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Russia Boasts of Encryption Keys for Popular Social Messaging Apps

August 25, 2016

If Russia’s Federal Security Service is to be believed, they have devised a way to break through the encryption on some of the world’s biggest messaging apps. The International Business Times reports, “Russia Now Collecting Encryption Keys to Decode Information from Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram.” The initiative appears to be a response to pressure from the top; columnist Mary Ann Russon writes:

“In June, Russia passed a scary new surveillance law that demanded its security agencies find a way to conduct better mass surveillance, requiring all internet firms who provide services to citizens and residents in Russia to provide mandatory backdoor access to encrypted communications so the Russian government can know what people are talking about. If any of these internet companies choose not to comply, the FSB has the power to impose fines of up to 1 million rubles (£11,406)….

The article continued:

“The FSB has now updated its website declaring that it has indeed been able to procure a method to collect these encryption keys, although, cryptically, the agency isn’t saying how exactly it will be doing so. The notice on the FSB website simply declares that in order to ensure public safety and protect against terrorism, the FSB has found a ‘procedure of providing the FSB with a method necessary for decoding all received, sent, delivered, and chat conversations between users on messaging networks’ and that this method had been sent to the Ministry of Justice to approve and make provisions to amend federal law.”

At least the Russians are not coy about their efforts to spy on citizens. But, is this a bluff? Without the details, it is hard to say. We do know the government is holding out a carrot to foreign messaging companies—they can continue to operate within their borders if they have their services “certified” by a government-approved lab. Hmm. How much is the Russian messaging market worth to these companies? I suppose we shall see.

Cynthia Murrell, August 25, 2016

Another Robot Finds a Library Home

August 23, 2016

Job automation has its benefits and downsides.  Some of the benefits are that it frees workers up to take on other tasks, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and quicker turn around.  The downside is that it could take jobs and could take out the human factor in customer service.   When it comes to libraries, automation and books/research appear to be the antithesis of each other.  Automation, better known as robots, is invading libraries once again and people are up in arms that librarians are going to be replaced.

ArchImag.com shares the story “Robot Librarians Invade Libraries In Singapore” about how the A*Star Research library uses a robot to shelf read.  If you are unfamiliar with library lingo, shelf reading means scanning the shelves to make sure all the books are in their proper order.  The shelf reading robot has been dubbed AuRoSS.  During the night AuRoSS scans books’ RFID tags, then generates a report about misplaced items.  Humans are still needed to put materials back in order.

The fear, however, is that robots can fulfill the same role as a librarian.  Attach a few robotic arms to AuRoSS and it could place the books in the proper places by itself.  There already is a robot named Hugh answering reference questions:

New technologies thus seem to storm the libraries. Recall that one of the first librarian robots, Hugh could officially take his position at the university library in Aberystwyth, Wales, at the beginning of September 2016. Designed to meet the oral requests by students, he can tell them where the desired book is stored or show them on any shelf are the books on the topic that interests them.

It is going to happen.  Robots are going to take over the tasks of some current jobs.  Professional research and public libraries, however, will still need someone to teach people the proper way to use materials and find resources.  It is not as easy as one would think.

Whitney Grace, August 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Read the Latest Release from…Virgil

August 18, 2016

The Vatican Library is one of the world’s greatest treasures, because it archives much of western culture’s history.  It probably is on par with the legendary Library of Alexandria, beloved by Cleopatra and burned to the ground.  How many people would love the opportunity to delve into the Vatican Library for a private tour?  Thankfully the Vatican Library shares its treasures with the world via the Internet and now, according to Archaeology News Network, the “Vatican Library Digitises 1600 Year-Old Manuscript Containing Works Of Virgil.”

The digital version of Virgil’s work is not the only item the library plans to scan online, but it does promise donors who pledge 500 euros or more they will receive a faithful reproduction of a 1600 manuscript by the famous author.  NTT DATA is working with the Vatican Library on Digita Vaticana, the digitization project.  NTT DATA has worked with the library since April 2014 and plans to create digital copies of over 3,000 manuscripts to be made available to the general public.

“ ‘Our library is an important storehouse of the global culture of humankind,’ said Monsignor Cesare Pasini, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library. ‘We are delighted the process of digital archiving will make these wonderful ancient manuscripts more widely available to the world and thereby strengthen the deep spirit of humankind’s shared universal heritage.’”

Projects like these point to the value of preserving the original work as well as making it available for research to people who might otherwise make it to the Vatican.  The Vatican also limits the amount of people who can access the documents.

Whitney Grace, August 18, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Superior Customer Service Promised through the Accenture Virtual Agent Amelia

August 17, 2016

The article titled Accenture Forms New Business Unit Around IPsoft’s Amelia AI Platform on ZDNet introduces Amelia as a virtual agent capable of providing services in industries such as banking, insurance, and travel. Amelia looks an awful lot like Ava from the film Ex Machina, wherein an AI robot manipulates a young programmer by appealing to his empathy. Similarly, Accenture’s Amelia is supposed to be far more expressive and empathetic than her kin in the female AI world such as Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. The article states,

“Accenture said it will develop a suite of go-to-market strategies and consulting services based off of the Amelia platform…the point is to appeal to executives who “are overwhelmed by the plethora of technologies and many products that are advertising AI or Cognitive capabilities”…For Accenture, the formation of the Amelia practice is the latest push by the company to establish a presence in the rapidly expanding AI market, which research firm IDC predicts will reach $9.2 billion by 2019.”

What’s that behind Amelia, you ask? Looks like a parade of consultants ready and willing to advise the hapless executives who are so overwhelmed by their options. The Amelia AI Platform is being positioned as a superior customer service agent who will usher in the era of digital employees.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 17, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

SEO Is a Dirty Web Trick

August 17, 2016

Search engine optimization is the bane of Web experts.  Why?  If you know how to use it you can increase your rankings in search engines and drive more traffic to your pages, but if you are a novice at SEO you are screwed.  Search Engine Land shares some bad SEO stories in “SEO Is As Dirty As Ever.”

SEO has a bad reputation in many people’s eyes, because it is viewed as a surreptitious way to increase traffic.  However, if used correctly SEO is not only a nifty trick, but is a good tool.  As with anything, however, it can go wrong.  One bad SEO practice is using outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, copying and pasting text, and hidden text.  Another common mistake is not having a noindex tag, blocking robots, JavaScript frameworks not being indexed.

Do not forget other shady techniques like the always famous shady sales, removing links, paid links, spam, link networks, removing links, building another Web site on a different domain, abusing review sites, and reusing content.  One thing to remember is that:

“It’s not just local or niche companies that are doing bad things; in fact, enterprise and large websites can get away with murder compared to smaller sites. This encourages some of the worst practices I’ve ever seen, and some of these companies do practically everything search engines tell them not to do.”

Ugh! The pot is identifying another pot and complaining about its color and cleanliness.

 

Whitney Grace, August 17, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

IBM’s Champion Human Resources Department Announces “Permanent” Layoff Tactics

August 16, 2016

The article on Business Insider titled Leaked IBM Email Says Cutting “Redundant” Jobs Is a “Permanent and Ongoing” Part of Its Business Model explores the language and overall human resource strategy of IBM. Netherland IBM personnel learned in the email that layoffs are coming, but also that layoffs will be a regular aspect of how IBM “optimizes” their workforce. The article tells us,

“IBM isn’t new to layoffs, although these are the first to affect the Netherlands. IBM’s troubled business units, like its global technology services unit, are shrinking faster than its booming businesses, like its big data/analytics, machine learning (aka Watson), and digital advertising agency are growing…All told, IBM eliminated and gained jobs in about equal numbers last year, it said. It added about 70,000 jobs, CEO Rometty said, and cut about that number, too.”

IBM seems to be performing a balancing act that involves gaining personnel in areas like data analytics while shedding employees in other areas that are less successful, or “redundant.” This allows them to break even, although the employees that they fire might feel that Watson itself could have delivered the news more gracefully and with more tact than the IBM HR department did. At any rate, we assume that IBM’s senior management asked Watson what to do and that this permanent layoffs strategy was the informed answer provided by the supercomputer.

 

 
Chelsea Kerwin, August 16, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

 

Content Cannot Be Searched If It Is Not There

August 16, 2016

Google Europe is already dealing with a slew of “right to be forgotten” requests, but Twitter had its own recent fight with deletion related issue.  TechCrunch shares the story about “Deleted Tweet Archive PostGhost Shut Down After Twitter Cease And Desist” order.  PostGhost was a Web site that archived tweets from famous public figures.  PostGhost gained its own fame for recording deleted tweets.

The idea behind PostGhost was to allow a transparent and accurate record.  The Library of Congress already does something similar as it archives every Tweet.  Twitter, however, did not like PostGhost and sent them a cease and desist threatening to remove their API access.  Apparently,Google it is illegal to post deleted tweets, something that evolved from the European “right to be forgotten” laws.

So is PostGhost or Twitter wrong?

“There are two schools of thought when something like this happens. The first is that it’s Twitter’s prerogative to censor anything and all the things. It’s their sandbox and we just play in it.  The second school of thought says that Twitter is free-riding on our time and attention and in exchange for that they should work with their readers and users in a sane way.”

Twitter is a platform for a small percentage of users, the famous and public figures, who instantly have access to millions of people when they voice their thoughts.  When these figures put their thoughts on the Internet it has more meaning than the average tweet.  Other Web sites do the same, but it looks like public figures are exempt from this rule.  Why?  I am guessing money is exchanging hands.

 

Whitney Grace, August 16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

As a.I. Scientists Forge Ahead Teaching Robots to Hunt Prey, White House Discusses Regulations And “Understandings”

August 15, 2016

The article on Engadget titled Scientists Are Teaching Robots How to Hunt Down Prey marks advancements in artificial intelligence that may well feed into an A.I. arms race. The scientists working on this project at the University of Zurich see their work in a much less harmful way. The ability to search for and retrieve prey involves identifying and tracking a target. Some of the applications mentioned are futuristic shopping carts or luggage that can follow around its owner. Whether the scientists are experiencing severe tunnel vision or are actually just terrifically naïve is unknown. The article explains,

“The predator robot’s hardware is actually modeled directly after members of the animal kingdom, as the robot uses a special “silicon retina” that mimics the human eye. Delbruck is the inventor, created as part of the VISUALISE project. It allows robots to track with pixels that detect changes in illumination and transmit information in real time instead of a slower series of frames like a regular camera uses.”

Meanwhile, conversations about an A.I. arms race are also occurring, as illustrated by the article on ZDNet titled White House: We’re “Clear-Eyed” About Weaponizing A.I. Humans have a long history of short-sightedness when it comes to weapons technology, perhaps starting with the initial reasoning behind the invention of dynamite. The creator stated that he believed he had created a weapon so terrible that no one would ever dare use it. Obviously, that didn’t work out. But the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, claims that by establishing a “code of conduct and set of understandings” we can prevent a repetition of history. Commencing eyebrow raise.
Chelsea Kerwin, August 15, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

Snowden Makes Rare Comment on Putin’s Politics

August 15, 2016

I off hand heard a comment from someone living in Russia that President Vladimir Putin was returning the country to a time resembling the Soviet days.  To my western ears, that does not sound good.  Things are about to get worse for Russian citizens due to a new law the government signed into law.  Yahoo Tech reports in the article that “Putin Signs Controversial Anti-Terror Measures Into Law” that these new laws are meant to be anti-terror laws, but are better referred to as “Big Brother” laws.

The new laws give the government greater surveillance powers of its citizens.  This means that under the guise of providing extra security communications-based companies will be forced to store people’s calls, messages, photos, videos, and metadata for three years.  The companies must also allow security services full access to all the data and any encryption tools necessary.  It gets even worse:

“They also criminalise several offences, lower the age of criminal responsibility to 14 for some crimes and extend prison sentences for online crimes like abetting terrorism.  The passage of the bills through Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament sent shockwaves through the internet and telecoms industries.”

Communications-based companies are worried that the new laws will cut into their profit margins.  It is predicted that the new infrastructure necessary to store the massive amount of data will cost four times the industry’s annual profit.  It is recommended that a tax on the entire industry, then use that money to build the infrastructure would be a better option.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in Russia for asylum, made a rare comment on Russia’s politics via Twitter about the new laws:

“ ‘Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned,’ he said, adding that he would criticise the law despite fearing retaliation from Russian authorities.”

Snowden wrote what is already written on the wall when it comes to Russia: Putin is changing the country for the worse and it is scary to imagine where it will go next.

 

Whitney Grace, August 15, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

These Are the False Records of the Starship Google

August 12, 2016

Star Trek technology was/is designed by prop masters and special effects artists based on preconceived notations of the time.  The original Trek series ran on analog, while the franchise reboot has holograms and streamlined ships free of the 1960s “groovy” design.  Google wants to make Star Trek technology a reality and in manner ways they have with a search engine and a digital assistant that responds to vocal commands.  Is Google getting too big for its britches, however?  STAT asked the question in its story, “’Silicon Valley Arrogance’?  Google Misfires As It Strives To Turn Star Trek Fiction Into Reality.”

Google wanted to create the Star Trek tricorder, a handheld computer that records, scans, and processes any type of data from soil samples to medical information.  Google created a biotech venture, Verily Life Sciences, to invent a cancer scanning tricorder, but the project is not doing so well.  The cancer tricorder is only one example of Google’s misfire in medical technology.  Verily appears to be working on projects that are more in the realm of science fantasy and are used as marketing devices to promote Google as the “technology company of the future.”

Google wants to maker new scientific inroads in medical technology, pulling on their expertise with big data and their initiative:

“’Part of the Silicon Valley ethos is about changing the world, about disruptive technology, about ignoring existing business models,’ and ‘taking on grand challenges,’ …

‘That’s admirable,’…but in Verily’s case, ‘it also feels pretty quixotic.’”

Fantasy drives innovation, which is why science fiction series like Star Trek are inspiration.  Much of the technology from the original Trek series and later installations are available now, but we are still far from making everything from the show a reality.  We should not halt experimentation on new technology, but big claims like Google’s are probably best kept silent until there is a working prototype.

 

Whitney Grace, August 12, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

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