Amazon Policeware: Fraud Detection

August 4, 2020

We spotted “Fraud Detector Launched on AWS Platform.” As one pre pandemic, face-to-face conference organizer told me, “No one cares about Amazon policeware. The future is quantum computing.”

Yeah, okay.

Amazon does not buy big booths at law enforcement and intelligence conferences. For now, that’s the responsibility of its partners. No booth, no attention at least for one super charged quantum cheerleader.

The write up states:

With Amazon Fraud Detector, customers use their historical data of both fraudulent and legitimate transactions to build, train, and deploy machine learning models that provide real-time, low-latency fraud risk predictions. To get started, customers upload historical event data (e.g. transactions, account registrations, loyalty points redemptions, etc.) to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), where it is encrypted in transit and at rest and used to customize the model’s training. Customers only need to provide any two attributes associated with an event (e.g. logins, new account creation, etc.) and can optionally add other data (e.g. billing address or phone number). Based upon the type of fraud customers want to predict, Amazon Fraud Detector will pre-process the data, select an algorithm, and train a model.

And what does an Amazon person whom remains within the Amazon box with the smile on the side say? The write up reports:

Customers of all sizes and across all industries have told us they spend a lot of time and effort trying to decrease the amount of fraud occurring on their websites and applications. By leveraging 20 years of experience detecting fraud coupled with powerful machine learning technology, we’re excited to bring customers Amazon Fraud Detector so they can automatically detect potential fraud, save time and money, and improve customer experiences—with no machine learning experience required.

Several observations:

  1. Combined with “other” financial data available within the AWS system, Amazon’s fraud detection system may be of interest to some significant financial services firms.
  2. The technology provides a glimpse of what AWS can support; for example, matching tax returns to “other” financial signals in order to flag interesting returns.
  3. The technical widgets in the AWS structure makes it possible for a clever partner to reinvent a mostly unknown financial task: Identification or flagging of medical financial data for fraud. Subrogation with the point-and-click Amazon interface? Maybe.

To sum up, we offer a one hour lecture about Amazon’s policeware initiative. I know “free” is compelling, but this lecture costs money. For details write darkcyber333 at yandex dot com. Note: The program is different from our Amazon lecture for the 2020 US National Cyber Crime Conference.

No, it is not about the Quantum Computer Revolutions, but we do discuss Amazon’s Quantum Ledger Database. It works. Some quantum computing demonstrations do not.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2020

Amazon Product Fulfillment in a Post Brexit World: Red Tape, Higher Costs, and Smaller Markets for Some Sellers

July 20, 2020

You are a merchant. Let’s say you import products from countries in the orbit of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. The goods arrive, and you trundle them off to an Amazon Fulfillment Center or AFC, which is part of the Fulfillment by Amazon subsystem. This is called FBA.

Amazon has a big fulfillment operation in the UK. Who doesn’t like those Thursday trips to London, a day of meetings, and then the post Covid thrill of looking at pigeons in Trafalgar Square? Home in time for Monday meetings too.

Nope. The Bezos bulldozer is changing in order to adapt to what looks like Brexit and some UK – EU tensions. (Alternatively the Amazon managers are testing how to go about breaking “stuff” up. A dry run, maybe like the Twitter security probe by alleged script kiddies?)

The Amazon announcement appears in Tamebay in an article called with remarkable sonorousness “Amazon FBA Brexit Bombshell – EFN and Pan-European FBA ends for UK.” Those lucky British Amazon sellers get a smaller market as a bonus: 60 million versus 400 million in round numbers.

I mention the write up because it looks at an Amazon wiggle through a quite narrow lens. Even the Ripper drone takes a broader view of surveilled actions.

This mindset may be useful when assessing the FBA EFN acronym fiesta.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2020

Amzon AWS Cost Control Insights

June 29, 2020

Amazon’s AWS is a fascinating business case. On one hand, AWS reduces some of the hurdles to modern solution development. On the other hand, it is easy — even for an experienced Certified AWS expert — to forget what’s running, whether a particular service is unnecessary, or what processes are tucked into the corner of Jeff Bezos’ profit making machine. “Our AWS Bill is ~ 2% of revenue. Here’s How We Did It” provides a run down of the money gobblers and provides some helpful guidance. There are screenshots in the Gulf racing colors of orange and blue. There are explanations. Plus, there are useful insights; for example:

Our application is a Shopify app and during the process of building the application we created a Shopify store. Every Shopify store gets its own personal CDN where you can manually upload anything and it will be served over the Shopify CDN. So we minified and uploaded our JS file to the CDN of our Shopify store and now we serve 20000 Shopify stores using this method at zero cost.

One problem: There are more ways for Mr. Bezos to suck cash from eager and willing customers than helpful explanations of how to keep expenses low.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2020

Amazon: Bombay Gin? For Sure

June 21, 2020

The trustworthy outfit with trust principles published “Amazon Signals Entry into alcohol Delivery in India with Nod in Key State.” The title had the words “exclusive” and “document”, but the main point seemed diluted.

Amazon is allegedly going to deliver alcohol in West Bengal.

Why?

Money.

The write up points out that Amazon competitors are delivering liquor.

Interesting item of Amazonia.

Stephen E Arnold, June 21, 2020

Amazon: Can Money Buy Smooth Sailing?

June 15, 2020

What is the obvious solution when you must not leave home but there are things to purchase? Amazon.com, of course. And where do businesses turn when they must suddenly facilitate remote workers? For many, the solution is Amazon’s AWS. During this pandemic the tech giant has grown even larger, but with this success comes a lot of criticism. Yahoo News tells us, “Amazon Hit from All Sides as Crisis Highlights Growing Power.” One prominent example—New York state Attorney General Letitia James and others were disgusted Amazon fired a worker who had led a protest over covid-19-related safety concerns. The company says the employee was actually fired for refusing to quarantine after testing positive for the disease. Hmm.

AFP reporter Julie Jammot writes:

“As Amazon becomes an increasingly important lifeline in the pandemic crisis, it is being hit with a wave of criticism from activists, politicians and others who question the tech giant’s growing influence. Amazon has become the most scrutinized company during the health emergency. It has boosted its global workforce to nearly one million and dealt with protests over warehouse safety and reported deaths of several employees. But Amazon has also pledged to spend at least $4 billion in the current quarter — its entire expected operating profit — on coronavirus mitigation efforts, including relief contributions and funding research. Amazon’s AWS cloud computing unit, which powers big portions of the internet, is also a key element during the crisis with more people and companies working online. Amazon’s market value has hovered near record levels around $1.2 trillion dollars as it reported rising revenues and lower profits in the past quarter.”

The company’s size alone, say activists, is reason enough for scrutiny. Some are concerned about the way Amazon treats workers, others balk at the financial gain CEO Jeff Bezos has personally enjoyed during this time. Though the company has increased pay above minimum wage during the crisis, to $15 an hour, critics say it could afford to pay much more. There is also concern that, with its popular streaming service on top of everything else, the company just wields too much influence in people’s daily lives.

Amazon seems to have sailed through the biological disturbance. Now comes the legal thunderstorms. Smooth cruising ahead? Unlikely.

Cynthia Murrell, June 15, 2020

Amazon Facial Recognition: Hit Pause for One Year. Is the Button Wired Up?

June 11, 2020

Quite a bit of interest in the announcement from the online bookstore about facial recognition. The story appeared in Dayone (that’s the Amazon official blog). The story’s title was “We Are Implementing a One Year Moratorium on Police Use of Rekognition.” Like IBM’s “we’re not doing facial recognition” announcement, the coverage of the news seems to have ignored some nuances.

First, Amazon has been investing like a wealth crazed MBA on Wall Street to beef up its policeware capabilities. Because bad actors are often humans, the technology required to identify these humans is important. And facial recognition and other types of policeware are expensive to develop. Thus, the word “moratorium” is important.

Second, some of the activities in which the online bookstore is engaged are covered by different types of agreements, contracts, and statements of work. As dramatic and newsy are “From this day forward” statements are, certain projects are likely to continue. Extrication from an underway government project is not just pushing the button. That button has to be connected to the operative system in order to work. Think of this as a dial on a thermostat in a hotel room. The guest thinks the dial works, but the device is a psychological play so the guest “thinks” he or she is in control. Ho, ho, ho.

Third, with infrastructure in place and data being processed, indexed, and stored, government entities have legal tools to obtain access to certain information. Whether one “stops” or not, the legal mechanisms are often deaf to such statements, “We don’t do this anymore.” That works exactly how often?

Net net: DarkCyber believes that more information about the precise meaning of moratorium in the context of Amazon’s usage of the word. Discarding a substantive investment? Maybe. Maybe not.

Stephen E Arnold, June 11, 2020

AWS Cost Management

May 29, 2020

I am not sure if Amazon AWS cost management was covered in my Accounting 101 class and in the mindless training programs I enjoyed at Halliburton NUS, Booz Allen & Hamilton, and “lectures I could not escape from” at “secure” intelligence conferences. Come to think of it, Amazon AWS cost management is a new and increasingly important discipline. Ah, if I were 25 and looking for a niche, AACM, shorthand for Amazon Aws cost management might be lured by this digital Peitho.

Why is AACM (among the DarkCyber team we pronounce this acronym ah-shazam) a new big thing?

Navigate to “How We Reduced the AWS Costs of Our Streaming Data Pipeline by 67%.” The write up explains what one outfit did to keep $0.67 from the scraper of the Bezos bulldozer. The procedure involved technical analysis, cross tabulation, and detailed tracking of AWS billing.

Do know a cost accountant up to this work? What about a newly minted CPA? What about a financial analyst working at a Silicon Valley money machine?

I don’t. Thus, gentle reader, here’s a practice for a recent college accounting grad or a with-it MBA.

Stephen E Arnold, May 29, 2020

Amazon AWS Translation Notes

May 26, 2020

DarkCyber wants to say, “Good job” to the person who assembled “Amazon Web Services.” The write up is a list of more than 160 AWS services. Each service is identified by the often wonky Amazon name and followed by a brief description. The list is a medieval gloss for a 21st century cloud vendor’s service, product, frameworks, and features. The monks who compiled Psychomachia of Aurelius Prudentius would be envious.

Amazon wants to offer something for everyone, and as the company has emitted services, coherence has been a casualty. Worth downloading and tucking in one’s “We Want to Be Number One” folder. I assume a mid tier consulting firm or a WFHer will put the list into Excel and indicate which of these AWS offerings are available and mostly working from competitors like Google, IBM, and Facebook.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2020

Amazon Promises an All Star Sub and Thomson 404s to Source

May 18, 2020

The news item was not a breath taker: “Amazon Says Appropriate Executive to Be Available, As U.S. Panel Calls on Bezos to Testify.”

On May 15, the Bezos bulldozer said no in a nice way to the US government. Mr. Bezos would be driving the bulldozer to a small town where one lone retail store front was operating. Apparently knocking down the building in Farmington, Illinois, required his attention. The US government would be able to speak with “the appropriate Amazon executive.” No surprise.

What was a surprise to some in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, was the dead link to the Amazon blog post pointing to the full text of Amazon’s response to the US government. This is particularly interesting since the article was written and checked by at least Ismail Shakil and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Gerry Doyle.

Ah, those trust principles appear to address issues other than verifying links to Amazon documents.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2020

The Bezos Bulldozer Heads to Academia

May 13, 2020

Oxford University and AWS have teamed up for cloud based research.

Does this strike anyone else as an interesting and perhaps improbable combination? On its News and Events page, Oxford University announces, “Oxford University and Amazon Web Services Create a Test-Bed for Cloud-Based Research.” The post reveals:

“Today the University of Oxford is delighted to announce a new strategic collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The collaboration will focus on building a portfolio of new research projects relating to AI, robotics, cyber-physical systems, human-centered computing, and support to the University’s new ‘Lighthouse’ Doctoral Scholarships. This new university- industry collaboration, supported by a £7 million [about $8.7 million] gift from AWS to the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, will accelerate advances in AI and Data Science across the entire research portfolio of the University. Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) University of Oxford, said: ‘Cloud computing is an essential part of modern research. A streamlined operating model for using cloud services will benefit all of our researchers. The Oxford Robotics Institute, the Cyber Physical Systems Group, and the Human Centered Computing group are leading the initial projects in the short term, but I look forward to growing the collaboration to bring research benefits across our research work more broadly.’”

For its part, AWS is happy to demonstrate how its products can help academia. That is, after all, one more sector it can add to its collection of those becoming dependent on its platform. The press release quotes members of each Oxford department involved: the Applied AI Lab, the Robotics Institute, Human-Centered Computing, and the Cyber Physical Systems group. See the post for each of those perspectives. I am particularly curious about the Human-Centered Computing professor’s vision for an Institute of Responsible Technology, but details are not provided.

As for that Lighthouse Doctoral Scholarship program, it will fund 25 PhD students for the years 2020-2022 “who are applying to the Centre for Doctoral Training in Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems, or to the research laboratories of the supervisors in the human-machine collaboration initiative.” This will help the university toward its existing goal of adding 300 graduate scholarships between 2018 and 2023.

Between the funding, the scholarships, and the technology, both AWS and Oxford have high hopes for an advanced, multi-national, “cloud-first” research initiative.

Like IBM, tie ups with big name universities may payoff in useful ways: Recruitment, research, virtue signaling, etc.

Too bad for the University of Washington maybe?

Cynthia Murrell, May 12, 2020

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