Inside Loon Balloons

March 2, 2017

You may have heard about Google X’s Project Loon, which aims to bring Internet access to underserved, rural areas using solar-powered balloons. The post, “Here’s How Google Makes its Giant, Internet-Beaming Balloons,” at Business Insider takes us inside that three-year-old project, describing some of how the balloons are made and used. The article is packed with helpful photos and GIFs. We learn that the team has turned to hot-air-balloon manufacturer Raven Aerostar for their expertise. The write-up tells us:

The balloons fly high in the stratosphere at about 60,000 to 90,000 feet above Earth. That’s two to three times as high as most commercial airplanes. Raven Aerostar creates a special outer shell for the balloons, called the film, that can hold a lot of pressure — allowing the balloons to float in the stratosphere for longer. The film is as thin as a typical sandwich bag. … The film is made of a special formulation of polyethylene that allows it to retain strength when facing extreme temperatures of up to -112 degrees Fahrenheit.

We like the comparison sandwich bag. The balloons are tested in sub-freezing conditions at the McKinley Climatic Lab—see the article for dramatic footage of one of their test subjects bursting. We also learn about the “ballonet,” an internal compartment in each balloon that controls altitude and, thereby, direction. Each balloon is equipped with a GPS tracker, of course, and all electronics are secured in a tiny basket below.

One caveat is a bit disappointing—users cannot expect to stream high-quality videos through the balloons. Described as “comparable to 3G,” the service should be enough for one to visit websites and check email. That is certainly far better than nothing and could give rural small-business owners and remote workers the Internet access they need.

Cynthia Murrell, March 2, 2017

Dark Pools Demystified

February 13, 2017

Have you ever heard of dark pools? You may be hearing more about them as Bitcoin pioneer Jered Kenna and TradeZero offer digital currency dark pool trading. According to this International Business Times article, these two have created the world’s first dark pool exchange for Bitcoin. Their plan is to eventually scale to include other digital currencies. What is a dark pool? It is a private exchange to trade securities in a way where large transactions can occur without impacting the marketing. This means it can be used to avoid adverse price movements. We learned,

The Bitcoin market is less liquid than traditional FX and hence more volatile. Dark pool trading in Bitcoin would be useful to mainstream investors who may want to make large trades in Bitcoin, or use it as a currency hedge without alerting the market to their positions. Kenna, who launched the first US Bitcoin exchange in 2011, brings a wealth of experience to the table. He told IBTimes UK: “Dark pool trading certainly mitigates volatility where individuals making large trades are concerned.

Apparently, the size of the trade one would need to impact the Bitcoin market in is much smaller than what traditional traders experience. Jared Kenna appears to be projecting the future of Bitcoin, and non-traditional currencies in general, to explode. Why else would there be such a need for this kind of service? This is something we will be keeping an eye on, especially as it may come to be more interconnected with Dark Web matters.

Megan Feil, February 13, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Releases Q4 Earnings of First Year After Split from HP

January 30, 2017

The article on Business Insider titled Hewlett Packard Enterprise Misses Its Q4 Revenue Expectations But Beats on Profit discusses the first year of HPE following its separation from HP. The article reports fiscal fourth quarter revenue of $12.5B, just short of the expected $12.85B. The article provides all of the nitty gritty details of the fourth quarter segment results, including,

Software revenue was $903 million, down 6% year over year, flat when adjusted for divestitures and currency, with a 32.1% operating margin. License revenue was down 5%, down 1% when adjusted for divestitures and currency, support revenue was down 7%, up 1% when adjusted for divestitures and currency, professional services revenue was down 7%, down 4% adjusted for divestitures and currency, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue was down 1%, up 11% adjusted for divestitures and currency.

Additionally, Enterprise Services revenue was reported as $4.7B, down 6% year over year, and Enterprise Group revenue was down 9% at $6.7B. Financial Services revenue was up 2% at $814M.  According to HPE President and CEO Meg Whitman, all of this amounts to a major win for the standalone company. She emphasized the innovation and financial performance and called FY16 a “historic” year for the company.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 30, 2017

Some Web Hosting Firms Overwhelmed by Scam Domains

January 27, 2017

An article at Softpedia should be a wakeup call to anyone who takes the issue of online security lightly—“One Crook Running Over 120 Tech Support Scam Domains on GoDaddy.” Writer Catalin Cimpanu explains:

A crook running several tech support scam operations has managed to register 135 domains, most of which are used in his criminal activities, without anybody preventing him from doing so, which shows the sad state of Web domain registrations today. His name and email address are tied to 135 domains, as MalwareHunterTeam told Softpedia. Over 120 of these domains are registered and hosted via GoDaddy and have been gradually registered across time.

The full list is available at the end of this article (text version here), but most of the domains look shady just based on their names. Really, how safe do you feel navigating to ‘security-update-needed-sys-filescorrupted-trojan-detected[.]info’? How about ‘personal-identity-theft-system-info-compromised[.]info’?

Those are ridiculously obvious, but it seems to be that GoDaddy’s abuse department is too swamped to flag and block even these flagrant examples. At least that hosting firm does have an abuse department; many, it seems, can only be reached through national CERT teams. Other hosting companies, though, respond with the proper urgency when abuse is reported—Cimpanu holds up Bluehost and PlanetHoster as examples. That is something to consider for anyone who thinks the choice of hosting firm is unimportant.

We are reminded that educating ourselves is the best protection. The article links to a valuable tech support scam guide provided by veteran Internet security firm Malwarebytes, and suggests studying the wikis or support pages of other security vendors.

Cynthia Murrell, January 27, 2017

Are You Really Beefing up Your Search Skills?

January 18, 2017

Everyone’s New Year’s resolution is usually to lose weight.  When January swings around again, that resolution went out the door with the spring-cleaning.  Exercise can be a challenge, but you can always exercise your search skills by reading Medium’s article, “Google Search Tricks To Become A Search Power User.”  Or at least the article promises to improve your search skills.

Let’s face it, searching on the Web might seem simple, but it requires a little more brainpower than dumping keywords into a search box.  Google makes searching easier and is even the Swiss army knife of answering basic questions.   The Medium article does go a step further by drawing old school search tips, such as the asterisk, quotes, parentheses, and others.  These explanations, however, need to be read more than once to understand how the tools work:

My favorite of all, single word followed by a ‘*’ will do wonders. But yeah this will not narrow your results; still it keeps a wider range of search results. You’ll need to fine tune to find exactly what you want. This way is useful in case when you don’t remember more than a word or two but you still you want to search fully of it.

Having used some of these tips myself, they actually make searching more complicated than taking a little extra time to read the search results.  I am surprised that they did not include the traditional Boolean operators that usually work, more or less.  Sometimes search tips cause more trouble than they are worth.

Whitney Grace, January 18, 2016

The Software Behind the Web Sites

January 17, 2017

Have you ever visited an awesome Web site or been curious how an organization manages their Web presence?  While we know the answer is some type of software, we usually are not given a specific name.  Venture Beat reports that it is possible to figure out the software in the article, “SimilarTech’s Profiler Tells You All Of The Technologies That Web Companies Are Using.”

SimilarTech is a tool designed to crawl the Internet to analyze what technologies, including software, Web site operators use.  SimiliarTech is also used to detect which online payment tools are the most popular.  It does not come as a surprise that PayPal is the most widely used, with PayPal Subscribe and Alipay in second and third places.

Tracking what technology and software companies utilize for the Web is a boon for salespeople, recruiters, and business development professionals who want a competitive edge as well as:

Overall, SimilarTech provides big data insights about technology adoption and usage analytics for the entire internet, providing access to data that simply wasn’t available before. The insights are used by marketing and sales professionals for website profiling, lead generation, competitive analysis, and business intelligence.

SimiliarTech can also locate contact information for personnel responsible for Web operations, in other words new potential clients.

This tool is kind of like the mailing houses of the past. Mailing houses have data about people, places, organizations, etc. and can generate contact information lists of specific clientele for companies.  SimiliarTech offers the contact information, but it does one better by finding the technologies people use for Web site operation.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2016

Improve Your B2B Search with Klevu

January 6, 2017

Ecommerce sites rely on a strong search tool to bring potential customers to their online stores and to find specific products without a hassle.  B2B based companies have the same goal, but they need an entire different approach although they still rely on search.  If you run a B2B company, you might want to take a gander at Klevu and their solutions: “Search Requirements For A B2B Retailer.”

In the blog post, Klevu explains that B2B companies have multiple customer groups that allow different pricing, products, discounts, etc.  The customers see prices based on allocation from the store, but they cannot use a single price for every item.  Search is also affected by this outcome.  Klevu came out with the Klevu Magneto plugin to:

With the help of our partners and our in-house expertise, we came up with a solution that allows such group prices to automatically work with Klevu. The Klevu Magneto plugin fetches the group prices and, at the time of showing the search results, Klevu’s JavaScript determines the relevant price for rendering. We’ve also ensure that this works in Ajax / quick search as well, as this was an important requirement.

The Klevu Magneto plugin also has an SKU search option, maintaining the same landing page within search results, and instant faceted search.  Klevu researched the issues that its B2B customers had the most problems with and created solutions.  They are actively pursuing ways to resolve bothersome issues that pop up and this is just the start for them.

Whitney Grace, January 6, 2017

Linux Users Can Safely Test Alpha Stage Tor Browser

January 5, 2017

The Tor Project has released the Alpha version of Tor Browser exclusive to Linux that users can test and use in sandboxed mode.

As reported by Bleeping Computer in article titled First Version of Sandboxed Tor Browser Available:

Sandboxing is a security mechanism employed to separate running processes. In computer security, sandboxing an application means separating its process from the OS, so vulnerabilities in that app can’t be leveraged to extend access to the underlying operating system.

As the browser that’s still under development is open to vulnerabilities, these loopholes can be used by competent parties to track down individuals. Sandboxing eliminates this possibility completely. The article further states that:

In recent years, Tor exploits have been deployed in order to identify and catch crooks hiding their identity using Tor. The Tor Project knows that these types of exploits can be used for other actions besides catching pedophiles and drug dealers. An exploit that unmasks Tor users can be very easily used to identify political dissidents or journalists investigating cases of corrupt politicians.

The Tor Project has been trying earnestly to close these loopholes and this seems to be one of their efforts to help netizens stay safe from prying eyes. But again, no system is full-proof. As soon as the new version is released, another exploit might follow suit.

Vishal Ingole, January 5, 2017

Falcon Searches Through Browser History

October 21, 2016

Have you ever visited a Web site and then lost the address or could not find a particular section on it?  You know that the page exists, but no matter how often you use an advanced search feature or scour through your browser history it cannot be found.  If you use Google Chrome as your main browser than there is a solution, says GHacks in the article, “Falcon: Full-Text history Search For Chrome.”

Falcon is a Google Chrome extension that adds full-text history search to a browser.  Chrome usually remembers Web sites and their extensions when you type them into the address bar.  The Falcon extension augments the default behavior to match text found on previously visited Web Sites.

Falcon is a search option within a search feature:

The main advantage of Falcon over Chrome’s default way of returning results is that it may provide you with better results.  If the title or URL of a page don’t contain the keyword you entered in the address bar, it won’t be displayed by Chrome as a suggestion even if the page is full of that keyword. With Falcon, that page may be returned as well in the suggestions.

The new Chrome extension acts as a delimiter to recorded Web history and improves a user’s search experience so they do not have to sift through results individually.

Whitney Grace, October 21, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

 

The Zen of More Tabs from Yandex

September 5, 2016

Serendipitous information discovery has been attempted through many apps, browsers and more. Attempting a solution, Russia’s giant in online search, Yandex, launched a new feature to their browser. A news release from PR Newswire appeared on 4 Traders entitled Yandex Adds AI-based Personal Recommendations to Browser tells us more. Fueling this feature is Yandex’s personalized content recommendation technology called Zen, which selects articles, videos, images and more for its infinite content stream. This is the first time personally targeted content will appear in new tabs for the user. The press release offers a description of the new feature,

The intelligent content discovery feed in Yandex Browser delivers personal recommendations based on the user’s location, browsing history, their viewing history and preferences in Zen, among hundreds of other factors. Zen uses natural language processing and computer vision to understand the verbal and visual content on the pages the user has viewed, liked or disliked, to offer them the content they are likely to like. To start exploring this new internet experience, all one needs to do is download Yandex Browser and give Zen some browsing history to work with. Alternatively, liking or disliking a few websites on Zen’s start up page will help it understand your preferences on the outset.

The world of online search and information discovery is ever-evolving. For a preview of the new Yandex feature, go to their demo. This service works on all platforms in 24 different countries and in 15 different languages. The design of this feature implies people want to actually read all of their recommended content. Whether that’s the case or not, whether Zen is accurate enough for the design to be effective, time will tell.

Megan Feil, September 5, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/DarkWeb meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta