Saturday, 26 December 2015

Social Media 'home for all'

For individuals, social networking means sharing small moments and major events in life. For businesses, social media marketing can help build brands. For terrorist groups such as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, social networks increasingly are the tool of choice for delivering messages of hate and recruiting new members to their cause.

ISIS has exploited Twitter to send out propaganda on a regular basis, according to a Brookings Institute report, and attempts to shut it down have been unsuccessful for the most part.

At least 300 Americans actively supporting ISIS were using social media to spread propaganda on the terror group's behalf, according to a December report from The George Washington University Program on Extremism.

Government and corporate efforts have failed to silence the hateful rhetoric. The hacktivist collective Anonymous, which entered the fray last month, so far has functioned as little more than a nuisance.

Anonymous hackers made headlines in November, when they reportedly replaced an ISIS site with an ad for Viagra, but the barrage of ISIS posts, rants and propaganda has continued unabated.

One reason that it could be impossible to silence ISIS on social media is that as quickly as an account is shut down another one can be created.

"It is very much like a game of whack-a-mole," said Ben Fitzgerald, senior fellow and director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS.

"It is too easy to create another account or use an app that lets them hijack another account," he told TechNewsWorld.

Anonymous has taken credit for shutting down upwards of 5,000 Twitter accounts, but it "is unclear if all those accounts were truly from ISIS," said Fitzgerald.
Lack of Infrastructure

Another reason that the most notorious hacker collective in the world can't do much damage to ISIS in the digital arena is that ISIS doesn't have much in the way of high-tech operations.

"It is easier to go after IBM or Google-entities that have servers and corporate infrastructure where there is something to take down," explained Christopher Paul, senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation.

"Where is the ISIS infrastructure? They have none, so it makes it that much harder to take down," he told TechNewsWorld.

ISIS functions much like a federated network, with individuals going online at the behest of the would-be caliphate. It seems the group can't be taken down without taking down Twitter and all the other social media sites as well.
Recruitment Tool

News reports may have overemphasized the role social media has played in recruiting individuals to ISIS and other radical groups. In truth, ISIS is no more successful in using social media toward that end than any other organization, whether legitimate or illicit.

"You really have to go look for the ISIS message to find it," said Alan Webber, research director for national security and intelligence at IDC.

"Unless you are bent in that direction, it isn't going to show up on your feed," he told TechNewsWorld. "I know it doesn't pop up on my social feeds!"
The Devil You Know

However, ISIS isn't using social media merely to spread propaganda or as a recruitment tool.

Social media may have been a means of coordinating the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, according to reports.

"Social media sites are just one way that groups like ISIS run operations and even plan attacks," said CNAS' Fitzgerald.

That might seem like a good reason to work more strenuously to silence the group -- but it's "a double-edged sword," Fitzgerald suggested.

"On the one hand, we want to limit the propaganda and limit the lines of communication," he said, "but on the other hand, we want to be able to monitor their operations."

That has posed a longstanding dilemma for spy agencies tracking potential targets. If you identify a source and shut it down -- whether making an arrest or making a kill -- you lose intelligence.

"You have to do it in a way that is to your advantage," said Paul. "Shutting down a line of communication means you can't monitor it and perhaps [you'll] even send it deeper underground," noted Paul.
Going Dark

It's unlikely any efforts to silence ISIS would drive the group to the dark Web, however, which for the most part is not accessible using popular search engines and browsers.

"The vast majority of those who even have access to a computer are not that sophisticated that they could gain much by going to the dark Web," said Paul.

"That said, it is possible that some of the more tech-savvy ISIS hackers could communicate via the dark Web, but most would find the same trouble as the wannabe hacker in going to such places," he suggested.

It is also unlikely that ISIS-or other terrorist organizations-utilize the dark Web for the trading of goods or services.

"Criminal entities use the dark Web's markets, and while ISIS may certainly rely on black markets,it isn't clear if that really extends to the techno black markets," said Paul.

Communication among members of radical groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and others isn't limited to social media. The Paris attacks, for example, may have been discussed via the Sony PlayStation 4 over the PlayStation Network, according to reports.

Chat rooms, forums, message boards and other forms of online communication are prime methods for engaging in illicit communications, in part because they are easy to access yet difficult to monitor.

"We don't know all the ways that [ISIS] communicates," said IDC's Webber.

"This isn't new, and it is really a centuries-old problem, as it is harder to monitor all the communication, but a lot of it is right out in the open," he added.

"Throw in veiled speech-such as 'delivering a package,'" and interpreting the chatter gets more complicated, noted RAND's Paul. That could mean delivering an explosive device just as easily as it could mean taking a turkey to grandmother's house.

"Simple code words only make it that much more difficult to monitor," he said.
Paired With Human Intelligence

Even when the bad guys are monitored, the amount of information obtained is limited. Anonymous likely will be unsuccessful in defeating ISIS, because even if the group somehow were silenced online, that wouldn't budge it from the territory it controls.

Nor would silencing ISIS likely eliminate the potential for future Paris-style attacks.

"We can't fall into this false idea that we could just fight the group with technology alone," said CNAS' Fitzgerald.

"We can't simply throw big data at the problem-no more than we can just bomb them into submission," he added. "To stop these groups, or at least stop future attacks, efforts will have to be paired with traditional human intelligence, and the balance will always change."


Monday, 7 December 2015

Social-Media Sites Face Pressure to Monitor Terrorist Content

Facebook Inc. typically counts on its 1.5 billion users to report offensive content, but last week, the social network went looking for it.

On Thursday, Facebook removed a profile page used by one of two people suspected of killing 14 people the previous day in San Bernardino, Calif. A spokesman said the page violated Facebook’s community standards that, among other things, bar posts, photos or videos that support terrorism or glorify violence. The suspect, Tashfeen Malik, had published a post around the time of the shooting, but Facebook declined to disclose its contents.

Facebook declined to say how it found the profile and determined its authenticity.

The move underscores the growing pressure on sites such as Facebook, Alphabet Inc. ’s YouTube and Twitter Inc. to monitor, and sometimes remove, violent content and propaganda from terror groups. It is unclear how closely each company works with governments, how frequently they remove content and how it is identified.

“When it comes to terrorist content, it’s certainly a tricky position for companies, and one that I don’t envy,” said Jillian York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of international freedom of expression, in an email. “Still, I worry that giving more power to companies—which are undemocratic by nature—to regulate speech is dangerous.”
All three companies employ technology to scan for images related to child sexual exploitation. Hany Farid, chair of the computer-science division at Dartmouth College, who helped develop the system, said he expected it to be expanded to other types of questionable content.

But that is a challenge for several reasons. The child-exploitation scans employ a database of known images, created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There is no similar database for terror-related images.

In addition, disturbing images often appear in news content, and social-media companies don’t want to become news censors. At a September town hall meeting, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg cited a widely shared photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old refugee who died fleeing Syria and washed ashore in Turkey as an example of an image that might have been deemed inappropriate by a computer algorithm, but shouldn’t have been censored.

That leaves social-media companies making difficult judgment calls. In 2014, YouTube quickly removed videos of the beheadings of two American journalists by Islamic State. Twitter adopted a similarly passive approach to the same images, which remained on the service until reported by users.

In August, Twitter quickly took down video of two Virginia TV reporters who were gunned down during a live news broadcast.

A Twitter spokesman declined to say whether it has suspended any accounts related to the San Bernardino shooting incident. The spokesman declined to comment when asked if Twitter is re-evaluating its policy in light of Facebook’s approach to those shootings.

The volume of material on social-media sites is a challenge. Some 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The online-video site doesn’t remove videos itself, waiting for users to flag content as objectionable. The site has had a “promotes terrorism” flag for several years. It hasn’t changed this approach recently, according a person familiar with the situation.

YouTube has given roughly 200 people and organizations the ability to “flag” up to 20 YouTube videos at once. That includes the U.K. Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit which has been using its “super flagger” authority to seek reviews—and removal—of videos it considers extremist.

Facebook has quietly become more aggressive in removing such content, privacy experts say. In 2012, Facebook said fan pages glorifying a shooter who opened fire in a Colorado movie theater didn’t violate its terms and services because they weren’t a credible threat to others. But last year, it removed pages honoring a gunman who killed six people at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Ms. York discovered last year that informational Facebook pages for ISIS, Hamas and other terrorist groups were taken down. The pages included information from Wikipedia and weren’t promoting terrorism, Ms. York said, adding that it was her “first clue” that the company was scanning posts pre-emptively and censoring the terror-related ones.

Facebook said it has “hundreds” of people on its community operations team, which vets content reported by users from four offices world-wide. User reports are graded so more serious ones, including those involving terrorism, are handled first

Sensational Social Media Stats and Facts

Source:

Apple increases iCloud Music space to 100,000 tracks

Apple has made good on its promise to increase the iCloud Music Library limit to 100,000 tracks. This was previously set at 25,000, so the change increases the cap threefold. The move was first teased in June, with Eddy Cue, the company's SVP of Internet Software and Services, promising it would arrive before the year's end.

The iCloud Music Library is an online collection of music that's fed by two services: iTunes Match and Apple Music.

iTunes Match is like an online music locker; it scans your iTunes collection and gives you access to any tracks it already has on its servers. Additionally, it uploads any songs it can't find and lets you access or download them with all your registered devices. It costs $24.99 a year. Apple Music includes a very similar service alongside its streaming options, but with one key difference. Its "scan and match" feature includes DRM, so even though you can download them they will cease to function if you cancel your subscription. It costs $9.99 per month for an individual membership, $14.99 per month for a family.

Apple's 25,000-song limit was making its music locker services a tough sell. A couple of services were beating or getting close to that figure free of charge: Google Play Music lets even non-paying subscribers store 50,000, while Microsoft's Groove Music lets you play any track in your OneDrive for free. Amazon only offers 250 tracks for free, but for the same $24.99 per year as iTunes Match you get storage for 250,000 tracks.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Man rubs manhood against sister-in-law's butt

A BULAWAYO man who was recently acquitted of attempted murder and rape, was dragged to court for indecently assaulting his sister-in-law.

Edson Phiri, 31, of Sizinda suburb appeared before Western Commonage magistrate Abednico Ndebele for indecently assaulting his 37 year old sister-in-law. He allegedly lowered his trousers and rubbed his manhood against her backside.

Phiri was not asked to plead and Ndebele remanded him in custody to December 8.

He pleaded not guilty. “I never committed the offence I’m being accused of by my sister- in-law,” said Phiri.

Prosecuting, Mufaro Mageza said on November 24, 2015 at around 2PM the woman was at home with Phiri and his nephew.

“Whilst the complainant was in the dining room talking to the accused person’s wife on the phone, accused person came from behind and held her by the waist with his pants down to his knees. Accused person rubbed his penis on the complainant’s buttocks,” said Mageza.

In April this year,Phiri- dubbed the blood hunter- appeared in court for allegedly attempting to rape a 66-year-old woman at Ingozi Mine Squatter Camp in Bulawayo. He allegedly cut the woman with a knife on the throat before stabbing her in the chest and abdomen.

Yesterday, he told prosecutors he was acquitted of the crime.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

MO365 malfunctions

Customers of Microsoft's online productivity suite are unable to log in to Outlook email and other services due to Azure outage 

Microsoft's Office 365 services-which provide online access to Word,Excel and Outlook,among other software-appear to be offline for many users across Europe due to a problem with Microsoft's cloud computing service,Azure.

Many users reported being blocked from accessing the Office 365 portal,with Down Detector,a website that tracks outages,seeing a spike in reports.Many appear to be related to problems signing in to Outlook, Microsoft's email portal.

The incident appears to be related to Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform, on which 365 runs.The Azure status page reads:"Starting at approximately 09:00 on 3rd Dec,2015,customers began experiencing intermittent issues accessing Azure services that use, or have dependencies on Azure Active Directory.

"Engineering teams have identified an Azure Active Directory configuration error that is believed to be the root cause of the issue.The team is working on failing over the impacted service components to a different environment.Impact is largely centralized to the West Europe and North Europe regions. An update will be provided in 60 minutes,or as events warrant."

The Office 365 status page suggests no issues,however.Office 365 is Microsoft's subscription service to its Office suite of productivity software. Given the name- which suggests an always-on,constantly available service-the outage is somewhat embarrassing.


Android co-founder to make own phone

 ANDY Rubin founder and CEO of tech start-up incubator Playground Global is planning to get back to the smartphone business.

‘The Information’ has it that Rubin is thinking of coming up with a handset powered by Android. The phone company may be financed through Playground Fund, Rubin's start-up incubator he founded this year after departing from Google last fall.

The report says that Rubin has already reached out to potential employees who may help him build a phone business.

Android is world's most-used mobile operating system. Yet, such is the variety-or chaos, depending on how you look at it-in the Android phone market that there is no one phone that can be deemed as the best manifestation of the software.

Unlike the iOS, Android doesn't have an iPhone equivalent. Google's Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P come close but it can be argued that they can be better. Now it seems that Rubin, the man who started this whole Android business, may give users exactly that-a perfect Android phone.

Rubin, who co-founded Android in 2003, left Google in 2014. He had joined Google in 2005 when the web giant bought Android and since then had managed the teams working on the mobile operating system. But in 2013, he moved to the robotics division within Google and Sundar Pichai became the Android boss.

If Rubin is entering the phone market,it may seem that he probably has a unique vision for the operating system that his company created decades ago and that this vision is different from that of Google. Even after all these years, Android seems to be lacking the kind of coherent approach that the iOS, which powers iPhone, has.

While Google has built it into a software platform through which it can reach phone hardware makers and then pass on its web services to users, companies like CyanogenMod and Xiaumi (with its MIUI) are attempting to shape Android into a mobile operating system that is more tightly integrated with hardware. Now, no longer working with Google, it is possible that Rubin may come out with a unique take on Android.