September 1, 2015
Computer World’s article, “As It Sets IT Layoffs, Citizens Bank Shifts Work To India Via Web” sounds like it should have been published five years ago. It was not that long ago when Americans were in an uproar about jobs being outsourced to China and India, but many of those jobs have returned to the US or replaced with an alternative. Despite falling out of interest with the mainstream media, jobs are still being outsourced to Asia. Citizens Bank is having their current IT employees train their replacements in a “knowledge transfer” and they will be terminated come December.
Citizens Bank signed a five-year services contract with IBM for IT services. IBM owns a large scale IT services company in India, which pays its workers a fraction of the current Citizens Bank IT workers.
As one can imagine, the Citizens Bank employees are in an uproar:
“The number of layoffs is in dispute. Employees said as many as 150 Citizen Bank IT workers were being laid off. But this number doesn’t include contractors. IBM will be consolidating the bank’s IT infrastructure services, and, as part of that, the bank is consolidating from four vendors to one vendor, IBM. This change will result in the elimination of some contractor jobs, and when contractors are added, the total layoff estimate by employees ranges from 250 to 350.”
It is reported that some IT workers are being offered comparable positions with IBM, while others are first in line for jobs in other branches of Citizens Bank. However, the IBM jobs appear to be short term and the other bank jobs do not appear to be turning up.
Other companies are shifting their IT work overseas much to the displeasure of IT workers, who thought they would be assured job security for the rest of their lives. IT workers place the blame on companies wanting to increase profits and not caring about their employees. What is going on with Citizens Bank and other companies is not new. It has been going on for decades, but that does not make the harm to Americans any less.
August 26, 2015
If you haven’t heard about the affair-promoting website Ashley Madison’s data breach, you might want to crawl out from under that rock and learn about the millions of email addresses exposed by hackers to be linked to the infidelity site. In spite of claims by parent company Avid Life Media that users’ discretion was secure, and that the servers were “kind of untouchable,” as many as 37 million customers have been exposed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a huge number of government and military personnel have been found on the list. The article on Reuters titled Hacker’s Ashley Madison Data Dump Threatens Marriages, Reputations also mentions that the dump has divorce lawyers clicking their heels with glee at their good luck. As for the motivation of the hackers? The article explains,
“The hackers’ move to identify members of the marital cheating website appeared aimed at maximum damage to the company, which also runs websites such as Cougarlife.com andEstablishedMen.com, causing public embarrassment to its members, rather than financial gain. “Find yourself in here?,” said the group, which calls itself the Impact Team, in a statement alongside the data dump. “It was [Avid Life Media] that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”
If you would like to “find yourself” or at least check to see if any of your email addresses are part of the data dump, you are able to do so. The original data was put on the dark web, which is not easily accessible for most people. But the website Trustify lets people search for themselves and their partners to see if they were part of the scandal. The website states,
“Many people will face embarrassment, professional problems, and even divorce when their private details were exposed. Enter your email address (or the email address of your spouse) to see if your sexual preferences and other information was exposed on Ashley Madison or Adult Friend Finder. Please note that an email will be sent to this address.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that many of the email accounts registered to Ashley Madison seem to be stolen. However, the ability to search the data has already yielded some embarrassment for public officials and, of course, “family values” activist Josh Duggar. The article on the Daily Mail titled Names of 37 Million Cheating Spouses Are Leaked Online: Hackers Dump Huge Data File Revealing Clients of Adultery Website Ashley Madison- Including Bankers, UN and Vatican Staff goes into great detail about the company, the owners (married couple Noel and Amanda Biderman) and how hackers took it upon themselves to be the moral police of the internet. But the article also mentions,
“Ashley Madison’s sign-up process does not require verification of an email address to set up an account. This means addresses might have been used by others, and doesn’t prove that person used the site themselves.”
Some people are already claiming that they had never heard of Ashley Madison in spite of their emails being included in the data dump. Meanwhile, the Errata Security Blog entry titled Notes on the Ashley-Madison Dump defends the cybersecurity of Ashley Madison. The article says,
“They tokenized credit card transactions and didn’t store full credit card numbers. They hashed passwords correctly with bcrypt. They stored email addresses and passwords in separate tables, to make grabbing them (slightly) harder. Thus, this hasn’t become a massive breach of passwords and credit-card numbers that other large breaches have lead to. They deserve praise for this.”
Praise for this, if for nothing else. The impact of this data breach is still only beginning, with millions of marriages and reputations in the most immediate trouble, and the public perception of the cloud and cybersecurity close behind.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 26, 2015
August 24, 2015
Centripetal Networks offers a fully integrated security network specializing in threat-based intelligence. Threat intelligence is being informed about potential attacks, who creates the attacks, and how to prevent them. Think of it as the digital version of “stranger danger.” Centripetal Networks offers combative software using threat intelligence to prevent hacking with real-time results and tailoring for individual systems.
While Centripetal Networks peddles its software, they also share information sources that expand on threat intelligence, how it pertains to specific industries, and new developments in digital security. Not to brag or anything, but our very own CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access made the news page! Take a gander at its description:
“The RuleGate technology continues to remain the leader in speed and performance as an appliance, and its visualization and analytics tools are easy-to-use. Because of federal use and interest, its threat intelligence resources will continue to rank at the top. Cyber defense, done in this manner, is the most useful for its real time capacity and sheer speed in computing.”
CyberOSINT was written for law enforcement officials to gain and understanding of threat intelligence as well as tools they can use to arm themselves against cyber theft and track potential attacks. It profiles companies that specialize in threat intelligence and evaluates them. Centripetal Networks is proudly featured in the book.
Whitney Grace, August 24, 2015
August 21, 2015
Here’s a post on structured-content marketing that is refreshingly free of semantic search baloney. Tatiana Tilearcio at Synthesio shares what she learned from a seminar in, “Four Insights from a Content Marketing Crash Course.” The symposium, scheduled to be repeated in October in Connecticut, was presented by content-strategy outfit Content Boost. Tilearcio’s first takeaway promotes a firm foundation; she writes:
“Get Organized And Understand Your Goals Before You Create Your Content Marketing Plan.
Before you sit down to put together your strategic plan, you have to know the answer to the question ‘what’s the purpose for your content marketing, and what will it do to your brand?’ To do this, you need to first create a dream wish-list of what you would like to see for your brand. Next, you need to address how you want to go about enhancing your brand’s content marketing efforts and what your budget is. When creating a content marketing plan, or any marketing plan, a budget is essential. Without a proper budget of what your plan will cost, your ideas will never come to fruition. If you have identified all of this, then you are already well on your way to understanding what your campaign strategy is.”
The article also discusses blending efforts in blogging, social media, and email; co-sourcing content; ensuring users find value in gated assets; repurposing content; and the importance of strong titles. See the post for more details on each of these points. Based in Norwalk, Connecticut, Content Boost is part of the Technology Marketing Corporation, aka TMCnet.
Cynthia Murrell, August 21, 2015
August 21, 2015
One of the quintessential cartoon feuds exists between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as they argue whether or not it is duck or rabbit hunting season. Whoever wins gets the lovely prize of having their face blown off, thankfully cartoon violence does not obey the rules of life and death. The ensuing argument ends with hilarious consequences, but everyday another type of big game is always in season: your personal information. Hackers are constantly searching for ways to break into vulnerable systems and steal valuable information.
One a personal level it is frightening to be hacked, but corporations stand risk millions of dollars, customer information, trade secrets, and their reputations if their systems get hacked. There are many companies that specialize in software to prevent potential hackings, but Cybereason offers unique selling points in the article, “Introducing Cybereason: Real-Time Automated Cyber Hunting.”
“This is why Cybereason exists, to bring the fight against hackers off of the frontlines and into the depths of your environment, where they lurk after gaining unnoticed access. Security needs to be about having an ever-watchful eye over your endpoints, servers, and network, and the Cybereason platform will allow you to perform real-time, automated hunting across your entire environment.”
On their Web site they posted a product video that feeds on the US’s culture of fear and they present an Armageddon like situation complete with a female voice over artist with a British accent, a Guy Fawkes mask, and Matrix-like graphics. My favorite bit is when Cybereason is made to resemble a secret intelligence agency of superheroes.
Despite the clichéd video, it does give a thorough visualization of what Cybereason’s software and services can do. The fear factor might be a selling point for some clients, but I’d rather hear hard facts and direct solutions. It takes out the dramatic elements and actually tells me what the product can do for me. You have to love Cybereason’s ending phrase, “Let the hunt begin.” It makes me want to respond with, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”
Whitney Grace, August 21, 2015
August 20, 2015
Cybersecurity, investigation, and risk-management firm Stroz Friedberg has a made a new acquisition, we learn from their announcement, “Stroz Friedberg Acquires Technology Litigation Consulting Firm Elysium Digital” (PDF). Though details of the deal are not revealed, the write-up tells us why Elysium Digital is such a welcome addition to the company:
“Founded in 1997, Elysium Digital has worked with law firms, in-house counsel, and government agencies nationally. The firm has provided a broad range of services, including expert testimony, IP litigation consulting, eDiscovery, digital forensics investigations, and security and privacy investigations. Elysium played a role in the key technology/legal issues of its time and established itself as a premier firm providing advice and quality technical analysis in high-stakes legal matters. The firm specialized in deciphering complex technology and effectively communicating findings to clients, witnesses, judges, and juries.
“‘The people of Elysium Digital possess highly sought after technical skills that have allowed them to tackle some of the most complex IP matters in recent history. Bringing this expertise into Stroz Friedberg will allow us to more fully address the needs of our clients around the world, not just in IP litigation and digital forensics, but across our cyber practices as well,’ said Michael Patsalos-Fox, CEO of Stroz Friedberg.”
The workers of Elysium Digital will be moving into Stroz Friedberg’s Boston office, and its co-founders will continue to play an important role, we’re told. Stroz Friedberg expects the acquisition to bolster their capabilities in the areas of digital forensics, intellectual-property litigation consulting, eDiscovery, and data security.
Founded in 2000, Stroz Friedberg says their guiding principle is to “seek truth” for their clients. Headquartered in New York City, the company maintains offices throughout the U.S. as well as in London, Hong Kong, and Zurich.
Cynthia Murrell, August 20, 2015
August 19, 2015
IBM’s Watson is employing its capabilities in a new and interesting way: BoingBoing asks, “What Does Your Writing Say About You? IBM Watson Personality Insights Will Tell You.” The software derives cognitive and social characteristics about people from their writings, using linguistic analytics. I never thought I’d see a direct, graphically represented comparison between speeches of Donald Trump and Abe Lincoln, but there it is. There are actually some similarities; they’re both businessmen turned politicians, after all. Reporter Andrea James shares Watson’s take on Trump’s “We Need Brain” speech from the recent Republican primary debate:
“You are a bit dependent, somewhat verbose and boisterous. You are susceptible to stress: you are easily overwhelmed in stressful situations. You are emotionally aware: you are aware of your feelings and how to express them. And you are prone to worry: you tend to worry about things that might happen. Your choices are driven by a desire for efficiency. You consider both independence and helping others to guide a large part of what you do. You like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them. And you think it is important to take care of the people around you.”
For comparison, see the write-up for the analysis of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (rest assured, Lincoln does come out looking better than Trump). The article also supplies this link, where you can submit between 3500 and 6000 words for Watson’s psychoanalysis; as James notes, you can submit writing penned by yourself, a friend, or an enemy (or some random blogger, perhaps.) To investigate the software’s methodology, click here.
Cynthia Murrell, August 19, 2015
August 18, 2015
Ever wonder what tools the Chinese government uses to keep track of those pesky opinions voiced by its citizens? If so, take a look at “IPOMS : Chinese Internet Public Opinion Monitoring System” at Revolution News. The brief write-up tells us about a software company, Knowlesys, reportedly supplying such software to China (among other clients). Reporter and Revolution News founder Jennifer Baker tells us:
“Knowlesys’ system can collect web pages with some certain key words from Internet news, topics on forum and BBS, and then cluster these web pages according to different ‘event’ groups. Furthermore, this system provides the function of automatically tracking the progress of one event. With this system, supervisors can know what is exactly happening and what has happened from different views, which can improve their work efficiency a lot. Most of time, the supervisor is the government, the evil government. sometimes a company uses the system to collect information for its products. IPOMS is composed of web crawler, html parser and topic detection and tracking tool.”
The piece includes a diagram that lays out the software’s process, from extraction to analysis to presentation (though the specifics are pretty standard to anyone familiar with data analysis in general). Data monitoring and mining firm Knowlesys was founded in 2003. The company has offices in Hong Kong and a development center in Schenzhen, China.
Cynthia Murrell, August 18, 2015
August 17, 2015
IBM has made available two open source repositories for the IBM i2 intelligence platform: the Data-Acquisition-Accelerators and Intelligence-Analysis-Platform can both be found on the IBM-i2 page at GitHub. The IBM i2 suite of products includes many parts that work together to give law enforcement, intelligence organizations, and the military powerful data analysis capabilities. For an glimpse of what these products can do, we recommend checking out the videos at the IBM i2 Analyst’s Notebook page. (You may have to refresh the page before the videos will play.)
The Analyst’s Notebook is but one piece, of course. For the suite’s full description, I turned to the product page, IBM i2 Intelligence Analysis Platform V3.0.11. The Highlights summary describes:
“The IBM i2 Intelligence Analysis product portfolio comprises a suite of products specifically designed to bring clarity through the analysis of the mass of information available to complex investigations and scenarios to help enable analysts, investigators, and the wider operational team to identify, investigate, and uncover connections, patterns, and relationships hidden within high-volume, multi-source data to create and disseminate intelligence products in real time. The offerings target law enforcement, defense, government agencies, and private sector businesses to help them maximize the value of the mass of information that they collect to discover and disseminate actionable intelligence to help them in their pursuit of predicting, disrupting, and preventing criminal, terrorist, and fraudulent activities.”
The description goes on to summarize each piece, from the Intelligence Analysis Platform to the Information Exchange Visualizer. I recommend readers check out this page, and, especially, the videos mentioned above for better understanding of this software’s capabilities. It is an eye-opening experience.
Cynthia Murrell, August 18, 2015
August 14, 2015
An ironic security breach grants a rare glimpse into the workings of an outfit that sells information on security vulnerabilities, we learn from “Hacking Team: a Zero-Day Market Case Study” at Vlad Tsyrklevich’s blog. Software weak spots have become big business. From accessing sensitive data to installing secret surveillance software, hackers hunt for chinks in the armor and sell that information to the highest (acceptable) bidder. It seems to be governments, mostly, that purchase this information, but corporations and other organizations can be in the market, as well. The practice is, so far, perfectly legal, and vendors swear they only sell to the good guys. One of these vulnerability vendors is Italian firm Hacking Team, known for its spying tools. Hacking Team itself was recently hacked, its email archives exposed.
Blogger Vlad Tsyrklevich combs the revealed emails for information on the market for zero-day (or 0day) vulnerabilities. These security gaps are so named because once the secret is out, the exposed party has “zero days” to fix the vulnerability before damage is done. Some may find it odd just how prosaic the procedure for selling zero-days appears. The article reveals:
“Buyers follow standard technology purchasing practices around testing, delivery, and acceptance. Warranty and requirements negotiations become necessary in purchasing a product intrinsically predicated on the existence of information asymmetry between the buyer and the seller. Requirements—like targeted software configurations—are important to negotiate ahead of time because adding support for new targets might be impossible or not worth the effort. Likewise warranty provisions for buyers are common so they can minimize risk by parceling out payments over a set timeframe and terminating payments early if the vulnerability is patched before that timeframe is complete. Payments are typically made after a 0day exploit has been delivered and tested against requirements, necessitating sellers to trust buyers to act in good faith. Similarly, buyers purchasing exploits must trust the sellers not to expose the vulnerability or share it with others if it’s sold on an exclusive basis.”
The post goes on to discuss pricing, product reliability, and the sources of Hacking Team’s offerings. Tsyrklevich compiles specifics on dealings between Hacking Team and several of its suppliers, including the companies Netragard, Qavar, VUPEN, Vulnerabilities Brokerage International, and COSEINC, as well as a couple of freelancing individuals. See the article for more on each of these (and a few more under “miscellaneous”). Tsyrklevich notes that, though the exposure of Hacking Team’s emails has prompted changes to the international export-control agreement known as the Wassenaar Arrangement, the company itself seems to be weathering the exposure just fine. In fact, their sales are reportedly climbing.
Cynthia Murrell, August 14, 2015