Category Archives: Big Data

All Online Digital Roads Lead to Google Plus

All Online Digital Roads Lead to Google Plus
By Chris Abraham

Google can’t get any of us to use Google Plus, but they’re still trying. And they’re pushing hard. One of the reasons I love blogging is, for good or evil, I don’t need any evidence for anything I say. With that caveat, Google’s closing in on its goal of being federated across all of its properties, so be acutely aware. They’re triangulating us all and will soon be able to identify not merely what “you” — someone like you, a demographic generality — want, need, and desire, but what you, yourself, (or me, Chris Abraham), want in particular, down to, at most, your person (and the maximum 7.8 square meters around you).

Rejoice! I am no longer a 35–44 year-old white, college-educated, man, living in Metro Washington, I am 44-year-old Christopher James Abraham, who lives between Columbia Heights and Arlington Views, off of Columbia Pike in South Arlington, VA, who owns guns, motorcycles, spends money on eBay and Amazon, and loves eating fish tacos at Taqueria el Poblano during their weekday happy hour from 4-7pm — and many other very specific details of my life (like the fact that I attended the Nation’s Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center).

Rejoice! Soon, Google’s reason for being will become truly manifest: all Google “organic” search results will be curated for my specific proclivities and all ads over all Google-associated and Google-partnered advertising networks, both online and offline, will be tailor-suited, bespoke, based on both my literal history of past searches, emails, subscriptions, and purchases but also based on a lot of cross-referencing that will try to predict my current, short, medium, and long term purchase and search decisions based on other close, similar users and algorithms that can now access petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and maybe even yottabytes real-time.

What does it mean? Well, I don’t care about my privacy, really, just my convenience. Then again, I am one of those guys who consider Minority Report to be more of a promise than a threat. I am one of those guys who grew up on The Well and the Meta Network, online communities that enforced real names anyway.

So, I am running full speed into the arms of big data to the extent that I recently gave up my Apple iPhone 5, a superior device, as my primary mobile device in favor of the new LG Google Nexus 5, a terribly-flawed-but-Google-integrated smart phone. But I am sold on the Google Empire because they stalk me so well.

The problem with the iPhone, as far as I am concerned, is how balkanized the phone is. It’s like the US: there is a Nation-State, Apple iOS, but the true power lies in the States, the Apps. Google Android phones are ruled by a federated, unified, Google OS, Android, with the Apps being mere applications under Android, with many of the top useful apps on Android devices being fully integrated Google Apps.

In the last six months, Google has made a lot of progress bringing us all in from the cold: from YouTube, from Google Search, from Picasa, Gmail, Google Apps for Business, Android phones, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Blogger, Google Hangout (née Google Talk), Orkut, and even Google Groups.

To wit, my friend asked me if I had ever been to the Tilted Kilt, a Hooters-like bar wherein the girls wear very revealing variations of the Scottish Kilt. I remember having been there years ago while in Atlanta. I searched “tilted kilt chris abraham” and the photos I had taken popped up in images, images that I believe I might have shared on Google+ years ago. Until recently, these sorts of deep content had been disappeared and lock-boxed into the bellies of Google’s various properties for whatever reason (maybe to not freak people out, so that they felt more comfortable sharing on Plus without always ending up in search); now, more and more of Google’s users’ content will be the first content to show up on top (as long as the content is set to public).

What’s more, Google’s always been savvier than this. Google has always gamed serendipity by serving up search results that include the people who are in your Google network, be it in your Gmail Inbox, your Contacts, your Google+, Picasa, or through any connections. This has always been the case. My friends are always popping me notes saying how small the world is because how often they bump into my content when searching for information on social media, single speed biking, digital PR, marketing, motorcycles, or firearms — yes, indeed, the world is small, but Google’s mad skills are making it (at least appear) smaller and smaller within your circle of friends and larger social networks. And, circa 2014, this will become even more refined and as close as real time as is “humanly” possible.

In many ways, the moment you step into an online world as curated by Google’s algorithms, you’re indeed entering a sim, stepping into a simulacrum of sorts, one of which Narcissus would be proud: the perfect reflection of your hopes, wants, needs, world views, passions, and desires. We’ll all become the Kings of our online experience.

The Emperor’s new clothes; the emperor has no clothes!

When Google buys applications, web properties, new and cool websites, and all the rest, profiting directly from those acquisitions is not what they’re interested in. Google’s only interested in heading you, as an online denizen, off at the pass. What they want is to flush all of us online grouse out of the bushes so that they can finally get a good bead on us. When Google finally gets us all locked in their sights, they’ll be able to finally identify each and every one of us all the way down to as close to our social security, passport, and drivers license numbers as possible.

And that’s an excellent thing if you’re willing and able to remain safely ensconced in the warm, soft, velvety embrace of the Matrix — like me — though I am not sure if this will reassure everyone as much as it does me. And, since every action has a reaction, Google’s search engine algorithm has a profitable flaw: it tends to highlight and prioritize popular content. And, what content is generally most popular?

Salacious gossip, embarrassing revelations, revealing photos, humiliations, and defamations. The dark side, of course, but also not Google’s problem: they just give the public what they want, just like anyone else — and if they didn’t, someone else would — all the while running profitable inline, contextual, banner, pre-roll, and video ads.

And all of this fun stuff is pinned to Google+.

As the saying goes, “all roads lead to Rome.” And Google’s Rome is Plus. Now that Google has us all hooked, they’re integrating all of these properties into the new Google+, whether or not you are currently a registered member. If you’ve invested in Google in any way, you’re a potential Plus member; and, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll just jump in feet first. It’ll improve your participation everywhere else, trust me, starting with the world’s favorite site: YouTube. As you may know, Google’s changed access to YouTube commenting to prefer Google+ members.

Google’s almost completed their new roads project: all roads lead to Plus. Resistance is futile. Still fighting? This is quicksand mate, stop struggling and just relax into Google’s vision for your media future, both online and off. It’s beyond your control.

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Chris Abraham

Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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Fallon, Meyers Scoring Huge on Social Media, Even Stealing Competitors’ Social Strength

Fallon, Meyers Scoring Huge on Social Media, Even Stealing Competitors’ Social Strength
By Asher Feldman

More than a month into NBC’s new late-night duo of Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, the network must be overjoyed with the performance of its post-11:30 PM programming, Fallon’s “Tonight Show” especially.Piggybacking off unilateral social media support and an already growing audience in the 12:30 AM timeslot, Fallon was eased into the “Tonight Show” chair in mid February and has done only positive things — increasing his ability to dominate the late-night social scene and delivering NBC strong ratings every night of the week.In fact, when comparing the ever-growing roster of late night competitors — Fallon, Meyers along with CBS’ Craig Ferguson and David Letterman, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, TBS’ Conan O’Brien and Arsenio Hall in syndication — Fallon’s show dominates social with ease. When measuring overall social chatter, Fallon’s “Tonight Show” has gathered more than 62 percent of the overall social mentions across the grouping since its Feb. 17 premiere to March 26 of this year.



That itself is up from Fallon’s already impressive 40 percent share of the late-night social chatter during the same time frame in 2013.There’s no denying what a social force Fallon is. And Fallon’s widespread success on social media has influenced his competitors; they’ve all established, and rely upon in one way or another, a social presence.But things have changed for the Letterman, Kimmel, Ferguson, Hall and O’Brien collection since Fallon made the switch from “Late Night” to “The Tonight Show,” and not just because of the stodgy and seemingly anti-social team that surrounded Jay Leno. Nowhere is Fallon’s impact on his competitors more apparent than on social media.When you factor in Fallon and compare the share of chatter the shows claimed during the same Feb. 17 to March 26 time frame in 2013 to 2014, surprising trends are revealed. Plus, adding Meyers into the mix as Fallon was transitioning certainly played a big role in the shifting tendencies of chatter on the web about late night TV.

Kimmel, who’s spot on ABC has survived on its own for more than a decade, saw his show’s chatter share drop from 18 percent to 14 percent when comparing the two time frames — not all bad considering the appearance of Hall and Meyers in the year between the measured periods. Ferguson, too, hasn’t suffered much, going just from 3 percent to 2 percent.

The problem spots begin to emerge in the more entrenched late night kings. Letterman, whose “Late Show” has survived for 21 seasons, was riding comfortably with 9 percent of the chatter during 2013, but has fallen steadily to just 3 percent since Fallon’s appearance.

The real social loser in all this, however, seems to be O’Brien. His “Conan” on TBS has proved game changing on the social front since the show’s inception in 2011, but Team CoCo has seen its share of the chatter drop from a strong 24 percent in 2013 to just 4 percent since Fallon premiered in the “Tonight Show” slot, which ironically was O’Brien’s for just more than seven months.

Granted, in the month and a half since Fallon premiered, social media mentions in the late night TV landscape have more than tripled from the same period in 2013, so it wouldn’t be unexpected for Conan and Letterman to rebound as Fallon settles in. But with Fallon already dominating ratings and showing no signs of slowing down, perhaps social media is foretelling struggles in the late night departments that don’t boast the NBC logo behind them.

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Asher Feldman

Asher Feldman is an analyst at General Sentiment, a Long Island, N.Y.-based social media analytics firm. Find them on Twitter @gensent.
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Stolen Social Media Accounts Are More Valuable to Cyber Criminals Than Credit Cards

Stolen Social Media Accounts Are More Valuable to Cyber Criminals Than Credit Cards
By Tim (TK) Keanini

In a recent article claiming “Stolen Twitter Accounts ‘More Valuable’ than Credit Cards” it is important that we understand this in terms of the past, present and future context, because everything on the Internet is evolving.

Cyber criminals today no longer operate alone.  They are a part of a complex marketplace where capabilities and data goods are exchanged for crypto currency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, etc)  On the Internet, where everything is just data, the valuation of data is an important property of what should be protected.  As defenders become more effective at protecting themselves and their businesses, the adversaries in a co-evolutionary manner innovate and find new and novel methods to grow their business of cybercrime.   The fundamentals of cost/benefit analysis holds true and through this lens we look at two types of data: Credit Card dumps and Social Media Account Credential.

Monetizing these credit card dumps at scale is a complex process that involves both the information and physical world.  Credit card track information in these dumps are written to new plastic and quickly disseminated to people who are called cash mules that use the cards until they are detected and shutdown.  As defenders have become timelier in the detection and remediation, this business has become much more expensive to operate given the overhead.  These criminals don’t change careers, they just find other ways of doing business.

When thinking like the adversary, what other more strategic data can they steal that has a lower probability of being detected and while not directly monetized like credit cards, can open up more capabilities to other data sets that can be monetized.  How about that person’s digital identity on social media?  The theft of a person’s identity in social media means that you now have trusted access to hundreds if not thousands of people for a small window of time during which you can instruct them cleverly to download crimeware that will in turn steal more credentials to not only credit card data but any financial system.  If this crimeware is installed correctly, you not only have access to credit card data, you have access to any and all credit cards over the lifetime of that installation.  Individuals go years without detecting these types of malware installations and it is over this lifetime that not just credit card data, but all data can be accessed.

Like the credit card companies, Twitter is also in a co-evolutionary role with the threat.  Twitter’s countermeasure is to have users enable their two factor authentication.  This effectively puts stolen twitter credentials vendors out of business, but the problem is that this is still optional to the twitter user and the bias with the community is that they don’t enable it.    As with most information security issues, changing human behavior is always the most difficult.  As this threat vector grows, I could see Twitter implementing the policy whereby if you have over a certain number of followers, let’s say 500, that two factor authentication is mandatory.  As always, things need to get worse before they get better.

Whether defending your personal information or your company’s information, you need to think like the adversary and that adversary is a part of a complex and highly effective supply chain. The data they want to take has value in some part of that supply chain and it may not be obvious because you don’t see it as directly monetized like credit card dumps.  This is why we must continuously monitor and adapt to the changing threat environment as they in turn do the same to our defenses.

Over the coming years, these dark markets are going to be more visible because 1) they are interesting and newsworthy and 2) it is where the business of cyber security is being invented and practiced.  The business paradox they face is to become more visible and grow their market share or remain dark and exclusive slowing their revenue growth.  The adversaries are treating cyber security as a business problem and it is about time that their victims do the same.

Tim (TK) Keanini is the CTO of Lanscope.