Tag Archives: employee

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/managing-cash-flow/

Cash flow projection charts

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the eighth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants
  7. The Decision on Transparency
  8. Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Running out of cash is one of the quickest ways for a startup to go out of business. When you are starting a company the question of where to get cash is usually the top priority, but managing cash flow is critical for every stage in the lifecycle of a company. As a primarily bootstrapped but capital-intensive business, managing cash flow at Backblaze was and still is a key element of our success and requires continued focus. Let’s look at what we learned over the years.

Raising Your Initial Funding

When starting a tech business in Silicon Valley, the default assumption is that you will immediately try to raise venture funding. There are certainly many advantages to raising funding — not the least of which is that you don’t need to be cash-flow positive since you have cash in the bank and the expectation is that you will have a “burn rate,” i.e. you’ll be spending more than you make.

Note: While you’re not expected to be cash-flow positive, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about cash. Cash-flow management will determine your burn rate. Whether you can get to cash-flow breakeven or need to raise another round of funding is a direct byproduct of your cash flow management.

Also, raising funding takes time (most successful fundraising cycles take 3-6 months start-to-finish), and time at a startup is in short supply. Constantly trying to raise funding can take away from product development and pursuing growth opportunities. If you’re not successful in raising funding, you then have to either shut down or find an alternate method of funding the business.

Sources of Funding

Depending on the stage of the company, type of company, and other factors, you may have access to different sources of funding. Let’s list a number of them:

Customers

Sales — the best kind of funding. It is non-dilutive, doesn’t have to be paid back, and is a direct metric of the success of your company.

Pre-Sales — some customers may be willing to pay you for a product in beta, a test, or pre-pay for a product they’ll receive when finished. Pre-Sales income also is great because it shares the characteristics of cash from sales, but you get the cash early. It also can be a good sign that the product you’re building fills a market need. We started charging for Backblaze computer backup while it was still in private beta, which allowed us to not only collect cash from customers, but also test the billing experience and users’ real desire for the service.

Services — if you’re a service company and customers are paying you for that, great. You can effectively scale for the number of hours available in a day. As demand grows, you can add more employees to increase the total number of billable hours.

Note: If you’re a product company and customers are paying you to consult, that can provide much needed cash, and could provide feedback toward the right product. However, it can also distract from your core business, send you down a path where you’re building a product for a single customer, and addict you to a path that prevents you from building a scalable business.

Investors

Yourself — you likely are putting your time into the business, and deferring salary in the process. You may also put your own cash into the business either as an investment or a loan.

Angels — angels are ideal as early investors since they are used to investing in businesses with little to no traction. AngelList is a good place to find them, though finding people you’re connected with through someone that knows you well is best.

Crowdfunding — a component of the JOBS Act permitted entrepreneurs to raise money from nearly anyone since May 2016. The SEC imposes limits on both investors and the companies. This article goes into some depth on the options and sites available.

VCs — VCs are ideal for companies that need to raise at least a few million dollars and intend to build a business that will be worth over $1 billion.

Debt

Friends & Family — F&F are often the first people to give you money because they are investing in you. It’s great to have some early supporters, but it also can be risky to take money from people who aren’t used to the risks. The key advice here is to only take money from people who won’t mind losing it. If someone is talking about using their children’s college funds or borrowing from their 401k, say ‘no thank you’ — even if they’re sure they want to loan you money.

Bank Loans — a variety of loan types exist, but most either require the company to have been operational for a couple years, be able to borrow against money the company has or is making, or be able to get a personal guarantee from the founders whereby their own credit is on the line. Fundera provides a good overview of loan options and can help secure some, but most will not be an option for a brand new startup.

Grants

Government — in some areas there is the potential for government grants to facilitate research. The SBIR program facilitates some such grants.

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

• Investors/Yourself
We loaned a cumulative total of a couple hundred thousand dollars to the company and invested our time by going without a salary for a year and a half.
• Customers/Pre-Sales
We started selling the Backblaze service while it was still in beta.
• Customers/Sales
We launched v1.0 and kept selling.
• Investors/Angels
After a year and a half, we raised $370k from 11 angels. All of them were either people whom we knew personally or were a strong recommendation from a mutual friend.
• Debt/Loans
After a couple years we were able to get equipment leases whereby the Storage Pods and hard drives were used as collateral to secure the lease on them.
• Investors/VCs
Ater five years we raised $5m from TMT Investments to add to the balance sheet and invest in growth.

The variety and quantity of sources we used is by no means uncommon.

GAAP vs. Cash

Most companies start tracking financials based on cash, and as they scale they switch to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Cash is easier to track — we got paid $XXXX and spent $YYY — and as often mentioned, is required for the business to stay alive. GAAP has more subtlety and complexity, but provides a clearer picture of how the business is really doing. Backblaze was on a ‘cash’ system for the first few years, then switched to GAAP. For this post, I’m going to focus on things that help cash flow, not GAAP profitability.

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

In a pure service business (e.g. solo proprietor law firm), you may have no expenses other than your time, so this stage doesn’t exist. However, in a product business there is a period of time where you are building the product and have nothing to sell. You have zero cash coming in, but have cash going out. Your cash-flow is completely negative and you need funds to cover that.

Sales-generating

Starting to see cash come in from customers is thrilling. I initially had our system set up to email me with every $5 payment we received. You’re making sales, but not covering expenses.

Ramen-profitable

But it takes a lot of $5 payments to pay for servers and salaries, so for a while expenses are likely to outstrip sales. Getting to ramen-profitable is a critical stage where sales cover the business expenses and are “paying enough for the founders to eat ramen.” This extends the runway for a business, but is not completely sustainable, since presumably the founders can’t (or won’t) live forever on a subsistence salary.

Business-profitable

This is the ultimate stage whereby the business is truly profitable, including paying everyone market-rate salaries. A business at this stage is self-sustaining. (Of course, market shifts and plenty of other challenges can kill the business, but cash-flow issues alone will not.)

Note, I’m using the word ‘profitable’ here to mean this is still on a cash-basis.

Backblaze was in the all-spend stage for just over a year, during which time we built the service and hadn’t yet made the service available to customers. Backblaze was in the sales-generating stage for nearly another year before the company was barely ramen-profitable where sales were covering the company expenses and paying the founders minimum wage. (I say ‘barely’ since minimum wage in the SF Bay Area is arguably never subsistence.) It took almost three more years before the company was business-profitable, paying everyone including the founders market-rate.

Cash Flow Forecasting

When raising funding it’s helpful to think of milestones reached. You don’t necessarily need enough cash on day one to last for the next 100 years of the company. Some good milestones to consider are how much cash you need to prove there is a market need, prove you can build a product to meet that need, or get to ramen-profitable.

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

If your product is 100% software, this may not be relevant. Once software is built it costs effectively nothing to deliver the product to one customer or one million customers. However, in most businesses there is some incremental cost to provide the product. If you’re selling a hardware device, perhaps you sell it for $100 but it costs you $50 to make it. This is called “COGS” (Cost of Goods Sold).

Many products rely on cloud services where the costs scale with growth. That model works great, but it’s still important to understand what the costs are for the cloud service you use per unit of product you sell.

Support is often done by the founders early-on in a business, but that is another real cost to factor in and estimate on a per-user basis. Taking all of the per unit costs combined, you may charge $10/month/user for your service, but if it costs you $7/month/user in cloud services, you’re only netting $3/month/user.

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

These are expenses that don’t scale with the number of product units you sell. Typically this includes research & development, sales & marketing, and general & administrative expenses. Presumably there is a certain level of these functions required to build the product, market it, sell it, and run the organization. You can choose to invest or cut back on these, but you’ll still make the same amount per product unit.

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

If you’ve calculated your COGS and your unit economics are “upside down,” where the amount you charge is less than that it costs you to provide your service, it’s worth thinking hard about how that’s going to change over time. If it will not change, there is no scale that will make the business work. Presuming you do make money on each unit of product you sell — what is sometimes referred to as “Contribution Margin” — consider how many of those product units you need to sell to cover your operating expenses as described above.

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

(Number of Product Units Sold x Contribution Margin) - Operating Expenses = Profit

If your operating expenses include subsistence salaries for the founders and profit > $0, you’re ramen-profitable.

Improving Cash Flow

Having access to sources of cash, whether from selling to customers or other methods, is excellent. But needing less cash gives you more choices and allows you to either dilute less, owe less, or invest more.

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

The best way to collect more cash is to provide more value to your customers and as a result have them pay you more. Additional features/products/services can allow this. However, you can also collect more cash by changing how you charge for your product. If you have a subscription, changing from charging monthly to yearly dramatically improves your cash flow. If you have a product that customers use up, selling a year’s supply instead of selling them one-by-one can help.

2) Spend Less Cash

Reducing COGS is a fantastic way to spend less cash in a scalable way. If you can do this without harming the product or customer experience, you win. There are a myriad of ways to also reduce operating expenses, including taking sub-market salaries, using your home instead of renting office space, staying focused on your core product, etc.

Ultimately, collecting more and spending less cash dramatically simplifies the process of getting to ramen-profitable and later to business-profitable.

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

A word of caution: while running out of cash will put you out of business immediately, overextending yourself will likely put you out of business not much later. GAAP shows how a business is really doing; cash doesn’t. If you only focus on cash, it is possible to commit yourself to both delivering products and repaying loans in the future in an unsustainable fashion. If you’re taking out loans, watch the total balance and monthly payments you’re committing to. If you’re asking customers for pre-payment, make sure you believe you can deliver on what they’ve paid for.

Summary

There are numerous challenges to building a business, and ensuring you have enough cash is amongst the most important. Having the cash to keep going lets you keep working on all of the other challenges. The frameworks above were critical for maintaining Backblaze’s cash flow and cash balance. Hopefully you can take some of the lessons we learned and apply them to your business. Let us know what works for you in the comments below.

The post Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Take a Digital Tour of an AWS Data Center to See How AWS Secures Data Centers Around The World

Post Syndicated from Chad Woolf original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/take-a-digital-tour-of-an-aws-data-center-to-see-how-aws-secures-data-centers-around-the-world/

Data center tour banner image

AWS has launched a digital tour of an AWS data center, providing you with a first-ever look at how AWS secures data centers around the world. The videos, pictures, and information in this tour show you how security is intrinsic to the design of our data centers, our global controls, and the AWS culture.

As you will learn when you take this digital tour, the AWS data center security strategy is assembled with scalable security controls and multiple layers of defense that help to protect your information. For example, AWS carefully manages potential flood and seismic activity risks. We use physical barriers, security guards, threat detection technology, and an in-depth screening process to limit access to data centers. We back up our systems, regularly test equipment and processes, and continuously train AWS employees to be ready for the unexpected.

To validate the security of our data centers, external auditors perform testing on more than 2,600 standards and requirements throughout the year. Such independent examination helps ensure that security standards are consistently being met or exceeded. As a result, the most highly regulated organizations in the world trust AWS to protect their data.

Take the tour today to learn more about how we secure our data centers.

– Chad

Wanted: Junior Support Technician

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-junior-support-technician/

Backblaze is growing and as we grow we want to make sure that our customers are very well taken care of! One of the departments that grows along with our customer base is the support department, which is located in our San Mateo, California headquarters. Want to jump start your career? Take a look below and if this sounds like you, apply to join our team!

Responsibilities:

  • Answer questions in the queue commonly found in the FAQ.
  • Ability to install and uninstall programs on Mac and PC.
  • Clear communication via email.
  • Learn and expand your knowledge base to become a Tech Support Agent.
  • Learn how to navigate the Zendesk support tool and create helpful macros and work flow views.
  • Create receipts for users that ask for them, via template.
  • Respond to any tickets that you get a reply to.
  • Ask questions for facilitate learning.
  • Obtain skills and knowledge to move into a Tier 2 position.

Requirements:

  • Excellent communication, time management, problem solving, and organizational skills.
  • Ability to learn quickly.
  • Position based in San Mateo, California.

Backblaze Employees Have:

  • Good attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
  • Strong desire to work for a small, fast-paced company.
  • Desire to learn and adapt to rapidly changing technologies and work environment.
  • Comfortable with well-behaved pets in the office.

Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we offer competitive salary and benefits, including our no policy vacation policy.

If This Sounds Like You:
Send an email to jobscontact@backblaze.com with:

  1. The position title in the subject line
  2. Your resume attached
  3. An overview of your relevant experience

The post Wanted: Junior Support Technician appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Coalition Against Piracy Launches Landmark Case Against ‘Pirate’ Android Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/coalition-against-piracy-launches-landmark-case-against-pirate-android-box-sellers-180112/

In 2017, anti-piracy enforcement went global when companies including Disney, HBO, Netflix, Amazon and NBCUniversal formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Soon after the Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) was announced. With a focus on Asia and backed by CASBAA, CAP counts many of the same companies among its members in addition to local TV providers such as StarHub.

From the outset, CAP has shown a keen interest in tackling unlicensed streaming, particularly that taking place via illicit set-top boxes stuffed with copyright-infringing apps and add-ons. One country under CAP’s spotlight is Singapore, where relevant law is said to be fuzzy at best, insufficient at worst. Now, however, a line in the sand might not be far away.

According to a court listing discovered by Singapore’s TodayOnline, today will see the Coalition Against Piracy’s general manager Neil Kevin Gane attempt to launch a pioneering private prosecution against set-top box distributor Synnex Trading and its client and wholesale goods retailer, An-Nahl.

Gane and CAP are said to be acting on behalf of four parties, one which is TV giant StarHub, a company with a huge interest in bringing media piracy under control in the region. It’s reported that they have also named Synnex Trading director Jia Xiaofen and An-Nahl director Abdul Nagib as defendants in their private criminal case after the parties failed to reach a settlement in an earlier process.

Contacted by TodayOnline, an employee of An-Nahl said the company no longer sells the boxes. However, Synnex is reportedly still selling them for S$219 each ($164) plus additional fees for maintenance and access to VOD. The company’s Facebook page is still active with the relevant offer presented prominently.

The importance of the case cannot be understated. While StarHub and other broadcasters have successfully prosecuted cases where people unlawfully decrypted broadcast signals, the provision of unlicensed streams isn’t specifically tackled by Singapore’s legislation. It’s now a major source of piracy in the region, as it is elsewhere around the globe.

Only time will tell how the process will play out but it’s clear that CAP and its members are prepared to invest significant sums into a prosecution for a favorable outcome. CAP believes that the supply of the boxes falls under Section 136 (3A) of the Copyright Act but only time will tell.

Last December, CAP separately called on the Singapore government to not only block ‘pirate’ streaming software but also unlicensed streams from entering the country.

“Within the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is the worst in terms of availability of illicit streaming devices,” said CAP General Manager Neil Gane. “They have access to hundreds of illicit broadcasts of channels and video-on-demand content.”

CAP’s 21 members want the authorities to block the software inside devices that enables piracy but it’s far from clear how that can be achieved.

Update: The four companies taking the action are confirmed as Singtel, Starhub, Fox Network, and the English Premier League

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

A tribute to James Dolan, co-creator of SecureDrop

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/743938/rss

Freedom of the Press Foundation has a
tribute to James Dolan
, who died over the holidays at the age of 36. James worked with Aaron Swartz and journalist
Kevin Poulsen to build the original prototype of SecureDrop, an open-source whistleblower
submission system. “He was our first full-time employee at Freedom of
the Press Foundation, and quickly set out to teach other developers,
contributors, and anyone interested in how the system worked. He poured his
heart and soul into the work, traveling to newsrooms around North America
to teach IT staffs and journalists in person how to install and use
SecureDrop. He completely reworked the installation process, he pushed us
to get independent security audits of the system, and he helped us hire the
initial team that would take over SecureDrop once he was gone.
” LWN covered a LibrePlanet talk on SecureDrop back in March 2017.
(Thanks to Paul Wise)

Wanted: Sales Engineer

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-sales-engineer/

At inception, Backblaze was a consumer company. Thousands upon thousands of individuals came to our website and gave us $5/mo to keep their data safe. But, we didn’t sell business solutions. It took us years before we had a sales team. In the last couple of years, we’ve released products that businesses of all sizes love: Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage and Backblaze for Business Computer Backup. Those businesses want to integrate Backblaze deeply into their infrastructure, so it’s time to hire our first Sales Engineer!

Company Description:
Founded in 2007, Backblaze started with a mission to make backup software elegant and provide complete peace of mind. Over the course of almost a decade, we have become a pioneer in robust, scalable low cost cloud backup. Recently, we launched B2 – robust and reliable object storage at just $0.005/gb/mo. Part of our differentiation is being able to offer the lowest price of any of the big players while still being profitable.

We’ve managed to nurture a team oriented culture with amazingly low turnover. We value our people and their families. Don’t forget to check out our “About Us” page to learn more about the people and some of our perks.

We have built a profitable, high growth business. While we love our investors, we have maintained control over the business. That means our corporate goals are simple – grow sustainably and profitably.

Some Backblaze Perks:

  • Competitive healthcare plans
  • Competitive compensation and 401k
  • All employees receive Option grants
  • Unlimited vacation days
  • Strong coffee
  • Fully stocked Micro kitchen
  • Catered breakfast and lunches
  • Awesome people who work on awesome projects
  • Childcare bonus
  • Normal work hours
  • Get to bring your pets into the office
  • San Mateo Office – located near Caltrain and Highways 101 & 280.

Backblaze B2 cloud storage is a building block for almost any computing service that requires storage. Customers need our help integrating B2 into iOS apps to Docker containers. Some customers integrate directly to the API using the programming language of their choice, others want to solve a specific problem using ready made software, already integrated with B2.

At the same time, our computer backup product is deepening it’s integration into enterprise IT systems. We are commonly asked for how to set Windows policies, integrate with Active Directory, and install the client via remote management tools.

We are looking for a sales engineer who can help our customers navigate the integration of Backblaze into their technical environments.

Are you 1/2” deep into many different technologies, and unafraid to dive deeper?

Can you confidently talk with customers about their technology, even if you have to look up all the acronyms right after the call?

Are you excited to setup complicated software in a lab and write knowledge base articles about your work?

Then Backblaze is the place for you!

Enough about Backblaze already, what’s in it for me?
In this role, you will be given the opportunity to learn about the technologies that drive innovation today; diverse technologies that customers are using day in and out. And more importantly, you’ll learn how to learn new technologies.

Just as an example, in the past 12 months, we’ve had the opportunity to learn and become experts in these diverse technologies:

  • How to setup VM servers for lab environments, both on-prem and using cloud services.
  • Create an automatically “resetting” demo environment for the sales team.
  • Setup Microsoft Domain Controllers with Active Directory and AD Federation Services.
  • Learn the basics of OAUTH and web single sign on (SSO).
  • Archive video workflows from camera to media asset management systems.
  • How upload/download files from Javascript by enabling CORS.
  • How to install and monitor online backup installations using RMM tools, like JAMF.
  • Tape (LTO) systems. (Yes – people still use tape for storage!)

How can I know if I’ll succeed in this role?

You have:

  • Confidence. Be able to ask customers questions about their environments and convey to them your technical acumen.
  • Curiosity. Always want to learn about customers’ situations, how they got there and what problems they are trying to solve.
  • Organization. You’ll work with customers, integration partners, and Backblaze team members on projects of various lengths. You can context switch and either have a great memory or keep copious notes. Your checklists have their own checklists.

You are versed in:

  • The fundamentals of Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems. You shouldn’t be afraid to use a command line.
  • Building, installing, integrating and configuring applications on any operating system.
  • Debugging failures – reading logs, monitoring usage, effective google searching to fix problems excites you.
  • The basics of TCP/IP networking and the HTTP protocol.
  • Novice development skills in any programming/scripting language. Have basic understanding of data structures and program flow.
  • Your background contains:

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science or the equivalent.
  • 2+ years of experience as a pre or post-sales engineer.
  • The right extra credit:
    There are literally hundreds of previous experiences you can have had that would make you perfect for this job. Some experiences that we know would be helpful for us are below, but make sure you tell us your stories!

  • Experience using or programming against Amazon S3.
  • Experience with large on-prem storage – NAS, SAN, Object. And backing up data on such storage with tools like Veeam, Veritas and others.
  • Experience with photo or video media. Media archiving is a key market for Backblaze B2.
  • Program arduinos to automatically feed your dog.
  • Experience programming against web or REST APIs. (Point us towards your projects, if they are open source and available to link to.)
  • Experience with sales tools like Salesforce.
  • 3D print door stops.
  • Experience with Windows Servers, Active Directory, Group policies and the like.
  • What’s it like working with the Sales team?
    The Backblaze sales team collaborates. We help each other out by sharing ideas, templates, and our customer’s experiences. When we talk about our accomplishments, there is no “I did this,” only “we”. We are truly a team.

    We are honest to each other and our customers and communicate openly. We aim to have fun by embracing crazy ideas and creative solutions. We try to think not outside the box, but with no boxes at all. Customers are the driving force behind the success of the company and we care deeply about their success.

    If this all sounds like you:

    1. Send an email to [email protected] with the position in the subject line.
    2. Tell us a bit about your Sales Engineering experience.
    3. Include your resume.

    The post Wanted: Sales Engineer appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    Wanted: Datacenter Technician

    Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-datacenter-technician/

    As we shoot way past 400 Petabytes of data under management we need some help scaling up our datacenters! We’re on the lookout for some datacenter technicians that can help us. This role is located near the Sacramento, California area. If you want to join a dynamic team that helps keep our almost 90,000+ hard drives spinning, this might be the job for you!

    Responsibilities

    • Work as Backblaze’s physical presence in Sacramento area datacenter(s).
    • Help maintain physical infrastructure including racking equipment, replacing hard drives and other system components.
    • Repair and troubleshoot defective equipment with minimal supervision.
    • Support datacenter’s 24×7 staff to install new equipment, handle after hours emergencies and other tasks.
    • Help manage onsite inventory of hard drives, cables, rails and other spare parts.
    • RMA defective components.
    • Setup, test and activate new equipment via the Linux command line.
    • Help train new Datacenter Technicians as needed.
    • Help with projects to install new systems and services as time allows.
    • Follow and improve Datacenter best practices and documentation.
    • Maintain a clean and well organized work environment.
    • On-call responsibilities require being within an hour of the SunGard’s Rancho Cordova/Roseville facility and occasional trips onsite 24×7 to resolve issues that can’t be handled remotely.
    • Work days may include Saturday and/or Sunday (e.g. working Tuesday – Saturday).

    Requirements

    • Excellent communication, time management, problem solving and organizational skills.
    • Ability to learn quickly.
    • Ability to lift/move 50-75 lbs and work down near the floor on a daily basis.
    • Position based near Sacramento, California and may require periodic visits to the corporate office in San Mateo.
    • May require travel to other Datacenters to provide coverage and/or to assist
      with new site set-up.

    Backblaze Employees Have:

    • Good attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
    • Strong desire to work for a small, fast-paced company.
    • Desire to learn and adapt to rapidly changing technologies and work environment.
    • Comfortable with well-behaved pets in the office.
    • This position is located near Sacramento, California.

    Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we offer competitive salary and benefits, including our no policy vacation policy.

    If This Sounds Like You:
    Send an email to [email protected] with:

    1. Datacenter Tech in the subject line
    2. Your resume attached
    3. An overview of your relevant experience

    The post Wanted: Datacenter Technician appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    Wanted: Fixed Assets Accountant

    Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/wanted-fixed-assets-accountant/

    As Backblaze continues to grow, we’re expanding our accounting team! We’re looking for a seasoned Fixed Asset Accountant to help us with fixed assets and equipment leases.

    Job Duties:

    • Maintain and review fixed assets.
    • Record fixed asset acquisitions and dispositions.
    • Review and update the detailed schedule of fixed assets and accumulated depreciation.
    • Calculate depreciation for all fixed assets.
    • Investigate the potential obsolescence of fixed assets.
    • Coordinate with Operations team data center asset dispositions.
    • Conduct periodic physical inventory counts of fixed assets. Work with Operations team on cycle counts.
    • Reconcile the balance in the fixed asset subsidiary ledger to the summary-level account in the general ledger.
    • Track company expenditures for fixed assets in comparison to the capital budget and management authorizations.
    • Prepare audit schedules relating to fixed assets, and assist the auditors in their inquiries.
    • Recommend to management any updates to accounting policies related to fixed assets.
    • Manage equipment leases.
    • Engage and negotiate acquisition of new equipment lease lines.
    • Overall control of original lease documentation and maintenance of master lease files.
    • Facilitate and track routing and execution of various lease related: agreements — documents/forms/lease documents.
    • Establish and maintain proper controls to track expirations, renewal options, and all other critical dates.
    • Perform other duties and special projects as assigned.

    Qualifications:

    • 5-6 years relevant accounting experience.
    • Knowledge of inventory and cycle counting preferred.
    • Quickbooks, Excel, Word experience desired.
    • Organized, with excellent attention to detail, meticulous, quick-learner.
    • Good interpersonal skills and a team player.
    • Flexibility and ability to adapt and wear different hats.

    Backblaze Employees Have:

    • Good attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
    • Strong desire to work for a small, fast-paced company.
    • Desire to learn and adapt to rapidly changing technologies and work environment.
    • Comfortable with well-behaved pets in the office.

    This position is located in San Mateo, California. Regular attendance in the office is expected. Backblaze is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we offer competitive salary and benefits, including our no policy vacation policy.

    If This Sounds Like You:
    Send an email to [email protected] with:

    1. Fixed Asset Accountant in the subject line
    2. Your resume attached
    3. An overview of your relevant experience

    The post Wanted: Fixed Assets Accountant appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    Start off the New Year by earning AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

    Post Syndicated from Janna Pellegrino original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/start-off-the-new-year-by-earning-aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate/

    Do you design applications and systems on AWS? Want to demonstrate your AWS Cloud skills? Ring in 2018 by becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. It’s a way to validate your expertise with an industry-recognized credential and give your career a boost.

    Why get certified, you ask? According to the 2017 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, cloud certifications, including AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, generally have salaries well above average. For example, a typical U.S. salary for AWS Certified IT staff is 27.5 percent higher than the normal salary rate. Looking ahead, the report also finds that the IT industry will continue investing heavily in certification as a way to validating employees’ skills and expertise.

    Here are our tips for preparing for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam—which we hope you’ll pass with flying colors.

    Learn About the Exam

    View the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Guide. It covers concepts within the exam and gives you a blueprint of what you need to study.

    The exam tests your technical expertise in designing and deploying scalable, highly-available, and fault-tolerant systems on AWS. It’s for anyone with one or more years of hands-on experience designing distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform.

    Continue with Digital and Classroom Training

    Next, brush up on key AWS services covered in the exam with our new free digital training offerings at aws.training. Our 100+ bite-sized online courses are each 10 minutes long so you learn AWS fundamentals at your own pace.

    Just getting started learning the fundamentals of the AWS Cloud? We recommend you take our AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course, part of our free digital training offerings.

    For more in-depth technical training, register for our immersive Architecting on AWS course. It’s three days of instructor-led classroom training, books, and labs, built and taught by AWS experts.

    Study with Exam Prep Resources

    Once you have an idea of what’s on the exam, and you’ve taken training to prepare, it’s time to prepare for the exam itself.

    Dig deeper into the exam’s concepts and topics with the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam: Official Study Guide. It provides access to content written by AWS experts, real-world knowledge, key exam essentials, chapter review questions, an interactive online learning environment, and much more.

    Next, study AWS whitepapers and FAQs with content related to the exam. You can find links to our suggested whitepapers at FAQs at https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certification-prep/ under the Solutions Architect – Associate tab.

    You can also take an Exam Prep Workshop and learn exam strategies from a certified technical instructor.

    Once you’re ready, put your knowledge to the (practice) test with sample questions. Register for an online practice exam to test your knowledge in a timed environment.

    Schedule Your Exam and Get Certified

    Now you’re ready to take the exam! Go to aws.training to schedule an exam at a testing center near you at. Once you’ve passed and are AWS Certified, you’ll enjoy AWS Certification benefits like access to the AWS Certified LinkedIn Community, invitations to AWS Certification Appreciation Receptions, digital AWS Certified badges, access to AWS Certified merchandise, and more.

    Learn More

    Visit us at aws.amazon.com/training for more information on digital training, classroom training, and AWS Certifications.

    2017 Holiday Gift Guide — Backblaze Style

    Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/2017-holiday-gift-guide-backblaze-style/


    Here at Backblaze we have a lot of folks who are all about technology. With the holiday season fast approaching, you might have all of your gift buying already finished — but if not, we put together a list of things that the employees here at Backblaze are pretty excited about giving (and/or receiving) this year.

    Smart Homes:

    It’s no secret that having a smart home is the new hotness, and many of the items below can be used to turbocharge your home’s ascent into the future:

    Raspberry Pi
    The holidays are all about eating pie — well why not get a pie of a different type for the DIY fan in your life!

    Wyze Cam
    An inexpensive way to keep a close eye on all your favorite people…and intruders!

    Snooz
    Have trouble falling asleep? Try this portable white noise machine. Also great for the office!

    Amazon Echo Dot
    Need a cheap way to keep track of your schedule or play music? The Echo Dot is a great entry into the smart home of your dreams!

    Google Wifi
    These little fellows make it easy to Wifi-ify your entire home, even if it’s larger than the average shoe box here in Silicon Valley. Google Wifi acts as a mesh router and seamlessly covers your whole dwelling. Have a mansion? Buy more!

    Google Home
    Like the Amazon Echo Dot, this is the Google variant. It’s more expensive (similar to the Amazon Echo) but has better sound quality and is tied into the Google ecosystem.

    Nest Thermostat
    This is a smart thermostat. What better way to score points with the in-laws than installing one of these bad boys in their home — and then making it freezing cold randomly in the middle of winter from the comfort of your couch!

    Wearables:

    Homes aren’t the only things that should be smart. Your body should also get the chance to be all that it can be:

    Apple AirPods
    You’ve seen these all over the place, and the truth is they do a pretty good job of making sounds appear in your ears.

    Bose SoundLink Wireless Headphones
    If you like over-the-ear headphones, these noise canceling ones work great, are wireless and lovely. There’s no better way to ignore people this holiday season!

    Garmin Fenix 5 Watch
    This watch is all about fitness. If you enjoy fitness. This watch is the fitness watch for your fitness needs.

    Apple Watch
    The Apple Watch is a wonderful gadget that will light up any movie theater this holiday season.

    Nokia Steel Health Watch
    If you’re into mixing analogue and digital, this is a pretty neat little gadget.

    Fossil Smart Watch
    This stylish watch is a pretty neat way to dip your toe into smartwatches and activity trackers.

    Pebble Time Steel Smart Watch
    Some people call this the greatest smartwatch of all time. Those people might be named Yev. This watch is great at sending you notifications from your phone, and not needing to be charged every day. Bellissimo!

    Random Goods:

    A few of the holiday gift suggestions that we got were a bit off-kilter, but we do have a lot of interesting folks in the office. Hopefully, you might find some of these as interesting as they do:

    Wireless Qi Charger
    Wireless chargers are pretty great in that you don’t have to deal with dongles. There are even kits to make your electronics “wirelessly chargeable” which is pretty great!

    Self-Heating Coffee Mug
    Love coffee? Hate lukewarm coffee? What if your coffee cup heated itself? Brilliant!

    Yeast Stirrer
    Yeast. It makes beer. And bread! Sometimes you need to stir it. What cooler way to stir your yeast than with this industrial stirrer?

    Toto Washlet
    This one is self explanatory. You know the old rhyme: happy butts, everyone’s happy!

    Good luck out there this holiday season!

    blog-giftguide-present

    The post 2017 Holiday Gift Guide — Backblaze Style appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    Hollywood and Netflix Ask Court to Seize Tickbox Streaming Devices

    Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-and-netflix-ask-court-to-seize-tickbox-streaming-devices-171209/

    More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

    While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, sellers who ship devices with unauthorized add-ons give it a bad reputation.

    According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

    Earlier this year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells set-top boxes that allow users to stream a variety of popular media. The Tickbox devices use the Kodi media player and come with instructions on how to add various add-ons.

    According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “TickBox promotes and distributes TickBox TV for infringing use, and that is exactly the result of its use,” they told court this week.

    After the complaint was filed in October, Tickbox made some cosmetic changes to the site, removing some allegedly inducing language. The streaming devices are still for sale, however, but not for long if it’s up to the media giants.

    This week ACE submitted a request for a preliminary injunction to the court, hoping to stop Tickbox’s sales activities.

    “TickBox is intentionally inducing infringement, pure and simple. Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court enter a preliminary injunction that requires TickBox to halt its flagrantly illegal conduct immediately,” they write in their application.

    The companies explain that that since Tickbox is causing irreparable harm, all existing devices should be impounded.

    “[A]ll TickBox TV devices in the possession of TickBox and all of its officers, directors, agents, servants, and employees, and all persons in active concert or participation or in privity with any of them are to be impounded and shall be retained by Defendant until further order of the Court,” the proposed order reads.

    In addition, Tickbox should push out a software update which remove all infringing add-ons from the devices that were previously sold.

    “TickBox shall, via software update, remove from all distributed TickBox TV devices all Kodi ‘Themes,’ ‘Builds,’ ‘Addons,’ or any other software that facilitates the infringing public performances of Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works.”

    Among others, the list of allegedly infringing add-ons and themes includes Spinz, Lodi Black, Stream on Fire, Wookie, Aqua, CMM, Spanish Quasar, Paradox, Covenant, Elysium, UK Turk, Gurzil, Maverick, and Poseidon.

    The filing shows that ACE is serious about its efforts to stop the sale of these type of streaming devices. Tickbox has yet to reply to the original complaint or the injunction request.

    While this is the first US lawsuit of its kind, the anti-piracy conglomerate has been rather active in recent weeks. The group has successfully pressured several addon developers to quit and has been involved in enforcement actions around the globe.

    A copy of the proposed preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

    Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

    How to Easily Apply Amazon Cloud Directory Schema Changes with In-Place Schema Upgrades

    Post Syndicated from Mahendra Chheda original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-easily-apply-amazon-cloud-directory-schema-changes-with-in-place-schema-upgrades/

    Now, Amazon Cloud Directory makes it easier for you to apply schema changes across your directories with in-place schema upgrades. Your directory now remains available while Cloud Directory applies backward-compatible schema changes such as the addition of new fields. Without migrating data between directories or applying code changes to your applications, you can upgrade your schemas. You also can view the history of your schema changes in Cloud Directory by using version identifiers, which help you track and audit schema versions across directories. If you have multiple instances of a directory with the same schema, you can view the version history of schema changes to manage your directory fleet and ensure that all directories are running with the same schema version.

    In this blog post, I demonstrate how to perform an in-place schema upgrade and use schema versions in Cloud Directory. I add additional attributes to an existing facet and add a new facet to a schema. I then publish the new schema and apply it to running directories, upgrading the schema in place. I also show how to view the version history of a directory schema, which helps me to ensure my directory fleet is running the same version of the schema and has the correct history of schema changes applied to it.

    Note: I share Java code examples in this post. I assume that you are familiar with the AWS SDK and can use Java-based code to build a Cloud Directory code example. You can apply the concepts I cover in this post to other programming languages such as Python and Ruby.

    Cloud Directory fundamentals

    I will start by covering a few Cloud Directory fundamentals. If you are already familiar with the concepts behind Cloud Directory facets, schemas, and schema lifecycles, you can skip to the next section.

    Facets: Groups of attributes. You use facets to define object types. For example, you can define a device schema by adding facets such as computers, phones, and tablets. A computer facet can track attributes such as serial number, make, and model. You can then use the facets to create computer objects, phone objects, and tablet objects in the directory to which the schema applies.

    Schemas: Collections of facets. Schemas define which types of objects can be created in a directory (such as users, devices, and organizations) and enforce validation of data for each object class. All data within a directory must conform to the applied schema. As a result, the schema definition is essentially a blueprint to construct a directory with an applied schema.

    Schema lifecycle: The four distinct states of a schema: Development, Published, Applied, and Deleted. Schemas in the Published and Applied states have version identifiers and cannot be changed. Schemas in the Applied state are used by directories for validation as applications insert or update data. You can change schemas in the Development state as many times as you need them to. In-place schema upgrades allow you to apply schema changes to an existing Applied schema in a production directory without the need to export and import the data populated in the directory.

    How to add attributes to a computer inventory application schema and perform an in-place schema upgrade

    To demonstrate how to set up schema versioning and perform an in-place schema upgrade, I will use an example of a computer inventory application that uses Cloud Directory to store relationship data. Let’s say that at my company, AnyCompany, we use this computer inventory application to track all computers we give to our employees for work use. I previously created a ComputerSchema and assigned its version identifier as 1. This schema contains one facet called ComputerInfo that includes attributes for SerialNumber, Make, and Model, as shown in the following schema details.

    Schema: ComputerSchema
    Version: 1
    
    Facet: ComputerInfo
    Attribute: SerialNumber, type: Integer
    Attribute: Make, type: String
    Attribute: Model, type: String

    AnyCompany has offices in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. I have deployed the computer inventory application for each of these three locations. As shown in the lower left part of the following diagram, ComputerSchema is in the Published state with a version of 1. The Published schema is applied to SeattleDirectory, PortlandDirectory, and SanFranciscoDirectory for AnyCompany’s three locations. Implementing separate directories for different geographic locations when you don’t have any queries that cross location boundaries is a good data partitioning strategy and gives your application better response times with lower latency.

    Diagram of ComputerSchema in Published state and applied to three directories

    Legend for the diagrams in this post

    The following code example creates the schema in the Development state by using a JSON file, publishes the schema, and then creates directories for the Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco locations. For this example, I assume the schema has been defined in the JSON file. The createSchema API creates a schema Amazon Resource Name (ARN) with the name defined in the variable, SCHEMA_NAME. I can use the putSchemaFromJson API to add specific schema definitions from the JSON file.

    // The utility method to get valid Cloud Directory schema JSON
    String validJson = getJsonFile("ComputerSchema_version_1.json")
    
    String SCHEMA_NAME = "ComputerSchema";
    
    String developmentSchemaArn = client.createSchema(new CreateSchemaRequest()
            .withName(SCHEMA_NAME))
            .getSchemaArn();
    
    // Put the schema document in the Development schema
    PutSchemaFromJsonResult result = client.putSchemaFromJson(new PutSchemaFromJsonRequest()
            .withSchemaArn(developmentSchemaArn)
            .withDocument(validJson));
    

    The following code example takes the schema that is currently in the Development state and publishes the schema, changing its state to Published.

    String SCHEMA_VERSION = "1";
    String publishedSchemaArn = client.publishSchema(
            new PublishSchemaRequest()
            .withDevelopmentSchemaArn(developmentSchemaArn)
            .withVersion(SCHEMA_VERSION))
            .getPublishedSchemaArn();
    
    // Our Published schema ARN is as follows
    // arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:schema/published/ComputerSchema/1

    The following code example creates a directory named SeattleDirectory and applies the published schema. The createDirectory API call creates a directory by using the published schema provided in the API parameters. Note that Cloud Directory stores a version of the schema in the directory in the Applied state. I will use similar code to create directories for PortlandDirectory and SanFranciscoDirectory.

    String DIRECTORY_NAME = "SeattleDirectory"; 
    
    CreateDirectoryResult directory = client.createDirectory(
            new CreateDirectoryRequest()
            .withName(DIRECTORY_NAME)
            .withSchemaArn(publishedSchemaArn));
    
    String directoryArn = directory.getDirectoryArn();
    String appliedSchemaArn = directory.getAppliedSchemaArn();
    
    // This code section can be reused to create directories for Portland and San Francisco locations with the appropriate directory names
    
    // Our directory ARN is as follows 
    // arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX
    
    // Our applied schema ARN is as follows 
    // arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX/schema/ComputerSchema/1
    

    Revising a schema

    Now let’s say my company, AnyCompany, wants to add more information for computers and to track which employees have been assigned a computer for work use. I modify the schema to add two attributes to the ComputerInfo facet: Description and OSVersion (operating system version). I make Description optional because it is not important for me to track this attribute for the computer objects I create. I make OSVersion mandatory because it is critical for me to track it for all computer objects so that I can make changes such as applying security patches or making upgrades. Because I make OSVersion mandatory, I must provide a default value that Cloud Directory will apply to objects that were created before the schema revision, in order to handle backward compatibility. Note that you can replace the value in any object with a different value.

    I also add a new facet to track computer assignment information, shown in the following updated schema as the ComputerAssignment facet. This facet tracks these additional attributes: Name (the name of the person to whom the computer is assigned), EMail (the email address of the assignee), Department, and department CostCenter. Note that Cloud Directory refers to the previously available version identifier as the Major Version. Because I can now add a minor version to a schema, I also denote the changed schema as Minor Version A.

    Schema: ComputerSchema
    Major Version: 1
    Minor Version: A 
    
    Facet: ComputerInfo
    Attribute: SerialNumber, type: Integer 
    Attribute: Make, type: String
    Attribute: Model, type: Integer
    Attribute: Description, type: String, required: NOT_REQUIRED
    Attribute: OSVersion, type: String, required: REQUIRED_ALWAYS, default: "Windows 7"
    
    Facet: ComputerAssignment
    Attribute: Name, type: String
    Attribute: EMail, type: String
    Attribute: Department, type: String
    Attribute: CostCenter, type: Integer

    The following diagram shows the changes that were made when I added another facet to the schema and attributes to the existing facet. The highlighted area of the diagram (bottom left) shows that the schema changes were published.

    Diagram showing that schema changes were published

    The following code example revises the existing Development schema by adding the new attributes to the ComputerInfo facet and by adding the ComputerAssignment facet. I use a new JSON file for the schema revision, and for the purposes of this example, I am assuming the JSON file has the full schema including planned revisions.

    // The utility method to get a valid CloudDirectory schema JSON
    String schemaJson = getJsonFile("ComputerSchema_version_1_A.json")
    
    // Put the schema document in the Development schema
    PutSchemaFromJsonResult result = client.putSchemaFromJson(
            new PutSchemaFromJsonRequest()
            .withSchemaArn(developmentSchemaArn)
            .withDocument(schemaJson));

    Upgrading the Published schema

    The following code example performs an in-place schema upgrade of the Published schema with schema revisions (it adds new attributes to the existing facet and another facet to the schema). The upgradePublishedSchema API upgrades the Published schema with backward-compatible changes from the Development schema.

    // From an earlier code example, I know the publishedSchemaArn has this value: "arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:schema/published/ComputerSchema/1"
    
    // Upgrade publishedSchemaArn to minorVersion A. The Development schema must be backward compatible with 
    // the existing publishedSchemaArn. 
    
    String minorVersion = "A"
    
    UpgradePublishedSchemaResult upgradePublishedSchemaResult = client.upgradePublishedSchema(new UpgradePublishedSchemaRequest()
            .withDevelopmentSchemaArn(developmentSchemaArn)
            .withPublishedSchemaArn(publishedSchemaArn)
            .withMinorVersion(minorVersion));
    
    String upgradedPublishedSchemaArn = upgradePublishedSchemaResult.getUpgradedSchemaArn();
    
    // The Published schema ARN after the upgrade shows a minor version as follows 
    // arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:schema/published/ComputerSchema/1/A

    Upgrading the Applied schema

    The following diagram shows the in-place schema upgrade for the SeattleDirectory directory. I am performing the schema upgrade so that I can reflect the new schemas in all three directories. As a reminder, I added new attributes to the ComputerInfo facet and also added the ComputerAssignment facet. After the schema and directory upgrade, I can create objects for the ComputerInfo and ComputerAssignment facets in the SeattleDirectory. Any objects that were created with the old facet definition for ComputerInfo will now use the default values for any additional attributes defined in the new schema.

    Diagram of the in-place schema upgrade for the SeattleDirectory directory

    I use the following code example to perform an in-place upgrade of the SeattleDirectory to a Major Version of 1 and a Minor Version of A. Note that you should change a Major Version identifier in a schema to make backward-incompatible changes such as changing the data type of an existing attribute or dropping a mandatory attribute from your schema. Backward-incompatible changes require directory data migration from a previous version to the new version. You should change a Minor Version identifier in a schema to make backward-compatible upgrades such as adding additional attributes or adding facets, which in turn may contain one or more attributes. The upgradeAppliedSchema API lets me upgrade an existing directory with a different version of a schema.

    // This upgrades ComputerSchema version 1 of the Applied schema in SeattleDirectory to Major Version 1 and Minor Version A
    // The schema must be backward compatible or the API will fail with IncompatibleSchemaException
    
    UpgradeAppliedSchemaResult upgradeAppliedSchemaResult = client.upgradeAppliedSchema(new UpgradeAppliedSchemaRequest()
            .withDirectoryArn(directoryArn)
            .withPublishedSchemaArn(upgradedPublishedSchemaArn));
    
    String upgradedAppliedSchemaArn = upgradeAppliedSchemaResult.getUpgradedSchemaArn();
    
    // The Applied schema ARN after the in-place schema upgrade will appear as follows
    // arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX/schema/ComputerSchema/1
    
    // This code section can be reused to upgrade directories for the Portland and San Francisco locations with the appropriate directory ARN

    Note: Cloud Directory has excluded returning the Minor Version identifier in the Applied schema ARN for backward compatibility and to enable the application to work across older and newer versions of the directory.

    The following diagram shows the changes that are made when I perform an in-place schema upgrade in the two remaining directories, PortlandDirectory and SanFranciscoDirectory. I make these calls sequentially, upgrading PortlandDirectory first and then upgrading SanFranciscoDirectory. I use the same code example that I used earlier to upgrade SeattleDirectory. Now, all my directories are running the most current version of the schema. Also, I made these schema changes without having to migrate data and while maintaining my application’s high availability.

    Diagram showing the changes that are made with an in-place schema upgrade in the two remaining directories

    Schema revision history

    I can now view the schema revision history for any of AnyCompany’s directories by using the listAppliedSchemaArns API. Cloud Directory maintains the five most recent versions of applied schema changes. Similarly, to inspect the current Minor Version that was applied to my schema, I use the getAppliedSchemaVersion API. The listAppliedSchemaArns API returns the schema ARNs based on my schema filter as defined in withSchemaArn.

    I use the following code example to query an Applied schema for its version history.

    // This returns the five most recent Minor Versions associated with a Major Version
    ListAppliedSchemaArnsResult listAppliedSchemaArnsResult = client.listAppliedSchemaArns(new ListAppliedSchemaArnsRequest()
            .withDirectoryArn(directoryArn)
            .withSchemaArn(upgradedAppliedSchemaArn));
    
    // Note: The listAppliedSchemaArns API without the SchemaArn filter returns all the Major Versions in a directory

    The listAppliedSchemaArns API returns the two ARNs as shown in the following output.

    arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX/schema/ComputerSchema/1
    arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX/schema/ComputerSchema/1/A

    The following code example queries an Applied schema for current Minor Version by using the getAppliedSchemaVersion API.

    // This returns the current Applied schema's Minor Version ARN 
    
    GetAppliedSchemaVersion getAppliedSchemaVersionResult = client.getAppliedSchemaVersion(new GetAppliedSchemaVersionRequest()
    	.withSchemaArn(upgradedAppliedSchemaArn));

    The getAppliedSchemaVersion API returns the current Applied schema ARN with a Minor Version, as shown in the following output.

    arn:aws:clouddirectory:us-west-2:XXXXXXXXXXXX:directory/XX_DIRECTORY_GUID_XX/schema/ComputerSchema/1/A

    If you have a lot of directories, schema revision API calls can help you audit your directory fleet and ensure that all directories are running the same version of a schema. Such auditing can help you ensure high integrity of directories across your fleet.

    Summary

    You can use in-place schema upgrades to make changes to your directory schema as you evolve your data set to match the needs of your application. An in-place schema upgrade allows you to maintain high availability for your directory and applications while the upgrade takes place. For more information about in-place schema upgrades, see the in-place schema upgrade documentation.

    If you have comments about this blog post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about implementing the solution in this post, start a new thread in the Directory Service forum or contact AWS Support.

    – Mahendra

     

    Zach Joins The Support Team

    Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/zach-joins-support-team/

    As Backblaze continues to grow, one thing that runs linearly with our growth is the number of folks we need in support. We believe strongly that people writing in to get a helping hand should be quickly and kindly take care of. To help us with that, we’d like to welcome Zach, our latest Support Tech to the Backblaze team! Lets take a minute to learn a bit more about Zach shall we?

    What is your Backblaze Title?
    Jr. Support Technician

    Where are you originally from?
    I was born in Pasadena, CA, but I’ve spent most of my life in the Bay Area.

    What attracted you to Backblaze?
    I have a few friends that have been with the company for some time who would do nothing but gush about the respect that Backblaze has for its employees. More than anything I was drawn to the loyalty and faith the company has for its staff.

    Where else have you worked?
    Previously I have worked support roles for other tech companies as well as general IT and computer hardware repair.

    What’s your dream job?
    Somewhere that I feel I can grow within the company and find success in a role that makes me feel satisfied. Or a touring musician. That would be cool, too.

    Favorite place you’ve traveled?
    Canada! Everyone was so nice!

    Favorite hobby?
    In my spare time I like to write sad songs.

    Of what achievement are you most proud?
    One of my favorite singers told me that I have a really nice voice. So I suppose my proudest achievement is being born with a nice voice.

    Star Trek or Star Wars?
    I cried during Episode VII.

    Coke or Pepsi?
    Coke, obviously.

    Favorite food?
    Is bread an acceptable answer?

    Anything else you’d like you’d like to tell us?
    I’m also a big Disney fan like so many other people who work here. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    We certainly do have a lot of Disney fans on staff — there must be something in the air. Welcome aboard Zach!

    The post Zach Joins The Support Team appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

    GDPR – A Practical Guide For Developers

    Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/gdpr-practical-guide-developers/

    You’ve probably heard about GDPR. The new European data protection regulation that applies practically to everyone. Especially if you are working in a big company, it’s most likely that there’s already a process for gettign your systems in compliance with the regulation.

    The regulation is basically a law that must be followed in all European countries (but also applies to non-EU companies that have users in the EU). In this particular case, it applies to companies that are not registered in Europe, but are having European customers. So that’s most companies. I will not go into yet another “12 facts about GDPR” or “7 myths about GDPR” posts/whitepapers, as they are often aimed at managers or legal people. Instead, I’ll focus on what GDPR means for developers.

    Why am I qualified to do that? A few reasons – I was advisor to the deputy prime minister of a EU country, and because of that I’ve been both exposed and myself wrote some legislation. I’m familiar with the “legalese” and how the regulatory framework operates in general. I’m also a privacy advocate and I’ve been writing about GDPR-related stuff in the past, i.e. “before it was cool” (protecting sensitive data, the right to be forgotten). And finally, I’m currently working on a project that (among other things) aims to help with covering some GDPR aspects.

    I’ll try to be a bit more comprehensive this time and cover as many aspects of the regulation that concern developers as I can. And while developers will mostly be concerned about how the systems they are working on have to change, it’s not unlikely that a less informed manager storms in in late spring, realizing GDPR is going to be in force tomorrow, asking “what should we do to get our system/website compliant”.

    The rights of the user/client (referred to as “data subject” in the regulation) that I think are relevant for developers are: the right to erasure (the right to be forgotten/deleted from the system), right to restriction of processing (you still keep the data, but mark it as “restricted” and don’t touch it without further consent by the user), the right to data portability (the ability to export one’s data), the right to rectification (the ability to get personal data fixed), the right to be informed (getting human-readable information, rather than long terms and conditions), the right of access (the user should be able to see all the data you have about them), the right to data portability (the user should be able to get a machine-readable dump of their data).

    Additionally, the relevant basic principles are: data minimization (one should not collect more data than necessary), integrity and confidentiality (all security measures to protect data that you can think of + measures to guarantee that the data has not been inappropriately modified).

    Even further, the regulation requires certain processes to be in place within an organization (of more than 250 employees or if a significant amount of data is processed), and those include keeping a record of all types of processing activities carried out, including transfers to processors (3rd parties), which includes cloud service providers. None of the other requirements of the regulation have an exception depending on the organization size, so “I’m small, GDPR does not concern me” is a myth.

    It is important to know what “personal data” is. Basically, it’s every piece of data that can be used to uniquely identify a person or data that is about an already identified person. It’s data that the user has explicitly provided, but also data that you have collected about them from either 3rd parties or based on their activities on the site (what they’ve been looking at, what they’ve purchased, etc.)

    Having said that, I’ll list a number of features that will have to be implemented and some hints on how to do that, followed by some do’s and don’t’s.

    • “Forget me” – you should have a method that takes a userId and deletes all personal data about that user (in case they have been collected on the basis of consent, and not due to contract enforcement or legal obligation). It is actually useful for integration tests to have that feature (to cleanup after the test), but it may be hard to implement depending on the data model. In a regular data model, deleting a record may be easy, but some foreign keys may be violated. That means you have two options – either make sure you allow nullable foreign keys (for example an order usually has a reference to the user that made it, but when the user requests his data be deleted, you can set the userId to null), or make sure you delete all related data (e.g. via cascades). This may not be desirable, e.g. if the order is used to track available quantities or for accounting purposes. It’s a bit trickier for event-sourcing data models, or in extreme cases, ones that include some sort of blcokchain/hash chain/tamper-evident data structure. With event sourcing you should be able to remove a past event and re-generate intermediate snapshots. For blockchain-like structures – be careful what you put in there and avoid putting personal data of users. There is an option to use a chameleon hash function, but that’s suboptimal. Overall, you must constantly think of how you can delete the personal data. And “our data model doesn’t allow it” isn’t an excuse.
    • Notify 3rd parties for erasure – deleting things from your system may be one thing, but you are also obligated to inform all third parties that you have pushed that data to. So if you have sent personal data to, say, Salesforce, Hubspot, twitter, or any cloud service provider, you should call an API of theirs that allows for the deletion of personal data. If you are such a provider, obviously, your “forget me” endpoint should be exposed. Calling the 3rd party APIs to remove data is not the full story, though. You also have to make sure the information does not appear in search results. Now, that’s tricky, as Google doesn’t have an API for removal, only a manual process. Fortunately, it’s only about public profile pages that are crawlable by Google (and other search engines, okay…), but you still have to take measures. Ideally, you should make the personal data page return a 404 HTTP status, so that it can be removed.
    • Restrict processing – in your admin panel where there’s a list of users, there should be a button “restrict processing”. The user settings page should also have that button. When clicked (after reading the appropriate information), it should mark the profile as restricted. That means it should no longer be visible to the backoffice staff, or publicly. You can implement that with a simple “restricted” flag in the users table and a few if-clasues here and there.
    • Export data – there should be another button – “export data”. When clicked, the user should receive all the data that you hold about them. What exactly is that data – depends on the particular usecase. Usually it’s at least the data that you delete with the “forget me” functionality, but may include additional data (e.g. the orders the user has made may not be delete, but should be included in the dump). The structure of the dump is not strictly defined, but my recommendation would be to reuse schema.org definitions as much as possible, for either JSON or XML. If the data is simple enough, a CSV/XLS export would also be fine. Sometimes data export can take a long time, so the button can trigger a background process, which would then notify the user via email when his data is ready (twitter, for example, does that already – you can request all your tweets and you get them after a while).
    • Allow users to edit their profile – this seems an obvious rule, but it isn’t always followed. Users must be able to fix all data about them, including data that you have collected from other sources (e.g. using a “login with facebook” you may have fetched their name and address). Rule of thumb – all the fields in your “users” table should be editable via the UI. Technically, rectification can be done via a manual support process, but that’s normally more expensive for a business than just having the form to do it. There is one other scenario, however, when you’ve obtained the data from other sources (i.e. the user hasn’t provided their details to you directly). In that case there should still be a page where they can identify somehow (via email and/or sms confirmation) and get access to the data about them.
    • Consent checkboxes – this is in my opinion the biggest change that the regulation brings. “I accept the terms and conditions” would no longer be sufficient to claim that the user has given their consent for processing their data. So, for each particular processing activity there should be a separate checkbox on the registration (or user profile) screen. You should keep these consent checkboxes in separate columns in the database, and let the users withdraw their consent (by unchecking these checkboxes from their profile page – see the previous point). Ideally, these checkboxes should come directly from the register of processing activities (if you keep one). Note that the checkboxes should not be preselected, as this does not count as “consent”.
    • Re-request consent – if the consent users have given was not clear (e.g. if they simply agreed to terms & conditions), you’d have to re-obtain that consent. So prepare a functionality for mass-emailing your users to ask them to go to their profile page and check all the checkboxes for the personal data processing activities that you have.
    • “See all my data” – this is very similar to the “Export” button, except data should be displayed in the regular UI of the application rather than an XML/JSON format. For example, Google Maps shows you your location history – all the places that you’ve been to. It is a good implementation of the right to access. (Though Google is very far from perfect when privacy is concerned)
    • Age checks – you should ask for the user’s age, and if the user is a child (below 16), you should ask for parent permission. There’s no clear way how to do that, but my suggestion is to introduce a flow, where the child should specify the email of a parent, who can then confirm. Obviosuly, children will just cheat with their birthdate, or provide a fake parent email, but you will most likely have done your job according to the regulation (this is one of the “wishful thinking” aspects of the regulation).

    Now some “do’s”, which are mostly about the technical measures needed to protect personal data. They may be more “ops” than “dev”, but often the application also has to be extended to support them. I’ve listed most of what I could think of in a previous post.

    • Encrypt the data in transit. That means that communication between your application layer and your database (or your message queue, or whatever component you have) should be over TLS. The certificates could be self-signed (and possibly pinned), or you could have an internal CA. Different databases have different configurations, just google “X encrypted connections. Some databases need gossiping among the nodes – that should also be configured to use encryption
    • Encrypt the data at rest – this again depends on the database (some offer table-level encryption), but can also be done on machine-level. E.g. using LUKS. The private key can be stored in your infrastructure, or in some cloud service like AWS KMS.
    • Encrypt your backups – kind of obvious
    • Implement pseudonymisation – the most obvious use-case is when you want to use production data for the test/staging servers. You should change the personal data to some “pseudonym”, so that the people cannot be identified. When you push data for machine learning purposes (to third parties or not), you can also do that. Technically, that could mean that your User object can have a “pseudonymize” method which applies hash+salt/bcrypt/PBKDF2 for some of the data that can be used to identify a person
    • Protect data integrity – this is a very broad thing, and could simply mean “have authentication mechanisms for modifying data”. But you can do something more, even as simple as a checksum, or a more complicated solution (like the one I’m working on). It depends on the stakes, on the way data is accessed, on the particular system, etc. The checksum can be in the form of a hash of all the data in a given database record, which should be updated each time the record is updated through the application. It isn’t a strong guarantee, but it is at least something.
    • Have your GDPR register of processing activities in something other than Excel – Article 30 says that you should keep a record of all the types of activities that you use personal data for. That sounds like bureaucracy, but it may be useful – you will be able to link certain aspects of your application with that register (e.g. the consent checkboxes, or your audit trail records). It wouldn’t take much time to implement a simple register, but the business requirements for that should come from whoever is responsible for the GDPR compliance. But you can advise them that having it in Excel won’t make it easy for you as a developer (imagine having to fetch the excel file internally, so that you can parse it and implement a feature). Such a register could be a microservice/small application deployed separately in your infrastructure.
    • Log access to personal data – every read operation on a personal data record should be logged, so that you know who accessed what and for what purpose
    • Register all API consumers – you shouldn’t allow anonymous API access to personal data. I’d say you should request the organization name and contact person for each API user upon registration, and add those to the data processing register. Note: some have treated article 30 as a requirement to keep an audit log. I don’t think it is saying that – instead it requires 250+ companies to keep a register of the types of processing activities (i.e. what you use the data for). There are other articles in the regulation that imply that keeping an audit log is a best practice (for protecting the integrity of the data as well as to make sure it hasn’t been processed without a valid reason)

    Finally, some “don’t’s”.

    • Don’t use data for purposes that the user hasn’t agreed with – that’s supposed to be the spirit of the regulation. If you want to expose a new API to a new type of clients, or you want to use the data for some machine learning, or you decide to add ads to your site based on users’ behaviour, or sell your database to a 3rd party – think twice. I would imagine your register of processing activities could have a button to send notification emails to users to ask them for permission when a new processing activity is added (or if you use a 3rd party register, it should probably give you an API). So upon adding a new processing activity (and adding that to your register), mass email all users from whom you’d like consent.
    • Don’t log personal data – getting rid of the personal data from log files (especially if they are shipped to a 3rd party service) can be tedious or even impossible. So log just identifiers if needed. And make sure old logs files are cleaned up, just in case
    • Don’t put fields on the registration/profile form that you don’t need – it’s always tempting to just throw as many fields as the usability person/designer agrees on, but unless you absolutely need the data for delivering your service, you shouldn’t collect it. Names you should probably always collect, but unless you are delivering something, a home address or phone is unnecessary.
    • Don’t assume 3rd parties are compliant – you are responsible if there’s a data breach in one of the 3rd parties (e.g. “processors”) to which you send personal data. So before you send data via an API to another service, make sure they have at least a basic level of data protection. If they don’t, raise a flag with management.
    • Don’t assume having ISO XXX makes you compliant – information security standards and even personal data standards are a good start and they will probably 70% of what the regulation requires, but they are not sufficient – most of the things listed above are not covered in any of those standards

    Overall, the purpose of the regulation is to make you take conscious decisions when processing personal data. It imposes best practices in a legal way. If you follow the above advice and design your data model, storage, data flow , API calls with data protection in mind, then you shouldn’t worry about the huge fines that the regulation prescribes – they are for extreme cases, like Equifax for example. Regulators (data protection authorities) will most likely have some checklists into which you’d have to somehow fit, but if you follow best practices, that shouldn’t be an issue.

    I think all of the above features can be implemented in a few weeks by a small team. Be suspicious when a big vendor offers you a generic plug-and-play “GDPR compliance” solution. GDPR is not just about the technical aspects listed above – it does have organizational/process implications. But also be suspicious if a consultant claims GDPR is complicated. It’s not – it relies on a few basic principles that are in fact best practices anyway. Just don’t ignore them.

    The post GDPR – A Practical Guide For Developers appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

    Uber Data Hack

    Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/uber_data_hack.html

    Uber was hacked, losing data on 57 million driver and rider accounts. The company kept it quiet for over a year. The details are particularly damning:

    The two hackers stole data about the company’s riders and drivers ­– including phone numbers, email addresses and names — from a third-party server and then approached Uber and demanded $100,000 to delete their copy of the data, the employees said.

    Uber acquiesced to the demands, and then went further. The company tracked down the hackers and pushed them to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to the people familiar with the matter. To further conceal the damage, Uber executives also made it appear as if the payout had been part of a “bug bounty” — a common practice among technology companies in which they pay hackers to attack their software to test for soft spots.

    And almost certainly illegal:

    While it is not illegal to pay money to hackers, Uber may have violated several laws in its interaction with them.

    By demanding that the hackers destroy the stolen data, Uber may have violated a Federal Trade Commission rule on breach disclosure that prohibits companies from destroying any forensic evidence in the course of their investigation.

    The company may have also violated state breach disclosure laws by not disclosing the theft of Uber drivers’ stolen data. If the data stolen was not encrypted, Uber would have been required by California state law to disclose that driver’s license data from its drivers had been stolen in the course of the hacking.

    Uber was hacked, losing data on 57 million driver and rider accounts. They kept it quiet for over a year. The details are particularly damning:

    The two hackers stole data about the company’s riders and drivers ­- including phone numbers, email addresses and names -­ from a third-party server and then approached Uber and demanded $100,000 to delete their copy of the data, the employees said.

    Uber acquiesced to the demands, and then went further. The company tracked down the hackers and pushed them to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to the people familiar with the matter. To further conceal the damage, Uber executives also made it appear as if the payout had been part of a “bug bounty” ­- a common practice among technology companies in which they pay hackers to attack their software to test for soft spots.

    And almost certainly illegal:

    While it is not illegal to pay money to hackers, Uber may have violated several laws in its interaction with them.

    By demanding that the hackers destroy the stolen data, Uber may have violated a Federal Trade Commission rule on breach disclosure that prohibits companies from destroying any forensic evidence in the course of their investigation.

    The company may have also violated state breach disclosure laws by not disclosing the theft of Uber drivers’ stolen data. If the data stolen was not encrypted, Uber would have been required by California state law to disclose that driver’s license data from its drivers had been stolen in the course of the hacking.

    Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

    Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-leaks-carried-out-by-former-iranian-military-hacker-171122/

    Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

    The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

    “Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

    In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

    Image released by the hackers

    Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

    “Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

    During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

    In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

    “Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

    “Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

    According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

    The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

    After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

    Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

    As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

    The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

    Wanted

    Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

    Amazon QuickSight Update – Geospatial Visualization, Private VPC Access, and More

    Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/amazon-quicksight-update-geospatial-visualization-private-vpc-access-and-more/

    We don’t often recognize or celebrate anniversaries at AWS. With nearly 100 services on our list, we’d be eating cake and drinking champagne several times a week. While that might sound like fun, we’d rather spend our working hours listening to customers and innovating. With that said, Amazon QuickSight has now been generally available for a little over a year and I would like to give you a quick update!

    QuickSight in Action
    Today, tens of thousands of customers (from startups to enterprises, in industries as varied as transportation, legal, mining, and healthcare) are using QuickSight to analyze and report on their business data.

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Gemini provides legal evidence procurement for California attorneys who represent injured workers. They have gone from creating custom reports and running one-off queries to creating and sharing dynamic QuickSight dashboards with drill-downs and filtering. QuickSight is used to track sales pipeline, measure order throughput, and to locate bottlenecks in the order processing pipeline.

    Jivochat provides a real-time messaging platform to connect visitors to website owners. QuickSight lets them create and share interactive dashboards while also providing access to the underlying datasets. This has allowed them to move beyond the sharing of static spreadsheets, ensuring that everyone is looking at the same and is empowered to make timely decisions based on current data.

    Transfix is a tech-powered freight marketplace that matches loads and increases visibility into logistics for Fortune 500 shippers in retail, food and beverage, manufacturing, and other industries. QuickSight has made analytics accessible to both BI engineers and non-technical business users. They scrutinize key business and operational metrics including shipping routes, carrier efficient, and process automation.

    Looking Back / Looking Ahead
    The feedback on QuickSight has been incredibly helpful. Customers tell us that their employees are using QuickSight to connect to their data, perform analytics, and make high-velocity, data-driven decisions, all without setting up or running their own BI infrastructure. We love all of the feedback that we get, and use it to drive our roadmap, leading to the introduction of over 40 new features in just a year. Here’s a summary:

    Looking forward, we are watching an interesting trend develop within our customer base. As these customers take a close look at how they analyze and report on data, they are realizing that a serverless approach offers some tangible benefits. They use Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) as a data lake and query it using a combination of QuickSight and Amazon Athena, giving them agility and flexibility without static infrastructure. They also make great use of QuickSight’s dashboards feature, monitoring business results and operational metrics, then sharing their insights with hundreds of users. You can read Building a Serverless Analytics Solution for Cleaner Cities and review Serverless Big Data Analytics using Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight if you are interested in this approach.

    New Features and Enhancements
    We’re still doing our best to listen and to learn, and to make sure that QuickSight continues to meet your needs. I’m happy to announce that we are making seven big additions today:

    Geospatial Visualization – You can now create geospatial visuals on geographical data sets.

    Private VPC Access – You can now sign up to access a preview of a new feature that allows you to securely connect to data within VPCs or on-premises, without the need for public endpoints.

    Flat Table Support – In addition to pivot tables, you can now use flat tables for tabular reporting. To learn more, read about Using Tabular Reports.

    Calculated SPICE Fields – You can now perform run-time calculations on SPICE data as part of your analysis. Read Adding a Calculated Field to an Analysis for more information.

    Wide Table Support – You can now use tables with up to 1000 columns.

    Other Buckets – You can summarize the long tail of high-cardinality data into buckets, as described in Working with Visual Types in Amazon QuickSight.

    HIPAA Compliance – You can now run HIPAA-compliant workloads on QuickSight.

    Geospatial Visualization
    Everyone seems to want this feature! You can now take data that contains a geographic identifier (country, city, state, or zip code) and create beautiful visualizations with just a few clicks. QuickSight will geocode the identifier that you supply, and can also accept lat/long map coordinates. You can use this feature to visualize sales by state, map stores to shipping destinations, and so forth. Here’s a sample visualization:

    To learn more about this feature, read Using Geospatial Charts (Maps), and Adding Geospatial Data.

    Private VPC Access Preview
    If you have data in AWS (perhaps in Amazon Redshift, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), or on EC2) or on-premises in Teradata or SQL Server on servers without public connectivity, this feature is for you. Private VPC Access for QuickSight uses an Elastic Network Interface (ENI) for secure, private communication with data sources in a VPC. It also allows you to use AWS Direct Connect to create a secure, private link with your on-premises resources. Here’s what it looks like:

    If you are ready to join the preview, you can sign up today.

    Jeff;

     

    How AWS Managed Microsoft AD Helps to Simplify the Deployment and Improve the Security of Active Directory–Integrated .NET Applications

    Post Syndicated from Peter Pereira original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-aws-managed-microsoft-ad-helps-to-simplify-the-deployment-and-improve-the-security-of-active-directory-integrated-net-applications/

    Companies using .NET applications to access sensitive user information, such as employee salary, Social Security Number, and credit card information, need an easy and secure way to manage access for users and applications.

    For example, let’s say that your company has a .NET payroll application. You want your Human Resources (HR) team to manage and update the payroll data for all the employees in your company. You also want your employees to be able to see their own payroll information in the application. To meet these requirements in a user-friendly and secure way, you want to manage access to the .NET application by using your existing Microsoft Active Directory identities. This enables you to provide users with single sign-on (SSO) access to the .NET application and to manage permissions using Active Directory groups. You also want the .NET application to authenticate itself to access the database, and to limit access to the data in the database based on the identity of the application user.

    Microsoft Active Directory supports these requirements through group Managed Service Accounts (gMSAs) and Kerberos constrained delegation (KCD). AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory, also known as AWS Managed Microsoft AD, enables you to manage gMSAs and KCD through your administrative account, helping you to migrate and develop .NET applications that need these native Active Directory features.

    In this blog post, I give an overview of how to use AWS Managed Microsoft AD to manage gMSAs and KCD and demonstrate how you can configure a gMSA and KCD in six steps for a .NET application:

    1. Create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD.
    2. Create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database.
    3. Create a gMSA for your .NET application.
    4. Deploy your .NET application.
    5. Configure your .NET application to use the gMSA.
    6. Configure KCD for your .NET application.

    Solution overview

    The following diagram shows the components of a .NET application that uses Amazon RDS for SQL Server with a gMSA and KCD. The diagram also illustrates authentication and access and is numbered to show the six key steps required to use a gMSA and KCD. To deploy this solution, the AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory must be in the same Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) as RDS for SQL Server. For this example, my company name is Example Corp., and my directory uses the domain name, example.com.

    Diagram showing the components of a .NET application that uses Amazon RDS for SQL Server with a gMSA and KCD

    Deploy the solution

    The following six steps (numbered to correlate with the preceding diagram) walk you through configuring and using a gMSA and KCD.

    1. Create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory

    Using the Directory Service console, create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory in your Amazon VPC. In my example, my domain name is example.com.

    Image of creating an AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory in an Amazon VPC

    2. Create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database

    Using the RDS console, create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database instance in the same Amazon VPC where your directory is running, and enable Windows Authentication. To enable Windows Authentication, select your directory in the Microsoft SQL Server Windows Authentication section in the Configure Advanced Settings step of the database creation workflow (see the following screenshot).

    In my example, I create my Amazon RDS for SQL Server db-example database, and enable Windows Authentication to allow my db-example database to authenticate against my example.com directory.

    Screenshot of configuring advanced settings

    3. Create a gMSA for your .NET application

    Now that you have deployed your directory, database, and application, you can create a gMSA for your .NET application.

    To perform the next steps, you must install the Active Directory administration tools on a Windows server that is joined to your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory domain. If you do not have a Windows server joined to your directory domain, you can deploy a new Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server instance and join it to your directory domain.

    To create a gMSA for your .NET application:

    1. Log on to the instance on which you installed the Active Directory administration tools by using a user that is a member of the Admins security group or the Managed Service Accounts Admins security group in your organizational unit (OU). For my example, I use the Admin user in the example OU.

    Screenshot of logging on to the instance on which you installed the Active Directory administration tools

    1. Identify which .NET application servers (hosts) will run your .NET application. Create a new security group in your OU and add your .NET application servers as members of this new group. This allows a group of application servers to use a single gMSA, instead of creating one gMSA for each server. In my example, I create a group, App_server_grp, in my example OU. I also add Appserver1, which is my .NET application server computer name, as a member of this new group.

    Screenshot of creating a new security group

    1. Create a gMSA in your directory by running Windows PowerShell from the Start menu. The basic syntax to create the gMSA at the Windows PowerShell command prompt follows.
      PS C:\Users\admin> New-ADServiceAccount -name [gMSAname] -DNSHostName [domainname] -PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword [AppServersSecurityGroup] -TrustedForDelegation $truedn <Enter>

      In my example, the gMSAname is gMSAexample, the DNSHostName is example.com, and the PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword is the recently created security group, App_server_grp.

      PS C:\Users\admin> New-ADServiceAccount -name gMSAexample -DNSHostName example.com -PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword App_server_grp -TrustedForDelegation $truedn <Enter>

      To confirm you created the gMSA, you can run the Get-ADServiceAccount command from the PowerShell command prompt.

      PS C:\Users\admin> Get-ADServiceAccount gMSAexample <Enter>
      
      DistinguishedName : CN=gMSAexample,CN=Managed Service Accounts,DC=example,DC=com
      Enabled           : True
      Name              : gMSAexample
      ObjectClass       : msDS-GroupManagedServiceAccount
      ObjectGUID        : 24d8b68d-36d5-4dc3-b0a9-edbbb5dc8a5b
      SamAccountName    : gMSAexample$
      SID               : S-1-5-21-2100421304-991410377-951759617-1603
      UserPrincipalName :

      You also can confirm you created the gMSA by opening the Active Directory Users and Computers utility located in your Administrative Tools folder, expand the domain (example.com in my case), and expand the Managed Service Accounts folder.
      Screenshot of confirming the creation of the gMSA

    4. Deploy your .NET application

    Deploy your .NET application on IIS on Amazon EC2 for Windows Server instances. For this step, I assume you are the application’s expert and already know how to deploy it. Make sure that all of your instances are joined to your directory.

    5. Configure your .NET application to use the gMSA

    You can configure your .NET application to use the gMSA to enforce strong password security policy and ensure password rotation of your service account. This helps to improve the security and simplify the management of your .NET application. Configure your .NET application in two steps:

    1. Grant to gMSA the required permissions to run your .NET application in the respective application folders. This is a critical step because when you change the application pool identity account to use gMSA, downtime can occur if the gMSA does not have the application’s required permissions. Therefore, make sure you first test the configurations in your development and test environments.
    2. Configure your application pool identity on IIS to use the gMSA as the service account. When you configure a gMSA as the service account, you include the $ at the end of the gMSA name. You do not need to provide a password because AWS Managed Microsoft AD automatically creates and rotates the password. In my example, my service account is gMSAexample$, as shown in the following screenshot.

    Screenshot of configuring application pool identity

    You have completed all the steps to use gMSA to create and rotate your .NET application service account password! Now, you will configure KCD for your .NET application.

    6. Configure KCD for your .NET application

    You now are ready to allow your .NET application to have access to other services by using the user identity’s permissions instead of the application service account’s permissions. Note that KCD and gMSA are independent features, which means you do not have to create a gMSA to use KCD. For this example, I am using both features to show how you can use them together. To configure a regular service account such as a user or local built-in account, see the Kerberos constrained delegation with ASP.NET blog post on MSDN.

    In my example, my goal is to delegate to the gMSAexample account the ability to enforce the user’s permissions to my db-example SQL Server database, instead of the gMSAexample account’s permissions. For this, I have to update the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo gMSA attribute. The value for this attribute is the service principal name (SPN) of the service instance that you are targeting, which in this case is the db-example Amazon RDS for SQL Server database.

    The SPN format for the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute is a combination of the service class, the Kerberos authentication endpoint, and the port number. The Amazon RDS for SQL Server Kerberos authentication endpoint format is [database_name].[domain_name]. The value for my msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute is MSSQLSvc/db-example.example.com:1433, where MSSQLSvc and 1433 are the SQL Server Database service class and port number standards, respectively.

    Follow these steps to perform the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo gMSA attribute configuration:

    1. Log on to your Active Directory management instance with a user identity that is a member of the Kerberos Delegation Admins security group. In this case, I will use admin.
    2. Open the Active Directory Users and Groups utility located in your Administrative Tools folder, choose View, and then choose Advanced Features.
    3. Expand your domain name (example.com in this example), and then choose the Managed Service Accounts security group. Right-click the gMSA account for the application pool you want to enable for Kerberos delegation, choose Properties, and choose the Attribute Editor tab.
    4. Search for the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute on the Attribute Editor tab and choose Edit.
    5. Enter the MSSQLSvc/db-example.example.com:1433 value and choose Add.
      Screenshot of entering the value of the multi-valued string
    6. Choose OK and Apply, and your KCD configuration is complete.

    Congratulations! At this point, your application is using a gMSA rather than an embedded static user identity and password, and the application is able to access SQL Server using the identity of the application user. The gMSA eliminates the need for you to rotate the application’s password manually, and it allows you to better scope permissions for the application. When you use KCD, you can enforce access to your database consistently based on user identities at the database level, which prevents improper access that might otherwise occur because of an application error.

    Summary

    In this blog post, I demonstrated how to simplify the deployment and improve the security of your .NET application by using a group Managed Service Account and Kerberos constrained delegation with your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory. I also outlined the main steps to get your .NET environment up and running on a managed Active Directory and SQL Server infrastructure. This approach will make it easier for you to build new .NET applications in the AWS Cloud or migrate existing ones in a more secure way.

    For additional information about using group Managed Service Accounts and Kerberos constrained delegation with your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory, see the AWS Directory Service documentation.

    To learn more about AWS Directory Service, see the AWS Directory Service home page. If you have questions about this post or its solution, start a new thread on the Directory Service forum.

    – Peter

    New White House Announcement on the Vulnerability Equities Process

    Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/new_white_house_1.html

    The White House has released a new version of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP). This is the inter-agency process by which the US government decides whether to inform the software vendor of a vulnerability it finds, or keep it secret and use it to eavesdrop on or attack other systems. You can read the new policy or the fact sheet, but the best place to start is Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce’s blog post.

    In considering a way forward, there are some key tenets on which we can build a better process.

    Improved transparency is critical. The American people should have confidence in the integrity of the process that underpins decision making about discovered vulnerabilities. Since I took my post as Cybersecurity Coordinator, improving the VEP and ensuring its transparency have been key priorities, and we have spent the last few months reviewing our existing policy in order to improve the process and make key details about the VEP available to the public. Through these efforts, we have validated much of the existing process and ensured a rigorous standard that considers many potential equities.

    The interests of all stakeholders must be fairly represented. At a high level we consider four major groups of equities: defensive equities; intelligence / law enforcement / operational equities; commercial equities; and international partnership equities. Additionally, ordinary people want to know the systems they use are resilient, safe, and sound. These core considerations, which have been incorporated into the VEP Charter, help to standardize the process by which decision makers weigh the benefit to national security and the national interest when deciding whether to disclose or restrict knowledge of a vulnerability.

    Accountability of the process and those who operate it is important to establish confidence in those served by it. Our public release of the unclassified portions Charter will shed light on aspects of the VEP that were previously shielded from public review, including who participates in the VEP’s governing body, known as the Equities Review Board. We make it clear that departments and agencies with protective missions participate in VEP discussions, as well as other departments and agencies that have broader equities, like the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. We also clarify what categories of vulnerabilities are submitted to the process and ensure that any decision not to disclose a vulnerability will be reevaluated regularly. There are still important reasons to keep many of the specific vulnerabilities evaluated in the process classified, but we will release an annual report that provides metrics about the process to further inform the public about the VEP and its outcomes.

    Our system of government depends on informed and vigorous dialogue to discover and make available the best ideas that our diverse society can generate. This publication of the VEP Charter will likely spark discussion and debate. This discourse is important. I also predict that articles will make breathless claims of “massive stockpiles” of exploits while describing the issue. That simply isn’t true. The annual reports and transparency of this effort will reinforce that fact.

    Mozilla is pleased with the new charter. I am less so; it looks to me like the same old policy with some new transparency measures — which I’m not sure I trust. The devil is in the details, and we don’t know the details — and it has giant loopholes that pretty much anything can fall through:

    The United States Government’s decision to disclose or restrict vulnerability information could be subject to restrictions by partner agreements and sensitive operations. Vulnerabilities that fall within these categories will be cataloged by the originating Department/Agency internally and reported directly to the Chair of the ERB. The details of these categories are outlined in Annex C, which is classified. Quantities of excepted vulnerabilities from each department and agency will be provided in ERB meetings to all members.

    This is me from last June:

    There’s a lot we don’t know about the VEP. The Washington Post says that the NSA used EternalBlue “for more than five years,” which implies that it was discovered after the 2010 process was put in place. It’s not clear if all vulnerabilities are given such consideration, or if bugs are periodically reviewed to determine if they should be disclosed. That said, any VEP that allows something as dangerous as EternalBlue — or the Cisco vulnerabilities that the Shadow Brokers leaked last August — to remain unpatched for years isn’t serving national security very well. As a former NSA employee said, the quality of intelligence that could be gathered was “unreal.” But so was the potential damage. The NSA must avoid hoarding vulnerabilities.

    I stand by that, and am not sure the new policy changes anything.

    More commentary.

    Here’s more about the Windows vulnerabilities hoarded by the NSA and released by the Shadow Brokers.

    EDITED TO ADD (11/18): More news.

    EDITED TO ADD (11/22): Adam Shostack points out that the process does not cover design flaws or trade-offs, and that those need to be covered:

    …we need the VEP to expand to cover those issues. I’m not going to claim that will be easy, that the current approach will translate, or that they should have waited to handle those before publishing. One obvious place it gets harder is the sources and methods tradeoff. But we need the internet to be a resilient and trustworthy infrastructure.