Amazon Ads Frustrate Shoppers

December 10, 2019

Is it wise for Amazon to put advertising revenue above customer satisfaction? The Washington Times reports, “Ad Business a Boon for Amazon but a Turn-Off for Shoppers.” Amazon now intersperses its organic search results with paid ads, distinguishable only by a small gray “Sponsored” label. Those that appear at the top of the results can be misleading—they are not actually the top results.

Amazon started mixing its shopping platform with its ad service in 2014 and has since beat out Microsoft to become the third-largest online ad platform (after Google and Facebook). It has a peculiar advantage—many shoppers have become accustomed to starting their product searches at Amazon, bypassing search engines like Google and Bing altogether. However, will that change as it gets harder and harder for users to find what they are actually looking for on the site? Reporter Joseph Pisani writes:

“Advertising is one of Amazon’s fastest-growing businesses, helping to offset some of its more expensive endeavors like one-day delivery, which is hugely popular with customers but also a drain on the company. Amazon hasn’t said exactly how much it makes from ads, but its ‘other’ business is mostly made up of advertising, which brought in $9.3 billion in the first nine months of this year, up 38% from the same period the year before. Amazon launched its auction-like ad platform in 2014. Advertisers bid for specific keywords, similar to what search giant Google does. Skippy, for example, can bid to show up when someone searches for ‘peanut butter’ or its rival, ‘Jif.’ Some keywords can cost under a buck. Sought-after ones could cost much more. Amazon gets paid only when someone clicks on the ad, even if the product isn’t purchased. The company said its sponsored ads are a way for customers to find products they may be interested in. And it uses machine-learning technology to try and show ads that are relevant to shoppers. But that doesn’t always happen.”

For example, the author of a recent book about human lifespan and aging felt compelled to warn his followers—supplement makers had pegged his readership as potential customers and paid to have their ads show up whenever someone searched for his book. Not only did it make it harder for readers to find the book, it kind of looked like the author endorsed the supplements; he most certainly did not. Though Amazon removed those ads after the Associated Press got involved, the potential for such tactics remains.

Cynthia Murrell, December 10, 2019

Amazonia for September 9, 2019

September 9, 2019

At the airport. Waiting. Here are a few nuggets the Bezos bulldozer left in its wake last week.

Arrests at Amazon

Forward reported that “hundreds of protesters organized by the Jewish group Never Again Action” were making their voices heard. The scene was Boston. Allegedly 12 activist were arrested after entering the Amazon facility and refusing to leave. DarkCyber thinks that protesting ICE is likely to get one put on ICE in the local lock up. The key point in the write up:

Amazon does not provide services directly to ICE, but does provide cloud hosting services to ICE’s subcontractors, according to the tech website The Verge. Amazon Web Services also hosts Department of Homeland Security databases that allow officials from numerous agencies to track immigrants.

Amazon Wants in Your Auto

Google landed General Motors. Amazon wants to go along on your rides. “Alexa, Roll Down the Windows!” Inside Amazon’s Quest to Get in Your Car” explains:

Amazon has been working hard on Alexa Auto for the past two years. Now it hopes to convince automakers to embed the platform into their new cars.

A revised auto SDK is forthcoming. We learned:

Amazon is set to announce the second version of the Alexa Auto SDK. This update will allow Alexa to do more things when the car’s internet connection is interrupted, by switching to to a mobile phone (connected to the car via Bluetooth or USB) for the connection needed to call, message, or stream music from services such as Amazon Music and Pandora. The new SDK also enables a couple of new offline car-control features, including the ability to turn on defrost and in-cabin lighting. However, Alexa Auto SDK still does not support the ability to control the ignition, door locks, or headlights using voice commands, whether the car has an internet connection or not.

DarkCyber assumes that the Bezos bulldozer is already equipped with these capabilities.

Amazon Personnel Management Gets the Evil Eye

We spotted “The Human Cost of Amazon’s Fast, Free Shipping” in the New York Times and then on the MSN.com Web site. The write up appears to be a research summary with the original work done by Pro Publica. In short, Microsoft was keen to get this tabloid-esque exposé in front of Azure tinted eyeballs. Our take: Amazon is a bad personnel management outfit. Boo.

The main point is simple:

In its relentless push for e-commerce dominance, Amazon has built a huge logistics operation in recent years to get more goods to customers’ homes in less and less time. As it moves to reduce its reliance on legacy carriers like United Parcel Service, the retailer has created a network of contractors across the country that allows the company to expand and shrink the delivery force as needed, while avoiding the costs of taking on permanent employees.

Efficiency is okay. Efficiency which harms employees is not okay. But the human factor is likely to be shaped. Amazon wants robots. A capital investment is a two-fer: Lower taxes, no overworked humanoids burdening the online bookstore with benefits, health care, and on the job incidents.

Harsh Words for AWS

DarkCyber does not know if these assertions in this Reddit post are accurate. However, one may want to apprise oneself of these issues. Check out this Reddit post.

Summer Sale

If you use AWS EFS infrequent access, you get a deal. Silicon Angle reported that Amazon has cut prices AWS EFS Infrequent Access. How much of a price chop? For some customers, a $1.00 charge could become $0.08. Storage is just $0.08 per gigabyte. Also, Lifecycle Management service for EFS have been trimmed as well. Why? DarkCyber is hypothesizing but grousing about the “hidden” costs of AWS seem to be cropping up in online discussion groups. Plus, there’s some bad publicity about AWS reliability. Team Azure keeps pecking at AWS. Will more price cuts follow? Tough to predict the future.

Partners, Resellers, Integrators

Accenture. The accounting/consulting/billing machine has team with Amazon to offer managed blockchain services for “small scale producers into the value chain.” No we don’t know what this means. Source: Forbes

Baffle. This cyber security firm is now an “AWS Database Ready Technology Partner.” Source: Help Net Security

Esono. This consultant provides a VMware cloud on AWS. The function is “the new manager of cloud environment. Source: CIO Review

ICL. This global specialty minerals and specialty chemicals company will use AWS to deliver its digital services to agricultural professionals. ICL is based in Israel. Source: MarketWatch

Mobvista. The company is now part of the Amazon partner network. Source: Yahoo

NRGene. This AI and genomic outfit is not an Amazon advanced technology partner. Source: Digital Journal

Privo. This AWS consulting firm is now a premier consulting partner. Source: Marketwatch

Pureport. This multi cloud networking provider said that its Multi cloud Fabric platform now supports AWS Transit Gateway over AWS Direct Connect. Source: Capacity Media

Verimatrix. The Paris-based service provider has announced “interoperability between the Verimatrix Multi-DRM solution and the Secure Packager Encoder Key Exchange (SPEKE) API developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS)”. Bloomberg

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

Amazonia for August 26, 2019

August 26, 2019

Amazon has been criticized in the last seven days. If anything, the scrutiny of the firm has increased. Examples include reactions to good news tweets from happy warehouse workers to stronger hints that government investigations are gathering steam. Other developments DarkCyber noted are:

Amazon AWS Crashes

DarkCyber spotted a report from FXStreet with the disconcerting headline: “The Amazon Web Services Crash Is Causing Havoc with Crypto Exchanges (Could Explain BitMex).” The write up presents this information:

AWS has crashed according to reports on twitter causing havoc at crypto currency exchanges.

Coindesk has chimed in, reporting that KuCoin is having problems.

If true, one might pose this question:

How reliable is Amazon AWS?

DarkCyber hypothesizes that the answer will be, “Good enough.” But is good enough good enough? DarkCyber is feeling Gnostic today.)

More Publishers Grousing, Squawking, and Releasing Legal Eagles

Reuters reported that top US publishers are suing Amazon Audible. The reason? Copyright infringement. The real news outfit reported:

Audible was sued by some of the top U.S. publishers for copyright infringement on Friday, aiming to block a planned rollout of a feature called ‘Audible Captions’ that shows the text on screen as a book is narrated.

The idea is that Amazon needs to obtain permission to display text on a screen. (Will some produce a motion picture channeling “Snakes on a Plane” with the title “Text on a Screen? The FBI agent could be played by Maya Mavgee maybe?)

Amazon Gives Up Control of It Site and Other Horrors

“Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products” has a serious allegation about the online bookstore. The pay walled story includes a nifty illustration. Here’s a snippet of the image:

image

Presumably the stuffed animals might harm you. The clock? Maybe it will chop off a child’s fingers. The flashlight? It could explode and remove your entire hand! The sticker? Oh, the sticker?

How many Amazon products are banned? Ars Technica says, “4,100” and references the Wall Street Journal.

The consequences are too horrible to contemplate. Amazon has to clean up its product offerings?

What would this product do to you?

image

The answer DarkCyber knows not.

PS. For a similar “Amazon is bad” write up. Check out the New York Times’ disclosure that the George Orwell you buy on Amazon may be a fake, rewritten, or some other dastardly bastardization of 1984 in 2019. Source: New York Times, complete with pay wall, begging for email address, etc. from a somewhat needy Gray Lady.

Amazon: Hard Sell at the Pentagon

ProPublica may be doing a type of journalism not practiced at the Washington Post. The nonprofit news out published “How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon.” The subtitle is a click magnet:

Tech moguls like Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt have gotten unprecedented access to the Pentagon. And one whistle blower who raised flags has paid the price.

When printed out, the article required 13 pages. Please navigate to the source document or one of the recycled versions of the story.

Several observations are warranted:

  1. Blowing the whistle on big wheels does not seem to be a career enhancing action. Just sayin’.
  2. The emphasis on Amazon is okay, but the real subject of the write up is the GOOG. But once Google fired the Department of Defense, changing the title was probably easier than beefing up the Amazon content.
  3. The Google may have been in a prime position to nab significant billions from the DoD. But quitting Project Maven, opening the door for Anduril Industries, and igniting a certain Silicon Valley big wheel to toss around suggestions of treason was significant.

There is juicy Amazon fruit in the write up. But the Google is front and center in this interesting company.

Will Amazon “win” the JEDI contract? DarkCyber is not sure. We hope it works better than the first delivered F 35 aircraft when JEDI leaves the launch pad. (No, we did not consult an “oracle” for this information.)

Amazon Enhances Australia

ZDNet published “What Amazon Web Services Security Certification Is Doing for Government.” The main idea is that the government of Australia is “now getting its hands on new technology.” DarkCyber learned:

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) achieved protected-level certification earlier this year, which meant it could provide storage for highly sensitive government workloads out of its AWS Asia Pacific region in Sydney, the company’s head of solution architecture Simon Elisha said it helped “unlock innovation” for the public sector.

Will similar benefits accrue to the US if Amazon wins the JEDI competition?

Also related to Australia: ZDNet reports that Amazon now offers a job placement service for Australian veterans. Good for Australian veterans, yes. The initiative appears to be part of Amazon’s effort to teach programmers how to make Amazon the world’s operating environment and know about Amazon’s hundreds of products, services, and functions.

Amazon: Big Revenue, Tiny Profits

The write up “Amazon’s Tiny Profits Explained.” We had a habit of napping in Econ 101 and just studying for the tests in Finance class. Amazon uses a range of techniques to keep profits down. There’s even a hockey stick and earthworm chart to show how the numbers have flower for a decade. Mr. Bezos worked on Wall Street, which may be something to keep in mind.

image

DarkCyber thinks it understands the profit method. The write up does not tackle a question DarkCyber finds more interesting; that is,

Why does Amazon pay low or no taxes?

The write up has an answer: Investment. We noted:

Amazon’s internal investments also keep its tax bill down, saving the company money. While we don’t know exactly what Amazon pays in taxes, various estimates suggest its rate is low thanks in part to its huge investments in its business. What we do know is that its taxes have provided plenty of fodder for presidential candidates like Joe Biden, who’s mentioned it on his campaign and on Twitter, and Elizabeth Warren, who included the company as an example in her new corporate tax proposal. President Donald Trump has also harangued the company for not paying enough in taxes. Amazon has responded that it’s simply paying what the government says it owes.

How skilled are Amazon’s finance and tax professionals? Skilled enough to keep Mr. Bezos happy.

Oh, Oh, Alexa: Dumber than Google?

We noted this write up by a relative of Debbie Downer called “The Results Are In: Alexa Is Legitimately Dumber than Siri and Google Assistant.” First off, DarkCyber would just say “Alexa is dumber than Siri and Google Assistant.” The legitimately and the results don’t add much. Alexa is dumb could be considered suitable as a headline as well.

The main point of the write up? Alexa is dumb.

We noted this statement:

The venture capital firm recently asked Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant the same 800 questions. Google Assistant was the most successful of the bunch and was able to answer 93% of the questions correctly. In comparison, Siri was only able to get 83% of the questions right, and Alexa got 80%. Samsung’s Bixby and Microsoft’s Cortana, both lesser-used voice assistants, didn’t even make the cut.

I am not sure is I have much confidence in venture capital funded or completed research. The scores appear to fall within the range of competent smart software systems. Keep in mind that accuracy rates with 10 to 20 percent “wrong” answers is likely to make decisions generated by these wondrous numerical recipes wrong— a lot. If one of those questions pertains to the antidote required to save your child, are you going to rely on smart software or a trained physician?

Dumb, by the way, is relative. Identifying rotten tomatoes is different from identifying bad actors. But the name of the game today is “good enough.” That’s what these smart systems deliver. And you know what? That’s good enough, which is something Debbie Downer intuits.

A Vote of Not Much Confidence

The assumption that Amazon is the solution to a range of problems may be correct for some people. “Companies Should Disclose Amazon Web Services as Material Risk” reminds people that “Amazon’s hack prone cloud computing platform” is an issue. The negative paint daub is a reaction to the former AWS professional who breached security at Capital One and possibly more than 24 other companies. DarkCyber noted this statement in the report:

regardless of any potential SEC actions, shareholders should be demanding answers about AWS usage from companies already in their portfolio and those in which they are considering investing.

Amazon Forecast Available

Amazon has made its machine learning technology to the public. Amazon Forecast is a managed service which outputs forecasts. With the technology one can predict demand for products and services. The system also makes it possible to predict infrastructure requirements, energy demand, and similar variables; for example, allocation of police resources. Amazon Forecast produces private, custom models that can help developers make predictions that are up to 50% more accurate than traditional methods.Amazon Forecast automatically sets up a data pipeline, ingests data, trains a model, provides accuracy metrics, and performs forecasts. Amazon asserts that developers do not have to have any expertise in machine learning to use the service. More information is available at https://aws.amazon.com/forecast/. DarkCyber anticipates that as this product matures, its functions will be a direct competitive threat to Palantir Technologies, Recorded Future, and similar policeware and intelware vendors.

Amazon to Increase Staff in Portland

BizJournals reported that Amazon will add up to 400 new jobs in Portland, Oregon. This “real news” item is protected by a pay wall. But a free version with more information is available from MarketWatch at this link. Amazon has been a good corporate citizen. We learned:

The company has created more than 3,500 full-time jobs in Oregon since 2010 and invested over $9 billion in the state, including customer fulfillment facilities, cloud infrastructure, and compensation to its employees.

Amazon India

We reported that Amazon has been chugging toward India. The Amazon facility is, according to Reuters, “its biggest global campus.” Amazon India is growing fast and needs to expand in Hyderabad. How big?

The new campus in India, spread over 9.5 acres and costing “hundreds of millions of dollars”, will house over 15,000 employees, the company said. Amazon has 62,000 employees in India, roughly a third of whom are based in Hyderabad.

Portland’s 400 staff additions sends an interesting signal.

Move Over US Medical Database/Taxonomy Experts. AWS Is Now the Sheriff of This Here Domain

The individuals who build controlled vocabularies have embraced the term “metadata”. Goodbye, indexing. Jargon is better. Some of the people who build controlled term lists are into certain fields. Medical terminology is an example which keeps “Taxonomy in a Day” types at bay.

Who should create approved medical terminology? How about the National Institutes of Health?

Wrong.

The correct answer appears in “The ADHA Is Simplifying Its Clinical Terminology Database with AWS.” The ZDNet write up reports like a good “real news” outfit:

the ADHA has developed NCTS 2.0 to be more simplified by taking a serverless approach to the system to take advantage of the AWS shared responsibility model.

DarkCyber thinks that this is important, a harbinger, and an approach coming to America.

Defining terms frames reality. When reality is the AWS SageMaker system, there will be some downstream adjustments that individuals, indexers, and commercial health and database publishers will find interesting.

Change or die in the Amazon forest.

Amazon Bahrain Is Open and Training People

Get trained up or get left at the station. AWS is holding cloud training for Bahrain businesses. Why? you ask.

Trade Arabia states:

the new region adds to the already existing investment of infrastructure from Amazon in the Middle East with the already operational Amazon CloudFront edge locations in the cities Dubai, and Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates.

Amazon AWS Inspires Third Party Hardware

We found “Renesas Electronics Enhanced RX65N WiFi Connectivity Cloud Kit Simplifies Secure IoT Endpoint Device Connections to Amazon Web Services” long winded. The main point is that Renesas built a card which includes on board support for Amazon FreeRTOS. Connection to AWS is, thus, easy. What else is on the device? Here’s a short list: Dual bank flash for over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates and Trusted Secure IP (TSIP). The cost? Just $50.

Amazon Supported Ignite: Farm to Consumer Start Up

All the Farms is a Web site that finds farms. The idea is that a person can locate fresh produce near one’s home. According to the Register Guard:

The US Ignite Startup Accelerator Program, partnered with Amazon Web Services, this year accepted 19 startups from across the country. Each was deemed a business-ready startup with a product that could help create “smart cities.”

Like Google, Amazon wants to spot high potential start ups. If some of those outfits need cloud technology, it is possible that the Bezos bulldozer could hook a needy outfit up to the megawatt outfit’s data center. Any connection to Whole Foods? The write up does not speculate.

Amazon and Blockchain

Amazon has announced that its Managed Blockchain is going to get cloud support through Amazon’s CloudFormation. The idea is that scaling will be easier. Source: FXStreet

Gaps in AWS Security? Your Problem

According to Forbes, the capitalist tool, yes. “The Truth About Privileged Access Security On AWS and Other Public Clouds” reveals that basic security services are provided but:

the free version often doesn’t go far enough to support PAM at the enterprise level. To AWS’s credit, they continue to invest in IAM features while fine-tuning how Config Rules in their IAM can create alerts using AWS Lambda. AWS’s native IAM can also integrate at the API level to HR systems and corporate directories, and suspend users who violate access privileges.

The write  up points out:

  1. AWS can’t protect you
  2. Use the security model provided
  3. Use the AWS identity infrastructure
  4. You can go cross cloud with security.

How? It’s simple. Just assemble the parts shown in the figure below:

shared responsibility model

Remember how IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft would lock customers in? Amazon uses the same methods.

Partners/Resellers/Consultants

Amazon continues to gather third parties for a Bezos bulldozer ride. Examples are:

Academy Software Foundation. This outfit has snagged AWS as a premier member. Wait. Amazon has joined the movie industry outfit. Source: Newkerala

Druva. The data protection start up enables intelligent data storage on AWS. Source: Silicon Angle

Rockset. The company has released areal time SQL for Amazon’s DynamoDB. Source: MarketWatch

SoftServe. The consulting firm has expanded its relationship with Amazon. Source: Yahoo

Stackery. The serverless workflow software is now available on AWS. Apps can be managed from development to production. Source: Digital Journal

Wespac. The Little Ripper drone is now an Amazon partner.

Customers can now tap into near real time video streaming via the cloud. Anduril Industries, are you nervous? Source: Aero News Net

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2019

Amazonia for August 19, 2019

August 19, 2019

Editorial note: Amazonia will not appear in September and October 2019. Due to international travel and conference commitments, it will be able to post this summary each week. If significant Amazon news surfaces and we have access to our publishing system, we will put the item in the daily DarkCyber posts. (The posts between September 10 and September 21, 2019, will be published automatically. Internet access in some of the areas from which the team will be operating may not be available.)

News about Amazon continues to trend toward the happy face side of the spectrum. The flood of “new” and “improved” announcements from the Bezos bulldozer have slowed. With record heat indices, perhaps the giant orange behemoth has overheated and cooling off in a large Amazon warehouse filled with happy, happy Tweeters?

Management, Employees, Immigration, and Religion: A Volatile Mix

DarkCyber noted “Jews Protesting Amazon’s Business with ICE Arrested.” This passage captured the basics of the report:

40 Jews were arrested in New York Protesting Amazon. A protest of Amazon’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saw forty Jews arrested in New York City. Close to 700 people were pulled out in the previous week in the agency’s largest-ever raid. The activists rallied together to bring attention to Amazon’s cloud contracts with Palantir Technologies and ICE. Palantir Technologies gives ICE data which they make use of in enforcement actions as well as immigration raids.

The write up included this allegedly accurate factoid:

The protesters weren’t alone. They were joined by 50 other demonstrations which happened across the United States to highlight Tisha b’Av. Tisha b’Av is a Jewish day of mourning and was observed by Jews in the United States to oppose the immigration policy of the United States. The protests took place in many cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.

If true, Amazon faces another staff management challenge. The mixture of religion and law enforcement is complex. DarkCyber will monitor the push back Amazon may be experiencing.

Happy Tweeters

The source of this “real news” is Bellingcat, an online “real news” outfit. We noted this story: “Amazon’s Online Bezos Brigade Unleashed on Twitter.” The thrust of the story is interesting because it reminded DarkCyber of methods employed by those who seek to manipulate the “augmenting” functions of certain social media channels.

The write up asserted:

Last year, Amazon rolled out a program where employees at these fulfillment centers (warehouses) are able to also work as brand ambassadors to describe their experiences working at Amazon. A number of media outlets reported on this new program last year after the first wave of Ambassadors sent out bizarre tweets promoting Amazon’s workplace conditions.

The acronym FC refers to an Amazon fulfillment center or warehouses. There have been allegations about the work environment in these facilities.

DarkCyber finds the report intriguing. If Amazon is manipulating some content streams, would other tech giants use similar tactics? What if search results on Bing, Google, or Yandex were shaped? What if Facebook were tweaking what content appears, where it appears, and when it appears?

DarkCyber has no answer to these questions. But the Amazon operation runs on efficiency and disintermediation, not raw innovation and invention. Therefore, it is possible that the fat bull’s eye of social media content streams may have caught an Amazon whiz kid’s attention.

There’s another approach to the topic in “There’s Something Fishy about Amazon’s FC Ambassadors.”

Amazon Capital One: No Problems

Cyberscoop reported that Amazon found no significant issues at other companies allegedly breached by Paige Thompson. The write up reports that Amazon said:

“As Capital One outlined in their public announcement, the attack occurred due to a misconfiguration error at the application layer of a firewall installed by Capital One, exacerbated by permissions set by Capital One that were likely broader than intended,” Stephen Schmidt, the chief information security officer for AWS, said in an Aug. 13 response to Wyden.

Paige Thompson once worked at Amazon. Amazon will be more proactive going forward. Amazon will “do more to ensure its anomaly detection services “more broadly adopted and accessible in every geographic region.” Otherwise, no problems.

Amazon Uses Old School Leveraging Methods: Vendors’ Choice

Amazon’s alleged vendor management tactics were the subject of “Amazon Offered Vendors ‘Amazon’s Choice’ Labels in Return for Ad Spending and Lower Prices.” The main point of the write up seems to be:

Amazon’s Choice label, which is a mark that denotes that an item is recommended, gives certain products and items higher and more obvious placement in search results. While it’s unclear how exactly the mark is earned, it’s been accepted that it’s generally a mix of product listing and specifications, price and reviews, operated by Amazon’s algorithms. But sources say that Amazon actually offered sellers the chance to bid on the mark back in 2017.

DarkCyber interprets this statement as the long way around a very small barn. The idea may be to use leverage to herd some products shepherds to a Bezos controlled happy valley. There are other terms which might be used to describe this approach. We prefer “leverage” to “strong arm” or “coercion.” If you are curious, the novel “Sophie’s Choice” is available for the Kindle for about $9, or you could buy it in hardcover for a low as $1.50. Look for the small blue price. Your choice.

Amazon: Price Controls for Some Sellers?

Modern Retail published “A Slippery Slope: Amazon Wants to Control Third Party Sellers Product Pricing.” The idea is that sellers in its third party marketplace submits a product to Amazon. Amazon’s smart software prices the product. The article states:

According to Amazon, SBA doesn’t cost anything additional to FBA, which charges sellers a fee to store and ship items from Amazon’s warehouses with Prime Shipping. With SBA, Amazon also exerts control over the product’s sale price, by dynamically pricing products to make sure Amazon’s prices are lowest.

Modern Retail notes:

But sellers should be wary when forfeiting control over any aspect of their business — and particularly pricing — to Amazon.

Slippery slope for whom? Amazon or its partners in the third party special category? The article sidesteps many questions. Hopefully investigators will be more persistent if Amazon’s use of its market position in an improper way becomes a matter of interest.

Amazon and Modern Marketing: Cheap Gasoline

Cops Put a Stop to Amazon’s 30 Cent “Mrs. Maisel Gas Promo” reports that the lure of cheap fuel was indeed a marketing magnet. To promote an Amazon film, Amazon hit upon the idea of using an idea from the 1950s. DarkCyber learned:

Santa Monica police made Amazon suspend a one-day Marvelous Mrs. Maisel promotion that charged people 30 cents for gas at a station to reflect prices in 1959 (when the show is set) due to sheer demand. Apparently, the traffic snarls from lined up cars were so severe that law enforcement had no choice but to shut it down.

Any publicity is good publicity, particularly in the Los Angeles area.

The Lure of India

Amazon Nears Deal for Up to 10% of India’s Second-Largest Retailer” explains that India is important to the Bezos bulldozer. The write up asserts:

Amazon.com Inc. is in late-stage talks to acquire as much as 10% of India’s Future Retail Ltd., people familiar with the negotiations said, as the U.S. company moves to bolster its brick-and-mortar presence in one of the world’s fastest-growing retail markets.

This is not a surprise. Amazon will follow the data to nation states where its approach to efficiency is likely to be welcomed. That’s the assumption.

Amazon Does Do Emotion. Not Its. Yours.

Amazon’s policeware capabilities continue to mature. The facial recognition subsystem has added emotion recognition to its capabilities. “AWS Adds Fear to Facial Recognition Repertoire, Draws Immediate Fire.” DarkCyber does not want to speculate about the use case for fear recognition. The write up is fearless and reports:

The public cloud behemoth has also improved accuracy for emotion detection of the other seven emotions it recognizes. These are “happy”, “sad”, “angry”, “surprised”, “disgusted”, “calm”, and “confused. It has also improved age range estimation accuracy.

DarkCyber anticipates more public announcements about the features and functionality of the SageMaker linked facial recognition subsystem; for example, how could age recognition integrate with surveillance of bars and dance clubs?

Amazon Donates Returns

Amazon Will Now Donate Unsold Merchandize by Default Instead of Trashing It” explains that “will donate unwanted products from third-party Marketplace sellers instead of sending them to the garbage dump.” The new program is Fulfilled by Amazon Donations. The write up included this statement:

The goal is to reduce waste and to allow sellers a more environmental friendly and cheaper way to get rid of unsold inventory. Prior to the new program, Amazon charged 35 cents less, or just 15 cents per unit, to dispose of a product rather than donate it.

The article did not comment on the tax upside or downside of the donation program. DarkCyber thinks this may be of interest to some Amazon observers.

Amazon and Publishing: Is a Takeover Underway?

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut” explains that Amazon may take over traditional publishing. The idea is not a new one. Here’s a summary of where Amazon is in the once chummy world of publishing:

As Amazon Studios does with movies, Amazon Publishing feeds the content pipelines created by the tech giant’s online storefront and Amazon Prime membership program. At its most extreme, Amazon Publishing is a triumph of vertical engineering: If a reader buys one of its titles on a Kindle, Amazon receives a cut both as publisher and as bookseller—not to mention whatever markup it made on the device in the first place, as well as the amortized value of having created more content to draw people into its various book-subscription offerings. (One literary agent summed it up succinctly to The Wall Street Journal in January: “They aren’t gaming the system. They own the system.”)

The idea that Amazon would take over “publishing” is interesting, but once the hot properties are skimmed, what’s left in what has been for many firms a low margin business reduced to begging for dollars, pay walls, and ads which obscure the “real news”?

Amazon Police Interaction: Ring, Ring

Ring Rewarded Users for Reporting Suspicious Activities” provides more allegedly accurate information about Amazon’s burgeoning policeware business. The article states that Amazon

encouraged users to form Watch teams and to post videos on social media to receive promo codes for future devices. It also promised free swag to anyone who recruits 10 new users and to those who blog about Ring “in a positive way,” as well as 50 percent discounts on Ring products to those who can solve a crime with the help of local cops.

More information may be available at this link. Note: Content may be removed and/or a paywall may be in place. DarkCyber does not update links to keep pace with the fluid, uncertain world of free content from “real news” source.

Amazon and Blockchain

DarkCyber noted FXStreet’s article “Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Will Be Integrated with the Firm’s Managed Blockchain.” Amazon has indicated that some of its services can perform deanonymization. The article does not address that interesting facet of Amazon’s blockchain activities. Instead the write up focuses on the fact that:

AWS, the firm’s cloud computing division, is going to be supporting Amazon’s blockchain in the management and structuring of all its interconnected networks and member nodes.

Important? Yep.

AWS Fargate Close Analysis

Curious about AWS Fargate? If so, you will want to read “How Far Out Is Fargate?

The key phrase in the write up is “clusterless container orchestration,” which strikes DarkCyber as a useful way to think of this feature/service/function.

Amazon describes Fargate this way:

AWS Fargate is a compute engine for Amazon ECS that allows you to run containers without having to manage servers or clusters. With AWS Fargate, you no longer have to provision, configure, and scale clusters of virtual machines to run containers. This removes the need to choose server types, decide when to scale your clusters, or optimize cluster packing. AWS Fargate removes the need for you to interact with or think about servers or clusters. Fargate lets you focus on designing and building your applications instead of managing the infrastructure that runs them.

The article contains a brief comparison of Fargate and Kubernetes and Fargate and Lambda. Good write up.

A related story is “Basecamp’s Cofounder Explains Why It Ditched Google Cloud for Amazon this summer. Note: you will have to pay to read this rah rah article about Amazon. In a nutshell, risk. Amazon is not cheaper and it is not without its own risks. But Basecamp is willing to deal with more complexity. Logical? The argument did not stop one DarkCyber researcher from asking, “Did Amazon cut this outfit a sweetheart deal to get a PR type article published?” We don’t know, but it seems plausible.

Partners/Integrators/Consultants

Amazon’s third party business relationships continue to bloom despite the blistering heat in the Lower 48. Here’s a selection of outfits involved with Amazon. Many of these sport extremely creative names:

AutoGrid. The company offers flexibility management software for the energy industry. The company now collaborates with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to bring artificial intelligence-powered distributed energy management to its energy-industry customers. Source: Yahoo

Center for Internet Security. Amazon has a security partner. Apparently Amazon is eager to do more security in the wake of some interesting developments. This particular service is call ATO on AWS. Does anyone remember the Capital One breach? Well, there may be 29 others after the handiwork of a former AWS professional. Source: MarketWatch

CloudHesive. CloudHesive has achieved Premier Consulting Partner status in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN). Source: Yahoo

Elastic. Remember the idea that Amazon would bulldoze Elasticsearch. Now Elastic is offering Elasticsearch on AWS in London. Source: Yahoo

Globe and Mail. The publishing company has adopted Amazon’s SageMaker and related service to promote its content. Source: SiliconAngle

Kickdynamic. This company will use TigerGraph on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud to deliver hyper personalized marketing. Does this meaning user tracking? Maybe, and it means that TigerGraph is an Amazon customer. Source: MarketWatch

Rapid7. The company has increased its involvement with Amazon AWS. The company’s growth has come from products, many of which run on AWS. The firm’s consulting revenues declined. Source: Seeking Alpha

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2019

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.

image

“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

Amazonia for August 5, 2019

August 5, 2019

The Bezos bulldozer has a bell. It goes “ring, ring, ring.” For information on what may be last week’s most important Amazon story, navigate to our DarkCyber story “Amazon and Law Enforcement: Irrelevant or Something Else?” Other items the DarkCyber research team noted in the past seven days:

JEDI Award on Hold: Amazon the Reason

The Inquirer clarified the JEDI contract decision. The UK online information service said:

The Pentagon is holding off on awarding its $10bn JEDI contract while the Defense Secretary reviews whether it was rigged in favor of Amazon. The contract, expected to be awarded to either Amazon or Microsoft later this month, has been criticized by bit-part actor Donald Trump, who argued that the process was biased towards Amazon.

The UK publication noted:

However, the contracting process for the project, which attracted bids from IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, has been marred by issues. Google announced its withdrawal from the bidding in October after employees called out the company out for violating its now deprecated “Don’t be evil” motto by supplying technology to the military. Microsoft employees also published an open letter urging the company not to bid on the project, arguing that doing so would “enhance lethality”.

Perhaps Amazon’s low profile, yet robust tactics, may roil the waters of the Potomac swamp. Amazon now has to slog through a different type of equatorial micro climate. There are dangerous creatures in the swamps on which the nation’s capital is constructed.

eBay Accuses Amazon Seller Poaching

The Wall Street Journal (August 2, 2019, Page B 4) published “eBay Says Amazon Staff Poached Sellers.” The online bookstore allegedly engages in tactics one of its competitors and soon to be victims acts in an un-eBay way. The newspaper reports:

Lawsuit accuses three from e-commerce rival of breaking racketeer laws with alleged lure.

The prey — sorry, DarkCyber meant to say “competitor” — filed a lawsuit on July 31, 2019, which asserts that the online bookstore broke Federal racketeering laws. The result was “harm.” According to Mr. Murdoch’s “real news” outlet:

The eBay lawsuit accuses the defendants of providing quotas for Amazon representatives to to recruit eBay sellers.

DarkCyber wonders if Amazon’s aggressive tactics are different from Amazon’s normal tactics; that is, baked into the culture of the online bookstore?

Amazon is attracting considerable scrutiny regarding its business practices, including the “not our fault” issue regarding Capital One data and the not so surprising delay thrust upon the Department of Defense by President Trump.

Has some of Mark Zuckerberg’s success in doing what he wishes influenced Amazon’s senior managers. When filtered down to the alleged interactions with eBay sellers, perhaps governance is being practiced, just in a way different from eBay’s expectations.

Amazon Sues Employee for Taking a Job at the Google

GeekWire published “Amazon Sues Former AWS Executive for Joining Rival Google Division As Cloud Wars Escalate.” Ironic? Nope, just a Bezos bulldozer tactic. The write up explains:

The executive in Amazon’s crosshairs is Philip Moyer, a Pennsylvania-based former AWS sales executive whose past experience includes several CEO roles and a long stint as a manager for Microsoft. Moyer was the chief executive for software-as-a-service companies Edgar Online and Cassiopae, according to his LinkedIn. In 2017, Amazon hired Moyer as a sales executive for AWS focusing on the financial services industry. By the time he resigned in 2019, he had 13 direct reports and managed 100 employees, according to the complaint. When Moyer accepted the job with Amazon, he signed a non-competition agreement, a contract in which an employee agrees not to work for a competitor for a period of time to avoid sharing confidential trade secrets.

Who will win? The lawyers for sure.

Amazon Security: Good, Bad, or Meh?

Amazon was at the center of the Capital One data breach. Amazon was quick to point out Amazon was not at fault. Capital One asserted that the security problem occurred in infrastructure. So was Amazon at fault? DarkCyber has lost track of the number of security breaches occurring because an AWS customer failed to implement appropriate security on the customers’ rented AWS service. The customer is responsible.

Apparently some elected officials want to know more. Business Insider (note that you may have to pony up some cash to read the article) published “Republican Lawmakers Want Answers from Jeff Bezos on Amazon Web Services Security Before the $10 Billion Defense Cloud Contract Is Awarded” suggests that Amazon is the winner of the competition.

The write up reports:

lawmakers say that they want to investigate because the government is on the brink of trusting AWS with some of the nation’s most sensitive data.

Another take on the security problem, which was allegedly not Amazon’s fault, appears in Computing. DarkCyber noted this statement:

Further reports suggested that companies named in the leaked Capital one files, including Ford and Italian bank Unaccredited, may also have been breached. However, Amazon said there is no evidence to support these claims.  Speaking to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for AWS explained that the company had “reached out to the customers mentioned in online forums by the perpetrator to help them assess their own logs for any evidence of an issue”.

DarkCyber opines that Amazon will repeat its mantra: “It’s the customer’s responsibility. We just provide the platform.”

Sound familiar? Does the mantra echo Facebook and Google explanations?

There is the issue of the cat loving, former Amazon AWS employee, the past history of AWS customer data breaches, and the $10 billion.

Amazon Acquires E8

Amazon acquired the Israeli storage company founded in 2014. The company builds gear relying on flash memory. The idea is to reduce latency. This company assembles hardware. According CNBC, E8 “boasts that the company’s hardware products “provide up to 10 times the performance of other all-flash-arrays, with consistently strong performance and low latency.” DarkCyber estimates that the price tag was in the $100 million range, but that’s unsubstantiated except by the burritos I fed my research team after the group produced this number. Will Amazon move more aggressively into hardware? Looks like it.

Amazon Oracle Feud: What’s Next?

I thought Oracle was out of the JEDI competition. Oracle apparently got the memo and elects to disagree. There’s an interesting run down of the latest action in this escalating battle. On one side is the Bezos bulldozer and on the other is the fading Russian fighter pilot, Larry Ellison. “Pentagon Rebukes Oracle As Debate over a Massive Federal Contract Turns Caustic” provides a helpful run down of the latest rebuke to the database company which calls Sea World Way home. Either Amazon or Microsoft will get a contract which could be worth $10 billion over five years. Oracle wants the deal, and unlike Microsoft and Amazon, Oracle could use the revenue.

The write up states:

Oracle alleged in a lawsuit that the Defense Department’s bidding process has been plagued with potential conflicts of interest and rigged in favor of Amazon’s cloud computing business. Oracle’s attempt to block the award was rejected earlier this month, with the judge in charge of the case explaining his reasoning in a lengthy document unsealed Friday. But in his decision, the judge posed new questions about the Pentagon’s legal argument for awarding one big contract. DoD spokeswoman Elissa Smith noted in a statement that the judge also affirmed that the Pentagon was “reasonably justified” to award a single contract. Despite the “tension” in the judge’s ruling, the department is planning to move ahead and award the contract in August, nearly a year and a half after it was announced.

Like Oracle’s fight with Google over Java, the old school database company won’t go quietly into that good night.

Just Walk Around Money

DarkCyber’s researchers walk around with a few dollars in pocket, backpack, or purse. Jeff Bezos requires more. “Jeff Bezos Sells $2 Billion in Stock after 4% Stake Transfer.” The money appears to be related to Mr. Bezos’ divorce settlement. MacKenzie Bezos is “official Amazon’s second largest individual shareholder,” according to Bloomberg. (You may have to pay to read the fluff around this factoid.)

Amazon Boxes and Boxes Earn Vendors Boxed Ears

We are fascinated with the matruska doll approach to packaging for some our Amazon orders. “Amazon Will Fine Sellers Who Ship Products in Oversized Packaging” explains that change is coming for offenders of Amazon’s “size” rule. (Will Amazon warehouses follow this rule? DarkCyber does not know. Humans under pressure to package do some interesting things we have heard.)

Amazon Smart Software

Amazon wants its software to be smarter or appear to be smarter. The company revealed a new method for making sense of certain humanoid related actions. The technique allegedly combines text-based search and a custom-built knowledge graph. You can get the Amazon explanation at this link.

Amazon Adds to Its Policeware Data Repository

Gizmodo alleges that “Cops Are Giving Amazon’s Ring Your Real Time 911 Caller Data.” DarkCyber finds this interesting. The online information service states:

The California-based company is seeking police departments’ permission to tap into the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) feeds used to automate and improve decisions made by emergency dispatch personnel and cut down on police response times. Ring has requested access to the data streams so it can curate “crime news” posts for its “neighborhood watch” app, Neighbors.

Good neighbors are important. Community building is a plus. Cross correlated with other data in Amazon’s policeware system could yield some interesting insights.

Amazon Market Position

DarkCyber noted this number: 50 percent and more. The number refers to the AWS share of the public cloud infrastructure market. The capitalist tool pegs the dollar value at over $32 billion so Amazon controls $16 billion or more. The write up says the data come from the Gartner Group. Believe the number or not.

Amazon and Big Cars

Getting Under the Hood of Amazon’s Auto Ambitions” is mostly Amazon cheerleading. The write up explains that Amazon is active in many facets of the automobile industry. The springboard is AWS, robots, policeware, and alliances. The stakes are high. Apple and Android are in autos, but no company has locked down the “Amazon approach” to market monopolization.

The write up states:

A Reuters analysis of more than 5,000 patents granted to Amazon from December 2016 through May 2019 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates at least 210 of those patents cover transportation-related topics from drones to automated ground vehicles. The auto-related patent push outpaced tech rivals Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, whose sister company Waymo is a self-driving pioneer.

But patents are not the principal thrust. The ace in the hole is Amazon’s designs on becoming the provider of an “industrial cloud.” Procurement, management, back office services, and more are part of the plan.

Amazon and Tiny Cars

TechCrunch, which appears to be covering more Amazon information,  published “Why AWS Is Building Tiny AI Race Cars to Teach Machine Learning.” According to the write up:

[The “tiny car” play] was really about how do we put machine learning in the hands of every developer and data scientist.

Before you open the door, be sure to check the price tag: $399.

Amazon Emulates Google

Google kills services. Amazon is following in the footsteps of the online advertising company. If you are a fan of the push to order Dash button, find a new shopping pleasure jolt. According to GeekWire,

Amazon will turn off capabilities for Dash buttons on Aug. 31.

The physical buttons are not as slick as talking to an Amazon home device. Geekwire says:

Amazon still operates the Dash Replenishment program for connected appliances that automatically reorder items when supplies are low. The company also created a virtual version of the Dash Button on its website. In addition, Amazon has built out voice shopping capabilities for Alexa, the digital brain that powers Echo devices.

Amazon Speech Engine Gets a New Speaker

AWS’ New Text to Speech Engine Sounds Like a Newscaster” explains that Amazon’s speech engine sounds like a — well, hmmmm — a newscaster. DarkCyber has heard some pretty interesting newscasters, but we assume that the newscasters are people like the talking heads on US cable television or the morning shows in the UK. Sorry, BBC, with your changes, we can’t understand some of the newscasters getting air time.

The write up reports:

The new newscaster style is now available in two U.S. voices (Joanna and Matthew) and Amazon is already working with USA Today and Canada’s The Globe and Mail, among a number of other companies, to help them voice their texts.

We are disappointed that the North Korean newscaster who recently retired has not been pressed into duty.

The article includes an audio of the Amazon Polly Newscaster. We love that Polly name. Very Victorian. Proper. No association with a parrot, of course.

Amazon and Images: Some Ethical Insight?

We noted “Man Interviewed at Amazon, Didn’t Get the Job, but They Used His Photo on Their Jobs Site,” not for the grammar errors, but for the interesting privileged approach of the world’s largest online bookstore.

The write up reported in good enough English:

…Jordan Guthmann, a VP at Edelman PR, interviewed for a job at Amazon. While he was on the company campus chatting with folks, someone asked to take his photo and he kindly obliged. Guthmann didn’t get the gig, but apparently he at least looked like the right person for the job: Until a few days ago his photo appeared on Amazon’s Talent Acquisition website.

The good news is that Amazon swapped out the photo. The bad news is that the Amazonian behavior reveals a tiny insight about the ethical compass at Amazon. There is no true north, just whatever direction is expedient maybe?

Going Green

Amazon reminds me of a jungle. Green, in this case, evokes renewable energy, not the life and death struggle in the Amazon landscape. USA Today reports that the world’s largest online bookstore is “launching renewable energy projects in Virginia and Ireland.” Perhaps the Bezos bulldozer is turning over a leaf?

Digital Currency

Amazon supports a number of digital currency inspired activities. One of the newer initiatives is putting $100,000 into a competition designed to “Change the Face of Blockchain.” Solve this problem and collect the money:

image

Yahoo includes this explanation from a content sparkplug:

“You are going to need people who are really good at hardware design, but also people with algorithmic skills,” he said. “My guess is the winning team will have a combination of that expertise.”

DarkCyber thinks that the point of the competition may be to identify potential hires for those supporting the event. Once again: DarkCyber speculation because the environmental impact of digital currency related activities may become grist for someone’s water mill.

Amazon High Performance Cluster You Have Always Wanted

A rah rah article which begins, “…Building an HPC system can be complex”, is a must read. HPCWire explains that “High performance computing customers love the breadth of services offered by AWS and the flexibility offered by the cloud to address their computational challenges. AWS provides you with the opportunity to innovate quickly and accelerate your workflow thanks to a virtually unlimited capacity.”

Although a trifle one sided, the article provides a teaser for the more complex explanation which is located on the Amazon AWS pages at this link. Easy? Absolutely. How does DarkCyber know? The word “simple is used to index the page.”

Dash Slows and Then Halts

Amazon has many ordering options. One can talk at Alexa. One can use the Amazon eCommerce Web site. But the Dash button is dashed. DarkCyber learned that Dash has crashed. “Amazon is terminating the Dash button on August 31” said:

The Dash button was created to allow consumers to instantly order a product with the push of a button. The ease of use made it perfect for consumables you often need restocked, such as laundry detergent or paper towels, but served little purpose outside of that.

Killing off dud products or products developers don’t want to work on is a Google tactic. Should Amazon be viewed through Google goggles?

Consultant, Partner, Reseller News

Cerner. The health information technology company has partnered with Amazon. According to MedCity News: “The collaboration will boost the business of both companies against the backdrop of tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft vying for healthcare market share in the industry’s shift to cloud-based infrastructure.” For additional color about Amazon healthcare, navigate to “Amazon Web Services Exec Partovi on Where the Biggest AI Opportunities Are in Healthcare.”

KCF Technologies. The tie up with Amazon AWS “a simple-to-use, fully automated, cloud-based backup and recovery solution for Cassandra databases on Amazon Web Services (AWS).” Source: Business Insider

MapleTech. This vendor of property and insurance services has migrated to Amazon AWS. Thus, its customers are now Amazonians. Source: Virtual Strategy

Motion Picture Academy Software Foundation. Amazon has joined. An official of the organization said: “Our membership has almost doubled since we launched the Academy Software Foundation a year ago, and we’re grateful that both studios and software vendors are seeing the value in having a neutral home for collaboration and shared development of open source software.” Source: The Hollywood Reporter

SoftServe. The company has announced an expanded relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) extending SoftServe’s offerings for media and entertainment enterprises. Source: Yahoo

VeChain rolls out is VeChain Thor Blockchain solutions. The venue was Amazon’s Beijing “global” summit. Why’s this important? Beijing. Blockchain. Global. Source: Yahoo

WiPro. This consulting company has teamed with Amazon to create a “co innovation center.” Where is the innovation center in case you want to mosey over and introduce yourself?

This state-of-the-art ‘innovation-in-action’ center, located in Wipro’s campus at Kodathi, Bengaluru…

And what’s cooking in the center:

The center will serve as a multi-disciplinary customer showcase hub for specialized teams to ideate, collaborate, develop and deliver futuristic solutions, leveraging AWS Cloud services in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, among others.

Source: CIOL

Amazon and Apple: Two Anti Trust Investigation Attractors

The Verge reported that “Amazon cut a deal with Apple to bring direct iPhone sales to its platform for the first time. Now, that deal is coming under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.” The main idea is that the deal nuked the market for other Amazon sellers and helped Apple put a dent in folks who were repairing in an un Apple-like way Apple devices.

DarkCyber noted this chunk of the write up:

Still, experts say the Apple-Amazon deal could easily be grounds for an antitrust complaint. According to Sally Hubbard, an antitrust expert and the director of enforcement strategy at the OpenMarkets Institute, the practice of cutting a deal with a brand to shut out third-party sellers who may be peddling counterfeit products or simply just lower-cost versions is called “brand gating.” It’s rampant on Amazon, and it may be illegal, she argues. “You put a gate around the brand and say all the third-party sellers of whatever that brand is get a notice saying you can no longer sell this product on our platform unless you get authorization from the brand,” Hubbard tells The Verge. “But of course the brand is not going to let you sell if you’re under the [minimum advertised price]. Problem is that it’s illegal under antitrust law.”

Fair? You and the legal eagles decide.

Grab Your Popcorn: Re:Inforce 2019 Videos Online

You can get the information presented at one of Amazon’s upscale conferences on your computing device. Just bring popcorn and patience. There’s nothing like low contrast slides and jargon to tell a story. Here’s the link you need.

Amazon Is Number One in IaaS

IaaS means infrastructure as a service. As if Amazon’s revenues and tidal waves of AWS announcements were not enough, now IT Pro Portal makes it official: “Amazon Keeps Top Spot in IaaS Market.” True, the data come from a very objective source, the Gartner Group. Who’s number two? Microsoft. What happens if Microsoft wins JEDI as Amazon fires bullets into its feet? Gartner’s very objective analysts will reveal the truth in a world of fake news.

Amazon Twitch Watches a Star Leave the Ecosystem

I know you are heart broken that Ninja has jumped from Twitch to Mixer. DarkCyber thinks more of these future Clark Gabels will head for greener pastures. Twitch is cracking down and the changes are annoying the talent who make the service thrive. Source: The Verge

Stephen E Arnold, August 5, 2019

Amazonia for July 29, 2019

July 29, 2019

Summertime, the bulldozing is easy. Money is flowing, and regulators are hopping. There was some Amazon news despite the heat waves and the rumblings of impending monopoly investigations in the US and elsewhere.

JEDI Excitement

President Donald Trump, according to the semi paywalled, “insider” news service delivered a stunning rumor in “President Donald Trump Reportedly Wants to ‘Scuttle’ the $10 Billion Pentagon Cloud Contract That Amazon and Microsoft Are Fighting Over.” Let’s assume this report is spot on, accurate, and wrapped in factualities. Several questions pop up:

  • How happy will Oracle be with this decision?
  • How unhappy will Amazon be if it receives zero Department of Defense JEDI work?
  • How will Microsoft make Azure sort of work? (DarkCyber asks this question because some of Microsoft’s software has been — how shall I phrase it? — problematic?)

More than a week ago, Nextgov reported that “Trump ‘Looking Into’ Pentagon’s JEDI Contract.” There was swamp mist swirling around an assertion that some Republicans wanted the JEDI contract issued. Why? Love of Amazon? Love of Microsoft? Love of DoD procurement processes? Nope. “National security.”

Also, Amazon allegedly snapped up a modest 270,000 square feet of office space in lovely, 21st century Herndon, Virginia. There is no congestion near Sunrise Drive, some told DarkCyber. The company has a modest 400,000 square feet on the Dulles Access Road between Dulles Airport and the once sylvan Reston, Virginia. Source: Biznow

Fox News (an outstanding “real” news outfit published “Lawmakers Urge Trump to Delay $10B Defense Contract over Amazon Conflicts Probe.” The write up states:

The lawmakers who signed Tuesday’s letter are all Republicans and include Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sent a similar letter to national security adviser John Bolton last Thursday, seeking a delay to the awarding of the JEDI contract due to a “lack of competition.”

The article did not include a quote from Amazon’s Washington, DC executive. Non government gray would have been enriched with local color.

Amazon Quarterly Report

Amazon’s quarterly revenue was $63 billion. The number of interest to DarkCyber is that AWS revenue was up 37 percent to $8.4 billion which works out to a $30 billion plus business for a 12 month period. MarketWatch has some additional details. Net net: Amazon will tighten the thumbscrews on merchant partners, vendors, and AWS customers. The Bezos bulldozer needs a new coat of paint, so price hikes will be needed.

DarkCyber wants to point out that the Gartner Group, an outstanding crystal ball outfit, predicts that Amazon can deliver a surprise for customers who don’t keep their eye on:

  • Amazon costs and prices
  • Amazon’s features
  • Amazon’s competitive behavior.

Does Gartner Group advise the Secretary of the Treasury?

Amazon Health Care

Curious as to Dr. Jeff Bezos’ medical acumen? There’s some information tucked into “Amazon Web Services Exec Partovi on Where the Biggest AI Opportunities Are in Healthcare.” In the interview / essay, we spotted this statement:

On the patient side, the value that cloud brings is that you can do predictive modeling. By applying machine learning and predictive modeling to data, it allows you to predict patient health events.

Perfect for health insurance and other services which could benefit from smart software and some cross correlation.

To put this interview in context, Amazon has rolled out a Web services center in Houston. Wasn’t that city interested in IBM Watson before those using the system realized it did not work the way doctors did? Source: Houston Chronicle

Retail on the US Government’s Mind

About that Department of Defense JEDI contract? What happens if the current Administration continues to find fault with Amazon? What about real estate values in Alexandria, Arlington, and other “close to the jungle” locations?

We noted “US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Says Amazon Has Destroyed Retail.” At the same time, US government professionals are gearing up for inquiries.

The write up stated:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he supports the Justice Department’s formal antitrust review of the country’s largest tech companies, particularly Amazon, which he said has ruined retail. In an interview Wednesday with CNBC, Mnuchin said the company has “destroyed the retail industry across the United States” and said there’s “no question they’ve limited competition.”

DarkCyber does not speculate about procurement, but could the JEDI deal go to Microsoft?

Big News: Amazon Offers Sellers a Deal

I worked in New York City sort of for several years. I was from a small town in Illinois, and I had to learn how to speak “New York.” One of the first phrases I learned was, “Such a deal.”

Amazon may be offering “a deal” to its sellers. The Wall Street Journal (paywall, gentle reader) appears to have blown the whistle on a new program for sellers and merchants who use the Amazon ecommerce site to move their products. The idea is simple:

  1. Independent merchants can get Amazon’s help with marketing
  2. Amazon can then purchase the merchant’s brand for $10,000
  3. The merchant gets to find another product to convert into a winner.
  4. Jump to Line 2

Such a deal.

Amazon’s Accelerator will accelerate all right. A faster path to monopolistic dominance of whatever product sells. I also learned another New York phrase, “Have I got a deal for you.” Sure you do.

A related item is that Amazon’s suspension policy contributes to “partner” stress. See this link.

Amazon Facial Recognition Leaves Disneyesque Orlando

Orlando Police Department has allegedly ended its Amazon Rekognition facial recognition test. The Orlando Weekly reported:

 

Orlando’s two-phase pilot with Amazon to try out real-time facial recognition software ended Thursday, capping 15 months of technical lags, bandwidth issues and uncertainty over whether the controversial face-scanning technology actually works.

The termination was allegedly due to resources. DarkCyber believes that this statement is accurate, but it may not include a spectrum of issues associated with facial recognition.

We noted the inclusion of this statement as well:

Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU, congratulated OPD for “finally figuring out what we long warned – Amazon’s surveillance technology doesn’t work and is a threat to our privacy and civil liberties.” “This failed pilot program demonstrates precisely why surveillance decisions should be made by the public through their elected leaders, and not by corporations secretly lobbying police officials to deploy dangerous systems against the public,” Cagle said.

The report noted:

Orlando is the only city in the country to openly test Amazon’s fledgling real-time facial recognition software. Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon is the only other known client using a variant of the software, where deputies can upload a photo of an unidentified suspect and run it through a database of images for a possible match long after an incident occurred.

Was Orlando a success or failure? It seems the thrill ride may have ended.

Amazon India: Bulking Up

AWS Can Be a Great Enabler for India to Jump a Tech Gen in AI and ML: Amazon Internet Services’ Rahul Sharma” is a rah rah article about Amazon’s growing interest in India. The write up reports:

AWS wants to lead India into becoming a cloud-first economy. From providing streams of open data and offering easy-to-use AI/ML services to skilling millions of youth, the company is out to service its biggest customer: the Indian citizen.

DarkCyber ignored the social good handwaving and focused on the meat of the push into India: Govtech.

Amazon and Israel

A new data center and a play for Israeli government contracts? Seems logical. Data Center Dynamics reports:

In September, Israel’s Finance Ministry and the Government Procurement Administration said that they planned to issue a tender in 2019-2020 for the supply of services based on a public cloud platform, servicing multiple government organizations

Amazon Chatbots: Still Chattering

ZDNet report that Amazon has rolled out a chatbot which issues system alerts to developers, through Slack and its own Chime app. The write up states:

Under the current AWS Chatbot Beta, notifications can be provided from Amazon Cloud Watch, AWS Health, AWS Budgets, AWS Security Hub, Amazon GuardDuty, and AWS CloudFormation.

Yep, notifications.

AWS Lightsail How To

Want to build a virtual machine in AWS Lightsale. The “real news” outfit TechRepublic has published a how to in “How to Create a Virtual Machine Using Lightsail in AWS.” The write up is a very upbeat presentation of Amazon help page content. We liked this phrase too: “…Just a few mouse clicks.” There’s a free white paper available too. Just click this link. Plus, Lightsail is a deal, just $3.50 per month. DarkCyber believes that each customer’s costs will vary. TechRepublic is quite helpful to Amazon. DarkCyber wonders if there is any “consideration” or “inclusion” assessment associated with this story. Probably not. Just “real news”.

Reeling from Surprise AWS Costs?

Some help may be on the way. According to Silicon Angle, DarkCyber learned that EC2 Resource Optimization Recommendations helps users to optimize the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud resources they use. Allegedly the new service:

[will] find idle or underused instances so customers can adjust their usage patterns to save on costs. Should the tool find an idle instance, which Amazon defines as one that has less than 1% maximum central processing unit utilization, it will recommend that users simply shut it down. And when it finds an underused instance, it will recommend different-sized instances to which customers can switch to fit their usage pattern better and get more bang for their buck.

Yes, You Can Control a Car with Amazon

DarkCyber spotted this video: “Controlling a Car with Artificial Intelligence – AWS Deep Racer.” If you are a fan of serial content acquisition in non text form, here’s the url you need. For Amazon’s explanation of the use of its smart software, navigate to “Developers, Start Your Engines.” Vroom, vroom.

Amazon and Financial Information

We read “Amazon Echo Banking: Get Alexa to Check Your Balance, Make Payments and More.” DarkCyber liked the word “more.” How much more? One can imagine if the online bookstore has access to one’s bank accounts: Checking, savings, home loans, etc. Shove these data into any other personal information Amazon has. What pops out of the Alexa enabled microwave? How about a competitor to Oracle’s data service?

The write up ignores the big picture and states:

Linking your Echo to your account is quick and private. Don’t worry, you’re not sharing your personal banking info with Amazon when you connect it to the Alexa app. Just make sure you feel comfortable with the people who might be within earshot when Alexa responds.

There you go. Secret info from the outfit which records and retains data transmitted via Echo. How useful would such “unretained” data be to an investigator, an outfit doing a credit check, or to an insurance company? Probably above average.

Surfing on Weaveworks?

TechRepublic, an outfit which writes very positively about IBM, has turned its reportorial rapier on Amazon. “The Clearest Sign of AWS’ Open Source Success Wasn’t Built by Amazon” seems negative at first glance. But, no, TechRepublic seems to love Amazon as much as it does IBM. We noted this statement in the write up:

As AWS executive Matt Wilson put it, “As a very early adopter of Free and open source software (going back to migrating from Unix to Linux in 2002!), folks at Amazon have extensive understanding of Open Source, and also how developer communities of all types grow around technology.”  With Firecracker, this shows, because Weaveworks, not AWS, built Weave Ignite. That’s how good open source ecosystems grow.

A new jungle to bulldoze.

Pop That Trunk for Deliveries

DarkCyber wonders if law enforcement officers will find this Amazon delivery option helpful?

Amazon Will Now Deliver to the Trunk of Your Honda” states:

Amazon keeps on expanding its delivery options, perhaps to ensure that you won’t have an excuse not to buy that thing you’ve just carted. In 2018, it launched an in-car delivery service for GM and Volvo owners, which it also eventually offered to Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Now, the e-commerce giant is giving select Honda models access to Key by Amazon In-Car delivery, as well, so you can have your package dropped right inside your car wherever it is you’ve parked.

DarkCyber has heard that certain other models are supported in Europe.

There are some limitations, but the upside seems evident to Engadget’s expert:

While the HondaLink app itself is free, the Remote Services package will set you back $110 per year after a 3-month trial. Key by Amazon doesn’t cost anything on top of that, though, so it’s a nice perk if you’re already paying for the add-on.

Yes, a nice perk. Particularly if an authority watches the delivery person open a trunk long enough for the officer to peer inside.

Amazon Accused for Requiring Officers to “Shill” Rekognition

Vice seems unhappy with Amazon. The company provides a trial system so law enforcement can get some hands on (better yet, eyes on) time with the Rekognition imaging system. Vice points out: “Amazon Requires Police to Shill Surveillance Cameras in Secret Agreement.”

The write up states:

The Lakeland, Florida police department is required to “encourage adoption” of Ring products as part of a secret agreement with the company.

We noted:

Amazon is convincing people to self-surveil through aggressive, fear-based marketing, aided by de facto police endorsements and free Ring camera giveaways. Consumers are opting into surveillance. And police are more than eager to capitalize on this wealth of surveillance data. The result of Ring-police partnerships is a self-perpetuating surveillance network: More people download Neighbors, more people get Ring, surveillance footage proliferates, and police can request whatever they want.

China’s government has implemented this type of approach. In the US, Amazon appears to be providing a similar service to the government. DarkCyber is interested in this approach to generating data for the Bezos bulldozer’s policeware platform.

Now the “secret”. A contract is a document which may have terms and conditions. If Vice obtained such a document; therefore, the document is not secret. Or is it?

Partners / Resellers
  • Brightloom uses AWS for its restaurant services business. Starbucks just signed up, not just for the service but for an ownership stake. Source: Forbes
  • Equinix has increased the bandwidth of its AWS direct connections. Source: SDxCentral
  • Sigma rolls out support for live debugging in its integrated development environment for AWS. Source: Yahoo
  • Stackery streamlines AWS server development on local machines. Source: GeekWire
  • Uptime has developed a single sign on service for AWS. Source: Yahoo
  • Zendesk makes ASW customer support services more actionable. Source: Yahoo

Stephen E Arnold, July 29, 2019

Amazonia, July 22, 2019

July 22, 2019

About that JEDI contract? The big news is that President Trump is going to check out the $10 billion deal for the Department of Defense’s cloud computing initiative. The driver of the Bezos bulldozer owns the Washington Post. Allegedly Mr. Trump refers to the prestigious “real news” outfit as “Amazon’s Washington Post.” A good sign? Who knows. Other Amazon items the DarkCyber team processed this week were less interesting. Here’s a few which seemed intriguing.

Amazon-SUE-ticals

Amazon wants patient data. (Note: With the patient data comes useful information about the prescription itself. Doctors in Florida, are you paying attention?) CNBC, which continues to surprise as a source of useful information, published “Amazon Threatens to Sue Major Pharmacy Player If It Prevents PillPack from Accessing Patient Drug Data.” We noted this statement in the write up:

PillPack was informed this week that it will soon be cut off from accessing that data via a third-party entity, ReMy Health — a move that could seriously complicate its business. Amazon is considering legal action against Surescripts to halt those efforts, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. One person told CNBC that PillPack has already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Surescripts.

Several observations:

  • Executives are fearful of Amazon. For a reason, read “Amazon Brand Control” below
  • These data feed into other Amazon “areas of interest”. DarkCyber speculates that delivery information, compliance data, and policeware services may benefit
  • Amazon doesn’t have a direct deal with Surescripts.

DarkCyber believes that Amazon’s “customers” may provide a bit of shadow power to make “sure” the information is provided. And if Surescripts decides to sue Amazon in an expensive, lengthy court battle? A deal may result. Worth monitoring this pharma-SUE-tical matter? Yep.

The Pesky EU and Amazon

Antitrust: Commission Opens Investigation into Possible Anti-Competitive Conduct of Amazon” makes clear that the European Commission has a new project for some of its lawyers, INSEAD graduates, and accountants: Amazon. Here’s the problem:

Amazon has a dual role as a platform: (i) it sells products on its website as a retailer; and (ii) it provides a marketplace where independent sellers can sell products directly to consumers.

Is Amazon a monopoly? Judge for yourself by reading “Amazon Brand Control.”

Amazon Brand Control

The Rupert Murdoch “real news” outfit published “Amazon Seeks More Brand Control.” DarkCyber thought the story left an important point unstated; for example, monopolies exercise their power directly and by fiat. The “real news” outfit reported:

The program — which allows brand rights to be bought for a fixed price on 60 days’; notice—… is part of a push by Amazon to obtain a stable of exclusive brands for the platform.

What happens if a “brand” does not want to play ball? Well, there’s eBay, driving for Uber, or an Amazon warehouse job. You can read the write up for free if you can find the dead tree version of the Murdoch property for Friday, July 19, 2019, B-1. If not, you can click here but you may have to pay. “Cutting out the middleman” is a nice way of saying, “My way or the highway.” A rose by any other name is still a  — Prime day rose?

Bloomberg Identifies Amazon’s Most Serious Research Project

Bloomberg’s judgment can be measured against its reports of spy chips on motherboards. Now the company has turned its attention to Amazon’s research projects. Forget the policeware and intelware activities. The rubber hits the door mat with Amazon’s retail store experiments. You can get the Bloomberg analysis of Amazon’s “most ambitious research project” in this July 18, 2019, essay/analysis. Note that you may have to pay for this insight. The write up states:

Will all this work be worth it? Some Go stores seem almost deserted except for the lunchtime rush. Employees familiar with Amazon’s internal projections say the outlets in Chicago, in particular, are falling short of expectations, and the company has had to resort to raffles and giveaways of tote bags and other branded goodies. Yet, as the turbulent history of the project suggests, the Go store isn’t so much the culmination of the company’s efforts but something closer to an ongoing experiment.

Plus, there’s a picture:

image

DarkCyber heard that in one Go store, humans were added because theft was an issue.

Amazon Police Map

Here’s The Most Complete Map So Far Of Amazon’s Ring Camera Surveillance Partnerships With Local Police” looks like this:

image

Is Amazon in the policeware business? You judge for yourself by checking out this mostly ignored item. Also, how many of these “installations” are trials, freebies, and demonstrations? Some trial are ending; for example, Orlando’s.

 

For more on this topic, DarkCyber offers a for fee webinar on this topic. Write us at darkcyber333 at yandex dot com.

Prime Day Data

DarkCyber has no way of knowing if the data in “Amazon Just Announced Prime Day Data, and the Staggering Numbers Beat Black Friday and Cyber Monday Combined” are accurate. But the numbers do seem to be beefier than those reported by Nordstrom and other outfits of that ilk.

So how big? Well…

  • 175 million items sold
  • 175 million Prime members
  • Each Prime member bought 1.75 items

Do these numbers look similar? Sophisticated analysis for sure.

First Transnational Bank of Amazon

The FTBA does not exist yet, but some think it may arrive. “Can Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon Transform Banking? Yes, and They’re Closer Than You Think” states:

Amazon’s competitive advantage is its ability to build cloud-banking much more securely than banks. It’s leading in the cloud, so this means your banking would no longer need to be local, it can be global. One account for all currencies.

The write up even suggests that one obtain a consultant’s research report to make the case for FTBA. Objective? Sure. DarkCyber believes everything its team reads on the Internet, including ITPortal’s analyses.

Amazon Fee Triggers

Amazon published in April 2019 a paper called “AWS Reliability Primer.” The idea is that one must consider how much of each of these “values” an AWS developer requires:

  • Operational excellence
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Performance efficiency
  • Cost optimization.

From a technical or architectural point of view, the write up provides useful information about the linkage between what Amazon can deliver and what one’s budget can tolerate.

DarkCyber thinks that this list of five factors explained in 62 pages of text highlights where costs can skyrocket if the AWS “customer” makes bad decisions.

Best practices or we warned you? You decide.

Amazon Stock Value

Seeking Alpha knows that fear, uncertainty, and doubt are good for some businesses. “Amazon’s Slowing Growth May Sink The Stock Following Results” opines:

AMZN is seeing a deceleration of growth in many of its business units. It could result in the stock pulling back following the results to around $1,800 based on an analysis of the chart.

Disaster looms, but one can tap Seeking Alpha for financial advice.

Amazon Satellites

Is this a $100 billion per year business? Motley Fool (“fool” in shorthand) states:

Amazon confirmed its plans, saying, “Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” according to an Amazon spokesperson.

Satellites may be more reliable than floating Loon balloons.

Amazon Sales Reorg

Seeking Alpha published “AWS Reorganizes Sales Leader.” The site reported:

Web Services shuffled its sales team’s senior leadership earlier this year to clarify roles and eliminate confusion of multiple pitches to the same customer.

Criticism of AWS Firecracker?

Tech Republic’s “The Clearest Sign of AWS’ Open Source Success Wasn’t Built by Amazon” seems to be critical of the Bezos bulldozer. The write up states:

AWS Firecracker is great open source technology, but the best indication of its open source success is what Weaveworks built on top of it.

We think this means that Amazon provided a foundation, and another company used that foundation to create a successful solution.

The write up is a bit convoluted, and it preserves Tech Republic’s ability to keep the doors open to content sponsors.

Partners and Integrators

Datadog is now competent in AWS migration. Source: MarketWatch

Northern Virginia Community College will train US Marines to use AWS. Amazon seems to have some confidence in its winning the JEDI competition. Or, this could just be another “train people to use Amazon” play. Source: World Socialist Web Site (real news all the time we assume)

SnapLogic offers a quick start for those wanting to put a data lake on AWS. It appears that SnapLogic will work with Agilisium. Source: Help Net Security

ZenDesk moves to make customer data more actionable. We are not sure what “actionable” means, but with an expanded AWS service, DarkCyber has high hopes for understanding the concept. Source: Yahoo

Stephen E Arnold, July 22, 2019

Amazonia for July 15, 2019

July 15, 2019

The Amazon displacement effect appears to be gaining momentum. Here’s a selection of Bezos bulldozer actions for the past week. DarkCyber has included a handful of items that took place outside this review window, but holidays can perturb in unexpected ways.

Amazon: Disinformation or Dissing the Competition?

A quite interesting article appeared in the Brisbane Times. The title caught my attention: “Former Amazon Scientist Pokes Holes in Data Collection at Brisbane Summit.” DarkCyber noted these quotes and statements in the write up:

  • …People in poorer economic areas may not drive, so might not see potholes as a problem, or they were less likely to be connected online, so were less likely to report them. DarkCyber note: This means that the data will mis-report potholes. In short, the data leads to uninformed decisions.
  • Organizations should be transparent about how they used private data, and that citizens should be able to see their own data within the organization…The “right to inspect the refinery”, he said, was another right – that any person must be able to see and observe how organizations were using their data.” DarkCyber note: Amazon seems to preserve and use Alexa data, but that information is not revealed to customers of the Alexa devices.

Note that the speaker is a “former” Amazon scientist.

Employment Developments: Efficiency and Beyond

A report which appeared on July 8, 2019, suggested that Amazon workers will strike on Prime Day. That is a Monday, the same day this Amazonia news run down appears. Alas, we can’t update before this goes live on Prime Day. The origin of this story appears to be Engadget which pegs the action in Minnesota. If false, Amazon has dodged a problem. If it is true, disgruntled Amazon low tier workers may become more bold. What happened in the Middle Ages when those lower down the Great Chain of Being were unhappy? I don’t remember. Perhaps Amazon will have a book about these historical antecedents.

Amazon Finds an Alternative Workforce Through Northwest Center, a Seattle Nonprofit Helping People with Disabilities” explains another Amazon management approach to staffing. The title explains the tactic.

Another tactic is the use of home workers for customer service roles. These employees receive some benefits. For details see “Amazon Is Hiring 3,000 Work-from-Home Employees with Full Benefits.”

Amazon will retrain its workers. Automation is coming and with it, many jobs will be crushed under the Bezos bulldozer. The New York Times explains the $700 million “retraining” effort but does not reference similar initiatives in Stalinist soviets.

ZDNet contributes the notion of a protest about upskilling. ZDNet reported:

Amazon’s announcement comes amid an Amazon Web Services conference in New York where CTO Werner Vogels was interrupted by protesters. Chants, which revolved around AWS providing technology to the US government, repeatedly picked up as Vogels talked early in his keynote. Vogels, flustered a smidge but rolling with it, said: “I’m more than willing to have a conversation, but maybe they should let me finish first.” AWS’ New York Summit had a similar issue last year, but the 2019 version was more persistent. On AWS’ live stream the protester audio was muted. “We’ll all get our voices heard,” said Vogels.

Does the Bezos bulldozer listen to humans directly or just through Alexa devices? DarkCyber does not know the answer.

Business Insider reveals that Amazon employees want the online bookstore to take a stand against the US government’s enforcement of immigration law. These individuals may not realize that Amazon facial recognition technology may be able to identify them.

Build a Serverless Architecture with AWS

A how to, diagrams, and step by step instructions. Navigate to Hypertrack and learn how “awesome” serverless is. The write up includes suggestions for specific AWS functions to include.

AWS Control Tower Available

I bet you didn’t know that Amazon AWS had a control tower. DarkCyber did not. Satellites, yes. Control towers? Sure, but these are a service automating “the process of setting up a new baseline multi account AWS environment.” InfoQ explains:

With Control Tower, a cloud administrator has a tool, which automates various tasks involving the initial setup of a new AWS environment such as identity and access management, centralized logging, and security audits across accounts. Furthermore, the service consists of several components, including:

  • A Landing Zone – the multi-account AWS environment the tool sets up
  • Blueprints – design patterns used to establish the Landing Zone
  • A set of default policy controls known as Guardrails
  • The Environment – an AWS account with all of the attendant resources set up to run an application.
Amazon QLDB

Jerry Hargrove published a useful diagram. Yes, we know it is small, but you can get a larger one and more from the link:

image

A link to the QLDB is included in the source.

Amazon Offers Centralized and Decentralized Blockchain Services

Most of the people with whom DarkCyber speaks are not aware of Amazon’s digital currency and blockchain services. We noted that Forbes, the capitalist tool, has noticed some blockchain capabilities available from Amazon. We noted:

AWS announced the preview for both of these models, centralized and decentralized, in late November of 2018, according to a press release. At the time of the July 3, 2019 interview with me, Pathak noted, “Quantum Ledger Database, QLDB, is still in preview,” while “Amazon Managed Blockchain went into General Availability at the end of April.” While in preview, customers can gain free access to these projects by filling out a form and signing up, an AWS representative clarified via email. When released for General Availability, anyone can use them.

Timely coverage.

Amazon Emotion Detection

Detecting a person’s emotions can be useful. Examples range from an insurance company’s identifying an insured driver evidencing signs of impending “rage” behavior to an Amazon DeepLens camera identifying an individual becoming increasingly problematic in a restaurant, night club, or sporting event. “Amazon May be Developing a Wearable That Detects Human Emotions” discusses this innovation. DarkCyber wonders if the technology has already been implemented in other Amazon devices; for example, the Alexa home gizmos. Could security and government authorities find this type of data-generating technology useful? DarkCyber thinks this is an interesting question.

DeepLens Now Available in Europe

DarkCyber covers the imaging devices in its Dark Web Version 2 lecture. We want to note The Register’s article “AWS’s Upgraded DeepLens AI Camera Zooms in on Europe” states:

The product is the result of work between AWS and Intel. DeepLens’s hardware consists of a mini PC running Ubuntu 16.4 LTS (Long Term Servicing) upon which is mounted an HD camera.

We noted:

The advantage of DeepLens is that it is ready to go, presuming you want to use AWS for your ML project. The pre-installed software includes AWS IoT Greengrass, which does local processing of IoT data such as the stream of images from your DeepLens camera.

This comment warranted a checkmark:

AWS has its own forthcoming Inferentia project, custom hardware for processing all the common ML frameworks, but currently it seems Google Cloud Platform has an advantage for TensorFlow.

Amazon Neighborhood Watch

A viewer of the DarkCyber Video news program questioned our assertion that Amazon was monitoring with humans, not just DeepLens and other zippy technology. Here’s a no cost source of information: “Amazon’s Neighborhood Watch App Raises Discrimination, Privacy Fears.” The problem is, of course, is that people cannot track Amazon’s activities nor do most professionals want to exert that effort. Hey, those meetings are important and there’s yoga and the off site. The write up points out:

Advocates and experts are worried that an Amazon-owned mobile app, used by owners of its Ring security cameras to upload videos for neighbors to see, could entrench racial discrimination and violate people’s privacy.

Why it matters: The app, called Neighbors, is striking deals to partner with police departments across the country.

Driving the news: Last week, journalists on Twitter noticed Ring was hiring an editor — prompting concerns that Amazon was stoking community fears to sell security systems. (Amazon bought the company last year.)

How it works: People with and without Ring cameras can download the Neighbors app. It features a feed where users can post videos and photos from their cameras, file reports of activity they think is suspicious and read crime reports from the app’s “News Team.”

Poke around online and other bits and pieces of information will surface. If you are lucky, you may get to meet Teresa Carlson, a former Microsoftie who is now Amazon’s VP of the Worldwide Public Sector. (This means government work.)

Amazon Brands

Trust Amazon?

Nope. “There’s No Reason to Trust Amazon’s Choice.” The idea is that Amazon recommends its own products. Do consumers know which products are really Amazon’s? No. The write up states:

Amazon’s typical statement on the matter is this: “Amazon’s Choice is just our recommendation, and customers can always ask for specific brands or products if they choose.” But Amazon’s recommendation doesn’t mean much if the recommendation engine is getting fooled.

Typical? Nope, standard operating procedure.

Furthermore, the article “These Are All the Businesses You Never Knew Were Owned by Amazon” was a heroic effort by a shopaholic. Among the gems in the list were these five brands with names DarkCyber found suggestive:

  • 206 Collective (Was a variant of this in use in Stalinist stores?)
  • Coastal Blue (Similar to the code name for the first stealth aircraft, “Have Blue”)
  • Core 10 (a phrase similar to those in use in the nuclear industry)
  • The Fix (slang for a rigged event or a drug injection)
  • Mint Lilac (a code name similar to those used by SAS operatives).
Amazon Acquisitions

Business Insider (which may or may not beg for your email or demand cash to view the article) compiled from open sources of information a list of Amazon acquisitions. These lists are usually incomplete because the researchers typically exclude partial investments, stakes held by individuals who employed by Amazon, and clever deals in which services are exchanged for stock. The real excitement is often in these secondary holdings. In the case of this article, the coverage of the list is superficial. Contact your local Wall Street purveyor of investor research for a more thorough run down.

Amazon’s Impact on Truck Drivers

Business Insider ran this story: “Truckers Say Amazon’s New Logistics Empire Is Being Underpinned by Low, Ridiculous Rates — and Some Are Refusing to Work with Them.” Amazon’s investments in self driving are not included in the lists of Amazon’s acquisitions. But Amazon is focused on efficiency. Robots are efficient. Humans require benefits, retirement plans, and other “soft” and “squishy” things which add escalating and variable costs. Nope, not in Amazon’s future.

How to Put Amazon in Your Business?

Answer: Just use Amazon. Plus, CTO Vision ran a “real” news story called “Amazon on How Businesses Can Implement AI.” The write up is a pointer to an Amazon movie “How AWS Is Changing Businesses Using Artificial Intelligence.” The video runs about four minutes, too short for popcorn, long enough to get the message across, “Embrace Amazon.” Admission is free even if one does not have a Prime membership. More Amazon PR is included in “At Re:MARS, Amazon Sells Itself As an AI Innovator.” Unlike Facebook and Google, Amazon is taking note of America Online’s disc campaign and refined it. Instead of CD ROMs, Amazon is using digital reminders, flashy technology, and glitzy conferences to make clear that it is the Bezos way or one will be sitting on the side of the Amazon toll way.

Amazon Revenue

According to GeekWire, Amazon’s sale of products make up less than half of Amazon’s revenue. Where’s the other revenue come from? Amazon Web Services, advertising, and “other” revenue streams. Is this important? Facebook, Google, and Microsoft may care. Regulators? Tough to say.

We noted a question posed by the Motley Fool, a rock solid financial advisory service: Is Amazon spending too much cash on Lord of the Rings? You can read the MBAistic discussion at this link. The answer is that the streaming world is a competitive place. Deep pockets are needed for this game. Even Google is working to fix up its YouTube service. If Amazon doesn’t get with the seeing stone, Apple, Disney, Netflix, or another outfit with cash will. Netflix has lost “Friends” and that’s the new world of streaming video. Losing friends.

Amazon: Asking Permission

Amazon Asks to Join Broadband Space Race with Elon Musk’s SpaceX” signals a new spirit at Amazon. The write up reports:

Amazon.com asked for U.S. permission to launch 3,236 communications satellites, joining a new space race to offer internet service from low orbits and challenge the fleet planned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Yes, asking permission.

Amazon’s satellite initiative is designed to help people get Internet access. Those without Internet access can use Amazon for shopping, videos, and computer services. But the permission angle is noteworthy.

Amazon Faces Challenges

There has been an uptick in “Amazon faces challenges” news. The Telegraph published “As Amazon Turns 25, What Are the Biggest Challenges Facing the World’s Most Powerful Company?” The Week, another UK publishing outfit, chimed in with “Amazon at 25: Where Next for the Online Giant?” These “analyses” recycle truisms. But after a decade of inattention, the rush to criticize is amusing.

More interesting were these items about Amazon’s new world:

Deliveroo Stalled

CNN reported:

UK regulators have ordered Amazon to pause its investment in UK food delivery startup Deliveroo while they consider whether the deal amounts to a takeover.

UK Investigates Amazon

The Associated Press, an outfit which frightens us, emitted a write up called “UK Investigation of Amazon Investment Shows Tougher Approach.” The AP story appeared in SFGate. We won’t quote from the story. What’s up is that government authorities are going to scrutinize Amazon. Amazon has been in business for more than 20 years. What’s the rush? Possible revenue from fines and taxes. These are potent forces in some nation states.

French Push Back
SFGate reported that Amazon faced some environmental pushback in Paris, France. We learned:

Protesters also disrupted Amazon sites in the southern city of Toulouse and northern city of Lille, hoping to inspire similar action in other countries.

C’est dommage.

Adding fuel to the environmental dumpster fire was a report that the online bookstore will not reveal how much carbon is pumped into the atmosphere by its Australian server operations. The Register said:

It’s one rule for Jeff Bezos’ online empire, and another for everyone else.

Security Issue

A new exploit has appeared. The code is Magecart and it attacks misconfigured AWS S3 instances. The method used is called “skimming.” The basic idea is to siphon off credit card data.

One unique feature of the S3 attacks is that the group is using a “spray and pray” technique as opposed to previous attacks that were highly targeted. In this case, the Magecart group is installing the skimmer code on any open S3 instances it can find in the hope that some of them may be linked to sites that have e-commerce functions.

Financial fraud is a new core competency of some bad actors and industrialized crime cartels. You can read more in Silicon Angle.

Selected Partner / Integrator News
  • The Chengdu Hi-tech Zone has teamed up with the Chinese non governmental organization to create a joint innovation zone. The idea is that Amazon and its partner will have an accelerator, incubator, international maker space and talent base. Source: Yahoo
  • Datadog has achieved AWS Microsoft workloads competency status. Source: Business Wire
  • Dobler Consulting has achieved Select Partner status as part of the Amazon Partner Network (APN). Source: Business Insider
  • Saviynt announced support for the newly launched Amazon EventBridge, from Amazon Web Services (AWS). (Amazon EventBridge is a serverless event bus service that connects applications using events.) Source: Digital Journal
  • Iron Mountain now supports AWS. The announcement included this remarkable phrase: ‘’Iron Mountain announced it has joined the AWS Partner Network (APN) as a Select Technology Partner, enabling customers to accelerate their digital transformation journey with AWS.” Source: Yahoo
  • The Spanish vendor Media Interactiva Media Interactiva offers system developers and engineers the chance to prepare for certification in Amazon Web Services (AWS). Source: Business Insider (may be paywall protected or free. It’s sort of hit and miss with this media and “real” news giant.)
  • SentryOne has also achieved Advanced Tier status in the Amazon Web Partner Services Network (APN) as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status. Source: Yahoo
  • SIOS Technology Corp. achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status within the AWS Partner Network (APN). Source: Yahoo
  • Trend Micro will deliver transparent, inline network security with Amazon Web Services Transit Gateway. Source: MarketWatch
  • Turbonomic has achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Microsoft Workloads Competency status as an inaugural global launch AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner. Source: Yahoo
  • Unissant has joined the AWS consulting partner network. Source: Globe News Wire
  • Oooh rah. The US Marines and Amazon have teamed up for AWS training. Source: Education Drive

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2019

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