Free Web Search and Objective Results

February 8, 2019

I spotted a story from the Moscow Times called “Google Began Censoring Search Results in Russia, Reports Say.” I read:

Google began complying with Russian requirements and has deleted around 70 percent of the websites blacklisted by authorities, an unnamed Google employee told Russia’s Vedomosti business daily Wednesday. An unnamed Roskomnadzor source reportedly confirmed the information to the paper. On Thursday, a Roskomnadzor spokesman told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the regulator had established a “constructive dialogue” with Google over filtering content.

Let’s assume the report is accurate.

Is this the model for filtering content in online indexes which Google developed to comply with different countries’ laws and regulations?

If the Russian regulatory authority is “fully satisfied”, the Google system appears to be working.

Several questions crossed my mind; to wit:

  1. Has Google used this system to filter content in other countries; for example, the US, Brazil, or Iran?
  2. Does the system work with acceptable reliability? Some potentially objectionable can be located via a Google image query to cite one example?
  3. What is the economic payoff of Google find a solution to its pre-filtering disputes with Russia?

Interesting, particularly when one asks the question, “Am I getting accurate information when running a query on Google, regardless of the country in which the query appears to have been launched?”

If search results are shaped, what does one do to locate potentially useful information? One answer, I suppose, is to pay for commercial online access. Another may be to assume that what’s online IS the correct data set? One could ask those in one’s social network, but that too may be filtered.

But free services are free. Free services may have other characteristics as well. What does “free” mean? Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2019

Google Search and ATT Exposed Cable Report

February 6, 2019

Update at 320 US Eastern time:

I stopped an ATT repair truck (not a subcontractor). I reported the open box managing voice and data. The ATT employee told me, “The company doesn’t care. I can’t call it in. Even if I see a downed cable, management does not want to know. The new ATT.” Interesting insight into a company which advertises “moments together.” More like no moments whatsoever.

Original Story:

Come across an exposed cable or exposed cables? Run a Google query for ATT cable down and one gets the first result: 800 288 2020. Like this:


Now the first hit means relevance, or that’s my assumption. Dial the number and the automated system only responds if one is an ATT customer who has an account number. What happens if a child fiddles with the exposed cable or gear? Let’s think about the risks to the youngster. What about the risks to actual ATT wireless, DirecTV, or phone / data services?

Nice work Google. A useless phone number. Nicer work ATT. Putting children and users at risk. (Please, don’t call me and tell me that someone somewhere is sorry. I don’t believe those sophistries.) We can make moments together in another way.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

The Job Requirements Of A Dark Web Hunter

February 5, 2019

Batman is one of the best superheroes ever created. Batman’s gimmick is that he is a master of criminal activity, except he does not use his powers for evil, but for good. If Batman wanted to he could be the kingpin of crime, but he would rather save Gotham and innocent lives. Batman is a fictional superhero, but there are real world equivalents. One type of real world Batman are ethical hackers, i.e. IT experts who use their powers for good. What does it take to be an IT Batman, though? We picked up a Verizon job posting that lists the requirements for a: “Dark Web-OSINT Investigative Research Consultant.”

Verizon is a leading North American mobile phone and Internet provider and they have a team dedicated to tracking and preventing threats to their network, customers, and sensitive data. The job posting is for an opening on the Verizon Threat Response Advisory Center Intelligence Team, specifically for an expert in the surface, deep, and Dark Web. The Dark Web consultant will support Verizon’s Threat Intelligence Platform Service, the Rapid Response Retainer, and will provide threat intelligence for the company at large.

Moving further into the posting it reads like a “superhero want ad”:

“In order to proactively detect and identify such activity or investigate on-going attacks from foreign adversaries and cyber criminals, VTRAC requires a seasoned Surface, Deep, and Dark Web Investigative Research Consultant (Darkweb Hunter) that can conduct in-depth and investigative research, identification, and detection of adversarial attempts to degrade and disrupt their landscape, supply chains, physical infrastructure, personnel, and ecosystem.

In order to identify and detect such activity, VTRAC requires a seasoned Surface, Deep, and Dark Web Investigative Research Consultant who has in-depth physical and cyber tradecraft methodology and Tactics, Technics and Procedures (TTP) knowledge of foreign intelligence services, state-sponsors of terrorism, U.S. and international criminal organizations, and hacktivists.”

The job tasks include open source intelligence (OSINT) investigative research, intelligence that protects the company’s infrastructure, security intelligence, report analysis, and consultation. Interested personnel need at least a bachelor’s degree or four or more years of experience, OSINT experience, knowledgeable in cyber threats and deep and Dark Web. Applicants will rise to the top of the pile if they have a master’s degree, counterintelligence experience, are an ethical hacker, and are familiar with CISSP.

With all this knowledge, the Dark Web consultant could probably become Batman with the right technology, tools, and a giant robot to take over the physical tasks. As for the bottomless fortune part, maybe the Dark Web consultant could be a Robin Hood-steal the money from the bad guys and use it for good.

Whitney Grace, February 5, 2019

Palantir Revenue: Close to $1 Billion

January 18, 2019

I read “Palantir Posted Nearly $1 Billion in 2018 Sales, Executive Says.” The write up states:

Palantir Technologies Inc., the data analytics startup co-founded by Peter Thiel, generated almost $1 billion in revenue last year, an executive said in a French television interview.

Half of that revenue came from commercial clients. The other half came from non commercial clients like government agencies and non governmental organizations.

The company’s new Foundry product contributed to a boost in revenue, which had been forecast to be $750 million.

How close to $1 billion is Palantir? It seems that Palantir is closer to $800 million in revenue which is going to be okay for financial horse shoes.

How long has it taken Palantir to reach the $800 million figure, assuming that it is accurate?

Palantir was founded in 2003. That’s close to 15 years. How long did it take Autonomy to get close to $800 million in revenue? About 14 years.

What’s Palantir’s secret sauce? Its proprietary systems and methods. What was Autonomy’s secret sauce? Its secret neuro dynamics system.

Interesting. Palantir and Autonomy share other similarities as well.

The trajectory of Palantir’s initial public offering will be an event for investors who have injected about $2 billion in the firm.

Few search centric, content processing, analytics companies have achieved this type of revenue.

Like me, stakeholders in Palantir will be anticipating a pay day. Once the dust settles, I will get more information about sustainable revenue and other tidbits about the company. Perhaps other parallels with Autonomy will become evident.

Stephen E Arnold, January 18, 2019

Search Wars: The Open Source Front

January 13, 2019

Last year I pointed out that enterprise search and Web search were for me dead ends. There have been some howls from LinkedIn enterprise search members who want the good, old days to return.

Well, maybe enterprise search can cook up another run at off Broadway fame. To recap, if one wants search, one uses Lucene/Solr. Sure, there are options, but Google style wizards are needed to get these puppies to behave.

I learned that Toshi search aims to challenge Elasticsearch, Shay Banon’s personal Act II in the search tragedies which were packing them in in the early 2000s. Ah, how “fast” time gains its “autonomy.” Few “inquire” about the mechanisms of overpromising and then under-delivering. We could ask the oracle of “Delphis” I suppose. (Not the god, the super hyped search engine from innovators in Canada, one of the most free country in the world.

If you want to know more about Toshi, your first stop should be the Toshi github page at this link. Download the give it a whirl.

Is Elastic worried? Nope, incumbent leaders ignore challengers. Then the Harvard MBA wonks point out the flaws of this type of Henry James’s “a certain blindness.”

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2019

Intelligenx Features Threat Intelligence Services

December 28, 2018

We have once before noted a tendency for Intelligenx to mold itself to the marketplace. The directory search publisher that once declared its mission was “to change the way the world finds information” now bills itself as a threat intelligence firm, with a wide roster of security-related services and a selection of related white papers. Interesting pivot. The write-up on their home page emphasizes:

“Intelligenx enables you to regain control of information security with a variety of solutions that provide adaptable fast environments. We take you a step further on Security and one step ahead of the threats. Intelligenx aggregates all information security data across systems, employees and social markers to provide a single integrated view of your safety. Companies and Government agencies have been suffering from attacks by a variety of groups and technologies around the world. After 2 decades of providing talented teams and solutions to the market, it became evident that the industry needed a decentralized and secure solution to fill the gap. For that reason, Intelligenx set out to identify and alert our clients of threats using Analytics as our basic approach. We generate adaptive and self-evolving platforms using cutting-edge concepts, powered by a constantly growing interdisciplinary work team.”

This is indeed an interesting direction for the publishing industry. As for the Clay platform, Weissman suspects this timing may be an effort to make its parent company, New York Media, LLC, look tasty to potential buyers. The company is reported to have already fielded a few offers.

Perhaps it is just this sort of adaptability that has allowed the company to survive since its founding in 1996. Intelligenx is based in Herndon, Virginia.

Cynthia Murrell, December 28, 2018

Quote to Note: Palantir Flaw

December 24, 2018

I read “Koverse Co-Founders Tap NSA Expertise to Build a Platform to Solve Unsolvable Tech Challenges.” Koverse is a big data company, based in Seattle. The firm’s engineers use the Apache Accumulo data management system. (Accumulo shares some DNA with the Google Bigtable data management system which is old enough to vote.)

Koverse’s competition includes Silicon Valley’s Palantir Technologies, a company worth billions that was started by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Matsuo downplayed Palantir’s hype. “They have gaping holes in their product that we are starting to exploit,” he said.

That is an interesting comment about Palantir Technologies, a company which has captured a number of commercial and government customers. With an initial public offering rumored, Palantir may find the observations a bit negative.

The company offers its Precision search engine. The write up points out that Koverse has “unparalleled” scalability and security.

For more information about the NSA infused Koverse, navigate to

Stephen E Arnold, December 24, 2018

Elastic App Search Engine: Support for 13 Languages

December 23, 2018

The scorched earth of the old empire of enterprise search will no longer support crops. But the open source combine Elastic (creator of open source Elasticsearch) has found fields to harvest.

I learned from Elastic’s user success management (no, I don’t know what that means) that Elastic’s App Search engine offers English, Spanish, German, and 10 other languages.

You can learn more at this link. The write up includes the phrase “App Searchery.” I guess the winner of the search wars is entitled to reverse engineer language to make its seeds its own.

Stephen E Arnold, December 23, 2018

Microsoft Cortana and Search: About Face, Go in Circles, At Ease

December 16, 2018

Tom’s Hardware reports that Microsoft may be divorcing the odd couple, Cortana and search. “Microsoft May Split Cortana From Search in Windows 10” reports the supposed move this way:

Some Insiders testing the new build observe that Search and Cortana actions, once intertwined to enable search with voice activation, are now separated on the taskbar. This is being interpreted as a signal away from Cortana as an integral part of Windows 10.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we type to our computers. When we ride in our mule drawn wagon to go to the big city, we don’t talk to our mobile phone. We text and scan headlines.

Is it possible that Microsoft has realized that voice as the interface of the future may be going in different directions. Can Cortana say, “Alexa, what’s Microsoft doing?”

Stephen E Arnold, December 16, 2018

Internet-of-Things Search Engine Census Attracts Seed Funding

December 14, 2018

Last March, we told our readers about several search engines capable of finding Internet-connected devices. One of those, Censys, has now raised a considerable sum in seed funding, we learn from Venture Beat’s article, “Censys, a Search Engine for Internet-Connected Devices, Raises $2.6 million Led by GV and Greylock.” We’re told the search engine monitors “all the devices” that are connected to the Internet. Naturally, the company intends to wield this power for good, informing clients about their potential vulnerabilities. Reporter Anna Hansel writes:

“[Brian] Kelly, who was brought on as Censys’ CEO when it spun out in 2017, told VentureBeat that that the most popular use case for Censys is helping companies see which of their servers have an operating system vulnerability that hasn’t been patched yet. In a recent blog post, Censys detailed how IT staffers could use Censys to search for servers that were affected by a vulnerability in Oracle Database by doing a search for servers running the versions of Oracle that contained the vulnerability, and limit those results to just their devices by entering ranges of IP addresses belonging to the company….

We also noted:

“Censys still allows its 50,000 registered users to make a limited number of queries for free, and academics can apply for a research license to get unlimited access to Censys. For companies that want to make more than 250 queries a month, Censys has subscriptions available from $99 per month to $1,000 a month. Censys says it currently has more than 60 paid customers, including the Department of Homeland Security, NATO, FireEye, and Google.”

Not that is an impressive client roster to have right out the gate. For cost comparison, we’re told Censys’ main competition, Shodan, offers subscriptions from the freelancers’ rate of $59/month to $899/month for corporations, depending on usage. Censys’ technology is based on an open-source tool, developed in 2013 by two of the company’s now-executives, J. Alex Halderman and Zakir Durumeric, called ZMap. This software was able to scan and map every(!) IP address on the Internet in fewer than 45 minutes, a process that formerly took weeks. In 2015 at the University of Michigan, the pair of researchers developed Censys as a user-friendly portal for ZMap, and the commercial startup was launched in 2017. Censys is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Beyond Search assumes that some bad actors will find the system a useful complement to Shodan. Those insecure IoT devices are of interest to some in the bot business.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2018

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