Real of Fake News: Did the NSA Help Develop Bitcoin?

June 15, 2018

Here in Harrod’s Creek, one can buy corn meal and squirrel meat using the barter method. Put that quart jar of moonshine on the counter and pick up your vittles. No digital currency here.

Therefore, the assertion in “The NSA Helped to Invent Bitcoin, Founder of World’s Second Largest Cryptocurrency Ethereum Claims” puzzles the Beyond Search and DarkCyber research team. The source is impeccable: The UK tabloid Metro.

We learned:

Vitalik Buterin, the Russian-born creator of Ethereum, suggested the National Security Agency (NSA) was involved in the development of the virtual currency.

With Amazon on the Ethereum bandwagon, we think that currency and transaction platform is worth monitoring.

But did a US government agency create Bitcoin? Metro reports:

Earlier this year, it was reported that a boss of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky made a similar claim. ‘Bitcoin is a project of American intelligence agencies, which was designed to provide quick funding for US, British and Canadian intelligence activities in different countries,’ she said, according to Sputnik News. ‘[The technology] is privatized just like the Internet, GPS and TOR. In fact, it is dollar 2.0. Its rate is controlled by the owners of exchanges.’

We’ll stick to old fashioned currencies and the staple one of our contract workers manufactures in another hollow. White lightning can change one’s perception of reality. A reporter, for example, hot on the trail of Satoshi Nakamoto might have taken a slurp.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2018

Could Ma Bell Get Her Old Mojo Back?

June 15, 2018

Many years ago I worked on projects for the original AT&T, also Bellcore, and USWest. I am not a bell head, but I understand some of the Maslovian forces at work. Telecommunications utilities want to be monopolies. It seems to be a genetic law embedded in former members of the Young Pioneers and in the bricks and electronics of the Piscataway data center and the Cherry Hill labs.

I want to point out the write up “AT&T completes Acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.” The deal may not be for copper wire and 5ESS switches, but Ma Bell may be gathering her skirts and getting ready to rumble.

The write up states that AT&T has communications, media, international services, and advertising.

What’s missing?

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, AT&T is one acquisition away from bring back Ma Bell. Either AT&T buys Verizon or Verizon buys AT&T and all will be right with the world. Another angle for revivifying Ma Bell is for an investment bank to purchase both companies and merge them.

Why?

Digital services are more efficient and effective when they operate as single source providers.

Judge Green went against the natural order of digital services, and now Bell Telephone is one acquisition away from a most auspicious return. Will that happen? Could that happen?

AT&T just bought Time Warner. Why not deliver a true Bell head solution?

Even Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft would have to rethink their business plans.

One other benefit: Phone calls would connect more quickly and certain types of oversight become much simpler.

I will have to look around for my Young Pioneers baseball cap. I think I had a red, white, and blue one with a Bell logo. None of that death star iconography.

Stephen E Arnold, June 15, 2018

Why We Cannot Have Nice Info Things

June 9, 2018

With every good invention there comes a time when somebody figures out how to use it for the porn industry. The examples include the inventions of the Internet, animation, comic books, writing, drawing, plumbing, electricity, printing, movies, videogames, and the list goes on. Now we can add AI algorithms to the list. Quartz shares how innocent AI algorithms became used for porn in the article, “Google Gave The World Powerful AI Tools, And The World Made Porn.”

Google released its internal tool TensorFlow to the public in 2015. This changed the way AI tools would forever be developed. TensorFlow is a powerful tool that can turn anyone with a little know how into an AI developer. For a while, academics were the only ones using TensorFlow, then the Reddit community got hold of it. What did Reddit do with it? They used TensorFlow to make porn and lots of it!

Reddit user deep fakes built a video editing app that allowed users to seamlessly put people’s faces on porn actors’ bodies. It escalated from there. Blaming Google for bringing a new dimension to porn is like saying the entire Internet is bad. Yes, the Internet has a figurative and literal dark side), but the benefits outweigh the negatives. Also Google is not liable for the porn:

“Since the software can run locally on a computer, large tech companies relinquish control of what’s done with it after it leaves their servers. The creed of open source, or at least how it’s been viewed in modern software development, also dictates that these companies are freed of guilt or liability from what others do with the software. In that way, it’s like a gun or a cigarette.”

But there are ethical concerns:

“The tools that Google offers today are not the keys to creating Skynet or some other super intelligent being, but they can still do real harm. Google and others like Microsoft, which also offers an open-source AI framework, have been vocal about the ethical development of artificial intelligence that would not cause harm, and their on-staff scientists have signed pledges and started research groups dedicated to the topic. But the companies don’t offer any guidance or mandates for those who download their free software. The TensorFlow website shows how to get the software running, but no disclaimers on how to use the software ethically or instructions on how to make sure your dataset isn’t biased.”

There is a right to be concerned, but at the same time there is not. Should this be monitored? Of course, especially if it will do harm to others. But if it is self-contained and no innocents are being hurt, it is arguable to leave them alone too. We all know, however, that harm will come from this. It is the same story in a new medium.

Whitney Grace, June 9, 2018

DarkCyber for June 5, 2018: Amazon and Its LE and Intelligence Services

June 5, 2018

The DarkCyber for June 5, 2018, is now available at www.arnoldit.com/wordpress or on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/273170550.

This week’s DarkCyber presents an extract from Stephen E Arnold’s lectures at the Prague Telestrategies ISS conference. The conference is designed for security, intelligence, and law enforcement professionals in Europe.

Stephen’s two lectures provided attendees with a snapshot of the services Amazon’s streaming data marketplace offer to customers, developers, and entrepreneurs.

Stephen said:

The Amazon platform is positioned to provide a robust, innovative way to anonymize digital currency transactions and perform the type of analyses needed to deal with bad actors and the activities.

The information was gleaned from Amazon conference lectures, Amazon’s Web logs and documentation, and open source documents.

For example, one public document stated:

“… A law enforcement agency may be a customer and may desire to receive global Bitcoin transactions, correlated by country, with USP data to determine source IP addresses and shipping addresses that correlate to Bitcoin addresses.”

Coupled with Amazon’s facial recognition service “Rekognition” and Amazon’s wide array of technical capabilities, Amazon is able to provide specialized content processing and data services.

Stephen stated:

Instead of learning how to use many different specialized systems, the Amazon approach offers a unified capability available with a Kindle-style interface. This is a potential game changer for LE, intel, and security service providers.

In this week’s DarkCyber video, Stephen provides an eight minute summary of his research, including the mechanisms by which new functions can be added to or integrated with the system.

A for fee lecture about what Stephen calls “Amazon’s intelligence services” is available on a for fee basis. For information, write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Kenny Toth, June 5, 2018

IBM: Just When You Thought Crazy Stuff Was Dwindling

May 19, 2018

How has IBM marketing reacted to the company’s Watson and other assorted technologies? Consider IBM and quantum computing. That’s the next big thing, just as soon as the systems become scalable. And the problem of programming? No big deal. What about applications? Hey, what is this a reality roll call?

Answer: Yes, plus another example of IBM predicting the future.

Navigate to “IBM Warns of Instant Breaking of Encryption by Quantum Computers: ‘Move Your Data Today’.”

I like that “warning.” I like that “instant breaking of encryption.” I like that command: “Move your data today.”

Hogwash.

hog in mud

IBM’s quantum computing can solve encryption problems instantly. Can this technology wash this hog? The answer is that solving encryption instantly and cleaning this dirty beast remain highly improbably. To verify this hunch, let’s ask Watson.

The write up states with considerable aplomb:

“Anyone that wants to make sure that their data is protected for longer than 10 years should move to alternate forms of encryption now,” said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research.

So, let me get this straight. Quantum computing can break encryption instantly. I am supposed to move to an alternate form of encryption. But if encryption can be broken instantly, why bother?

That strikes me as a bit of the good old tautological reasoning which leads exactly to nowhere. Perhaps I don’t understand.

I learned:

The IBM Q is an attempt to build a commercial system, and IBM has allowed more than 80,000 developers run applications through a cloud-based interface. Not all types of applications will benefit from quantum computers. The best suited are problems that can be broken up into parallel processes. It requires different coding techniques. “We still don’t know which applications will be best to run on quantum computers,” Krishna said. “We need a lot of new algorithms.”

No kidding. Now we need numerical recipes, and researchers have to figure out what types of problems quantum computing can solve?

We have some dirty hogs in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. Perhaps IBM’s quantum cloud computing thing which needs algorithms can earn some extra money. You know that farmers in Kentucky pay pretty well for hog washing.

Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2018

Troubling Tech News from Canada

May 7, 2018

When people discuss high tech countries and also countries that censor its citizens through technology, Canada rarely enters either conversation. The country is democratic and values free speech, but has no Silicon Valley. However, a Canadian company was recently outed as a catalyst for censorship in other countries, according to a CBC story, “To Censor The Internet, 10 Countries Use Canadian Filtering Technology.”

According to the story:

“As part of a globe-spanning investigation released Wednesday, researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab say they have found fresh evidence that internet-filtering technology developed by Waterloo, Ont.-based Netsweeper is being used in 10 countries to censor access to news, religious content, LGBTQ+ resources, and political campaigns.

“India and Pakistan, both parliamentary democracies, are two notable entries in a list of regimes that includes the UAE.”

Very disturbing news for any democratic nation, but oddly, not the last of the bad news involving Canadian Tech. Lawmakers in Ottawa have also begun investigating whether or not Canadian tech companies are related to various human rights violations. This is troubling news, but nothing new for countries that practice free speech. That right allows some to profit off of others’ lack of those rights. Hopefully, the Canadian government and people will find a solution to this dangerous news.

Patrick Roland, May 7, 2018

You Are Not Missing the Boat. You Cannot Buy a Ticket.

May 4, 2018

I read “New Technology Widening Gap Between World’s Biggest and Smallest Businesses.” The idea is that if one has money, that individual gets the good stuff. On food stamps? No, iPhone X for you.

Applied to business, the argument means that a local lawn service has zero chance to compete with the landscaping service maintaining the US government’s Camp David.

The write up asserts:

Companies investing in robotics, among other digital technologies, are seeing productivity and profits increase, but the cost involved risks creating an even wider gap between the world’s top companies and their smaller rivals, new research shows.

If the argument were substantive, a small start up would have zero chance to survive. Why? The big companies win. The little outfits lose.

Access to technology, even in countries with constrained citizens, is visible. I have not visited every country in the world, but I have been in more than a handful.

The barrier is not money. The hurdles are usually knowledge centric. Bad decisions at big companies can neutralize technology. The Cambridge Analytic matter illustrates the importance of knowing what to do. Get it wrong and the company suffered.

Technology is a tool and an enabler. Technology is not an automatic slam dunk just because a company is big and has money. The ingredients for success are information, timing, judgment, and luck.

The big versus small argument, if true, would mean that large publishers would dominate information. We know that is not the case.

Therefore, grousing about the unfairness of big versus small does not work for me. However, if one cannot buy a ticket, one cannot get on the boat.

Envy or technology? I go with envy.

Stephen E Arnold, May 4, 2018

Tech Giants Playing Hardball or Shadow Boxing?

May 3, 2018

I don’t have a dog in this very confused kennel. “Tech Giants Hit by NSA Spying Slam Encryption Backdoors.” I must admit that I had to read the headline twice. I think the “real news” outfit ZDNet is stating that the US government is spying. Therefore, the “tech giants” want to make it more difficult for the US government to access messages of “tech giants’” customers.

I may be wrong, but “hit,” “slam”, and “backdoors” are words that suggest the US government is a pretty bad outfit.

Okay, what does the “real news” outfit assert? I noted this passage:

A coalition of Silicon Valley tech giants has doubled down on its criticism of encryption backdoors following a proposal that would give law enforcement access to locked and encrypted devices.

I interpret this statement as a “tech giants” refusing to help the US government access encrypted, obfuscated, or otherwise secret content generated, housed, or stored on the giants’ systems.

The problem is that I noted these two developments in the last week or so:

  • First, Amazon and Google are taking steps to prevent Signal from using these tech giants’ systems as a way to sidestep certain blocking actions. The spoof is up, if Amazon and Google follow through with their anti-Signal message.
  • Second, Facebook witnessed the departure of an advocate of strong encryption. The individual wanted to beef up encryption, and someone in charge of WhatsApp wanted looser encryption.

These two examples suggest that not all tech giants are hitting back at the US government. On the contrary, I could easily interpret these actions this way:

  • Amazon wants to become a player in policeware. The Signal move could be similar to one’s high school dreamboat fluttering her / his eyes at a potential prom date.
  • The Facebook move could be interpreted as the equivalent of Marc Zuckerberg donning a barb wire or hair shirt to demonstrate his willingness to do wear a digital cilice to atone for his alleged data sins.

Could there be cooperation among tech giants and the US government when certain issues such as national security come into play?

What do you think? Hard ball or shadow boxing. Getting hit by a 90 mile per hour pitch can hurt. Getting nailed by a shadow is comparatively tame.

Net net: I am not sure I buy into the “hit back” argument.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2018

Rust Belt Looks Pretty Good Right Now

April 29, 2018

The rising cost of living and doing business in the San Francisco area, along with diminishing returns, is leading many to claim that Silicon Valley’s bubble has burst. In its place, some interesting alternatives are cropping up. But is it possible, old rust belt cities could be the new hip area for startups? According to the New York Times, the answer is “Yes,” at least in its recent article, “Silicon Valley is Over, Says Silicon Valley.”

The story follows a bus tour of venture capitalists going to Detroit, South Bend, IN and elsewhere.

“In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere.”

It certainly seems possible, with a cheap cost of starting up and a serious desire to rise, like in Detroit. Some are even calling the Motor City the new “Mobile City” calling it the new Silicon Valley of smart mobile tech. But there is a lot more to it than this and we can’t see the tent poles coming down from the Silicon Valley circus any time soon. There is too much money and too much talent in one place for a mass exodus. Sorry, Detroit.

Patrick Roland, April 29, 2018

Facial Recognition for a Certain Type of Bro

April 11, 2018

Male white privilege is a topic that pervades social and cultural discourse, but according to The Seattle Times the bias exists in facial recognition technology, “Facial-Recognition Technology Works Best If You’re A White Guy, Study Says.” AI’s ability to recognize people is improving more and more each day. The technology’s developers improve the technology by feeding AI data that help it learn to discern between physical differences such as gender, skin color, facial features, and other traits. It seems, however, that the data groups are overwrought with white men.

Apparently facial recognition software is 99 percent accurate in identifying white men, but the darker a person’s skin is the more errors that arise. MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini discovered the disparities and said it was a reflection of real word biases. The AI is only as smart as the people that program it:

“In modern artificial intelligence, data rules. AI software is only as smart as the data used to train it. If there are many more white men than black women in the system, it will be worse at identifying the black women. One widely used facial recognition data set was estimated to be more than 75 percent male and more than 80 percent white, according to another research study.”

Another alarming factor is that facial recognition and related technologies have a high adoption rate, such as companies that use them to target social media ads and automated decisions such as hiring people and money lending. Do not forget that law enforcement officials are relying more on the technology and minorities are more likely to singled out in databases.

While this information is disparaging, it makes a bigger issue out of something that can be easily remedied. Yes, the data is skewed towards white males, because, based on statistics, more white men work in the technology field so they draw on data they have ready access to. It is the same with the genetics field, European and Asian genes are more accurately represented than African DNA, because these countries are more developed than the mother continent. To resolve this conundrum, they need to start feeding facial recognition technology data with more females and people with darker skin. It is probably not that hard to find the data, just visit social media or an image library, then download away.

Whitney Grace, April 11, 2018

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