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Desperate for Traffic: Black Hat SEO Appears Quite Tasty

January 29, 2016

I read an interesting article. The title? “Are There Any Black Hat SEO Strategies That Work?” For years I have pointed out that if you want traffic, you need to buy Adwords. If the budget for an Adword campaign is too much for your pocketbook, you have to be pragmatic. Short cuts will land you in Google’s version of purgatory. If you have not been there, check out Dante.

The write up says:

Black hat tactics are ones that use deception, manipulation, and gimmicks to trick search engines into ranking a site higher than it otherwise would rank.

That sounds like a good description of most search engine optimization methods. Google does not care so webmasters try to fool Mother Google.

The write up sort of agrees with me. I noted this comment:

White hat tactics can be technically manipulative, since we’re taking specific actions with the goal of trying to rank higher in organic search…

The author then reviews some well known methods for getting an invitation to digital purgatory.

I came away from the write up with a sense that folks are desperate for traffic. Google buys traffic from Apple. You can buy traffic from Google. This seems pretty basic to me.

SEO is a game of diminishing returns. Even raising the notion of black hat methods only makes the white hat methods show their true color: Black. What’s on the head of the SEO maven? A black Barcelona ball cap. Black hat. Get it?

Stephen E Arnold, January 29, 2016

Bing Goes Green, as in Dollar Bills and Brand New Logo

January 29, 2016

The article on Microsoft News titled Microsoft Releasing New Bing Logo Today briefly overviews the recent growth and profitability of the often mocked and overlooked search engine. Microsoft also updated Cortana lately, which is deeply connected to Bing search. So what will the new Bing logo look like? The article explains,

“In the new logo, Microsoft is switching its color scheme to green as it  “is easier to see over yellow” and “b” in now in upper case. This new version of the logo will be used across various Microsoft apps and services. Speaking to AdAge, Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft’s corporate VP of advertiser and publisher solutions said that Bing is the only search engine that is experiencing steady, consistent growth and have increased our share for 26 consecutive quarters.”

The article also points out that it is Bing powering Yahoo, AOL, Apple Siri and several other services, from behind the scenes. The green logo looks less like an imitation of Google, especially with the capitalization. Perhaps the new logo is meant to be easier on the eyes, but it is also certainly trying to keep up the positive attention Bing has been receiving lately as 1/3 of the search market.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 29, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Maps: Blurred Spots

January 28, 2016

Short honk: You might be able to search by lat and long, but you will not see “it.” To get a partial run down on what’s not visible in Google Maps, navigate to “Controversial Places That Google Maps Won’t Let You See.”

The question becomes, “How does one see these blurred locations?” There are some options, but that’s the information covered in my lectures for Telestrategies’ “Now That Google Doesn’t Work, What Does an Investigator Do.” There are some free and for fee services which are quite useful.

A good question to ponder is, “Why?”

Why are some locations visible via Google and the same locations are not visible in Bing?

If it is not there, one cannot search it. If it is there and blurred, one has to find an option. Life online. Such a drag.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2016

Anonymity Not Always Secured for Tor and Dark Web Users

January 28, 2016

From the Washington Post comes an article pertinent to investigative security technologies called This is how the government is catching people who use child porn sites. This piece outlines the process used by the FBI to identify a Tor user’s identity, despite the anonymity Tor provides. The article explains how this occurred in one case unmasking the user Pewter,

“In order to uncover Pewter’s true identity and location, the FBI quietly turned to a technique more typically used by hackers. The agency, with a warrant, surreptitiously placed computer code, or malware, on all computers that logged into the Playpen site. When Pewter connected, the malware exploited a flaw in his browser, forcing his computer to reveal its true Internet protocol address. From there, a subpoena to Comcast yielded his real name and address.”

Some are concerned with privacy of the thousands of users whose computers are also hacked in processes such as the one described above. The user who was caught in this case is arguing the government’s use of such tools violated the Fourth Amendment. One federal prosecutor quoted in the article describes the search processes used in this case as a “gray area in the law”. His point, that technology is eclipsing the law, is definitely one that deserves more attention from all angles: the public, governmental agencies, and private companies.

 

Megan Feil, January 28, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

 

Customize Your News with Semantic Search

January 28, 2016

There are many apps available that can aggregate news stories that cater to your interests: Feedly, Google News, Pulp, and other RSS feeders.  While these apps have their strengths and weaknesses, one question you need to ask is: do they use semantic search?  If you want a news app designed specifically to bring you news stories using semantic search there is “Algo: Semantic Search Engine For Customizable News” and it can be purchased on iTunes.

SkyGrid developed Algo and Apple named it a “Best News App”.  It has earned a 4.5 star rating.  Algo was designed to keep users up-to-date on news, follow topics of interest, and your favorite publications to create your own personalized newspaper.

Algo is described as:

“The only true real-time news aggregator. Simple, fast, and reliable, Algo is the only place to follow all of your favorite topics and interests. Search for anything you want! From people to TV shows to companies to finance, follow your interests on Algo. Set notifications for each topic and be notified as information updates in real-time.”

Other Algo features are ability to share articles on any service, save favorite articles, notification settings, and up-to-date news in real time.  Algo’s reliance on semantic search is one of the reasons why it has gained such favor with Apple and iTunes users.

 

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

Palantir: Revenue Distribution

January 27, 2016

I came across a write up in a Chinese blog about Palantir. You can find the original text at this link. I have no idea if the information are accurate, but I had not seen this breakdown before:

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The chart from “Touchweb” shows that in FY 2015 privately held Palantir derives 71 percent of its revenue from commercial clients.

The report then lists the lines of business which the company offers. Again this was information I had not previously seen:

Energy, disaster recovery, consumer goods, and card services

  • Retail, pharmaceuticals, media, and insurance
  • Audit, legal prosecution
  • Cyber security, banking
  • Healthcare research
  • Local law enforcement, finance
  • Counter terrorism, war fighting, special forces.

Because Palantir is privately held, there is not solid, audited data available to folks in Kentucky at this time.

Nevertheless, the important point is that the Palantir search and content processing platform has a hefty valuation, lots of venture financing, and what appears to be a diversified book of business.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2016

Beware: Spyware Disguised as Search

January 27, 2016

Do you know how when you type an incorrect Web address into the search bar and you are redirected to a search page saying it could not find the address?  According to PCRisk one of these redirected pages could mean you serious harm, “Snjsearch.com Redirect.”  If you have ever heard of snjsearch.com, you should get off the page as quickly as possible.

Snjsearch masquerades as a legitimate Internet search engine with more relevant results than Google.  However, this is a false claim!  The Snjsearch.com developers include spyware within an installation packet to track browsing history and other sensitive information.

The biggest question you are probably asking is how snjsearch.com gets installed on your computer?

“This deceptive website is promoted as a ‘bundle’ with other software. The developers know that many users do not pay enough attention when downloading and installing software. Therefore, bundled applications (or in this case, modification of browser settings) are usually concealed within the ‘Custom/Advanced’ settings. Many users rush these processes and skip virtually all steps, leading to inadvertent installation of potentially unwanted programs. This exposes their systems to risk of further infection and compromises their privacy.”

The easiest way to avoid downloading snjsearch.com is to monitor all downloads, making sure that snjsearch.com is not included in an installation bundle.  Another preventive measure would be to know where you download an item.  Remember the saying, “don’t take candy from strangers”?  Well, do not take free downloads from strange Web sites.

If you believe you have snjsearch.com on your computer, the article contains steps to remove it.  If you are a curious person, do not experiment with snjsearch.com unless appropriate precautions are taken; namely, using a separate, non-work computing device not connected to an office or work related network.

 

Whitney Grace, January 27, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Unogs: A Third Party Netflix Search

January 26, 2016

My wife loves Netflix. She finds programs that strike me as a bit fanciful, but that’s okay. How do she, her friends, and millions of other people locate just the right video confection for snowmageddon weekend?

Not with the Netflix search and recommendation as far as I know. I dabbled with this service a couple of times and formed two opinions:

  • The folks have a lot of work to do in basic findability
  • The interface is not my cup of hot chocolate. (If you love that Netflix search system, have at it. I still read.)

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An alternative seems to be available if the information in “This Site Lets You Search the Worldwide Netflix Library” is on the money. I learned one can use Unogs. Here’s some color:

The “unofficial Netflix online Global Search” (uNoGS) takes most of the guesswork out of the process: it lets you search by movie or actor, narrow the results by a few extra fields, and then spits out what movies are available in which countries. From there, users just need to use one of many cheap VPN services, fake the correct country, and let the back episodes of Doctor Who trickle in. The site is also a wealth of data on which countries have the best and worst libraries, and what VPNs give access to which countries. According to an interview with TorrentFreak, the site’s creator ‘Brian’ initially created the site solely for his own personal use, before putting it online last year.

Keep those brain cells in idle mode. Gobble the videos, gentle reader. Some of the large online outfits really covet people who find video consumption more fun that reading the works of James Clerk Maxwell.

Stephen E Arnold, January 27, 2016

Shodan: Web Cam Search Engine

January 26, 2016

When snowmageddon hit the DC area, I thought it would be amusing to check out some of the streets which once enchanted me. Alas. The webcams were not working particularly well.

I poked around and located a couple of functioning devices. Just as I figured. Quite a mess, but it is Washington, DC. A fine, well organized place.

Get ready for the next snowpocalype. Navigate to “Shodan Search Engine Provides Access to Hundreds of Unsecured Webcams.” The write up describes how the unsecured webcam search engine finds unsecured webcams. The system may prove interesting to those explore.

I learned:

The new feed consists of webcams that stream video, have an open port, and don’t require any authentication, which is how Shodan is able to snap screenshots in the first place. These webcams all employ the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP)  on port 554, which is what makes them so easy to discover.

Shodan is at https://www.shodan.io/. I put tape over my computer’s video thingies. Just a thought for you to consider.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2016

Search Unicorns? Nah, Think Search Sasquatches

January 24, 2016

The founder of Salesforce pointed out that some of the stampeding unicorns are going to die. See the frosty thoughts in “Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Predicts ‘a Lot of Dead Unicorns’ and Cheap Startups to Buy.”

What goes up must come down, right? But the obviousness of the prognostication misses one aspect of the economic snowmageddon.

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There are many search sasquatches which have been struggling to survive in the Lucene/Solr landscape. These outfits share some characteristics:

  1. Histories of low or no profits and revenue challenges
  2. Fuzzy positioning about what their information access technology does
  3. Difficulties making clear why proprietary technology is better than open source search technology
  4. A dependence on venture funding to keep the lights on and the parking lots paved.

Who are some of the proprietary vendors living in the suburbs of unicorn land?

Examples which an intrepid sasquatch hunter might consider fair game are:

  • Attivio, a system based on inspirations from Fast Search & Transfer
  • BA Insight, a Microsoft centric information access system
  • Coveo, a search system once anchored in Microsoft technology
  • EasyAsk, proprietary natural language processing. The company has used crowd funding to raise some cash.
  • MarkLogic, once considered a unicorn, and now trying to find new revenue as the firm’s original market of publishing faces its own problems
  • Sinequa, one of the interesting French search vendors
  • X1, a search and discovery outfit with an interesting interface

There are others as well, but few North Americans know about Exabyte, Intrafind, SRCH2, and their ilk.

If Marc Benioff is correct, the information access ecosystem will suffer the type of implosion that occurs when Brazilians chop down the rain forest. Reforestation does occur, but it may deliver a radically different ecological environment. Consultants and installations of Lucene/Solr might be more friendly than the venture capital firms who want their money back.

What is the going rate for the pelt of a search sasquatch?

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2016

Which unicorns and search sasquatches will survive? Where is Darwin when one needs him?

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2016

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