Darknet Chronicles Pt 5: Land’s End for Stolen Data By Isaac Kohen

Have you ever wondered where exactly data goes after it is stolen? It’s not like physical property which can only be in possession by one person at a time. If someone steals your pen then you are no longer able to utilize that commodity anymore. When we think about theft this is the common conception. However,data is something different altogether. While it is a commodity, it is reproducible at zero marginal cost. This creates some unique characteristics for data and what theft and value mean. In this article we will be exploring why data gets stolen and exchanged. You will also come to understand what specific types of data are stolen the most and what the journey of those datasets are. By understanding how and where data journeys you can better understand where cyber security experts are looking for your stolen data along the theft/sales cycle. While data often gets circulated in underground markets, operations and marketing are very similar to what you would expect from any other business.

Why Does Data Get Stolen

Data is a commodity that circulates within markets like all other commodities, so supply and demand logic applies. Data is often produced to be used in a specific context, it is not often produced for exchange. However, data rarely has an exclusive use and to people with malicious intent can be used for some serious harm. The demand for data is never ending because of the various parties who want to use it for their own ends. For example a hospital may hold medical records that were generated over the years for general health management and developing insight into a patient’s health needs; but other parties may find other uses for that data that impact that same patient’s life. Their managers at work may leverage that data to determine if their employee is costing them more money due to poor health choices. An antagonistic person in that patient’s life may use their health data against them. The data itself is not malicious but people’s intentions with data can be.

Access to such personal data is usually protected by the institutions and organizations that generate or manage that data, however with everything going digital data has been more vulnerable to theft than ever. The people who steal data are not usually the actors above, but often they are simply underground criminals. They are hackers looking to make a quick buck and information peddlers looking to sell that stolen data to anyone willing to buy. Your everyday people who have bad intentions may not know how they can get a hold of the data, but they do know how to purchase it from the darknet when it is stolen, or they know how to hire hackers who can target people and organizations they need. For the hackers, this may be simply a test of their skills or for the “lolz” as some of them put it.

Quite simply hackers and data peddlers are the suppliers, while your everyday people with ill intent are your buyers. Let’s examine below the journey of some of the most targeted forms of personal information stolen.

Journey and Value of Medical Data

One of the most lucrative digital commodities on the darknet is medical data, or electronic healthcare records (EHR). When EHR data is stolen there is an air of uncertainty because there is so many ways in which medical data can be used. It is difficult as well for a victim to identify or make the connection that an incident such as a job rejection or insurance premium hike was a result of a data breach from years ago.

The hackers who cause data breaches to happen are either working with someone or are simply looking to put some fresh inventory on the market, that inventory is stolen data. Most data breaches start with a malicious or manipulated insider and failure of a medical institution managing insider threats. When the EHR data is stolen it is not always apparent at the moment to the victim medical organization, in fact the breach could last years without anyone knowing. Once a hacker has their hands on data they will start posting on both the clearnet and the darknet on forums about recent data dumps. However what is more likely to happen is that there was an arrangement already in place with a client who the hackers were working for. If a client wants data, all they have to do is hire a hacker who turns it over to them. In the cases where it is not, the EHR data goes up for sale. Once the data is purchased no one but the buyer really knows how it is put to use.

One of the most well known hackers in the medical space is TheDarkOverlord (TDO) who specifically targets medical institutions. Although recently the notorious hacker has become interested in Hollywood production studios and local governments. TDO is very brazen and even talks to reporters when they launch a cyber attack. TDO is wanted by the Department of Homeland Security and by officials in the UK. Hackers such as TDO do make money out of extorting victims after attacks but this is not the norm despite how high profile it is. In June 2016 TDO listed an EHR database for sale that held the details of roughly 9 million Americans, in this case they also communicated with reporters. This could be seen as a form of PR or marketing for them and signals to buyers that records are up for grabs again.

In 2016, TDO communicated with the Darknet news site “DeepDotWeb” and provided images of a healthcare database hack he had for sale on the market for nearly $400,000 USD. TDO also provided some context on three healthcare organizations he breached earlier that same year where he made off with the records of nearly 650,000 patients across the US. The infamous hacker had stated that all credentials were accessible and in a simple plain text format, making the hacker’s job that much easier. He expanded more in the comments section of the same article that was written about him. This is still within the realm of marketing for hackers, TDO is known because they are effective at it.

Medical data is one of the most demanded type of stolen data online. The value of your average medical record was around $75 or more, which is a lot for stolen data. This high price point contributed to a surge of hackers and data vendors causing data breaches to stock up on their supply. Healthcare organizations were also one of the worst sectors when it came to cyber security, so hackers essentially had a field day. The darknet data markets are now flooded with medical records to the point that the price has dropped to around $30 per medical record. It would be safe to assume that your healthcare data is likely for sale somewhere out there.

Journey and Value of Financial Data

When financial data is stolen it is the most visible and the type of breach that everyone is terrified of. When data breaches happen it is financial data that everyone is concerned was stolen, and processes from banks are readily in place to take care of people. However, these processes have led to something of a complacency among people maintaining good security practice. When it comes to financial data people have become rather numb. Even back in 2014 someone wrote an article about it when Home Depot got hacked. However it is this exact numbness among the population that hackers on the darknet take advantage of. If you know a bank is simply going to replace your card or you get free credit monitoring what is there to worry about right? Well quite a lot actually especially if hackers and buyers understand being patient before using the data immediately.

Financial data can account for many different types of sensitive data that we regularly interact with to get around in our society. In some cases hackers only got for credit card (CC) information, but lately there has been a spike in data breaches that include credit card data and personal identification data. At times on the darknet the bank accounts are for sell too, at much higher prices.

The process of stealing the data is similar to how medical records are stolen. In the Equifax breach there was tons of financial and personal information leaked. Often there is little an individual can do to protect themselves because the targets are often businesses and institutions. Financial data and personal information are now usually sold in batching unless there is some form of proof of funds with the ability to launder the money. Prices for data are often around 10% of what is in the bank account and for a single credit card the price can range from $5 to around $12. However in places with unverified caches of data you can find a batch for $4. New purchasers on the darknet though may find a harsh welcome. What often happens to people who are new to the buying process is that they pay and never receive the stolen data they just purchased. This is because anonymity provides sellers a shield and no accountability. The only mechanism that holds sellers accountable are forums and even public forums such as Reddit. They often try to warn people about certain sellers and what the proper process is.

The way in which data is sold is through what’s called escrow. Essentially this is where a third party holds payment until the product is delivered. The role of escrow is to manage a transaction. For data peddlers who operate through escrow on the darknet, they are considered by the community to be safe and legit.

The difference between financial data and healthcare data is not really much. In both cases the final use for the data will be identity fraud or sabotage. However it doesn’t take too long of a search on the web to find reports of how bad medical institutions are at cyber security. This is in contrast to the financial sector. The financial sector has take cyber security very seriously, despite this there are still data breaches, but no where near as frequent as healthcare organizations. Among hackers healthcare organizations are considered low hanging fruit to get started with.

Data moves just like any other stolen commodity, the difference is that you still have possession of the stolen data, they simply stole a copy. The value of data is not the data itself but what actions can be taken with the right data. Data thieves can live whole other lives as another person, they can launder money, sabotage people, and many other acts. Data becomes empowered by the intentions of the party handling it. In the wrong hands and outside of its context data can become dangerous. Stay tuned for more articles about how insiders navigate and use the Darknet.

This post was originally published in IT Security Central and was reprinted with permission.

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By 2020 83% Of Enterprise Workloads Will Be In The Cloud By Louis Columbus

  • Digitally transforming enterprises (63%) is the leading factor driving greater public cloud engagement or adoption today.
  • 66% of IT professionals say security is their most significant concern in adopting an enterprise cloud computing strategy.
  • 50% of IT professionals believe artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing a role in cloud computing adoption today, growing to 67% by 2020.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning will be the leading catalyst driving greater cloud computing adoption by 2020.

These insights and findings are from LogicMonitor’s Cloud Vision 2020: The Future of the Cloud Study (PDF, free, opt-in, 9 pp.). The survey is based on interviews with approximately 300 influencers LogicMonitor interviewed in November 2017. Respondents include Amazon Web Services AWS re:Invent 2017 attendees, industry analysts, media, consultants and vendor strategists. The study’s primary goal is to explore the landscape for cloud services in 2020. While the study’s findings are not statistically significant, they do provide a fascinating glimpse into current and future enterprise cloud computing strategies.

Key takeaways include the following:

  • 83% Of Enterprise Workloads Will Be In The Cloud By 2020. LogicMonitor’s survey is predicting that 41% of enterprise workloads will be run on public cloud platforms (Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and others) by 2020. An additional 20% are predicted to be private-cloud-based followed by another 22% running on hybrid cloud platforms by 2020. On-premise workloads are predicted to shrink from 37% today to 27% of all workloads by 2020.

  • Digitally transforming enterprises (63%) is the leading factor driving greater public cloud engagement or adoption followed by the pursuit of IT agility (62%). LogicMonitor’s survey found that the many challenges enterprises face in digitally transforming their business models are the leading contributing factor to cloud computing adoption. Attaining IT agility (62%), excelling at DevOps (58%), mobility (55%), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (50%) and the Internet of Things (IoT) adoption (45%) are the top six factors driving cloud adoption today. Artifical Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are predicted to be the leading factors driving greater cloud computing adoption by 2020.

  • 66% of IT professionals say security is their greatest concern in adopting an enterprise cloud computing strategy. Cloud platform and service providers will go on a buying spree in 2018 to strengthen and harden their platforms in this area. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) acquiring Niddel this week is just the beginning. Niddel’s Magnet software is a machine learning-based threat-hunting system that will be integrated into Verizon’s enterprise-class cloud services and systems. Additional concerns include attaining governance and compliance goals on cloud-based platforms (60%), overcoming the challenges of having staff that lacks cloud experience (58%), Privacy (57%) and vendor lock-in (47%).

  • Just 27% of respondents predict that by 2022, 95% of all workloads will run in the cloud. One in five respondents believes it will take ten years to reach that level of workload migration. 13% of respondents don’t see this level of workload shift ever occurring. Based on conversations with CIOs and CEOs in manufacturing and financial services industries there will be a mix of workloads between on-premise and cloud for the foreseeable future. C-level executives evaluate shifting workloads based on each systems’ contribution to new business models, cost, and revenue goals in addition to accelerating time-to-market.

  • Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are predicted to gain market share versus Amazon AWS in the next three years, with AWS staying the clear market leader. The study found 42% of respondents are predicting Microsoft Azure will gain more market share by 2020. Google Cloud Platform is predicted to also gain ground according to 35% of the respondent base. AWS is predicted to extend its market dominance with 52% market share by 2020.

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How To Find The Right CRM Software For Your Business By Maria Waida

Searching for a CRM is a roller coaster of emotions. There’s thousands of options, it’s a major purchase and you often don’t know where to start your search. We’ve been involved in thousands of CRM evaluations and have learned a few things along the way. Here’s our guide for finding the sales software that’s right for your team.

Get Your Priorities Straight

Bells and whistles are neat, but sometimes you don’t need all the extra flair to find the perfect CRM for you. Don’t even begin your CRM search until you’ve narrowed down what your specific goals are. Once that’s all set you can do a little soul searching around what is actually most important to you in terms of desired features, results, cost, etc.

Like any large, long term purchase, finding the right sales software requires you to be crystal clear about what you really want. A good rule of thumb is to define your top five most important, non-negotiable criteria points. From there you can rate and rank your options based on what matters most. This method will keep you away from shiny objects so you can stay focused on what you really need from this experience. And if the shiny object happens to be the perfect match then you can be absolutely confident in that decision!

Reviews, Reviews, & More Reviews

Why make your own mistakes if you can learn from other people? Purchasing new sales software can be tricky and you wouldn’t want to waste your precious time with the wrong product. Luckily there are plenty of killer resources out there for you to cross check and consult.

First, check the company website for case studies. Most CRMs worth their salt have an easy to navigate section with at least a dozen (or more) testimonials from happy customers. What’s great about case studies is they’re data based, so their measured results give you a clear picture of what you can realistically expect to gain. Pro tip: find a case study that closely matches your goals and company profile (size, industry, product, etc.).

Even if you can’t find a great case study to obsess over, be sure to check out G2 Crowd. They’re a highly esteemed business solutions review platform from real users like you. They aim to help you objectively assess your next big software purchase – they even have trademarked Grids that they use to rank products. Below you’ll see the types of reviews you can find on G2 Crowd.

And last but certainly not least, be sure to read whatever is posted in the app store. Although these reviews aren’t as frequently contributed to, the people who do take the time to leave a comment are more passionate about the subject than most.

Get the Gang Involved

When comparing sales software, you have to consider how it will work for the end user aka your sales reps. So why not go straight to the source? Consulting your sales reps regarding their favorite CRM solutions will go a long way in finding the best possible program. And actually getting a say in this very important decision will make them feel good, leading to higher adoption and satisfaction rates.

It’s best to first scope out the strengths and weaknesses of your current system before adding more cooks to the kitchen. Try assessing where you are, determine your goals, and find the best possible options based in your price range. Once you’ve scoped out all our review sources from above, present a handful of options to the team and let them vote.

True Cost Versus Sticker Price

You might see the price on their website, but with some CRMs the true cost starts with the purchasing price and goes up from there. You’ll have to do some sleuthing to find the total cost of ownership.
Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • What is the minimum subscription term?
  • Is there a fee for connecting Sales users with vital Customer Service info (open tickets, read/write access to mutually shared files, etc.)?
  • How much does it cost to add more apps if needed?
  • Is there a price tiering system based on number of users? What happens if/when you expand your sales staff?
  • Can you customize the program after initial purchase or does that require a forced upgrade?
  • Will you need additional Support or Consulting to make this a true success? Where would you get that from and how much would it cost?

Now that you’re all hyped up over your new sales software, be sure to comment below with your own tips for finding the best CRM!

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7 Exciting Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Chatbot By Mitul Makadia

For businesses, it has become necessary to solve the queries and problems of the customers to ensure consumer loyalty along with the brand establishment. And just like the earlier times, man has looked to take help of machines to remove the constraints of human limitations. This time it is the customer service industry which has been revolutionized, and the innovation responsible for this is chatbot. Chatbots are considered the future of customer service and management.

To all those who are new to the term chatbot, let me give you a quick intro on them. Computer programs which can have real conversations are known as chatbots. A chat interface allows chatbots to converse with users. Chatbots can be used with almost all popular messaging apps. These bots can be given distinct personalities as well. Chatbots can understand written and spoken text, and interpret its meaning. The bot can then look up relevant information and deliver it to the user. Most modern smartphone apps rely on chatbots to function.

Here are some of the best reasons why your business definitely needs a chatbot:

1. To scale up your operations

Chatbots do not suffer from the limitations of a human agent. Where live agents can handle only 2 to 3 conversations at a time, chatbots can operate without an upper limit. By employing chatbot solutions to complement your human task force, your business can get the boost it needs to enter new markets.

2. You get a lot of queries from your customers

If your business receives a lot of inquiries, chatbots can take the load off your customer support team. By acting as the first point of contact, chatbots can screen calls from customers and redirect them to human agents only when required.

3. You have a range of nearly identical products or services

If you are selling goods and services which are near substitutes for each other, your customers may need help in selecting the right product. Customers also seek advice when buying something expensive, such as smartphones, camera accessories, etc. Chatbots can assist customers in getting the right product or service.

4. You are selling to the millennials

Millennials are not impulsive buyers. They like to inquire and compare products before they buy. Also, millennials prefer live chat over phone calls. So, if your product lines are aimed at Millennials, introducing chatbots in your customer service will be a prudent investment.

5. You are actively marketing content through online channels

The more you interact with your customers, the more business you get from them. If you are using online channels to communicate with your customers, then chatbots can be useful in simplifying certain tasks for you.

6. You are looking for an interactive marketing platform

Unlike apps and websites, chatbots do not present a passive user experience. You can use chatbots for a highly interactive marketing campaign. And the availability of chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger means you can reach out to more people at once.

7. You need to drive up organizational efficiency

If you are burning too many resources in backend support, chatbots can be your way out. Instead of employing more people for mundane and repetitive tasks, install a chatbot business solution and automate everything.

Automation technologies are taking over all the spheres of our lives, be it the development of smart cities, smart homes, automated workspaces or technologies like smartphones and digital personal assistants. With every new development, we are moving a step closer to a more connected and digital future. Industry experts are unanimous in their opinion that the chatbot technology is still in its infancy. We are only scratching the surface of what a chatbot-enabled future may look like.

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Is Online Meeting Technology Ruining Productivity? By Graham Jones

Taking part in an online meeting is an everyday occurrence for most office workers these days. Indeed, where would we be if we couldn’t have a video conference or a Skype call? Online video conferencing is a $4bn market which is expected to more than double over the next seven years. There are dozens of services available, but Microsoft’s Skype tops the list with just over 22% market share. Cisco’s WebEx is the next biggest system with 11% market share. This is a big arena, with massive global companies taking part. Online meetings are not “small fry”.

However, are they as useful as all this data might suggest? Here’s the problem – businesses love meetings and these new technologies have made meeting up even easier. In the past, meetings would have been more difficult as you needed to book rooms or even travel. Now, everyone can meet no matter where they are based. Goodness, they can even attend a meeting in their pyjamas these days thanks to the technology..! The ease with which we can now “meet up” is so significant that businesses are having meetings all the time.

Anyone who has been in business for a while, though, knows that most meetings are, frankly, time wasters. People get called to meetings which they do not need to attend. The typical time-slot for a meeting is an hour when in many instances ten minutes will suffice. Plus, meetings generate lots of paperwork before and after the event, further eating into time. Plus, research shows that the more meetings that individuals attend, the more they suffer from fatigue and pressure of work. In other words, meetings affect the well-being of employees.

Online meetings have other problems, beyond the bounds of whether they are necessary in the first place. People appear to get “information overload” with electronic meetings. This means that they don’t actually benefit from much of the meeting. Furthermore, the distractions available during online meetings means that many participants are busy doing something else, rather than taking part. Pat yourself on the back now if you have never “slipped away” from an online meeting or conference call and checked your emails or taken a quick peek at Facebook.

The result of all this non-meeting activity and overload of information is that further meetings have to be called because the first one didn’t achieve anything – often because people were not fully participative. Furthermore, in frustration many business leaders then call a physical face-to-face meeting to underline what they have done in an online event, just to make sure that “everyone is on the same page”. Millions of business meetings each week get repeated again online because of the distractive nature of the technology, as well as due to the fact that in many instances it is the real-world, physical closeness of people that provides the best communication.

Online business meetings provide an illusion that progress is being made when in many instances those web-based conferences are delaying things and causing fatigue, stress, overload and a waste of precious time.

How to avoid the productivity paradox of online meetings

Just because you can call an online meeting, doesn’t mean you have to do so. Sometimes, your objective can be met with an email, for instance. Even though you may have Skype, or WebEx or GoToMeeting, or Zoom installed on your computer does not mean that it is a requirement to use that service. Step One in improving productivity is to consider what is the most appropriate method of communication to achieve the objective. Sometimes it might be email, or it might be a team communication system such as Slack.

Step Two is the preparation of a clear agenda with specific objectives. That’s often the problem with face-to-face meetings where agendas are too general and objectives too broad.

Step Three is to consider the agenda and objectives and work out who needs to attend – anyone else is not necessary. That means it might only be one or two people in a team, instead of the whole group of them,

The final step is to work out how long it will take to achieve the desired outcome of the meetings. If that is only 15 minutes, then so be it. Rather than the usual “please put an hour in your diary”, be specific about start and end times. Not only does that focus the mind of the participants, it means you will avoid tangents during the meeting itself.

Online meeting technology and video conferencing clearly have advantages, however, many firms are letting the technology control them, rather than the other way round. It’s time to wrestle the productivity demons away from online meeting technology.

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Developer Warns iPhone Users of iOS Bug By Jimmy Rodela

Text Messaging

A software developer has warned iPhone users of a newly-discovered iOS bug that has a text link that can freeze and crash their gadget.

iPhone users, however, need not worry as an Apple spokesperson confirmed to Mashable that “a fix is coming in a software update next week.”

Bug Can Also Affect Mac Computers

Abraham Masri told BuzzFeed News that he found the bug, which he named “chaiOS,” while “fuzzing with the operating system,” meaning Masri was attempting to break the OS “by inputting random characters into its internal code.”

The bug can also affect Mac computers, Masri claimed.

BuzzFeed News said “chaiOS” doesn’t require any action from the iPhone user to damage the phone.

Bug’s Effects

Twitter user @aaronp613 tested “chaiOS” on an iPhone 5S, and an iPhone X and the bug not only made an iPhone unusable for a few minutes.

@aaronp613 said in a separate BuzzFeed News interview that after the link is sent, “the device will freeze for a few minutes. Then, most of the time, it resprings.”

Also, the iMessage app will stop loading messages and continuously crash, he added.

Mashable, however, reported that some iPhone users said that the text message did not affect their device.

@aaronp613 said “chaiOS” also affects iOS versions 10 to 11.2.5 beta 5 but it has not been tested on the latest iOS beta, 11.2.5 beta 6.

“chaiOS” is not the first bug of its kind to affect iMessage as BuzzFeed News recalled that in 2015, a string of Unicode characters crashed devices, and then in 2016, a nasty link caused Safari to restart.

What’s Next?

iPhone users have been warned about a new bug that can freeze and crash their device, but Apple said a fix would be released next week.

What can you say about this? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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A “Brandless” Form of Anticipation By Daniel Burrus

If you’re a consumer who stays on top of retail trends, you’ve likely come across a line of products whose presentation might, to some, seem stark and even boring.

As the name of the company suggests, Brandless’ products are packaged and sold simply for what they are. Hungry for a bag of vegetable chips? Brandless offers a bag of “vegetable chips.” Looking for hand cream to help smooth out dry skin? Brandless has a “hand cream.” Further, every Brandless product costs $3, no matter if it’s coffee or toilet bowl cleanser.

Brandless is a powerful illustration of a company that’s using a variety of anticipatory organization strategies—a useful example that shows how leveraging both predictable Hard Trends as well as cycles can lead to innovation and success with much lower risk.

Go Opposite

Brandless incorporates a number of principles of my Anticipatory Organization Model that can offer significant results and competitive advantages. One is what I refer to as the Law of Opposites. Instead of pricing like all other retailers with every item having a different price, Brandless decided to do the opposite and dramatically simplify shopping by having one flat fee for every item in its product line. That’s a good example of retail innovation in an era where redefining the customer experience is an imperative if you want to stand out from everyone else and accelerate growth.

Brandless is also taking advantage of another core component of an anticipatory organization, namely, the Hard Trend that demographics represent. At one end of the spectrum are baby boomers who want to make the most of ever-increasing life expectancy. And, to enjoy those years as much as possible, they’re focused on putting healthy, organic products in and on themselves—the sort of organic items that fill Brandless’ shelves.

Then there are the millennials, a group who spends more than $65 billion each year and influences upward of $1 trillion in total consumer spending, according to a recently released study. At the risk of painting a significant segment of the population in one broad stroke, millennials aren’t always keen on doing the same things and buying the same products that prior generations did. While the lure of organics cuts across generations, millennials are likely less attached to those brand names that their parents and grandparents happily bought year after year. Hence, the lure of the “brandless” packaging and message.

Leveraging Cycles

Brandless is also taking advantage of the predictability of cycles—the fact that millennials are behaving pretty much the same way that every generation in history has behaved by ignoring prior generations tastes and buying preferences.

Automobiles are a prime example. People of a certain age are attached to sleek, stylish lines in automobiles. Not so with younger buyers. Just take a look at the number of squared off, boxy cars that are filling the roadways. Once again, a new generation of buyers simply doesn’t want to replicate what prior generations embraced.

That’s an established, cyclical pattern. And, as the Brandless model shows, recognition and application of the leverage that cycles afford can translate into enormous opportunities.

Brandless and other companies like it demonstrate that, in an era characterized by rapid change, it’s also valuable to watch those cycles and trends that have a history of repeating. Just as one-way, linear/exponential change provides opportunities, so, too, can cycles that have occurred in the past and will continue to do so into the future.


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