Category Archives: Big data

Is the Most Dangerous Company in America?

Posted by Tyler Wood, Operations Manager at Crime Tech Solutions

ciaThis is a very interesting read about the current big data analytics darling, Palantir Technologies. The article from GS Early appears on the Personal Liberty website HERE.

The original article follows…

I was reading my newsfeeds and I came across a very interesting story about this highly secretive company that is apparently buying up as much Palo Alto, California real estate as it can get its hands on.

But that isn’t even the most interesting thing about them. What piques my interest is how this start-up that just added another $450 million to its funding — it now has about $20 billion in funding — got its money.

The company is called Palantir Technologies. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it comes from JRR Tolkein’s trilogy of fantasy novels. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman the wizard uses the Palantir of Orthanc, an indestructible sphere of dark crystal, to see into the future and communicate across the world.

That sounds geeky and innocuous enough, no?

But Palantir the company’s biggest clients are the FBI, SEC and the CIA. It is a Big Data company that also has corporate clients, but much of the work — from what anyone can tell — comes from hush-hush projects for the U.S. intelligence community.

This crystal ball of a company sounds less like a quaint fantasy than a key element of the “thought police” in Philip K. Dick’s dark science fiction tale “The Minority Report.”

In “The Minority Report,” the police used computers to predict when and where a crime would occur and apprehend the perpetrator before he actually committed the crime.

The crazy thing is, we’re now living in a world where Big Data makes that possible.

First, let me explain what Big Data is. Basically, now that our lives are completely recorded in various media — traffic cameras, debit card transactions, loyalty cards, phone calls, television shows watched, internet, social media, SMS texts, etc. — computers are powerful enough now to sort through all this data from all these sources and come up with predictive patterns for individuals and groups.

This is a very hot area for retail stores. But it also has enormous implications in a variety of industries; and many of them are helpful.

It is certainly a tool that law enforcement and our intelligence services would find valuable to root out potential terrorists or groups that are planning some terrorist act. It is also useful to find people who are attempting to elude authorities. And being able to get ahead of the some of the more devious players on Wall Street and their illegal trading schemes would be nice.

But you can see where this could be turned on Americans, just as easily as the NSA turned its endeavors on to less than righteous paths.

Palantir is raising eyebrows in the epicenter of digital startups because most companies, once they reach a certain size, move out of Palo Alto and build a campus in some surrounding town.

Not Palantir. It now owns about 10-15 percent of all the available space in Palo Alto, more than 250,000 square feet. It is the fourth most valuable venture backed company in the world.

The irony in the article was, the concern wasn’t about its biggest client or what it’s doing for the CIA, it was the fact that it’s eating up all the available commercial space in Palo Alto and not leaving room for new startups.

My concern is a bit deeper. The CIA could have quietly gone to one of the major Big Data firms like Accenture or IBM and worked with them on whatever it is they needed. But instead they essentially built their own company, where there are much fewer people to throw up roadblocks to the work being done. I have no problem with government using Big Data to protect us; my concern is when intelligence and enforcement agencies have unfettered use of it.

But, there’s no turning back the clock. We are in the Big Data, cybersecurity age and plenty of these companies already exist. Usually their goal is help their clients sell more lavender soap in February or figure out what kind of salad greens a 37-year-old mother of two prefers to buy at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening.

On a fundamental level, it’s best to keep your digital footprint light. Make sure you have secure passwords that aren’t just 1234 or your pet’s name. Most browsers have an “incognito” mode that won’t track your browser history. But truth be told, if someone really wants your history, they can get it.

If you’re more serious about hiding your footprints, look into encrypted services like Tor (www.torproject.com) that will protect against traffic analysis (browser history, instant messaging, etc.). It’s free and very good.

Transactions in bitcoins is a way to keep your footprint light in the marketplace.

And if you’re looking to make money on the trend, there are any number of companies that are at the forefront of cybersecurity (Palo Alto Networks, FireEye, Synamtec) and Big Data (Accenture, IBM, Teradata, Oracle).

–GS Early

(NOTE: Crime Tech Solutions is an Austin, TX based provider of crime and fraud analytics software for commercial and law enforcement groups. We proudly support the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU) and International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). Our offerings include sophisticated link analysis software, comprehensive crime mapping and predictive policing, and criminal intelligence database management systems.)

Link Analysis and Crime – An examination.

Posted by Tyler Wood, Operations Manager at Crime Tech Solutions

Pic003The topic of fraud is widely discussed, and the focus of thousands upon thousands of articles. Television shows such as Crime, Inc and American Greed have become popular due, in part, to our fascination with the topic of fraud.

The organizations that are affected by fraud are also fascinated… but for entirely different reasons. Some estimates suggest that the US economy loses 11 trillion dollars each year due to one form of fraud or another. It’s little wonder, therefore, that the companies most frequently defrauded have been heavily investing in anti-fraud technologies at an increasing rate over the past decade or more.

The biggest problem with fraud, of course, is that it is always evolving in a very Darwinian fashion. Like a living, breathing entity, fraud schemes change over time in order to survive. As the targets of fraud schemes put new policies, procedures and/or systems to deter the activities, the schemes modify and find new ways to survive.

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So, since the nature of criminal activity is such that they constantly change, how do investigators find a fool proof methodology to ensure they are 100% safe from them? The answer, of course, is that they can’t. They never will; at least not until we live in a world such as the one depicted in the 2002 film Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise. In that movie, criminals are arrested prior to committing a crime based upon the predictions of psychics called ‘Precogs’. Corporations and individual targets of fraud can only wish.

Nope, there are no Precogs running around locking up would-be practitioners of fraud that would protect banks, insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare programs, victims of Ponzi schemes, victims of identity theft, and countless others. Instead, organizations rely upon skilled knowledge workers using purpose-built crime and fraud analytics technology that can detect anomalies in patterns, suspicious transactions, hotspot mapping, networks of fraudsters, and other sophisticated data analytics tools.

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Crime and fraud analytics

Any discussion of analytics and investigation software must touch upon the topic of ‘big data’. No longer just a buzz word, big data literally fuels the insights gathered by organizations in every area of business. Naturally, then, organizations who have been traditionally targeted by fraudsters have increasingly invested in crime technology such as investigation software and analytics in order to exploit the phenomenon.

gotbigdata.pngOf course, big data in and by itself does nothing. It just sits there. Nobody has ever yelled “Help! We’ve been defrauded! Call the big data!” Big data is only useful when it can be transformed into ‘smart data’. In other words, understanding the big picture of costly fraudulent activities is not akin to understanding the specifics of ‘who’ is defrauding you, and ‘how’ they are doing it.

Those questions can best be answered through the powerful data mining and link analysis software tools offered by Austin, TX based Crime Tech Solutions in partnership with Sterling, VA based Visallo. Effective link analysis complements big data analytics platforms, helping to expose previously undetected fraud, and the entities (people or organizations) committing it.

Link Analysis – Transforming big data into smart data

By definition, link analysis is a data analysis technique that examines relationships among people, places, and things. As a visual tool, link analysis provides users a powerful method to quickly understand and ‘see’ what is happening. Because of this, it is widely used by financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies to uncover criminal networks, improve fraud investigations, detect insider fraud, and expose money laundering schemes. Similarly, government agencies use link analysis to investigate fraud, enhance screening processes, uncover terrorist networks and investigate criminal activities.

At Crime Tech Solutions, we liken the question of how to detect and deter fraud to ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ The answer, of course, is one bite at a time. If big data is the elephant, comprehensive link analysis software is part of the one ‘bite’ at a time. Or should we say ‘byte’.

(NOTE: Crime Tech Solutions is an Austin, TX based provider of investigation software and analytics for commercial and law enforcement groups. We proudly support the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU) and International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). Our offerings include sophisticated link analysis software, an industry-leading investigation case management solution, and criminal intelligence database management systems.)