Why Society Emulates Sheep: Quick Look That Up on Your Mobile Device

September 24, 2019

On a recent visit to Eastern Europe, I learned that in several countries, there was a hierarchy among shepherds. The job of watching sheep fell to those lower in the shepherd hierarchy. The person who could train horses and dogs, knew the ins and outs of the less-than-brilliant sheep, and showed some moxie — that individual was at the top of the sheep heap.

I read “The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills: Worse Than You Think” and thought about shepherds and sheep. The Nielsen Norman Group reported:

Across 33 rich countries, only 5% of the population has high computer-related abilities, and only a third of people can complete medium-complexity tasks.

The idea is that those without expertise are likely to be sheep-like. Now sheepness is not a bad thing. Sheep are docile and seem content to go along with whatever the shepherd hierarchy decides. Even when getting shorn, the sheep can be controlled, and they don’t seem to form a group and wait for the person with the shears to turn his back so a stampede can nuke the individual with the shears.

But in today’s world with its technical hierarchy, the Nielsen Norman Group data suggest that a hierarchy exists for technology.

This is useful information for those at the top of the technology skill heap.

Think about the shepherd hierarchy. Which is better? The person with expertise or the freshly-shorn sheep? What is the likelihood that those with limited technical expertise can accurately perceive what today’s digital shepherds are doing.

Herding, shearing, or anticipating grilled lamb shank?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2019

Factualities for August 14, 2019

August 14, 2019

Kick back at the beach, grab a pen, and craft some numbers.

The number of the week is:

3. The rank of medical error as a cause of death in the US. Source: Science Alert

Other notable confections, examples of sleeping in Statistics 101, and the deliria from spreadsheet fever are:

40. Number of Windows drivers which contain privilege of escalation vulnerabilities. Source: Neowin

60. The percent increase in fraud attacks on the food and beverage market. Source: Restaurant Technology

74. Percent of digital transactions handled by Amazon. Source: Search Engine Watch

90. Percentage of startups which fail. Source: Inventiva

200. The percentage increase in destructive malware attacks since January 2019. Source Silicon Angle from IBM

$880. Amount Verizon charged a library for less than 500 megabytes of “roaming” data. Source: ArsTechnica

10,000. Number of medical records lost by the New York Fire Department. Source: Engadget

42,000. Number of fake soldiers receiving pay in Afghanistan. These fakes are called “ghost soldiers.” Source: Military.com

$1 million. Amount Apple with pay for a specific iPhone exploit. Source: Digital Trends

$1.05 million. Amount the US Department of Energy has allocated to a blockchain energy management program. Source: Coin Telegraph

$3 million. Amount Facebook has allegedly promised specific publishers news to participate in a Facebook “news” service.  Source: Apple Insider

$8.6 million. Amount Cisco Systems paid as a fine because its security product did not secure. Source: TechDirt

$1.5 billion. Palantir’s government contracts. Source: BizJournals from Lantinx (Note: Paywalls used to protect this high value data about a privately held company doing business related to some low profile work.)

$2 billion. The amount North Korea allegedly stole from cyber crime victims in order to pay for weapons. Source: Computing

$4.25 billion. Amount Apple spent on research and development in the June 2019 quarter1. Source: Apple Insider

$5.24 billion. Uber’s loss in a single 90 day period. In case you are wondering, that works out to more than $50 million per day. Source: MarketWatch

$16 billion. That’s the size of the blockchain solution market in 2023, a mere four years in the future. Evidence? Nope. Source: Crypto browser.io

20 billion. The number of data events Badoo handles each day. Yep, Badoo, not Baido. Evidence: Nah. Source: Infoq

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2019

DarkCyber for August 13, 2019, Now Available

August 13, 2019

DarkCyber for August 13, 2019, is now available at www.arnoldit.com/wordpress and on Vimeo at https://www.vimeo.com/353202530. The program is a production of Stephen E Arnold. It is the only weekly video news shows focusing on the Dark Web, cybercrime, and lesser known Internet services.

DarkCyber (August 6, 2019) reviews on way for organization compromised via ransomware to address the problem. The approach is free and can work in many cases. Europol, a number of national police agencies, and more than 20 commercial vendors have created NoMoreRansom.org. The site provides specific information and decryption methods for more than 100 widely used ransomware systems. Each of the decryption tools is available with a how-to user manual and links to the code required to decrypt the encrypted data. If a user cannot identify the specific malware used to attack an organization, the site includes a feature which can identify the specific ransomware used in an attack. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of ransomware, the site includes a Frequently Asked Questions section. The information is clear, concise, and designed for a person with average computing expertise. Most system professionals will find the site intuitive and designed to allow quick access to the needed decryption tools.

Other stories in this week’s DarkCyber include:

Setting up a front company. DarkCyber reports that an online information service has published information explaining how to set up a front company in the US. Front companies or “fronts” are useful for tax evasion, money laundering, and fraud. Few states in the US require basic information about those setting up the front company. Data about directors of the company is not required in dozens of states. The procedure is simple, and in some states, the registration of the front company can be handled by a representative such as a law firm. Front companies are used to hide ownership of assets; for example, other companies.

The US government has published a report about the security lapses at Equifax, a credit checking service. The company lost more millions of customers’ personally identifying information. DarkCyber provides a direct link to this informative government report. Bad actors, however, may find the information in the report useful in determining how to attack a financial services firm in the US.

The United States Postal Service cyber intelligence team is adding tactics. The USPS will make us of some of the techniques popular with cyber criminals. The mail services in Western Europe and the US have been used to deliver contraband and enable other illegal activities. The new approach will make it possible for investigators to join closed forums and discussion groups and adopt other behaviors in wide use by bad actors.

Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have developed a method for enhancing solar cells. With the new technology, drones could greatly extend their flight time. The technique enhances the voltage generated by solar cells using sophisticating reflective coatings and new manufacturing procedures. Surveillance drones, for example, could remain aloft for weeks or months, not hours and days.
A new multipart series about Amazon policeware initiative begins on November 1, 2019. Programs are available on Vimeo.com and YouTube.com.

The last program in this series will be on August 27, 2019. DarkCyber will return in November 2019 with a new series focused on Amazon’s policeware.

Kenny Toth, August 13, 2019

Factualities for August 7, 2019

August 7, 2019

The summer doldrums have had no suppressing effect on those spreadsheet jockeys, wizards of pop up surveys, and latte charged predictors.

Here’s our fanciest number of the week. It comes from an outfit called The Next Web:

1 billion. The number of people who watch esports. Esports are video games. Does Amazon Twitch, Google YouTube, and Ninja’s new home report verifiable data? Yeah, sure. Source: TNW

There was a close race for craziest. We have recognized a runner up, however, we marveled at this figure:

13. Percentage of apps on the Google Play app store which have more than 1,000 installs. And 13 apps have more than 10 million users. (How many Android phones are there in the world? More than 2 billion, if NewZoo data are “sort of correct.”) Source: ZDNet

Here’s our “normal” rundown of factualities:

(20). The percentage decrease in malware. Source: Computing UK

12. Minutes per hour devoted to TV commercials on the AT&T owned Turner television network. Source: Los Angeles Times

$5. The amount Google paid people for permission to scan their faces. Source: The Verge

33. The percentage of businesses running Windows XP which was rolled out in 2001. Source: Slashdot

50. The percentage of companies which do not know if their security procedures are working. Source: IT Pro Portal

50. The percentage of the cloud market which Amazon has. Source: Marketwatch

50. The percentage of “workers” who was half their time struggling with data. Source: ZDNet

82. Percentage of people who will connect to any free WiFi service available to them. Source: Slashdot

89. Percentage of Germans who think France is a trustworthy partner. Source: Reddit

100,000. Estimated staff IBM terminated. An unknown percentage of these professionals were too old to make IBM hip again. Source: Bloomberg

$8.6 million. Amount Cisco Systems had to pay for selling a security product which was not secure. Source: DarkReading

106 million. Number of people whose personal details were stolen in the Capital One breach of an Amazon AWS system. Source: Washington Post

250 million. Number of email accounts stolen by trickbot. Source: Forbes

1 billion. Number of people who watch esports (online games). Source: Next Web

$4.769 trillion. The net worth of 13,650 Harvard grads. Source: MarketWatch

Stephen E Arnold, August 7, 2019

Flawed Data In, Bias Out

August 3, 2019

Artificial intelligence is biased. AI algorithms are biased against non-white people as well as females. The reason is that the programmers are usually white males and it is usually an oversight to add data that makes their AI algorithms diverse. Silicon Republic shares a brand new ways that AI is biased, this time against poorer individuals: “Biased AI Reportedly Struggles To Identify Objects From Poorer Households.”

The biggest biased AI culprits are visual recognition algorithms built to identify people and objects. The main cause behind their biases is the lack of diverse data. The article points out how Facebook’s AI research lab discovered how biased data exists in internationally used visual object recognition systems. Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Vision, Amazon Rekognition, Clarifai, and IBM Watson use algorithms that were tasked with identifying common household items from a global dataset. Information in the dataset included:

“The dataset covers 117 categories of different household items and documents the average monthly income of households from various countries across the world, ranging from $27 in Burundi to $10,098 in China. When the algorithms were shown the same product but from different parts of the world, the researchers found that there was a 10pc increase in chance they would fail to identify items from a household earning less than $50 versus one making more than $3,500 a month.”

This raises an interesting view on how the AI are programmed to identify objects. One example is identifying soap on different surfaces. In richer countries, soap was identified when it was in a soap pump dispenser on a tiled counter, but in poorer countries it was bar soap on a dirty surface. The AI was 20% more likely to identify objects in richer countries than poor ones. The difference increases with living rooms with a 40% accuracy difference and it is due to the lack of items in poorer homes. The programmers believe the bias is due to most of the data comes from wealthier countries and lack of information from poorer ones.

Is this another finding from Captain Obvious’ research lab? Is it possible to generate more representative datasets? Obviously not.

Whitney Grace, August 3, 2019

Factualities, July 24, 2019

July 24, 2019

There were not too many facts for the DarkCyber team to extract from the Facebook Versa hearing. Bummer. We did find a few, including the craziest Factuality of the week.

$152 billion. Revenue from game streaming in 2019. Source: Fortune Magazine

Here are other numerical gems we spotted in the last week. Read on.

7. The number of stalkerware apps (downloaded 130,000 times by consumers) removed from the Google Play Store by Google itself. Source: 9to5 Google

10. Number of months Google’s blog management tool survived before termination with extreme prejudice. Source: Android Police

40. The increase in hate speech on 4chan in the last 12 months. Source: Vice

50. The percentage of time “older” Americans spend alone. (Note: No data about the presence of a mobile phone owned by this group.) Source: Pew Research

68. Percentage of information technology managers who cannot keep up with cyber attacks. Source: OodaLoop

1,000. Number of private conversations record via Google Assistant leaked. Source: CNBC

1,500. Number of digital textbooks Pearson (which once owned a wax museum) will be digital first. Source: BBC

3,200. Number of changes to “search” Google made in 2018. Source: Search Engine Roundtable

700,000. Number of podcasts available at this time. Source: New York Times

$1,800,000. Amount bad actors demand from a college compromised by ransomware. Source: Naked Security

$10,000,000. Amount a now-former Microsoft engineer stole via customer fraud. Source: The Register

13,000,000. Number of daily users of Microsoft’s Slack clone service. Source: Slashdot

63,000,000. Number of Amazon Prime members as of July 2019. Source: ZDNet

$301,000,000. Amount stolen per month via business email compromises. We find the “1” a nice touch. It communicates accuracy. Source: Bleeping Computer

1,000,000,000. Number of installs of Word on Android OS mobile phones. Source: MSPowerUser

$4,500,000,000. Size of Google Venture’s arm. Source: Business Insider

$14,300,000,000. Size of the consumer drone market in 2029. Note: This is one tenth the size of today’s game streaming market. Source: Reuters

$45,000,000,000. Cost of financial crime in 2018. Source: Dark Reading

We still admire the “one” in the estimate of losses from phishing. Precision is good, especially when a “one” is involved.

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2019

Data: Such a Flexible and Handy Marketing Tool

July 5, 2019

Love Big Data? Like New Age research? Enjoy studies funded by commercial enterprises? If you are nodding in agreement, head on over to ““Evidence-Based Medicine Has Been Hijacked: A Confession from John Ioannidis.”

Here’s a statement to ponder:

Since clinical research that can generate useful clinical evidence has fallen off the radar screen of many/most public funders, it is largely left up to the industry to support it.  The sales and marketing departments in most companies are more powerful than their R&D departments. Hence, the design, conduct, reporting, and dissemination of this clinical evidence becomes an advertisement tool. As for “basic” research, as I explain in the paper, the current system favors PIs who make a primary focus of their career how to absorb more money. Success in obtaining (more) funding in a fiercely competitive world is what counts the most. Given that much “basic” research is justifiably unpredictable in terms of its yield, we are encouraging aggressive gamblers. Unfortunately, it is not gambling for getting major, high-risk discoveries (which would have been nice), it is gambling for simply getting more money.

Does this observation apply to the world of Big Data, online advertising, and the spreadsheet fever plaguing MBAs? Yep.

  1. People believe numbers and most do not ask, “Where did this number come from? What was the sample? How did you verify these data?”
  2. Outputs can be shaped. Check out your college class notes for Statistics 101; that is, I am assuming you kept your college notes. See anything about best practices? Validity tests?
  3. What about those thresholds? Many Bayesian methods are based upon guesses. Toss in some Monte Carlo? How representative of the outputs? What are the deltas between the current outputs and other available data?

Our next Factualities will appear in this blog on Wednesday. There are some special numbers in that round up.

A friend of mine who owns a successful online business said, “Nobody cares.”

Nobody cares?

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2019

Factualities for July 3, 2019

July 3, 2019

The rush toward the end of a numerically thrilling year is upon us. Some of the rock solid, outstanding numbers the DarkCyber team noted and believed by golly. Statistics 101 has not failed the productive and creative thinkers providing us real factualities, particularly some interesting pairs from different research wizards.

$1. Amount DoorDash pays for a trip. Source: Forbes

7. Number of years hackers have been stealing data from global cell networks. Source: TechDirt

11. The percentage of enterprise search users which find the technology “effective.” Source: CMSWire (Content management? What’s that?)

11. Number of steps required to reset a GE “smart” light bulb. Source: General Electric

20. The percent of IBM revenue which comes from “Asia.” Source: SCMP

22. The number of megatons (a megaton is equal to 1,000,000 tons) of carbon dioxide emissions produced by “Bitcoin”. Source: Eurekalert

22. The number of third party companies which provide technology to create dark patterns (that is, ways to trick site visitors) and be funneled to deceptive messages. Source: Princeton University

46. The percentage of those in a global study prefer a physical store. Source: Computer Weekly

46. The percentage of US adults who never use voice assistants. Source: Ecommerce Daily News

48.96. The quite precise percentage of Google search searches which ended with zero clicks. [ DarkCyber question: Does this mean the results were irrelevant?] Source: Sparktoo

66. Percent of those in a US sample want social networks to police offensive content. 69 percent have little or no confidence that social networks can correctly identify such content. Note that a leading legal eagle believe that he could spot offensive content when he could see it. Ah, the benefits of a legal education versus engineering expertise.

69. Number of police agencies using the zapping product once known as Taser. Source: New York Times

70. The percentage of unicorns (startups worth more than $1 billion) which are actually old products. Source: SaaSTR

110. The decibels produced by Dyson and Xcelerator hair and hand driers manufactured by these firms. Source: CBC

300. The percentage increase in the number of US taxi drivers since 2008.

300. The percentage increase in environmental “damage” jet contrails will do by 2050. Source: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

15,000. Number of users a for fee email service has. $33 million. The amount the company raised in venture capital. Source: New York Times

50,000. A nice round number reporting the number of plastic particles that you, gentle reader, consume each year. Source: The Guardian

432,000. Another nice round number representing the number of Macbook laptops recalled by Apple. Source: CBS News

$600,000. The amount a Florida city paid cyber criminals to regain access to its computer systems. Source: AP

11 million. The exact number of fake business listings in Google’s business listings. Source: Wall Street Journal

12.9 billion. The size of the threat intelligence market in 2023 or 48 months, whichever arrives first. Source: WAtech

Stephen E Arnold, July 3, 2019

Factualities for May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

Numbers, particularly nice round ones, have been zipping around the interwebs in the last seven days. Here’s a tasty selection of some which caught our attention.

8. Number of people with whom a Google Duo user can chat simultaneously on one mobile phone screen. Source: Esquire

2,000. Number of Mannequin Challenge videos Google used to train its smart software. Source: Igyhaan

14. Number of years Google stored some customers’ passwords in plain text. Source: Next Web

3. Number of years to elapse before IBM commercializes quantum computing. Source: Interesting Engineering

$30 million. Palantir Technologies’ losses in 2018. Note: The company was founded in 2003. Source: Bloomberg

885 million. Number of customer records “exposed” online by a Fortune 500 insurance company named First American Financial. Source: Krebs on Security

71 percent. Percentage of student who would buy an Apple Mac computer if the students could afford the Apple product. Source: Tech Radar

50 percent. Percentage of businesses unable to handle cloud computing security. Source: IT Pro Portal

$425 million. How much money Google will not capture due to the Huawei ban. Source: Mr. Top Step

$2.5 billion. Dollar size of the cloud game market (aka online games) in 24 months. Source: IHS

120 minutes. The length of Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference. Source: Game Rant

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2019

Mobile Phone: Tips for Addicts

May 28, 2019

Metro, a UK tabloid, reported about a study conducted at the University of Washington. The idea the researchers probed related to “triggers” which keep a person glued to his or her mobile device. “How to Resist the Four Triggers Which Keep You Addicted to Your Smartphone” reveals the tricks. The sample was 39 people aged from 14 to 64. Now I don’t want to get mathy, but the sample would get some frowns from an online Statistics 101 adjunct professor from a no name school in North Carolina. At a juicier institution, like the University of Washington, the sample is right sized.

With this cutting edge research, the secrets have been revealed; to wit:

  1. An unoccupied moment, the smartphone is there for you and me.
  2. As a break when one is working on a difficult task such as calculating or looking up in a table the sample size for a research project into “hooks” used to addict a person to a mobile phone.
  3. As a deflection action when an actual human who has taken several classes in statistics wants to engage a person like a researcher in a conversation about sample sizes.
  4. When one anticipates an email or other communication from an academic institution eager to hire a cracker jack researcher and data wrangler.

From my reading, I have gleaned some other information about the ways to make a person 14 to 64 become an addict. I offer these to suggest that the Metro’s summary of the research does not capture the scope of the subject. Here are some other addictive tricks:

  1. Approval from perceived “friends” or “persons whom one wishes to be a pal”
  2. Sex hook ups, images, etc.
  3. Rewards delivered via gameification
  4. Sex hook ups, images, etc.
  5. Desire to expand one’s contacts when looking for a job in statistics.
  6. Sex hook ups, images, etc.

Perhaps the team form the University of Washington will expand their research. On the other hand, why bother? A sample of 39 is just so right.

Oh, and the secret to breaking the addiction? Turn off the gizmo.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2019

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