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Topology Is Finally on Top

December 21, 2015

Topology’s  time has finally come, according to “The Unreasonable Usefulness of Imagining You Live in a Rubbery World,” shared by 3 Quarks Daily. The engaging article reminds us that the field of topology  emphasizes connections over geometric factors like distance and direction. Think of a subway map as compared to a street map; or, as writer Jonathan Kujawa describes:

“Topologists ask a question which at first sounds ridiculous: ‘What can you say about the shape of an object if you have no concern for lengths, angles, areas, or volumes?’ They imagine a world where everything is made of silly putty. You can bend, stretch, and distort objects as much as you like. What is forbidden is cutting and gluing. Otherwise pretty much anything goes.”

Since the beginning, this perspective has been dismissed by many as purely academic. However, today’s era of networks and big data has boosted the field’s usefulness. The article observes:

“A remarkable new application of topology has emerged in the last few years. Gunnar Carlsson is a mathematician at Stanford who uses topology to extract meaningful information from large data sets. He and others invented a new field of mathematics called Topological data analysis. They use the tools of topology to wrangle huge data sets. In addition to the networks mentioned above, Big Data has given us Brobdinagian sized data sets in which, for example, we would like to be able to identify clusters. We might be able to visually identify clusters if the data points depend on only one or two variables so that they can be drawn in two or three dimensions.”

Kujawa goes on to note that one century-old tool of topology, homology, is being used to analyze real-world data, like the ways diabetes patients have responded to a specific medication. See the well-illustrated article for further discussion.

Cynthia Murrell, December 21, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Cybercrime to Come

December 2, 2015

Apparently, we haven’t seen anything yet. An article at Phys.org, “Kaspersky Boss Warns of Emerging Cybercrime Threats,” explain that personal devices and retail databases are just the beginning for cyber criminals. Their next focus has the potential to create more widespread chaos, according to comments from security expert Eugene Kaspersky. We learn:

“Russian online security specialist Eugene Kaspersky says cyber criminals will one day go for bigger targets than PCs and mobiles, sabotaging entire transport networks, electrical grids or financial systems. The online threat is growing fast with one in 20 computers running on Microsoft Windows already compromised, the founder and chief executive of security software company Kaspersky Lab told AFP this week on the sidelines of a cybersecurity conference in Monaco.”

The article also notes that hackers are constantly working to break every security advance, and that staying safe means more than installing the latest security software. Kaspersky noted:

“It’s like everyday life. If you just stay at home and if you don’t have visitors, you are quite safe. But if you like to walk around to any district of your city, you have to be aware of their street crimes. Same for the Internet.”

Kaspersky’s company, Kaspersky Lab, prides itself on its extensive knowledge of online security. Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Moscow, the company is one of the leading security firms in the world.

Cynthia Murrell, December 2, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Interview with Informatica CEO

November 26, 2015

Blogger and Datameer CEO Stefan Groschupf interviews Anil Chakravarthy, acting CEO of Informatica, in a series of posts on his blog, Big Data & Brews. The two executives discuss security in the cloud, data infrastructure, schemas, and the future of data. There are four installments as of this writing, but it was an exchange in the second iteration, “Big Data  Brews: Part II on Data Security with Informatica,” that  captured our attention. Here’s Chakravarthy’s summary of the challenge now facing his company:

Stefan: From your perspective, where’s the biggest growth opportunity for your company?

Anil: We look at it as the intersection of what’s happening with the cloud and big data. Not only the movement of data between our premise and cloud and within cloud to cloud but also just the sheer growth of data in the cloud. This is a big opportunity. And if you look at the big data world, I think a lot of what happens in the big data world from our perspective, the value, especially for enterprise customers, the value of big data comes from when they can derive insights by combining data that they have from their own systems, etc., with either third-party data, customer-generated data, machine data that they can put together. So, that intersection is good for, and we are a data infrastructure provider, so those are the two big areas where we see opportunity.

It looks like Informatica is poised to make the most of the changes prompted by cloud technology. To check out the interview from the beginning, navigate to the first installment, “Big Data & Brews: Informatica Talks Security.”

Informatica offers a range of data-management and integration tools. Though the company has offices around the world, they maintain their headquarters in Redwood City, California. They are also hiring as of this writing.

Cynthia Murrell, November 26, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Entity Extraction: Human Intermediation Still Necessary

November 23, 2015

I read “Facebook Should Be Able to Handle names like Isis and Phuc Dat Bich.” The article underscores the challenges smart software faces in a world believing that algorithms deliver the bacon.

Entity extraction methods requiring human subject matter experts and dictionary editors are expensive and slow. Algorithms are faster and over time more economical. Unfortunately the automated systems miss some things and get other stuff wrong.

The article explains that Facebook thinks a real person name Isis Anchalee is a bad guy. Another person with the transliterated Vietnamese name Phuc Dat Bich is a prohibited phrase.

What’s the fix?

First, the folks assuming that automated systems are pretty much accurate need to connect with the notion of an “exception file” or a log containing names which are not in a dictionary. What if there is no dictionary? Well, that is a problem. What about names with different spellings and in different character sets? Well, that too is a problem.

Will the vendors of automated systems point out the need for subject matter experts to create dictionaries, perform quality and accuracy audits, and update the dictionaries? Well, sort of.

The point is that like many numerical recipes the expectation that a system is working with a high degree of accuracy is often incorrect. Strike that, substitute “sort of accurate.”

The write up states:

If that’s how the company want the platform to function, Facebook is going to have to get a lot better at making sure their algorithms don’t unfairly penalize people whose names don’t fit in with the Anglo-standard.

When it comes time to get the automated system back into sync with accurate entity extraction, there may be a big price tag.

What your vendor did not make that clear?

Explain your “surprise” to the chief financial officer who wants to understand how you overlooked costs which may be greater than the initial cost of the system.

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2015

Search Experts Looking for Work? Rejoice

November 23, 2015

The article titled 17 Tools to Make LinkedIn Work for You on TNW provides some thoughtful commentary on how to make the best use of the social media platform LinkedIn. The article begins by emphasizing how important and relevant LinkedIn still is, particularly for people in Sales, who use the service to gather information and research prospects. It goes on to highlight the difficulty facing salespeople when it comes to searching LinkedIn, and the myriad of tools and Chrome extensions available to simplify search. The first on the list is Crystal,

“Language matters. How you communicate with someone, the words you use, how you structure your requests etc. affects their initial perception of you. And that’s what Crystal helps with. The standalone app as well as its Chrome extension allows you to profile Linkedin users profiles to detect their personality. And suggest the best ways to communicate with them. Crystal can tell you what to write in an email or how to create a message that engages them in a way they’d expect from you.”

Other resources include SalesLoft Prospector, which aids in building lists of targeted leads with contact information in tow, Elink.Club for LinkedIn, which visits 800 targeted profiles a day with the expectation that just under 10% of those users will, in turn, return the visit and become acquainted, and Discover.ly, which helps users establish mutual friends and social media commonalities with the profiles they view.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 23, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Hacks to Make You Grin

October 30, 2015

Google is run by a bunch of geeks that entertain themselves using the high tech toys at their fingertips.  Beyond the insertion of Douglas Adams references in search results, there are other Google hacks that the tech geeks developed to make themselves and you smile.  Digital Spy tracked down “Eleven Google Secrets That Will Change The Way You Search, From Playing Pac-Man To Lego Street View.”

“Day after day you hammer out search after search, overlooking not only the hidden gems lurking beneath the surface, but the very thing that makes Google such an anomaly amongst the world’s biggest companies – its sense of humor. Here are a few thinks you might not have known you can do in Google.”

Google can do numerous things just by typing a few simple commands into the search bar.  Try typing: “askew” or “tilt,” “do a barrel roll,” and “Zerg rush.”  Google is also a time machine and can take you back to the 1998 Google interface or you can spend hours playing Pac-Man on an uploaded Google Doodle from May 2010.  The yellow stick figure on Google Street View also likes to play dress-up when he visits certain places.

But our absolute favorite is the six degrees of Kevin Bacon calculator.  Based off an old Internet meme that everyone in Hollywood has worked with Kevin Bacon in less than six degrees, type in a famous person and “bacon number” to find out how close their careers are.

Little hacks and fun games like this show the human side to the Google empire.  What will they think of next?  However, it would be nice if Google added some practical functions, such as a time and date feature.

Whitney Grace, October 30, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook on Top of App Sales

October 7, 2015

While Facebook is a common social media tool and it does not make headlines as much as it used to, except when it added the new GIF function and angers users by rearranging its options, it now has something even more exciting to shout about.  Business Insider reported that, “Facebook’s WhatsApp Hits Another Major Milestone” with a messaging app that it bought back in 2014.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion and since its purchase its growth has exploded.  There are now nine hundred million active users and it could jump to one billion by the end of the year.  Compared to its competitors Viber and WeChat, however, is not bringing in much profit.  Zuckerberg has plans for WhatsApp and has asked his investors to be patience.  He wants WhatsApp to be a “natural place for people to communicate with businesses.”

” ‘The long-term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses, that will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road, when we really work on that, and really focus on that in a bigger way,’ Zuckerberg said.”

Zuckerberg knows what he is doing.  He is setting up a messenger platform that people trust, enjoy, and is popular.  When you have access to nine hundred million active users and want to grow it to one billion, there are definitely plans to monetize it.  We just have to wait.

Whitney Grace, October 7, 2015
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Faces Sanctions over Refusal to Embrace Right to Be Forgotten Ruling

October 2, 2015

The article on Reuters titled France Rejects Google Appeal on Cleaning Up Search Results Globally explores the ramifications of Europe’s recently passed Right to be Forgotten law. The law stipulates that search engines be compelled by requests to remove information. Google has made some attempts to yield to the law, granting 40% of the 320,000 requests to remove incorrect, irrelevant, or controversial information, but only on the European version of its sites. The article delves into the current state of affairs,

“The French authority, the CNIL, in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including Google.com. The company refused in July and requested that the CNIL abandon its efforts, which the regulator officially refused to do on Monday…France is the first European country to open a legal process to punish Google for not applying the right to be forgotten globally.”

Google countered that while the company was happy to meet the French and European standards in Europe, they did not see how the European law could be globally enforced. This refusal will almost certainly be met with fines and sanctions, but that may be the least of Alphabet Google’s troubles considering its ongoing disapproval by Europe.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 02, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

Harsh Criticism of Yahoo

September 24, 2015

Kill dear old Yahoo? IBTimes reports on some harsh words from an ivory-tower type in, “NYU Professor: Yahoo Ought to Be ‘Euthanised’ and Marissa Mayer’s Pregnancy Saved her Job.” It seems marketing professor Scott Galloway recently criticized the company, and its famous CEO, in a televised Bloomberg interview. In his opinion, any website with Yahoo’s traffic should be rolling in dough, and the company’s struggles are the result of mismanagement. As for his claim that the “most overpaid CEO in history” only retains her position due to her pregnancy? Reporter Mary-Ann Russon writes:

“Galloway says that Yahoo would not be willing to face the public backlash that would come from firing a woman in such a position of power who has just announced she is pregnant.

“This is not a stretch since there are still far fewer women in leadership positions than men – as of March 2015, only 24 of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women – and the issue with how companies perceive family planning remains a sore point for many career-minded women (Read: Gamechangers: Why multimillionaire ‘mom’ Marissa Mayer is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t).

“However, Galloway also pointed the finger of blame for Yahoo’s woes at its board, which he said has been a ‘lesson in poor corporate governance,’ since there have been five CEOs in the last seven years.”

Though Yahoo was a great success around the turn of the millennium, it has fallen behind as users migrate their internet usage to mobile devices (with that format’s smaller, cheaper ads). Though many still use its free apps, nowadays most of Yahoo’s revenue comes from its Alibaba investment.

So what does Galloway recommend? “It should be sold to Microsoft,” he declared. “We should put a bullet in this story called ‘Yahoo’.” Ouch. Can Yahoo reverse their fortunes, or is it too late for the veteran Internet company?

Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

A Search Engine for College Students Purchasing Textbooks

August 27, 2015

The article on Life Hacker titled TUN’s Textbook Search Engine Compares Prices from Thousands of Sellers reviews TUN, or the “Textbook Save Engine.” It’s an ongoing issue for college students that tuition and fees are only the beginning of the expenses. Textbook costs alone can skyrocket for students who have no choice but to buy the assigned books if they want to pass their classes. TUN offers students all of the options available from thousands of booksellers. The article says,

“The “Textbook Save Engine” can search by ISBN, author, or title, and you can even use the service to sell textbooks as well. According to the main search page…students who have used the service have saved over 80% on average buying textbooks. That’s a lot of savings when you normally have to spend hundreds of dollars on books every semester… TUN’s textbook search engine even scours other sites for finding and buying cheap textbooks; like Amazon, Chegg, and Abe Books.”

After typing in the book title, you get a list of editions. For example, when I entered Pride and Prejudice, which I had to read for two separate English courses, TUN listed an annotated version, several versions with different forewords (which are occasionally studied in the classroom as well) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. After you select an edition, you are brought to the results, laid out with shipping and total prices. A handy tool for students who leave themselves enough time to order their books ahead of the beginning of the class.

Chelsea Kerwin, August 27, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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