Facebook: Friends Are Useful

April 16, 2019

I read “Mark Zuckerberg Leveraged Facebook User Data to Fight Rivals and Help Friends, Leaked Documents Show.” I must admit I was going to write about Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind’s smart software which classified the fire in Paris in a way that displayed links to the 9/11 attack. I then thought, “Why not revisit Microsoft’s changing story about how much user information was lost via the email breach?” But I settled on a compromise story. Facebook allegedly loses control of documents. This is a security angle. The document reveal how high school science club management methods allegedly behave.

According to CNBC:

Facebook would reward favored companies by giving them access to the data of its users. In other cases, it would deny user-data access to rival companies or apps.

If true, the statement does not surprise me. I was in my high school science club, and I have a snapshot of our fine group of outcasts, wizards, and crazy people. Keep in mind: I was one of these exemplars of the high school.

Let’s put these allegedly true revelations in context:

  1. Facebook has amassed a remarkable track record in the last year
  2. Google, a company which contributed some staff to Facebook, seems to have some interesting behaviors finding their way into the “real news” media; for example, senior management avoiding certain meetings and generally staying out of sight
  3. Microsoft, a firm which dabbled in monopoly power, is trying to figure out how to convert its high school science club management methods in its personnel department to processes which match some employees’ expectations for workplace behavior.

What’s the view from Harrod’s Creek? Like the Lyft IPO and subsequent stock market performance, the day of reckoning does not arrive with a bang. Nope. The day creeps in on cat’s feet. The whimpering may soon follow.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2019


Business Intelligence: Some Worst Practices

April 16, 2019

AI has the business intelligence field booming, but not every company uses these tools as well as they could. ITWeb shares a white paper titled, “The Top Five Worst Practices in Business Intelligence,” produced by Information Builders. We wonder—why only five? Oh well, perhaps there will be a sequel. The paper’s introduction states:

“Companies of all sizes suffer from countless oversights and poor judgment calls during planning, tool selection, and rollout – mistakes that can be detrimental to BI success. Even the smartest, best-run businesses in the world commit the common missteps that doom BI projects to shelfware and failure.

The worst practices have been shaped by subjective methods. Accurate? Judge for yourself.

The first worst practice listed is Depending on Humans to Operationalize Insights; be sure analytics are embedded alongside insights, we’re warned. Next is Expecting Self-Service BI to Address All Your Needs. Though some users can make use of self-service BI, advanced users need more flexibility, while executives require summaries and alerts. Then we have Underestimating the Importance of Data Preparation, which we agree cannot be over emphasized. (The old adage garbage-in-garbage-out comes to mind.) At number four is Using Tactical BI Tools to Support Broad BI Strategies—a hodgepodge of specific tools will fail to address the needs of the larger organization; both discovery tools and summary apps are required. Finally, Ignoring Important Data Sources rounds out the list; specifically, we’re told:

“BI initiatives tend to focus on the information contained in ERP and CRM applications, relational databases, data warehouses and marts, and other enterprise systems. However, important other data sources, such as machine-generated, mobile, location, social media, and web monitoring data, which contain a wealth of crucial insight, have emerged. Today, IDC estimates that as much as 90 percent of available content is unstructured, residing in various formats and places.”

See the white paper, downloadable for free here, for more details on each point. It is worth noting the paper concludes by promoting Information Builders’ own platform, WebFOCUS, to guard against such mistakes. Still, the list could be helpful if taken with that salt grain.

Is business intelligence an oxymoron?

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2019

DarkCyber for April 16, 2019, Now Available

April 16, 2019

DarkCyber for April 16, 2019, is now available at www.arnoldit.com/wordpress and on Vimeo at https://www.vimeo.com/330298628 .

The program is a production of Stephen E Arnold. It is the only weekly video news shows focusing on the Dark Web, cybercrime, and lesser known Internet services.

This week’s story line up includes… The LAPD’s review of Palantir Technologies; Australia’s forceful social media crackdown; Russia blocks virtual private networks; and X1 offer social eDiscovery.

This week’s feature continues DarkCyber’s review of the Los Angeles Police Department’s audit of its data-driven policing programs. In the second part of this series we look at the LAPD’s assessment of Palantir Technologies’ platform. The Palantir system provides a platform for integrating and analyzing data for the department’s identification of chronic offenders. The audit revealed that the program provided officers with a useful tool for reducing certain types of crimes. However, the challenge for the department is to provide the Palantir platform with more accurate and consistent data.

Other stories in the DarkCyber video include:

Australia’s crack down on US social media companies continues. In addition to fines, the country proposes mandatory three-year prison terms for offenders. The country, like New Zealand, is a member of the Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing group. Legislation in Australia often provides a model for similar legislation in Canada, Britain, and the United States.

Russia’s government has taken steps to prohibit the use of virtual private networks. This technology makes it more difficult for law enforcement and intelligence professionals to monitor Russian citizens’ communications. More than a half dozen VPN providers have been blocked by Russian Internet Service Providers. Crackdowns on obfuscation technologies is another example of the “Chinafication” of communications and privacy.

Software designed to compromise adults’ and children’s mobile phones is being distributed via the Google Play store. The mechanism Google uses to prevent compromised software or malware from being available on its electronic store for Android users has allowed thousands of individuals to install these programs. One government is alleged to have used the Google Play Store as a way to gain access to personal contacts and confidential information.

X1, a vendor of keyword search and retrieval, has introduced a version of its software tailored to social media eDiscovery. Founded in 2003, X1 allows a lawyer or investigator to search for people, places, events, and other content across a collection of open source data provided by X1 for a starting fee of $2,000. The eDiscovery product joins a growing list of investigative tools, including the personal investigative tool Hunchly which starts at $129 per year.

Kenny Toth, April 16, 2019

Amazonia for April 15, 2019

April 15, 2019

An interesting week in Amazon’s ebookstore. Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter contains many nuggets. The one DarkCyber found thought provoking was also noted by ZDNet. “In Amazon Shareholder Letter, Bezos Says AWS Targeting Specialized Databases for Specialized Workloads”, I noted this passage:

AWS itself – as a whole – is an example. No one asked for AWS. No one. Turns out the world was in fact ready and hungry for an offering like AWS but didn’t know it. We had a hunch, followed our curiosity, took the necessary financial risks, and began building – reworking, experimenting, and iterating countless times as we proceeded.

ZDNet’s story adds:

From there, Bezos drops a few lines that make AWS a bit of an obsession for Oracle, a database giant. Bezos said the AWS army of databases has been informed by enterprise customers “constrained by their commercial database options and had been unhappy with their database providers for decades.

The idea is that outfits like Oracle Database, IBM DB2,  and to some degree Microsoft with its SQLServer construct have offered an engine. Happy licensees and database administrators would dutifully write scripts and use vendor-certified tools.

The future, as DarkCyber understands it, is many different databases, each with different capabilities. Once these are in the AWS environment, AWS developers and their customers can pick a tool and get on with real work.

Want SQL? Amazon has Aurora. Want to make Elasticsearch grunt through log files? AWS can do that with its own stretchy search engine and log file tools. Want to do Googley-things? AWS offers DynamoDB.

Other points:

  • Third party resellers are making money even though Amazon could fall behind in the revenue and profit department
  • Amazon wants, needs, has to fail
  • Pesky customers don’t know what they want
  • Amazon is not big in retail
  • Amazon has raised its minimum wage so the competition can follow the leader.

Chug, chug, chug goes the Bezos bulldozer. Like some big machines, sometimes ants, jaguars, and the odd competitor gets crushed.

JEDI Squash Game: Final Match

Amazon and Microsoft are the finalists in the squash game for the JEDI contract. Microsoft got some love with its virtual reality award. Plus many DoD professionals cannot live without PowerPoint. Amazon has some government work too. GeekWire reports:

it will be interesting to see how public the companies are willing to be in pursuit of the deal.

Yes, it will be interesting. For the government, for the companies, and for the lawyers representing the outfit which loses the contract.

AWS Deep Learning Containers

Containers make it easy to put related stuff in one place. The holiday ornaments go in Box A, and the old kitchen items go in box 2. Amazon’s deep learning containers are smarter. InfoQ reveals:

AWS DL [Docker] Containers were created by Amazon to remove the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” for customers who regularly use Amazon EKS and ECS to deploy their TensorFlow workloads to the cloud. Amazon has also optimized the images for use on AWS to reduce training time and increase inferencing performance.

You can read the Amazon write up at this link. The main idea is that setting up and doing smart software is getting easier, better, faster, cheaper (allegedly). Just fill in the blanks:


Want more? Search Amazon for cloud. Helpful tip.

Building Bridges to Oman

Amazon visited Oman.The subject of the visit was sales and probably some chatter about other Amazon services. Was policeware on the agenda? DarkCyber does not know. According to Zawya, the reason for the meeting was:

to explore the investment opportunities in the field of information and communication technology and eCommerce as well as identifying the promising markets in the Sultanate.

Ecommerce was a focal point. Policeware? Not mentioned in the source report.

First, It Was Hollywood. Now It Is Big Oil

The Brownsville Herald reported:

Amazon is getting cozy with the oil industry — and some employees aren’t happy about it…

The company is now courting oil producers to Amazon Web Services, which offers cloud computing services to government agencies and major companies, such as video-streaming service Netflix and digital scrapbooking site Pinterest. AWS is one of Amazon’s biggest money makers, accounting for more than 70% of Amazon’s total profit last year.

What’s the angle? Amazon sells its data analytics and other services to Shell and BP. Amazon wants more big oil customers. Is an employee protest percolating?

More Robotics

Business Insider, an outfit seemingly desperate for email addresses and money, reported that Amazon acquired Canvas Technology. The Colorado robot shop makes a robot cart. The cart “carts”. Robots do not require bathroom breaks, meals, or psychological counseling yet.

Amazon Employees Want Climate Change Policies

Herald and News reported that Amazon is into wind energy. But Amazon employees want more climate action from Amazon. This is not save Amazon the company. This is save Amazon the jungle. The newspaper said:

In an unprecedented public push to change Amazon policies, nearly 4,500 employees have put their names to a letter asking CEO Jeff Bezos and the commerce giant’s board of directors to become global leaders in fighting climate change.

Now about the big boxes to send little products? No information, but Amazon has signed three wind farm deals. Those megawatts come online by 2021, In the meantime, chug chug chug does the bulldozer which runs on diesel fuel.

Partner and Developer Quick Clicks

Some items which provide some information about the growing reach of Amazon is the community of vendors of which most people have never heard:

  • Napatech. A line of FPGA (floating point gate array) hardware for Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. The “solution” provides network encryption and description. Source: PR Newswire
  • Prancer. A new cloud validation framework. This is a connector to make it possible to check up on Amazon AWS if you are a client of the bulldozer. Source: Yahoo Finance
  • ZephyrTel. A strategic collaboration with Amazon AWS. Source: Business Wire on Yahoo
Amazon Cash Pivot

The no people, no cash approach may not be working. Pesky humans and their resistance to change. Yahoo reported that Amazon’s automated stores may start accepting cash. Soon. Source: Yahoo

Amazon: Now a VC Broker

CNBC reported in “AWS Bets on Services Portfolio Amidst Increasing APAC Cloud Competition”:

Amazon is testing a new way to bolster its relationship with start-ups and possibly bring in more capital to the ecosystem. The fledgling effort, known as the Amazon Web Services Pro-Rata Program, is designed to link private investors with companies that use AWS, as well as venture funds whose portfolios are filled with potential cloud customers. Amazon is not investing money through the program.

Didn’t Mr. Bezos work on Wall Street? He probably is no longer influenced by that work. What do you think?

One More Thing…

Apple Insider reports that Bezos bulldozer operators listen to Echo audio. For the allegedly true real news story navigate to “Thousands of Amazon Workers Are Listening In On Echo Audio, Report Says.” We believe reports.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2019

Where Can AI Get Its Smarts? How about Prison?

April 15, 2019

The DarkCyber team did not fabricate the story “Inmates Are Training AI As Part Prison Labor Tasks.” I noted this passage:

An unusual type of prison labor has been introduced for inmates in Finland’s jails: training artificial intelligence. This is based around categorizing data which is used to train artificial intelligence algorithms for a startup company.


Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2019

Microsoft: More Security Excitement

April 15, 2019

I read “Microsoft Informs Hackers Had Accessed Some Outlook Account Emails for Months.” The write up reports:

Microsoft has revealed that a hacker had access to the email addresses, folder names, and subject lines of emails, but not the content of emails or attachments of the Outlook users for three months.

That’s 90 days. Windows Defender was, I assume, on the job. The good news is that the bad actor was not able to read emails. The hacker wasn’t able “to steal login details of other personal information.” That’s good news too. Plus, Microsoft has “disabled the credentials used in the hack.”

Whoa, Nellie.

Windows Defender and presumably one or more of the companies offering super smart, super capable security services were protecting the company. I am besieged each week with requests to read white papers, participate in webinars, and get demonstrations of one of the hundreds of cyber security systems available today. These range from outfits which have former NSA, FBI, and CIA specialists monitoring their clients’ systems to companies that offer systems based on tireless artificially intelligence, proactive, predictive technology. Humans get involved only when the super system sends an alert. The idea is that every possible approach to security is available.

Microsoft can probably afford several systems and can use its own crack programmers to keep the company safe. Well, one caveat is that the programmers working on Windows 10 updates are probably not likely to be given responsibility for mission critical Microsoft security. Windows 10 updates are often of questionable quality.

A handful of questions occur to me:

  1. Perhaps Microsoft’s security expertise is not particularly good. Maybe on a par with the Windows 10 October 2018 update?
  2. Maybe Windows Defender cannot defend?
  3. Perhaps the over hyped, super capable cyber security systems do not work either?

Net net: With many well funded companies offering cyber security and big outfits entrusted by their customers with their data, are the emperors going to their yoga classes naked? Ugh. Horrible thought, but it may be accurate. At least put on some stretchy pants, please.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2019

Google and Kiddie Data Allegations

April 15, 2019

I read a compelling essay published in TribLive. The title? “Protect Kids from Google Predators.” The short write up does a good job of identifying the basic mechanism for collecting information about students. Here’s a passage I noted:

Google now has 80 million educators and students around the world using G Suite for Education, 40 million students and teachers in Google Classroom and 30 million more using Google Chromebooks inside and outside the classroom.

The data collection is ubiquitous, just like other Google functions. These intercept and logging functions are baked into the system. As Google staff turns over, the specifics of some of these fundamental plumbing and utility services are like services buried in Windows 10 and Word. Fish don’t understand water; users don’t understand a non-Google environment.

The write up adds:

K-12 children in tens of thousands of schools began the academic year by lining up at the library to create Gmail accounts and Google Classroom logins without parental notification or permission. There’s no escape: No Google, no access. No access, no education. “Hell, some of the teachers don’t even teach the kids,” one parent complained to me. Instead, they “watch videos on Canvas or on their Chromebooks. Canvas (by Instructure) is one of myriad “learning management systems” that stores students’ grades, homework assignments, videos, quizzes and tests — all integrated with almighty, all-powerful, omniscient Google. Google apps such as ClassDojo collect intimate behavioral data and long-term psychological profiles encompassing family information, personal messages, photographs and voice notes. The collection of such data is a nanny state nightmare in the making, as a new Pioneer Institute report on “social, emotional learning” software and assessments outlined this month. Meanwhile, preschoolers are being trained to flash “Clever Badges” with QR codes in front of their Google Chromebook webcams. These badges “seamlessly” log them into Google World and all its apps without all the “stress” of remembering passwords. Addicted toddlers are being indoctrinated into the screen time culture without learning how to exercise autonomy over their own data.

DarkCyber believes that more attention to this Google “feature” may be warranted. I know an apology from Google may be forthcoming, but perhaps parents are tiring of apologies and having their children tracked and their privacy compromised?

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2019

Zuck Hunting: Investors Want to Blast a Clay Pigeon

April 14, 2019

I read “Facebook Investors Desperate to Boot Mark Zuckerberg from Chairmanship.” I wonder if these senior business professionals realize that the Zuck (Mark Zuckerberg) has taken anticipatory steps to remain in control of the Facebook privacy grinder.

The write up reports this sentence from an April 12, 2019, Securities & Exchange Commission filing:

[Zuckerberg’s] dual-class shareholdings give him approximately 60% of Facebook’s voting shares, leaving the board, even with a lead independent director, with only a limited ability to check Mr. Zuckerberg’s power,” reads the statement supporting the proposal. “We believe this weakens Facebook’s governance and oversight of management.

The write up summarizes some of the concern stakeholders have in the Zuck’s decision making.

Zuck (the “face” of Facebook) may not embrace the idea of a small step toward knocking his clay pigeons from the sky.

I learned that “Facebook isn’t a fan” of this idea.

From my vantage point in rural Kentucky, the situation seems to be:

  1. A lack of meaningful regulatory oversight and control on a company which has demonstrated a willingness to say “I am sorry.” Each time I hear these words from a Facebook professional, I think of John Cleese’s character being held upside down out of a window in “A Fish Called Wanda.”
  2. A desire to continue chugging forward in order to maintain what I call “HSSCMM” or high school science club management methods. (If you are not sure what this means, ask a high school science club student at an institution near you.)
  3. Confidence that the company’s team and its users can continue to bring the world together despite some modest evidence that Facebook causes a small amount of disruption.

The push back strikes me as an example of too little, too late. But at least there is some questioning of the HSSCMM’s efficacy.

I hear the call “pull” but that clay pigeon is flying free. The prized Zuck sails forward unscathed.

Stephen E Arnold, April 14, 2019

Crazy Consulting Baloney: Ambient Data Governance

April 13, 2019

I spotted this phrase in the capitalist’s tool. That would be Forbes Magazine, an outfit which publishes some pretty crazy management recipes. Navigate to “How To Prepare Your Company For Ambient Data Governance.” Click thorough the ads and the pop ups. The reward is a write up about “ambient data governance.” I must admit that I don’t have a clue why this phrase is necessary. Governance by itself is a limp noodle. What company has governance today? Wells Fargo, Facebook, or another one might wish to nominate? You pick. Management of most companies takes short cuts; for example, killing products after announcing them and putting the name of the product in advertisements (a nifty play at Apple, a company with governance one presumes).

Here’s a passage I noted:

Forrester recently issued a prediction for 2019, saying, “Ambient data governance will take the trauma out of old-school governance,” and predicting that “ambient data governance will prevail as a strategy to automate and intelligently scale data policy deployment while learning and adapting policies based on data consumer interaction.”

Okay, Forrester. Selling reports and consulting or is it consulting which yields reports? I just don’t know.

What does one do to become adept at “ambient data governance”? Easy. How about these astounding recommendations:

Appoint a chief data officer. Make sure this person can walk. This is the “ambient” I deduce.

Become data literate. Okay, what’s data? What’s literate mean in this context?

Evolve to an insights driven organization. Yeah, anyone at Forbes read Darwin? Intent-driven evolution is an interesting concept. The method does not work too well.

There you go. A recipe for governance. More like a recipe to write an article in the capitalist tool and hook a crazy buzzword to Forrester. SEO at work. Rev your Harley’s engine, Malcolm. Speed away from this management jargon accident.

Stephen E Arnold, April 13, 2019

Follow Intelligence? Watch the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

April 12, 2019

I read “Is Geospatial Intel the New Framework for Civilization? The NGA’s New Director Speaks His Mind.” The article contains several points which DarkCyber has identified as important. Are you into geo-fencing? If not, you may want to learn a bit more about this function.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2019

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