HonkinNews Returns as Dark Cyber

November 17, 2017

On November 21, 2017, HonkinNews returns. The new look and approach focuses on the less visible products and services associated with the Internet. The new series is called “Dark Cyber.” The program has a new look while retaining the fact-and-opinion approach in the original HonkinNews series. HonkinNews Dark Cyber draws its information from the content in the free blog Beyond Search and from the research conducted for Stephen E Arnold’s CyberOSINT and Dark Web Notebook monographs. For information about Dark Web Notebook, click this link. Watch for the YouTube link for Dark Cyber on November 21, 2017.

Kenny Toth, November 17, 2017

Google and Its Plague of Evil Unicorns

November 17, 2017

Real journalists are Google’s picadors. I read “Inside Google’s Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking New.” I almost feel the bull’s pain. “Who are these pointy word wielders anyway?”

The answer is Bloomberg, the “real” news outfit.

I learned from the write up:

“Evil unicorns” — a term some Google engineers once coined, according to a former executive — are unverified posts on obscure topics, full of lies.

Okay. The write up added:

For years, Google fought and won a similar battle with spammers, content farms and so-called search engine optimization experts over which web pages should be shown at the top of search results. But these latest web manipulators are causing greater havoc by targeting a slightly different part of Google — its real-time news and video results. They’re exploiting a weakness that cuts to the core of Google’s main proposition: Delivering trusted information online.

I like the assumption that Google results were different somehow in the past. Ah, the fog of memory and time.

I noted this statement:

…vetting news sources is an unwelcome task. Critics have ripped into Google and Facebook for categorizing certain publications, and not others, as news. It’s a political mire Google’s search unit is very reluctant to wade into.

Well, who can vet news? Maybe “real” journalists? Of course.

Stephen E Arnold, November 17, 2017

Ichan Makes It Easier to Access the Dark Web

November 17, 2017

A new search engine for the Dark Web may make that shady side of the Internet accessible to more people. A piece at DarkWebNews introduces us to “Ichidan: A New Darknet Search Engine.” Writer Richard tells us:

Ichidan is a brand new darknet search engine platform that lets users search and access Tor-powered ‘.onion’ sites. The format and interface of the platform bear much similitude with the conventional search engines like Bing and Google. However, the darknet search engine has been designed with an entirely different purpose. While Google was created with the aim of collecting user information and analyzing the behavior across several platforms, Ichidan specifically aims to render selfless services to the users who access the darknet and are looking for some particular Tor site to get the necessary information. Owing to its simplicity and ease of use, the darknet search engine has now managed to be an incredibly helpful tool for individuals using the dark web. Security research professionals, for instance, are quite happy with the services of this new darknet search engine.

The article notes that one way to use Ichan seems to be to pinpoint security vulnerabilities on Dark Web sites. A side effect of the platform’s rise is, perhaps ironically, its revelation that the number of Dark Web marketplaces has shrunk dramatically. Perhaps the Dark Web is no longer such a good place for criminals to do business as it once was.

Cynthia Murrell, November 17, 2017

Toronto Is the City of the Future

November 17, 2017

Canada is regarded as a calm, nice country that enjoys hockey and maple syrup.  It is not seen as a technology bastion, but Google’s Larry Page decided to make Toronto a digital innovation says the San Francisco Gate in “Larry Page’s Urban Innovation Unit Picks Toronto For First Digital Neighborhood.”

Page dubbed Toronto is now dubbed the “city of the future” (sorry Disney and Tomorrowland).  Alphabet Inc. and Waterfront Toronto plan to build a technology-friendly community along Lake Ontario.  The city will incorporate green energy systems, self-driving transportation, and construction techniques that will lower housing costs.  The new city of the future has been on the drawing board for ten years.  With its construction, Eric Schmidt expressed that the goal is it will improve human lives.

Sidewalk Toronto will dedicate $50 million to planning the project, which will begin with a new neighborhood called Quayside and eventually extend into the Eastern Waterfront, more than 800 acres in one of North America’s largest undeveloped urban parcels. Google’s Canadian headquarters will relocate to the development from the west end to support the project.

Toronto is in the midst of a technology boom, startups are popping up all over the place, and AI research has received increased funding from the government.  The hope is that the new community will help combat the city’s housing crunch.

All we can do is wait and see if Toronto really does become a model city for the future.

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2017

Palantir and Google: Surprising Allegation from St Louis

November 16, 2017

I read “Thiel Gave Money to Missouri Attorney General Going after Google.” The article reports:

Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Donald Trump’s presidential run, gave $300,000 to a political campaign of Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general who opened an antitrust investigation into Google this week.

My reaction was, “Is there a connection between this donation and the investigation of Google by Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general?”

The article appears to make this connection. I am not so quick to seize upon this implication. From my point of view, without more factual information, the story leaves me as cold as a catfish pulled from the Crooked River.

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2017

Fake Hitman Dark Web Site Rakes in the Bitcoin

November 16, 2017

No one can accuse these scammers of not going all in. Motherboard reports, “This Fake Hitman Site Is the Most Elaborate, Twisted Dark Web Scam Yet.” Reporter Joseph Cox describes the almost-certainly fake hitman-services website Besa Mafia. He writes:

Although many already suspected the site was a sham, Risk Based Security reported last week that supposedly hacked data shining more light on its behind-the-scenes dealings had been posted online. Included in that dump were alleged lists of ‘hitmen,’ photos of targets customers had uploaded, orders made on the site, and a large cache of messages purportedly between users and site admins.

Although the site is almost definitely a scam—and a seemingly profitable one at that—the sheer effort its creators have gone to puts Besa Mafia head and shoulders above just about anything else on the dark web.”

Yes, to protect its stream of bitcoin profit (apparently about $23,000 by the time of the data dump), the site admins literally threaten to burn the cars of those who give them negative reviews. Less dramatically, they also seem to be seeding the Dark Web with positive reviews of their own non-existent services

Another interesting point from the data dump—in a hedge, the website has been supplying information on would-be clients and contractors to law enforcement. The article reports:

In one message from the dump, the admin writes that the site not only cheats people out of their bitcoin; it also provides information to law enforcement about ordered hits. ‘This website is to scam criminals of their money. We report them for 2 reasons: to stop murder, this is moral and right; to avoid being charged with conspiracy to murder or association to murder, if we get caught,’ the admin writes.

They certainly thought this through. See the article for more details on this fake purveyor of violent services.

Cynthia Murrell, November 16, 2017

Proprietary Software Cheats Users

November 16, 2017

Cory Doctorow is an outspoken defender of net neutrality, technology education, and user rights.  He has written and spoken about these subjects and shares his opinion on BoingBoing.  The science-fiction magazine Locus recently published one of his new essays,“Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World.”  Doctorow discusses how software can be programmed to take out the human factor of like and steer things in favor of corporations who want to gobble down dollars.

Cheating is a well-established enterprise that originated long before the digital revolution, but it is getting smarter as technology advances.  While in the past it was cheating was more of a danger from outside forces, it is now nestled within the very things we own.

The software allows companies and literally anyone with the know how to cheat you out of money or precious time.  Rather than cheat en masse, the cheating is coming to your home because it is so much easier to infiltrate the individual now.  Even scarier is when he uses an alchemy metaphor, explaining how alchemists were cut-rate lab technicians who believed spirits, God, and demons influenced their experiments.  The technology used for cheating has a similar demonic presence and that is not even the worst factor.

Doctorow pulls out his trump card when he explains how outdated technology laws from the 20th century still had standing today when it is more than obvious they need to be repealed:

What’s worse, 20th-century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st-century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service. Logging into a website under a fake ID to see if it behaves differently depending on who it is talking to is thus a potential felony, provided that doing so is banned in the small-print clickthrough agreement when you sign up.


Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work. Since all software is copyrightable, and since every smart gadget contains software, this allows manufacturers to threaten jail-terms for anyone who modifies their tractors to accept third-party carburetors (just add a software-based check to ensure that the part came from John Deere and not a rival), or changes their phone to accept an independent app store, or downloads some code to let them choose generic insulin for their implanted insulin pump.

Follow Doctorow’s advice, read, test, learn, and just combat ignorance.

Whitney Grace, November 16, 2017

Google Tries to Explain How to Make Another Google

November 15, 2017

Here’s the headline which snagged my attention: “How to Build the Next Google, According to a Google Executive.” In my three monographs about Google, I learned that Google was a result of several missteps and circumstances which Sergey Brin and Larry Page were able to seize upon. The exogenous factors I documented included:

  • The Clever method which IBM did nothing to commercialize
  • AltaVista’s unhappy campers who were looking for new gig
  • Yahoo and other “search” services bumbling and portal craziness
  • An understanding university
  • A vision for making information accessible on Web servers to users with modest expectations for precision, recall, timeliness, etc.

Google was in the right place at the right time, and it was able to obtain some cash from a Silicon Valley money guru. The company’s efforts to sell itself were going nowhere until the bright idea for standing on the shoulders of GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo ignited the online ad money machine. The rest, after the 2004 settlement with Yahoo over an intellectual property issue, has become the success story MBAs love. Well, it was until Facebook came along.

The Fortune article disappointed me. The Google story was not complete in my opinion. The scalable business model referenced in the article was not Google’s. Google emulated the pay for play and perfected putting ads in front of people who used certain key words. As I stated, this was the GoTo (later Overture) revolution.

The write up reports:

The idea of changing the world isn’t at odds with making a buck, Felten (a Googler) said. In fact, the latter is usually necessary. “If you want to solve really large problems in the world, unless it’s a sustainable business, it probably won’t scale,” she said. “So, finding those things where there’s both profit and purpose is sort of our sweet spot.”

Too bad Fortune did not probe into the exogenous factors which allowed Google to generate billions. But in the world of business mythmaking and the “you can do it” advice sought by would be billionaires, cooking up tips which provide the path to success is okay.

By the way, after 20 years, what percentage of Google’s revenues come from the GoTo, Overture, Yahoo online advertising model? Look it up, gentle reader. That means that Google itself has not been able to move beyond the Steve Ballmer analysis of a “one trick pony.” High school science projects do not seem to become scalable businesses. I admit there may be some buyers for the solution to death. But that seems to be just out of reach like Loon balloons providing comprehensive mobile service to the island of Puerto Rico.

Note to Googlers and Xooglers: Put your comments in the comments section of this blog. Don’t email me unless you have read The Google Legacy, Google Version 2, and Google: The Digital Gutenberg. Just a modest request.

Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2017

Dark Web Predator Awaits Sentencing

November 15, 2017

Here we have one of the darker corners of the Dark Web. A brief but disturbing article at the UK’s Birmingham Mail reports, “Birmingham University Academic Dr Matthew Falder Led Horrific Dark Web Double Life as ‘666devil’.” The 28-year-old academic in question has pled guilty to 137 charges, most if not all, it seems, of vile crimes against children. Reporter James Cartledge writes:

Since 2010, the geophysicist, who worked at Birmingham University till September, had degraded and humiliated more than 50 victims online using the names ‘666devil’ and ‘evilmind’. … He admitted the offences at a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday. He was arrested on June 21 this year and has been held in custody since that date. Falder, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, posed as a woman on sites such as Gumtree to trick his victims into sending him naked or partially-clothed images of themselves. The disgraced geophysicist then threatened to expose his victims if they did not send severe and depraved abuse images of themselves. He then distributed the images.

It gets worse from there. We’re told this is the first time the UK’s National Crime Agency had delved into the Dark Web’s hidden forums that share and discuss such “dark” material. Falder is scheduled to be sentenced on December 7 and shall remain in custody in the meantime.

Cynthia Murrell, November 15, 2017

Microsoft Does Not Make Renault Go Vroom Vroom

November 15, 2017

In the formula one racing world, Renault was performing poorly.  Then Google stepped in, poured its artificial intelligence technology into Renault’s gas tanks, and bragged about how the formula one team is underperforming.  In a PR blunder, The Register shares how Microsoft boasted about helping Renault in last place, “Microsoft’s AI Is So Good It Steered Renault Into Bottom Of The F1 League.”

We all know that Microsoft likes to be the best of the best and they like to brag about their success, but sometimes the company really needs to keep its mouth shut.  Microsoft sang its own praises when it explained how they helped the Renault Formula 1 racing team achieve its current seventh-place standing.  How did they help achieve this honor?  By using none other than Azure Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, Dynamics 365, and other Microsoft software to bolster the racing team.

Renault said that being seventh is “pole position in our world.”  They employ Microsoft’s technology to analyze data from thousands of sensor channels and to analyze vehicle performance.

The idea, says Microsoft, is to use the machine learning to perform calculations and analysis that would otherwise take up the time of a team of engineers.


Additionally, the Windows giant says the Renault design team is using its HoloLens augmented reality platform to study and improve car and engine designs – something that d’Imbleval sees not only more successful Formula One teams, but also the fans themselves, taking up in the coming years.

The article then explains that in the future fans will be able to wear HoloLens and have access to the same data as the drivers.  Interesting thought, but Nascar is already doing something similar.  Also bragging about the seventh place is not the best way to upset your software Microsoft.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2017

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