Monthly Archives: November 2017

Time-Warners Turner opts for AWS as its preferred cloud provider

All of the hyper-scale cloud providers love to tout their new customer acquisitions: Google talking about Spotify; Microsoft signing up various Adobe services for Azure; or AWS working with the likes of GE. That’s a sign of how competitive this market is, despite AWS’s continuing market share leadership.

At its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon’s cloud service today announced that Turner, Time-Warner’s entertainment, sports and news company, is making AWS its preferred cloud provider. Turner’s brands and partners include channels like TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, CNN and Adult Swim.

Turner says that it is bringing “decades of content” to the AWS cloud, including CNN’s 15-petabyte video archive. The company is also moving thousands of virtual machines to AWS and expects to use a wide range of Amazon’s AI technologies to better analyze and extract video metadata to offer its viewers enhanced personalized experiences and, of course, to help its advertisers, content creators and analysts better understand viewing trends (the emphasis here is probably on the advertisers).

“We’re changing our broadcast technology stack to a fully digital, cloud environment built on AWS, which will enable us to adapt to new video delivery models, as well as provide our viewers with more personalized content and advertisement,” said Turner CTO Jeremy Legg in a canned statement. “Our relationship with AWS and the services they provide are essential to our success. Given that we reach over 80 percent of adults and 70 percent of millennials every month, we needed a cloud provider that has the ability to support massive-scale media businesses like ours which often have spikes in demand across our diverse portfolio.”

AWS stressed that Turner isn’t the first media company to make the move to its cloud. Others include the BBC, C-SPAN, Hulu, Netflix, PBS, GoPro, Lionsgate and Spotify (which still keeps a presence on the AWS platform).


via:  techcrunch

Bitcoin price soars above $11,000 as central bankers seek to calm fears

Bank of England and Fed officials say cryptocurrency is too small to threaten world economy amid warnings of bubble.

Bitcoin topped $11,000 on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after hitting $10,000 for the first time, as central bankers on both sides of the Atlantic sought to ease fears that a potential bubble in the cryptocurrency was a threat to the global economy.

The digital currency continued on its record-breaking streak, rising to $11,150 just as analysts were digesting the news that it had made it through $10,000. However, it then fell back below $10,500, again highlighting its volatility.

Bitcoin has risen tenfold in value so far this year, the largest gain of all asset classes, prompting sceptics to declare it a classic speculative bubble that could burst, like the dotcom boom and the US sub-prime housing crash that triggered the global financial crisis.

“The madness of crowds is well documented, but it is quite something to behold in the flesh. It’s hard to keep up with this – bitcoin just flew past the $11,000 mark, leaping $200 in barely five minutes before taking another big leg higher,” said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

“It’s up more than 14% today alone and the year-to-date chart is simply staggering. There are no fundamentals or technical that explain this other than it being a massive speculative bubble.”

The rapid growth in the value and popularity of the virtual currency, which emerged in the aftermath of the financial crisis and allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods to pay for goods and services, has forced central banks, financial regulators and institutions to consider how to respond.

Sir Jon Cunliffe, a deputy governor at the Bank of England with financial stability, said bitcoin was too small to pose a risk to the global economy.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “This is not a currency in the accepted sense. There’s no central bank that stands behind it. For me it’s much more like a commodity.

“This is not at a size where it’s a macroeconomic risk to the global economy, but when prices are moving like that, my view would be investors need to do their homework.”

Over in the US, William Dudley, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said bitcoin is “more of a speculative activity” than a currency.

“I would be pretty cautionary about it. I think that it’s not a stable store of value,” he said at an event in New Jersey. “I would be, at this point, pretty skeptical of bitcoin,” he added.

Dudley echoed Cunliffe’s point that the bitcoin is still relatively small. “Bitcoin is tiny relative to the amount of payment transactions that are executed in the United States.”

Commenting on the idea that the Fed could potentially offer it own digital currencies, he said: “I think at this point it’s really very premature to be talking about the Federal Reserve offering digital currencies, but it is something we are starting to think about.”

Banks and other financial institutions have been concerned about bitcoin’s early associations with money laundering and online crime, and it has not been adopted by any government.

The JP Morgan chief executive, Jamie Dimon, has described bitcoin as “worse than tulips”, in reference to a famous market bubble from the 1600s. Speaking in September, Dimon said the digital currency was a fraud that would ultimately blow up, adding it was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea.

However, according to reports last week, JP Morgan is considering whether to help its own clients bet on the price of bitcoin through proposed futures contracts to be offered by CME Group. The bank would collect fees for providing such a service.

Dennis de Jong, the managing director at the online currency broker UFX, said the value of the cryptocurrency was likely to rise further.

“Until bitcoin becomes a commonly used payment source, it’s very possible that it could hit $15,000 and beyond based on its current desirability,” he said. “If bitcoin falls into wider circulation, and becomes accepted into more conventional funds and exchanges, we are likely to see a normalization of its value.”


FYI—the price does fall and at the moment :





via:  theguardian

McAfee acquires cloud security startup Skyhigh Networks, last valued at $400M

After spinning out as a standalone security business from Intel earlier this year, McAfee has made its first acquisition. The company has acquired Skyhigh Networks, a specialist in cloud security, the companies announced today.

The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but here are a few data points: Skyhigh had raised over $106 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, most recently a Series D round a year ago, with its investors including Sequoia, Greylock and Salesforce. PitchBook, meanwhile, puts its most recent funding round at $400 million, one marker for the potential value of this deal.

The deal is a sign of the ongoing trend for consolidation in the security industry, where smaller players are coming together under larger businesses to provide more security services under one roof. This makes sense on a couple of levels.

For one, the issue of cybersecurity has become one of the most persistent in the market today, with malicious hacking a nightmare not just for businesses but individuals as more and more of our personal and not-so-personal information becoming digitized and moving to the cloud, putting it in the reach of both criminals and destructive pranksters.

In the case of Skyhigh, McAfee — whose legacy business is in endpoint security — is specifically acquiring the company for that cloud expertise. Skyhigh CEO Rajiv Gupta will head McAfee’s cloud business unit.

The other is the nature of how security services is evolving: we’re seeing a big shift to the use of data analytics and machine learning and other kinds of AI to be able to identify, track and stop cybercrime. Bringing together different services that can use and improve the bigger data pool makes all of those services stronger, potentially.

“Skyhigh Networks had the foresight five years ago to realize that cybersecurity for cloud environments could not be an impediment to, or afterthought of, cloud adoption,” Chris Young, CEO of McAfee, said in a statement. “They pioneered an entirely new product category called cloud access security broker (CASB) that analysts describe as one of the fastest growing areas of information security investments of the last five years – where Skyhigh continues to innovate and lead. Skyhigh’s leadership in cloud security, combined with McAfee’s security portfolio strength, will set the company apart in helping organizations operate freely and securely to reach their full potential.”

It’s not clear if Skyhigh was profitable, and where it stood on its funding, but this will be coupled with more investment into its business by McAfee, which was valued at $4.2 billion at the time of its spinout from Intel in April.

“Becoming part of McAfee is the ideal next step in realizing Skyhigh Networks’ vision of not simply making the cloud secure, but making it the most secure environment for business,” Gupta said in a statement. “McAfee will provide global scale to further accelerate Skyhigh’s growth, with the combined company providing leading technologies and solutions across cloud and endpoint security – categories Skyhigh and McAfee respectively helped create, and the two architectural control points for enterprise security.”

Skyhigh Networks already has produces in the areas of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS and a range of cloud-based security services around policy control both for apps in the cloud and on premises. We should expect to see more of that now being marketed to McAfee’s current roster of customers.

The deal is expected to close pending regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.


via:  techcrunch

Amazon German, Italian workers protest on Black Friday, dubbed ‘Strike Friday’

Amazon has been one of the strongest driving forces behind the surge of e-commerce holiday sales around Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the rest of the days leading to the end of the new year. Now, some of its workers in Europe have picked one of the biggest shopping days of the year to protest the company’s practices, dubbing the day “Strike Friday” instead.

Workers at Amazon facilities across Italy and Germany are striking outside Amazon’s warehouses to speak out against a wide range of company practices that they say “endanger the health of its employees,” covering such areas as leadership culture and performance controls.

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market globally after the U.S., and the strikes there took place in six major depots in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben and Koblenz, according to Verdi, a trade union in Germany. (And they actually first started earlier this week, and may go on through the weekend.) In Italy, workers associated with three different unions — CGIL, CISL, and UIL — have been striking in what appears to be only one location, in Piacenza.

In Germany, the Verdi union wants Amazon to adopt a new framework for “Gute und gesunde Arbeit” (‘good and healthy work’), potentially with some pressure from regulatory bodies behind it.

“Amazon permanently endangers the health of its employees with its way of working. High pressure to create more and more in less time, permanent performance controls and monitoring, a poor leadership culture and inadequate recovery times are health hazards in the Amazon labor process,” Stefanie Nutzberger, Verdi a board member, said in a statement(originally in German). “A special collective agreement can guarantee healthy and good working conditions. We should create the necessary regulations so that employees are no longer exposed to the arbitrariness of an employer who also conducts its business at the expense of their health.”

The complaints in Italy echoed this idea, too,

“Work is not a commodity,” said Annamaria Furlan, the secretary general of CISL in Italy (originally in Italian). “The dignity of workers must not be trampled on. Amazon needs to open a dialogue with unions over industrial relations, employment stability and better salaries.”


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Amazon tells TechCrunch that not all employees were striking today. “The vast majority of our employees in Italy and Germany came to work and remained focused on delivering the best customer experience. We are proud of our record of job creation and are confident we will deliver for our customers this holiday season,” a spokesperson said. “Amazon is a good employer. We are committed to ensuring a fair cooperation with all our employees, granting valuable working conditions and a caring and inclusive environment in all our workplaces.”

We’ve asked if Amazon is negotiating at all with the unions over their requests, and while not answering the question directly, this is what they told us:

“Everywhere we operate we offer our Fulfillment Center employees’ competitive salaries and very attractive benefits including an innovative program called Career Choice that provides employees funding for adult education, offering to pre-pay 95% of tuition and associated fees for nationally recognized courses,” the spokesperson said. “To make sure we remain competitive, we review compensation information and benefits that are offered for similar jobs in the local areas annually and make adjustments as appropriate.”

The protests come at a key time for Amazon in the region. On one hand, the company continues to be a juggernaut not only in the world of e-commerce and cloud services, but new developments in AI and voice interfaces — specifically around Amazon’s popular Echo hub and its Alexa interface — are laying the groundwork for Amazon to play an even bigger role in our digital lives.

On the other hand, the company has long been scrutinised for how it handles its taxes, and in some countries the impact that it is having on local and smaller businesses. In the former case, it appears that Europe and individual countries are now starting to take action.

The latter idea of Amazon affecting small and local businesses is less of a call to action these days than it was some years ago, although when and if tides turn and we see more protests against the company’s other practices, this could become an issue again.

Amazon has been lauded for its immense and efficient logistics operation, but protests like these point to how it’s not always smooth sailing, and that Amazon’s gains come at a labor price (for now, at least).

Germany last year generated over $14.2 billion in sales for Amazon, a distant second to the U.S. and its $90.3 billion of revenue, but still enough to make the it second-largest market in the world. Italy appears to be the fourth-largest market for Amazon in Europe, after Germany, the UK and France. Amazon last year earmarked an extra $550 million of investment into the country to build out its business, expand data centers and tap into an economy that is relatively underdevelopment in terms of Internet speed and online spend compared to other parts of Europe.


via:   techcrunch

Snips lets you build your own voice assistant to embed into your devices

French startup Snips is now helping you build a custom voice assistant for your device. Snips doesn’t use Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service or Google Assistant SDK — the company is building its own voice assistant so that you can embed it on your devices. And the best part is that it doesn’t send anything to the cloud as it works offline.

If you want to understand how a voice assistant works, you can split it into multiple parts. First, it starts with a wakeword. Snips has a handful of wakewords by default, such as “Hey Snips,” but you can also pay the company to create your own wakeword.

For instance, if you’re building a multimedia robot called Keecker, you can create a custom “Hey Keecker” hot word. Snips then uses deep learning to accurately detect when someone is trying to talk to your voice assistant.

The second part is automatic speech recognition. A voice assistant transcribes your voice into a text query. Popular home assistants usually send a small audio file with your voice and use servers to transcribe your query.

Snips can transcribe your voice into text on the device itself. It works on anything that is more powerful than a Raspberry Pi. For now, Snips is limited to English and French. You’ll have to use a third-party automatic speech recognition API for other languages.

Then, Snips needs to understand your query. The company has developed natural language capabilities. But there are hundreds, or even thousands of different ways to ask a simple question about the weather for instance.

That’s why Snips is launching a data generation service today. I saw a demo yesterday, and the interface looks like Automator on macOS or Workflow on iOS. You define some variables, such as “date” and “location”, you define if they are mandatory for the query and you enter a few examples.

But instead of manually entering hundreds of variations of the same query, you can pay $100 to $800 to let Snips do the work for you. The startup manually checks your request then posts it on Amazon Mechanical Turk and other crowdsourcing marketplaces. Finally, Snips cleans up your data set and sends it back to you.

You can either download it and reuse it in another chatbot or voice assistant, or you can use it with Snips’ own voice assistant. You can also make your capability public. Other Snips users can add this capability to their own assistant by browsing a repository of pre-trained capabilities.





A Snips voice assistant typically requires hundreds of megabytes but is quite easy to update. After installing the Snips app on your device, you just need to replace a zip library file to add new capabilities.

You also need to implement the actual actions. Snips only translates what someone is saying into a parsable query. For instance, Snips can understand that “could you please turn on the bedroom light?” means “light + bedroom + on.” A developer still needs to implement the action based on those three parameters.

Developers are already playing with Snips to test its capabilities. But the company hopes that big device manufacturers are going to embed Snips into their future products. Eventually, you could think about a coffee maker with a Snips voice assistant.

Compared to Amazon’s or Google’s wide-ranging assistants, Snips thinks that you don’t need to embed a complete voice assistant into all your devices. You only want to tell your Roomba to start vacuuming — no need to let you start a Spotify playlist from your vacuum cleaner.

This approach presents a few advantages when it comes to privacy and network effects. Big tech companies are creating ecosystem of internet-of-things devices. People are buying lightbulbs, security cameras and door locks that work with the Amazon Echo for instance.

But if you can talk to the devices themselves, you don’t need to hook up your devices with a central home speaker — the central hub disappears. If voice assistants are more than a fad, Snips is building some promising technology. And Snips could get some licensing revenue for each device that comes with its voice assistant.


via:  techcrunch

New York attorney general slams the FCC for ignoring net neutrality comments investigation

If the FCC’s refusal to acknowledge the vast public outcry against its plan to gut net neutrality isn’t enough of an outrage, its total disinterest in investigating how that same comment system may have been gamed by fake users posing as real Americans adds a bit more insult to injury.

Suspicions arose earlier this year that a person or an organization of some kind was manipulating the FCC feedback system, flooding it with canned anti-net neutrality comments. While form letters around activist causes like this are nothing new, many of those comments were linked to real names, addresses and zip codes of people who denied having ever left feedback on the FCC website. In an open letter on Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote that his office pursued an investigation of the incident, but that the FCC basically ignored all of its requests for cooperation.

In a Medium post, Schneiderman writes:

“Successfully investigating this sort of illegal conduct requires the participation of the agency whose system was attacked. So in June 2017, we contacted the FCC to request certain records related to its public comment system that were necessary to investigate which bad actor or actors were behind the misconduct. We made our request for logs and other records at least 9 times over 5 months: in June, July, August, September, October (three times), and November.

We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work.

Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None.”

Likening the manipulation of real names and addresses to more traditional forms of identity theft, Schneiderman expresses concerns about how the fake comments could have warped the FCC’s assessment of public sentiment on net neutrality.

“In an era where foreign governments have indisputably tried to use the internet and social media to influence our elections, federal and state governments should be working together to ensure that malevolent actors cannot subvert our administrative agencies’ decision-making processes,” Schneiderman said.

Earlier this year, at least two journalists filed lawsuits against the FCC for its failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests on the same topic, one of which sought information about the FCC’s claims that a DDoS attack took its commenting system offline. While the fate of net neutrality may be something of a foregone conclusion at this point, the agency’s brazen lack of transparency around its commenting system shows just how little regard Ajit Pai’s FCC has for the concerns of the American people.


via: techcrunch

Macy’s credit card processors stop working on Black Friday

Customers have been waiting in lines across the United States to buy discounted items, only to find out that the machines won’t take credit cards or gift cards. Some Bloomingdale’s stores, which are owned by Macy’s, may have also been impacted.

Update: The company says it has resolved the issue and has provided the following statement.

“We have fully resolved today’s system issues. We highly value our customers and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience today’s system slowdown may have caused during their shopping experience. The delays we experienced this afternoon were due to a capacity-related issue that caused some transactions to take longer to process. We do not anticipate any additional delays.”

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become a shopping holiday, with retailers offering heavily discounted items. Macy’s even kicks off the occasion with its big annual Thanksgiving parade in New York, which is televised throughout the country.

The company also experienced an outage on its website during Black Friday 2016. Holiday sales play a significant role in the company’s quarterly earnings and Macy’s disappointed Wall Street last season.

Its stock is trading at less than half of what it was a year ago and about one-third of what it was three years ago. The company presently has a market cap of $6.4 billion.

Last year, Terry Lundgren, who was Macy’s CEO at the time, said in an interview with Fortune that the company started opening its stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day because of industry pressure. “If you’re not open and your competitors are, there’s going to be a number of customers who simply will go shop elsewhere,” he told Fortune. “You’ll never recover that sale.”

Lundgren is now executive chairman.  Jeff Gennette took on the role of CEO in March, after being promoted from president.

Gennette told CNBC earlier Friday that Black Friday was off to a stronger start than last year.He said that the company had fewer discounts this year, which would lead to better profit margins.

According to the National Retail Federation, 164 million Americans planned to shop during Thanksgiving weekend.


via:  techcrunch

FCC releases final draft of ‘Restoring Internet Freedom,’ which would not do that

The FCC yesterday announced a December 14 vote on “Restoring Internet Freedom,” an order that, far from restoring freedom to the internet, which is already free, would allow it to be restricted in new and harmful ways. Actually, when you think of it as restoring internet freedom to ISPs and cable companies, it makes a lot more sense. At any rate the Commission has released the text of the order ahead of the vote, as promised.

It was just put out half an hour ago and it’s about 200 pages long, so it’ll take some time for me and others to sift through it and find out what kind of changes have been made since the draft circulated in late summer.

Although an FCC representative yesterday said that “we addressed all the serious comments,” that can’t quite be true, since the core of the order is still intact: remove broadband’s telecommunications designation, removing the statutory authority for the 2015 rules (Title II of the Communications Act), and returning to a “light touch” regulatory framework under which ISPs will be permitted within reason to throttle and prioritize traffic. Lots of other little presents for the telecoms in there, too.

There will be some new information in this revised draft, however: the wording of its highly questionable definition of broadband as an information service could figure into its legal future, for instance, as would any indication of plans to preempt state regulations, which those states may not agree with.

Any substantive changes will be documented in a future article after we’ve had a change to look over the full text and confer with experts.


via:  techcrunch

How You Can Benefit From Penetration Tests

There are many reasons to penetration test your organization – and not just to adhere to compliance protocols. Nonetheless, sometimes that’s the routine we get caught in, isn’t it? We do it just because we have to, but we don’t leverage the findings from the tests to better secure our business.

Well, today’s the day we start leveraging and seeing the true value behind penetration testing. Take a look at these four ways in which you can benefit from penetration tests.

Intelligently manage vulnerabilities.

Oftentimes, a penetration test is conducted with/alongside a vulnerability scan to help put meaning behind the data. This allows your organization to better align security strategies and tackle the biggest risks first. The information you gather from that of pen test will help you more intelligently prioritize remediation, apply needed security patches and allocate security resources where they’re needed most.

With this knowledge, you can more effectively tackle any potential vulnerabilities that exist and remediate ones that could lead to something more severe. Having this knowledge, and acting upon it, will help you lessen the gap between your organization and bad actors – allowing you to have more control over your security posture.

Avoid the cost of network downtime.

Let’s say you were to fall victim to bad actors, hypothetically speaking of course, where your sensitive material is exploited. Yes, this is definitely some bad news, but there’d be more to take care of than just trying to recover the data. Not only do breaches cost you your information (or the information of those you serve), but it could halt your business operations depending on the severity of the breach.

Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • How much damage was done?
  • How long will it take to fix and ensure that adversaries haven’t escalated through your network?
  • How will this affect the operations of the company?

It could be difficult to quickly remediate and secure your organization in order to get everything back up and running. So is it worth it to avoid pen-testing and wait for problems to arise?

Meet regulatory requirements and avoid fines.

Now we have to talk about the industry protocols because that is just as important. As a business, there are various requirements to abide by. When you complete a penetration test of your organization you avoid potentially costly fines. And yes, by completing this you are avoiding fines, but it’s encouraged that you still look beyond the requirements and use the data to enable your organization further.

Preserve corporate image and customer loyalty.

There are two potential issues here. You could have pen-tested your organization and didn’t patch the vulnerabilities OR you could have completely forgotten about needing to conduct a penetration test. Neither of these are situations you want to find yourself in – but we’ve seen it happen and the news will get out one way or another.

By taking ownership of your business and with that – your penetration tests – you establish a culture of trust within your organization that only seeps out to your customers. This speaks volumes to your customer-base and the market as a whole because it’s an opportunity to show that you care about the security of those that you work with and for.


via:  coresecurity

Firefox aims to win back Chrome users with its souped up Quantum browser

The last half-decade hasn’t been great for Firefox marketshare. Chrome first overtook Mozilla’s browser back in late-2011 and now hovers above 60-percent, according to StatCounter numbers. But after a fair amount of struggles, Mozilla’s been undergoing an interesting sort of renaissance of late, and is banking on its new Quantum browser to bring bygone users back into the Firefox fold.

After two months of beta testing, the 57th version of the browser drops today for public consumption, belying the slow moving condiment that shares its build number. According to the foundation’s numbers, the latest build users 30-percent less memory than the competition when running on a Windows System.




It’s also somewhere in the neighborhood of double the speed of the two-month-old Firefox 52 (aw, memories), according to benchmarks on a Surface Laptop. Mozilla’s team has also built a new engine here to make the experience of switching between tabs smoother than before.

That’s paired with a new streamlined UI called Photon, which appears to take some minimalist cues from the mobile browsing experience.

There are other bells and whistles, too, including additional integration with the read-it-later service, Pocket, recommending stories based on the sites you frequent.

“We looked at real world hardware to make Firefox look great on any display, and we made sure that Firefox looks and works like Firefox regardless of the device you’re using,” SVP Mark Mayo explains in a post. “Our designers created a system that scales to more than just current hardware but lets us expand in the future.”

It all seems to be a step in the right direction — the first Firefox felt revolutionary back in 2004, but browsers like Chrome and Safari have taken great pains to strip excess baggage in order to make browsing as fast as possible. Meantime, Firefox’s marketshare has slipped substantially.

Actually convincing users to switch back — or even try Firefox for the first time — is a different conversation altogether, of course. Change is tough with a daily driver like a browser. But interested parties can check it out now for Windows, Mac and Linux. A similarly designed version will follow soon for iOS and Android.


via:  techcrunch