Tor Comes to the Rescue of Turkish Online Activists

November 29, 2016

Authorities in Turkey have effectively banned the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Tor, however, has to come to the rescue of users, particularly online activists who want to get the word out about the social unrest in the country.

Motherboard in a report tiled Turks Are Flocking to Tor After Government Orders Block of Anti-Censorship Tools says:

Turkish Internet users are flocking to Tor, the anonymizing and censorship circumvention tool, after Turkey’s government blocked Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Usage of Tor inside of Turkey went up from around 18,000 users to 25,000 users on Friday, when the government started blocking the popular social media networks, according to Tor’s official metrics.

Apart from direct connection to the Tor Network through TOR browser, the network also allows users to use bridge relays that circumvent any access restrictions by ISPs. Though it’s not yet clear if ISPs in Turkey have also banned Tor access; however, the bridge relay connections have seen a spike in number since the ban was implemented.

It is speculated that the Government may have notified ISPs to ban Tor access, but failed to tell them to do so effectively, which becomes apparent here (a Tweet by a user):

I believe the government just sent the order and didn’t give any guide about how to do it,” Sabanc? told Motherboard in an online chat via Twitter. “And now ISPs trying to figure it out.

This is not the first time Tor has come to the rescue of online activists. One thing though is sure, more and more people concerned about their privacy or do not want to be repressed turning towards anonymous networks like Tor.

Vishal Ingole, November 29, 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

Iceland Offers the First Human Search Engine

November 8, 2016

Iceland is a northern country that one does not think about much.  It is cold, has a high literacy rate, and did we mention it was cold?  Despite its frigid temperatures, Iceland is a beautiful country with a rich culture and friendly people.  shares just how friendly the Icelanders are with their new endeavor: “Iceland Launches ‘Ask Guðmundur,’ The World’s First Human Search Engine.”

Here is what the country is doing:

The decidedly Icelandic and truly personable service will see special representatives from each of Iceland’s seven regions offer their insider knowledge to the world via Inspired By Iceland’s social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and YouTube).   Each representative shares the name Guðmundur or Guðmunda, currently one of the most popular forenames in the country with over 4,000 men and women claiming it as their own.

Visitors to the site can literally submit their questions and have them answered by an expert.  Each of the seven Guðmundurs is an Icelandic regional expert.  Iceland’s goal with the human search engine is to answer’s the world’s questions about the country, but to answer them in the most human way possible: with actual humans.

A human search engine is an awesome marketing campaign for Iceland.  One of the best ways to encourage tourism is to introduce foreigners to the locale people and customs, the more welcoming, quirky, and interesting is all the better for Iceland.  So go ahead, ask Guðmundur.

Whitney Grace, November 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Posting to the Law Enforcement Database

October 28, 2016

The article titled Police Searches of Social Media Face Privacy Pushback on Underground Network discusses the revelations of an NPR article of the same name. While privacy laws are slow to catch up to the fast-paced changes in social media, law enforcement can use public data to track protesters (including retroactive tracking). The ACLU and social media networks are starting to push back against the notion that this is acceptable. The NPR article refers to the Twitter guidelines,

The guidelines bar search companies from allowing law enforcement agencies to use the data to “investigate, track or surveil Twitter’s users (…) in a manner that would require a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process or that would otherwise have the potential to be inconsistent with our users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.” But that policy is very much open to interpretation, because police don’t usually need legal orders to search public social media…

Some police departments have acknowledged that fuzziness around privacy laws puts the onus on them to police their own officers. The Dunwoody, Georgia police department requires supervisor approval for social media searches. They explain that this is to prevent targeting “particular groups” of people. According to the article, how this issue unfolds is largely up to police departments and social media giants like Twitter and Facebook to decide. But social media has been around for over a decade. Where are the laws defining and protecting our privacy?

Chelsea Kerwin, October 28, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

How to Find an Email Address

October 27, 2016

Like any marketers, search engine optimizers must reach out to potential clients, and valid email addresses are important resources. Now, Search Engine Journal explains “How to Find Anyone’s Email Address in 60 Seconds or Less.” Anyone’s, really? Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

SEO pro, Joshua Daniels discusses six techniques to quickly find an email address. He writes:

If you’re a specialist in SEO or link acquisition, then you’ll know that generic email addresses are as much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to outreach. You need to develop personal connections with influencers, regardless of whether you work in PR or SEO, it’s always the same. But finding the right person’s email address can be a draining, time-consuming task. Who has time for that?

Well, actually, it’s not so difficult, or time-consuming. In this post, I’m going to walk you through the exact step-by-step process our agency uses to find (almost) anyone’s email address, in 60 seconds or less!

For each suggestion, Daniels provides instructions, most with screen shots. First, he recommends LinkedIn’s search function paired with Email Hunter, a tool which integrates with the career site. If that doesn’t work, he says, try a combination of the Twitter analyzer Followerwonk and corporate-email-finder Voila Norbert.

The article also suggests leveraging Google’s search operators with one of these formats: [site:companywebsite.com + “name” + contact] or [site:companywebsite.com + “name” + email]. To test whether an email address is correct, verify it with MailTester, and to target someone who posts on Twitter, search the results of All My Tweets for keywords like “email” or “@companyname.com”. If all else fails, Daniels advises, go old school—“… pick up the phone and just ask.”

Cynthia Murrell, October 27, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Trending Topics: Google and Twitter Compared

October 25, 2016

For those with no time to browse through the headlines, tools that aggregate trending topics can provide a cursory way to keep up with the news. The blog post from communications firm Cision, “How to Find Trending Topics Like an Expert,” examines the two leading trending topic tools—Google’s and Twitter’s. Each approaches its tasks differently, so the best choice depends on the user’s needs.

Though the Google Trends homepage is limited, according to writer Jim Dougherty, one can get further with its extension, Google Explore. He elaborates:

If we go to the Google Trends Explore page (google.com/trends/explore), our sorting options become more robust. We can sort by the following criteria:

*By country (or worldwide)

*By time (search within a customized date range – minimum: past hour, maximum: since 2004)

*By category (arts and entertainment, sports, health, et cetera)

*By Google Property (web search, image search, news search, Google Shopping, YouTube)

You can also use the search feature via the trends page or explore the page to search the popularity of a search term over a period (custom date ranges are permitted), and you can compare the popularity of search terms using this feature as well. The Explore page also allows you to download any chart to a .csv file, or to embed the table directly to a website.

The write-up goes on to note that there are no robust third-party tools to parse data found with Google Trends/ Explore, because the company has not made the API publicly available.

Unlike Google, we’re told, Twitter does not make it intuitive to find and analyze trending topics. However, its inclusion of location data can make Twitter a valuable source for this information, if you know how to find it. Dougherty suggests a work-around:

To ‘analyze’ current trends on the native Twitter app, you have to go to the ‘home’ page. In the lower left of the home page you’ll see ‘trending topics’ and immediately below that a ‘change’ button which allows you to modify the location of your search.

Location is a huge advantage of Twitter trends compared to Google: Although Google’s data is more robust and accessible in general, it can only be parsed by country. Twitter uses Yahoo’s GeoPlanet infrastructure for its location data so that it can be exercised at a much more granular level than Google Trends.

Since Twitter does publicly share its trending-topics API, there are third-party tools one can use with Twitter Trends, like TrendoGate, TrendsMap, and ttHistory. The post concludes with a reminder to maximize the usefulness of data with tools that “go beyond trends,” like (unsurprisingly) the monitoring software offered by Daugherty’s company. Paid add-ons may be worth it for some enterprises, but we recommend you check out what is freely available first.

Cynthia Murrell, October 25, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

New Terrorism and Technology Reports Released

October 11, 2016

Attempting to understand the level of threat a terrorist organization poses continues to be difficult. DefenseSystems.com published Report: Electronic jihad grows in sophistication, which shares the cyber-jihad survey from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology. The authors of this survey present social media and other cyberspace tools to be “the great equalizer” in warfare. In addition to social media, there are a few hacker groups which have launched attacks on western websites and Arab media: the Cyber Caliphate, the dedicated hacker division of the Islamic State, and the Terrorist Team for Electronic Jihad. The write-up explains,

The cyber jihad survey notes that ISIS has mostly dedicated its expanding offensive cyber capabilities to specific social media accounts, including the Twitter and YouTube accounts of U.S. Central Command. Offensive capabilities are thought to include the use of malware, insider threats and “preconfigured tools.” Malware efforts have included spear-phishing emails containing malware designed to sweep up the IP addresses and geolocation data about anti-ISIS groups in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. As ISIS and other cyber-jihadists become more sophisticated and aggressive, experts worry that they will eventually attempt more audacious attacks.

However, a report from the federal government suggests ISIS’ Twitter traffic dropped 45 percent in the past two years. While terrorist group’s technology may be expanding in the arena of offensive strikes, officials believe the decline in Twitter popularity suggests recruitment may be slowing. We think there needs to more analysis of recruitment via Dark Web.

Megan Feil, October 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Gleaning Insights and Advantages from Semantic Tagging for Digital Content

September 22, 2016

The article titled Semantic Tagging Can Improve Digital Content Publishing on Aptara Corp. blog reveals the importance of indexing. The article waves the flag of semantic tagging at the publishing industry, which has been pushed into digital content kicking and screaming. The difficulties involved in compatibility across networks, operating systems, and a device are quite a headache. Semantic tagging could help, if only anyone understood what it is. The article enlightens us,

Put simply, semantic markups are used in the behind-the-scene operations. However, their importance cannot be understated; proprietary software is required to create the metadata and assign the appropriate tags, which influence the level of quality experienced when delivering, finding and interacting with the content… There have been many articles that have agreed the concept of intelligent content is best summarized by Ann Rockley’s definition, which is “content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.

The application to the publishing industry is obvious when put in terms of increasing searchability. Any student who has used JSTOR knows the frustrations of searching digital content. It is a complicated process that indexing, if administered correctly, will make much easier. The article points out that authors are competing not only with each other, but also with the endless stream of content being created on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Publishers need to take advantage of semantic markups and every other resource at their disposal to even the playing field.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 22, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Elastic Links Search and Social Through Graph Capabilities

September 13, 2016

The article titled Confused About Relationships? Elasticsearch Gets Graphic on The Register communicates the latest offering from Elasticsearch, the open-source search server based on Apache’s Lucene. Graph capabilities are an exciting new twist on search that enables users to map out relationships through the search engine and the Kibana data visualization plug-in. The article explains,

By fusing graph with search, Elastic hopes to combine the power of social with that earlier great online revolution, the revolution that gave us Google: search. Graph in Elasticsearch establishes relevance by establishing the significance of each relationship versus the global average to return important results. That’s different to what Elastic called “traditional” relationship mapping, which is based on a count of the frequency of a given relationship.

Elasticsearch sees potential for their Graph capabilities in behavioral analysis, particularly in areas such as drug discovery, fraud detection, and customized medicine and recommendations. When it comes to identifying business opportunities, Graph databases have already proven their value. Discovering connections and trimming degrees of separation are all of vital importance in social media. Social networks like Twitter have been using them since the beginning of NoSQL. Indeed, Facebook is a customer of Elastic, the business version of Elasticsearch that was founded in 2012. Other users of Elasticsearch include Netflix, StumbleUpon, and Mozilla.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 13, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

A Snapchat Is Worth a Thousand Twitter Characters or More

September 8, 2016

The article titled Snapchat Passes Twitter in Daily Usage on Bloomberg Technology provides some insights into the most popular modes of communication. As the title suggests, that mode is not with words. Rather, 150 million people appear to prefer images to language, at least when it comes to engaging with other on social media. The article reveals,

Snapchat has made communicating more of a game by letting people send annotated selfies and short videos. It has allowed people to use its imaging software to swap faces in a photo, transform themselves into puppies, and barf rainbows… Snapchat encourages people to visit the app frequently with features such as the “Snapstreak,” which counts the number of consecutive days they’ve been communicating with their closest friends. Snapchat’s other content, such as news and Live Stories, disappear after 24 hours.

Other Silicon Valley players have taken note of this trend. Facebook recently purchased the company that built Masquerade, an app offering photo-manipulation akin to Snapchat’s. Are words on their way out? The trend of using abbreviations (“abbrevs”) and slang to streamline messaging would logically result in a replacement of language with images, which can say volumes with a single click. But this could also result in a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Words allow for a precision of meaning that images often can’t supply. Hence the crossbreed of a short note scrawled across an image.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 8, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

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