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Dark Web Drug Merchant Shiny Flakes Fesses Up

July 14, 2016

Authorities know a bit more about how criminals buy and sell drugs on the dark web, thanks to the cooperation of a captured dealer. DarknetPages’ article, “Dark Web and Clearnet Drug Vendor ‘Shiny Flakes’ Confessed his Crimes,” reveals that the 20-year-old Shiny Flakes, aka Maximilian S., was found with a bevy of illegal drugs, cash, and packaging equipment in his German home. Somehow, the police eventually convinced him to divulge his methods. We learn:

“[Maximilian] actually tried to make money on the internet legally in 2013 by copying fee-based pornographic websites. The thing is that the competition was pretty strong and because of that, he abandoned his idea soon after. So instead of spending the 2 thousand EUR he had at the time on porn, he thought it would be a better idea to spend it on drugs. So he went on to purchase 30 g of cocaine and shrooms from a popular German darknet market dealer and then sold them for a higher price on the dark web….

“Shiny Flakes was really worried about the quality of the drugs he was selling and that is why he always kept an eye on forum posts and read everything that his buyers posted about them. In fact, he took things beyond the opinions on the dark web and actually sent the drugs for testing. The tests conducted were both legally and illegally, with the legal tests taking place at Spain’s Energy Control or at Switzerland’s Safer Party. However, it seems that Maximilian also got in touch with the University of Munich where his products were tested by researchers who were paid in cocaine.”

Sounds efficient. Not only was Mr. Flakes conscientious about product quality, he was also apparently a hard worker, putting in up to 16 hours a day on his business. If only he had stayed on the right side of the law when that porn thing didn’t work out. To give him credit, Flakes had every reason to think he would not be caught; he was careful to follow best practices for staying anonymous on the dark web. Perhaps it was his booming success, and subsequent hiring of associates, that led to Shiny Flakes’ downfall. Whatever the case, authorities are sure to follow up on this information.


Cynthia Murrell, July 14, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Big Data Diagram Reveals Database Crazy Quilt

July 7, 2016

I was cruising through the outputs of my Overflight system and spotted a write up with the fetching title “Big Data Services | @CloudExpo #BigData #IoT #M2M #ML #InternetOfThings.” Unreadable? Nah. Just a somewhat interesting attempt to get a marketing write up indexed by a Web search engine. Unfortunately humans have to get involved at some point. Thus, in my quest to learn what the heck Big Data is, I explored the content of the write up. What the article presents is mini summaries of slide decks developed by assorted mavens, wizards, and experts. I dutifully viewed most of the information but tired quickly as I moved through a truly unusual article about a conference held in early June. I assume that the “news” is that the post conference publicity is going to provide me with high value information in exchange for the time I invested in trying to figure out what the heck the title means.

I viewed a slide deck from an outfit called Cazena. You can view “Tech Primer: Big Data in the Cloud.” I want to highlight this deck because it contains one of the most amazing diagrams I have seen in months. Here’s the image:


Not only is the diagram enhanced by the colors and lines, the world it depicts is a listing of data management products. The image was produced in June 2015 by a consulting firm and recycled in “Tech Primer” a year later.

I assume the folks in the audience benefited from the presentation of information from mid tier consulting firms. I concluded that the title of the article is actually pretty clear.

I wonder, Is a T shirt is available with the database graphic? If so, I want one. Perhaps I can search for the strings “#M2M #ML.”

Stephen E Arnold, July 7, 2016

Smart Robots Just Want to Be Free

June 29, 2016

News from some nation states is, in the words of the millennial podcast, “actual factual.” A case in point is the second – yep, the second – news story about a robot with artificial intelligence. This particular robot, as referenced in the “it has to be true” story “An AI Robot Escapes Lab in Russia.” Here’s the passage I noted:

The company said that they are testing a new system that would allow the robot to avoid any collisions while it was operating by itself. However, the mistake was human when a gate was left open and the robot wandered into the street. He was gone for about 40 minutes. The Promobot interacts with people using speech recognition. It uses prerecorded responses, facial expressions, and a large screen to help talk to people. The company has said they hope that the robot will be used for promotions, guides, and tours. Promobot co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev is worried about its ability to break out and said, “I think we might have to dismantle it.”

Modifying the software appears to be an approach which is not part of the program. I was hoping that IBM Watson would help the folks who made Promobot IR77 come up with more newsworthy examples of cognitive solutions.

In the PR department, one cannot do better than IBM. Watson does not fall for pizza promotions.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Dark Web Hacking Site Changes Hands

June 29, 2016

Navigating the Dark Web can be a hassle, because many of the Web sites are shut down before you have the chance to learn what nefarious content, services, or goods are available.  Some of these sites go down on their own, but law enforcement had a part in dismantling them as well.  Some Dark Web sites are too big and encrypted to be taken down and sometimes they exchange hands, such as Silk Road and now Hell.  Motherboard explains that “Dark Web Hacking Forum ‘Hell’ Appears To Have New Owners.”

The Real Deal, a computer exploit market, claimed to take ownership of Hell, the hacking forum known for spreading large data dumps and stolen data.  Real Deal said of their acquisition:

“ ‘We will be removing the invite-only system for at least a week, and leave the “vetting” forum for new users,’ one of The Real Deal admins, who also used the handle The Real Deal, told Motherboard in an encrypted chat.  ‘It’s always nice to have a professional community that meets our market’s original niche, hopefully it will bring some more talent both to the market and to the forums,’ the admin continued. ‘And it’s no secret that we as admins would enjoy the benefit of ‘first dibs’ on buying fresh data, resources, tools, etc.’”

The only part of Hell that has new administrators is the forum due to the old head had personal reasons that required more attention.  Hell is one of the “steadier” Dark Web sites and it played a role in the Adult FriendFinder hack, was the trading place for Mate1 passwords, and hosted breaches from a car breathalyzer maker.

Standard news for the Dark Web, until the next shutdown and relaunch.


Whitney Grace, June 29, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Is the NSA Is Overwhelmed with Data?

June 28, 2016

US citizens are worried about their civil liberties being compromised by the National Security AgencyZDNet reports they might not need to be worried anymore in the article, “NSA Is So Overwhelmed With Data, It’s No Longer Effective, Says Whistleblower.”

William Binney is a former official from the National Security Agency (NSA) with thirty years under his belt.  Binney has been a civilian for fifteen years, but he is abhorred with the NSA.  He said the NSA is so engorged with data that it has lost its effectiveness and important intelligence is lost in the mess.  This is how the terrorists win.  Binney also shared that an NSA official could run a query and be overwhelmed with so much data they would not know where to start.

” ‘That’s why they couldn’t stop the Boston bombing, or the Paris shootings, because the data was all there,’ said Binney. Because the agency isn’t carefully and methodically setting its tools up for smart data collection, that leaves analysts to search for a needle in a haystack.  ‘The data was all there… the NSA is great at going back over it forensically for years to see what they were doing before that,’ he said. ‘But that doesn’t stop it.’”

The problems are worse across the other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and DEA.  Binney left the NSA one month after 9/11 and reported that the NSA uses an intrusive and expensive data collection system.   The mantra is “to collect it all”, but it is proving ineffective and expensive.  According to Binney, it is also taking away half the Constitution.

Binney’s statements remind me of the old Pokémon games.  The catchphrase for the franchise is “gotta catch ‘em all” and it was easy with 150 Pokémon along with a few cheat codes.  The games have expanded to over seven hundred monsters to catch, plus the cheat codes have been dismantled making it so overwhelming that the game requires endless hours just to level up one character.  The new games are an ineffective way to play, because it takes so long and there is just too much to do.  The NSA is suffering from too many Pokémon in the form of data.


Whitney Grace, June 28, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Self Driving Bicycle Prank Points to Wider Arena

June 24, 2016

Technology companies are no stranger to making April Fools’ pranks in the form of media releases. This year, The Inspiration Room shared an article highlighting the Google Self Driving Bicycle, which was of course developed by the Dutch and launched in the Netherlands. The aspect of this story that is not fiction is how often the Dutch cycle. This short post briefs us on the media release,

“Google is introducing the Google Self Driving Bicycle in Amsterdam, the world’s premier cycling city. The Dutch cycle more than any other nation in the world, almost 900 kilometres per year per person, amounting to over 15 billion kilometres annually. The self-driving bicycle enables safe navigation through the city for Amsterdam residents, and furthers Google’s ambition to improve urban mobility with technology. Google Netherlands takes enormous pride in the fact that a Dutch team worked on this innovation that will have great impact in their home country.”

If there’s one truth this article points to, it’s that the field of search seems to be encompassing nearly everything. It is humorous how Google continues to grow new tentacles tackling more and more arenas that have seemingly little to do with search. Despite the fact this self-driving bicycle does not exist yet, it’s clearly no stretch of the imagination — if a company were to make such a product, would there be any other contenders for who would make it?


Megan Feil, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Luciad Data Visualization and Situational Awareness Is Like an Over Stimulated Google Maps

June 21, 2016

The promotional article on Luciad titled Luciad V2016 Puts Users at the Center of Technical Innovation discusses the data fusion product from the global software company emphasizing situational awareness systems for Aviation, Defense and Security markets. 50,000+ people have viewed the 3D browser technology via the web app launched in 2015 that shows the breathtaking capacity to track and visualize moving data in the form of 35,000 international flights. The article states,

“Luciad’s software components are designed for the creation of applications that tackle a range of tasks, from top-level strategy to tactical detail and mission planning to operations debriefing. By connecting directly to data sources, Luciad’s software not only analyzes and visualizes what is happening now, but also helps predict what will happen next – allowing users to act quickly and safely. “Connect, visualize, analyze, act” is both our method and our motto.”

The LuciadFusion technology product features include the ability to fuse and serve multi-dimensional and multi-layered formats as well as multi-dimensional raster data, which applies to weather data. If you thought Google Maps was cool, this technology will blow you away. The developers were very interested in the aesthetic quality of the technology, and richness of the imaging makes that focus crystal clear.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 21, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Public Opinion of Dark Web May Match Media Coverage

June 17, 2016

A new survey about the Dark Web was released recently. Wired published an article centered around the research, called Dark Web’s Got a Bad Rep: 7 in 10 People Want It Shut Down, Study Shows. Canada’s Center for International Governance Innovation surveyed 24,000 people in 24 countries about their opinion of the Dark Web. The majority of respondents, 71 percent across all countries and 72 percent of Americans, said they believed the “dark net” should be shut down. The article states,

“CIGI’s Jardine argues that recent media coverage, focusing on law enforcement takedowns of child porn sites and bitcoin drug markets like the Silk Road, haven’t improved public perception of the dark web. But he also points out that an immediate aversion to crimes like child abuse overrides mentions of how the dark web’s anonymity also has human rights applications. ‘There’s a knee-jerk reaction. You hear things about crime and its being used for that purpose, and you say, ‘let’s get rid of it,’’ Jardine says.”

We certainly can attest to the media coverage zoning in on the criminal connections with the Dark Web. We cast a wide net tracking what has been published in regards to the darknet but many stories, especially those in mainstream sources emphasize cybercrime. Don’t journalists have something to gain from also publishing features revealing the aspects the Dark Web that benefit investigation and circumvent censorship?


Megan Feil, June 17, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Dark Web Drug Sales Go on Despite One Marketplace Down

June 16, 2016

Another Dark Web drug marketplace has gone offline, at least for now. Vice’s Motherboard published an article that reports on this incident and offers insight into its larger implications in their piece, Dark Web Market Disappears, Users Migrate in Panic, Circle of Life Continues. Nucleus market mostly sold illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. Now, the site is unresponsive and has made no announcements regarding downtime or a return. The article hypothesizes about why Nucleus is down,

“At the moment, it’s not totally clear why Nucleus’s website is unresponsive. It could be an exit scam—a scam where site administrators stop allowing users to withdraw their funds and then disappear with the stockpile of bitcoins. This is what happened with Evolution, one of the most successful marketplaces, in March 2015. Other examples include Sheep Marketplace, from 2013, and more recently BlackBank Market. Perhaps the site was hacked by a third party. Indeed, Nucleus claimed to be the targetof a financially motivated attack last year. Or maybe the administrators were arrested, or the site is just suffering some downtime.”

The Dark Web poses an interesting case study around the concept of a business lifecycle. As the article suggests, this graph reveals the brief, and staggered, lifetimes of dark web marketplaces. Users know they will be able to find their favorite vendors selling through other channels. It appears the show, and the sales, must go on.

Megan Feil, June 16, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Murdoch Wall Street Journal Factiva: Known Unknowns

June 10, 2016

That Donald Rumsfeld statement about known knowns, known unknowns, etc. Is back. The Wall Street Journal ran an ad for Factiva. You remember Factiva. It is the Dow Jones Information Service repositioned and renamed a number of times over the last 15 or 20 years.

If you are into for fee search, you will know about Factiva and its kissing cousins: LexisNexis (bring your legal client’s purchase order), CSA ProQuest Dialog (bring your library acquisition budget), and Ebsco (bring your credit card). For fee information services serve the professional searcher market. Most people — including Gen X and Millennials researchers — are happy with Google. Objective results every time.

The for-fee services are still around. Public library and university fund raising programs help pay for access. Some queries returning zero useful results can cost $100 or more. Hey, you didn’t know, right?

If you navigate to the June 2, 2016, Wall Street Journal, page A7 in my dead tree edition ran a full page ad for Factiva. The ad highlights a couple of pie charts. Here they are in a tough to read gray and blue motif. Users of commercial database services have really sharp eyes and don’t need high contrast text, right?

The first pie chart shows your life consumed with research. Notice how little time one has to eat lunch. Note what a tiny portion of one’s day is available for email, Facebook, talking with colleagues, making sales calls, printing, the youth soccer telephone tree.


Now look at the second chart.


Look at the many different tasks one can undertake in a single work day. One can, of course, “take lunch.” I eat lunch, but that’s because here in rural Kentucky, we “eat” a meal. We make decisions. Apparently in Factiva land one takes a meal and probably takes decisions.

Other tasks one can pursue when one has Factiva are:

  • Collaborating across departments
  • Advise colleagues
  • Stay on top of the news (Hey, it is part of that real journalism outfit owned by Mr. Murdoch. No bugging telephones, please.)
  • Create a company newsletter. (I assume this word is “blog”, a Snapchat, or a tweet, but I could be off base.)
  • Build powerful infographics. (Hmmm. I thought art types created infographics based on the data generated by a business intelligence system.)
  • Research. Yes via Factiva.

Now I know that I am really out of the flow. The diagram showing the different between Baby Boomers and Millennials created by ace research analyst Mary Meeker reminded me of the gulf between my demographic and the zippy millennials.


Slide 51 from the Meeker, State of the Internet report.

The main point for me is that I possess zero of the attributes of millennials. I don’t earn to spend. I am retired. I conserve to pay for the old age home which I believe millennials call “opportunities for bingo.”

But the best part of the Factiva ad is the copy. I know words. Those nifty pie charts were the cat’s pajamas, weren’t they?

Here’s the guts of the message:

Spend your day working, not searching. Factiva’s reputable sources, flexible search and powerful insights provide access to thousands of quality, licensed, news and information sources in 28 languages. Know unknowns. [Emphasis added]

If Ms. Meeker is correct in her research and the supporting information from Hillhouse Capital and dozens of what appear to be primary sources and many hours of online searching commercial and Web resources — messaging apps are where the future is. Oh, there are videos too, but the takeaway is that traditional methods of getting digital information are in the same spot newspapers were yesterday.

The ad warrants several questions:

  • Why does it have to be so darned big? Maybe small ads in the Wall Street Journal are ignored?
  • How many of the Wall Street Journal’s readers are information specialists trained in the use of commercial online services? Judging from the Special Library Association’s challenges, I would suggest that the ad would have made sense to the corporate information specialist working in 1986, not 2016.
  • What’s with the wonky pie charts? When I worked at a commercial database company, I don’t recall meeting any online users who spent the bulk of every day online. There were reference interviews (remember them, millennials?), culling the outputs from dot matrix printers, and planning search strategies before going online and whacking away.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s statement about knowns and unknowns emerged from his brush with the murky world of government related information. If he were to use Factiva today, would he have modified this famous statement:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Perhaps Factiva, like IBM Watson, is easier to describe than turn an information search system into a lean, mean, money making machine? I would suggest that the answer for decades has been an unknown unknown.

Stephen E Arnold, June 10, 2016

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