Tag Archives: WikiLeaks

The danger of Colbert and the Press

When we see an interview with General Michael Hayden and Stephen Colbert, it is hard to imagine, but it is actually Stephen Colbert who is endangering the lives of many. Did you realise that? First, the interview (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buI8aO7nRDM) should be watched. It is a brilliant interview. Getting a former CIA and NSA director in view is always a little awesome and the man plays the audience brilliantly. Now, I say ‘play’ and I mean that in the best positive way. He is funny direct and answers the questions clearly. It is Hayden that gets the applause and it was an applause that was well deserved. He debunks conspiracy theorists and cuckoo cases all over America. Then something happens, suddenly Colbert does something dangerous and stupid. At 4:55 he plays the game regarding Smart TV’s spying on you, he plays us all as he is linking this to the CIA. What happened was that on February 6th the FTC fined Vizio $2.2 million for collecting viewing histories without users consent (at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/02/vizio-pay-22-million-ftc-state-new-jersey-settle-charges-it), pretty much the same thing that Microsoft seems to be doing to its Xbox population at present and uploading their data into the Azure cloud (without consent).

This might seem like a nuisance, but it is a lot more than that. Large corporations have run out of spreadable funds and like any other corporations, they now need to optimise. It is almost the same situation that SPSS was selling when it offered companies a product called AnswerTree (back in 1997). Marketing firms had to get a certain quota, let’s say 4%, now to get there you could either throw more money on it, and going from 2% to 4% did not just mean a little over 100% more to get the growth. No, with their product AnswerTree, you could make an inventory of who you mailed and who responded and started to prune the tree of those who responded a lot below quota, so basically, the mailings became more efficient, a more clever path to the people buying and it is all perfectly legal and acceptable. That is what is happening now in new ways and Vizio got caught because it happened in an automated way without any level of consent. So who did not get caught? Because I can tell you right now that the bulk of the people with a smart TV have not considered where this data is being logged.

Now, I am going to ask you a question: ‘If marketing is harassment, is the marketing contact that you purchase from still a harasser?

If we have all the do not call registers, how long until these marketeers use other methods? Free games, free apps and free TV shows, all connected, you just have to agree to advertisements connected to them. It is a mere reward for exposure which is all perfectly valid. In all this the CIA was not a factor or a danger. It is the large corporations that are classifying you, more important, it is the links that they can resell that are a danger to your way of life, which is why at times smart TV’s are sold with 60% discount (speculation from my side).

In 2015 I would never have expected to be able to afford a 55 inch smart TV, it is huge (and I was happy with my 42 inch one) but it broke, I had a decent job, but the surprise that a brand new 100 Hz Sony 55 inch was priced down from $1900 to $800 (very lucky me), which was just ridiculous as the next TV (almost the same as my broken one) was a 40 inch at $699, which was perfectly decently priced for those days. Now, we can hang onto the idea that it was just a crazy sales, which does happen, but to flood the market with something almost twice the size, with much higher specifications at next to the same price as a small B-brand TV is too weird. It is almost like having a Canon 5D at the normal $2500 and offering next to it a Hasselblad X1D-50c at $3000, which would be awesome as these babies go for $13,000. It would be 20Mp versus 50Mp. As a photographer I can tell you that I would kill for a Hasselblad 50 Megapixel camera (and as I know the Evidence Act 1995, I might get away with it).

So, I hope you understand the weirdness of such good deals. And in all this, Sony has the ability to capture this data (I am not accusing them of doing this, I have no evidence of any kind that this is happening), but the threat to our privacy is real. Now you might not think that this is important. Yet consider that this data could be sold, how many hours are you not sporting, how many hours do you watch TV and what do you watch? How long until you suddenly get a 12% spike in health insurance? There is where the difference is! You see, these players are very very interested in that data, minimise their risk and charge extra to anyone that is a risk. In my case it does not matter, my smart TV is connected to my console and my Blu-ray player, so there is no ‘smart’ data to capture. What is important for these sales people that the 0.5% of the group that I represent is not the issue, their value is the 80%+ that does connect their TV for Netflix and other reasons, that is where their value is and it is potentially bringing in millions, so the 60% discount is a joke to them. That is the part Colbert smoothly walked over whilst he joked about the CIA and the press at large stayed away from that FTC ruling, so there is one of the dangers.

The other danger is organised crime. How long until people realise that being away from home means no TV? That means that the smart TV logs are not showing movement. How long until the criminals can connect smart TV usage and social media action into, which house is empty? Oh and as you advertise on Facebook that you are on Cuba, how long until you realise that you gave away the info that your house is unprotected? More important the quote “Oversharing on social media could not only leave you open to burglary but it could also invalidate your home insurance policy” is not a joke, this quote was given 2 years ago. Justice Gibson of the District Court of New South Wales raised the issue as early as 2014, the courts are not ready for this and for the most, they are only dealing with the fallout that Contract Law is giving them, more precisely the contracts that Insurance agencies have been working on. With currently well over 80% of Australians on social media (which is actually low compared to Scandinavian nations), the consideration of implementing certain risks is an essential need for any insurance agent. Yet, at what point can usage of social media be seen as evidence towards negligence? Mobile phones tells us where we are, smartphones tell everyone what we do (through our usage), and Smart TV’s give us what we watch, out interests and our activities, or lack thereof. At what point is any of this evidence to act, to surcharge to act as a penalty or as an option to nullify the security of insurance?

That is the part not considered and it gets even worse!

This is seen in the news that is hitting us now through what is marketed as Vault 7. CNN Money (at http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/09/technology/cia-smart-tv-wikileaks-public-hacks/) gives us the news on how the CIA is spying, although they do also mention “security researchers say the methods imitate exploits that were discovered — and made public years ago“, So when I see “Samsung warned users about exactly this type of susceptibility in 2015. The company told CNNTech this week that it is ‘urgently looking into the matter.’“, my question becomes: ‘How much data did you collect?‘, so as the warning is 2 years old, apart from making batteries explode, did you do anything to stop this threat? And as we see Dan Trentler, CEO of the Phobos Group security firm state: ‘That appears to be the same exploit he witnessed in action onstage at a security conference in 2013, he said‘, can we give accusation that there is nothing innocent going on and the level of negligence shown in one article spanning 3 years of events, that is enough to warrant a much larger investigation into privacy invasion by large corporations?

 

It is not about just consent, they are mining our choices and leaving us with less. You might not consider this or comprehend this, but it is an optimised way of American business. I have to explain this.

I was confronted with a larger group of board members of a large firm. As an ‘upper’ grunt I had two distinct jobs. One give the best service to my clients and protect them as much as possible from any negative event, which is what any good Technical consultant does. And I had to be faithful and supportive to my bosses, which is what a loyal employee does. Now consider the meeting where we get the premise: ‘What if you cannot service your client 100%, but only 80%, would that be acceptable?

Now, the danger here is that my answer would be a solid ‘No!’ A danger from the corporation side when we consider the introduction of service level agreements, the introduction that the client was unwilling to pay for the service given. How do you take a stand (driven by wisdom) at that point?

This is where you the consumer are at, but it comes from another direction. Places like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, HP, IBM and Apple are all in the optimisation phase, because the economy is still not great and most of us would only be able to afford one of these devices, perhaps a second one for Christmas if we are lucky. So as we can get 2 out of 5, so how do corporations go about getting the largest share you can? Now we get to the AnswerTree part, you become smarter in how you get to your audience to choose you, not merely marketing but marketing to the most likely buying population. The question then becomes what options you have at your disposal. Do you sacrifice one device so you get an option to see 2 more options for alternative sale and get the contribution needed? The reasons is that in this day and age, it is not about revenue, when you are a listed company, when you have stakeholders, it will be about contribution (revenue minus costs), if you fail that, no great bonus, no mistress, no fast car and in the end no job.

So here we see the rundown on how Stephen Colbert became a danger to you, he made it into a CIA joke, whilst the bitter and solemn truth is that the real danger is the invitation you readily give out to all manner of freebie givers, only to learn the hard way that they get back what they gave out in tenfold, just by collecting your inactions and sell it to whomever can transform that into personal profit. So whilst some people are falling asleep reading (at http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/essentialguide/Providers-adjusting-to-greater-use-of-social-media-in-healthcare) how social media is interacting in health care, consider what an insurer would give to know that you visited a free clinic for the third time this quarter. It might not cost them anything, but it will set a flag to raise premiums the next year. Did you consider that? And as we shrug at seeing “Social media analysis done with natural language processing has given care facilities a more efficient way to get patient feedback“, many will ignore, just like the previous example on raising premiums. Even as you consider a visit for planned parenthood to be perfectly natural and normal (which it is), but when the insurer realises that you will be needing to visit an OBGYN in the near future, you better realise that you are lucky if your premium rises with only 5%. That is the way business is done and the initial ‘risk’ numbers to which you were held at premium are 10 years old and you fall in a much higher group. Only the super healthy teenager who does not get sick gets the low increase, that whilst he was actually a 0% risk. How fair is that and why is the media not all over that on a daily basis?

The CIA was never worthy to be mentioned in this regard, for 99% of the Americans they are nothing as these 99% of Americans were harmless so the CIA never cared to begin with and that is the group Colbert was aiming for which is odd in one way and on the other hand, we do get that he is a comedian who is trying to entertain 100% of his clients, those who tune in on his version of humour. He cannot be faulted for that, the press at large however can be faulted and they should but they stay away from it for other reasons. Mainly because they want a slice of the Samsung $700 million advertisement budget (that is for the USA alone), Microsoft and Sony are in similar predicaments, which is why certain events will not make the front cover any day soon. The reason of data collection being the most obvious one, but at times it can be trivialised as they are only gamers, or it is only a console and consent is overrated. I’ll let you be the judge of what matters and what not, just remember, when you are no longer within the 80% of the group they cater for and you already bought the device, where will your rights be, or your service provider? Perhaps you get the same answer Microsoft gave me: ‘we have no control over uploads, that is all with your internet provider!‘ Interesting how my consent was manoeuvred around in all of this.

 

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The Sound of silence

Hello accountant, my dark fate
your books are bloated as of late
the need for bonus loudly creeping
to be deposited so fleeting
and the greedy that are filling
their domain, they always gain
it is the need for money

The P W C accounting firm
will gain support, another turn
you see the press is staying quiet
we wonder now who got them hired
see the news is remaining just the same, it’s such a shame
and they should all be fired

You might think why this rewritten song of Simon and Garfunkel? You see, it has been almost 50 years exactly that Simon and Garfunkel took this to paper, 50 years later we would see quite the different ballad, one that would see repercussions in ways never seen before, yet both instances unique. That part was made clear today when we see ‘Tesco posts record loss: what the experts say‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/22/tesco-posts-record-loss-what-the-experts-say). So when we see “Tesco reports record £6.4bn loss” and when we see ‘these experts’, you and me alike should ask a series of questions the press is not asking. It has not been asking them for 2 quarters now (well an absolute minimum).

Consider the following quote: “Soon after his arrival, Lewis unveiled a £263m accounting scandal caused by overoptimistic recording of payments made to Tesco by suppliers. Tesco is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the supermarket regulator over the affair“, this is what got it all started, what the publishing pussies refer to as ‘overoptimistic recording of payments‘ turned out to be nothing less than a systematic issue as we saw some of the news from DeLoitte. It is shown in my ‘adjusted lyrics’:

Will gain support, another turn
you see the press is staying quiet
we wonder now who got them hired

You see, there is the Sound of Silence, an actual silence. Try finding anything regarding Tesco in 2015 regarding PricewaterhouseCoopers. You will find very very little, pretty much the absolute minimum. Perhaps you remember the wild allegations on the ‘MH370 suicide flight‘, in addition, all those claims regarding the World Cup soccer in Qatar 2022. Yet, in regards to PwC the Murdoch machine stays very quiet. I regard that this makes Rupert Murdoch the biggest pussy in newspaper publication since the newspaper concept started in the 17th century.

It took just less than two hours to realise that PwC needed investigation, the papers made close to zero mention on it, there were some casual mentions regarding ‘asking questions’, but it was as low key as technologically possible. In December 2014 it pretty much stops, feel free to try and Google it for yourself. You will find articles on how Sainsbury switches from PwC to Ernst and Young (January 16th 2015), but for the rest there is too much nothing. Not just the Murdoch groups, but in equal measure, you will find little to nothing regarding PricewaterhouseCoopers. Is that not strange? Especially as we now see how £263m inflation, caused a £6.4bn deflation. A result 24:1, it became such an interesting long term bet to make, especially by those involved. Yet many of those players are shrouded in silence.

You see another matter suddenly dawned on me. I reckon you all remember Julian Assange, from all those cables regarding the Afghan war. 5 days ago, they decided to also go public on all those Sony hacked cables. We see the quote: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geopolitical conflict. It belongs in the public domain“. No Mr Assange! You decided to play god with stolen data and you decided the fate of this corporation by hanging out the laundry, in addition, you handed the power they wielded and threw it up in the air to be taken over by any competitor who can grow in directions they never bothered to look, because they could not be bothered taking the effort.

And as we are talking into the public domain Julian, what happened to your ‘bravery’ when you made the quote “In November, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes the site has a ‘mega leak’ on an unnamed major US bank exposing an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ that will be released early this year?” I am pretty sure that this never went public. I searched high and low and your WikiLeaks page shows nothing there either. It seems to me that many parties are too scared when it comes to banks and financial institutions.

The question should be Did Julian Assange have anything ever regarding his claims on an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ in regards to a US bank. Should I not ask that question? You see, when the press at large ignores the PwC issue, many should ask questions, especially as both Tesco and Greece fill pages of text in the Guardian and several other newspapers, yet the hunt for information regarding PwC is not moving forward.

In the first article mentioned, where we see the dubious term ‘what the experts say’, NO MENTION AT ALL on PricewaterhouseCoopers (or PwC), is that not strange? The question how 10 million in costs (which I converted to 199 full time accountants working on Tesco for a full year alone) did not reveal anything in time, so how could such a managed event stay hidden? In several articles we see a similar quote as I am adding here, a quote that in many cases was the very first paragraph of articles late October 2013. “DELOITTE has completed its review of Tesco’s overstated half-yearly results and confirmed that its black hole is even bigger than the £250m previously declared and goes back even further than the supermarket group had originally stated“, which means that these auditors ‘missed’ it for a longer period of time. A thought I had in the first few hours, was confirmed a month later (which is fair enough, they hard to check many numbers before stating anything), yet I saw and reported on this (as well as my thoughts), having no economic degree, just me as an analyst saw what the press has been ignoring ever since.

One of the more revealing articles was in the Financial Times named ‘UK accountancy watchdog hits PwC with two separate probes‘ (at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/98e02452-89c8-11e4-9dbf-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Y3cymr54), which was in late December 2014, after that the news and the hunt for the Priced and watered Coopers stops on nearly all media fronts. I wonder how they pulled that one of. The fact that there is almost no visibility on the two probes is only more cause for concern, but those experts all have ‘something’ to say in this matter. Isn’t it nice that they did not have anything to say, or did not say it out loud before the calamity was seen. All those Tesco projects, ready to roll, not one came with the considerations ‘Tesco is spreading itself too thin‘, which is nice before the fact, but pointless, bordering on clueless after the fact. I especially liked the quote from Mike Dennis from Cantor Fitzgerald, you know, one of those after the facts proclaimers. “We believe Tesco should consider closing 200 underperforming supermarkets/superstores and focus on growing the more profitable remaining 700 stores (excluding Express); in addition, this should also allow for £40m of cost-savings from the closure of a distribution centre“, you see, my issue is twofold.

The first is where the ‘under’ performing line lies. Is underperforming, working at a loss, or at a minimal profit? The reality remains that people need groceries, so if an ‘underperforming’ shop is closed another will open with a different label and now that lost revenue will go somewhere else. My second issue is that 40 million in savings. You see, if those 200 shops are spread all over, that distribution centre will still be needed, even if the amount of stores decreases, someone will need to open a grocery store and this distribution centre could service independent supermarkets to some degree, meaning a small additional revenue. Then we get the second set of debatable solutions “Matt Davies, Tesco’s UK CEO as of 1 June, should consider a further reduction in staff and a significant simplification of central functions and category management. Aldi UK today generates twice the sales per full-time employee compared to Tesco UK and is expected to report higher trading profits“, reduction on staff? Where? You see, it is nice to ‘opt’ for simplification, but in my experience in 100% of the cases, simplification was not a bad thing, but it came at some expense, what is that expense and will it hurt down the line? The biggest fun can be seen when you read the part of Philip Benton. It all reads nice, but the issue I have is at the end in this case. “The retailer is in the midst of a huge restructuring after selling off much of its portfolio including Blinkbox and Tesco Broadband as well as the forthcoming sale of market research unit Dunnhumby and undergoing a complete overhaul of its leadership“, my issue is the possible ‘inflated’ that Dunnhumby represents. You see, it could be regarded as inflated as its value is determined by what the buyers will offer. In the end Dunnhumby represents well over 140 million a year and it also represents undocumented savings. You see, if a lot of the marketing and visibility research is done at market value, Tesco will face that they either deal with additional costs (not small ones) or not do the research. Both are bad ideas. None of these ‘experts’ are looking into the amalgamation of services that Dunnhumby could offer via Tesco and/or for Tesco. Dunnhumby is a massive data warehouse and it should have loads of options. Moreover offering these additional services (in the trend that Google has done with ‘Gmail for work’ could open up new capital gaining opportunities. Now, as the economy is slowly starting over the next 3 years, those who grow could need data insight that is currently available via Dunnhumby. This means financial and revenue growth that shows a healthy future, giving that away in some sale to recoup 2 billion, from a 6 billion loss that was all based upon degraded value seems like a very bad idea to me. Even if most of that 2 billion is recovered, the invoices that follow will put pressure for a larger part on Tesco.

Consider that the interest on 2 billion is 70,000,000, now consider that not only are them making 100 million plus, they are also the centre of data, a place Tesco will desperately need in the coming 2-5 years. Not having it could imply more costings for Tesco. No one seemed to be considering that part of the equation at all.

So, reality now, will stores be closed? That seems unavoidable, yet closing stores also means no more revenue, dumping the location at a loss and a few other items linked to this. Tesco needs to grow again, but the method remains debatable. I would have thought that moving more towards an Aldi/Lidl margin might make a difference, will it be enough? Whatever move it will make, it will need data to support and test the foundations with, so I personally feel that this requires the non-sale of Dunnhumby (for now). You see, I still see the centre with Dunnhumby for another reason. When you look at their site, you see a list of the large corporations, that is all good (and it brings home the bacon), but they are also sitting on loads of Tesco data as well. What if aggregated parts could be linked to small firms, smaller firms who end up with a dashboard solution, where their limited data is linked to that massive Tesco Data Warehouse, where these smaller companies, for a small fee get a dashboard uniting their data with Tesco demographics. Now we have a whole new clientele in a business setting, so before those supermarkets get closed, they should see if a small corner of it could be an added business venture. Likely those prospective clients will be in larger area’s where Tesco remains operational, but we now have an added service and Dunnhumby has an optional new suite (based on for example SAP dashboard) that opens up new ventures and even added consultancy and training. In these times the innovators will cause growth to evolve, selling off things only makes for lost market share (even though some non-profit ventures should always be considered for scrapping).

Are my ideas so outlandish? You must always consider that part, for the simple reason that the sceptical approach causes no harm and the proof that follows will only create futures. The following quote is as old as the hills, so it should not be a surprise to anyone in this field: “Sales will blame Marketing for the lack of quality leads with repetitive precision, whilst Marketing will blame Sales for not acting on the leads on time, or at all. When nobody has any reliable stats to back up their ‘verdict’, the arguments go on forever and nothing gets done”. Now, consider all these new firms, those new start-ups, or just one man companies like for example Electricians, Plumbers and Painters. They have no Sales or Marketing at all in most cases, would it not be nice if they had a simple dashboard based option that can help them focus on where possible opportunities lie? Not to mention usual retail like family bookshops and leagues of small pharmacy places that could do better. The solution I suggested could help them focus on where to look next. The great thing is that for the most, the same basic solution will work for all, they would only need a set of very specific filters in addition to the demographical ones. A solution that could be automated to the larger extent. One simple market, there for the taking. Did anyone consider that?

And as we look into these possibilities, we get back to the beginning, how could all the financial data be so opaque that it escaped the view of PwC, when we look at all these claims by experts, how did none of the warning lights light up, especially when we consider the words of Deloitte “these auditors ‘missed’ it for a longer period of time“, now I have brought you from the premise, past the innuendo to the basic view on how data can be new business too. Finally, when we consider the following quote that was in the Guardian “Further positives include that Tesco did in fact make a bigger trading profit than the market believed was possible (£1.4bn v. £760.86m consensus)“, this reads, they did twice as good, this means that Tesco is getting back on its feet. Yes, I did read that it is less than it was, but still, they got one dot four billion in, which is a lot better than Greece and most traders want them to get 7 billion regardless, so I think we should consider that many are willing to dump 7 billion on a location of non-cooperation, whilst they will drown a corporation fight to achieve and collect ACTUAL revenue. What a double standard we live by!

If we go by the simplest stats (not an accurate one), then we see that Tesco exceeded by £700M, which is 23% of the £3 billion loss, Greece cannot even raise 10% of what is due shortly, so it is time to look at what is real and look at why the press seems to be ‘avoiding’ (read not actively digging) into Pricewaterhouse Cooper either. But I will leave that to what I would currently regard to be the ‘Pussy’ family (Witherow, Rusbridger, Murdoch et al). Should you consider the path I walked here to be ‘inappropriate’ then Google ‘Tesco+scandal+2015‘ (837.000) and Google ‘PwC+scandal+2015‘ (271.000), now look at the amount of Newspaper links we find in the second one (almost none and many of these links are 2014). I think I made my case here, I just wonder what scared the press to this extent away from a story.

So as we see the quotes “Over the full year, the profit margin in the UK was 1.1%, a far cry from the impossible 5.2% that Lewis’s predecessor, Philip Clarke, ridiculously attempted to defend” and “Lewis must show that the ‘early encouraging signs from what we have done so far’ will produce a discernible improvement in profits“, yet no mention on the previous directors, regarding ‘cooking’ the books and still no mention of the Auditor either. It seems that everyone knows that the dice are loaded but no one is willing to say it out loud.

What else is not reported on regarding the 24:1 loss?

 

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Double standards, no resolve (part 2)

Part two is not about Greece or the Greeks, it is about what has been behind several parts for a long time now. Yet, the visibility of certain events is now forcing another large change to the surface. First let us look at the events as we see them in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jan/25/wikileaks-google-staff-emails-us-government).

The title ‘WikiLeaks demands answers after Google hands staff emails to US government‘ calls for a few thoughts, but I think you should consider a few quotes and then reconsider how you feel. The first one is “Google revealed to WikiLeaks on Christmas Eve – a traditionally quiet news period – that it had responded to a Justice Department order to hand over a catch-all dragnet of digital data including all emails and IP addresses relating to the three staffers“. The second one is “Harrison, who also heads the Courage Foundation, told the Guardian she was distressed by the thought of government officials gaining access to her private emails” and then we get “The investigation followed WikiLeaks’ publication, initially in participation with international news organisations including the Guardian, of hundreds of thousands of US secrets that had been passed to the organisation by the army private Chelsea Manning“. So this was specific! Let us not forget that this person (Manning) should be regarded as guilty of treason! This is nothing less than an intelligence analyst going beyond rogue! Manning was a simple E-1 private with no comprehension of the complexity of wars, especially the war the US found itself in, a theatre that is hard to grasp for some of the brightest generals (you know these highly educated, passed their middle age point individuals with a few decades of military experience, in the US seen wearing stars on their shoulders). No, Manning decided on the safety of hundreds if not thousands of lives. In addition US diplomatic efforts were thrown out of the window, setting economic options back for up to a decade, if not longer.

So when we see the response by investigative editor Sarah Harrison “Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick“, seems a little hollow. For one the FBI does not care about her mommy, two, what did you expect to happen when you access unauthorised data to the size, scope and extent as Manning had transmitted?

I think Harrison is overreacting, if we accept chapter 13 in the Art of war, both the spy and the receiver of information should have been put to death. Is it not a good thing that it was merely investigated by the FBI?

Yet, there is a side that many are ignoring; many do so in an unintentional way, mainly because it tends to not hit us in any way. For that we need to take a step back to Forbes 2013 (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2013/08/06/excuse-me-apple-google-starbucks-h-p-irs-wants-to-tax-stateless-income/), here we see the following parts: “U.S. companies are said to have more than $1.5 trillion sitting offshore. Most claim that they must keep the money there to avoid the taxes they would face by bringing it back to the U.S.“, “the money at stake is enormous. Plus, the companies involved have treasure troves of cash for many war chests. Big and protracted battles seem inevitable. Still, some big companies may be in for battles that are even larger than they think. They may even need to think different” and “The OECD plan claims that companies like Apple and Google avoid billions in taxes. The G20 is made up of 19 leading world economies plus the European Union. It too has voiced support for a fundamental reassessment of the rules on taxing multinationals“. These thoughts all sound nice, but there is an additional element to all this. You see, as I stated more than once, currency is slowly on the way out (loosely approached). The nations that are left with manageable debt are now slowly but surely diminishing to zero. Greece may be the first one, but at minus 18 trillion, the US is the clearest one to end up with nothing, especially as those large US firms have become stateless. You see, now we get to the good part, the new currency will be IP, but here is the kicker, most (including me) seemed to forget that IP is more than Patents and Trade Marks, it includes data! Now we get to the nice stuff, you see, Google adhered to a situation, Twitter and a few others did not, or at least in a delayed way, but the new currency will include massive amounts of data and many players are now catching on that data is at the core a stateless, virtual and duplicable currency. No matter how Sony called its hack attack, does it now look a little clearer that those having a copy of that data are preparing for more than just a data dump? This is what McKinsey & Company had to say in August 2014 “Indeed, the analytics performed by actuaries are critically important to an insurer’s continued existence and profitability“, as well as “While the impetus to invest in analytics has never been greater for insurance companies, the challenges of capturing business value should not be underestimated. Technology, as everyone knows, changes much faster than people. The key for insurers is to motivate their highly skilled experts to adopt the newest tools and use them with creativity, confidence, and consistency” and finally there is “The proliferation of third-party data sources is reducing insurers’ dependence on internal data. Digital “data exhaust” from social media and multimedia, smartphones, computers, and other consumer and industrial devices—used within privacy guidelines and assuring anonymity—has become a rich source for behavioural insights for insurance companies, as it has for virtually all businesses. Recently, the release of previously unavailable or inaccessible public-sector data has greatly expanded potential sources of third-party data“. Yes, it sounds nice that there is public-sector data, but the one part no mentioned is how the analytics is not driven by those, but ascertained through private-sector data fields. You see the data that Sony had on its employees and on the actions of 70 million customers is a lot more insightful when you link it to medical records. Consider how much profit a company gets if it could ascertain more precisely the risk 7 million of its own customers are. If the connection of medical (obesity) and the gamer data of one person results in a $12 per month surcharge, what happens when we see the US having an obesity rating of around 32%? Now we have 70 million accounts and their gaming behaviour. So if we do the following math 32% of 70 million (falsely assuming that they were all American gamers), then we now get the number of people confronted with a $144 a year additive. So in one swoop, this data set gives way to an additional $3.2 billion for insurance fees. Data is going to be that simply applied sooner than you think. With the cloud being forever virtual (as one would think), people forget that a personal space is linked to a real location (wherever that drive is), but what when the data set is beyond massively huge? What if it is spread over several locations? How do we think then? You see Stateless data is not a new concept, but until recently it was never a realistic concept. It is interesting how tax dodging makes engineers a lot more creative.

At the foundation of all this is not the Wikileaks part, that part just illuminates the nutty side of data. Consider the amounts you as the reader had shared in the last 72 hours via Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Instagram and such. You freely distributed that, you gave up your privacy rights for whatever you openly published. Now consider that whatever you shared got collected. Several people were on vacation (so someone knows that their house is empty and possible unguarded), some revealed that they were sick (health data) and some revealed other details like parties attended and such.

Now the empty house is the most direct one, but not the most important one. Consider the times you updated your status that you were at home with the flu, or something else. Under normal conditions you just had a sickie, or perhaps another way. Now consider that someone now automatically collects the times you were sick, how does that affect your premium? How will your health cycle be analysed if you are shown to have attended 15-30, or even 50-100 parties a year? How long until this shows as detrimental on your health chart? Weirdly enough not having that does not lower your premium, but there is every evidence that doing it will increase your premium.

Do you think that this is over the top?

Then see the following (at http://www.qbe.com.au/Personal/Home/Managing-Your-Risk/Insurance.html). Here we see “Importantly, reducing the likelihood of making a claim helps protect your No Claim Bonus, helping to keep the cost of your insurance premium down“, which has been a truth for a long time. Yet when we consider the mention ‘Don’t alert people you are going away (including on social networking sites)‘. How long until someone combines the two? At reputation.com we see the following “Life insurance companies are increasingly turning to the Internet to determine a potential customer’s risk“, so if you like extreme sports, you might pay for that passion in other ways too. In addition, the one most disturbing was “Donating to charitable causes is a noble gesture, but if you show too great an interest in any particular medical-focused cause, say breast cancer research or prostate cancer awareness, it might indicate to insurance companies that you’re at a higher risk for certain illnesses“, that gives a possible (implied, but not proven), connection that your social responsibility comes at an insurance price. Did you consider that? And this is not starting this year, or next year. Some of these events started no later than 2010.

This all was nothing but to pave the way for that what comes next. You see, there are several sides to Google and Facebook. They are all about bandwidth and several nations are now seeing that even though Facebook is too large, there is a clear path that data is currency, so how long until we see a growth of radicalisation through localisation? This is not radicalisation in the violent way, but in the opposite way. You should see radicalisation of data, attained by washing all the data markers in local server environments. You can’t wash all the markers, but you can make access to it a lot less available. This is the fear Google (possibly Facebook too) has had for some time. As these privacy acts, that data acts and data collection rights of the US grew in a need for compliance, people become falsely fearful of what is dangerous and what is not. The US government ascertaining whether you are a terrorist is not a danger. An insurance company upping your fees by $150 through collected data is a direct danger (to your cost of living). Now we see the link as it gets us to the first story that included Greece.

There will soon be a higher need for localised connected providers. Localised forms of Hushmail (www.hushmail.com), where the people get encrypted mail accounts that can be accessed online, through the web. How long until mobile users will select encrypted android apps, that do not connect to Google, but to local Hushmail providers. We still have the internet, but it will now go through national portals. The fact that Sony happened was only a matter of time. The fact that people now want that there data comes with actual privacy is a growing wave. The Wikileaks issue was the most visible and the most harmless one (for us citizens at least). The world is changing a lot faster than last year and many are now getting clued in that the things of value have not been guarded in the right way.

We will soon see new options on cheaper internet, cheaper mobiles and on package deals, this is what was skated around when this so called IP hearing was going on. Yet, when we look at an earlier statement by Mr Turnbull, in regards to IP, who said at the time. “It is very, very, very difficult if not impossible for someone that is just selling connectivity, just providing bandwidth to then be monitoring what people are doing“.

This is at the heart of the problem, they live of bandwidth, because bandwidth implies data, and the more used, the more data collected, which leads to the better their lives are. This is why they do not want monitoring. I am fairly certain that as their bandwidth falls away, as people move to localised solutions, which remain at the core local, these providers will ‘suddenly’ opt in a ‘possible’ solution. Only at the end of the tether will an industrial give in. Oddly enough, with fear of privacy and the dangers of insurance exploitation on the rise that tether will end up a sudden two inches shorter and now those providers will have to share that what they never had to share before.

Greece has changed the way they play the game; now perhaps we can change the game that is played and make a first monumental change for all!

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Patrons of Al-Qaeda

Many people have some form of religion, which is fine. To have a personal believe in something that is bigger than yourself or bigger then that what you see is not a bad thing. Many Christians have their father, their son and their holy ghost. Some go the other way and give credence to Satan, the anti-Christ and the false prophet. I cannot vouch for any of that. I agree that there is more than this in the universe, but what?

No matter how that part falls, it is likely that Al-Qaeda believes in their personal ‘information’ trinity.

They would be Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. These three people have done more to support Al-Qaeda then Osama Bin Laden ever could.

Assange, who is still hiding in an embassy, is the lowest transgressor of the three. First of all, as an Australian he did not really break any laws (although some debate should be had over hindering the actions of an ally under war time conditions). The public view is that on one side he should be nailed to a cross and on the other side he should be heralded. Information is often a lot more complex than many consider. If you want an example, you only need to look at this week’s situation where Assad is now blocking peace talks. Should there be any surprise?

I still am not completely convinced he was directly involved with the Sarin attacks; the issue here is that too much intelligence is questionable. If the USA had shown ALL OF IT publicly, the doubt might not have been there. Yet, the reality is whether they actually had hard evidence on who did it. Let us not forget that the evidence collected in the investigation was all about whether it had happened, not who did it. And guess what, Al-Qaeda was an element in Syria too, so what exactly did happen? Watching Secretary of State John Kerry go on a plane with his briefcase, shown on the news like he is some kind of rock star is not helping anyone either. It seemed as empty to me as a PowerPoint on some concept that no one wants to spend money on.

It shows two possible sides, either they have actual evidence that needs to remain a secret (which no one seemed to be accepting), or they actually didn’t have any and we were watching some version of the Punch and Judy show!

The other side is one that Assange was not into, the acts of terrorism by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not shown, we saw through WikiLeaks just one side of it and it changed the overall balance.

Then WikiLeaks released thousands of diplomatic cables, which I consider to be an act of utter stupidity, the information was one-sided, so the US opposition (all of them) get several free punches into play and as such, US recovery is still being hindered. This is the ‘bad’ side of Julian Assange. Their one sided act destabilised many events. Yes, there is a case to be made, but by not exposing the other side, we get a one-sided situation. In the end, the damage is done and even as there might not be any criminal activity by Julian Assange, we should ask questions.

In case the reader thinks that ‘actions’ against Julian Assange should be made, then consider that many in the financial industry did nothing ‘criminals’ either, even though thousands became homeless because of their ‘non-criminal’ actions.

By the way, remember the quote by CNBC (and many others), somewhere in 2010: “WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange told Andy Greenberg at Forbes that he was in possession of a trove of documents that ‘could take down a bank or two.’ The documents wouldn’t necessarily show illegality but they would reveal an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ at one of the biggest banks in the United States. WikiLeaks would release it ‘early next year.’

They never came! So was this about intelligence, or about positioning banks in an even stronger place? Is it not interesting that Al-Qaeda’s patron number three and number one patron are all about neutering governments, whilst the banks stay out of play? Is it such a far fetching thought that these two idealists get played by those who believe greed is all?

In the middle we see Bradley Manning. This is not some ‘foreigner’; this was a member of the US military. In my view, he is a traitor plain and simple. A private, without any in depth education thought he had it all figured out, decides on US military policy. Which is interesting as many military members above the rank of Colonel are still trying to figure out what the best course of action is, even those with Ivy League degrees. The only positive thing from all this is that the military needs to seriously start to address its mental health issues, but beyond that small sparkle of recognition, this person was more than a small danger.

That part is not addressed even as the news still discusses the winner of this unholy threesome. Three days ago USA today published information on the fact that anti-leak software had still not been installed. I think it is even worse than many think it is. Some of these applications have (as any good application would) powerful log files. Even when we look at non-military solutions we see the following:

“The client’s log file is located at <user_directory>/Palantir/<version>/logs/client.log”

We can see at Palantir’s wiki what it logs, and depending on the settings it can give a lot (at https://wiki.palantir.com/pgkb/does-the-palantir-product-do-any-logging.html)

By the way, one needed only to change three settings to really log a lot:

# log4j.logger.com.palantir.services=error # package level
# log4j.logger.com.palantir.serveres.Nexus=warn # class level
# log4j.logger.MyLabeledLogger=info # specific logger

Removing ‘# ‘ on each line was all it would take.

This one warning gives a final view “Note that we do NOT recommend enabling logging below the warn level for production scenarios.” which means that all logging is possible mapping out the active military network in real time as the user muddles along.

This is not about Palantir, or even anti-Palantir. It is a software solution that part of the Intelligence community is currently using. IBM Modeler and SAS Miner are both data mining tools with similar abilities (and there are more). They all have these options as it is needed to make their products go smoothly. So when Bradley Manning gave it all away, he really gave it all away! The consequence might have (or could be resulting) in deep targeted attacks against a military server system. The question becomes how good is the anti-leak software? As many logging is set at higher levels (read administrator), many of them would be able to log events unhindered by many prying eyes (it is not realistic to monitor all logs on even 1 server). Even if it is all covered, who else has access to just read these log files? It is not uncommon to negate log files, as their users are usually vetted for use of the application. LOG files can however show more than many bargain for.

Unless the server architecture has been re-arranged, there is plenty of worry whether these servers are safe at this time, because log files are inherently their and needed, they are not linked to a password change and often, they do not get reconfigured away from their standard configuration as the case has been with plenty of application that it would hinder smooth operations.

Last on the list of the Patron Threesome is Edward Snowden. I have mentioned him often enough, so I will not go through it all again. He is in my view a traitor and not some ‘holier than thou’ protector. He is not some idealist, too much pointed to him making a getaway with the eye on some quick bucks (and many of them), I might be wrong, but that is how I see him. As he showed us how ‘naughty’ the NSA was, did he show us how unscrupulous Microsoft seems to be?

That view can be seen through an article in Techbeat just 4 days ago. The first quote is “Microsoft is developing a new technology to replace cookies. This work is similar to projects being undertaken by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Tracking cookies have come under scrutiny recently from regulators by many concerned about privacy; certain types of cookies (Third party tracking cookies) are now easily blocked through built-in functions and extensions/add-ons within main web browsers.

The second one from the same article is “This technology should also include Microsoft services including their search engine Bing. Tracking in mobile devices remains a key point. The big advantage of Microsoft’s emerging technology is that it could track a user across a platform.

So basically, this reads like: ‘we the consumer used to have a little privacy, but soon, thanks to Microsoft, that privacy might be gone forever, allowing for non-stop online harassment wherever we are‘ So, That Snowden fellow never gave us anything on that, did he? Even though the NSA should have been aware of such plans long before Techbeat had a clue. Does the reader still think he is such an idealist?

Yet, on the other side, he has shown one important weakness. The US intelligence branch is on that same low level as the organisation that in the 50’s used to be laughingly referred to as ‘British Intelligence’. The question is not just how weak is the NSA seems to be; it links to questions regarding the weakness that GCHQ and its current Commonwealth peers might have. There are in addition issues with the personal digital safety of people on a global scale. Not because the NSA is scanning to identify terrorist networks, but if one person (Snowden) could get away, is there anyone else who just wanted money and gave their data download to cyber criminals? There is absolute 0% guarantee that this did not happen, so in how much danger are our details?

So, why this blog today? Many do this at the start, but in certain light this had to be done at the very end. It is not just about their acts, but also about the acts you and I undertake. We willingly give out our details to Facebook (including a beheading, but excluding exposed breasts), LinkedIn and Google+, yet many scream about ‘some government‘ seeing what we are doing and who we are doing it with (or without).

The twisted world we allowed to be created is likely to throw us at least two more curve balls before Christmas. Enjoy!

 

 

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Classes of Classification

I was about to do that horizontal thing (sleeping, in case you wondered), where one is in a natural state and loudly snores like the local sawmill! I was actually looking forward to that event. It is almost 00:30, so I need to get up in about 5 hours. However, Sky News stopped that idea pretty quick.

The reason is that the news just showed me a part involving Edward Snowden and more information he ‘leaked’. In this case it was all about spying on the EU diplomatic mission and how that was ‘strictly confidential‘, roughly 0.0324 seconds later I was more than wide awake and started this blog.

So what are the issues? Well three come to mind, but the third one is for a little later down this story.

So the first issue is the classification. No matter, whether the documents were from the CIA, NSA or Alphabet Soup Incorporated. There are levels of classification. Confidential is a lower level. Apart from the issue that there is an issue that the diplomatic integrity of an ally was ‘transgressed’ upon, is there actually any reason why such information would not be Secret or higher? I would even think that this would be Top Secret level information and as such that information remains with a small (read extremely small) group.

Let’s take a look at this ‘Strictly confidential’. I do not have the rules that the NSA applies, but I was able to get the protocol from a World Bank document as to how this is treated. They might be kids play compared to the NSA, but you will get the idea (and I have to start somewhere).

Information and documents that are deemed to be of a highly sensitive nature or to be inadequately protected by the CONFIDENTIAL classification shall be classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and access to them shall be restricted solely to persons with a specific need to know. The staffs of the Institutions shall establish a control and tracking system for documents classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL, including the maintenance of control logs. Documents classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL shall be:
(i) marked with such classification on each page;
(ii) kept under lock and key or given equivalent protection when not in use;
(iii) in the case of physical documents, transmitted by an inner sealed envelope indicating the classification marking and an outer envelope indicating no classification, or, in the case of documents in electronic form, transmitted by encrypted or password-secured files.

So if we consider the digital version, and consider that most intelligence organisations use Security Enhanced Unix servers, then just accessing these documents without others knowing this is pretty much a ‘no no’. EVEN if he had access, there would be a log, and as such there is also a mention if that document was copied in any way. It is not impossible to get a hold of this, but with each document, his chance of getting caught grows quicker and quicker. He did not get caught, not for many megabytes of duplication.

So, whether these events were true or not, there is now an issue. Not with external trust, but from my point of view with internal trust. If he remained undetected, then several alphabet groups have IT issues of an unprecedented level. Could this even be remotely true?

The second issue is that like any Intelligence organisation like the GCHQ for example, most people are assigned certain areas. The fact that Edward Snowden had such a wide access is more than questionable. The fact that the press seems to just take whatever he serves up with a certain air that whatever Edward Snowden claims is true should also be looked at. In my view it does not. Especially when we consider that he is stuck in some Russian airport terminal awaiting the option to ‘escape’ to Ecuador. You see, his access raises too many flags. It does not matter whether he is the IT guy. The NSA has dozens upon dozens of them, and as such, the fact that he was able to syphon off such a wide area of information (and get it out of the building) seems to be an issue that no one is too investigative about.

What is this all about? That is the question we should be asking. All these events do not add up. This is not some FBI leak (no attack on the FBI). This is a group that was referred to for a long time as ‘No Such Agency‘. The fact that he passed all kinds of interviews befroe the job (on psychological probing levels far above most can imagine), a man who ‘just’ walked away with the kitchen sink and a USB drive loaded with tagged documents. It does not add up in my book.

Now we get to the third issue.

If some amount of this data would be rock solid, then the US has an intelligence community that is leaky as a sieve.

1. A disillusioned intelligence operator gets a job at a department even more hush hush then the CIA and the psychological interview does not raise flags considering the conditions he left the CIA?
2. That person gets access to information on several levels and from several branches and no one is the wiser. More important no flags on these secure servers are tripped?
3. This person gets the goods into Hong Kong, then casually flies into Russia and now is waiting for his flight to Ecuador, whilst at the same time US extradition groups (according to Hong Kong media) drop the ball in getting a hold of Edward Snowden?

Is no one suspicious on what is going on? I for one see reason to distrust several sources at present.

Looking back, Julian Assange got access to his documents though military channels. There have been less than positive issues with the lack of Common Cyber Sense in several military areas. The fact that those events happened outside of the US and under military field conditions where certain security measures are hard to uphold is understandable. That does not make it right, but the circumstances were pretty unique. The fact that someone walks out of places like the NSA or GCHQ with a USB filled with all levels of information is an entirely different matter.

If we accept this article by Sky News as true http://news.sky.com/story/1109739/snowden-spying-claims-us-bugged-eu-offices, then we could be in for a rough ride.

In the end, reality is that spying goes on at all times on many levels (as stated by Mr Reardon on Sky News UK). Mi-5 tries to keep an eye on what the CIA does in the UK, the FBI keeps tabs on MI-6 in the US and none of them care what happens in Australia. Works for me!

So the fact that the CIA is keeping tabs on the EU makes perfect sense, especially with all those new states getting added. However, bugging the hell out of all these buildings is not that productive overall (as there are other sources to these kinds of information). So is the reality that there were just 2-3 bugs (the German Spiegel was aware of one of them) and some document Edward Snowden had just adds loads more?
What Intel does he have that is actually reliable? Are we being run by some wannabe laying it on thick hoping for a nice fat pay check? I wonder what happens now that Russia and China both lack interest (and Ecuador is not that appealing if one lives there without money). So what of Edward Snowden? Sky had another article on that. http://news.sky.com/story/1109235/whistleblower-snowden-may-return-to-the-us. In this article the father is afraid his son is being manipulated by different parties. Even by WikiLeaks. He might return to US if certain conditions are met.

Conditions? For a traitor? And next they claim that all politicians are straight shooters too!
Well, for those who believe that, I have a bridge to sell you, GREAT view on the Tower of London!

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