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Self Driving Bicycle Prank Points to Wider Arena

June 24, 2016

Technology companies are no stranger to making April Fools’ pranks in the form of media releases. This year, The Inspiration Room shared an article highlighting the Google Self Driving Bicycle, which was of course developed by the Dutch and launched in the Netherlands. The aspect of this story that is not fiction is how often the Dutch cycle. This short post briefs us on the media release,

“Google is introducing the Google Self Driving Bicycle in Amsterdam, the world’s premier cycling city. The Dutch cycle more than any other nation in the world, almost 900 kilometres per year per person, amounting to over 15 billion kilometres annually. The self-driving bicycle enables safe navigation through the city for Amsterdam residents, and furthers Google’s ambition to improve urban mobility with technology. Google Netherlands takes enormous pride in the fact that a Dutch team worked on this innovation that will have great impact in their home country.”

If there’s one truth this article points to, it’s that the field of search seems to be encompassing nearly everything. It is humorous how Google continues to grow new tentacles tackling more and more arenas that have seemingly little to do with search. Despite the fact this self-driving bicycle does not exist yet, it’s clearly no stretch of the imagination — if a company were to make such a product, would there be any other contenders for who would make it?


Megan Feil, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Stepes: Human Translation at Your Fingertips

June 24, 2016

Though today’s machine translation is a convenient way to quickly get the gist of a foreign-language passage, it has its limitations; professionals still turn to human translation services when it counts. A new platform, Stepes Translate, can bridge the gap (at least until algorithms catch up). Its chat-based format makes it as convenient as machine translation, but there is an actual, multi-lingual human at the other end. BusinessWire reports, “Stepes Extends Google Translate Model to Live Human Translation.” The press release explains:

“Stepes Translate uses the familiar side by side interface of machine translation platforms like Google Translate. Anyone requesting translation simply enters their text into the source field. Next, Stepes immediately identifies an appropriate translator from its network of more than 60,000 in-country translators through mobile notification. The translator begins to translate immediately on his/her smartphone while the requesting user can see their progress live. For most requests, the translation is completed within minutes and appears in the target field for the requesting user to see. … Whereas traditional translation software is overly technical and thus not easily accessible to many translators, Stepes’ mobile technology makes translation tools intuitive.”

Stepes can translate more than 100 languages, and offers a 3-tiered pricing based on quality. If you don’t mind a few awkward passages and humorous phrasings, there is the Basic, 10-cents/word plan. If you need to make a good impression, or the document has legal implications, you’ll want to spring for the Premium, 16-cents/word option.

A project of localization firm CSOFT, Stepes Translate is also known as the Social Translation Experiment Project and Eco System. The acronym is also a nod to the European steppes, the region from which sprung hundreds of the world’s major languages. Headquartered in Beijing, CSOFT (or Communications Solutions Of Foreign Trade) was established in 2003. The company attributes their global success to a strong emphasis on customer service.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Factoid: Need a Fast Computer? Buzz China.

June 23, 2016

I read “China Makes New Supercomputing Gains.” (You may have to pay real money, not the Ethereum stuff to read the article.) The main idea is that China has the fastest supercomputer.

What I highlighted in exhaust fume puce was:

The Department of Commerce last year denied Intel’s request to export chips to four centers associated with Tianhe-2, alleging links to “nuclear explosive activities.” Chinese officials denied those charges and have used locally made chips to upgrade the system.

Does this mean that China is using silicon crafted by Shanghai High Performance IC Center.

The zippy system consists of about 41,000 chips, “each with 260 small calculating engines called processor cores.”

I learned:

… Designers [can] pack 10.65 million cores into 40 cabinets.

Yep, designers, not engineers or scientists. My wife consults a designer, but I am not sure that professional does much work in multicore silicon. Ivory paint with weird names is our expert’s core competency.

Why does this matter? The US is going mobile. Big Data is a slam dunk with the cloud computing solution which uses some graphic processors, not the Intel-type chips. The US is reluctant to admit, in Harry Shearer’s phrase, “We’re not number one.”

Like the NBA final competitions or cached Web search results, some may question the validity of the computer speed tests.

Stephen E Arnold, June 23, 2016

Stephen E Arnold, June

Savanna 4.7 for External Content Links

June 22, 2016

The latest version of Savanna, the collaborative data-visualization platform from Thetus Corporation, has an important new feature—it can now link to external content. The press release at PR Newswire, “Savanna 4.7 Introduces Plugins, Opening ‘A World of New Content’ to Visual Analysis Software,” tells us:

“With Savanna, users can visualize data to document insights mined from complexity and analyze relationships. New in this release are Savanna Plugins. Plugins do more than allow users to import data. The game changer is in the ability to link to external content, leaving the data in its original source. Data lives in many places. Analyzing data from many sources often means full data transformation and migration into a new program.  This process is daunting and exactly what Savanna 4.7 Plugins address. Whether on databases or on the web, users can search all of their sources from one application to enrich a living knowledge base. Plugins also enable Savanna to receive streams of information from sources like RSS, Twitter, geolocators, and others.”

Thetus’ CTO is excited about this release, calling the new feature “truly transformative.” The write-up notes that Plugins opens new opportunities for Thetus to partner with other organizations. For example, the company is working with the natural language processing firm Basis Technology to boost translation and text mining capacities. Founded in 2003, Thetus is based in Portland, Oregon.


Cynthia Murrell, June 22, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Luciad Data Visualization and Situational Awareness Is Like an Over Stimulated Google Maps

June 21, 2016

The promotional article on Luciad titled Luciad V2016 Puts Users at the Center of Technical Innovation discusses the data fusion product from the global software company emphasizing situational awareness systems for Aviation, Defense and Security markets. 50,000+ people have viewed the 3D browser technology via the web app launched in 2015 that shows the breathtaking capacity to track and visualize moving data in the form of 35,000 international flights. The article states,

“Luciad’s software components are designed for the creation of applications that tackle a range of tasks, from top-level strategy to tactical detail and mission planning to operations debriefing. By connecting directly to data sources, Luciad’s software not only analyzes and visualizes what is happening now, but also helps predict what will happen next – allowing users to act quickly and safely. “Connect, visualize, analyze, act” is both our method and our motto.”

The LuciadFusion technology product features include the ability to fuse and serve multi-dimensional and multi-layered formats as well as multi-dimensional raster data, which applies to weather data. If you thought Google Maps was cool, this technology will blow you away. The developers were very interested in the aesthetic quality of the technology, and richness of the imaging makes that focus crystal clear.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 21, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facial Recognition: A Work in Progress

June 18, 2016

Years ago I read “The FBI’s Next Generation Identification Program: Helping Law Enforcement Track and Share Suspect Information across State Lines.” That write up identified, probably semi accurately, Lockheed Martin as the “lead contractor” for the NGI IPS (Next Generation Identification Interstate Photo System). I mention this because the write up “FBI Has 411 Million Photos in Its Facial Recognition System, and a Federal Watchdog Isn’t Happy” does not dig into the contractor or contractors involved in this nine zero project. (An older list of some FBI contractors appears at this link.)

The GAO report about the program also lacks some details. If you are interested in what a government report of the controversial system offers, you can download for now a copy of the document at this link.

I realize that the marketing of smart systems which can make sense of images suggests three functions:

  1. High speed matching
  2. High precision
  3. High recall.

The reality is a bit different. Please, keep in mind that the beliefs created by over inflated marketing claims and carefully staged demonstrations often are at odds with how the system actually performs in real life.

Government entities have to look to technology to help deal with the ever increasing and possibly unstoppable flood of digital information. The actual systems, whether the UK’s NHS systems or the US Army’s DCGS systems, are works in progress. In many cases, the progress is halting, and the work has unanticipated consequences.

I have pointed out that enterprise search, content management, and similar and smart software are not the slam dunks many managers think they are. Hope springs eternal, but that hope has to be gated with what happens in the real, disorganized, and time starved reality in which the magic is supposed to happen.

Stephen E Arnold, June 20, 2016

The Job Duties of a Security Analyst

June 15, 2016

The Dark Web is a mysterious void that the average user will never venture into, much less understand than the nefarious reputation the media crafts for it.  For certain individuals, however, not only do they make a lively hood by surfing the Dark Web, but they also monitor potential threats to our personal safety.  The New York Times had the luck to interview one Dark Web security analyst and shared some insights into her job with the article, “Scouring The Dark Web To Keep Tabs On Terrorists.”

Flashpoint security analyst Alex Kassirer was interviewed and she described that she spent her days tracking jihadists, terrorist group propaganda, and specific individuals.  Kassirer said that terrorists are engaging more in cybercrimes and hacking in lieu/addition of their usual physical aggressions.  Her educational background is very impressive with a bachelor’s from George Washington University with a focus on conflict and security, a minor in religious studies, and she also learned some Arabic.  She earned her master’s in global affairs at New York University and interned at Interpol, the Afghan Embassy, and Flashpoint.

She handles a lot of information, but she provides:

“I supply information about threats as they develop, new tactics terrorists are planning and targets they’re discussing. We’ve also uncovered people’s personal information that terrorists may have stolen. If I believe that the information might mean that someone is in physical danger, we notify the client. If the information points to financial fraud, I work with the cybercrime unit here.”

While Kassirer does experience anxiety over the information she collects, she knows that she is equipped with the tools and works with a team of people who are capable of disrupting terroristic plots.


Whitney Grace, June 15, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Ransomware as a Service Deals in Bitcoins of Course

June 14, 2016

Countless “as-a-service” models exist online. A piece from SCMagazine, Dark web forums found offering Cerber ‘ransomware as a service’, reveals more information about one such service called ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), which we’ve heard about now for quite some time. Ransomware injects a virus onto a machine that encrypts the user’s files where they remain inaccessible until the victim pays for a key. Apparently, an Eastern European ransomware, Cerber, has been offering RaaS on Russian Dark Web forums. According to a cyber intelligence firm Sensecy, this ransomware was setup to include “blacklisted” countries so the malware does not execute on computers in certain locations. The article shares,

“Malwarebytes Labs senior security researcher Jerome Segura said the blacklisted geographies – most of which are Eastern European countries – provide “an indication of where the malware originated.” However, he said Malwarebytes Labs has not seen an indication that the ransomware is connected to the famed APT28 group, which is widely believed to be tied to the Russian government. The recent attacks demonstrate a proliferation of ransomware attacks targeting institutions in the U.S. and Western nations, as recent reports have warned. Last week, the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) released a study that predicted previously exploited vulnerabilities will soon be utilized to extract ransom.”

Another interesting bit of information to note from this piece is the going ransom is one bitcoin. Segura mentions the value ransomers ask for may be changing as he has seen some cases where the ransomer works to identify whether the user may be able to pay more. Regardless of the location of a RaaS provider, these technological feats are nothing new. The interesting piece is the supposedly untraceable ransom medium supplanting cash.


Megan Feil, June 14, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

SLI Systems Hopeful as Losses Narrow and Revenue Grows

June 14, 2016

The article titled SLI Systems Narrows First-Half Loss on Scoop reports revenue growth and plans to mitigate losses. SLI Systems is a New Zealand-based software as a service (SaaS) business that provides cloud-based search resources to online retailers. Founded in 2001, SLI Systems has already weathered a great deal of storms in the form of the dot-com crash that threatened to stall the core technology (developed at GlobalBrain.) According to a statement from the company, last year’s loss of $502K was an improvement from the loss of $4.1M in 2014. The article states,

“SLI shares have dropped 18 percent in the past 12 months, to trade recently at 76 cents, about half the level of the 2013 initial public offering price of $1.50. The software developer missed its sales forecast for the second half of the 2015 year but is optimistic new chief executive Chris Brennan and Martin Onofrio as chief revenue officer, both Silicon Valley veterans, can drive growth in revenue and earnings.”

The SLI of SLI stands for Search, Learn and (appropriately) Improve. The company hopes to achieve sustainable growth without raising additional capital by continuing to focus on innovation and customer retention rates, which slipped from 90% to 87% recently. Major clients include Lenovo, David Jones, Harvey Norman, and Paul Smith.



Chelsea Kerwin, June 14, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Unknown Future of Google Cloud Platform

June 10, 2016

While many may have the perception Google dominates in many business sectors, a recent graph published shows a different story when it comes to cloud computing. Datamation released a story, Why Google Will Dominate Cloud Computing, which shows Google’s position in fourth. Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are above the search giant in cloud infrastructure services when looking at the fourth quarter market share and revenue growth for 2015. The article explains why Google appears to be struggling,

“Yet as impressive as its tech prowess is, GCP’s ability to cater to the prosaic needs of enterprise cloud customers has been limited, even fumbling. Google has always focused more on selling its own services rather than hosting legacy applications, but these legacy apps are the engine that drives business. Remarkably, GCP customers don’t get support for Oracle software, as they do on Amazon Web Services. Alas, catering to the needs of enterprise clients isn’t about deep genius – it’s about working with others. GCP has been like the high school student with straight A’s and perfect SAT scores that somehow doesn’t have too many friends.”

Despite the current situation, the article hypothesizes Google Cloud Platform may have an edge in the long-term. This is quite a bold prediction. We wonder if Datamation may approach the goog to sell some ads. Probably not, as real journalists do not seek money, right?


Megan Feil, June 10, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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