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DARPA Fears Big Data Could Become Big Threat 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the we've-discovered-that-al-qaeda-is-incorporating-'data'-into-their-plans dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "For most businesses, data analytics presents an opportunity. But for DARPA, the military agency responsible for developing new technology, so-called 'Big Data' could represent a big threat. DARPA is apparently looking to fund researchers who can 'investigate the national security threat posed by public data available either for purchase or through open sources.' That means developing tools that can evaluate whether a particular public dataset will have a significant impact on national security, as well as blunt the force of that impact if necessary. 'The threat of active data spills and breaches of corporate and government information systems are being addressed by many private, commercial, and government organizations,' reads DARPA's posting on the matter. 'The purpose of this research is to investigate data sources that are readily available for any individual to purchase, mine, and exploit.' As Foreign Policy points out, there's a certain amount of irony in the government soliciting ways to reduce its vulnerability to data exploitation. 'At the time government officials are assuring Americans they have nothing to fear from the National Security Agency poring through their personal records,' the publication wrote, 'the military is worried that Russia or al Qaeda is going to wreak nationwide havoc after combing through people's personal records.'"
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DARPA Fears Big Data Could Become Big Threat

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  • by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:16PM (#44566925)

    Is the government declaring Facebook a national security threat because of all the information people post on it, and having it shut down.

    • by GLMDesigns (2044134) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:22PM (#44566999) Homepage
      No. But it certainly makes you wonder what sort of analysis is currently being run by our government. As processing speeds increase (a thousand fold in the next 10-15 years) such analysis could be run by many organizations.
      • No. But it certainly makes you wonder what sort of analysis is currently being run by our government. As processing speeds increase (a thousand fold in the next 10-15 years) such analysis could be run by many organizations.

        But unlike the US government, Al Qaeda probably doesn't have access to people's profiles if they've jacked up the privacy settings. Besides, there's a million+ ways to create havoc in the US without accessing that data.

      • We are talking about the military here. If they conclude that big data is a threat what will their go-to response be? That's right.. BIGGER DATA!

        Just think, now we can finally find a use for the ridiculous number of potential addresses in IPv6!
      • This is basically a report about how the NSA is going to start blackmailing Congress into increasing its budget.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:22PM (#44567009) Homepage

      Is the government declaring Facebook a national security threat because of all the information people post on it, and having it shut down.

      Or enacting laws on what data companies can collect about you and what they're legally allowed to do with it. You know, actual privacy laws and laws around data security.

      But that won't happen -- because it would cut into corporate profits, and because it would cut down on some of the sources the NSA themselves use.

      This in the end will be DARPA saying "how can we collect all of this information while still trying to keep it out of the hands of them." And nothing at all will change.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by intermodal (534361)

        It also won't happen because it's so easy for companies to argue that the information is voluntarily being shared with the company. And the thing is, the company is actually correct in observing this. As to what they may do with that information, well, it's moot as long as the government can demand it at any time.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @03:27PM (#44567657) Homepage

          It also won't happen because it's so easy for companies to argue that the information is voluntarily being shared with the company. And the thing is, the company is actually correct in observing this.

          Of course, that's bullshit, but they'll claim it.

          As an experiment, I just went to the LA Times website. By your theory, if my bullshit blockers hadn't blocked revsci.com, gigya.com, newsinc.com, jumptime.com, and brightcove.com -- then I will have voluntarily provided information to these fuckers.

          So, no, just because sites put web bugs, ads, polls, and all sorts of 3rd party shit in their web pages that might not be obvious -- that doesn't mean there was anything voluntary (or even informed) in this. It means a sneaky bunch of marketing assholes are in there without asking me, and they feel self entitled to do so.

          • you and I agree on this matter. I'm simply pointing out the arguments that will be (successfully) used. I use the same sort of blockers for the same sort of reasons.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            You have just described pretty much the problem they fear. Via the publicly available data, those individuals most likely to accept bribes or those most likely to be readily blackmailed can be tracked down and exploited. No matter how good your security when someone sells company passwords, or someone is extorted into handing it over, your security defunct. A whole range of direct access hacks become available once those weal links have been exposed.

    • I would welcome governments shutting down social websites, but after that they would probably start thinking about shutting down any websites where people gather, such as arcadecontrols.com

      Because you know, someone could block traffic trying to bring home his Frogger machine that's been rigged to a car battery to keep his high score alive.

    • by ImdatS (958642)

      No, but with all the public data available on social networks, the web itself, and the data that you can purchase, given enough computing power (whatever that may mean), I am pretty sure one could identify national security situations.

      If a terrorist organization or any US-unfriendly organization has enough money to buy the required computing power, then collect the vast amounts of public data available about individuals in the US on an ongoing basis and try to identify certain patterns, it could, IMHO, iden

  • by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:20PM (#44566969) Homepage Journal

    I'm definitely concerned about big data, but the big data that concerns me the most is in the hands of the NSA.

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:24PM (#44567037) Homepage

      I'm definitely concerned about big data, but the big data that concerns me the most is in the hands of the NSA.

      Who can trivially demand it from the corporations we mean by 'big data'.

      As long as those companies are legally allowed to collect it, the NSA is legally allowed to demand it from them.

      • I'm definitely concerned about big data, but the big data that concerns me the most is in the hands of the NSA.

        Who can trivially demand it from the corporations we mean by 'big data'.

        As long as those companies are legally allowed to collect it, the NSA is legally allowed to demand it from them.

        ...and the Chinese army and Russian mob can continue to leak it from the NSA....

        Of course, both groups are now seriously into growing their social media app footprint for cellphones, so they can dip into everyone's personal data that way as well. I'm surprised the US hasn't tried this yet; seems like Israel, South Korea, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are doing it (and possibly others, but I haven't noticed the others gaming the App Store with social media tools that ask for more info than they need).

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:22PM (#44567007) Homepage Journal

    If DARPA is trying to mitigate the threat then this effort deserves support.

    If they are looking a way to "shut it down" then they're being way naive. This is happening (among other reasons) because of Moore's Law and you aren't going to change it.

    We've but a woefully inept government and bad leadership at all levels of society, so I really don't know which this proposal aims at.

    (and I haven't read TFA).

    • If DARPA is trying to mitigate the threat then this effort deserves support.

      If they are looking a way to "shut it down" then they're being way naive. This is happening (among other reasons) because of Moore's Law and you aren't going to change it.

      We've but a woefully inept government and bad leadership at all levels of society, so I really don't know which this proposal aims at.

      (and I haven't read TFA).

      DARPA is definitely attempting to mitigate the threat; of course, once they produce their recommendations, the executive branch may decide that the best way to mitigate is to shut it down (or congress might). DARPA has no power in their own right; they do the investigations, test techniques, develop hardware/software, and then hand over the results to the decision makers to (mis)use as they see fit.

      • DARPA is definitely attempting to mitigate the threat; of course, once they produce their recommendations, the executive branch may decide that the best way to mitigate is to shut it down (or congress might).

        And the wholesale undermining of the First Amendment to the US Constitution continues apace...

    • by Kjella (173770)

      If they are looking a way to "shut it down" then they're being way naive. This is happening (among other reasons) because of Moore's Law and you aren't going to change it.

      "Big Data" is more of a legal issue than an technical issue, where are all these sources of data coming from and is the subject really aware of how much they're being profiled "behind the scenes" by putting together what appears to the customer like disjoint data sets? It's one thing that the baker knows what bread I like and the butcher what meat, another to find out the whole town has been comparing notes on me. Sadly I probably signed away my soul or at least the right to control that information deep do

    • by admdrew (782761)

      If they are looking a way to "shut it down" then they're being way naive.

      I also didn't RTFA, but I think (hope?) DARPA is interested primarily to mitigate any threat. The summary's quote referencing "the threat of active data spills and breaches of corporate and government information systems" IS something our country should be concerned about (excluding situations involving corporate/governmental misbehavior), and the optimist in me hopes that our government is acting toward the greater good

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but it is federal, state and local governments that are the people's main enemy here, not the russians or chinese.

  • Well, naturally... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:24PM (#44567041)

    It's the ability to destroy anyone's career or political ambitions through selective "summarization", and to win with certainty over any competing business in any industry with unmatchable demographic and competitive analysis information.

    Of course the NSA wants to be the only people with this particular "weapon", and likewise the only people their corporate cronies' revolving-doors are open for.

  • the government having their hands on Big Data is the real danger.
  • Considering all the discussions about 'big data' and DARPA is actually in this rare instance way behind the curve.

    My own data analysis of what has happened says that the combination of processing and storage in the potential adversarial hands is so great, a set of counter measures is really hard to find now.

    There are extrinsic factors, but DARPA is far from the right theoretical understanding. Albeit, the DARPA research that helped propel big data, the ARPA-NET has spawned so much, so quickly it is nearly

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      i dont think its that they are behind the curve.
      its not about protectuing us (citizens) from big data. its about protecting "the nation" from data spills/breaches, which means its a combination of both big data, and security, and mitigating the threat of exposure.

      essentially big data has a lot of data. we know this.
      security is never perfect, breaches are going to happen. we also know this.

      other countries can profit from these breaches of massive data, because it gives them additional leverage to force the h

      • by aisnota (98420)

        So you think that they have not already been doing this, even pre-big data?

        > DARPA is worried about. there are 4 main motivations used by agents to motivate their assets to spy:
        > 1. greed,
        > 2. revenge,
        > 3. idealism,
        > 4. blackmail.
        > more data

        Several of the scandalous situations revolve around our military personal compromised as assets of an opposition. This will only repeat more efficiently with big data at the forefront as the toolbox.

        But those tools are out there now, the big data sets i

  • by Ioldanach (88584) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:33PM (#44567119)
    Big Government is afraid of the damage Big Data could do because it knows the impact of storing and processing massive quantities of data. It has a lot of experience doing this, itself, and is afraid of anyone else doing the same thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:35PM (#44567133)

    If DARPA is looking into this, that means that they are looking at whether the *analytics* applied to publicly or purchasable big datasets could mine information like troop buildup/movements, military targets, etc., etc.

    For example, if I'm a subcontractor of a defense contractor and I suddenly post on the Interwebz that I am purchasing 300 million gallons of drone aviation fuel, you might be able to combine that with other little bits of data (e.g. another subcontractor suddenly posts that they are purchasing 15,000 airline tickets to Giblisztan), you might be able to predict that a strike is coming in and react appropriately.

    Obviously the DoD and their contractors attempt to make sure that those obvious details above aren't readily available, but you might still be able to piece together US military activities pretty readily from even tiny bits of correlated information that are available.

    However, from the original summary:

    the publication wrote, 'the military is worried that Russia or al Qaeda is going to wreak nationwide havoc after combing through people's personal records.'

    If that's really what was written in the original publication, then whoever wrote that did a terrible fucking job of analyzing what DARPA really wants this for and conveying that in writing, or was just trying to turn this into clickbait/fear-mongering/whatever.

  • .. that the ad immediately to the right of this was for BIG DATA & ANALYTICS services for IBM? Apropos ad placement humor.

    • .. that the ad immediately to the right of this was for BIG DATA & ANALYTICS services for IBM? Apropos ad placement humor.

      Even better, my quote at the bottom:
      "We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra"

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @02:56PM (#44567331)

    Of course by "certain" they mean "obscene".

    A looming danger is that everyone in these institutions becomes so zealous in the execution of their appointed duties that they lose all sense of humor, humanity, and irony. In the US I see this sort of humorless automaton behavior all the time: in cops, tsa agents, border patrol - basically from people in most positions of state authority. When you constantly subdue your humanity, you give yourself over to authoritarian tendencies, so expect all sorts of abuses to follow.

    At the risk of sounding histrionic: the real threat isn't that machines will take over humanity, but rather humans will become machines.

  • Four words which have never before existed to suggest the rest of the paragraph is pure propaganda.

  • I don't think there's any irony here. The fewer that have access to some kinds of data, the more valuable it becomes. The just want a monopoly on 3d party use.

  • These are the same people who make tanks and anti-tank missiles. They make airplanes and surface-to-air missiles. They put body armor on their soldiers and hand them guns to shoot other soldiers with.

    They know the power of Big Data, so they both try to use it to their advantage and try to mitigate the advantage it would give to their foes.

  • Here' what you do, put your big database into a bigger database which goes into an even bigger database, then reduce the biggest database into a smaller database while reducing the less bigger database into an even smaller database that goes into the smallest database possible. You with me so far? Good.
    Now, take the smallest database and encrypt it with RSA 4096, then take the largest database and encrypt it with PGP. Make two copies of each database, place the smallest database into the largest one, now do
  • by Anonymous Coward

    just saying

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