Tag Archives: ATS

3D-printed speakers from the Technical University of Denmark

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/technical-university-denmark-speakers/

Students taking Design of Mechatronics at the Technical University of Denmark have created some seriously elegant and striking Raspberry Pi speakers. Their builds are part of a project asking them to “explore, design and build a 3D printed speaker, around readily available electronics and components”.

The students have been uploading their designs, incorporating Raspberry Pis and HiFiBerry HATs, to Thingiverse throughout April. The task is a collaboration with luxury brand Bang & Olufsen’s Create initiative, and the results wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end showroom; I’d happily take any of these home.

The Sphere

Søren Qvist Sphere 3D-printed laser-cut Raspberry Pi Speaker
Søren Qvist Sphere 3D-printed laser-cut Raspberry Pi Speaker
Søren Qvist Sphere 3D-printed laser-cut Raspberry Pi Speaker

Søren Qvist’s wall-mounted kitchen sphere uses 3D-printed and laser-cut parts, along with the HiFiBerry HAT and B&O speakers to create a sleek-looking design.

Hex One

Otto Ømann Hex One 3D-printed laser-cut Raspberry Pi Speaker

Otto Ømann Hex One 3D-printed laser-cut Raspberry Pi Speaker

Otto Ømann’s group have designed the Hex One – a work-in-progress wireless 360° speaker. A particular objective for their project is to create a speaker using as many 3D-printed parts as possible.

Portable B&O-Create Speaker



“The design is supposed to resemble that of a B&O speaker, and from a handful of categories we chose to create a portable and wearable speaker,” explain Gustav Larsen and his team.

Desktop Loudspeaker

Oliver Repholtz Behrens loudspeaker

Oliver Repholtz Behrens loudspeaker

Oliver Repholtz Behrens and team have housed a Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry HAT inside this this stylish airplay speaker. You can follow their design progress on their team blog.

B&O TILE



Tue Thomsen’s six-person team Mechatastic have produced the B&O TILE. “The speaker consists of four 3D-printed cabinet and top parts, where the top should be covered by fabric,” they explain. “The speaker insides consists of laser-cut wood to hold the tweeter and driver and encase the Raspberry Pi.”

The team aimed to design a speaker that would be at home in a kitchen. With a removable upper casing allowing for a choice of colour, the TILE can be customised to fit particular tastes and colour schemes.

Build your own speakers with Raspberry Pis

Raspberry Pi’s onboard audio jack, along with third-party HATs such as the HiFiBerry and Pimoroni Speaker pHAT, make speaker design and fabrication with the Pi an interesting alternative to pre-made tech. These builds don’t tend to be technically complex, and they provide some lovely examples of tech-based projects that reflect makers’ own particular aesthetic style.

If you have access to a 3D printer or a laser cutter, perhaps at a nearby maker space, then those can be excellent resources, but fancy kit isn’t a requirement. Basic joinery and crafting with card or paper are just a couple of ways you can build things that are all your own, using familiar tools and materials. We think more people would enjoy getting hands-on with this sort of thing if they gave it a whirl, and we publish a free magazine to help.

Raspberry Pi Zero AirPlay Speaker

Looking for a new project to build around the Raspberry Pi Zero, I came across the pHAT DAC from Pimoroni. This little add-on board adds audio playback capabilities to the Pi Zero. Because the pHAT uses the GPIO pins, the USB OTG port remains available for a wifi dongle.

This video by Frederick Vandenbosch is a great example of building AirPlay speakers using a Pi and HAT, and a quick search will find you lots more relevant tutorials and ideas.

Have you built your own? Share your speaker-based Pi builds with us in the comments.

The post 3D-printed speakers from the Technical University of Denmark appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hard Drive Stats for Q1 2018

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-stats-for-q1-2018/

Backblaze Drive Stats Q1 2018

As of March 31, 2018 we had 100,110 spinning hard drives. Of that number, there were 1,922 boot drives and 98,188 data drives. This review looks at the quarterly and lifetime statistics for the data drive models in operation in our data centers. We’ll also take a look at why we are collecting and reporting 10 new SMART attributes and take a sneak peak at some 8 TB Toshiba drives. Along the way, we’ll share observations and insights on the data presented and we look forward to you doing the same in the comments.

Background

Since April 2013, Backblaze has recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers. Each entry consists of the date, manufacturer, model, serial number, status (operational or failed), and all of the SMART attributes reported by that drive. Currently there are about 97 million entries totaling 26 GB of data. You can download this data from our website if you want to do your own research, but for starters here’s what we found.

Hard Drive Reliability Statistics for Q1 2018

At the end of Q1 2018 Backblaze was monitoring 98,188 hard drives used to store data. For our evaluation below we remove from consideration those drives which were used for testing purposes and those drive models for which we did not have at least 45 drives. This leaves us with 98,046 hard drives. The table below covers just Q1 2018.

Q1 2018 Hard Drive Failure Rates

Notes and Observations

If a drive model has a failure rate of 0%, it only means there were no drive failures of that model during Q1 2018.

The overall Annualized Failure Rate (AFR) for Q1 is just 1.2%, well below the Q4 2017 AFR of 1.65%. Remember that quarterly failure rates can be volatile, especially for models that have a small number of drives and/or a small number of Drive Days.

There were 142 drives (98,188 minus 98,046) that were not included in the list above because we did not have at least 45 of a given drive model. We use 45 drives of the same model as the minimum number when we report quarterly, yearly, and lifetime drive statistics.

Welcome Toshiba 8TB drives, almost…

We mentioned Toshiba 8 TB drives in the first paragraph, but they don’t show up in the Q1 Stats chart. What gives? We only had 20 of the Toshiba 8 TB drives in operation in Q1, so they were excluded from the chart. Why do we have only 20 drives? When we test out a new drive model we start with the “tome test” and it takes 20 drives to fill one tome. A tome is the same drive model in the same logical position in each of the 20 Storage Pods that make up a Backblaze Vault. There are 60 tomes in each vault.

In this test, we created a Backblaze Vault of 8 TB drives, with 59 of the tomes being Seagate 8 TB drives and 1 tome being the Toshiba drives. Then we monitored the performance of the vault and its member tomes to see if, in this case, the Toshiba drives performed as expected.

Q1 2018 Hard Drive Failure Rate — Toshiba 8TB

So far the Toshiba drive is performing fine, but they have been in place for only 20 days. Next up is the “pod test” where we fill a Storage Pod with Toshiba drives and integrate it into a Backblaze Vault comprised of like-sized drives. We hope to have a better look at the Toshiba 8 TB drives in our Q2 report — stay tuned.

Lifetime Hard Drive Reliability Statistics

While the quarterly chart presented earlier gets a lot of interest, the real test of any drive model is over time. Below is the lifetime failure rate chart for all the hard drive models which have 45 or more drives in operation as of March 31st, 2018. For each model, we compute their reliability starting from when they were first installed.

Lifetime Hard Drive Failure Rates

Notes and Observations

The failure rates of all of the larger drives (8-, 10- and 12 TB) are very good, 1.2% AFR (Annualized Failure Rate) or less. Many of these drives were deployed in the last year, so there is some volatility in the data, but you can use the Confidence Interval to get a sense of the failure percentage range.

The overall failure rate of 1.84% is the lowest we have ever achieved, besting the previous low of 2.00% from the end of 2017.

Our regular readers and drive stats wonks may have noticed a sizable jump in the number of HGST 8 TB drives (model: HUH728080ALE600), from 45 last quarter to 1,045 this quarter. As the 10 TB and 12 TB drives become more available, the price per terabyte of the 8 TB drives has gone down. This presented an opportunity to purchase the HGST drives at a price in line with our budget.

We purchased and placed into service the 45 original HGST 8 TB drives in Q2 of 2015. They were our first Helium-filled drives and our only ones until the 10 TB and 12 TB Seagate drives arrived in Q3 2017. We’ll take a first look into whether or not Helium makes a difference in drive failure rates in an upcoming blog post.

New SMART Attributes

If you have previously worked with the hard drive stats data or plan to, you’ll notice that we added 10 more columns of data starting in 2018. There are 5 new SMART attributes we are tracking each with a raw and normalized value:

  • 177 – Wear Range Delta
  • 179 – Used Reserved Block Count Total
  • 181- Program Fail Count Total or Non-4K Aligned Access Count
  • 182 – Erase Fail Count
  • 235 – Good Block Count AND System(Free) Block Count

The 5 values are all related to SSD drives.

Yes, SSD drives, but before you jump to any conclusions, we used 10 Samsung 850 EVO SSDs as boot drives for a period of time in Q1. This was an experiment to see if we could reduce boot up time for the Storage Pods. In our case, the improved boot up speed wasn’t worth the SSD cost, but it did add 10 new columns to the hard drive stats data.

Speaking of hard drive stats data, the complete data set used to create the information used in this review is available on our Hard Drive Test Data page. You can download and use this data for free for your own purpose, all we ask are three things: 1) you cite Backblaze as the source if you use the data, 2) you accept that you are solely responsible for how you use the data, and 3) you do not sell this data to anyone. It is free.

If you just want the summarized data used to create the tables and charts in this blog post, you can download the ZIP file containing the MS Excel spreadsheet.

Good luck and let us know if you find anything interesting.

[Ed: 5/1/2018 – Updated Lifetime chart to fix error in confidence interval for HGST 4TB drive, model: HDS5C4040ALE630]

The post Hard Drive Stats for Q1 2018 appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

10 visualizations to try in Amazon QuickSight with sample data

Post Syndicated from Karthik Kumar Odapally original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/10-visualizations-to-try-in-amazon-quicksight-with-sample-data/

If you’re not already familiar with building visualizations for quick access to business insights using Amazon QuickSight, consider this your introduction. In this post, we’ll walk through some common scenarios with sample datasets to provide an overview of how you can connect yuor data, perform advanced analysis and access the results from any web browser or mobile device.

The following visualizations are built from the public datasets available in the links below. Before we jump into that, let’s take a look at the supported data sources, file formats and a typical QuickSight workflow to build any visualization.

Which data sources does Amazon QuickSight support?

At the time of publication, you can use the following data methods:

  • Connect to AWS data sources, including:
    • Amazon RDS
    • Amazon Aurora
    • Amazon Redshift
    • Amazon Athena
    • Amazon S3
  • Upload Excel spreadsheets or flat files (CSV, TSV, CLF, and ELF)
  • Connect to on-premises databases like Teradata, SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL
  • Import data from SaaS applications like Salesforce and Snowflake
  • Use big data processing engines like Spark and Presto

This list is constantly growing. For more information, see Supported Data Sources.

Answers in instants

SPICE is the Amazon QuickSight super-fast, parallel, in-memory calculation engine, designed specifically for ad hoc data visualization. SPICE stores your data in a system architected for high availability, where it is saved until you choose to delete it. Improve the performance of database datasets by importing the data into SPICE instead of using a direct database query. To calculate how much SPICE capacity your dataset needs, see Managing SPICE Capacity.

Typical Amazon QuickSight workflow

When you create an analysis, the typical workflow is as follows:

  1. Connect to a data source, and then create a new dataset or choose an existing dataset.
  2. (Optional) If you created a new dataset, prepare the data (for example, by changing field names or data types).
  3. Create a new analysis.
  4. Add a visual to the analysis by choosing the fields to visualize. Choose a specific visual type, or use AutoGraph and let Amazon QuickSight choose the most appropriate visual type, based on the number and data types of the fields that you select.
  5. (Optional) Modify the visual to meet your requirements (for example, by adding a filter or changing the visual type).
  6. (Optional) Add more visuals to the analysis.
  7. (Optional) Add scenes to the default story to provide a narrative about some aspect of the analysis data.
  8. (Optional) Publish the analysis as a dashboard to share insights with other users.

The following graphic illustrates a typical Amazon QuickSight workflow.

Visualizations created in Amazon QuickSight with sample datasets

Visualizations for a data analyst

Source:  https://data.worldbank.org/

Download and Resources:  https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/world-development-indicators

Data catalog:  The World Bank invests into multiple development projects at the national, regional, and global levels. It’s a great source of information for data analysts.

The following graph shows the percentage of the population that has access to electricity (rural and urban) during 2000 in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The following graph shows the share of healthcare costs that are paid out-of-pocket (private vs. public). Also, you can maneuver over the graph to get detailed statistics at a glance.

Visualizations for a trading analyst

Source:  Deutsche Börse Public Dataset (DBG PDS)

Download and resources:  https://aws.amazon.com/public-datasets/deutsche-boerse-pds/

Data catalog:  The DBG PDS project makes real-time data derived from Deutsche Börse’s trading market systems available to the public for free. This is the first time that such detailed financial market data has been shared freely and continually from the source provider.

The following graph shows the market trend of max trade volume for different EU banks. It builds on the data available on XETRA engines, which is made up of a variety of equities, funds, and derivative securities. This graph can be scrolled to visualize trade for a period of an hour or more.

The following graph shows the common stock beating the rest of the maximum trade volume over a period of time, grouped by security type.

Visualizations for a data scientist

Source:  https://catalog.data.gov/

Download and resources:  https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/road-weather-information-stations-788f8

Data catalog:  Data derived from different sensor stations placed on the city bridges and surface streets are a core information source. The road weather information station has a temperature sensor that measures the temperature of the street surface. It also has a sensor that measures the ambient air temperature at the station each second.

The following graph shows the present max air temperature in Seattle from different RWI station sensors.

The following graph shows the minimum temperature of the road surface at different times, which helps predicts road conditions at a particular time of the year.

Visualizations for a data engineer

Source:  https://www.kaggle.com/

Download and resources:  https://www.kaggle.com/datasnaek/youtube-new/data

Data catalog:  Kaggle has come up with a platform where people can donate open datasets. Data engineers and other community members can have open access to these datasets and can contribute to the open data movement. They have more than 350 datasets in total, with more than 200 as featured datasets. It has a few interesting datasets on the platform that are not present at other places, and it’s a platform to connect with other data enthusiasts.

The following graph shows the trending YouTube videos and presents the max likes for the top 20 channels. This is one of the most popular datasets for data engineers.

The following graph shows the YouTube daily statistics for the max views of video titles published during a specific time period.

Visualizations for a business user

Source:  New York Taxi Data

Download and resources:  https://data.cityofnewyork.us/Transportation/2016-Green-Taxi-Trip-Data/hvrh-b6nb

Data catalog: NYC Open data hosts some very popular open data sets for all New Yorkers. This platform allows you to get involved in dive deep into the data set to pull some useful visualizations. 2016 Green taxi trip dataset includes trip records from all trips completed in green taxis in NYC in 2016. Records include fields capturing pick-up and drop-off dates/times, pick-up and drop-off locations, trip distances, itemized fares, rate types, payment types, and driver-reported passenger counts.

The following graph presents maximum fare amount grouped by the passenger count during a period of time during a day. This can be further expanded to follow through different day of the month based on the business need.

The following graph shows the NewYork taxi data from January 2016, showing the dip in the number of taxis ridden on January 23, 2016 across all types of taxis.

A quick search for that date and location shows you the following news report:

Summary

Using Amazon QuickSight, you can see patterns across a time-series data by building visualizations, performing ad hoc analysis, and quickly generating insights. We hope you’ll give it a try today!

 


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Amazon QuickSight Adds Support for Combo Charts and Row-Level Security and Visualize AWS Cloudtrail Logs Using AWS Glue and Amazon QuickSight.


Karthik Odapally is a Sr. Solutions Architect in AWS. His passion is to build cost effective and highly scalable solutions on the cloud. In his spare time, he bakes cookies and cupcakes for family and friends here in the PNW. He loves vintage racing cars.

 

 

 

Pranabesh Mandal is a Solutions Architect in AWS. He has over a decade of IT experience. He is passionate about cloud technology and focuses on Analytics. In his spare time, he likes to hike and explore the beautiful nature and wild life of most divine national parks around the United States alongside his wife.

 

 

 

 

Russia is Banning Telegram

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/russia_is_banni.html

Russia has banned the secure messaging app Telegram. It’s making an absolute mess of the ban — blocking 16 million IP addresses, many belonging to the Amazon and Google clouds — and it’s not even clear that it’s working. But, more importantly, I’m not convinced Telegram is secure in the first place.

Such a weird story. If you want secure messaging, use Signal. If you’re concerned that having Signal on your phone will itself arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.

Implement continuous integration and delivery of serverless AWS Glue ETL applications using AWS Developer Tools

Post Syndicated from Prasad Alle original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/implement-continuous-integration-and-delivery-of-serverless-aws-glue-etl-applications-using-aws-developer-tools/

AWS Glue is an increasingly popular way to develop serverless ETL (extract, transform, and load) applications for big data and data lake workloads. Organizations that transform their ETL applications to cloud-based, serverless ETL architectures need a seamless, end-to-end continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline: from source code, to build, to deployment, to product delivery. Having a good CI/CD pipeline can help your organization discover bugs before they reach production and deliver updates more frequently. It can also help developers write quality code and automate the ETL job release management process, mitigate risk, and more.

AWS Glue is a fully managed data catalog and ETL service. It simplifies and automates the difficult and time-consuming tasks of data discovery, conversion, and job scheduling. AWS Glue crawls your data sources and constructs a data catalog using pre-built classifiers for popular data formats and data types, including CSV, Apache Parquet, JSON, and more.

When you are developing ETL applications using AWS Glue, you might come across some of the following CI/CD challenges:

  • Iterative development with unit tests
  • Continuous integration and build
  • Pushing the ETL pipeline to a test environment
  • Pushing the ETL pipeline to a production environment
  • Testing ETL applications using real data (live test)
  • Exploring and validating data

In this post, I walk you through a solution that implements a CI/CD pipeline for serverless AWS Glue ETL applications supported by AWS Developer Tools (including AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeCommit, and AWS CodeBuild) and AWS CloudFormation.

Solution overview

The following diagram shows the pipeline workflow:

This solution uses AWS CodePipeline, which lets you orchestrate and automate the test and deploy stages for ETL application source code. The solution consists of a pipeline that contains the following stages:

1.) Source Control: In this stage, the AWS Glue ETL job source code and the AWS CloudFormation template file for deploying the ETL jobs are both committed to version control. I chose to use AWS CodeCommit for version control.

To get the ETL job source code and AWS CloudFormation template, download the gluedemoetl.zip file. This solution is developed based on a previous post, Build a Data Lake Foundation with AWS Glue and Amazon S3.

2.) LiveTest: In this stage, all resources—including AWS Glue crawlers, jobs, S3 buckets, roles, and other resources that are required for the solution—are provisioned, deployed, live tested, and cleaned up.

The LiveTest stage includes the following actions:

  • Deploy: In this action, all the resources that are required for this solution (crawlers, jobs, buckets, roles, and so on) are provisioned and deployed using an AWS CloudFormation template.
  • AutomatedLiveTest: In this action, all the AWS Glue crawlers and jobs are executed and data exploration and validation tests are performed. These validation tests include, but are not limited to, record counts in both raw tables and transformed tables in the data lake and any other business validations. I used AWS CodeBuild for this action.
  • LiveTestApproval: This action is included for the cases in which a pipeline administrator approval is required to deploy/promote the ETL applications to the next stage. The pipeline pauses in this action until an administrator manually approves the release.
  • LiveTestCleanup: In this action, all the LiveTest stage resources, including test crawlers, jobs, roles, and so on, are deleted using the AWS CloudFormation template. This action helps minimize cost by ensuring that the test resources exist only for the duration of the AutomatedLiveTest and LiveTestApproval

3.) DeployToProduction: In this stage, all the resources are deployed using the AWS CloudFormation template to the production environment.

Try it out

This code pipeline takes approximately 20 minutes to complete the LiveTest test stage (up to the LiveTest approval stage, in which manual approval is required).

To get started with this solution, choose Launch Stack:

This creates the CI/CD pipeline with all of its stages, as described earlier. It performs an initial commit of the sample AWS Glue ETL job source code to trigger the first release change.

In the AWS CloudFormation console, choose Create. After the template finishes creating resources, you see the pipeline name on the stack Outputs tab.

After that, open the CodePipeline console and select the newly created pipeline. Initially, your pipeline’s CodeCommit stage shows that the source action failed.

Allow a few minutes for your new pipeline to detect the initial commit applied by the CloudFormation stack creation. As soon as the commit is detected, your pipeline starts. You will see the successful stage completion status as soon as the CodeCommit source stage runs.

In the CodeCommit console, choose Code in the navigation pane to view the solution files.

Next, you can watch how the pipeline goes through the LiveTest stage of the deploy and AutomatedLiveTest actions, until it finally reaches the LiveTestApproval action.

At this point, if you check the AWS CloudFormation console, you can see that a new template has been deployed as part of the LiveTest deploy action.

At this point, make sure that the AWS Glue crawlers and the AWS Glue job ran successfully. Also check whether the corresponding databases and external tables have been created in the AWS Glue Data Catalog. Then verify that the data is validated using Amazon Athena, as shown following.

Open the AWS Glue console, and choose Databases in the navigation pane. You will see the following databases in the Data Catalog:

Open the Amazon Athena console, and run the following queries. Verify that the record counts are matching.

SELECT count(*) FROM "nycitytaxi_gluedemocicdtest"."data";
SELECT count(*) FROM "nytaxiparquet_gluedemocicdtest"."datalake";

The following shows the raw data:

The following shows the transformed data:

The pipeline pauses the action until the release is approved. After validating the data, manually approve the revision on the LiveTestApproval action on the CodePipeline console.

Add comments as needed, and choose Approve.

The LiveTestApproval stage now appears as Approved on the console.

After the revision is approved, the pipeline proceeds to use the AWS CloudFormation template to destroy the resources that were deployed in the LiveTest deploy action. This helps reduce cost and ensures a clean test environment on every deployment.

Production deployment is the final stage. In this stage, all the resources—AWS Glue crawlers, AWS Glue jobs, Amazon S3 buckets, roles, and so on—are provisioned and deployed to the production environment using the AWS CloudFormation template.

After successfully running the whole pipeline, feel free to experiment with it by changing the source code stored on AWS CodeCommit. For example, if you modify the AWS Glue ETL job to generate an error, it should make the AutomatedLiveTest action fail. Or if you change the AWS CloudFormation template to make its creation fail, it should affect the LiveTest deploy action. The objective of the pipeline is to guarantee that all changes that are deployed to production are guaranteed to work as expected.

Conclusion

In this post, you learned how easy it is to implement CI/CD for serverless AWS Glue ETL solutions with AWS developer tools like AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild at scale. Implementing such solutions can help you accelerate ETL development and testing at your organization.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Implement Continuous Integration and Delivery of Apache Spark Applications using AWS and Build a Data Lake Foundation with AWS Glue and Amazon S3.

 


About the Authors

Prasad Alle is a Senior Big Data Consultant with AWS Professional Services. He spends his time leading and building scalable, reliable Big data, Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and IoT solutions for AWS Enterprise and Strategic customers. His interests extend to various technologies such as Advanced Edge Computing, Machine learning at Edge. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family.

 
Luis Caro is a Big Data Consultant for AWS Professional Services. He works with our customers to provide guidance and technical assistance on big data projects, helping them improving the value of their solutions when using AWS.

 

 

 

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Prices Rise as Catch Decreases

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/friday_squid_bl_621.html

In Japan:

Last year’s haul sank 15% to 53,000 tons, according to the JF Zengyoren national federation of fishing cooperatives. The squid catch has fallen by half in just two years. The previous low was plumbed in 2016.

Lighter catches have been blamed on changing sea temperatures, which impedes the spawning and growth of the squid. Critics have also pointed to overfishing by North Korean and Chinese fishing boats.

Wholesale prices of flying squid have climbed as a result. Last year’s average price per kilogram came to 564 yen, a roughly 80% increase from two years earlier, according to JF Zengyoren.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Securing Elections

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/securing_electi_1.html

Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.

Last year, the Defcon hackers’ conference sponsored a Voting Village. Organizers collected 25 pieces of voting equipment, including voting machines and electronic poll books. By the end of the weekend, conference attendees had found ways to compromise every piece of test equipment: to load malicious software, compromise vote tallies and audit logs, or cause equipment to fail.

It’s important to understand that these were not well-funded nation-state attackers. These were not even academics who had been studying the problem for weeks. These were bored hackers, with no experience with voting machines, playing around between parties one weekend.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that voting equipment, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and vote tabulation systems, are that hackable. They’re computers — often ancient computers running operating systems no longer supported by the manufacturers — and they don’t have any magical security technology that the rest of the industry isn’t privy to. If anything, they’re less secure than the computers we generally use, because their manufacturers hide any flaws behind the proprietary nature of their equipment.

We’re not just worried about altering the vote. Sometimes causing widespread failures, or even just sowing mistrust in the system, is enough. And an election whose results are not trusted or believed is a failed election.

Voting systems have another requirement that makes security even harder to achieve: the requirement for a secret ballot. Because we have to securely separate the election-roll system that determines who can vote from the system that collects and tabulates the votes, we can’t use the security systems available to banking and other high-value applications.

We can securely bank online, but can’t securely vote online. If we could do away with anonymity — if everyone could check that their vote was counted correctly — then it would be easy to secure the vote. But that would lead to other problems. Before the US had the secret ballot, voter coercion and vote-buying were widespread.

We can’t, so we need to accept that our voting systems are insecure. We need an election system that is resilient to the threats. And for many parts of the system, that means paper.

Let’s start with the voter rolls. We know they’ve already been targeted. In 2016, someone changed the party affiliation of hundreds of voters before the Republican primary. That’s just one possibility. A well-executed attack that deletes, for example, one in five voters at random — or changes their addresses — would cause chaos on election day.

Yes, we need to shore up the security of these systems. We need better computer, network, and database security for the various state voter organizations. We also need to better secure the voter registration websites, with better design and better internet security. We need better security for the companies that build and sell all this equipment.

Multiple, unchangeable backups are essential. A record of every addition, deletion, and change needs to be stored on a separate system, on write-only media like a DVD. Copies of that DVD, or — even better — a paper printout of the voter rolls, should be available at every polling place on election day. We need to be ready for anything.

Next, the voting machines themselves. Security researchers agree that the gold standard is a voter-verified paper ballot. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is through optical-scan voting. Voters mark paper ballots by hand; they are fed into a machine and counted automatically. That paper ballot is saved, and serves as a final true record in a recount in case of problems. Touch-screen machines that print a paper ballot to drop in a ballot box can also work for voters with disabilities, as long as the ballot can be easily read and verified by the voter.

Finally, the tabulation and reporting systems. Here again we need more security in the process, but we must always use those paper ballots as checks on the computers. A manual, post-election, risk-limiting audit varies the number of ballots examined according to the margin of victory. Conducting this audit after every election, before the results are certified, gives us confidence that the election outcome is correct, even if the voting machines and tabulation computers have been tampered with. Additionally, we need better coordination and communications when incidents occur.

It’s vital to agree on these procedures and policies before an election. Before the fact, when anyone can win and no one knows whose votes might be changed, it’s easy to agree on strong security. But after the vote, someone is the presumptive winner — and then everything changes. Half of the country wants the result to stand, and half wants it reversed. At that point, it’s too late to agree on anything.

The politicians running in the election shouldn’t have to argue their challenges in court. Getting elections right is in the interest of all citizens. Many countries have independent election commissions that are charged with conducting elections and ensuring their security. We don’t do that in the US.

Instead, we have representatives from each of our two parties in the room, keeping an eye on each other. That provided acceptable security against 20th-century threats, but is totally inadequate to secure our elections in the 21st century. And the belief that the diversity of voting systems in the US provides a measure of security is a dangerous myth, because few districts can be decisive and there are so few voting-machine vendors.

We can do better. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security declared elections to be critical infrastructure, allowing the department to focus on securing them. On 23 March, Congress allocated $380m to states to upgrade election security.

These are good starts, but don’t go nearly far enough. The constitution delegates elections to the states but allows Congress to “make or alter such Regulations”. In 1845, Congress set a nationwide election day. Today, we need it to set uniform and strict election standards.

This essay originally appeared in the Guardian.

Get Started with Blockchain Using the new AWS Blockchain Templates

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/get-started-with-blockchain-using-the-new-aws-blockchain-templates/

Many of today’s discussions around blockchain technology remind me of the classic Shimmer Floor Wax skit. According to Dan Aykroyd, Shimmer is a dessert topping. Gilda Radner claims that it is a floor wax, and Chevy Chase settles the debate and reveals that it actually is both! Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding, and other use cases. Either way, it is clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.

We are launching AWS Blockchain Templates today. These templates will let you launch an Ethereum (either public or private) or Hyperledger Fabric (private) network in a matter of minutes and with just a few clicks. The templates create and configure all of the AWS resources needed to get you going in a robust and scalable fashion.

Launching a Private Ethereum Network
The Ethereum template offers two launch options. The ecs option creates an Amazon ECS cluster within a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and launches a set of Docker images in the cluster. The docker-local option also runs within a VPC, and launches the Docker images on EC2 instances. The template supports Ethereum mining, the EthStats and EthExplorer status pages, and a set of nodes that implement and respond to the Ethereum RPC protocol. Both options create and make use of a DynamoDB table for service discovery, along with Application Load Balancers for the status pages.

Here are the AWS Blockchain Templates for Ethereum:

I start by opening the CloudFormation Console in the desired region and clicking Create Stack:

I select Specify an Amazon S3 template URL, enter the URL of the template for the region, and click Next:

I give my stack a name:

Next, I enter the first set of parameters, including the network ID for the genesis block. I’ll stick with the default values for now:

I will also use the default values for the remaining network parameters:

Moving right along, I choose the container orchestration platform (ecs or docker-local, as I explained earlier) and the EC2 instance type for the container nodes:

Next, I choose my VPC and the subnets for the Ethereum network and the Application Load Balancer:

I configure my keypair, EC2 security group, IAM role, and instance profile ARN (full information on the required permissions can be found in the documentation):

The Instance Profile ARN can be found on the summary page for the role:

I confirm that I want to deploy EthStats and EthExplorer, choose the tag and version for the nested CloudFormation templates that are used by this one, and click Next to proceed:

On the next page I specify a tag for the resources that the stack will create, leave the other options as-is, and click Next:

I review all of the parameters and options, acknowledge that the stack might create IAM resources, and click Create to build my network:

The template makes use of three nested templates:

After all of the stacks have been created (mine took about 5 minutes), I can select JeffNet and click the Outputs tab to discover the links to EthStats and EthExplorer:

Here’s my EthStats:

And my EthExplorer:

If I am writing apps that make use of my private network to store and process smart contracts, I would use the EthJsonRpcUrl.

Stay Tuned
My colleagues are eager to get your feedback on these new templates and plan to add new versions of the frameworks as they become available.

Jeff;

 

Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/confused-about-the-hybrid-cloud-youre-not-alone/

Hybrid Cloud. What is it?

Do you have a clear understanding of the hybrid cloud? If you don’t, it’s not surprising.

Hybrid cloud has been applied to a greater and more varied number of IT solutions than almost any other recent data management term. About the only thing that’s clear about the hybrid cloud is that the term hybrid cloud wasn’t invented by customers, but by vendors who wanted to hawk whatever solution du jour they happened to be pushing.

Let’s be honest. We’re in an industry that loves hype. We can’t resist grafting hyper, multi, ultra, and super and other prefixes onto the beginnings of words to entice customers with something new and shiny. The alphabet soup of cloud-related terms can include various options for where the cloud is located (on-premises, off-premises), whether the resources are private or shared in some degree (private, community, public), what type of services are offered (storage, computing), and what type of orchestrating software is used to manage the workflow and the resources. With so many moving parts, it’s no wonder potential users are confused.

Let’s take a step back, try to clear up the misconceptions, and come up with a basic understanding of what the hybrid cloud is. To be clear, this is our viewpoint. Others are free to do what they like, so bear that in mind.

So, What is the Hybrid Cloud?

The hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration between them.

To get beyond the hype, let’s start with Forrester Research‘s idea of the hybrid cloud: “One or more public clouds connected to something in my data center. That thing could be a private cloud; that thing could just be traditional data center infrastructure.”

To put it simply, a hybrid cloud is a mash-up of on-premises and off-premises IT resources.

To expand on that a bit, we can say that the hybrid cloud refers to a cloud environment made up of a mixture of on-premises private cloud[1] resources combined with third-party public cloud resources that use some kind of orchestration[2] between them. The advantage of the hybrid cloud model is that it allows workloads and data to move between private and public clouds in a flexible way as demands, needs, and costs change, giving businesses greater flexibility and more options for data deployment and use.

In other words, if you have some IT resources in-house that you are replicating or augmenting with an external vendor, congrats, you have a hybrid cloud!

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

The cloud is really just a collection of purpose built servers. In a private cloud, the servers are dedicated to a single tenant or a group of related tenants. In a public cloud, the servers are shared between multiple unrelated tenants (customers). A public cloud is off-site, while a private cloud can be on-site or off-site — or on-prem or off-prem.

As an example, let’s look at a hybrid cloud meant for data storage, a hybrid data cloud. A company might set up a rule that says all accounting files that have not been touched in the last year are automatically moved off-prem to cloud storage to save cost and reduce the amount of storage needed on-site. The files are still available; they are just no longer stored on your local systems. The rules can be defined to fit an organization’s workflow and data retention policies.

The hybrid cloud concept also contains cloud computing. For example, at the end of the quarter, order processing application instances can be spun up off-premises in a hybrid computing cloud as needed to add to on-premises capacity.

Hybrid Cloud Benefits

If we accept that the hybrid cloud combines the best elements of private and public clouds, then the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions are clear, and we can identify the primary two benefits that result from the blending of private and public clouds.

Diagram of the Components of the Hybrid Cloud

Benefit 1: Flexibility and Scalability

Undoubtedly, the primary advantage of the hybrid cloud is its flexibility. It takes time and money to manage in-house IT infrastructure and adding capacity requires advance planning.

The cloud is ready and able to provide IT resources whenever needed on short notice. The term cloud bursting refers to the on-demand and temporary use of the public cloud when demand exceeds resources available in the private cloud. For example, some businesses experience seasonal spikes that can put an extra burden on private clouds. These spikes can be taken up by a public cloud. Demand also can vary with geographic location, events, or other variables. The public cloud provides the elasticity to deal with these and other anticipated and unanticipated IT loads. The alternative would be fixed cost investments in on-premises IT resources that might not be efficiently utilized.

For a data storage user, the on-premises private cloud storage provides, among other benefits, the highest speed access. For data that is not frequently accessed, or needed with the absolute lowest levels of latency, it makes sense for the organization to move it to a location that is secure, but less expensive. The data is still readily available, and the public cloud provides a better platform for sharing the data with specific clients, users, or with the general public.

Benefit 2: Cost Savings

The public cloud component of the hybrid cloud provides cost-effective IT resources without incurring capital expenses and labor costs. IT professionals can determine the best configuration, service provider, and location for each service, thereby cutting costs by matching the resource with the task best suited to it. Services can be easily scaled, redeployed, or reduced when necessary, saving costs through increased efficiency and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

Comparing Private vs Hybrid Cloud Storage Costs

To get an idea of the difference in storage costs between a purely on-premises solutions and one that uses a hybrid of private and public storage, we’ll present two scenarios. For each scenario we’ll use data storage amounts of 100 terabytes, 1 petabyte, and 2 petabytes. Each table is the same format, all we’ve done is change how the data is distributed: private (on-premises) cloud or public (off-premises) cloud. We are using the costs for our own B2 Cloud Storage in this example. The math can be adapted for any set of numbers you wish to use.

Scenario 1    100% of data on-premises storage

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 100%100 TB1,000 TB2,000 TB
On-premises cost rangeMonthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month$1,200$12,000$24,000
High — $20/TB/Month$2,000$20,000$40,000

Scenario 2    20% of data on-premises with 80% public cloud storage (B2)

Data Stored
Data stored On-Premises: 20%20 TB200 TB400 TB
Data stored in Cloud: 80%80 TB800 TB1,600 TB
On-premises cost rangeMonthly Cost
Low — $12/TB/Month$240$2,400$4,800
High — $20/TB/Month$400$4,000$8,000
Public cloud cost rangeMonthly Cost
Low — $5/TB/Month (B2)$400$4,000$8,000
High — $20/TB/Month$1,600$16,000$32,000
On-premises + public cloud cost rangeMonthly Cost
Low$640$6,400$12,800
High$2,000$20,000$40,000

As can be seen in the numbers above, using a hybrid cloud solution and storing 80% of the data in the cloud with a provider such as Backblaze B2 can result in significant savings over storing only on-premises. For other cost scenarios, see the B2 Cost Calculator.

When Hybrid Might Not Always Be the Right Fit

There are circumstances where the hybrid cloud might not be the best solution. Smaller organizations operating on a tight IT budget might best be served by a purely public cloud solution. The cost of setting up and running private servers is substantial.

An application that requires the highest possible speed might not be suitable for hybrid, depending on the specific cloud implementation. While latency does play a factor in data storage for some users, it is less of a factor for uploading and downloading data than it is for organizations using the hybrid cloud for computing. Because Backblaze recognized the importance of speed and low-latency for customers wishing to use computing on data stored in B2, we directly connected our data centers with those of our computing partners, ensuring that latency would not be an issue even for a hybrid cloud computing solution.

It is essential to have a good understanding of workloads and their essential characteristics in order to make the hybrid cloud work well for you. Each application needs to be examined for the right mix of private cloud, public cloud, and traditional IT resources that fit the particular workload in order to benefit most from a hybrid cloud architecture.

The Hybrid Cloud Can Be a Win-Win Solution

From the high altitude perspective, any solution that enables an organization to respond in a flexible manner to IT demands is a win. Avoiding big upfront capital expenses for in-house IT infrastructure will appeal to the CFO. Being able to quickly spin up IT resources as they’re needed will appeal to the CTO and VP of Operations.

Should You Go Hybrid?

We’ve arrived at the bottom line and the question is, should you or your organization embrace hybrid cloud infrastructures?

According to 451 Research, by 2019, 69% of companies will operate in hybrid cloud environments, and 60% of workloads will be running in some form of hosted cloud service (up from 45% in 2017). That indicates that the benefits of the hybrid cloud appeal to a broad range of companies.

In Two Years, More Than Half of Workloads Will Run in Cloud

Clearly, depending on an organization’s needs, there are advantages to a hybrid solution. While it might have been possible to dismiss the hybrid cloud in the early days of the cloud as nothing more than a buzzword, that’s no longer true. The hybrid cloud has evolved beyond the marketing hype to offer real solutions for an increasingly complex and challenging IT environment.

If an organization approaches the hybrid cloud with sufficient planning and a structured approach, a hybrid cloud can deliver on-demand flexibility, empower legacy systems and applications with new capabilities, and become a catalyst for digital transformation. The result can be an elastic and responsive infrastructure that has the ability to quickly respond to changing demands of the business.

As data management professionals increasingly recognize the advantages of the hybrid cloud, we can expect more and more of them to embrace it as an essential part of their IT strategy.

Tell Us What You’re Doing with the Hybrid Cloud

Are you currently embracing the hybrid cloud, or are you still uncertain or hanging back because you’re satisfied with how things are currently? Maybe you’ve gone totally hybrid. We’d love to hear your comments below on how you’re dealing with the hybrid cloud.


[1] Private cloud can be on-premises or a dedicated off-premises facility.

[2] Hybrid cloud orchestration solutions are often proprietary, vertical, and task dependent.

The post Confused About the Hybrid Cloud? You’re Not Alone appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-at-nab-2018-in-las-vegas/

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage NAB Booth

Backblaze just returned from exhibiting at NAB in Las Vegas, April 9-12, where the response to our recent announcements was tremendous. In case you missed the news, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage continues to extend its lead as the most affordable, high performance cloud on the planet.

Backblaze’s News at NAB

Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

The Backblaze booth just before opening

What We Were Asked at NAB

Our booth was busy from start to finish with attendees interested in learning more about Backblaze and B2 Cloud Storage. Here are the questions we were asked most often in the booth.

Q. How long has Backblaze been in business?
A. The company was founded in 2007. Today, we have over 500 petabytes of data from customers in over 150 countries.

B2 Partners at NAB 2018

Q. Where is your data stored?
A. We have data centers in California and Arizona and expect to expand to Europe by the end of the year.

Q. How can your services be so inexpensive?
A. Backblaze’s goal from the beginning was to offer cloud backup and storage that was easy to use and affordable. All the existing options were simply too expensive to be viable, so we created our own infrastructure. Our purpose-built storage system — the Backblaze’s Storage Pod — is recognized as one of the most cost efficient storage platforms available.

Q. Tell me about your hardware.
A. Backblaze’s Storage Pods hold 60 HDDs each, containing as much as 720TB data per pod, stored using Reed-Solomon error correction. Storage Pods are arranged in Tomes with twenty Storage Pods making up a Vault.

Q. Where do you fit in the data workflow?
A. People typically use B2 in for archiving completed projects. All data is readily available for download from B2, making it more convenient than off-line storage. In addition, DAM and MAM systems such as CatDV, axle ai, Cantemo, and others have integrated with B2 to store raw images behind the proxies.

Q. Who uses B2 in the M&E business?
A. KLRU-TV, the PBS station in Austin Texas, uses B2 to archive their entire 43 year catalog of Austin City Limits episodes and related materials. WunderVu, the production house for Pixvana, uses B2 to back up and archive their local storage systems on which they build virtual reality experiences for their customers.

Q. You’re the company that publishes the hard drive stats, right?
A. Yes, we are!

Backblaze Case Studies and Swag at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

Were You at NAB?

If you were, we hope you stopped by the Backblaze booth to say hello. We’d like to hear what you saw at the show that was interesting or exciting. Please tell us in the comments.

The post Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The DMCA and its Chilling Effects on Research

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/the_dmca_and_it.html

The Center for Democracy and Technology has a good summary of the current state of the DMCA’s chilling effects on security research.

To underline the nature of chilling effects on hacking and security research, CDT has worked to describe how tinkerers, hackers, and security researchers of all types both contribute to a baseline level of security in our digital environment and, in turn, are shaped themselves by this environment, most notably when things they do upset others and result in threats, potential lawsuits, and prosecution. We’ve published two reports (sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation and MacArthur Foundation) about needed reforms to the law and the myriad of ways that security research directly improves people’s lives. To get a more complete picture, we wanted to talk to security researchers themselves and gauge the forces that shape their work; essentially, we wanted to “take the pulse” of the security research community.

Today, we are releasing a third report in service of this effort: “Taking the Pulse of Hacking: A Risk Basis for Security Research.” We report findings after having interviewed a set of 20 security researchers and hackers — half academic and half non-academic — about what considerations they take into account when starting new projects or engaging in new work, as well as to what extent they or their colleagues have faced threats in the past that chilled their work. The results in our report show that a wide variety of constraints shape the work they do, from technical constraints to ethical boundaries to legal concerns, including the DMCA and especially the CFAA.

Note: I am a signatory on the letter supporting unrestricted security research.

ЕСПЧ: политическо слово

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/echr_spain/

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Съдът за правата на човека се е произнесъл с решение по делото  Stern Taulats и Roura Capellera срещу Испания. Съдът  единодушно приема, че има нарушение на член 10 (свобода на изразяване) на Европейската конвенция за правата на човека.
Делото се отнася до осъждането на двама испанци за изгаряне на снимка на кралската двойка по време на публична демонстрация във връзка с официалното посещение на краля в град Жирона.  Съдът констатира по – специално, че става дума за политическо слово, критика на институцията на монархията  и по-специално на монархията в Кралство Испания. Съдът намира също, че събитието не надминава определена допустима степен на провокация, за да се предаде ефективно критичното послание на демонстрантите.
Обсъждайки внимателно контекста и последиците ЕСПЧ стига до извода, че действието в конкретния случай не представлява подбуждане към омраза или насилие.
Намесата е била предписана от закона, има легитимна цел защита на доброто име на другите. Но присъда лишаване от свобода не е  пропорционална на преследваната легитимна цел (защита на доброто име), нито е необходима в едно демократично общество.
Нарушение на член 10 ЕКПЧ.
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Повече за свободата на изразяване в Испания – в тази публикация.
Снимка: Joan Sabater  via El Pais
 .

The Digital Security Exchange Is Live

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/the_digital_sec.html

Last year I wrote about the Digital Security Exchange. The project is live:

The DSX works to strengthen the digital resilience of U.S. civil society groups by improving their understanding and mitigation of online threats.

We do this by pairing civil society and social sector organizations with credible and trustworthy digital security experts and trainers who can help them keep their data and networks safe from exposure, exploitation, and attack. We are committed to working with community-based organizations, legal and journalistic organizations, civil rights advocates, local and national organizers, and public and high-profile figures who are working to advance social, racial, political, and economic justice in our communities and our world.

If you are either an organization who needs help, or an expert who can provide help, visit their website.

Note: I am on their advisory committee.

Securing messages published to Amazon SNS with AWS PrivateLink

Post Syndicated from Otavio Ferreira original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/securing-messages-published-to-amazon-sns-with-aws-privatelink/

Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) now supports VPC Endpoints (VPCE) via AWS PrivateLink. You can use VPC Endpoints to privately publish messages to SNS topics, from an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), without traversing the public internet. When you use AWS PrivateLink, you don’t need to set up an Internet Gateway (IGW), Network Address Translation (NAT) device, or Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection. You don’t need to use public IP addresses, either.

VPC Endpoints doesn’t require code changes and can bring additional security to Pub/Sub Messaging use cases that rely on SNS. VPC Endpoints helps promote data privacy and is aligned with assurance programs, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), FedRAMP, and others discussed below.

VPC Endpoints for SNS in action

Here’s how VPC Endpoints for SNS works. The following example is based on a banking system that processes mortgage applications. This banking system, which has been deployed to a VPC, publishes each mortgage application to an SNS topic. The SNS topic then fans out the mortgage application message to two subscribing AWS Lambda functions:

  • Save-Mortgage-Application stores the application in an Amazon DynamoDB table. As the mortgage application contains personally identifiable information (PII), the message must not traverse the public internet.
  • Save-Credit-Report checks the applicant’s credit history against an external Credit Reporting Agency (CRA), then stores the final credit report in an Amazon S3 bucket.

The following diagram depicts the underlying architecture for this banking system:
 
Diagram depicting the architecture for the example banking system
 
To protect applicants’ data, the financial institution responsible for developing this banking system needed a mechanism to prevent PII data from traversing the internet when publishing mortgage applications from their VPC to the SNS topic. Therefore, they created a VPC endpoint to enable their publisher Amazon EC2 instance to privately connect to the SNS API. As shown in the diagram, when the VPC endpoint is created, an Elastic Network Interface (ENI) is automatically placed in the same VPC subnet as the publisher EC2 instance. This ENI exposes a private IP address that is used as the entry point for traffic destined to SNS. This ensures that traffic between the VPC and SNS doesn’t leave the Amazon network.

Set up VPC Endpoints for SNS

The process for creating a VPC endpoint to privately connect to SNS doesn’t require code changes: access the VPC Management Console, navigate to the Endpoints section, and create a new Endpoint. Three attributes are required:

  • The SNS service name.
  • The VPC and Availability Zones (AZs) from which you’ll publish your messages.
  • The Security Group (SG) to be associated with the endpoint network interface. The Security Group controls the traffic to the endpoint network interface from resources in your VPC. If you don’t specify a Security Group, the default Security Group for your VPC will be associated.

Help ensure your security and compliance

SNS can support messaging use cases in regulated market segments, such as healthcare provider systems subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and financial systems subject to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and is also in-scope with the following Assurance Programs:

The SNS API is served through HTTP Secure (HTTPS), and encrypts all messages in transit with Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificates issued by Amazon Trust Services (ATS). The certificates verify the identity of the SNS API server when encrypted connections are established. The certificates help establish proof that your SNS API client (SDK, CLI) is communicating securely with the SNS API server. A Certificate Authority (CA) issues the certificate to a specific domain. Hence, when a domain presents a certificate that’s issued by a trusted CA, the SNS API client knows it’s safe to make the connection.

Summary

VPC Endpoints can increase the security of your pub/sub messaging use cases by allowing you to publish messages to SNS topics, from instances in your VPC, without traversing the internet. Setting up VPC Endpoints for SNS doesn’t require any code changes because the SNS API address remains the same.

VPC Endpoints for SNS is now available in all AWS Regions where AWS PrivateLink is available. For information on pricing and regional availability, visit the VPC pricing page.
For more information and on-boarding, see Publishing to Amazon SNS Topics from Amazon Virtual Private Cloud in the SNS documentation.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the Comments section below. If you have questions about anything in this post, start a new thread on the Amazon SNS forum or contact AWS Support.

Want more AWS Security news? Follow us on Twitter.

American Public Television Embraces the Cloud — And the Future

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/american-public-television-embraces-the-cloud-and-the-future/

American Public Television website

American Public Television was like many organizations that have been around for a while. They were entrenched using an older technology — in their case, tape storage and distribution — that once met their needs but was limiting their productivity and preventing them from effectively collaborating with their many media partners. APT’s VP of Technology knew that he needed to move into the future and embrace cloud storage to keep APT ahead of the game.
Since 1961, American Public Television (APT) has been a leading distributor of groundbreaking, high-quality, top-rated programming to the nation’s public television stations. Gerry Field is the Vice President of Technology at APT and is responsible for delivering their extensive program catalog to 350+ public television stations nationwide.

In the time since Gerry  joined APT in 2007, the industry has been in digital overdrive. During that time APT has continued to acquire and distribute the best in public television programming to their technically diverse subscribers.

This created two challenges for Gerry. First, new technology and format proliferation were driving dramatic increases in digital storage. Second, many of APT’s subscribers struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing industry. While some subscribers had state-of-the-art satellite systems to receive programming, others had to wait for the post office to drop off programs recorded on tape weeks earlier. With no slowdown on the horizon of innovation in the industry, Gerry knew that his storage and distribution systems would reach a crossroads in no time at all.

American Public Television logo

Living the tape paradigm

The digital media industry is only a few years removed from its film, and later videotape, roots. Tape was the input and the output of the industry for many years. As a consequence, the tools and workflows used by the industry were built and designed to work with tape. Over time, the “file” slowly replaced the tape as the object to be captured, edited, stored and distributed. Trouble was, many of the systems and more importantly workflows were based on processing tape, and these have proven to be hard to change.

At APT, Gerry realized the limits of the tape paradigm and began looking for technologies and solutions that enabled workflows based on file and object based storage and distribution.

Thinking file based storage and distribution

For data (digital media) storage, APT, like everyone else, started by installing onsite storage servers. As the amount of digital data grew, more storage was added. In addition, APT was expanding its distribution footprint by creating or partnering with distribution channels such as CreateTV and APT Worldwide. This dramatically increased the number of programming formats and the amount of data that had to be stored. As a consequence, updating, maintaining, and managing the APT storage systems was becoming a major challenge and a major resource hog.

APT Online

Knowing that his in-house storage system was only going to cost more time and money, Gerry decided it was time to look at cloud storage. But that wasn’t the only reason he looked at the cloud. While most people consider cloud storage as just a place to back up and archive files, Gerry was envisioning how the ubiquity of the cloud could help solve his distribution challenges. The trouble was the price of cloud storage from vendors like Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure was a non-starter, especially for a non-profit. Then Gerry came across Backblaze. B2 Cloud Storage service met all of his performance requirements, and at $0.005/GB/month for storage and $0.01/GB for downloads it was nearly 75% less than S3 or Azure.

Gerry did the math and found that he could economically incorporate B2 Cloud Storage into his IT portfolio, using it for both program submission and for active storage and archiving of the APT programs. In addition, B2 now gives him the foundation necessary to receive and distribute programming content over the Internet. This is especially useful for organizations that can’t conveniently access satellite distribution systems. Not to mention downloading from the cloud is much faster than sending a tape through the mail.

Adding B2 Cloud Storage to their infrastructure has helped American Public Television address two key challenges. First, they now have “unlimited” storage in the cloud without having to add any hardware. In addition, with B2, they only pay for the storage they use. That means they don’t have to buy storage upfront trying to match the maximum amount of storage they’ll ever need. Second, by using B2 as a distribution source for their programming APT subscribers, especially the smaller and remote ones, can get content faster and more reliably without having to perform costly upgrades to their infrastructure.

The road ahead

As APT gets used to their file based infrastructure and workflow, there are a number of cost saving and income generating ideas they are pondering which are now worth considering. Here are a few:

Program Submissions — New content can be uploaded from anywhere using a web browser, an Internet connection, and a login. For example, a producer in Cambodia can upload their film to B2. From there the film is downloaded to an in-house system where it is processed and transcoded using compute. The finished film is added to the APT catalog and added to B2. Once there, the program is instantly available for subscribers to order and download.

“The affordability and performance of Backblaze B2 is what allowed us to make the B2 cloud part of the APT data storage and distribution strategy into the future.” — Gerry Field

Easier Previews — At any time, work in process or finished programs can be made available for download from the B2 cloud. One place this could be useful is where a subscriber needs to review a program to comply with local policies and practices before airing. In the old system, each “one-off” was a time consuming manual process.

Instant Subscriptions — There are many organizations such as schools and businesses that want to use just one episode of a desired show. With an e-commerce based website, current or even archived programming kept in B2 could be available to download or stream for a minimal charge.

At APT there were multiple technologies needed to make their file-based infrastructure work, but as Gerry notes, having an affordable, trustworthy, cloud storage service like B2 is one of the critical building blocks needed to make everything work together.

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