Iran-Russia Ink Pact for Search Engine Services

November 28, 2016

Owing to geopolitical differences, countries like Iran are turning towards like-minded nations like Russia for technological developments. Russian Diplomat posted in Iran recently announced that home-grown search engine service provider Yandex will offer its services to the people of Iran.

Financial Tribune in a news report Yandex to Arrive Soon said that:

Last October, Russian and Iranian communications ministers Nikolay Nikiforov and Mahmoud Vaezi respectively signed a deal to expand bilateral technological collaborations. During the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vaezi said, We are familiar with the powerful Russian search engine Yandex. We agreed that Yandex would open an office in Iran. The system will be adapted for the Iranian people and will be in Persian.

Iran traditionally has been an extremist nation and at the center of numerous international controversies that indirectly bans American corporations from conducting business in this hostile territory. On the other hand, Russia which is seen as a foe to the US stands to gain from these sour relations.

As of now, .com and .com.tr domains owned by Yandex are banned in Iran, but with the MoU signed, that will change soon. There is another interesting point to be observed in this news piece:

Looking at Yandex.ir, an official reportedly working for IRIB purchased the website, according to a domain registration search.  DomainTools, a portal that lists the owners of websites, says Mohammad Taqi Mozouni registered the domain address back in July.

Technically, and internationally accepted, no individual or organization can own a domain name of a company with any extension (without necessary permissions) that has already carved out a niche for itself online. It is thus worth pondering what prompted a Russian search engine giant to let a foreign governmental agency acquire its domain name.

Vishal Ingole November 28, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Machine Learning Does Not Have All the Answers

November 25, 2016

Despite our broader knowledge, we still believe that if we press a few buttons and press enter computers can do all work for us.  The advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence does not repress this belief, but instead big data vendors rely on this image to sell their wares.  Big data, though, has its weaknesses and before you deploy a solution you should read Network World’s, “6 Machine Learning Misunderstandings.”

Pulling from Juniper Networks’s security intelligence software engineer Roman Sinayev explains some of the pitfalls to avoid before implementing big data technology.  It is important not to take into consideration all the variables and unexpected variables, otherwise that one forgotten factor could wreck havoc on your system.  Also, do not forget to actually understand the data you are analyzing and its origin.  Pushing forward on a project without understanding the data background is a guaranteed fail.

Other practical advice, is to build a test model, add more data when the model does not deliver, but some advice that is new even to us is:

One type of algorithm that has recently been successful in practical applications is ensemble learning – a process by which multiple models combine to solve a computational intelligence problem. One example of ensemble learning is stacking simple classifiers like logistic regressions. These ensemble learning methods can improve predictive performance more than any of these classifiers individually.

Employing more than one algorithm?  It makes sense and is practical advice why did that not cross our minds? The rest of the advice offered is general stuff that can be applied to any project in any field, just change the lingo and expert providing it.

Whitney Grace, November 25, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Dawn of Blockchain Technology

November 24, 2016

Blockchain technology though currently powers the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, soon the technology might find takers in mainstream commercial activities.

Blockgeeks in an in-depth article guide titled What Is Blockchain Technology? A Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners says:

The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

Without getting into how the technology works, it would be interesting to know how and where the revolutionary technology can be utilized. Due to its inherent nature of being incorruptible due to human intervention and non-centralization, blockchain has numerous applications in the field of banking, remittances, shared economy, crowdfunding and many more, the list is just endless.

The technology will be especially helpful for people who transact over the Web and as the article points out:

Goldman Sachs believes that blockchain technology holds great potential especially to optimize clearing and settlements, and could represent global savings of up to $6bn per year.

Governments and commercial establishment, however, are apprehensive about it as blockchain might end their control over a multitude of things. Just because blockchain never stores data at one location. This also is the reason why Bitcoin is yet to gain full acceptance. But, can a driving force like blockchain technology that will empower the actual users can be stopped?

Vishal Ingole, November 24, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Android Has No Competition in Mobile OS Market

November 23, 2016

Google’s Android OS currently powers 88% of the smartphones in the world, leaving minuscule 12.1 percent to Apple’s iOS and the remaining 0.3 percent for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS and Tizen.

IBTimes in an article titled Android Rules! 9 out of Every 10 Phones Run Google’s OS says:

Google’s Android OS dominated the world by powering 88 percent of the world’s smartphone market in the third quarter of 2016. This means 9 out of every 10 mobile phones in the world are using Android, while the rest rely on iOS or other mobile OS such as BlackBerry OS, Tizen and Windows Phone.

The growth occurred despite the fact that smartphone shipments are falling. China and Africa which were big markets have been performing poorly since last three-quarters. Android’s gain thus can be attributed to the fact that Android is an OpenSource system that can be used by any device manufacturer.

Despite being the clear leader, the mobile OS is full of bugs and other inherent problems, as the article points out:

Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place.

At present, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are the leading Android phone makers. However, Google recently unveiled Pixel, its flagship phone for the premium category. Does it mean that Google has its eyes set on the premium handset category market? Only time can tell.

Vishal Ingole, November 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

In Connected World, Users Are Getting Reared as Slaughter Animals

November 22, 2016

Yahoo, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram and Microsoft all have one thing in common; for any service that they provide for free, they are harnessing your private data to be sold to advertisers.

Mirror UK recently published an Op-Ed titled Who Is Spying on You? What Yahoo Hack Taught Us About Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp in which the author says:

Think about this for a second. All those emails you’ve written and received with discussions about politics and people that were assumed to be private and meant as inside jokes for you and your friends were being filtered through CIA headquarters. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ve written in the past few years, doesn’t it?

The services be it free email or free instant messaging have been designed and developed in such a way that the companies that own them end up with a humongous amount of information about its users. This data is sugarcoated and called as Big Data. It is then sold to advertisers and marketers who in the garb of providing immersive and customized user experience follow every click of yours online. This is akin to rearing animals for slaughtering them later.

The data is not just for sale to the corporates; law enforcement agencies can snoop on you without any warrants. As pointed out in the article:

While hypocritical in many ways, these tech giants are smart enough to know who butters their bread and that the perception of trust outweighs the reality of it. But isn’t it the government who ultimately ends up with the data if a company is intentionally spying on us and building a huge record about each of us?

None of the tech giants accept this fact, but most are selling your data to the government, including companies like Samsung that are into the hardware business.

Is there are a way that can help you evade this online snooping? Probably no if you consider mainstream services and social media platforms. Till then, if you want to stay below the radar, delete your accounts and data on all mainstream email service providers, instant messaging apps, service providing websites and social media platform.

Vishal Ingole, November 22, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Surprise, Most Dark Web Content Is Legal

November 21, 2016

If you have been under the impression that Dark Web is that big chunk of the Internet where all activities and content is illegal, you are wrong.

In a news report published by Neowin, and titled Terbium Labs: Most of the Dark Web Content, Visible Through Tor, Is Legal reveals:

Contrary to popular belief that the majority of the dark web, accessible through Tor is mostly legal… or offline! With extremism making up just a minuscule 0.2% of the content looked at.

According to this Quora thead, Dark Web was developed by US Military and Intelligence to communicate with their assets securely. The research started in 1995 and in 1997, mathematicians at Naval Research Laboratory developed The Onion Router Project or Tor. People outside Military Intelligence started using Tor to communicate with others for various reasons securely. Of course, people with ulterior motives spotted this opportunity and began utilizing Tor. This included arms and drug dealers, human traffickers, pedophiles. Mainstream media thus propagated the perception that Dark Web is an illegal place where criminal actors lurk, and all content is illegal.

Terbium Labs study indicates that 47.7% of content is legal and rest is borderline legal in the form of hacking services. Very little content is technically illegal like child pornography, arms dealing, drug dealing, and human trafficking related.

The Dark Web, however, is not a fairyland where illegal activities do not occur. As the news report points out:

While this report does prove that seedy websites exist on the dark web, they are in fact a minority, contradictory to what many popular news reports would have consumers believe.

Multiple research agencies have indicated that most content is legal on Dark Web with figures to back that up. But they still have not revealed, what this major chunk of legal content is made of? Any views?

Vishal Ingole, November 21, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

AI to Profile Gang Members on Twitter

November 16, 2016

Researchers from Ohio Center of Excellence in Knowledge-enabled Computing (Kno.e.sis) are claiming that an algorithm developed by them is capable of identifying gang members on Twitter.

Vice.com recently published an article titled Researchers Claim AI Can Identify Gang Members on Twitter, which claims that:

A deep learning AI algorithm that can identify street gang members based solely on their Twitter posts, and with 77 percent accuracy.

The article then points out the shortcomings of the algorithm or AI by saying this:

According to one expert contacted by Motherboard, this technology has serious shortcomings that might end up doing more harm than good, especially if a computer pegs someone as a gang member just because they use certain words, enjoy rap, or frequently use certain emojis—all criteria employed by this experimental AI.

The shortcomings do not end here. The data on Twitter is being analyzed in a silo. For example, let us assume that few gang members are identified using the algorithm (remember, no location information is taken into consideration by the AI), what next?

Is it not necessary then to also identify other social media profiles of the supposed gang members, look at Big Data generated by them, analyze their communication patterns and then form some conclusion? Unfortunately, none of this is done by the AI. It, in fact, would be a mammoth task to extrapolate data from multiple sources just to identify people with certain traits.

And most importantly, what if the AI is put in place, and someone just for the sake of fun projects an innocent person as a gang member? As rightly pointed out in the article – machines trained on prejudiced data tend to reproduce those same, very human, prejudices.

Vishal Ingole, November  16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Most Dark Web Content Is Legal and Boring

November 15, 2016

Data crunching done by an information security firm reveals that around 55% is legal and mundane like the clear or Open Web.

Digital Journal, which published the article Despite its Nefarious Reputation, New Report Finds Majority of Activity on the Dark Web is Totally Legal and Mundane, says that:

What we’ve found is that the dark web isn’t quite as dark as you may have thought,” said Emily Wilson, Director of Analysis at Terbium Labs. “The vast majority of dark web research to date has focused on illegal activity while overlooking the existence of legal content. We wanted to take a complete view of the dark web to determine its true nature and to offer readers of this report a holistic view of dark web activity — both good and bad.

The findings have been curated in a report The Truth About the Dark Web: Separating Fact from Fiction that puts the Dark Web in a new light. According to this report, around 55% of the content on Dark Web is legal; porn makes 7% of content on Dark Web, and most of it is legal. Drugs though is a favorite topic, only 45% of the content related to it can be termed as illegal. Fraud, extremism and illegal weapons trading on the other hand just make 5-7% of Dark Web.

The research methodology was done using a mix of machine intelligence and human intelligence, as pointed out in the article:

Conducting research on the dark web is a difficult task because the boundaries between categories are unclear,” said Clare Gollnick, Chief Data Scientist at Terbium Labs. “We put significant effort into making sure this study was based on a representative, random sample of the dark web. We believe the end result is a fair and comprehensive assessment of dark web activity, with clear acknowledgment of the limitations involved in both dark web data specifically and broader limitations of data generally.

Dark Web slowly is gaining traction as users of Open Web are finding utilities on this hidden portion of the Internet. Though the study is illuminating indeed, it fails to address how much of the illegal activity or content on Dark Web affects the real world. For instance, what quantity of drug trade takes place over Dark Web. Any answers?

Vishal Ingole, November  15, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

American Spies Are Using MapD This Season

November 11, 2016

Spies have cool gadgets to do their jobs.  Since the advent of the digital age, their gadgets not only have gotten cooler, but more complex.  Spy technology is built on the same software used in other non-intelligence-related industries.  Datanmi shares the CIA’s next technology investment in, “Why America’s Spy Agencies Are Investing In MapD.”

Q-Tel heads the CIA technological venture and they decided to run their new innovations on MapD.  The article makes an apt point that the CIA has fallen into the big data pool like the rest of the world, thus they are encountering many of the same problems as other industries.  Some of these problems include too much data and not enough time, funds, or ways to interpret it.

One reason that Q-Tel has turned to MapD is that it uses GPUs.  MapD is a very fast SQL database and, unlike many of its counterparts, it was specifically designed to run on GPUs.  It also includes a visual analytics layer that allows users to interact with data.

The CIA wants to use MapD to speed up its technology, so it can process and interpret its data faster than before.  It is straight forward why the CIA wants to use MapD.

Do not think this will be the last development from MapD this year.  The young company has already rounded up investors:

MapD is still ramping up. The San Francisco-based company completed a $12-million round of financing earlier this year, which In-Q-Tel was a part of. The company has 30 employees, and a handful of customers (Mostak says “in the tens”) across various industries. The software is being used by oil and gas companies, banks, hedge funds, retailers, ad tech firms, and the U.S. Government, the CEO confirms.

MapD will power an entire generation of CIA intelligence technology.  That is something you will not learn from the latest spy movie.

Whitney Grace, November 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Yahoo: More Inspiring Management Examples

November 10, 2016

I thought that the Yahoot — sorry, I meant Yahoo — was behind us. I noted two interesting announcements about the Purple Haze machine. Business school case study writers have a gold mine with this Yahoot thing. Purple gym shoes might be the perfect fashion accessory when one thinks about the Xoogler’s management expertise manifested in an SEC filing. The extracts below come from the articles cited in this blog post.

image

A Yahoo fashion accessory like these New Balance sneakers can be a complement to deposition day fashion. Yahoot’s professionals can make themselves instantly recognizable with these stylish kicks.

The first write up comes from a trendy business newsletter in the form of a story with this title: “Yahoo Faces at Least 23 Lawsuits Over Its Massive Data Breach.” One lawsuit is too many. Twenty three is an embarrassment of riches. The write up reports:

the Company is cooperating with federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies seeking information and/or documents about the Security Incident and related matters, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a number of State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.

Cooperation is good. Tucked into the write up was this statement:

Although the company says it only spent $1 million related to the breach last quarter, it admitted that the breach may “cause users and customers to curtail or stop using our products and services.”

No kidding?

I also noted this article: “Yahoo Admits Some Employees Knew of Massive Hack in 2014.” Let’s see. That’s about two years ago. The write up points out:

“An Independent Committee of the Board, advised by independent counsel and a forensic expert, is investigating, among other things, the scope of knowledge within the Company in 2014 and thereafter regarding this access,” Yahoo said in its filing. But it wasn’t until its August probe that the company got confirmation of the extent of the breach, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.

The source for both of these articles is a Yahoo SEC filing.

Outstanding judgment on the part of the Yahoo management team to cooperate with authorities, contradict the date of the “alleged” breach, and perform these cartwheels as Verizon tries to figure out if Yahoot is a swatch of discolored purple fabric which can be converted into Yoga pants or a t shirt. Perhaps business school students at some time in the future can wear purple New Balance sneakers to their discussion group meetings about Yahoo?

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2016

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