Archive for Amazon

Amazon To Slash 9000 More Jobs

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 20, 2023 by itnerd

On top of downsizing 18,000 of employees, it’s now making the news that 9000 more jobs are being slashed at Amazon:

Amazon will lay off 9,000 more employees in the coming weeks, CEO Andy Jassy said in a memo to staff on Monday.

The cuts are on top of the previously announced layoffsthat began in November and extended into January. That round totaled more than 18,000 employees, and primarily affected staffers in its retail, devices, recruiting and human resources groups.

Amazon made the decision to lay off more employees as it looks to streamline costs. It took into account the economy, as well as the “uncertainty that exists in the near future,” Jassy said. The company just wrapped up the second phase of its annual budgeting process, referred to internally as “OP2.”

“The overriding tenet of our annual planning this year was to be leaner while doing so in a way that enables us to still invest robustly in the key long-term customer experiences that we believe can meaningfully improve customers’ lives and Amazon as a whole,” Jassy said.

This also follows up Facebook/Meta doing a version of the same thing. Which doesn’t bode well for the tech sector as this may spur other companies to do the same thing. We’ll have to see what happens on that front, but I suspect that the next few weeks and months ahead will be very bumpy.

Has Amazon’s Ring Been Hacked? Ransomware Gang Posts Threat To Leak Data

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 15, 2023 by itnerd

The ALPHV ransomware group has claimed responsibility for an attack on Amazon’s security camera company, Ring, and is threatening to leak their data. This came to light because of this Tweet:

ALPHV is known for using the BlackCat malware in their attacks. The ALPHV group operates a ransomware-as-a-service platform. The group also has a searchable database of its victims who deny paying the ransom on the site.

The fact that someone might have pwned Amazon is plausible. Last December Brian Krebs carried a story on two US teens that were busted for taking control of RING camera’s and then Swatting the home owners and recording the police raid. The RING system is just one more IoT device that is attractive, and apparently vulnerable, to malicious hackers.

David Maynor, Senior Director of Threat Intelligence, Cybrary had this comment:

   “The exploitation of IOT devices that consumers rely on continues to march towards every dystopian movie plot. Attackers have moved from ransoming devices to ransoming companies. These attacks continue to have an increasing impact on the daily life of users.”

We’ll know soon enough if this threat to leak data is real or not. If it is real, I assure you, any company who plays in this space will be freaking out. And so will their customers.

Amazon Buys iRobot For $1.7 Billion

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 5, 2022 by itnerd

Amazon really wants to own every smart device in your home as they’ve bought Ring and Eero to advance that agenda. Well, as of today you can add iRobot to that list. Here’s the press release:

Amazon will acquire iRobot for $61 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.7 billion, including iRobot’s net debt. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by iRobot’s shareholders and regulatory approvals. On completion, Colin Angle will remain as CEO of iRobot.

This is more that the billion or so that Amazon spent to get Ring. And you can pretty much bet that once this closes, integration of iRobot products with Alexa will be at the top of the list. Of course it will be interesting to see if regulators sign off on this deal as “big tech is evil” is a thing in Washington at the moment. Thus watch this space.

Amazon Uses Alexa Voice Data To Target You With Ads

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 30, 2022 by itnerd

One of the reasons why I use Apple products is the fact that they appear to be privacy focused. I value my privacy and many others do. Which is why this report released last week that says that Amazon uses voice data from its Echo devices to serve targeted ads on its own platforms and the web:

The report, produced by researchers affiliated with the University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and Northeastern University, said the ways Amazon does this is inconsistent with its privacy policies. Titled, “Your Echos are Heard: Tracking, Profiling, and Ad Targeting in the Amazon Smart Speaker Ecosystem,” the report concludes that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect data from your interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers and share it with as many as 41 advertising partners. That data is then used to “infer user interests” and “serve targeted ads on-platform (Echo devices) as well as off-platform (web).” It also concludes that this type of data is in hot demand, leading to “30X higher ad bids from advertisers.” 

Amazon confirmed to The Verge that it does use voice data from Alexa interactions to inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads. “Similar to what you’d experience if you made a purchase on or requested a song through Amazon Music, if you ask Alexa to order paper towels or to play a song on Amazon Music, the record of that purchase or song play may inform relevant ads shown on Amazon or other sites where Amazon places ads.” Amazon spokesperson Lauren Raemhild said in an email. 

The company also confirmed there are targeted ads on its smart speakers. “Customers may receive interest-based ads when they use ad-supported premium content — like music, radio or news streams,” said Raemhild, pointing out that this is the same experience if they engaged with that content on other channels. She went on to say that Amazon does not share voice recordings with developers. “Developers get the information necessary to fulfill your requests within their skills, such as answers when you play a trivia skill, or the name of the song you want to play,” she said. “We do not share our customers’ personal information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent.” Amazon allows Alexa users to opt out of ad targeting as well (see sidebar).

This isn’t news. Amazon is known to find new and creative ways to monetize data. And the fact that they admit to doing this and act like it’s no big deal illustrates that. The only way that this behaviour by Amazon will change is if consumers don’t buy Amazon smart speakers. Because all Amazon understands and cares about is money.

Charities & Aid Organizations In Ukraine Attacked With Malware: Amazon

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 6, 2022 by itnerd

This morning I was directed to this post from Amazon who has been putting in a lot of effort and money to help the people of Ukraine. This part of the post caught my attention:

For several weeks, we have been partnering closely with Ukrainian IT organizations to fend off attacks and working with organizations in Ukraine, and around the world, to share real-time, relevant intelligence. As a result, our teams have seen new malware signatures and activity from a number of state actors we monitor. As this activity has ramped up, our teams and technologies detected the threats, learned the patterns, and placed remediation tools directly into the hands of customers. As always, our teams are constantly learning from the intelligence we collect to continue evolving protections for our infrastructure. We employ a ‘follow the sun’ model where our teams track new threat intelligence 24/7 and are able to quickly respond to issues. Our security teams are sharing this intelligence with governments and IT organizations that we partner closely with from Europe, North America, and around the world to equip critical infrastructure owners and operators with additional information to protect their facilities.

While we are seeing an increase in activity of malicious state actors, we are also seeing a higher operational tempo by other malicious actors. We have seen several situations where malware has been specifically targeted at charities, NGOs, and other aid organizations in order to spread confusion and cause disruption. In these particularly egregious cases, malware has been targeted at disrupting medical supplies, food, and clothing relief. We’ll continue to work hard to protect these customers and will continue to work closely with them as they carry out their much-needed work to help those impacted by this terrible conflict.

The fact that someone, presumably Russian and Belarusian threat actors are targeting charities, NGO’s and other aid organizations is completely reprehensible. I am glad that Amazon is stepping up to help defend these groups and I hope that other companies will do the same thing. I also hope that at some point in the future that the people behind these attacks are hunted down and brought to justice.

Amazon’s AWS Is Under Anti-Trust Scrutiny

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 26, 2021 by itnerd

Amazon appears to be coming under the microscope of the FTC this holiday season via anti-trust scrutiny of Amazon Web Services:

Lina Khan, the head of the agency and a vocal critic of the online retailer, is advancing a probe started several years ago by her predecessor. FTC investigators have contacted companies in the past few months to gather information about competition issues related to Amazon Web Services, said the people, who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the outreach. At least one of the contacts was as recent as the past few weeks, said one of the people.

So, what could be the FTC be looking for. How about this for starters?:

One issue the FTC could look at is whether Amazon has an incentive to discriminate against software companies that sell their products to clients of AWS, while at the same time competing with Amazon. The fear is that Amazon could punish the companies that work with other cloud providers and favor those that it works with exclusively.

Well. At the moment, Amazon is co-operating with the FTC. But we’ll see if that continues if the pressure ratchets upwards. Which given the fact that Lina Khan is no fan of Amazon, I fully expect it to.

BREAKING: AWS Is Down…. Again

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 22, 2021 by itnerd

Bad news. The AWS Health Dashboard is showing that one of its Elastic Cloud Compute systems is down, specifically in Northern Virginia. The problems started at 4:35 am ET and is affecting the following sites among others:

  • Amazon
  • Hulu
  • Slack
  • Grindr
  • Epic Games Store
  • Samsung Smarthings
  • Rocket League

The cause was apparently a power outage. Amazon is bringing power back online and things should get back to normal soon. But this is the second major outage for AWS in a short amount of time. Thus Amazon will have some explaining to do.

Amazon Explains Why AWS Went Down On Tuesday

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 12, 2021 by itnerd

On Tuesday, AWS had a massive outage that took down a lot of the Internet in the process. Amazon has published a post-event summary that details why they went down. It’s a very detailed explanation that is very technical:

To explain this event, we need to share a little about the internals of the AWS network. While the majority of AWS services and all customer applications run within the main AWS network, AWS makes use of an internal network to host foundational services including monitoring, internal DNS, authorization services, and parts of the EC2 control plane. Because of the importance of these services in this internal network, we connect this network with multiple geographically isolated networking devices and scale the capacity of this network significantly to ensure high availability of this network connection. These networking devices provide additional routing and network address translation that allow AWS services to communicate between the internal network and the main AWS network. At 7:30 AM PST, an automated activity to scale capacity of one of the AWS services hosted in the main AWS network triggered an unexpected behavior from a large number of clients inside the internal network. This resulted in a large surge of connection activity that overwhelmed the networking devices between the internal network and the main AWS network, resulting in delays for communication between these networks. These delays increased latency and errors for services communicating between these networks, resulting in even more connection attempts and retries. This led to persistent congestion and performance issues on the devices connecting the two networks.

Hopefully Amazon addresses this so that this doesn’t happen again. Though I am not hopeful given that AWS doesn’t exactly have a good track record in terms of stability.

Amazon Launches Echo Buds In Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 12, 2021 by itnerd

Amazon has launched the much-anticipated Echo Buds in Canada, featuring premium audio architecture for crisp, balanced sound, custom-designed Active Noise Cancellation technology, wireless charging capabilities, microphones for strong call quality, and hands-free access to Alexa. 

It’s never been easier for customers to bring Alexa with them throughout their day—whether at home, walking the neighbourhood, or commuting to work. All you have to do is ask Alexa to play music, call to check in on a loved one, try out a new recipe, and so much more. 

The all-new Echo Buds will be available in Black or Glacier White and customers can pre-order on – the price is $154.99.

Leaked Documents Show How Amazon’s Astro Robot Tracks Everything You Do 

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 29, 2021 by itnerd

Amazon released a new robot yesterday for your home yesterday. And to nobody’s surprise, it tracks literally everything you do, and it’s far from perfect:

Amazon’s new robot called Astro is designed to track the behavior of everyone in your home to help it perform its surveillance and helper duties, according to leaked internal development documents and video recordings of Astro software development meetings obtained by Motherboard. The system’s person recognition system is heavily flawed, according to two sources who worked on the project. The documents, which largely use Astro’s internal codename “Vesta” for the device, give extensive insight into the robot’s design, Amazon’s philosophy, how the device tracks customer behavior as well as flow charts of how it determines who a “stranger” is and whether it should take any sort of “investigation activity” against them. 

The meeting document spells out the process in a much blunter way than Amazon’s cutesy marketing suggests. “[Astro] slowly and intelligently patrols the home when unfamiliar person are around, moving from scan point to scan point (the best location and pose in any given space to look around) looking and listening for unusual activity,” one of the files reads. “Vesta moves to a predetermined scan point and pose to scan any given room, looking past and over obstacles in its way. Vesta completes one complete patrol when it completes scanning all the scan point on the floorplan.” […] 

Developers who worked on Astro say the versions of the robot they worked on did not work well. “Astro is terrible and will almost certainly throw itself down a flight of stairs if presented the opportunity. The person detection is unreliable at best, making the in-home security proposition laughable,” a source who worked on the project said. “The device feels fragile for something with an absurd cost. The mast has broken on several devices, locking itself in the extended or retracted position, and there’s no way to ship it to Amazon when that happens.” “They’re also pushing it as an accessibility device but with the masts breaking and the possibility that at any given moment it’ll commit suicide on a flight of stairs, it’s, at best, absurdist nonsense and marketing and, at worst, potentially dangerous for anyone who’d actually rely on it for accessibility purposes,” the source said.

So we should really spend $1000 for this? I don’t think so. Amazon should really shelve this and go back to the drawing board. This robot is a #Fail.