Always: An Alluring Notion

September 30, 2020

DarkCyber ran a short video about a product called the Dronut. It looks like a small flying donut. You can get a link to the company, its patent document, and a snippet of the promotional video for your product at this link at the 10 minute 36 second point in the show.

I was interested in “Why You Should Be Very Skeptical of Ring’s Indoor Security Drone,” an article in IEEE Spectrum. My team and I have done lectures, briefings, and even a book chapter about Amazon’s policeware and intelware activities. I know first hand that no one, not even law enforcement and intelligence officers, care.

In fact, at one digital security conference last year in San Antonio, an attendee — an Air Force intel professional — summed up the attitude of the 100 people in the lecture hall:

My wife loves Amazon. The company may have some interesting technology, but, come on, even my kids depend on Amazon videos. Amazon is not an intelware player.

Not bad for a colonel’s analytic and content processing skills, right?

I am not going to rehash our research about Amazon’s intelligence related services. I want to focus on IEEE Spectrum’s write up; for example, this statement in the article:

Ring, the smart home company owned by Amazon, announced the Always Home Cam, a “next-level indoor security” system in the form of a small autonomous drone. It costs US $250 and is designed to closely integrate with the rest of Ring’s home security hardware and software. Technologically, it’s impressive. But you almost certainly don’t want one.

Clueless? Not completely. The Amazon surveillance drone is not marketed like the Dronut. Plus, the Amazon home surveillance drone is not a standalone product. The Always Home Cam provides the equivalent of a content acquisition “paint by numbers” module to the Amazon intelware infrastructure.

Little patches of data particularized and indexed by time, location, and other metadata can be cross correlated with other information. Some information is unique to Amazon; for example, the “signal” generated by processing payment history, video viewing, and product purchase information for an account holder. The cross-correlation (Amazon’s lingo from one of its blockchain related inventions) makes it possible to perform the type of analytic work associated with intelligence analysis software and subject matter experts.

The article notes:

Ring hasn’t revealed a lot of details on the drone itself, but here’s what we can puzzle out. My guess is that there’s a planar lidar right at the top that the drone uses to localize, and that it probably has a downward-looking camera as well. Ring says that you pre-map the areas that you want the drone to fly in, which works because the environment mostly doesn’t change. It’s also nice that you don’t have to worry about weather, and minimal battery life isn’t a big deal since you don’t need to fly for very long and the recharging dock is always close by. I like that the user can only direct the drone to specific waypoints rather than piloting it directly, which (depending on how well the drone actually performs) should help minimize crashes.

The author is either ignoring UAS characteristics of surveillance devices or unaware of those conventions. The write up does reference to the challenge of avoiding mobile cameras. The parallel between Amazon’s in home UAS and a telepresence robot misses the point. The data, not the device, are the story. At least the author reaches a reasonable conclusion:

But is it worth $250, questionably better security versus cheap static cameras, and a much larger potential for misuse or abuse? I’m not convinced.

If you are interested in a one hour briefing about Amazon’s policeware and intelware initiative, write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com. Someone on the DarkCyber team will respond with options and fees.

On the other hand, why not be like the intel colonel, “What’s the big deal?”

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2020

An Infographic about Amazon with One Tiny Omission

September 18, 2020

Until the Visual Capitalist diagrammed “The Jeff Bezos Empire In One Giant Chart,” South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had the best portrayal of Bezos. Stone and Parker depicted Bezos as a psychic human with a giant brain akin to something out of a science fiction B movie. The 2018 season of South Park also compared Amazon Fulfillment Centers to indentured servitude complete with renditions of “I Sold My Soul To The Company Store.”

The Visual Capitalist takes a more professional representation of Bezos by breaking down his fortune and depicting it with handy dandy charts. Bezos’s assets total $137 billion, surpassing philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. That fortune will decrease in the future, because Bezos and his wife of twenty-five years MacKenzie Bezos are divorcing. It is currently unknown how the couple will divide the fortune.

Most of Bezos’ empire is Amazon and acquisitions he made through his main company. He purchased Whole Foods, PillPack,, Zappos, and Kiva Systems. Not all of Bezos’s purchases were wise as seen in failed dot-com and Twilio. He has also invested money as a venture capitalist through his Bezos Expeditions.

If that was not enough, his personal investments are also shared:

“Jeff Bezos also invests money on a personal level. He was an angel investor in Google in 1998, and has also put money in Uber and Airbnb. (Note: these last two companies are listed on the Bezos Expeditions website, but on Crunchbase they are listed as personal investments.

Nash Holdings LLC

Nash Holdings is the private company owned by Bezos that bought The Washington Post for $250 million.

Bezos Family Foundation

The BFF is run by Jeff Bezos’ parents, and is funded through Amazon stock. It focuses on early education, and has also made an investment in LightSail Education’s $11 million Series B round.

Blue Origin

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Jeff Bezos is the founder of Blue Origin, an aerospace company that is competing with SpaceX in mankind’s final frontier.”

Does Bezos have enough to purchase his own island yet? Why stop at an island, when he could buy an entire archipelago.

And the omission?

Amazon’s policeware and intelware businesses.

Whitney Grace, September 18, 2020

Amazon ARM: We Are Just Being Efficient. Absolutely.

September 17, 2020

The Register published “AWS Is Bursting with Pride for Its Arm CPU Cores – So Much It’s Put Them behind a Burstable Instance Type.” The main point is that certain AWS uses cases will be less expensive. Good. However, the most interesting facet of the write up is this comment from an individual who uses the handle “Anonymous Coward”; to wit:

ARM servers in the datacenter are not going to be a Thing until there is a sufficiently common systems architecture that important software can be portable between different vendors’ implementations without a massive conversion and optimization effort. Compare for example AWS ARM instances and the Fujitsu ARM compute nodes. The market today is a lot like the desktop computer world before the IBM PC (which, incidentally, is the direct ancestor of the Lintel server of today). Contrast the rapid adoption of GPUs for compute, which is facilitated enormously by Nvidia driving a standardized API across a broad range of cards. The worst case scenario for ARM servers is that the market remains an archipelago of incompatible implementations. The second worst is that AWS ARM instances become the de facto standard by sheer weight of market presence, and everybody else is left trying to “do what AWS does” by inspection, much like S3.

DarkCyber believes that Anonymous Coward has nailed the AWS tactic. Competitors have to be more like Amazon AWS. The long term objective, in DarkCyber’s opinion, is to implement an updated version of IBM’s “lock in tactics.” Pretty savvy for an online vendor of digital books.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2020

Amazon Cares and Helps Small Business

September 16, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Amazon to Invest $18 Billion This Year to Help SMBs.”

“SMB” means small and mid sized businesses. These are the companies that are going out of business because some of the digital monopolists do not care.

The write up states with enthusiasm:

In the next 12 months, the ecommerce behemoth will provide more than 500,000 SMBs in the US currently selling on Amazon, with online selling guidance, education, and support and the company plans to onboard an additional 100,000 US businesses as new sellers in its store.

But that is not all:

Amazon has launched more than 135 new tools and services this year to help sellers manage and grow their businesses, including new ways to connect brands with customers. The company said it will spend an additional $100 million this year to promote small businesses during Prime Day and through the holiday season. Last year during Prime Day, third-party sellers – mostly SMBs – exceeded $2 billion in global sales.

Definitely significant because if it works, Amazon wins. That’s the way it is supposed to be when the Bezos bulldozer drives along the Information Superhighway. That road may feature billboards which say, “We are helping.” Impressive.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2020

Amazon and Its Next Leader According to Bezos Owned AMZ Paper

September 14, 2020

Modern “real news.” Definitely interesting most of the time. I read “Bezos’s Likely Amazon Successor Is an Executive Made in Bezos’s Image.” (I know the story is objective because the page displayed “Support journalism you can trust when it matters most.” Thomson Reuters uses the trust thing too. Okay, trust. The write up is notable because one syllable words ending in “s” require an apostrophe s when used in a possessive structure; for example, Bezos’s newspaper or Bezos’s billions.)

The main point is that the head of Amazon Web Services could take over when Mr. Bezos drives the Bezos bulldozer (no apostrophe because the noun is used as an adjective) into / over another challenge.

I learned:

the company still values high-risk, high-reward bets and is less defined by online shopping than some might think.

Plus, there’s a rare pothole in the Amazon autobahn:

Even in the cloud business, Amazon has had to confront a newly vigorous rival, Microsoft, which has won contracts — including a massive one from the Defense Department — that Amazon might have handily taken just a few years ago.

Are there key points about the possible Bezos replacement? Perhaps:

  • Harvard
  • Ideas, not operations
  • Onliney, not retaily.

This statement seems important:

While retail drives Amazon’s revenue, the cloud business fuels Amazon’s bottom line. AWS generated $3.4 billion in net income in the most recent quarter, about 64 percent of Amazon’s total profit, even though the business accounted for just 12 percent of Amazon’s sales.

Several questions:

  1. Why the profile now?
  2. Why emphasize the anti-administration angle?
  3. What’s the plan for AWS?

I know that the Bezos newspaper is objective. And trust. Yep, the trust thing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2020

Amazon and Halliburton: A Tie Up to Watch? Yep

September 11, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Explor, Halliburton, AWS Collaborate to Achieve Breakthrough with Seismic Data Processing in the Cloud.” The write up explains that crunching massive seismic data sets works. Among the benchmarks reported by the online bookstore and the environmentally-aware engineering and services companies are:

  • An 85% decrease in CDP sort order times: Tested by sorting 308 million traces comprising of 1.72 TB from shot domain to CDP domain, completing the flow in an hour.
  • An 88% decrease in CDP FK Filtering times: Tested with a 57 million-trace subset of the data comprising 318 GB, completing the flow in less than 6 minutes.
  • An 82% decrease in pre-stack time migration times: Tested on the full 165 million-trace dataset comprising of 922GB, completing the flow in 54 minutes.

What do these data suggest? Better, faster, and cheaper processing?

We noted this paragraph in the write up:

“The collaboration with AWS and Explor demonstrates the power of digital investments that Halliburton is making, in this instance to bring high-density surveys to market faster and more economically than ever before.  By working with industry thought leaders like Explor and AWS, we have been able to demonstrate that digital transformation can deliver step-change improvements in the seismic processing market.” – Philip Norlund, Geophysics Domain Manager, Halliburton, Landmark

Keep in mind that these data are slightly more difficult to manipulate than a couple hundred thousand tweets.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2020

Amazon: Nope, We Do Not Have an Interest in Intelware

September 10, 2020

A number of individuals have informed me that Amazon has zero interest in what I call “intelware.” The term refers to services, features, and information products designed to meet the needs of certain government agencies. These individuals are convinced that Amazon sells online books and discounted wireless headphones.

I would point out that there are some who do not accept this denial. One example appears in the “real news” outfit The Verge’s article titled “Former NSA Chief Keith Alexander Has Joined Amazon’s Board of Directors.” General Alexander is a capable individual, and he can share his experience and wisdom to refine the process of selling electric toothbrushes and other fungible oddments. After retiring, he founded IronNet Cybersecurity. Kindles can never be too secure.

As for intelware, Amazon is not in that business. At least, that’s what I have been told. Are there challenges beyond JEDI? Obviously not.

Stephen E Arnold, September 10, 2020

Amazon: Employee Surveillance and the Bezos Bulldozer with DeepLens, Ring, and Alexa Upgrades

September 4, 2020

Editor’s Note: This link to Eyes Everywhere: Amazon’s Surveillance Infrastructure and Revitalizing Worker Power may go bad; that is, happy 404 to you. There’s not much DarkCyber can do. Just a heads up, gentle reader.

The information in a report by Open Markets called Amazon’s Surveillance Infrastructure and Revitalizing Worker Power may be difficult to verify and comprehend. People think of Amazon in terms of boxes with smiley faces and quick deliveries of dog food and Lightning cables.


Happy Amazon boxes.

The 34 page document paints a picture of sad Amazon boxes.


The main point is that the Bezos bulldozer drives over employees, not just local, regional, and national retail outlets:

A fundamental aspect of its power is the corporation’s ability to surveil every aspect of its workers’ behavior and use the surveillance to create a harsh and dehumanizing working environment that produces a constant state of fear, as well as physical and mental anguish. The corporation’s extensive and pervasive surveillance practices deter workers from collectively organizing and harm their physical and mental health. Amazon’s vast surveillance infrastructure constantly makes workers aware that every single movement they make is tracked and scrutinized. When workers make the slightest mistake, Amazon can use its surveillance infrastructure to terminate them.

Several observations:

  1. Amazon is doing what Amazon does. Just like beavers doing what beavers do. Changing behavior is not easy. Evidence: Ask the parents of a child addicted to opioids.
  2. Stakeholders are happy. Think of the the song with the line “money, money, money.”
  3. Amazon has the cash, clout, and commitment to pay for lobbying the US government. So far the President of the United States has been able to catch Amazon’s attention with a JEDI sword strike, but that’s not slowed down Darth Jeff.

Net net: After 20 plus years of zero meaningful regulation, the activities of the Bezos bulldozer should be viewed as a force (like “May the force be with you.”) DarkCyber wants to point out that Amazon is also in the policeware business. The write up may be viewed as validation of Amazon’s investments in this market sector.

Stephen E Arnold, September 4, 2020

Amazon UAS: What Other Applications Exist?

September 4, 2020

Amazon has been poking around unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) for years. According to “Amazon Wins FAA Approval to Deliver Packages by Drone,” some drones will be avoiding part-time drivers, grousing third-party services, and people who allegedly hang phones in trees to get a jump on other drivers. Traffic jams? Not a problem? Jamming and kinetic take downs? What is this a war zone?

The write up states:

Amazon unveiled self-piloting drones that are fully electric, can carry 5 pounds of goods and are designed to deliver items in 30 minutes by dropping them in a backyard.

Perhaps Amazon will market the Ring and DeepLens devices as must-have security mechanisms.

Some questions arose from the DarkCyber team after we learned about the FAA okay:

  1. Can Amazon equip its drones with high-resolution surveillance cameras?
  2. Can Amazon geo fence and area in order to obtain footage of a specific object or person of interest?
  3. Can Amazon modify its UAS technology to compete with companies like Anduril?

Worth monitoring?

Stephen E Arnold, September 4, 2020

No Return of the JEDI for Amazon

August 31, 2020

i read “Conflict of Interest? We’ve Heard of It. AWS on Selection Panel to Choose’s Chief Digi [sic] Officer.” The main point of the article, which I assume is accurate, is that AWS UK top dog Doug Gurr will sit on a committee responsible for choosing the UK’s next chief digital officer. The Register article provides links and contextual information. Helpful.

However, the write up does not address what DarkCyber’s research team is the reason for the approach to providing input. Is it possible that Amazon’s top dogs remember the significant and somewhat humiliating defeat delivered right between the eyes of the tag team of Jeff Bezos and Teresa Carlson, world’s richest human and former head of Microsoft governmental sales respectively?

Losing that work has already had a negative impact on Amazon’s policeware business and dims its hoped for incursions into adjacent services; for example, processing IRS tax returns to identify possibly fraudulent claims. Microsoft has had the original idea of stepping up competitive pressure in Middle Eastern countries which AWS has worked hard to move to these nation states’ technological futures. Yikes.

Net net: Amazon is doing what it can to make sure there will be no return of the JEDI.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2020

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta