Facebook: Getting Softer, More Lovable?

May 9, 2022

Is the Zuckbook going soft? Sure, the company allegedly dorked around with Facebook pages in Australia. Sure, a former employee revealed the high school science club thought framework? Sure, the Zuck is getting heat for his semi-exciting vision of ZuckZoom and ZuckGraphics.

The article with the clicky title “Meta’s Challenge to OpenAI—Give Away a Massive Language Model. At 175 Billion Parameters, It’s As Powerful As OpenAI’s GPT-3, and It’s Open to All Researchers” shows that El Zucko is into freebies. The idea is that Zuck’s smart software is not going to allow the Google to dominate in this super-hyped sector. Think of it as the battle of the high school science clubs.

The ZuckVerse anyone who sells gets special treatment. Meta will charge about 48 percent commission.

Selling in Horizon Worlds will be limited to a few creators located in the US and Canada who must be eighteen years old. The 50% commission is a huge chunk of a creator’s profit, even if the item is an NFT:

“Meta spokesperson Sinead Purcell confirmed the figure to The Post, adding that Horizon Worlds will eventually become available on hardware made by other companies. In those cases, Meta will keep charging its 25% Horizon Worlds fee but the other companies will set their own store transaction fees. Vivek Sharma, Meta’s vice president of Horizon, told The Verge that the commission is ‘a pretty competitive rate in the market.’”

Zuckerberg criticized Google and Apple for taking 30% commission fees to digital creators. He claims that when the Metaverse adds a revenue share the commission rate will be less than 30%.

Zuckerberg claims he wants to support creators and help them make a living wage, but his statements are probably hot air. Talk is cheap, especially for tech giants. Zuckerberg wants to recoup the lost ad revenue through NFTs.

See. Kinder. Gentler. Maybe a Zuckbork?

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2022

NCC April Vendor Contracts: How to Be Slick and Lose Customer Trust

April 28, 2022

I read “Build Vs. Buy: Vendor Contract Shenanigans.” The write up is an excellent reminder of the character traits of MBAs and lawyers; that is, you lose if we provide you with a contract you sign without understanding. The article contains a number of examples of legal behavior which might strike some people as fraud. Oh, well, that is a signed contract, and your firm must comply. I love it when the lawyer tells a contracting officer, “Hey, we are sorry. These are standard terms.” Yep, standard for whom?

Let me highlight three of the methods used to inflict maximum gain for the vendor and delivering discomfort to the customer. Please, consult the original write up for the fourth item on the list.

First, the vendor (in this case, the Google) specifies that when the guaranteed level of service fails, the customer must get everyone in the chain to notify one another that the Googley service did not deliver. A failure to complete this notification within 30 days means you forfeit a “service credit.” (I don’t know what a service credit means, but I don’t think it means cash money.)

Second, the vendor collects the money before service begins. If you don’t use what you bought, there is no refund.

Third, sign our deal and our company will use your logo forever.

The MBAs and lawyers involved in deals with these types of clauses have an ideal rationalization: We are just doing our jobs.

Yes, these individuals are. Just following orders. Where have I heard that before?

Stephen E Arnold, April 28, 2022

The Value of the NSO Group? Probably More Than Zero

April 19, 2022

The Financial Times published “NSO Group Deemed Valueless to Private Equity Backers.” The orange newspaper stated that a consulting firm studied the intelware outfit and provided information with this startling number. There’s a legal dust up underway, and my hunch is that legal eagles will flock to this situation: Alleged misuse of the Pegasus system, financial investments, and the people involved in assorted agreements. The story points out that NSO Group is “not a party” to this particular lawsuit. The folks funding the legal eagles are a consulting outfit called Berkeley Research Group. An outfit called Novalpina Capital convinced some to put money into the cyber gold mine. Then the PR spotlight illuminated NSO Group and a torrent flowed downhill knocking down some once impregnable structures. Plus the FT’s article references to an outfit called Integrity Partners who, according to the Financial Times, are willing to buy NSO Group for several hundred million dollars. Is this a good deal? In my opinion, something is better than zilch.

An unnamed NSO Group spokesperson indicated that the NSO Group’s system was of interest to many customers. If this is true, wasn’t the most recent license deal inked in mid 2021 for the platform? My thought is that the company’s proprietary technology would be of interest to other intelware firms interested in obtaining the licensee base and the platform which might benefit from newer, more sophisticated geo-spatial functionality which I will describe in my OSINT lecture at the US National Cyber Crime Conference on April 26, 2022. Sorry, the info is not for a free blog, gentle reader.

In my opinion, the referenced write up presents a fairly chaotic snapshot of the players, the valuation, and the legal trajectory for this matter. We need to bear in mind that NSO Group is hitting up the US Supreme Court and dealing with its Tim Apple issues.

One thing is crystal clear to me: The NSO Group’s misstep is now sending out concentric pulses which are extremely disruptive to entities rarely in the public spotlight. This is unfortunate and underscores why the Silicon Valley Tel Aviv style is not appreciated in some upscale social circles.

Stephen E Arnold, April 19, 2022

Google Hits Microsoft in the Nose: Alleges Security Issues

April 15, 2022

The Google wants to be the new Microsoft. Google wanted to be the big dog in social media. How did that turn out? Google wanted to diversify its revenue streams so that online advertising was not the main money gusher. How did that work out? Now there is a new dust up, and it will be more fun than watching the antics of coaches of Final Four teams. Go, Coach K!

The real news outfit NBC published “Attacking Rival, Google Says Microsoft’s Hold on Government Security Is a Problem.” The article presents as actual factual information:

Jeanette Manfra, director of risk and compliance for Google’s cloud services and a former top U.S. cybersecurity official, said Thursday that the government’s reliance on Microsoft — one of Google’s top business rivals — is an ongoing security threat. Manfra also said in a blog post published Thursday that a survey commissioned by Google found that a majority of federal employees believe that the government’s reliance on Microsoft products is a cybersecurity vulnerability.

There you go. A monoculture is vulnerable to parasites and other predations. So what’s the fix? Replace the existing monoculture with another one.

That’s a Googley point of view from Google’s cloud services unit.

And there are data to back up this assertion, at least data that NBC finds actual factual; for instance:

Last year, researchers discovered 21 “zero-days” — an industry term for a critical vulnerability that a company doesn’t have a ready solution for — actively in use against Microsoft products, compared to 16 against Google and 12 against Apple.

I don’t want to be a person who dismisses the value of my Google mouse pad, but I would offer:

  • How are the anti ad fraud mechanisms working?
  • What’s the issue with YouTube creators’ allegations of algorithmic oddity?
  • What’s the issue with malware in approved Google Play apps?
  • Are the incidents reported by Firewall Times resolved?

Microsoft has been reasonably successful in selling to the US government. How would the US military operate without PowerPoint slide decks?

From my point of view, Google’s aggressive security questions could be directed at itself? Does Google do the know thyself thing? Not when it comes to money is my answer. My view is that none of the Big Tech outfits are significantly different from one another.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2022

AI Helps Out Lawyers

April 11, 2022

Artificial intelligence algorithms have negatively affected as many industries as they have assisted. One of the industries that has benefitted from AI is law firms explains Medium in: “How Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Solve The Needs Of Small Law Practitioners.” In the past, small law firms were limited in the amount of cases they could handle. AI algorithms now allow small law practices to compete with the larger firms in all areas of laws. How is this possible?

“The latest revolution in legal research technology ‘puts a lawyer’s skill and expertise in the driver’s seat…’ New artificial intelligence tools give lawyers instant access to vast amounts of information and analysis online, but also the ability to turn that into actionable insights. They can be reminded to check specific precedents and the latest rulings, or be directed to examine where an argument might be incomplete. That leaves the lawyers themselves to do what only they can: think, reason, develop creative arguments and negotiation strategies, provide personal service, and respond to a client’s changing needs.”

Lawyers used to rely on printed reference materials from databases and professional publications. They were limited on the number of hours in a day, people, and access to the newest and best resources. That changed when computers entered the game and analytical insights were delivered from automated technology. As technology has advanced, lawyers can cross reference multiple resources and improve legal decision making.

While lawyers are benefitting from the new AI, if they do not keep up they are quickly left behind. Lawyers must be aware of current events, how their digital tools change, and how to keep advancing the algorithms so they can continue to practice. That is not much different from the past, except it is moving at a faster rate.

Whitney Grace, April 11, 2022

Why Be Like ClearView AI? Google Fabs Data the Way TSMC Makes Chips

April 8, 2022

Machine learning requires data. Lots of data. Datasets can set AI trainers back millions of dollars, and even that does not guarantee a collection free of problems like bias and privacy issues. Researchers at MIT have developed another way, at least when it comes to image identification. The World Economic Forum reports, “These AI Tools Are Teaching Themselves to Improve How they Classify Images.” Of course, one must start somewhere, so a generative model is first trained on some actual data. From there, it generates synthetic data that, we’re told, is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Writer Adam Zewe cites the paper‘s lead author Ali Jahanian as he emphasizes:

“But generative models are even more useful because they learn how to transform the underlying data on which they are trained, he says. If the model is trained on images of cars, it can ‘imagine’ how a car would look in different situations — situations it did not see during training — and then output images that show the car in unique poses, colors, or sizes. Having multiple views of the same image is important for a technique called contrastive learning, where a machine-learning model is shown many unlabeled images to learn which pairs are similar or different. The researchers connected a pretrained generative model to a contrastive learning model in a way that allowed the two models to work together automatically. The contrastive learner could tell the generative model to produce different views of an object, and then learn to identify that object from multiple angles, Jahanian explains. ‘This was like connecting two building blocks. Because the generative model can give us different views of the same thing, it can help the contrastive method to learn better representations,’ he says.”

Ah, algorithmic teamwork. Another advantage of this method is the nearly infinite samples the model can generate, since more samples (usually) make for a better trained AI. Jahanian also notes once a generative model has created a repository of synthetic data, that resource can be posted online for others to use. The team also hopes to use their technique to generate corner cases, which often cannot be learned from real data sets and are especially troublesome when it comes to potentially dangerous uses like self-driving cars. If this hope is realized, it could be a huge boon.

This all sounds great, but what if—just a minor if—the model is off base? And, once this tech moves out of the laboratory, how would we know? The researchers acknowledge a couple other limitations. For one, their generative models occasionally reveal source data, which negates the privacy advantage. Furthermore, any biases in the limited datasets used for the initial training will be amplified unless the model is “properly audited.” It seems like transparency, which somehow remains elusive in commercial AI applications, would be crucial. Perhaps the researchers have an idea how to solve that riddle.

Funding for the project was supplied, in part, by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, and the United States Air Force Artificial Intelligence Accelerator.

Cynthia Murrell, April 8, 2022

Ethical Behavior and the Ivy League: Redefinition by Example

April 5, 2022

First, MIT and its dalliance with the sophisticated Jeffrey Epstein. Then there was Harvard and its indifference to an allegation of improper interpersonal behavior. Sordid details abound in this allegedly accurate report. Now Yale. The bastion of “the dog”, the football game, Skull and Bones, etc., etc.

A Former Yale Employee Admits She Stole $40 Million in Electronics from the University” makes clear that auditing, resource management, and personnel supervision are not the esteemed institution greatest strengths.

I gave a talk at Yale a decade ago. The subject was Google, sparked because one of the Yale brain trust found my analysis interesting. Strange, I thought, at the time. No one else cares about my research about Google’s systems and methods. I showed up and was greeted as though I was one of the gang. (I wasn’t.)

At dinner someone asked me, “Where did you get your PhD?” I replied with my standard line: “I don’t have a PhD. I quit to take a job at Halliburton Nuclear.” As you might imagine, the others at the dinner were not impressed.

I gave my lecture and no one — absolutely none of the 100 people in the room — asked a question. No big deal. I am familiar with the impact some of my work has elicited. One investment banker big wheel threw an empty Diet Pepsi can at me after I explained how the technology of CrossZ (a non US analytics company) preceded in invention the outfit the banked just pumped millions into. Ignorance is bliss. Same at Yale during and after my lecture.

Has Yale changed? Seems to be remarkably consistent: Detached from the actions of mere humans, convinced of a particular world view, and into the zeitgeist of being of Yale.

But $40 million?

An ethical wake up call? Nope, hit the snooze button.

Stephen E Arnold, April 5, 2022

Vimeo: A Case Study in Management Desperation?

March 19, 2022

Video is expensive. Bandwidth is a killer. Even storage is a problem at scale. Then there is marketing, customer acquisition, customer retention, and paying those who deserve the big bucks. Vimeo wants to generate revenue, and it has been struggling to be upfront about its predicament: Money.

A couple of years ago, I put my DarkCyber videos on Vimeo. I was curious about the platform. I think I had a dozen or so 12 minute programs on the service. I received an email explaining that because I was a commercial customer, I had to pay a lot of money. I liked that angle crafted by 20 somethings sitting in a cramped, uncomfortable conference room figuring out who was commercial and who was not.

My criteria were:

  • I was retired
  • My videos contained zero advertising
  • I made the programs available to those attending my lectures at FLETC, the ISS Telestrategies’ conferences, and the National Cyber Crime Conferences, among others
  • I don’t sell anything any more.

The Vimeo automated system informed me that I had to pay up or have my videos deleted. I cancelled my account and deleted the videos. I mentally noted that Vimeo was floundering. Where is that life preserver? Ooops. Not near me.

I read “Vimeo Is Sorry, and Here’s How It’s Changing.” The write up dances around the central problem of Vimeo: Making money. There’s hand waving from Vimeo management. There’s information about Vimeo’s contradictory statements about “policies.” There’s information about exceptions for special people.

Enough. Vimeo is stuck. Vimeo’s management is apparently rudderless. And most important, I find the firm’s splashing around in the pool mildly amusing. Will it gulp water and drown? Will it become the new Rumble or BitChute? Will the firm’s decisive management team knock YouTube for a loop.

Splish. Splash. Vimeo is taking a bath and there is no party going on.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2022

Online Gambling in Brazil: Pinga and Soccer Fun

March 8, 2022

In the 1950s, my family lived in Brazil. Our city was Campinas. At that time, it was an okay, sort of an out-of-the-way place. I recall a couple of things from my childhood. Mr. Ricci, a family friend, pointed out individuals who drank pinga at a tiny bar, took a couple of staggering steps, and leaned against a wall until the shock wave subsided. Pinga (now called cachaça or caninha) was cheap and packed an alcohol content around 38 to 48 percent. I also recall street vendors with stands papered with lottery tickets. The idea was that Brazilians really believed that a big pay day awaited the lucky gambler. Mr. Ricci, as I recall, said, “Own the lottery. Don’t play the lottery.” After watching the pinga lovers and the lottery ticket buyers, I carried away a life long aversion to alcohol and gambling. Pretty silly, right?

If a young child about 11 years old could figure out that many Brazilians liked gambling and distilled sugar cane, one would think others would too. Nope. Just do a couple of carnivals or check out the action outside the stadium when Palmeiras plays Fluminense.

I thought about my memories of Campinas as I read “Brazil’s Move to Legalize Sports Gambling Is Fueling a Digital Gold Rush.” The article states:

With the help of Eccles, the Brazilian startup followed a game plan similar to FanDuel’s and convinced regulators that fantasy gaming should be considered a game of skill, rather than luck. Now, armed with 1.6 million users in Brazil, Rei do Pitaco is ready to move into traditional sports gambling when it becomes fully regulated. [Emphasis added]

Yep, skill. Just like card counting or being James Bond at the baccarat table.

Several observations:

  • Digitizing gambling puts Teflon on exploiting some people who bet on many things
  • Pinga lubricates decision making for some people
  • Organized operators can put a finger on the scales in some athletic contests

Net net: Digitizing lowest common denominator activities is a way for some to demonstrate skill. Sure enough.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2022

Switzerland: Clean Cows and Clean Money Mostly

March 1, 2022

Here is yet another inventory of the rich and infamous. The Irish Times reports, “Vast Leak Exposes How Credit Suisse Served Strongmen and Spies.” This latest financial data leak lists 18,000 Credit Suisse accounts from the 1940s into the 2010s, though contains no data on current accounts. In keeping with the alliterative tradition established with 2016’s Panama Papers and continuing through 2017’s Paradise Papers and last year’s Pandora Papers, this roster has been dubbed Suisse Secrets. We learn:

“Among the people listed as holding amounts worth millions of dollars in Credit Suisse accounts were King Abdullah II of Jordan and the two sons of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Other account holders included sons of a Pakistani intelligence chief who helped funnel billions of dollars from the United States and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Venezuelan officials ensnared in a long-running corruption scandal. The leak shows that Credit Suisse opened accounts for and continued to serve not only the ultra-wealthy but also people whose problematic backgrounds would have been obvious to anyone who ran their names through a search engine. Swiss banks have long faced legal prohibitions on taking money linked to criminal activity, said Daniel Thelesklaf, the former head of Switzerland’s anti-money laundering agency. But, he said, the law generally hasn’t been enforced.”

You don’t say. Of course, Swiss banks are famous for their high security, so this leak was quite the feat. A whistleblower sent the data to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung over a year ago. That paper has since then shared the list with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and 46 other news organizations around the world. None of those outlets were based in Switzerland, however, since a 2015 Swiss law prohibits the publication of articles based on internal bank data. The article also notes:

“Among the biggest revelations is that Credit Suisse continued to do business with customers even after bank officials flagged suspicious activity involving their finances. One account holder was Venezuela’s former vice minister of energy, Nervis Villalobos. Employees in Credit Suisse’s compliance department had reason to be wary of doing business with him.”

See the write-up for more on Villalobos and other noteworthy examples, including several Middle East officials.

A Credit Suisse spokesperson notes many of the accounts date back to “a time where laws, practices and expectations of financial institutions were very different from where they are now.” Indeed. Since its founding in 1856 until fairly recently, the institution was largely untouchable. As the public’s tolerance for shady dealings has waned, however, the bank has faced more scrutiny. We are reminded that, in 2014, it pled guilty to helping Americans file false tax returns; in 2016, it forked over $5.3 billion to settle allegations about its mortgage-backed securities marketing; and last year it agreed to pay $475 million to authorities in the US and the UK over a Mozambique kickback and bribery scheme. Of course, those are small prices to pay compared to managing more than $100 billion in questionable funds. Currently, an ongoing trial in Switzerland sees Credit Suisse accused of helping drug traffickers launder millions of euros and the US Justice Department and Senate finance committee are investigating whether US citizens are still hiding millions within its hallowed vaults. What are the odds of that?

Cynthia Murrell, March 1, 2022

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta