Amazonia for September 2, 2019

September 2, 2019

Just a reminder. The DarkCyber team will alter its publication schedule. International travel and conference presentations chop into our regular features. Amazonia, Factualities, and the DarkCyber videos will return to a regular schedule in late October or early November. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s Amazonia.

The Bezos bulldozer has continued to gring through unspoiled lands. Among the pathways cut, chopped, and blazed are these:

Wall Street Journal: Doubts about Amazon

We learned that the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has been trading at 36 times the money the Bezos bulldozer has earned since inception. Flashing yellow lights! Sound sirens! For the negative juice just pay money and read “The Bear Case Against Amazon.”

The front page of the dead tree version of the newspaper published on page B 1, August 30, 2019, an infographic about Amazon’s delivery business. The main point of the graphic struck DarkCyber as gloomy news for FedEx and brown truck brigade UPS.

The method is congruent to what Amazon is doing in its policeware business. The company spaces its moves and then fills in the void. Then one day, Amazon is a monopoly in a business sector.

How does one reconcile the Debbie Downer information in Bear Case with the infographic? One does not have to explain. The WSJ is a definitive source from Mr. Murdoch’s stable of inquisitive minds.

The Chaos of Amazon

DarkCyber read “Even Amazon’s Own Products Are Getting Hijacked by Imposter Sellers.”

This sentence seemed important, although its source is Marketplace Pulse, an information service with which DarkCyber has little knowledge:

“It just highlights yet another case of the chaos that exists on Amazon”

The “it” is hijacked listings. The procedure is to locate a product and then wait until Amazon stops selling that offering. Then a bad actor or a semi bad actor uses the listing to sell unrelated products. Reviews? Positive, of course. The write up explains the procedure this way:

One common tactic is to find a once popular, but now abandoned product and hijack its listing, using the page’s old reviews to make whatever you’re selling appear trustworthy.

There are some mechanics involved; for example, one source in the write up allegedly said:

She [former Amazon professional] says these listings were likely seized by a seller who contacted Amazon’s Seller Support team and asked them to push through a file containing the changes. The team is based mostly overseas, experiences high turnover, and is expected to work quickly, Greer says, and if you find the right person they won’t check what changes the file contains.

Is this a problem? Sure. Fix? Not an easy one. Think of the challenge as a type of YouTube vetting challenge. There’s so much going on, so much churn, one gets chaos. Interesting?

A Wobbling Flywheel?

The Cost of Next Day Delivery” is interesting. We noted this assertion:

Amazon’s next day delivery system has brought chaos and carnage to America’s streets. But the world’s biggest retailer has a system to escape blame.

That should activate the Amazon management team. A “Have you stopped beating your dog?” question puts the individual who is to respond near high RPM flywheel.

We noted this passage from the allegedly accurate essay:

the company’s [a subcontractor to Amazon] drivers worked under relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered.

Okay, one example. A fluke? An outlier? An anomaly?

Buzzfeed asserts that Amazon:

in its relentless bid to offer ever-faster delivery at ever-lower costs, it has built a national delivery system from the ground up. In under six years, Amazon has created a sprawling, decentralized network of thousands of vans operating in and around nearly every major metropolitan area in the country, dropping nearly 5 million packages on America’s doorsteps seven days a week.

Amazon responded to this Buzzfeed essay, according to Buzzfeed, in this way:

“The assertions do not provide an accurate representation of Amazon’s commitment to safety and all the measures we take to ensure millions of packages are delivered to customers without incident. Whether it’s state-of-the art telemetrics and advanced safety technology in last-mile vans, driver safety training programs, or continuous improvements within our mapping and routing technology, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in safety mechanisms across our network, and regularly communicate safety best practices to drivers. We are committed to greater investments and management focus to continuously improve our safety performance.”

Buzzfeed, says Buzzfeed, conducted a year long investigation into delivery by Amazon. The conclusion:

Amazon’s pivot to delivery has, all too often, exposed communities across the country to chaos, exploitative working conditions, and, in many cases, peril.

Amazon kills people. Okay. The delivery vehicles are often poorly maintained. Subcontractors may have interesting pedigrees like interactions with law enforcement. Drivers may be attacked by a dog.

Amazon, like other super efficient, edge companies, pressures its suppliers. The method has worked for companies like Toyota. But the difference, it appears, is that Amazon is not unionized. The workflow for some delivery procedures may be based on what DarkCyber calls the “high school science club management method”. This ungainly phrase suggests, “We make stuff up as we go along.” Is it possible that this approach to management is one which allows cost suppression because mid level staff who often create guidelines, procedures, and handbooks of “rules of the road” are not needed. Making up procedures on the fly is expedient.

Buzzfeed focuses on the problems which, it appears, can be addressed with unionization and a mechanism for accountability. Examples in the Buzzfeed write up range from a desire to maximize resources to abuse of power, for example, this statement from the article:

“Amazon, you are so big,” he said. “Why do you want to treat your business partner this way?”

The answer, it seems to DarkCyber, is that efficiency generates “customer satisfaction” and “revenue.” Which is more important? Buzzfeed does not say. The article points out:

“Our [Amazon’s] #1 priority,” it said, “is getting every package to the customer on time.”

Net net: Buzzfeed is likely to step up its analysis of Amazon. Amazon, DarkCyber hypothesizes, will step up its scrutiny of Buzzfeed.

What other business practices will “me too” news organizations research and document? Amazon has been around since 1994. Interesting time lag: A quarter century and now an exposé? DarkCyber will stay tuned.

We Control You: Freedom of Speech Notwithstanding

We learned that Amazon has told some partners what those partners can say and cannot say, what terms to use and what terms not to use. Jargon control? Nope, just the chugging of the Bezos bulldozer as it prepares to cut a path through a market.

“AWS Forbids Partners Even Mentioning Multi-Cloud!” includes this interesting statement:

The hyper scale giant today released a new co-branding guide (pdf), instructing partners in the AWS Partner Network (APN) how to position their marketing material when going to market with AWS.

We noted this assertion:

Among the guidelines, AWS said it won’t approve the use of terms like “multi-cloud,” “cross cloud,” “any cloud,” “every cloud,” “or any other language that implies designing or supporting more than one cloud provider.”

Perhaps installing an Alexa enabled DeepLens device behind each partner’s partner’s clavicle is a more technically elegant solution. Brain implants are not 100 percent effective. Electro shock, however, may be an alternative.

PowerShell Game for Microsofties

Amazon has released a demo of the new and improved AWS Tools for PowerShell. With Microsoft’s winning the multi-billion dollar Department of Defense job for email and the all-important war fighting tool PowerPoint, Amazon has responded.

Now those skilled in PowerShell can make the Amazon AWS platform perform as never before. The write up reports:

The preview provides developers and administrators faster startup time by allowing them to choose which module to install, and includes a mandatory parameters feature and has removed some old and obsolete cmdlets.

The two companies will continue to jockey for pride of place in the US government. What happens if Amazon introduces its own desktop apps or just buys a Zoho-type service?

The Road Ahead

One can see a glimpse of the future if Amazon lands the JEDI contract and expands its business with the US government. “What Amazon Web Services Security Certification is Doing for Government.” The “government” refers to Australia, a member of the FiveEyes group. The write up explains:

“The Australian government is now getting its hands on new technologies to improve citizen experiences.”

The article quoted an Amazon executive:

Government has always had access to servers, storage and database but they haven’t had access to modern call centre technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, or translation,” Elisha said when he spoke to ZDNet during the AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra this week.

The write includes an affirmation that security is a number one priority at Amazon. Where did the information originate? From Amazon at its Australian Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit.

DarkCyber wants to point out that the US Government Computer News published “AWS to Scan for Misconfigurations.” Yeah, this sort of issue allowed a former Amazon AWS professional to access AWS customer sites, data, and services. For details see “Capital One Hacker ‘Breached 30 Organizations And Mined Crypto currency,’ Claims DOJ.” And don’t overlook “Capital One Hacker Hit with Fresh Charges: She Burgled 30 Other AWS Hosted Orgs, Feds Claim.

Security is obviously a number one priority now that problems are being reported.

A Surprising Alarm from Sultanknish

No, we don’t know anything about Sultanknish. We did note “Amazon Should Not Control the Military Cloud.” The write up asserts:

In the Obama era, Amazon had received a $600 million cloud contract that covers all 17 intelligence agencies. The secret deal was met with protests especially since Amazon’s wasn’t even the lowest bid.

We noted this passage:

The dot com titan began lobbying the Pentagon in 2016. That was the year Amazon’s lobbying expenditures hit a whopping $11 million, up from $1.62 million during the Bush administration. Amazon’s PAC, which the company strongly encourages employees to donate to, accounted for $515,200 in donations to members of Congress.

The write up concludes:

Amazon’s JEDI bid is a threat to national security as long as its CEO is involved with a propaganda outlet for foreign terrorist groups and foreign governments that are waging a war against the United States.

Make your own decision about Sultanknish, please.

Rah Rah for Serverless Multi-Tier Architecture on AWS

Everyone needs this technology, right? Cloud reports that Amazon’s CloudFront content delivery network is available. The value of the write up is enhanced with some nifty block diagrams. Navigate to “Serverless Multi-Tier Architecture on AWS.” The point of the write up is that the traditional approach to computing is no longer the future.

Amazon and Open Source: Tools for AWS

InfoWorld, another fine IDG information service, published “7 Open Source Tools That Make AWS Lambda Better.” First, what’s AWS Lambda? It is serverless stuff. The write up identifies free software which can reduce the chance to “cut your fingers” on the hard edge of Lambda. You will have to register to read the list. Hint: Think about Ruby runtime and AWS SAM CLI, the AWS SDK for Ruby, and the AWS::Record Ruby gem.

Tiny Feet of Clay

Amazon Sent 20 Order Confirmations to the Wrong People” reminds Amazonia that it is not without small, maybe tiny, flaws. We learned:

Twenty Amazon customers in the US had their order updates sent via email to the wrong person thanks to a “technical issue.”

Yep, a technical issue. Tiny little problem if true.

Note: There was another alleged outage. This time Amazon Prime went down according to Digital Reader.

Amazon Glue

Just a quick reminder. Amazon includes work flow tools. Navigate to the Glue announcement here.

Amazon Indian Food

More activity in that vacation wonderland, India. We learned from “Amazon Brings Its Online Grocery Store Amazon Fresh to India”:

Amazon has brought its online grocery store – Amazon Fresh – to India, which will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat items and other packaged food items to customers in two hours flat. The move comes at a time when competition in the online food and grocery space is heating up with rival Wal-Mart-backed Flipkart also eyeing a space in the market.

Will Amazon compete with suppliers? Absolutely. The write up points out:

Amazon India Retail, the wholly-owned food retail unit of Amazon in India, will be among one of the sellers on Fresh. While the company did not confirm it, Cloudtail, which is a joint venture between Narayana Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures and Amazon, will also be a seller on Amazon Fresh.

Controlled competition is good competition one may deduce.

Amazon and Indian Smart Software

Amazon and IIT-Kharagpur have inked a deal to deploy an artificial intelligence portal. Portal does have a bit of a 1990s ring to some of the DarkCyber research team. The platform is, of course, AWS. None of the Google, IBM, Microsoft flailing. But, and this is an important but, Amazon may allow IIT Kharagpur to use its own in house developed cloud. Yikes. Do you think there’s a risk to either AWS or IIT-Kharagpur?

The write up in Teleganda Today explains:

Hands-on AI training will be facilitated to all AI learners, practitioners, and researchers in India through workbooks and the cloud. The system will start off using AWS Cloud, and will also be connected in the future with the in-house cloud developed at IIT Kharagpur. “With more than 200 significant machine learning capabilities launched in the last two years, AWS has the broadest and deepest set of machine learning and AI services focused on solving some of the toughest challenges facing developers. We welcome the opportunity to work with IIT Kharagpur on some of those challenges,” Bratin Saha,Vice President AWS Machine Learning & Engines, said.

Is there a list of these 200 capabilities? Not that DarkCyber has been able to locate. In fact, we’re not certain if anyone has such a list. Secrecy, US government contracts, and paranoia are likely factors in what Amazon provides about SageMaker and its stable mates.

A Peak at the Data Marketplace

The write up has a weird title: “Amazon Is Testing A Clean Room Service, Giving Advertisers Access To New Data Sets.” On the surface, Amazon is going to allow advertisers “to measure campaigns or mingle their first-party data with platform user data, without exposing individuals to targeting or analytics.” Yep, advertising.

We learned:

The Amazon clean room still doesn’t include user-level data or anything per impression, like log files. But it allows cohort-level analytics of at least 50 users with specific attributes that have engaged with a campaign.

What’s the use case? We learned:

A brand or an agency could, for instance, see that a campaign is catching fire with men aged 18-35 in cities, or with Amazon shoppers who have made certain purchases in the past. A mobile campaign might be taking off with Android but not iPhone owners. The clean room could also preserve a timeline for campaigns on Amazon. So a paper towel brand for instance could split out first-time Amazon buyers from customers that re-up every month or two.

The article noted:

Clean room tech is relatively new for the ad industry, but the progression from free ad tech feature to an extremely lucrative platform product is very familiar said one exec, citing the DoubleClick ID and Facebook pixels or app log-ins as examples of freebies that tied brands to their platforms long-term.

What other applications might this online data marketplace “clean room” support? Policeware, anyone?

Eero: A Data Hero?

DarkCyber wants to point out that a typical Amazon AWS exclusive data stream could be Eero data. Amazon wants more home network security services in homes and possibly small businesses. It is interesting to ponder what type of data is available to these devices and consider this question: “Will these data — straight or filtered — find their way back to the Amazon data marketplace. You can get more information about this Eero deal in “Now You Can Get Eero Network Protection Tools for Less.”

Ring Roundup

The Ring video doorbell has become a “thing.” Let’s take a quick look at write ups about a product which may have some “flywheel” benefits.

First, “Ring Says It Doesn’t Use Facial Recognition, but It Has a Head of Face Recognition Research.” The main idea is that the video door bell does not feed data into the Rekognition system in the manner of the DeepLens product. The write up asserts:

While Ring devices don’t currently use facial recognition technology, the company’s Ukraine arm appears to be working on it. “We develop semi-automated crime prevention and monitoring systems which are based on, but not limited to, face recognition,” reads Ring Ukraine’s website. BuzzFeed News also found a 2018 presentation from Ring Ukraine’s “head of face recognition research” online and direct references to the technology on its website. Ring’s contradictory statements about its facial recognition efforts is just the latest example of the Amazon-owned company’s lack of transparency regarding its products.

Second, “Ring Gave Police Stats about Users Who Said No to Law Enforcement Requests” asserts:

In emails obtained by Gizmodo, Ring informed a Florida police department about the number of times residents had refused police access to their cameras or ignored their requests altogether.

Third, “Five Concerns about Amazon Ring’s Deals with the Police” asserts:

More than 400 police departments across the country have partnered with Ring, tech giant Amazon’s “smart” doorbell program, to create a troubling new video surveillance system. Ring films and records any interaction or movement happening at the user’s front door, and alerts users’ phones. These partnerships expand the web of government surveillance of public places, degrade the public’s trust in civic institutions, purposely breed paranoia, and deny citizens the transparency necessary to ensure accountability and create regulations.

DarkCyber finds it interesting that Jeff Bezos’ own newspaper has jumped on the story. See “Doorbell Camera Firm Ring Has Partnered with 400 Police Forces, Extending Surveillance Concerns.”

What’s DarkCyber’s view of these assertions? Good question. But a better question is, “What will Amazon do to deal with this latest revelation about the company’s policeware capabilities?” In China, the government operates massive surveillance operations. In the US, perhaps a single commercial enterprise is doing what the US government cannot do itself?

Donation News

DarkCyber noted a report from the real news outfit CNBC: “Amazon Executives Gave Campaign Contributions to the Head of Congressional Antitrust Probe Two Months before July Hearing.” We noted this statement in the write up:

Over a three-week period starting in late May, five senior executives from Amazon made individual contributions to Rep. David Cicilline, the Democrat from Rhode Island who’s leading the House antitrust investigation into major tech companies, public filings show. Cicilline became the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in January, when Democrats regained control of the House. The executives include Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke, CFO Brian Olsavsky, general counsel David Zapolsky, SVP of worldwide operations Dave Clark, and SVP of North America consumer Doug Herrington. They all contributed the max $2,800 allowed, except for Olsavsky, who donated $1,500.

Coincidence? Probably.

More Blockchain Goodness

“Amazon Web Services Opens Blockchain Building Service Up for Wider Use” reports that Amazon said:

“You can create your [blockchain] network in minutes. You can manage certificates, invite new members, and scale out peer node capacity in order to process transactions more quickly.”

Customers include the Securities and derivatives trading platform Singapore Exchange (SGX), Accenture, non-profit foundation MOBI (Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative) and enterprise asset management company TrackX.

Access is now open for a broader enterprise roll out.

AWS Issue Takes Out B2BX Exchange

This news story has been disappearing from assorted blogs and indexes. The main point is that Amazon AWS experienced an outage during the week of August 19. According to Blocknomi:

A Tokyo-based outage in the Asia Pacific region of Amazon’s popular AWS cloud computing network wreaked havoc on some crypto currency exchanges’ operations on August 23rd. The ensuing chaos let a few traders make off like bandits. Some of the exchanges affected in the episode included Korean exchange KuCoin, Singaporean exchange BitMax, and Binance. As many such companies rely on AWS for web servers and other related infrastructure, these platforms quickly felt the effects of the localized outage.

Reliability? Depends on whom one asks. A speaker at an Amazon conference or someone at B2DX we assume.

Strange Bedfellows: IBM Wearing a Red Hat and AWS Wearing Orange Jammies

We noted that Red Hat (IBM, the cloud giant, remember) and AWS are planning a joint webinar. The topic is how to speed up application development with — you guessed it — Red Hat (IBM, the cloud giant) and Amazon AWS. A very sparse announcement appears on CSO Online. No date but, by golly, you provide your email, and you may get some information. Or, maybe not.

Is Your AWS App / Solution Fast?

DarkCyber noticed that Amazon AWS will run a “Solution Workshop” so an AWS customer can determine the performance of “modern apps.” We think this means that an AWS solution delivers unacceptable, expensive performance. Now Amazon’s partner New Relic — an outfit receiving much love from some US government agencies — will help you figure out what’s going on. The method an “entity-centric” approach across apps, services, hosts, containers, Lambda functions, AWS services, and Kubernetes pods. More information is available from the ever objective outfit Tech Republic.

A Movie Move

The real news outfit CNBC ran a story which we did not spot in our other news feeds. The title? “Disney Sells Its Stake in YES Network to Investor Group That Includes Amazon in $3.47 Billion Deal.”

The deal includes 22 regional sports networks and has rights to the baseball games of the New York Yankees. The deal is what appears to be a strategic tie up between Sinclair and the Bezos bulldozer.

Implications? Nah. Amazon sells online books.

Hasta La Vista Certain Books

The source is not one familiar to DarkCyber. You will have to determine if this write up — “Christian Authors Blast Amazon for Banning Their Books, Selling Pedophilia Titles” — is accurate.

The write up asserts:

Christian authors who once identified as gay or lesbian are highlighting the double standard Amazon is applying by removing their books from the platform while continuing to sell titles that promote pedophilia. Restored Hope Network Executive Director Anne Paulk and pastoral counselor Joe Dallas both saw their books removed from the retail giant. Amazon told some authors that their books, which detail how Jesus transformed their lives and sexual identities, were in “violation of our content guidelines.”

Interesting if true.

Amazon Sued for Subtitles

We noted this news item from the Register, a UK information service: “Audible Hasn’t Even Launched Its AI-Powered Book Subtitles and Publishers Have Already Fired Off a Sueball.” The idea is that Amazon wants to convert audiobooks to text. Seven publishing companies don’t like the idea. The publishers believe that Amazon’s transcription is for Amazon’s benefit. Suspicious lot, those publishers. There is, however, a bright spot. Amazon is opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Nashville. DarkCyber assumes that these aggrieved publishers will want their dead tree books sold therein.

Amazon Surfers: Selected Partners, Resellers, Integrators

Despite the summer doldrums, surf is up for some Amazon partners, resellers, and integrators. Here’s a selection from the last seven days:

Cazena. This outfit provides workload migration services. It’s now part of the Amazon partner network. Source: Yahoo

CenturyLink. The software defined data center outfit now offers a VMware-based private cloud service on the Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) platform. Source: Virtualization Review

Druva. We’re not sure if Druva has become an AWS partner. The company’s cloud data protection service is now available for AWS. Source: Silicon Angle

Mobvista. The SaaS vendor joined AWS APN (Amazon Web Services Partner Network). Source: Yahoo

Verimatrix. The French security and business intelligence vendor has integrated multi-DRM with Amazon Web Services Elemental Secure Packager Encoder Key Exchange (SPEKE) API. Source: Bloomberg

Stephen E Arnold, September 2, 2019


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