February 12, 2016
The Dark Web is an intriguing and mysterious phenomenon, but rumors about what can be found there are exaggerated. Infomania examines what is and what is not readily available in that murky realm in, “Murder-for-Hire on the Dark Web? It Can’t Be True!”
Anonymity is the key factor in whether certain types of criminals hang out their shingles on the TOR network. Crimes that can be more easily committed without risking identification include drug trafficking, fraud, and information leaks. On the other hand, contract assassins, torture-as-entertainment, and human trafficking are not actually to be found, despite reports to the contrary. See the article for details on each of these, and more. The article cites independent researcher Chris Monteiro as it summarizes:
The dark web is rife with cyber crime. But it’s more rampant with sensationalized myths about assassination and torture schemes — which, as Chris can attest, simply aren’t true. “What’s interesting is so much of the coverage of these scam sites is taken at face value. Like, ‘There is a website. Therefore its contents must be true.’ Even when mainstream media picks it up, very few pick it up skeptically,” he says.
Take the Assassination Market, for example. When news outlets got wind of its alleged existence in 2013, they ran with the idea of “Murder-for-hire!!” on the Internet underground. Although Chris has finally demonstrated that these sites are not real, their legend lives on in Internet folklore. “Talking about the facts — this is how cybercrime works, this is how Tor and Bitcoin work — is a lot less sexy than saying, ‘If you click on the wrong link, you’ll be kidnapped, and you’ll end up in a room where you’ll be livestreamed, murdered, and you’re all over the internet!’” Chris says. “All I can do is point out what’s proven and what isn’t.”
So, next time someone spins a scary tale about killers-for-hire who are easily found online, you can point them to this article. Yes, drug trafficking, stolen data, and other infractions are big problems associated with the Dark Web, but let us not jump at shadows.
Cynthia Murrell, February 12, 2016
February 10, 2016
The Dark Web has many layers of sites and services, as the metaphor provided in the .onion extension suggests. List of secure Dark Web email providers in 2016 was recently published on Freedom Hacker to detail and review the Dark Web email providers currently available. These services, typically offering both free and pro account versions, facilitate emailing without any type of third-party services. That even means you can forget any hidden Google scripts, fonts or trackers. According to this piece,
“All of these email providers are only accessible via the Tor Browser, an anonymity tool designed to conceal the end users identity and heavily encrypt their communication, making those who use the network anonymous. Tor is used by an array of people including journalists, activists, political-dissidents, government-targets, whistleblowers, the government and just about anyone since it’s an open-source free tool. Tor provides a sense of security in high-risk situations and is often a choice among high-profile targets. However, many use it day-to-day as it provides identity concealment seamlessly.”
We are intrigued by the proliferation of these services and their users. While usage numbers in this article are not reported, the write-up of the author’s top five email applications indicate enough available services to necessitate reviews. Equally interesting will be the response by companies on the clearweb, or the .com and other regular sites. Not to mention how the government and intelligence agencies will interact with this burgeoning ecosystem.
Megan Feil, February 10, 2016
February 4, 2016
I don’t think of Google as a particularly good target for hackers. However, if the information in “ISIS Affiliate Cyber Caliphate Announces Plans to Hack Google” is accurate, my favorite search service is on notice.
According to the write up:
IS affiliate ‘Cyber Caliphate’ forms a Google Hacking Team to Hack Google Remember Cyber Caliphate? Yes, the hacking group affiliated to IS or ISIS/Daesh is planning to hack Google. According to International terrorism watchdog group Terror Monitor, the Islamic State “cyber army” has announced plans to hack Google.
I am not sure what “hack Google” means, but the message seems less than positive.
The Googlers have a reasonably good security system. Worth watching the developments if there are any beyond what seems to be a news release type message.
Stephen E Arnold, February 4, 2016
February 4, 2016
Despite attempts to improve Bing, it still remains the laughing stock of search engines. Google has run it over with its self-driving cars multiple times. DuckDuckGo tagged it as the “goose,” outran it, and forced Bing to sit in the proverbial pot. Facebook even has unfriended Bing. Microsoft has not given up on its search engine, so while there has been a list of novelty improvements (that Google already did or copied not long after their release) it has a ways to go.
Windows Central tells about the most recent Bing development: a bandwidth speed test in “Bing May Be Building A Speed Test Widget Within Search Results.” Now that might be a game changer for a day, until Google releases its own version. Usually to test bandwidth, you have to search for a Web site that provides the service. Bing might do it on command within every search results page. Not a bad idea, especially if you want to see how quickly your Internet runs, how fast it takes to process your query, or if you are troubleshooting your Internet connection.
The bandwidth test widget is not available just yet:
“A reader of the site Kabir tweeted a few images displaying widget like speed test app within Bing both on the web and their phone (in this case an iPhone). We were unable to reproduce the results on our devices when typing ‘speed test’ into Bing. However, like many new features, this could be either rolling out or simply A/B testing by Microsoft.”
Keep your fingers crossed that Microsoft releases a useful and practical widget. If not just go to Google and search for “bandwidth test.”
February 3, 2016
An article entitled Tor and the enterprise 2016 – blocking malware, darknet use and rogue nodes from Computer World UK discusses the inevitable enterprise concerns related to anonymity networks. Tor, The Onion Router, has gained steam with mainstream internet users in the last five years. According to the article,
“It’s not hard to understand that Tor has plenty of perfectly legitimate uses (it is not our intention to stigmatise its use) but it also has plenty of troubling ones such as connecting to criminal sites on the ‘darknet’, as a channel for malware and as a way of bypassing network security. The anxiety for organisations is that it is impossible to tell which is which. Tor is not the only anonymity network designed with ultra-security in mind, The Invisible Internet Project (I2P) being another example. On top of this, VPNs and proxies also create similar risks although these are much easier to spot and block.”
The conclusion this article draws is that technology can only take the enterprise so far in mitigating risk. Reliance on penalties for running unauthorized applications is their suggestion, but this seems to be a short-sighted solution if popularity of anonymity networks rise.
Megan Feil, February 3, 2016
February 3, 2016
Another enterprise software distributor has taken the leap into a proprietary encrypted search engine. Computer Technology Review informs us that “VirtualWorks Releases Its Encrypted Enterprise Search Platform ViaWorks Built On Hitachi Technology.” VirtualWorks’s enterprise search platform is called ViaWorks and the company’s decision to release an encrypted search engine comes after there has been a rise in data security breaches as well as concern about how to prevent such attacks. We will not even mention how organizations want to move to the cloud, but are fearful of hacking. More organizations from shopping in person on the Internet, banking, healthcare, government, and even visiting a library use self-service portals that rely on personal information to complete tasks. All of these portals can be hacked, so trade organizations and the government are instituting new security measures.
Everyone knows, however, that basic rules and a firewall are not enough to protect sensitive information. That is why companies like VirtualWorks stay one step ahead of the game with a product like ViaWork built on Hitachi’s Searchable Encryption technology. ViaWorks is a highly encrypted platform that does not sacrifice speed and accuracy for security
“ViaWorks encrypted enterprise search features are based on AES, a worldwide encryption standard established by NIST; special randomization process, making the encrypted data resistant to advanced statistical attacks; with key management and encryption APIs that store encryption keys securely and encrypt the original data. ViaWorks provides key management and encryption APIs that store encryption keys securely and encrypt the original data, respectively. Users determine which field is encrypted, such as index files, search keyword or transaction logs.”
VirtualWorks already deployed ViaWorks in beta tests within healthcare, government, insurance, and finance. Moving information to the cloud saves money, but it presents a security risk and slow search. A commercial encrypted search engine paired with cloud computing limits the cyber risk.
February 2, 2016
A friend recently told me how they can go months avoiding suspicious emails, spyware, and Web sites on her computer, but the moment she hands her laptop over to her father he downloads a virus within an hour. Despite the technology gap existing between generations, the story goes to show how easy it is to deceive and steal information these days. ExpertClick thinks that metadata might hold the future means for cyber security in “What Metadata And Data Analytics Mean For Data Security-And Beyond.”
The article uses biological analogy to explain metadata’s importance: “One of my favorite analogies is that of data as proteins or molecules, coursing through the corporate body and sustaining its interrelated functions. This analogy has a special relevance to the topic of using metadata to detect data leakage and minimize information risk — but more about that in a minute.”
This plays into new companies like, Ayasdi, using data to reveal new correlations using different methods than the standard statistical ones. The article compares this to getting to the data atomic level, where data scientists will be able to separate data into different elements and increase the analysis complexity.
“The truly exciting news is that this concept is ripe for being developed to enable an even deeper type of data analytics. By taking the ‘Shape of Data’ concept and applying to a single character of data, and then capturing that shape as metadata, one could gain the ability to analyze data at an atomic level, revealing a new and unexplored frontier. Doing so could bring advanced predictive analytics to cyber security, data valuation, and counter- and anti-terrorism efforts — but I see this area of data analytics as having enormous implications in other areas as well.”
There are more devices connected to the Internet than ever before and 2016 could be the year we see a significant rise in cyber attacks. New ways to interpret data will leverage predictive and proactive analytics to create new ways to fight security breaches.
February 1, 2016
The article on Fortune titled Has Big Data Gone Mainstream? asks whether big data is now an expected part of data analysis. The “merger” as Deloitte advisor Tom Davenport puts it, makes big data an indistinguishable aspect of data crunching. Only a few years ago, it was a scary buzzword that executives scrambled to understand and few experts specialized in. The article shows what has changed lately,
“Now, however, universities offer specialized master’s degrees for advanced data analytics and companies are creating their own in-house programs to train talent in data science. The Deloitte report cites networking giant Cisco CSCO -4.22% as an example of a company that created an internal data science training program that over 200 employees have gone through. Because of media reports, consulting services, and analysts talking up “big data,” people now generally understand what big data means…”
Davenport sums up the trend nicely with the statement that people are tired of reading about big data and ready to “do it.” So what will replace big data as the current mysterious buzzword that irks laypeople and the C-suite simultaneously? The article suggests “cognitive computing” or computer systems using artificial intelligence for speech recognition, object identification, and machine learning. Buzz, buzz!
Chelsea Kerwin, February 1, 2016
January 29, 2016
Propaganda from the Islamic State (Isis) exists not only in the Dark Web, but is also infiltrating the familiar internet. A Wired article discusses the best case scenario to stop such information from spreading in their article Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the Dark Web’. Google describes ISIS only existing in the Dark Web as success. This information helps explain why,
“As Isis has become more prominent in Syria and Iraq, social media, alongside traditional offline methods, have have been used to spread the group’s messages and recruit members. In 2014 analysis of the group’s online activity showed that they routinely hijack hashtags, use bots, and post gruesome videos to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The UK’s internet counter terrorism unit claims to remove 1,000 illegal pieces of terrorism related content from the internet each week — it says that roughly 800 of these are to do with Syria and Iraq. The group claims in the 12 months before June 2012 that 39,000 internet takedowns were completed.”
The director of Google Ideas is quoted as describing ISIS’ tactics ranging from communication to spamming to typical email scams; he explains they are not “tech-savy.” Unfortunately, tech chops is not a requirement for effective marketing, so the question still remains whether containing this group and their messages to the Dark Web is possible — and whether that means success with growing numbers of people using the Dark Web.
Megan Feil, January 29, 2016
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