CyberOSINT banner

The Missing Twitter Manual Located

April 7, 2016

Once more we turn to the Fuzzy Notepad’s advice and their Pokémon mascot, Evee.  This time we visited the fuzz pad for tips on Twitter.  The 140-character social media platform has a slew of hidden features that do not have a button on the user interface.  Check out “Twitter’s Missing Manual” to read more about these tricks.

It is inconceivable for every feature to have a shortcut on the user interface.   Twitter relies on its users to understand basic features, while the experienced user will have picked up tricks that only come with experience or reading tips on the Internet.  The problem is:

“The hard part is striking a balance. On one end of the spectrum you have tools like Notepad, where the only easter egg is that pressing F5 inserts the current time. On the other end you have tools like vim, which consist exclusively of easter eggs.

One of Twitter’s problems is that it’s tilted a little too far towards the vim end of the scale. It looks like a dead-simple service, but those humble 140 characters have been crammed full of features over the years, and the ways they interact aren’t always obvious. There are rules, and the rules generally make sense once you know them, but it’s also really easy to overlook them.”

Twitter is a great social media platform, but a headache to use because it never came with an owner’s manual.  Fuzzy notepad has lined up hint for every conceivable problem, including the elusive advanced search page.


Whitney Grace, April 7, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Retraining the Librarian for the Future

March 28, 2016

The Internet is often described as the world’s biggest library containing all the world’s knowledge that someone dumped on the floor.  The Internet is the world’s biggest information database as well as the world’s biggest data mess.  In the olden days, librarians used to be the gateway to knowledge management but they need to vamp up their skills beyond the Dewey Decimal System and database searching.  Librarians need to do more and Christian Lauersen’s personal blog explains how in, “Data Scientist Training For Librarians-Re-Skilling Libraries For The Future.”

DST4L is a boot camp for librarians and other information professionals to learn new skills to maintain relevancy.  Last year DST4L was held as:

“DST4L has been held three times in The States and was to be set for the first time in Europe at Library of Technical University of Denmark just outside of Copenhagen. 40 participants from all across Europe were ready to get there hands dirty over three days marathon of relevant tools within data archiving, handling, sharing and analyzing. See the full program here and check the #DST4L hashtag at Twitter.”

Over the course of three days, the participants learned about OpenRefine, a spreadsheet-like application that cane be used for data cleanup and transformation.  They also learned about the benefits of GitHub and how to program using Python.  These skills are well beyond the classed they teach in library graduate programs, but it is a good sign that the profession is evolving even if the academia aspects lag behind.

Whitney Grace, March 28, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Open Source Academic Research Hub Resurfaces on the Dark Web

March 11, 2016

Academics are no strangers to the shadowy corners of the Dark Web. In fact, as the The Research Pirates of the Dark Web published by The Atlantic reports, one university student in Kazakhstan populated the Dark Web with free access to academic research after her website, Sci-Hub was shut down in accordance with a legal case brought to court by the publisher Elsevier. Sci-Hub has existed under a few different domain names on the web since then, continuing its service of opening the floodgates to release paywalled papers for free. The article tells us,

“Soon, the service popped up again under a different domain. But even if the new domain gets shut down, too, Sci-Hub will still be accessible on the dark web, a part of the Internet often associated with drugs, weapons, and child porn. Like its seedy dark-web neighbors, the Sci-Hub site is accessible only through Tor, a network of computers that passes web requests through a randomized series of servers in order to preserve visitors’ anonymity.”

The open source philosophy continues to emerge in various sectors: technology, academia, and beyond. And while the Dark Web appears to be a primed for open source proponents to prosper, it will be interesting to see what takes shape. As the article points out, other avenues exist; scholars may make public requests for paywalled research via Twitter and using the hashtag #icanhazpdf.


Megan Feil, March 11, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


How-To Overview of Building a Data Platform to Handle Real-Time Datasets

March 11, 2016

The article on Insight Data Engineering titled Building a Streaming Search Platform offers a glimpse into the Fellows Program wherein grad students and software engineers alike build data platforms and learn cutting-edge open source technologies. The article delves into the components of the platform, which enables close to real-time search of a streaming text data source, with Twitter as an example. It also explores the usefulness of such a platform,

On average, Twitter users worldwide generate about 6,000 tweets per second. Obviously, there is much interest in extracting real-time signal from this rich but noisy stream of data. More generally, there are many open and interesting problems in using high-velocity streaming text sources to track real-time events. … Such a platform can have many applications far beyond monitoring Twitter…All code for the platform I describe here can be found on my github repository Straw.”

Ryan Walker, a Casetext Data Engineer, describes how these products might deliver major results in the hands of a skilled developer. He uses the example of a speech to text monitor being able to transcribe radio or TV feeds and send the transcriptions to the platform. The platform would then seek key phrases and even be set up to respond with real-time event management. There are many industries that will find this capability very intriguing due to their dependence on real-time information processing, including finance and marketing.


Chelsea Kerwin, March 11, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Bing Clocks Search Speed

February 4, 2016

Despite attempts to improve Bing, it still remains the laughing stock of search engines.  Google has run it over with its self-driving cars multiple times.   DuckDuckGo tagged it as the “goose,” outran it, and forced Bing to sit in the proverbial pot.  Facebook even has unfriended Bing.  Microsoft has not given up on its search engine, so while there has been a list of novelty improvements (that Google already did or copied not long after their release) it has a ways to go.

Windows Central tells about the most recent Bing development: a bandwidth speed test in “Bing May Be Building A Speed Test Widget Within Search Results.”  Now that might be a game changer for a day, until Google releases its own version.  Usually to test bandwidth, you have to search for a Web site that provides the service.  Bing might do it on command within every search results page.  Not a bad idea, especially if you want to see how quickly your Internet runs, how fast it takes to process your query, or if you are troubleshooting your Internet connection.

The bandwidth test widget is not available just yet:

“A reader of the site Kabir tweeted a few images displaying widget like speed test app within Bing both on the web and their phone (in this case an iPhone). We were unable to reproduce the results on our devices when typing ‘speed test’ into Bing. However, like many new features, this could be either rolling out or simply A/B testing by Microsoft.”

Keep your fingers crossed that Microsoft releases a useful and practical widget.  If not just go to Google and search for “bandwidth test.”


Whitney Grace, February 4, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Google Wants ISIS to Stay Off the Regular Web

January 29, 2016

Propaganda from the Islamic State (Isis) exists not only in the Dark Web, but is also infiltrating the familiar internet. A Wired article discusses the best case scenario to stop such information from spreading in their article Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the Dark Web’. Google describes ISIS only existing in the Dark Web as success. This information helps explain why,

“As Isis has become more prominent in Syria and Iraq, social media, alongside traditional offline methods, have have been used to spread the group’s messages and recruit members. In 2014 analysis of the group’s online activity showed that they routinely hijack hashtags, use bots, and post gruesome videos to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The UK’s internet counter terrorism unit claims to remove 1,000 illegal pieces of terrorism related content from the internet each week — it says that roughly 800 of these are to do with Syria and Iraq. The group claims in the 12 months before June 2012 that 39,000 internet takedowns were completed.”

The director of Google Ideas is quoted as describing ISIS’ tactics ranging from communication to spamming to typical email scams; he explains they are not “tech-savy.” Unfortunately, tech chops is not a requirement for effective marketing, so the question still remains whether containing this group and their messages to the Dark Web is possible — and whether that means success with growing numbers of people using the Dark Web.


Megan Feil, January 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Islamic State Is Now a Convenient App

December 28, 2015

It used to be that if you wanted to be an enemy of western civilization you had to have ties to a derelict organization or even visit an enemy nation.  It was difficult, especially with the limits of communication in pre-Internet days.  Western Union and secret radio signals only went so far, but now with the Internet insurgent recruitment is just a few mouse clicks away or even an app download.  The Telegraph reports that the “Islamic State Releases Its Own Smartphone App” to spread propaganda and pollute Islam’s true message.

Islamic State (Isil) released an Android app to disseminate the terrorist group’s radical propaganda.  The app was brought to light by hacktivist Ghost Security Group, who uncovered directions to install the app on the encrypted message service Telegram.  Ghost Security says that the app publishes propaganda from Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State’s propaganda channel, such as beheadings and warnings about terrorist attacks.  It goes to show that despite limited resources, if one is tech savvy and has an Internet connection the possibilities are endless.

” ‘They want to create a broadcast capability that is more secure than just leveraging Twitter and Facebook,’ ” Michael Smith of Kronos Advisory, a company that acts as a conduit between GhostSec and the US government, told CS Monitor.

‘[Isil] has always been looking for a way to provide easy access to all of the material.’ ”

Isil might have the ability to create propaganda and an app, but they do have a limited reach.  In order to find this app, one has to dig within the Internet and find instructions.  Hacktivist organizations like Ghost Security and Anonymous are using their technology skills to combat terrorist organizations with success.  Most terrorist group propaganda will not be found within the first page of search results, one has to work to find them, but not that hard.


Whitney Grace, December 28, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Bye-Bye Paid Reviews

December 22, 2015

One has to admit that this sounds like a sweet way to make a few quick dollars: write a fake online review about a product or service highlighting good points and sellable features, post it on your social media accounts, Amazon, your blog, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and then collect a few bucks.  While Twitter might slowly be losing the social media race against Facebook and Instagram, the UK Telegraph says that the social network has another useful purpose: “Has Twitter Finally Killed The Mess Of The False Online Review?”

Fake reviews cost consumers millions of dollars each year, because they believe that first hand accounts from regular people trump a corporate advertising account.  However, it spawned a big market for people to spend a few dollars to pay someone write a fake review and give a product/service a positive spin.  The consumer is getting tired of fake reviews, as are online retailers like Amazon and the US government, which has even drafted the Consumer Review Freedom Act.

Twitter is jumping into action using big data moves like real time data sentimental analysis, location-based apps that search social media content for content, and algorithms to analyze tweets

“Chief executive Giles Palmer believes that apps such as Twizoo are only the start of how products and businesses are evaluated, especially as social media continues to evolve. ‘Until recently, social media monitoring has been a listening business where companies and brands have kept an eye on what their customers are doing, but not doing too much about it…But with mobile customers are after products and goods where they want to make an instant decision based on instant data. What’s more they want that data to be reliable and to be truthful; Twitter provides that.’”

Consumers are being more discerning about the products and services they purchase, but they also trust reviews to help them evaluate them so they will not be duped.  High praise for Twitter for proving how social media is valuable as a learning tool and also for proving it is still a worthwhile network.


Whitney Grace, December22, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Nuzzel Up to Your Content

December 3, 2015

A service called Nuzzel should aggregate content from Web sites like Dogshaming,com,, and  These Web sites are all overloaded with so much cute content that it would make your gums bleed.  Nuzzel, however, is not meant to aggregate cute content, Gigaom tells us in “Nuzzel Update Improves New Discovery For Those Who Don’t Use Twitter” what Nuzzel’s true purpose is.  Nuzzel is a content discovery service that collects and organized links from Twitter and Facebook.  It will now contain an updated feature allowing users to find stories based off their interests without connect to social networks, think Feedly, Zine, and other content feeders.

There will be other changes to Nuzzel as well.  Users will not be required to log into one social network, a better search function, and a swipe-based navigation system.  Nuzzel is also adding a newsletter  for users who do not want to download an application or a social media account.  The updates are paired with a new round of funding totaling $5.1 million from the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Mozilla, Google, and other companies.

“Connecting with Twitter remains the best way to use Nuzzel, and still provides a great personalized news experience,” Abrams said. “But a lot of people don’t use Twitter, and Nuzzel 2.0 provides a new experience for those people, that also allows non-Twitter users to enjoy the power of social curation.” So it can still help quiet the cacophony of links shared to social networks, but now it could also appeal to people who have somehow managed to avoid the din of social media.”

Nuzzel can be programmed to send users cute content from around the Internet, but it is useful for  so much more and a great way to organize content and links.

Whitney Grace, December 3, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Vic Gundotra Restarts His Career

December 2, 2015

Google+ is a social media failure and its creator Vic Gundotra doesn’t like talking about.  No one can blame him after he created the social media equivalent of the ET Atari videogame, often dubbed the worst videogame in history.  According to Mashable in the article, “Here’s What You Do After Google+: Start Fresh,” Gundotra left Google and was gun shy to accept another job in the technology field.  He continued to get daily job offers as he spent over a year traveling and spending time with his family, but he finally decided to focus on his career again by accepting a job with AliveCor.

AliveCor is a heath startup that has received FDA approval to use mobile devices to detect heart problems.  Gundotra was interested in taking a job with a health technology startup after his father suffered from two heart attacks.

“AliveCor, while a big step removed from working on building a social network, nonetheless got him excited because of his interests in machine learning and wearable health. It also appealed to him on a more personal level.”

The health tech startup is proud to announce their new employee, but they do not include Google+ in the list of accomplishments in the press release.  Gundotra recognizes he did good work at Google, but that his vision for social network to compete with Twitter and Facebook was a washout.  He’s eager to move onto more fruitful endeavors, especially technology that will make people’s lives better.

Whitney Grace, December 2, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Next Page »