Healthcare Tech.” I love the use of the words “look” and “transform.” Each is full of promise, hope.

Here’s the passage I highlighted in sunshine yellow:

Backed by IBM Watson, UA Record will serve as a personal health consultant, fitness trainer and assistant by providing athletes with timely, evidence-based coaching around sleep, fitness, activity and nutrition, including outcomes achieved based on others ‘like you’. A future version of the UA Record app powered by IBM Watson could be the first system to assess and combine a variety of factors that affect health and fitness programmes such as physiological and behavioural data, nutrition, expert training and environment.

And what does UA do to make money?

According to the company’s Web site:

These tools…provide the most comprehensive ecosystem of fitness products yet made.”

The tools complement the tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories for athletes and those who yearn to be athletes.

Watson is a versatile technology it seems. The only hitch in the git along is that the Web site of Watson’s new best pal appears to feature an Apple iPhone app. Well, perhaps Watson is on the job, just not yet front and center.

The IBM PR machine cares not. Watson it appears has a contribution to make in the shoe, undershirt, and unmentionable department. Ah, Watson, you are a frisky sort.

Stephen E Arnold, January 25, 2016

Microsoft Cortana Update Draws Users to Bing

January 22, 2016

The article titled Microsoft Updates Windows 10 Cortana With New Search Tools for Better Results on IB Times heralds the first good news for Bing in ages. The updates Microsoft implemented provide tremendous search power to users and focused search through a selection of filters. Previously, Cortana would search in every direction, but the filters enable a more targeted search for, say, applications instead of web results. The article explains,

“It’s a small change, but one that shows Microsoft’s dedication to making the assistant as useful as possible. Cortana is powered by Bing, so any improvements to the Windows 10 assistant will encourage more consumers to use Microsoft’s search engine. Microsoft made a big bet when it chose to deeply integrate Bing into Windows 10, and there is signs that it’s paying off. After the June 2015 Windows 10 launch, Bing attained profitability for the first time in October 2015.”

That positive note for Bing is deeply hedged on the company’s ability to improve mobile search, which has continued to grow as a major search platform while desktop search actually peaked, according to research. Microsoft launched Cortana on Android and iOS, but it is yet to be seen whether this was sufficient action to keep up the Bing momentum.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 22, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


A Death of Dark Web Weapons

January 20, 2016

President Obama recently announced some executive orders designed to curb gun violence; one of these moves, according to the U.S. Attorney General, specifically targets weapon purchases through the Dark Web.  However, Deep.Dot.Web asks, “Do People Really Buy Weapons from Dark Web Markets?” Not many of them, as it turns out. Reporter Benjamin Vitáris writes:

“Fast Company made an interview with Nicolas Christin, assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The professor is one of the researchers behind a recent deep-dive analysis of sales on 35 marketplaces from 2013 to early 2015. According to him, dark web gun sales are pretty uncommon: ‘Weapons represent a very small portion of the overall trade on anonymous marketplaces. There is some trade, but it is pretty much negligible.’ On the dark net, the most popular niche is drugs, especially, MDMA and marijuana, which takes around 25% of sales on the dark web, according to Christin’s analysis. However, weapons are so uncommon that they were put into the ‘miscellaneous’ category, along with drug paraphernalia, electronics, tobacco, viagra, and steroids. These together takes 3% of sales.”

Vitáris notes several reasons the Dark Web is not exactly a hotbed of gun traffic. For one thing, guns are  devilishly difficult to send through the mail. Then there’s the fact that, with current federal and state laws, buying a gun in person is easier than through dark web markets in most parts of the U.S.; all one has to do is go to the closest gun show. So, perhaps, targeting Dark Web weapon sales is not the most efficient thing we could do to keep guns away from criminals.


Cynthia Murrell, January 20, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

She Is a Meme Librarian

January 20, 2016

Memes are random bits of Internet culture that come and go faster than the highest DSL speed.  There are so many memes out there that it seems impossible to catalog the trends, much less each one.  The Independent tells us that Amanda Brennan has made a career out of studying and documenting memes, becoming the world’s first meme librarian: “Meet Tumblr’s ‘Meme Librarian,’ The Woman With The Best Job On The Internet.”

Brennan works at Tumblr and her official title is content and community manager, but she prefers the title “meme librarian.” She earned a Master’s in Information from Rutgers and during graduate school she documented memes for Know Your Meme, followed by Tumblr.

“[In graduate school] immediately I knew I did not want to work in a traditional library. Which is weird because people go to library school and they’re like ‘I want to change the world with books!’ And I was like ‘I want to change the world of information.’ And they started a social media specialization in the library school, and I was like, ‘This is it. This is the right time for me to be here.’”

Brennan is like many librarians, obsessed with taxonomy and connections between information.  The Internet gave her an outlet to explore and study to her heart’s content, but she was particularly drawn to memes, their origins, and how they traveled around the Internet.  After sending an email to Know Your Meme about an internship, her career as a meme librarian was sealed.  She tracks meme trends and discovers how they evolve not only in social media, but how the rest of the Internet swallows them up.

I wonder if this will be a future focus of library science in the future?


Whitney Grace, January 20, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Many Companies Worldwide Underprepared for Cyber Attacks

January 19, 2016

A recent survey from KPMG Capital suggests that only about half the world’s CEOs feel their companies are “fully prepared” to counter a cyber breach in the next three years. One notable exception: businesses in the U.S., where about ninety percent of CEOs feel their companies are ready to fend off hackers. We are not surprised that KPMG is gathering information on in the subject, since it recently took an equity stake in cyber-intelligence firm Norse Corp.

KPMG Australia comments on the survey’s results in its post, “Cyber Security: A Failure of Imagination.” The write-up relates:

“According to the 2015 KPMG CEO Outlook Study [PDF] of more than 1,200 CEOs, one out of five indicated that information security is the risk they are most concerned about. ‘Collectively we sleepwalked into a position of vulnerability when it comes to cyber,’ said Malcolm Marshall, Global Head of Cyber Security at KPMG. ‘This combination of lack of preparedness and concern, from those organizations that are among the best equipped to deal with risks of this magnitude, clearly illustrates cyber security challenges remain severely unaddressed.’”

A lack of skilled cyber-security workers seems to be a large part of the problem, particularly ones who also have management or social-science skills. However, we’re told the root cause here is the “failure to imagine” what hackers can do and might try before they’ve tried it. Clearly, many executives would do well to get themselves up to speed on the subject, before their companies fall victim.


Cynthia Murrell, January 19, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

AOL: A New Do for the Year of the Monkey

January 18, 2016

I read “AOL’s Identity Crisis: The Company May Ditch the AOL Brand.” I remember the flood of discs. I remember the hidden files thoughtfully placed on my hard drive when I installed America Online. I remember the Xoogler who bought his own local publishing outfit to reinvigorate AOL and, of course, his own local America Online. I remember Verizon buying AOL because, well, it could.

According to the write up:

one of AOL’s biggest priorities for the new year is figuring out its brand and investing in it, even if that means saying goodbye to the name “AOL” in favor of launching something completely new.

I learned that

Mark Ritson, a leading brand expert and marketing consultant, tells Business Insider that he also thinks the messy corporate brand definitely needs a clean up. AOL is tricky, he says, because it has very strong brand awareness, but that its image “has an unpalatable mix of being seen to be out of date and a business failure.”

No matter what name Verizon chooses, AOL will always evoke fond memories for me. The dial up modem, the chat groups, the fantastical email services.

So many memories. What ever happened to that Xoogler’s local news idea? Ah, it did not work out.

I look forward to the Yahooligans following AOL’s trajectory. Two new branding opportunities for the marketing consultants.

It is the year of the monkey too. Love those creatures.

Stephen E Arnold, January 18, 2016

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