Yahoot: A Master of Disaster Management

December 16, 2016

I have a Yahoot (sorry, I meant Yahoo) email account. I have refused to change the password in order to see what nefarious behaviors manifest themselves. So far, the only bad guys in the picture are Yahoot’s merrie band of wizards, lead by the Purple Privacy Eater, Marissa Mayer. Ms. Mayer was a Xoogler. Now I am able to paint a mental picture about why she left Googzilla for the outfit Terry Semel tried to convert to a media company. Prescient guy. Get out of online. Do sitcoms.

disaster master

I read “Verizon Demands a Better Deal After Yahoo’s Latest Historic Hack.” The main idea of that write up is that the former Baby Bell wants to do the Trump thing: A better deal. That seems reasonable. Yahoo managed to fumble the security ball, delivering an alleged one billion customers’ details to alleged bad actors. There are even “real” journalists who allege that the Yahooligans’ secrets are for sale on the Dark Web.

And what personal data slipped through the former Googler’s fingers? The write up knows and, therefore, reported:

Yahoo said late on Wednesday [December 14, 2016] that it had uncovered a 2013 cyber attack that compromised data of more than 1 billion user accounts, the largest known breach on record. It said the data stolen may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

Fortune, whose journalists do not surf the Dark Web like the clever folks at the New York Times, used “real” journalistic methods and revealed:

Verizon is said to have threatened to go to court to get out of the deal if it is not repriced.

There you go. Verizon may be rethinking its clever move to buy the Purple Haze machine for about $5 billion. Knock the price down, and maybe the Baby Bell will [a] ante up some cash, [b]  replace the Xoogler with a person who can keep Yahoot from becoming more of a master of disaster than it is, and [c] blend the wizardry of AOL with the Yahooligans’ approach to technology. In my 73 years, I have not previously witnessed the rubble-ization of a publicly traded Sillycon Valley company in quite this way. Business school case study? For sure.

The real news outfit’s write up adds:

The U.S. No. 1 wireless carrier still expects to go through with the deal, but is looking for “major concessions” in light of the most recent breach, according to another person familiar with the situation.

Will Yahoo enter the online security business? The company now has mind share. Governance? Exemplary management team? Technical chops? That’s a $5 billion dollar question from a company that spurned Microsoft’s even more robust offer. Right, the same outfit which fumbled the pay to play for traffic business. Right now Terry Semel looks like a managerial paragon.

Yahoooot!

Stephen E Arnold, December 16, 2016

DuckDuckGo Makes Search Enhancements by Leveraging Yahoo Partnership

December 13, 2016

The article on Duck.co titled New Features from a Stronger Yahoo Partnership relates the continuation of the relationship between DuckDuckGo and Yahoo. DuckDuckGo has gained fame for its unique privacy policy of not tracking its users, which of course flies in the face of the Google Goliath, which is built on learning about its users by monitoring their habits and improving the search engine using that data. Instead, DuckDuckGo insists on forgetting its users and letting them search without fear of it being recorded somewhere. The article conveys some of the ways that Yahoo is mingled with the David of search engines,

In addition to the existing technology we’ve been using, DuckDuckGo now has access to features you’ve been requesting for years: Date filters let you filter results from the last day, week and month. Site links help you quickly get to subsections of sites. Of course our privacy policy remains the same: we don’t track you. In addition, we’re happy to announce that Yahoo has published a privacy statement to the same effect.

Paranoid internet users and people with weird secretive fetishes alike, rejoice! DuckDuckGo will soon be vastly improved. The article does not state an exact date for this new functionality to be revealed, but it is coming soon.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 13, 2016

Yahoo Freedom of Information Case Punted Back to Lower German Courts

December 9, 2016

The article on DW titled Germany’s Highest Court Rejects Yahoo Content Payment Case reports that Yahoo’s fight against paying publishers for publishing their content has been sent back to the lower courts. Yahoo claims that the new copyright laws limit access to information. The article explains,

The court, in the western city of Karlsruhe, said on Wednesday that Yahoo hadn’t exhausted its legal possibilities in lower courts and should turn to them first. The decision suggests Yahoo could now take its case to the civil law courts. The judges didn’t rule on the issue itself, which also affects rival search engine companies…. Germany revised its copyright laws in August 2013 allowing media companies to request payment from search engines that use more than snippets of their content.

The article points out that the new law fails to define “snippet.” Does it mean a few sentences or a few paragraphs? The article doesn’t go into much detail on how this major oversight was possible. The outcome of the case will certainly affect Google as well as Yahoo. Since its summer sale of the principal online asset to Verizon, a new direction has emerged. Verizon aims to forge a Yahoo brand that can compete in online advertising with the likes of Google and Facebook.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 9, 2016

Verizon Inches Closer to Yahoot (Sorry, I Meant Yahoo)

December 7, 2016

I read “AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Optimistic about Yahoo Deal.” The book the “Power of Positive Thinking” emphasizes optimism. Looking at the bright side is good. One can sing “Keep on the Sunny Side,” the snappy tune penned allegedly by June Carter Cash.

The write up points out:

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo will go through despite the internet company’s disclosure this fall that it suffered a significant data breach.

The point I found interesting was:

the digital media veteran said he’s been working closely with Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer on strategy and structural planning as if the deal will close. And he’s been impressed with some of Yahoo’s plans for 2017 outside of the integration work.

Perhaps the dynamic duo will craft a new local newspaper play with an enhanced weather map. Sound good? Sure does.

Yahoot. Amazing. Former Baby Bell. More amazing. Together. Most amazing.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2016

On Accountability for Search Engine Content

December 6, 2016

For better or worse, Google and, to a lesser extent other Internet search engines, shape the way many people view the world. That is a lot of power, and some folks are uneasy about allowing those companies to wield it without some sort of oversight. For example, MIT Technology Review asks, “What’s Behind Google’s Secretive Ad-Blocking Policy?” At the heart of the issue is Google’s recent decision to ban ads for payday loans, a product widely considered to be predatory and currently under investigation by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Reporter Elizabeth Woyke observes that such concerns about gate-keeping apply to other major online companies, like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Baidu. She writes:

Consumers might not realize it, but Google—and other ad-supported search engines—have been making editorial decisions about the types of ads they will carry for years. These companies won the right to reject ads they consider objectionable in 2007, when a Delaware district court ruled that constitutional free-speech guarantees don’t apply to search engines since they are for-profit companies and not ‘state actors.’ The decision cited earlier cases that upheld newspapers’ rights to decide which ads to run.

Google currently prohibits ads for ‘dangerous,’ ‘dishonest,’ and ‘offensive’ content, such as recreational drugs, weapons, and tobacco products; fake documents and academic cheating services; and hate-group paraphernalia. Google also restricts ads for content it deems legally or culturally sensitive, such as adult-oriented, gambling-related, and political content; alcoholic beverages; and health care and medicine. It may require additional information from these advertisers and limit placement to certain geographical locations.”

Legal experts, understandably, tend to be skittish about ceding this role to corporations. How far, and in which directions, will they be allowed to restrict content? Will they ever be required to restrict certain content that could cause harm? And, where do we as a society draw those lines? One suggestion that seems to make sense is a call for transparency. That way, at least, users could tap into the power of PR to hold companies accountable. See the write-up for more thoughts on the subject from legal minds.

Cynthia Murrell, December 6, 2016

In Connected World, Users Are Getting Reared as Slaughter Animals

November 22, 2016

Yahoo, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram and Microsoft all have one thing in common; for any service that they provide for free, they are harnessing your private data to be sold to advertisers.

Mirror UK recently published an Op-Ed titled Who Is Spying on You? What Yahoo Hack Taught Us About Facebook, Google, and WhatsApp in which the author says:

Think about this for a second. All those emails you’ve written and received with discussions about politics and people that were assumed to be private and meant as inside jokes for you and your friends were being filtered through CIA headquarters. Kind of makes you wonder what you’ve written in the past few years, doesn’t it?

The services be it free email or free instant messaging have been designed and developed in such a way that the companies that own them end up with a humongous amount of information about its users. This data is sugarcoated and called as Big Data. It is then sold to advertisers and marketers who in the garb of providing immersive and customized user experience follow every click of yours online. This is akin to rearing animals for slaughtering them later.

The data is not just for sale to the corporates; law enforcement agencies can snoop on you without any warrants. As pointed out in the article:

While hypocritical in many ways, these tech giants are smart enough to know who butters their bread and that the perception of trust outweighs the reality of it. But isn’t it the government who ultimately ends up with the data if a company is intentionally spying on us and building a huge record about each of us?

None of the tech giants accept this fact, but most are selling your data to the government, including companies like Samsung that are into the hardware business.

Is there are a way that can help you evade this online snooping? Probably no if you consider mainstream services and social media platforms. Till then, if you want to stay below the radar, delete your accounts and data on all mainstream email service providers, instant messaging apps, service providing websites and social media platform.

Vishal Ingole, November 22, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Verizon AOL May Allow 500 People to Find Their Future Elsewhere

November 17, 2016

With or without Yahoot — sorry, I meant, Yahoo — is a darned exciting outfit for a Baby Bell. I read “Verizon Owned AOL to Layoff 500 Employees, Mostly in Corporate Unit: Source.” With all the chatter about fake news, let me state that I believe everything I read about Verizon, AOL, and every other online centric outfit in the datasphere. No distortion exists in bizarro world. Unnamed sources are the only type of source that has any traction today.

The write up says:

Digital media company AOL, owned by Verizon Communications Inc, will lay off five  per cent of its workforce, or about 500 employees, a source familiar with the situation said.

Pundits, Brahmins, and former middle school teachers have been reporting about this RIF or reduction in force. Hey, there’s nothing like a Thanksgiving treat to make folks feel really great about their job. On the bright side, a certain president elect is hiring.

AOL may become two mini businesses:

  1. Media, search and communications
  2. Advertising technology and other assorted infrastructure enabled products and services.

Another rumor is that something called “Be On” may be reshaped. A copy of the Xoogler Tim Armstrong’s message to employees appears on Business Insider. Variety points out that the RIFs are “unrelated to Verizon’s Yahoo Bid,” which raises the question, “Why is AOL dumping staff?” No answer, of course.

Fortune Magazine recycles a Silicon Valley “real” news outfit with this second hand statement from the Xoogler Tim Armstrong:

“The layoffs are related to a 2017 strategy where we will add to our business. These are super targeted by area and we will be re-growing especially in video and mobile.

Yep, Happy Thanksgiving.

Stephen E Arnold, November 17, 2016

Reading Verizon Tea Leaves

October 27, 2016

I read “Verizon: ‘We have to assume’ Yahoo’s Massive Hack Is a Major Deal.” The write up summarizes a telephone call between Verizon and folks who care about the former Baby Bell. Tucked into the news report were some interesting factoids, which I assume to be accurate. The write up is from a real newspaper close to Jeff Bezos’ warm, kind heart.

Image result for 1890 boxing posters

Is a dust up between the former Baby Bell (Verizon) and the Purple Haze machine on the horizon?

Here are the factoids I noted:

Verizon’s chief financial officer seems to suggest that Yahoo’s security woes and loss of a few (okay, 500 million user credentials) may have a material impact on the Yahoo deal. I interpret “material” as meaning [a] We will buy the Purple Haze machine but for less than $4.8 billion or [b] Adios, Yahoo.

The write up included this intriguing paragraph:

Verizon will take “some time” to determine the fate of the deal, Shammo [Verizon CFO] said, unless Yahoo “comes up with a different process” for interacting with its buyer.

I translated into Kentucky speak the paragraph as meaning “Verizon will go slow” and “Yahoo needs to figure out a way to answer our questions and learning to speak Baby Bell.” Both of these statements would be interpreted as criticism here in Harrod’s Creek. Fisticuffs can break out in the local watering hole for similar perceived problems in information exchanges.

Stephen E Arnold, 27, 2016

Yahoo: Email Tizzy Makes One Dizzy

October 27, 2016

I read “Yahoo Wants the US to Explain Its Email Surveillance Order.” The write up suggests that “reports of its email scanning system [are] misleading.” Right, but who talked about the email scanning? The US government or Yahoo? My recollection is that Yahoo offered the information. Now Yahoo wants the US government to explain a task which I assume was either privileged or not for public dissemination. But what do I know? I am in rural Kentucky, observing the Purple Haze machine from afar. Thank goodness.

The write up earned this highlight from my passionate purple marker:

In a letter to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Yahoo’s general counsel, Ron Bell, called on the government to clarify the “national security orders they issue to internet companies to obtain user data.”  The company said that although the letter references allegations made against Yahoo, “it is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data.” “We appreciate the need for confidentiality in certain aspects of investigations involving public safety or national security,” the letter reads, “However, transparency is critical to ensure accountability and in this context must include disclosing how and under what set of circumstances the US government uses specific legal authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA], to obtain private information about individuals’ online activities or communications.”

There you go. Yahoo at the Yahooligans’ best.

I noted this statement from the article too:

“As we’ve [Yahoo]  said before, recent press reports have been misleading; the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems,” the company said. “We therefore trust that the US government recognizes the importance of clarifying the record in this case,” the company added.

Okay, Yahoo, what are the odds that the US government will jump through a hoop for you? I don’t see Yahoo as much of a ringmaster these days. Yahoo leaves me dizzy because the Yahooligans may be in a tizzy.

Stephen E Arnold, October 27, 2016

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

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