Facebook’s new search; The hunt for ‘Red October’

Molly Wood Jan 16, 2013

Facebook’s new search; The hunt for ‘Red October’

Molly Wood Jan 16, 2013

On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was at pains to explain that his company’s next big thing, Graph Search, doesn’t work all that well yet.

“I just want to emphasize how early we are in this though just because most of the demo queries that we tried to do worked,” Zuckerberg explained at a press conference announcing Graph Search. “This a beta product.”

That means Graph Search is still in its test phase. But let’s explain why so many people snapped to attention when Facebook announced a new way to search not the whole web, but just Facebook. Currently, all you can do with their search box is look for names.

“You might start searching for people you want to hire, in which case LinkedIn looks like it might have a target on its back. Again, going into the far future, you might want to see what Chinese restaurants your friends like in San Francisco, in which case Yelp has a target as well,” says Marketplace technology reporter Queena Kim. “Obviously, your friends opinions are way more valuable than all those random people you see on Yelp.”

Even if you and your friends don’t officially “like” something on Facebook, the social network has got that covered.

“Another thing they talked about was semantic search. So let’s say I went, ‘Hey, went to Cheeseboard Pizza for dinner tonight,’ and I’ll post a photo of the pizza. One can assume that I really liked it because I posted a photo of it, and so it would search words too. And that’s sort of the more intensive endeavor in terms of technology,” says Kim.

“This makes Facebook useful, it makes it a utility on the web that overtime might become as important as Google is,” says Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist at Slate Magazine. He believes this new system gives Facebook a future.

“Even though Facebook is huge, and no one is saying it could sort of go the way of MySpace, there’s a worry that the kind of the vanguard of people online – young people – might at some point get tired of Facebook and move to something else. I think this search engine is a good way to address that problem,” says Manjoo.

But why is it called Graph Search? That’s graph as in “photograph.” In Facebook lingo, their big database called the “Social Graph.”

It’s a piece of malicious software with a fine work ethic. It’s been quietly and diligently ferreting out secret data at government agencies and energy facilities for five long years. Experts have discovered malware, dubbed “Red October,” that can infect computers, and even USB thumb drives to steal sensitive data.

“That’s just how the world works now, unfortunately,” says Alex Cox at the cyber security firm RSA. He says Red October is part of a new normal where the cyber crime world pushes its products just like a legit company would.

“They’ve got project management to develop their malware. They’ve got marketing guys to try to sell it. Money-mules that help them cash in their stolen information. It’s very organized,” says Cox.

According to Cox, it’s still unclear who launched Red October although it’s possible it’s part of some government’s spy operation. There are some hints the code’s from Russia, some from China, but the hints could be red-herrings placed to put people off the track.

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