Israel and Mobile Phone Data: Some Hypotheticals

March 19, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a story in the New York Times: “Israel Looks to Repurpose a Trove of Cell Phone Data.” The story appeared in the dead tree edition on March 17, 2020, and you can access the online version of the write up at this link.

The write up reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel authorized the country’s internal security agency to tap into a vast , previously undisclosed trove of cell phone data to retract the movements of people who have contracted the corona virus and identify others who should be quarantined because their paths crossed.

Okay, cell phone data. Track people. Paths crossed. So what?

Apparently not much.

The Gray Lady does the handwaving about privacy and the fragility of democracy in Israel. There’s a quote about the need for oversight when certain specialized data are retained and then made available for analysis. Standard journalism stuff.

DarkCyber’s team talked about the write up and what the real journalists left out of the story. Remember. DarkCyber operates from a hollow in rural Kentucky and knows zero about Israel’s data collection realities. Nevertheless, my team was able to identify some interesting use cases.

Let’s look at a couple and conclude with a handful of observations.

First, the idea of retaining cell phone data is not exactly a new one. What if these data can be extracted using an identifier for a person of interest? What if a time-series query could extract the geolocation data for each movement of the person of interest captured by a cell tower? What if this path could be displayed on a map? Here’s a dummy example of what the plot for a single person of interest might look like. Please, note these graphics are examples selected from open sources. Examples are not related to a single investigation or vendor. These are for illustrative purposes only.

image

Source: Standard mobile phone tracking within a geofence. Map with blue lines showing a person’s path. SPIE at https://bit.ly/2TXPBby

Useful indeed.

Second, what if the intersection of two or more individuals can be plotted. Here’s a simulation of such a path intersection:

image

Source: Map showing the location of a person’s mobile phone over a period of time. Tyler Bell at https://bit.ly/2IVqf7y

Would these data provide a way to identify an individual with a mobile phone who was in “contact” with a person of interest? Would the authorities be able to perform additional analyses to determine who is in either party’s social network?

Third, could these relationship data be minded so that connections can be further explored?

Image result for analyst notebook mapping route

Source:  Diagram of people who have crossed paths visualized via Analyst Notebook functions. Globalconservation.org

Can these data be arrayed on a timeline? Can the routes be converted into an animation that shows a particular person of interest’s movements at a specific window of time?

image

Source: Vertical dots diagram from Recorded Future showing events on a timeline. https://bit.ly/39Xhbex

These hypothetical displays of data derived from cross correlations, geotagging, and timeline generation based on date stamps seem feasible. If earnest individuals in rural Kentucky can see the value of these “secret” data disclosed in the New York Times’ article, why didn’t the journalist and the others who presumably read the story?

What’s interesting is that systems, methods, and tools clearly disclosed in open source information is overlooked, ignored, or just not understood.

Now the big question: Do other countries have these “secret” troves of data?

DarkCyber does not know; however, it seems possible. Log files are a useful function of data processes. Data exhaust may have value.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2020

Venntel: Some Details

February 18, 2020

Venntel in Virginia has the unwanted attention of journalists. The company provides mobile location data and services. Like many of the firms providing specialized services to the US government, Venntel makes an effort to communicate with potential government customers via trade shows, informal gatherings, and referrals.

Venntel’s secret sauce is cleaner mobile data. The company says:

Over 50% of location data is flawed. Venntel’s proprietary platform efficiently distinguishes between erroneous data and data of value. The platform delivers 100% validated data, allowing your team to focus on results – not data quality.

Image result for map mobile phone location

NextGov reported in “Senator Questions DHS’ Use of Cellphone Location Data for Immigration Enforcement” some information about the company; for example:

  • Customers include DHS and CBP
  • Mobile and other sources of location data are available from the company
  • The firm offers software
  • Venntel, like Oracle and other data aggregators, obtains information from third-party sources; for example, marketing companies brokering mobile phone app data

Senator. Ed Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts, has posed questions to the low profile company and has requested answers by March 3, 2020.

A similar issued surfaced for other mobile data specialists. Other geo-analytic specialists work overtime to have zero public facing profile. Example, you ask. Try to chase down information about Geogence. (Bing and Google try their darnedest to change “Geogence” to “geofence.” This is a tribute to the name choice the stakeholders of Geogence have selected, and a clever exploitation of Bing’s and Google’s inept attempts to “help” its users find information.

If you want to get a sense of what can be done with location data, check out this video which provides information about the capabilities of Maltego, a go-to system to analyze cell phone records and geolocate actions. The video is two years old, but it is representative of the basic functions. Some specialist companies wrap more user friendly interfaces and point-and-click templates for analysts and investigators to use. There are hybrid systems which combine Analyst Notebook type functions with access to email and mobile phone data. Unlike the Watson marketing, IBM keeps these important services in the background because the company wants to focus on the needs of its customers, not on the needs of “real” journalists chasing “real news.”

DarkCyber laments the fact that special services companies which try to maintain a low profile and serve a narrow range of customers is in the news.

Stephen E Arnold, February 18, 2020

InetSoft: Interesting Visualizations of Data

February 14, 2020

Simple graphs and clipart no longer cut it in the professional world. In order to impress clients and bosses, sleek, crisp data visualizations are important. InetSoft specializes in business intelligence software and they are experts in presenting data in beautiful manner. InetSoft recently released new BI Visualization Gallery: Dashboards.

These brand new, beautiful dashboards include interactive visualizations, machine learning, and paginated reports. InetSoft also specializes in big data:

“InetSoft’s Style Intelligence drops into an existing Apache Spark installation. This bring-the-software-to-the-data approach eliminates costly big data movement for analytics and reporting. Style Intelligence can also be deployed with its own built-in Spark cluster.

In this case, only minimal expertise in Spark is required. The cluster is mostly configured and administered by Style Intelligence behind the scenes to maximize data processing and mashup performance.”

Dashboards are the main user interface for customers and employees. Having bright, attractive visualizations retains user attention and makes the data easier to interpret. Being able to understand data, allows employees and customers to understand who, what, when, and how about their information so they can better leveler it for their organizations.

The great thing about InetSoft is that the company is a data and dashboard expert. The company knows how to package data for any and all industries. It does not matter what type of data they are presented with, InetSoft wants the challenge to help people find business intelligence solutions.

Whitney Grace, February 14, 2020

Hand-Drawn Diagrams from Software

November 13, 2019

Envy those wizards who can rough out hand-drawn graphs and charts at lunch? Now you too can do the Leonardo thing. Navigate to Sketchviz.com. DarkCyber believes that this approach is going to have legs. Smart software and humans alike may find the approach warm and cuddly.

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2019

Simple English Is The Basis For Complex Data Visualizations

November 7, 2019

Computers started to gain a foothold in modern society during the 1980s. By today’s standards, the physical size and amount of data old school computers used to process are laughable. Tech Explore reports on how spoken English can actually create complex, data rich visitations, something that was only imaginable in the 1980s, in the article, “Study Leads To A System That Lets People Use Simple English To Create Complex Complex Machine Learning-Driven Visualizations.”

Today’s technology collects terabytes of diverse information from traffic patterns, weather patterns, disease outbreaks, animal migrations, financial trends, and human behavior models. The problem is that the people who could benefit from this data do not know how to make visualization models.

Professor Claudio Silva led a team at New York University Tandon School of Engineering’s Visualization and Data Analytics (VIDA) that developed VisFlow, a framework that allows non-data experts to create flexible and graphic rich data visualization models. These models will also be easy to edit with an extension called FlowSense. FlowSense will allow users to edit and synthesize data exploration pipes with a NLP interface.

VIDA is one of the leading research centers on data visualizations and FlowSense is already being used in astronomy, medicine, and climate research”

• “OpenSpace, a System for Astrographics is being used worldwide in planetariums, museums, and other contexts to explore the solar system and universe

Motion Browser: Visualizing and Understanding Complex Upper Limb Movement under Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injuries is a collaboration between computer scientists, orthopedic surgeons, and rehabilitation physicians that could lead to new treatments for brachial nerve injuries and hypotheses for future research

The Effect of Color Scales on Climate Scientists’ Objective and Subjective Performance in Spatial Data Analysis Tasks is a web-based user study that takes a close look at the efficacy of the widely used practice of superimposing color scales on geographic maps.”

FlowSense and VisFlow are open source frameworks available on Github and programmers are welcome to experiment with them. These applications allow non-data experts to manipulate data for their fields, take advantage of technology, and augment their current work.

Whitney Grace, November 7, 2019

Data Visualization: Unusual and Unnecessary Terminology

March 19, 2019

I read “5 Reasons Why Data Visualization Fails.” Most of the information in the write up applies to a great many visualizations. I have seen some pretty crazy graphs in my 50 year career. A few stand out. The Autonomy heat maps. Wild and crazy radar maps. Multi axis charts which are often incomprehensible.

The problem is that point and click options present data. The “analyst” often picks a graph that keeps a general, a partner in a venture firm, or a group of rubes entranced.

The article touches upon other issues ranging from a failure to think about the audience to presenting complex visualizations.

I do have one major objection to the article. From my point of view, the “phrase data overload” or “large flows of information” express the concept of having a great deal of information. The article uses the phrase “data puking.” The phrase is unnecessary and off putting to me.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2019

Big Data Answers the Question ‘Are You Happy?’

November 30, 2018

navigate to the capitalist tool and read “Mapping World Happiness 2015-2018 Through 850 Million News Articles.” Keep in mind that the write up does not explain what percentage of the “news articles” are fake news, the outputs of anti American interest groups, bots, public relations outfits like Definers, or marketing wizards chugging along in the search engine optimization game, and other interesting sources of the data. The write up is a bit of promotion for what is called the GDelt Project. The exercise reveals some of the strengths of open source intelligence. The idea is that collection and analysis can reveal trends and insights.The process involved some number crunching; for example:

Its sentiment mining system has computed more than 2.3 trillion emotional assessments across thousands of distinct emotions from “abashment” to “wrath.”

Google apparently contributed resources.

The question becomes, “Is this analysis an example of real news or is it more marketing?”

The Beyond Search goose has no strong “sentiment” either way. Just asking a simple question.

Stephen E Arnold, November 30, 2018

DarkCyber, May 29, 2018, Now Available

May 29, 2018

Stephen E Arnold’s DarkCyber video news program for Tuesday, May 29, 2018, is now available.

This week’s story line up is:

  • The “personality” of a good Web hacker
  • Why lists are replacing free Dark Web search services
  • Where to find a directory of OSINT software
  • A new Dark Web index from a commercial vendor.

You can find this week’s program at either www.arnoldit.com/wordpress or on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/272088088.

On June 5, 2018, Stephen will be giving two lectures at the Telestrategies ISS conference in Prague. The audiences will consist of intelligence, law enforcement, and security professionals from Europe. A handful of attendees from other countries will be among the attendees.

On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Stephen will reveal one finding from our analysis of Amazon’s law enforcement, war fighting, and intelligence services initiative.

Because his books have been reused (in several cases without permission) by other analysts, the information about Amazon is available via online or in person presentations.

The DarkCyber team has prepared short video highlighting one research finding. He will include some of the DarkCyber research information in his Prague lectures.

The Amazon-centric video will be available on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. After viewing the video, if you want the details of his for fee lecture, write him at darkcyber333@yandex dot com. Please, put “Amazon” in the subject line.

Several on the DarkCyber team believe that most people will dismiss Stephen’s analysis of Amazon. The reason is that people buy T shirts, books, and videos from the company. However, the DarkCyber research team has identified facts which suggest a major new revenue play from the one time bookseller.

Just as Stephen’s analyses of Google in 2006 altered how some Wall Street professionals viewed Google, his work on Amazon is equally significant. Remember those rumors about Alexa recording what it “hears”? Now think of Amazon’s services/products as pieces in a mosaic.

The picture is fascinating and it has significant financial implications as well.

Enjoy today’s program at this link.

Kenny Toth, May 29, 2018

Plan a Hike or an Attack: Piece of Cake Now

May 26, 2018

Forget the utility of the procedure for outdoor hikers described in “Plot a Hike on Google Earth.” My first thought was, “What a Mother’s Little Helper” for those involved in military orienteering. I particularly liked the use of Strava, an application with data of some value to those eager to locate certain types of behavior patterns inadvertently created by joggers. I also liked the bouncing between a desktop / laptop computer and mobile devices. No problem for personnel operating from a semi fixed base station. Finally, the “fly around” functionality is helpful. My problem with these capabilities is that they are available to anyone. My personal view is that certain types of technology applications can be put to what I would describe as questionable uses. Why go through the hassle of joining the military or law enforcement, cope with the rigors of FLETC and other training program, and sharpen one’s skills in the field. Take a short cut and put the capabilities in whatever context one wants. Sorry. Too much information.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2018

Need Better Charts and Graphs?

October 27, 2017

If you want to move beyond the vanilla charts and graphs in Excel and PowerPoint, you will want to read “The 15 Best Data Visualization Tools.” Don’t forget to make sure the data you present are accurate, timely, and germane to the point your snappy graphic will make. (Keep in mind that some folks are happy with snazzy visuals. Close enough for horseshoes.)

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2017

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