Amazonia for August 12, 2019

August 12, 2019

The crushed shrubs and small trees indicate that the Bezos bulldozer rolled through the digital landscape last week. Let’s look at some of the maneuvers the massive crawlers executed.

Amazon Facial Recognition Accuracy

One of the more important reports which appeared last week was “Which Company Does the Best Job at Image Recognition? Microsoft, Amazon, Google, or IBM?” The story, according to one DarkCyber researcher, seemed to be a public relations play. Keep that in mind because the data in the write up are provided without meeting DarkCyber’s factuality scratch test. A sample size of 500 images is unlikely to represent image type (full profile, side view, close up, distance, etc.), different nationalities, lighting conditions, image resolution, and other variables necessary to have confidence in a facial recognition analysis.

The analysis considered four recognition systems: Amazon Rekognition, Google Vision, IBM Watson, and Microsoft Azure (the current name but that can change at any time).

The loser was IBM Watson. DarkCyber found that amusing. Of the three in the race, the winner was — wait for it — Google Vision. Amazon came in second with 77.7 percent “accuracy.” The Orlando Police Department is unlikely to reverse their decision about the Rekognition system. The department appears to have waved goodbye to Rekognition. Microsoft came in “second.”

Here’s the scorecard for the super scientific analysis:

image

One minor point: The context of studies is important. Sample size and other aspects of “context” make a difference. But IBM Watson?

Reseller Agreement Scrutiny

The US government put its pedal to the metal regarding the dominant positions of some high flying US companies. One of these is Amazon./ According to the Verge (which presents the best podcast in the galaxy), Amazon’s reseller deal with Apple is in the spotlight. The Verge reported:

The deal was first announced last fall, ostensibly as a way for Apple to sell on Amazon in an official capacity and cut down on counterfeit or misleadingly marketed products. However, it had the effect of kicking off hundreds of legitimate sellers that were offering low-cost and refurbished Apple products that were no longer for sale by the company itself.

DarkCyber believes that Amazon and Apple may find themselves making more trips to Washington, DC, in the coming months. The investigation comes at a delicate time in the JEDI procurement process. Amazon might lose out to Microsoft, which has some experience in the antitrust arena.

Arrogance and thinking a company is bigger than a government might prove to be an issue. “Senator Wyden Wants Answers from Amazon on Capital One Hack” wants to understand Amazon AWS’s role (or lack of it) in the Capital One data breach. DarkCyber wonders how long Amazon can “just provide a utility service”, leaving the licensees to figure out how to configure, manage, and secure what is the very complex Amazon Web Services “platform.” A wrong answer might have an impact on the $10 billion JEDI contract award. Will Amazon’s “feet on the street” be called on to testify? DarkCyber hopes so.

Amazon and Blockchain

Coverage of Amazon’s digital currency initiatives has been sparse. In our lectures about Amazon’s policeware, the idea of deanonymizing transactions does not compute. Amazon sells eBooks and T shirts, right? DarkCyber noted this story: “Amazon Hints at Putting Advertising Data on a New Blockchain.” The write up states:

The online retailer is looking for a senior software engineer to work in its “Advertising FinTech team focused on a blockchain ledger,” the job listing reads.

DarkCyber finds this interesting. Is there a connection among Amazon’s Ethereum efforts, policeware, and a financial blockchain? Of course not. Amazon sells can openers and customer surveillance devices. No connections.

AWS As an Attack Platform

DarkCyber noted “Phishing Attacks Enlist Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure in Ploys.” The write up stated:

Recent phishing campaigns have been spotted boosting their anti-detection efforts by using Amazon Web Services to host their landing pages. It’s a sign of a nascent trend towards using public cloud storage, according to researchers.

The cyber security firm Proofpoint may have been the first company to go public with this information.

DarkCyber finds this interesting and “old news.” More information about bad actors’ possible leveraging of the sprawling AWS platform is presented in our for fee lecture “Amazon’s Policeware Platform.”

If this open source write up is accurate, there may be more information released in the near future by “real news” organizations.

AWS and Azure: Alleged Hosts for Ploys

A “ploy” is a nice way of saying malware, scams, and other interesting cyber applications. “Phishing Attacks Enlist Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure in Ploys” amplifies the Proofpoint message.

Does Amazon Think Some People Are Stupid?

I read “AWS VP: Old Fashioned Resellers Didn’t Truly Understand Cloud.” I am not sure if the person writing this headline paid attention to his or her fourth grade teacher. One of the DarkCyber research team knew a person whose report card conveyed this hand written message to the child’s parents:

Your child did not understand the concept of exploration and Columbus’ discovery of America.

The write up reports that either the AWS executive or the author of the article is a trifle undiplomatic or politically insensitive.

I noted this passage:

“A lot of the old-fashioned resellers didn’t truly understand cloud,” McCann [an Amazon executive] told CRN in a sit-down last week at the Amazon Spheres, on the technology giant’s headquarters campus in Seattle. “Right now…they’re all learning cloud at high speed.” McCann has been overseeing AWS Marketplace, AWS’ digital catalog of software offerings from some 1,400 independent software vendors (ISVs), since late 2014.

The resellers — at least some of the bright ones — are getting on the Bezos bulldozer.

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“Stay abreast,” enjoins Dave McCann, VP of AWS Market Place. DarkCyber is not sure it can measure up to the lofty standards of a company engaged in such delightful and engaging suggestions.

Plus, the write up reports that the “channel” wants services on the AWS Marketplace. Plus people want to sell software on AWS. And Amazon’s consulting partner business is performing. Amazon is poised to roll out a consulting and services business too. Will Amazon go after the ethically challenged blue-chip and mid-tier consulting firms? Perhaps there is a GLG play in the wings too.

The write up ends with another, almost parental warning:

Channel partners trying to stay abreast of new cloud computing technologies should be boning up on machine learning, the internet of things, containers and serverless, according to McCann.

Well, get with the program and try harder. Ah, the promise of an Amazon echoing with the growl of the Bezos bulldozer drivers.

Is there a detention hall if someone does not “stay abreast”?

Amazon and Child Labor

There many ways to become rich. One of them is to seek out low cost labor. Has Amazon followed this path? DarkCyber does not know. IBI Times published “Amazon to Investigate Child Labour Claims Against China Supplier.” Yep, China. I thought there were some tensions between the US and China. It will be interesting to see how an investigation moves along within the interesting Chinese judicial system. The write up asserts:

Tech giant Amazon will investigate its Chinese supplier Foxconn after reports suggested that it resorted to child labor by hiring schoolchildren and forced them into night shifts and overtime work to meet production targets. The school children were inducted in production lines that were making Amazon Alexa devices including smart speakers. The teenagers worked at overtime and night shifts to attain production quotas for Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot, and Kindle products.

If Foxconn hired kids to build Amazon gizmos, will Amazon be responsible? Probably not. Think in terms of security and AWS responsibility for a licensee’s technical ineptitude.

Moving production is an option, but won’t the same issue arise in other countries where “low cost” labor supports the US consumer thirst for disposable and frequently outmoded gadgets.

DarkCyber has a question, which is probably not important. It is: Will an Amazon investigation work in the manner of the Boeing safety review?

Worth monitoring.

Ah, the Baltics

Amazon may be heading to the Baltic states. “Report: Amazon Mulls Baltic State AWS Expansion” states:

Amazon has registered subsidiaries in Latvia and Estonia called Amazon Data Services Latvia and ADS Estonia, respectively, suggesting that it could be planning a dedicated cloud region for the Baltic states. While Amazon Web Services regions are spread across the world, the current closest facility to the Baltic states are AWS data centers in Stockholm, Sweden.

Latvia and Estonia are close to Russia. What if Russian companies operating via fronts sign up to do business with AWS? What if the interesting Estonian Russian community leverages the AWS infrastructure for selling gold and providing other services to a third party?

Like the US government, perhaps some of the government agencies in Russia would find ways to leverage Amazon AWS resources. An office in Tallinn’s old town might make it easier to interact with some of the more entrepreneurial Russians who live in the city.

TechRepublic provides some possibly accurate information in “Russian Phishing Campaign Using AWS to Host Landing Pages Designed to Avoid Detection.”

Amazon Earnings: Good or Bad?

DarkCyber does not provide financial or investment advice. We did note the Investor Place write up “This Earnings Disappointment Is Another Chance to Buy Amazon Stock.” The key word is “disappointment.” The write up states as “real news”:

Despite 20% growth in sales year-over-year, earnings failed to meet consensus. While operating income was within guidance, the company missed consensus earnings per share of $5.54 by $0.32. Despite this short-term stumble, Amazon.com Inc. continues to be a cash-generating machine.

Those money people can find a way to turn lemonade into lemons. But there was a ray of sunshine peaking through the dark, threatening clouds:

The company’s operating cash flow for the trailing twelve months is up 65% from the prior year. Long-term, Amazon has the dry powder to fund their continued domination of e-commerce (and beyond).

And how did the “disappointment” affect the bulldozer’s chief driver? Check out the “Cashing In” item below. That may provide some — as the Wall Street whiz kids say — color.

Cashing In

We noted a couple of news items about Jeff Bezos’ selling some stock. For pocket money or to pay PR firms to scatter sparklies around those yacht stories. According to My Broadband, published in South Africa, Mr. Bezos sold shares in Amazon worth $2 billion. Other reports peg the dollar return as higher, but $2 billion is a comfortable number. DarkCyber has that amount tucked in a small piggy bank in the Bank of Harrod’s Creek.

We Won’t Listen… We Promise

Information about how the Amazon appliances pay attention and perform some background operations is getting more coverage in the “real news” media. The unbiased MSPowerUser reported that Amazon allows a customer with an Amazon listening and watching and talking device to opt out of voice recordings and the ultra trustworthy human review process. The write up states:

Amazon has been the first to act definitely by allowing users to opt-out of the review process.

We like “the first.” Amazon is a leader.

Non Competes Make News

Amazon seems to have a keen desire to prevent people from getting a job once an individual goes to work for another company. DarkCyber read “Amazon Sues Former AWS Exec for Joining Rival Google Division As Cloud Wars Escalate.” The main idea is that if a person works for a rival, that individual will, knowingly or unknowingly, reveal secrets. Maybe for a Snowden type. Maybe not for a person with a functional ethical compass. Wait. What’s that word? Ethical. I know. A word destined for the lumber room.

DarkCyber noted this statement:

Seattle has become the battleground in the cloud wars as Amazon’s longtime home, with Microsoft just across Lake Washington in Redmond. Google Cloud is moving into a massive campus down the street from Amazon and the two rivals are not off to a very neighborly start. That’s because competition for cloud workers is fierce and the two companies are now wading in the same shallow talent pool.

DarkCyber thinks that this will be a messy legal battle. When elephants fight, the employees get trampled in our experience.

In an increasingly specialized and rarified discipline like cloud computing, will it be possible for a person never to work again.

Just like old school and probably some new school Hollywood producers allegedly scream at a wandering star: “You will never work in this town again!”

Okay, SNAP benefits and sleeping rough seem to be the goal.

Amazon and Data Lake Formation

Venture Beat published “Amazon Announces General Availability of AWS Lake Formation.” The write up reports:

Amazon … announced general availability of AWS Lake Formation, a fully managed service that facilitates the building, securing, and management of data lakes.

The idea is to perform a sequence of tasks (workflow) to federate content and metadata. Once federated, many functions become possible. The automation of content federation is important to many organizations; for example, the CIA, DHS, and GHCQ. What other companies offer similar automation and ancillary services? Maybe Oracle? Who provides database technology to DHS? DarkCyber does not really know. Maybe Oracle? Maybe Voyager Analytics? We will have to wait for a “real news” outfit to answer this question for us, won’t we?

The Elastic Fabric Adaptor

With a data lake and a fabric adaptor, the AWS offerings are starting to evoke the language of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Kubla Khan guy. I read “Scale HPC Workloads with Elastic Fabric Adapter and AWS Parallel Cluster.” This statement was reasonably understandable:

EFA is a network interface for Amazon EC2 instances that enables you to run HPC applications requiring high levels of inter-instance communications (such as computational fluid dynamics, weather modeling, and reservoir simulation) at scale on AWS. It uses an industry-standard operating system bypass technique, with a new custom Scalable Reliable Datagram (SRD) Protocol to enhance the performance of inter-instance communications, which is critical to scaling HPC applications. AWS ParallelCluster takes care of the undifferentiated heavy lifting involved in setting up an HPC cluster with EFA enabled.

The write up provides some step by step instructions for those who did not “bone up” on the wonders of the Byzantine AWS service array. There may be a test on the contents of ~/.parallelcluster/config file.

Amazon Channels IBM Watson Marketing

DarkCyber does not want to make too much of this “me too” approach to sales and marketing. But we noted “Amazon’s AWS Will Help Health Researchers Diagnose Patients and Monitor Disease.” The write up explains:

The company’s Amazon Web Services arm is lending its machine learning technology to the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance to assist in the development of new technologies around diagnosing patients and monitoring disease.

The write up does mention some of Amazon’s other health initiatives; for example:

Amazon has been increasingly pushing its way into public health, most notably with the formation of Haven, a consortium between itself, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway to experiment with healthcare systems. Last year, Amazon bought mail-order pharmacy PillPack for $753 million, and this year it made Alexa HIPAA compliant, giving it the ability to transmit patient healthcare data.

What’s not covered is the utility of these data to other Amazon business initiatives. On one hand, that’s typical of “real news.” On the other, the failure to connect the dots with regard to medical fraud is indicative of the lack of understanding some have about the Amazon trajectory.

Partners, Resellers, and Consultants

It may be summertime, but the living is not easy for hard working Amazon centric initiatives. Here’s a selection of announcements in the last week:

CloudHesive is now a premier consulting partner in the Amazon Services Partner Network. Source: Yahoo

GigaSpaces has moved its big data analytics processing platform to Amazon. DarkCyber likes the name: InsightEdge.  Source: Yahoo

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