A Plea for Bing: Use It

September 14, 2019

Microsoft wants more people to use Bing and Microsoft wants them to use it now! Microsoft is desperate for more Bing users that they their trademarked search engine into the new Windows 10 update. Read the story at Win Buzzer, “Microsoft Builds Bing Search into Windows 10 20H1 Lock Screen.”

The Bing implementation is touted as a new search featured imbedded in the Windows lock screen, The feature was released with the new Windows 10 20H1 Preview Build 18932, but it remains hidden and can only be accessed with a tool. One tool is the Mach2. The integration of Bing into the lock screen is good design. The idea is giving users the option to conduct an Internet search without having to unlock their entire PC. It is for those, “Oh yeah, I need to look that up” moments. It is not stated where results will appear. If they are on the lock screen, it is a genius move, but if the results are only available by unlocking the PC it is stupid.

Since Microsoft placed Bing on the Start menu, it gets as much as 50% of its traffic through that direct link as the official Bing Web site. This is funny:

“At the moment, we just can’t see how the Bing feature on the lock screen would be useful. Of course, Microsoft may have some wider lock screen plans that we don’t know about yet.Whether this is Microsoft making a play to compete further with Google is unclear, but it probably won’t work. Bing is the default search tool on Windows PCs, but users continue to actively choose Google Search over it. Adding Bing to the lock screen will likely not change that. However, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles this new feature in the coming months.”

Apparently the author Luke Jones never has to figure out the name of that actor in that one movie or the name of that place where he ate lunch three weeks ago next to the good bakery. Ah, Luke Jones may want to consult a librarian.

Whitney Grace, MLS, September 14, 2019

Amazon AWS: Almost Perfect Cloud Failover Engineering

September 4, 2019

DarkCyber noted a tweet from Andy Hunt. The tweet stated:

Amazon AWS had a power failure, their backup generators failed, which killed their EBS servers, which took all of our data with it. Then it took them four days to figure this out and tell us about it.

We also noted this write up: “Strangelove Redux: US Experts Propose Having AI Control Nuclear Weapons.” Assume Amazon continues to make headway in the US government. What happens if an Amazon glitch occurs at a critical time?

Just an idle question.

Stephen E Arnold, September 4, 2019

Is Google Privacy Oriented?

August 28, 2019

Google may be like sugar. We love Google, so we consume a lot of its products. Eventually Google harms us in someway. Unlike Sugar, Google does not rot teeth, cause weight gain, nor contribute to numerous diseases.

Google instead collects private user information and shares it with advertisers to make a buck. Medium reports that Google does more to take advantage of its users: “Google Photo Is Making Your Photos Semi-Public And You Probably Don’t Realize.”

Millions of Google users upload, share, and store their photos on Google Photo. Little do these users know is that whenever is photo is shared on Google Photos it creates a link and anyone in the world can view said photo. You do not believe me? Article writer Robert Wiblin discovered that no one believed him either, until he showed them.

When you share a photo via Google Photo it creates a “secret link.” If the secret link is shared, anyone can view the photo until its manually deleted. People assume their photos are private, because Google lists who it is shared with, but that is not true. Wiblin and I both agree this is unacceptable:

Firstly it’s unacceptable because most users don’t realize it’s happening. The interface is so poorly designed that the most common reaction I’ve had when I tell Photos users about this is literal disbelief. The only way to convince people is to show them with their own eyes. If our private and potentially sensitive data is going to be revealed this way, it should be clear that it’s going on.

We also noted this statement:

It’s also unacceptable because it creates an excessive risk of sensitive data being exposed. People often take photos of things like private documents, or themselves naked. It’s very important only the right people get to see these things! Google is a data company that has a responsibility to its users to make sure that’s the case.”

You might not care, but think about this: any of these photos and the information they contain can be hacked, shared, or stolen. They can be posted publicly and perpetually exist online.

Is there an easy way to resolve this issue? Could alter the Google Photo interface to match Google Drive, which is mostly transparent and states exactly where information is shared? Could Google Photo notify users of this link visibility?

Over to you, Google.

Whitney Grace, August 28, 2019

Knewz: Who New?

August 23, 2019

DarkCyber read “News Corp Is Apparently Working on a News App Called Knewz.”

My memory was jarred. What? Knewz. Will this service channel:

  • Dow Jones News/Retrieval
  • The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition
  • Dow Jones Interactive and Reuters Business Briefing.
  • Factiva?

News Corp. wants to fight back against the “free news” available from the evil upstarts. Well, Google News is no longer an upstart. Facebook, maybe? But what about Bing News, or the quite useful Big Project.

Knews? From News Corp.?

The write up states:

The service will be called Knewz.com, and take the form of both a traditional website and a mobile app. It will draw from a variety of national outlets such as The New York Times and NBC News, as well as more partisan news sites like The Daily Caller and ThinkProgress.

Many years ago, Dow Jones launched a system which made news available.

Here’s a personal anecdote. I subscribe to the dead tree edition of the Wall Street Journal. If I want online access to the News Corp. property, I have to navigate to a Web page or call the hot line. I create an online subscription. But when the print subscription is renewed, I have to do this over and over and over again.

There is no connection between the print and online services. It seems that when I renew the print subscription, the online service would be updated and continue working. But no. That’s just not possible for a company struggling with modernization since the late 1980s and the initiatives of Richard Levine and others.

Is this type of system elegance “Knewz”?

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2019

Google Accused of Favoritism by an Outfit with Google Envy?

August 10, 2019

I read in the Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post this story: “YouTube’s Arbitrary Standards: Stars Keep Making Money Even after Breaking the Rules.” The subtitle is a less than subtle dig at what WaPo perceives as the soft, vulnerable underbelly of Googzilla:

Moderators describe a chaotic workplace where exceptions for lucrative influencers are the norm.

What is the story about? The word choice in the headlines make the message clear: Google is a corrupt, Wild West. The words in the headline and subhead I noted are:

arbitrary

money

breaking

chaotic

exceptions

lucrative

norm.

Is it necessary to work through the complete write up? I have the frame. This is “real news”, which may be as problematic as the high school management methods in operation at Google.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of “real news”:

Here’s the unfair angle:

With each crisis, YouTube has raced to update its guidelines for which types of content are allowed to benefit from its powerful advertising engine — depriving creators of those dollars if they break too many rules. That also penalizes YouTube, which splits the advertising revenue with its stars.

Nifty word choice: crisis, race, powerful, dollars, break, and the biggie “advertising revenue.”

That’s it. Advertising revenue. Google has. WaPo doesn’t. Perhaps, just perhaps, Amazon wants. Do you think?

Now the human deciders. Do they decide? WaPo reports the “real news” this way:

But unlike at rivals like Facebook and Twitter, many YouTube moderators aren’t able to delete content themselves. Instead, they are limited to recommending whether a piece of content is safe to run ads, flagging it to higher-ups who make the ultimate decision.

The words used are interesting:

unlike

Facebook

Twitter

aren’t

limited

recommending

higher ups

Okay, that’s enough for me. I have the message.

What if WaPo compared and contrasted YouTube with Twitch, an Amazon owned gaming platform. In my lectures at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference, I showed LE and intel professionals, Twitch’s:

online gambling

soft porn

encoded messages

pirated first run motion pictures

streaming US television programs

Twitch talent can be banned; for example, SweetSaltyPeach. But this star resurfaced with ads a few days later as RachelKay. Same art. Same approach which is designed to appeal the the Twitch audience. How do I know? Well, those pre roll ads and the prompt removal of the ban. Why put RachelKay back on the program? Maybe ad revenue?

My question is, “Why not dive into the toxic gaming culture and the failure of moderation on Twitch?” The focus on Google is interesting, but explaining that problems are particular to Google is interesting.

One thing is certain: The write up is so blatantly anti Google that it is funny.

Why not do a bit of research into the online streaming service of the WaPo’s owner?

Oh, right, that’s not “real news.”

What’s my point? Amazon is just as Googley as Google. Perhaps an editor at the WaPo should check out Twitch before attacking what is not much different than Amazon’s own video service.

Stephen E Arnold, August 10, 2019

Arolsen Archives

May 22, 2019

Documents from concentration camps have been expanded. The Arolsen Archive (the new name of the International Tracing Service) makes available 13 million pertaining to more than two million people, according to the Daily Beast (Newsweek). This is the “the world’s most comprehensive archive on the Holocaust’s victims and survivors.” You can explore the collection at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, May 22, 2019

Google: History? Backfiles Do Not Sell Ads

April 29, 2019

We spotted a very interesting article in Tablix: “Google Index Coverage”. We weren’t looking for the article, but it turned up in a list of search results and one of the DarkCyber researchers called it to my attention.

Background: Years ago we did a bit of work for a company engaged in data analysis related to the health and medical sectors. We had to track down the names of the companies who were hired by the US government to do some outsourced fraud investigation. We were able to locate the government statements of work and even some of the documents related to investigations. We noticed a couple of years ago that our bookmarks to some government documents did not resolve. With USA.gov dependent on Bing, we checked that index. We tried US government Web sites related to the agencies involved. Nope. The information had disappeared, but in one case we did locate documents on a US government agency’s Web site. The data were “there” but the data were not in Bing, Exalead, Google, or Yandex. We also checked the recyclers of search results: Startpage, the DuckDuck thing, and MillionShort.

We had other information about content disappearing from sites like the Wayback Machine too. From our work for assorted search companies and our own work years ago on ThePoint.com, which we sold to Lycos, we had considerable insight into the realities of paying for indexing that did not generate traffic or revenue. The conclusion we had reached and we assumed that other vendors would reach was:

Online search is not a “free public library.”

A library is/was/should be an archiving entity; that is, someone has to keep track and store physical copies of books and magazines.

Online services are not libraries. Online services sell ads as we did to Zima who wanted their drink in front of our users. This means one thing:

Web indexes dump costs.

The Tablix article makes clear that some data are expendable. Delete them.

Our view is:

Get used to it.

There are some knock on effects from the simple logic of reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of the free Web search systems. I have written about many of these, and you can search the 12,000 posts on this blog or pay to search commercial indexes for information in my more than 100 published articles related to search. You may even have a copy of one of my more than a dozen monographs; for example, the original Enterprise Search Reports or The Google Legacy.

  1. Content is disappearing from indexes on commercial and government Web sites. Examples range from the Tablix experience to the loss of the MIC contracts which detail exclusives for outfits like Xerox.
  2. Once the content is not findable, it may cease to exist for those dependent on free search and retrieval services. Sorry, Library of Congress, you don’t have the content, nor does the National Archives. The situation is worse in countries in Asia and Eastern Europe.
  3. Individuals — particularly the annoying millennials who want me to provide information for free — do not have the tools at hand to locate high value information. There are services which provide some useful mechanisms, but these are often affordable only by certain commercial enterprises, some academic research organizations, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This means that most people are clueless about the “accuracy”, “completeness,” and “provenance” of certain information.

Net net: If data generate revenue, it may be available online and findable. If the data do not, hasta la vista. The situation is one that gives me and my research team considerable discomfort.

Imagine how smart software trained on available data will behave? Probably in a pretty stupid way? Information is not what people believe it to be. Now we have a generation or two of people who think research is looking something up on a mobile device. Quite a combo: Ill informed humans and software trained on incomplete data.

Yeah, that’s just great.

Stephen E Arnold, April 28, 2019

The EU, the Internet Archive Dust Up: One Fact Overlooked

April 11, 2019

I read “EU Tells Internet Archive That Much Of Its Site Is ‘Terrorist Content’.” The main point is that Europol’s European Union Internet Referral Unit pointed out that the Internet Archive contains problematic information. The article explains that the Internet Archive explains:

there’s simply no way that (1) the site could have complied with the Terrorist Content Regulation had it been law last week when they received the notices, and (2) that they should have blocked all that obviously non-terrorist content. [emphasis in the original]

DarkCyber wants to point out a fact that may be of interest to the EUIRU and the Internet Archive; to wit: The site has information, but the site’s search system and interface make it very difficult to locate information. For EUIRU, the inadequate search system makes finding the potentially harmful information a challenge. For the Internet Archive, the findability system makes it equally difficult for IA staff to locate items so each can be reviewed.

What will the Internet Archive do? The options are limited and some are unpalatable: Fight the EU? Ignore the request? Block access from Europe? Go out of business? Address the issue head on? Worth watching how this develops.

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2019

Centralizing and Concentrating: Works Great Until It Does Not

April 1, 2019

No joke or joke? Let’s assume the story is true.

US airlines are proving that centralizing and concentrating online services works great until the system fails. I read “Computer Outage Affecting Major US Airlines including Southwest, Delta and United Causes Hundreds of Flight Delays Nationwide.” (I first saw the news in a UK stream from the Daily Mail, a British newspaper.) As I write this at 910 am US Eastern (April 1, 2019), the story is now appearing in other feeds. The problem appears to be one with software called Aerodata. By 840 am US Eastern time, more than 700 flights were affected.

What seems to be lousy systems administration, engineering, or business processes have made April 1, 2019, into unpleasant anecdotes, not frothy jokes.

Aerodata’s Web site cheerfully reports my public IP address which, not surprisingly, is not what my IP address is. The Web site requires Flash, a super unsecure software in my opinion. I was not able to locate current news from the company. I noticed that VMWare mentions that the company uses VSAN to power a modern software defined data center.  You can read the marketing inspired explanation at this link or you could at 917 am US Eastern on April 1, 2019.

According the a Chicago NBC outlet, all is well again. You can get this take at this link.

What happens if a cyber attack takes down a concentrated service?

Stephen E Arnold, April 1, 2019

Hashing Videos and Images Explained

March 17, 2019

A quite lucid explanation of video and image identification appears in “How Hashing Could Stop Violent Videos from Spreading.” Here’s one passage from the article:

Video hashing works by breaking down a video into key frames and giving each a unique alphanumerical signature, or hash. That hash is collected into a central database, where every video or photo that is uploaded to a platform is then compared against that dataset. The system requires a database of images and doesn’t use artificial intelligence to identify what is in an image — it only identifies a match between images and videos.

CNN emphasizes Microsoft’s PhotoDNA technology. Information about that system may be found at this link. The write up points out that Facebook and Google use “this technology.”

One question is, “If the technology is available and in use, why are offensive videos and images finding their way into public facing, easily accessible systems?”

The answer according to an expert quoted in the CNN story is:

The decision not to do this [implement more effective hashing filter methods] is a question of will and policy—not a question of technology.”

The answer is that platforms are one way to avoid the editorial responsibility associated with old school methods of communication; for example, wire services, newspapers, and magazine. These types of communication were not perfect, but in many cases, an editorial process prevented certain types of information from appearing  in certain publications. So far, the hands off approach of some digital channels and the over hyped use of smart software have not been as effective as the hopelessly old fashioned processes used by some traditional media outlets.

So will? Policy?

Nah, money, expediency, and the high school science club approach to management.

Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2019

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