Tag Archives: Facebook

Announcing the Winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge – Conversational, Intelligent Chatbots using Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/announcing-the-winners-of-the-aws-chatbot-challenge-conversational-intelligent-chatbots-using-amazon-lex-and-aws-lambda/

A couple of months ago on the blog, I announced the AWS Chatbot Challenge in conjunction with Slack. The AWS Chatbot Challenge was an opportunity to build a unique chatbot that helped to solve a problem or that would add value for its prospective users. The mission was to build a conversational, natural language chatbot using Amazon Lex and leverage Lex’s integration with AWS Lambda to execute logic or data processing on the backend.

I know that you all have been anxiously waiting to hear announcements of who were the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge as much as I was. Well wait no longer, the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge have been decided.

May I have the Envelope Please? (The Trumpets sound)

The winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge are:

  • First Place: BuildFax Counts by Joe Emison
  • Second Place: Hubsy by Andrew Riess, Andrew Puch, and John Wetzel
  • Third Place: PFMBot by Benny Leong and his team from MoneyLion.
  • Large Organization Winner: ADP Payroll Innovation Bot by Eric Liu, Jiaxing Yan, and Fan Yang

 

Diving into the Winning Chatbot Projects

Let’s take a walkthrough of the details for each of the winning projects to get a view of what made these chatbots distinctive, as well as, learn more about the technologies used to implement the chatbot solution.

 

BuildFax Counts by Joe Emison

The BuildFax Counts bot was created as a real solution for the BuildFax company to decrease the amount the time that sales and marketing teams can get answers on permits or properties with permits meet certain criteria.

BuildFax, a company co-founded by bot developer Joe Emison, has the only national database of building permits, which updates data from approximately half of the United States on a monthly basis. In order to accommodate the many requests that come in from the sales and marketing team regarding permit information, BuildFax has a technical sales support team that fulfills these requests sent to a ticketing system by manually writing SQL queries that run across the shards of the BuildFax databases. Since there are a large number of requests received by the internal sales support team and due to the manual nature of setting up the queries, it may take several days for getting the sales and marketing teams to receive an answer.

The BuildFax Counts chatbot solves this problem by taking the permit inquiry that would normally be sent into a ticket from the sales and marketing team, as input from Slack to the chatbot. Once the inquiry is submitted into Slack, a query executes and the inquiry results are returned immediately.

Joe built this solution by first creating a nightly export of the data in their BuildFax MySQL RDS database to CSV files that are stored in Amazon S3. From the exported CSV files, an Amazon Athena table was created in order to run quick and efficient queries on the data. He then used Amazon Lex to create a bot to handle the common questions and criteria that may be asked by the sales and marketing teams when seeking data from the BuildFax database by modeling the language used from the BuildFax ticketing system. He added several different sample utterances and slot types; both custom and Lex provided, in order to correctly parse every question and criteria combination that could be received from an inquiry.  Using Lambda, Joe created a Javascript Lambda function that receives information from the Lex intent and used it to build a SQL statement that runs against the aforementioned Athena database using the AWS SDK for JavaScript in Node.js library to return inquiry count result and SQL statement used.

The BuildFax Counts bot is used today for the BuildFax sales and marketing team to get back data on inquiries immediately that previously took up to a week to receive results.

Not only is BuildFax Counts bot our 1st place winner and wonderful solution, but its creator, Joe Emison, is a great guy.  Joe has opted to donate his prize; the $5,000 cash, the $2,500 in AWS Credits, and one re:Invent ticket to the Black Girls Code organization. I must say, you rock Joe for helping these kids get access and exposure to technology.

 

Hubsy by Andrew Riess, Andrew Puch, and John Wetzel

Hubsy bot was created to redefine and personalize the way users traditionally manage their HubSpot account. HubSpot is a SaaS system providing marketing, sales, and CRM software. Hubsy allows users of HubSpot to create engagements and log engagements with customers, provide sales teams with deals status, and retrieves client contact information quickly. Hubsy uses Amazon Lex’s conversational interface to execute commands from the HubSpot API so that users can gain insights, store and retrieve data, and manage tasks directly from Facebook, Slack, or Alexa.

In order to implement the Hubsy chatbot, Andrew and the team members used AWS Lambda to create a Lambda function with Node.js to parse the users request and call the HubSpot API, which will fulfill the initial request or return back to the user asking for more information. Terraform was used to automatically setup and update Lambda, CloudWatch logs, as well as, IAM profiles. Amazon Lex was used to build the conversational piece of the bot, which creates the utterances that a person on a sales team would likely say when seeking information from HubSpot. To integrate with Alexa, the Amazon Alexa skill builder was used to create an Alexa skill which was tested on an Echo Dot. Cloudwatch Logs are used to log the Lambda function information to CloudWatch in order to debug different parts of the Lex intents. In order to validate the code before the Terraform deployment, ESLint was additionally used to ensure the code was linted and proper development standards were followed.

 

PFMBot by Benny Leong and his team from MoneyLion

PFMBot, Personal Finance Management Bot,  is a bot to be used with the MoneyLion finance group which offers customers online financial products; loans, credit monitoring, and free credit score service to improve the financial health of their customers. Once a user signs up an account on the MoneyLion app or website, the user has the option to link their bank accounts with the MoneyLion APIs. Once the bank account is linked to the APIs, the user will be able to login to their MoneyLion account and start having a conversation with the PFMBot based on their bank account information.

The PFMBot UI has a web interface built with using Javascript integration. The chatbot was created using Amazon Lex to build utterances based on the possible inquiries about the user’s MoneyLion bank account. PFMBot uses the Lex built-in AMAZON slots and parsed and converted the values from the built-in slots to pass to AWS Lambda. The AWS Lambda functions interacting with Amazon Lex are Java-based Lambda functions which call the MoneyLion Java-based internal APIs running on Spring Boot. These APIs obtain account data and related bank account information from the MoneyLion MySQL Database.

 

ADP Payroll Innovation Bot by Eric Liu, Jiaxing Yan, and Fan Yang

ADP PI (Payroll Innovation) bot is designed to help employees of ADP customers easily review their own payroll details and compare different payroll data by just asking the bot for results. The ADP PI Bot additionally offers issue reporting functionality for employees to report payroll issues and aids HR managers in quickly receiving and organizing any reported payroll issues.

The ADP Payroll Innovation bot is an ecosystem for the ADP payroll consisting of two chatbots, which includes ADP PI Bot for external clients (employees and HR managers), and ADP PI DevOps Bot for internal ADP DevOps team.


The architecture for the ADP PI DevOps bot is different architecture from the ADP PI bot shown above as it is deployed internally to ADP. The ADP PI DevOps bot allows input from both Slack and Alexa. When input comes into Slack, Slack sends the request to Lex for it to process the utterance. Lex then calls the Lambda backend, which obtains ADP data sitting in the ADP VPC running within an Amazon VPC. When input comes in from Alexa, a Lambda function is called that also obtains data from the ADP VPC running on AWS.

The architecture for the ADP PI bot consists of users entering in requests and/or entering issues via Slack. When requests/issues are entered via Slack, the Slack APIs communicate via Amazon API Gateway to AWS Lambda. The Lambda function either writes data into one of the Amazon DynamoDB databases for recording issues and/or sending issues or it sends the request to Lex. When sending issues, DynamoDB integrates with Trello to keep HR Managers abreast of the escalated issues. Once the request data is sent from Lambda to Lex, Lex processes the utterance and calls another Lambda function that integrates with the ADP API and it calls ADP data from within the ADP VPC, which runs on Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

Python and Node.js were the chosen languages for the development of the bots.

The ADP PI bot ecosystem has the following functional groupings:

Employee Functionality

  • Summarize Payrolls
  • Compare Payrolls
  • Escalate Issues
  • Evolve PI Bot

HR Manager Functionality

  • Bot Management
  • Audit and Feedback

DevOps Functionality

  • Reduce call volume in service centers (ADP PI Bot).
  • Track issues and generate reports (ADP PI Bot).
  • Monitor jobs for various environment (ADP PI DevOps Bot)
  • View job dashboards (ADP PI DevOps Bot)
  • Query job details (ADP PI DevOps Bot)

 

Summary

Let’s all wish all the winners of the AWS Chatbot Challenge hearty congratulations on their excellent projects.

You can review more details on the winning projects, as well as, all of the submissions to the AWS Chatbot Challenge at: https://awschatbot2017.devpost.com/submissions. If you are curious on the details of Chatbot challenge contest including resources, rules, prizes, and judges, you can review the original challenge website here:  https://awschatbot2017.devpost.com/.

Hopefully, you are just as inspired as I am to build your own chatbot using Lex and Lambda. For more information, take a look at the Amazon Lex developer guide or the AWS AI blog on Building Better Bots Using Amazon Lex (Part 1)

Chat with you soon!

Tara

More on My LinkedIn Account

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/more_on_my_link.html

I have successfully gotten the fake LinkedIn account in my name deleted. To prevent someone from doing this again, I signed up for LinkedIn. This is my first — and only — post on that account:

My Only LinkedIn Post (Yes, Really)

Welcome to my LinkedIn page. It looks empty because I’m never here. I don’t log in, I never post anything, and I won’t read any notes or comments you leave on this site. Nor will I accept any invitations or click on any “connect” links. I’m sure LinkedIn is a nice place; I just don’t have the time.

If you’re looking for me, visit my webpage at www.schneier.com. There you’ll find my blog, and just about everything I’ve written. My e-mail address is [email protected], if you want to talk to me personally.

I mirror my blog on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/bruce.schneier/) and my Twitter feed (@schneierblog), but I don’t visit those, either.

Now I hear that LinkedIn is e-mailing people on my behalf, suggesting that they friend, follow, connect, or whatever they do there with me. I assure you that I have nothing to do with any of those e-mails, nor do I care what anyone does in response.

timeShift(GrafanaBuzz, 1w) Issue 9

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2017/08/18/timeshiftgrafanabuzz-1w-issue-9/

Matt from Grafana NYC spent the week visiting Stockholm to focus on v5.0 with Torkel. Despite warnings otherwise, the weather has been beautiful, making a nice backdrop for many UX discussions. Very, very excited to soon show what we’ve been working on.


Latest Release

Grafana v4.4.3 is Available for download

To see the full changelog, head over to our community site.


Grafana <3 Prometheus

Our very own Carl Bergquist spoke at PromCon 2017 yesterday in Munich, highlighting recent Grafana features and enhancements.

We also used the opportunity to debut our coming Prometheus query editor with a load of new functionality; seems the community approves,
in fact this is our most popular tweet ever!


From the Blogosphere

  • Wikimedia Metrics: A tweet this week reminded us of the public metrics Wikimedia exposes using Grafana. Exploring the performance stats in real time for the 5th mot popular site on the internet is pretty fun.

  • Creating Grafana Annotations with InfluxDB: Nice short article by Max Chadwick showing how to quickly add InfluxDB as a source for Grafana annotations.


This week’s MVC (Most Valuable Contributor)

This week’s MVC highlights what is great about Open Source software.

ericslaw
ericslaw submitted his first PR to a public project this past week. Speaking from personal experience, submitting a PR can feel daunting and and we were lucky that he chose Grafana. Even the smallest contributions, like Eric fixing a bogus link within our templating has big impact.


Tweet of the Week

We scour Twitter each week to find an interesting/beautiful dashboard and show it off! #monitoringLove

Seems the excitement about Prometheus and Grafana has also caught the attention of a certain superhero.



What do you think?

That wraps up another issue. Hope you’re finding these roundups valuable. Let us know how we’re doing! Submit a comment on this article below, or post something at our community forum. Help us make this better!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join the Grafana Labs community.

Controlling Millions of Potential Internet Pirates Won’t Be Easy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/controlling-millions-of-potential-internet-pirates-wont-be-easy-170813/

For several decades the basic shape of the piracy market hasn’t changed much. At the top of the chain there has always been a relatively small number of suppliers. At the bottom, the sprawling masses keen to consume whatever content these suppliers make available, while sharing it with everyone else.

This model held in the days of tapes and CDs and transferred nicely to the P2P file-sharing era. For nearly two decades people have been waiting for those with the latest content to dump it onto file-sharing networks. After grabbing it for themselves, people share that content with others.

For many years, the majority of the latest music, movies, and TV shows appeared online having been obtained by, and then leaked from, ‘The Scene’. However, with the rise of BitTorrent and an increase in computer skills demonstrated by the public, so-called ‘P2P release groups’ began flexing their muscles, in some cases slicing the top of the piracy pyramid.

With lower barriers to entry, P2P releasers can be almost anyone who happens to stumble across some new content. That being said, people still need the skill to package up that content and make it visible online, on torrent sites for example, without getting caught.

For most people that’s prohibitively complex, so it’s no surprise that Average Joe, perhaps comforted by the air of legitimacy, has taken to uploading music and movies to sites like YouTube instead. These days that’s nothing out of the ordinary and perhaps a little boring by piracy standards, but people still have the capacity to surprise.

This week a man from the United States, without a care in the world, obtained a login for a STARZ press portal, accessed the final three episodes of ‘Power’, and then streamed them on Facebook using nothing but a phone and an Internet connection.

From the beginning, the whole thing was ridiculous, comical even. The man in question, whose name and personal details TF obtained in a matter of minutes, revealed how he got the logins and even recorded his own face during one of the uploaded videos.

He really, really couldn’t have cared any less but he definitely should have. After news broke of the leaks, STARZ went public confirming the breach and promising to do something about it.

“The final three episodes of Power’s fourth season were leaked online due to a breach of the press screening room,” Starz said in a statement. “Starz has begun forensic investigations and will take legal action against the responsible parties.”

At this point, we should consider the magnitude of what this guy did. While we all laugh at his useless camera skills, the fact remains that he unlawfully distributed copyright works online, in advance of their commercial release. In the United States, that is a criminal offense, one that can result in a prison sentence of several years.

It would be really sad if the guy in question was made an example of since his videos suggest he hadn’t considered the consequences. After all, this wasn’t some hi-tech piracy group, just a regular guy with a login and a phone, and intent always counts for something. Nevertheless, the situation this week nicely highlights how new technology affects piracy.

In the past, the process of putting an unreleased movie or TV show online could only be tackled by people with expertise in several areas. These days a similar effect is possible with almost no skill and no effort. Joe Public, pre-release TV/movie/sports pirate, using nothing but a phone, a Facebook account, and an urge?

That’s the reality today and we won’t have to wait too long for a large scale demonstration of what can happen when millions of people with access to these ubiquitous tools have an urge to share.

In a little over two weeks’ time, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr fights UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor. It’s set to be the richest combat sports event in history, not to mention one of the most expensive for PPV buyers. That means it’s going to be pirated to hell and back, in every way possible. It’s going to be massive.

Of course, there will be high-quality paid IPTV productions available, more grainy ‘Kodi’ streams, hundreds of web portals, and even some streaming torrents, for those that way inclined. But there will also be Average Joes in their hundreds, who will point their phones at Showtime’s PPV with the intent of live streaming the biggest show on earth to their friends, family, and the Internet. For free.

Quite how this will be combatted remains to be seen but it’s fair to say that this is a problem that’s only going to get bigger. In ten years time – in five years time – many millions of people will have the ability to become pirate releasers on a whim, despite knowing nothing about the occupation.

Like ‘Power’ guy, the majority won’t be very good at it. Equally, some will turn it into an art form. But whatever happens, tackling millions of potential pirates definitely won’t be easy for copyright holders. Twenty years in, it seems the battle for control has only just begun.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Popcorn Time Devs Help Streaming Aggregator Reelgood to ‘Fix Piracy’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-devs-help-streaming-aggregator-reelgood-to-fix-piracy-170812/

During the fall of 2015, the MPAA shut down one of the most prominent pirate streaming services, Popcorn Time fork PopcornTime.io.

While the service was found to be clearly infringing, many of the developers didn’t set out to break the law. Most of all, they wanted to provide the public with easy access to their favorite movies and TV-shows.

Fast forward nearly two years and several of these Popcorn Time developers are still on the same quest. The main difference is that they now operate on the safe side of the law.

The startup they’re working with is called Reelgood, which can be best described as a streaming service aggregator. The San-Francisco based company, founded by ex-Facebook employee David Sanderson, recently raised $3.5 million and has opened its doors to the public.

The goal of Reelgood is similar to Popcorn Time in the way that it aims to be the go-to tool for people to access their entertainment. Instead of using pirate sources, however, Reelgood stitches together content from various legal platforms, both paid and free.

Reelgood

TorrentFreak spoke to former Popcorn Time developer Luigi Poole, who’s leading the charge on the development of Reelgood’s web app. He stresses that the increasing fragmentation of streaming services, which drives some people to pirate sites, is one of the problems Reelgood hopes to fix.

“There’s a misconception that torrenting is done by bad people who don’t want to pay for content. I’d say, in the vast majority of cases, torrenting is a symptom of the massive fragmentation that’s been given as the only legal option to the consumer,” Poole says.

While people have many reasons to pirate, some stick to unauthorized services because it’s simply too cumbersome to dig through all the legal options. Pirate sites have a single interface to all popular movies and TV-shows and legal platforms don’t.

“The modern TV/movie ecosystem is made up of an increasing number of different services. This makes finding content like changing channels, only more complicated. Is that movie you’re about to buy or rent on a service you already pay for? Right now there’s no way to do this other than a cumbersome search using each service’s individual search. Time to go digging,” Poole says.

“We believe this is the main reason people torrent — it’s just easier, given that the legal options presented to us are essentially a ‘go fetch’ treasure hunt,” he adds.

Flipping that channel on an old school television often beats the online streaming experience. That is, for those who want more than Netflix alone.

And the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. As we reported earlier this week, there’s a trend towards more fragmentation, instead of less. Disney is pulling some of its most popular content from the US Netflix in 2019, keeping piracy relevant.

“The untold story is that consumers are throwing up their hands with all this fragmentation, and turning to torrenting not because it’s free, but because it’s intuitive and easy,” Poole says.

“Reelgood fixes this problem by acting as a pirate site interface for every legal option, sort of like a TV guide to anything streaming, also giving you notifications anytime something is new, letting you track when certain content becomes available, and not only telling you where it’s available but taking you straight there with one click to play.”

Reelgood can be seen as a defragmentation tool, creating a uniform interface for all the legal platforms people have access to. In addition to paid services such as Netflix and HBO, it also lists free content from Fox, CBS, Crackle, and many other providers.

TorrentFreak took it for a spin and it indeed works as advertised. Simply add your streaming service accounts and all will be bundled into an elegant and uniform interface that allows you to watch and track everything with a single click.

The service is still limited to US libraries but there are already plans to expand it to other countries, which is promising. While it may not eradicate piracy anytime soon, it does a good job of trying to organize the increasingly complex streaming landscape.

Unfortunately, it’s still not cheap to use more than a handful of paid services, but that’s a problem even Reelgood can’t fix. Not even with help from seven former Popcorn Time developers.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Usenet Pirate Pays €4,800 ‘Fine’ After Being Exposed by Provider

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/usenet-pirate-pays-e4800-fine-after-being-exposed-by-provider-170811/

Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN has been very active over the past several years, targeting uploaders on various sharing sites and services.

They cast their net wide and have gone after torrent users, Facebook groups, YouTube pirates and Usenet uploaders as well.

To pinpoint the latter group, BREIN contacts Usenet providers asking them to reveal the identity of a suspected user. This is also what happened in a case involving a former customer of Eweka.

The person in question, known under the alias ‘Badfan69,’ was accused of uploading 9,538 infringing works to Usenet, mostly older titles. After Eweka handed over his home address, BREIN reached out to him and negotiated a settlement.

The 44-year-old man has now agreed to pay a settlement of €4,800. If he continues to upload infringing content he will face an additional penalty of €2,000 per day, to a maximum of €50,000.

The case is an important victory for BREIN, not just because of the money.

When the anti-piracy group reached out to Usenet provider Eweka, the company initially refused to hand over any personal details. The Usenet provider argued that it’s a neutral intermediary that would rather not perform the role of piracy police. Instead, it wanted the court to decide whether the request was legitimate.

This resulted in a legal dispute where, earlier this year, a local court sided with BREIN. The Court stressed that in these type of copyright infringement cases, the Usenet provider is required to hand over the requested details.

Under Dutch law, ISPs can be obliged to hand over the personal details of their customers if the infringing activity is plausible and the damaged party has a legitimate interest. Importantly, the legal case clarified that this generally doesn’t require an intervention from the court.

“Providers must decide on a motivated request for the handover of a user’s address, based on their own consideration. A refusal to provide the information must be motivated, otherwise, it will be illegal and the provider will be charged for the costs,” BREIN notes.

While these Usenet cases are relatively rare, BREIN and other parties in the Netherlands, such as Dutch Filmworks, are also planning to go after large groups of torrent users. With the Usenet decision in hand, BREIN may want to argue that regular ISPs must also expose pirating users, without an intervention of the court.

This is not going to happen easily though. Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate and are likely to fight out these requests in court to get a solid ‘torrent’ precedent.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Man Leaks New ‘Power’ Episodes Online, Records His Own Face

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-leaks-new-power-episodes-online-records-his-own-face-170809/

With the whole world going crazy for Game of Thrones, another TV series has been turning some serious numbers. Produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, crime drama ‘Power’ has been pulling in around eight million viewers per episode.

After premiering in June 2014, Power is now seven episodes into season four, which is set to reach its climax on August 27. But somewhat typically for the Internet these days, fans won’t necessarily have to wait another three weeks to find out what happens. During the past few hours, the final three episodes of ‘Power’ leaked online.

While that’s something in itself, this leak is possibly the most bizarre to take place in the history of piracy. Having been tipped off that screener episodes were available online, TF went looking for evidence. We found it, but it wasn’t what we expected.

The leaks consist of the three episodes (one complete, the other two missing a few minutes) being played back on an iPhone. A white one. With a broken screen.

Power leaks: Broken iPhone edition

The off-center nature of the image above isn’t typical though and most of the time the main picture is both central and well-defined, with surprisingly clear audio. It’s certainly not going to win any prizes for quality but for the extremely impatient it offers some kind of relief.

The big question, of course, is how these episodes happened to find their way onto that battered iPhone in the first place. Incredibly, the videos themselves provide the answers, with the thoughtful ‘cammer’ explaining in several voice-overs how he gained access to one of STARZ hottest properties.

“This is like the special, this is only for the people that work at STARZ that watch this shit. My man sent me the whole log-in shit. I had to pay that n******r though,” he said.

The log-in referenced by the leaker appears to unlock press access to unreleased content on mediaroom.starz.com. That page has been taken down since, quite possibly due to the leak. Thanks to the video though, we can see how the portal looked on the leaker’s phone.

Unreleased ‘Power’ episodes on the STARZ portal

“That’s the whole series bitch, but I can’t log out though, so I can’t send it to you. The man says don’t log out. So i’m gonna watch these last two episodes and then spoil it for y’all,” the ‘cammer’ said over one of the episodes.

The original claim that theses were screener copies holds up. Throughout all three episodes, an occasional message appears across the bottom of the screen, declaring that the episodes are “for screening purposes only.”

Screener copies, for your eyes only

If the whole situation isn’t bizarre enough so far, the episodes contain quite a bit of complaining from the ‘cammer’, mainly due to his arm aching from holding up the recording phone for such a long time.

Why he didn’t simply place it down on the table isn’t clear. He managed it with the playback phone, which is seen leaning against a large water container throughout, something the ‘cammer’ believes is pretty badass.

“You see, I got my shit propped up like a G,” he said, placing the phone against the water bottle. “Next episode, definitely not holdin’ this shit, so you n*****s gotta relax.”

If this whole scenario isn’t crazy enough, the ‘cammer’ polishes off his virtuoso performance by turning the ‘cam’ phone around and recording his own face for several seconds. To save his embarrassment we won’t publish an image here but needless to say, he is extremely easy to identify, as is his Facebook page, where the content seems to have first appeared.

While there’s clearly no criminal mastermind behind these leaks, dumping unreleased TV shows online can result in a hefty jail sentence, no matter how poorly it’s done. The gentleman involved should hope that STARZ and the FBI are prepared to see the funny side. Fingers crossed….

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Идва ли регулация на интернет

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/online_reg/

Медиите напоследък се активизираха по въпроса идва ли регулация на интернет. Излязоха публикации в някои сайтове, телевизиите правят предаване след предаване за съдържанието в мрежите.

Идва ли регулация на интернет? Не идва:  тя съществува

и в момента, каквото и значение да се влага в термина (допускам, че задаващите въпроса имат предвид съдържанието в интернет – защото ако имат предвид интернет като мрежа, правната уредба е съвсем очевидна):

Накратко: на този въпрос времето му е минало. Ако сте искали принципно да се съпротивлявате срещу регулация на съдържание онлайн – трябвало е вече да сте го направили.

Какво все пак се случва в момента?

Идеята за очаквана регулация вероятно идва от разговорите за речта на омразата онлайн и фалшивите новини онлайн, тъй като интензивно се обсъжда ефективна реакция към тях. За регулацията като средство за борба с речта на омразата онлайн се заговори по повод закон, приет в  Германия (The Network Enforcement Act, Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz), който се очаква да влезе в сила през октомври 2017 – този закон предвижда отговорност за посредниците до 50 милиона евро.

Това е новината. Новото не е , че закон предвижда отговорност за реч на омразата. Нито  – за реч на омразата онлайн. Новото е, че отговорността се предвижда не за този, който говори – това и сега е въведено навсякъде – а за посредниците онлайн. Неслучайно германският закон става известен като Закон за Фейсбук.

Реакция – да, цензура – не: как да стане?

Проблеми при въвеждане на отговорност за посредниците има, и то не един. Да започнем от основното: искаме ограничаване на фалшивите новини и речта на омразата онлайн, но не искаме цензура. Можем да се позовем на члена на ЕК Ансип, и той смята така: по-лошо от фалшивите новини е Министерството на истината.

Какви са мислимите решения? За удобство аз ги разделям (по два критерия)  в четири групи:

1. саморегулиране на национално равнище –  етичните кодекси да се актуализират и самите посредници (компаниите) и техните асоциации да препятстват ефективно незаконното и причиняващото вреда съдържание. Пример в САЩ е т.нар. Партньорство за верификация на фалшивите новини – First Draft Partner Network (2016).

2. саморегулиране на наднационално равнище – пример за такава мярка е поемането на ангажименти от Facebook, Twitter, YouTube и Microsoft заедно с ЕК –  за преглед на   уведомления за незаконни изказвания, пораждащи омраза, за по-малко от 24 часа и, ако е необходимо, тези компании да премахват или прекратяват достъпа до подобно съдържание. Наистина, по данни на ЕК сега се реагира  за по-кратко време.

3. регулиране на национално равнище – вж примера със закона в Германия.

4. регулиране на наднационално равнище (с международноправни актове или с вторичното право на ЕС) – новото тук:

Ревизията на Директивата за аудиовизуални медийни услуги напредва. В момента се провежда триалог между институциите в търсене на работещи решения. Много вероятно е в ревизията да остане новото положение от проекта на ЕК за отговорността на платформите за споделяне на видеоклипове. Към това имат отношение и социалните медии (в частност социалните мрежи – засега не е известно ще бъде ли по-широко дефинирано в ревизията понятието социални медии), тъй като  – въпреки че директивата няма за цел   да регулира услугите на социалните медии – тези услуги   трябва да бъдат обхванати от регулиране, ако предоставянето на предавания и генерирани от потребители видеоклипове представлява съществена функционална възможност на съответните социални медии.

Накратко, отговорността на посредниците вероятно скоро ще бъде уредена на наднационално равнище в ЕС и държавите ще трябва съответно да въведат отговорност в националните законодателства. Това не е предпочитание, това е констатация за факт.

Моето предпочитание е да не се стига до отговорност на посредниците в директивата –

  • първо, защото има риск решението кое е законно /кое е незаконно да се взема от интернет компания (трите удара във Франция или трудностите с правото да бъдеш забравен);
  • второ, защото вече има принцип в правото на ЕС – за  условната неотговорност на посредниците според Директивата за електронната търговия. Този принцип вече е в смущаващо взаимодействие със съдебната практика на ЕСПЧ (Делфи срещу Естония), както и с национални законодателства на държави от ЕС (за отговорност на социалните мрежи).

А що се отнася до СЕМ – регулаторът няма да се справи по-добре от нас с фалшивите новини, пише КлубZ – и аз също засега нямам основание да смятам друго.

 

 

Filed under: Digital, EU Law, Media Law

Top 10 Most Obvious Hacks of All Time (v0.9)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/07/top-10-most-obvious-hacks-of-all-time.html

For teaching hacking/cybersecurity, I thought I’d create of the most obvious hacks of all time. Not the best hacks, the most sophisticated hacks, or the hacks with the biggest impact, but the most obvious hacks — ones that even the least knowledgeable among us should be able to understand. Below I propose some hacks that fit this bill, though in no particular order.

The reason I’m writing this is that my niece wants me to teach her some hacking. I thought I’d start with the obvious stuff first.

Shared Passwords

If you use the same password for every website, and one of those websites gets hacked, then the hacker has your password for all your websites. The reason your Facebook account got hacked wasn’t because of anything Facebook did, but because you used the same email-address and password when creating an account on “beagleforums.com”, which got hacked last year.

I’ve heard people say “I’m sure, because I choose a complex password and use it everywhere”. No, this is the very worst thing you can do. Sure, you can the use the same password on all sites you don’t care much about, but for Facebook, your email account, and your bank, you should have a unique password, so that when other sites get hacked, your important sites are secure.

And yes, it’s okay to write down your passwords on paper.

Tools: HaveIBeenPwned.com

PIN encrypted PDFs

My accountant emails PDF statements encrypted with the last 4 digits of my Social Security Number. This is not encryption — a 4 digit number has only 10,000 combinations, and a hacker can guess all of them in seconds.
PIN numbers for ATM cards work because ATM machines are online, and the machine can reject your card after four guesses. PIN numbers don’t work for documents, because they are offline — the hacker has a copy of the document on their own machine, disconnected from the Internet, and can continue making bad guesses with no restrictions.
Passwords protecting documents must be long enough that even trillion upon trillion guesses are insufficient to guess.

Tools: Hashcat, John the Ripper

SQL and other injection

The lazy way of combining websites with databases is to combine user input with an SQL statement. This combines code with data, so the obvious consequence is that hackers can craft data to mess with the code.
No, this isn’t obvious to the general public, but it should be obvious to programmers. The moment you write code that adds unfiltered user-input to an SQL statement, the consequence should be obvious. Yet, “SQL injection” has remained one of the most effective hacks for the last 15 years because somehow programmers don’t understand the consequence.
CGI shell injection is a similar issue. Back in early days, when “CGI scripts” were a thing, it was really important, but these days, not so much, so I just included it with SQL. The consequence of executing shell code should’ve been obvious, but weirdly, it wasn’t. The IT guy at the company I worked for back in the late 1990s came to me and asked “this guy says we have a vulnerability, is he full of shit?”, and I had to answer “no, he’s right — obviously so”.

XSS (“Cross Site Scripting”) [*] is another injection issue, but this time at somebody’s web browser rather than a server. It works because websites will echo back what is sent to them. For example, if you search for Cross Site Scripting with the URL https://www.google.com/search?q=cross+site+scripting, then you’ll get a page back from the server that contains that string. If the string is JavaScript code rather than text, then some servers (thought not Google) send back the code in the page in a way that it’ll be executed. This is most often used to hack somebody’s account: you send them an email or tweet a link, and when they click on it, the JavaScript gives control of the account to the hacker.

Cross site injection issues like this should probably be their own category, but I’m including it here for now.

More: Wikipedia on SQL injection, Wikipedia on cross site scripting.
Tools: Burpsuite, SQLmap

Buffer overflows

In the C programming language, programmers first create a buffer, then read input into it. If input is long than the buffer, then it overflows. The extra bytes overwrite other parts of the program, letting the hacker run code.
Again, it’s not a thing the general public is expected to know about, but is instead something C programmers should be expected to understand. They should know that it’s up to them to check the length and stop reading input before it overflows the buffer, that there’s no language feature that takes care of this for them.
We are three decades after the first major buffer overflow exploits, so there is no excuse for C programmers not to understand this issue.

What makes particular obvious is the way they are wrapped in exploits, like in Metasploit. While the bug itself is obvious that it’s a bug, actually exploiting it can take some very non-obvious skill. However, once that exploit is written, any trained monkey can press a button and run the exploit. That’s where we get the insult “script kiddie” from — referring to wannabe-hackers who never learn enough to write their own exploits, but who spend a lot of time running the exploit scripts written by better hackers than they.

More: Wikipedia on buffer overflow, Wikipedia on script kiddie,  “Smashing The Stack For Fun And Profit” — Phrack (1996)
Tools: bash, Metasploit

SendMail DEBUG command (historical)

The first popular email server in the 1980s was called “SendMail”. It had a feature whereby if you send a “DEBUG” command to it, it would execute any code following the command. The consequence of this was obvious — hackers could (and did) upload code to take control of the server. This was used in the Morris Worm of 1988. Most Internet machines of the day ran SendMail, so the worm spread fast infecting most machines.
This bug was mostly ignored at the time. It was thought of as a theoretical problem, that might only rarely be used to hack a system. Part of the motivation of the Morris Worm was to demonstrate that such problems was to demonstrate the consequences — consequences that should’ve been obvious but somehow were rejected by everyone.

More: Wikipedia on Morris Worm

Email Attachments/Links

I’m conflicted whether I should add this or not, because here’s the deal: you are supposed to click on attachments and links within emails. That’s what they are there for. The difference between good and bad attachments/links is not obvious. Indeed, easy-to-use email systems makes detecting the difference harder.
On the other hand, the consequences of bad attachments/links is obvious. That worms like ILOVEYOU spread so easily is because people trusted attachments coming from their friends, and ran them.
We have no solution to the problem of bad email attachments and links. Viruses and phishing are pervasive problems. Yet, we know why they exist.

Default and backdoor passwords

The Mirai botnet was caused by surveillance-cameras having default and backdoor passwords, and being exposed to the Internet without a firewall. The consequence should be obvious: people will discover the passwords and use them to take control of the bots.
Surveillance-cameras have the problem that they are usually exposed to the public, and can’t be reached without a ladder — often a really tall ladder. Therefore, you don’t want a button consumers can press to reset to factory defaults. You want a remote way to reset them. Therefore, they put backdoor passwords to do the reset. Such passwords are easy for hackers to reverse-engineer, and hence, take control of millions of cameras across the Internet.
The same reasoning applies to “default” passwords. Many users will not change the defaults, leaving a ton of devices hackers can hack.

Masscan and background radiation of the Internet

I’ve written a tool that can easily scan the entire Internet in a short period of time. It surprises people that this possible, but it obvious from the numbers. Internet addresses are only 32-bits long, or roughly 4 billion combinations. A fast Internet link can easily handle 1 million packets-per-second, so the entire Internet can be scanned in 4000 seconds, little more than an hour. It’s basic math.
Because it’s so easy, many people do it. If you monitor your Internet link, you’ll see a steady trickle of packets coming in from all over the Internet, especially Russia and China, from hackers scanning the Internet for things they can hack.
People’s reaction to this scanning is weirdly emotional, taking is personally, such as:
  1. Why are they hacking me? What did I do to them?
  2. Great! They are hacking me! That must mean I’m important!
  3. Grrr! How dare they?! How can I hack them back for some retribution!?

I find this odd, because obviously such scanning isn’t personal, the hackers have no idea who you are.

Tools: masscan, firewalls

Packet-sniffing, sidejacking

If you connect to the Starbucks WiFi, a hacker nearby can easily eavesdrop on your network traffic, because it’s not encrypted. Windows even warns you about this, in case you weren’t sure.

At DefCon, they have a “Wall of Sheep”, where they show passwords from people who logged onto stuff using the insecure “DefCon-Open” network. Calling them “sheep” for not grasping this basic fact that unencrypted traffic is unencrypted.

To be fair, it’s actually non-obvious to many people. Even if the WiFi itself is not encrypted, SSL traffic is. They expect their services to be encrypted, without them having to worry about it. And in fact, most are, especially Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and other major services that won’t allow you to log in anymore without encryption.

But many services (especially old ones) may not be encrypted. Unless users check and verify them carefully, they’ll happily expose passwords.

What’s interesting about this was 10 years ago, when most services which only used SSL to encrypt the passwords, but then used unencrypted connections after that, using “cookies”. This allowed the cookies to be sniffed and stolen, allowing other people to share the login session. I used this on stage at BlackHat to connect to somebody’s GMail session. Google, and other major websites, fixed this soon after. But it should never have been a problem — because the sidejacking of cookies should have been obvious.

Tools: Wireshark, dsniff

Stuxnet LNK vulnerability

Again, this issue isn’t obvious to the public, but it should’ve been obvious to anybody who knew how Windows works.
When Windows loads a .dll, it first calls the function DllMain(). A Windows link file (.lnk) can load icons/graphics from the resources in a .dll file. It does this by loading the .dll file, thus calling DllMain. Thus, a hacker could put on a USB drive a .lnk file pointing to a .dll file, and thus, cause arbitrary code execution as soon as a user inserted a drive.
I say this is obvious because I did this, created .lnks that pointed to .dlls, but without hostile DllMain code. The consequence should’ve been obvious to me, but I totally missed the connection. We all missed the connection, for decades.

Social Engineering and Tech Support [* * *]

After posting this, many people have pointed out “social engineering”, especially of “tech support”. This probably should be up near #1 in terms of obviousness.

The classic example of social engineering is when you call tech support and tell them you’ve lost your password, and they reset it for you with minimum of questions proving who you are. For example, you set the volume on your computer really loud and play the sound of a crying baby in the background and appear to be a bit frazzled and incoherent, which explains why you aren’t answering the questions they are asking. They, understanding your predicament as a new parent, will go the extra mile in helping you, resetting “your” password.

One of the interesting consequences is how it affects domain names (DNS). It’s quite easy in many cases to call up the registrar and convince them to transfer a domain name. This has been used in lots of hacks. It’s really hard to defend against. If a registrar charges only $9/year for a domain name, then it really can’t afford to provide very good tech support — or very secure tech support — to prevent this sort of hack.

Social engineering is such a huge problem, and obvious problem, that it’s outside the scope of this document. Just google it to find example after example.

A related issue that perhaps deserves it’s own section is OSINT [*], or “open-source intelligence”, where you gather public information about a target. For example, on the day the bank manager is out on vacation (which you got from their Facebook post) you show up and claim to be a bank auditor, and are shown into their office where you grab their backup tapes. (We’ve actually done this).

More: Wikipedia on Social Engineering, Wikipedia on OSINT, “How I Won the Defcon Social Engineering CTF” — blogpost (2011), “Questioning 42: Where’s the Engineering in Social Engineering of Namespace Compromises” — BSidesLV talk (2016)

Blue-boxes (historical) [*]

Telephones historically used what we call “in-band signaling”. That’s why when you dial on an old phone, it makes sounds — those sounds are sent no differently than the way your voice is sent. Thus, it was possible to make tone generators to do things other than simply dial calls. Early hackers (in the 1970s) would make tone-generators called “blue-boxes” and “black-boxes” to make free long distance calls, for example.

These days, “signaling” and “voice” are digitized, then sent as separate channels or “bands”. This is call “out-of-band signaling”. You can’t trick the phone system by generating tones. When your iPhone makes sounds when you dial, it’s entirely for you benefit and has nothing to do with how it signals the cell tower to make a call.

Early hackers, like the founders of Apple, are famous for having started their careers making such “boxes” for tricking the phone system. The problem was obvious back in the day, which is why as the phone system moves from analog to digital, the problem was fixed.

More: Wikipedia on blue box, Wikipedia article on Steve Wozniak.

Thumb drives in parking lots [*]

A simple trick is to put a virus on a USB flash drive, and drop it in a parking lot. Somebody is bound to notice it, stick it in their computer, and open the file.

This can be extended with tricks. For example, you can put a file labeled “third-quarter-salaries.xlsx” on the drive that required macros to be run in order to open. It’s irresistible to other employees who want to know what their peers are being paid, so they’ll bypass any warning prompts in order to see the data.

Another example is to go online and get custom USB sticks made printed with the logo of the target company, making them seem more trustworthy.

We also did a trick of taking an Adobe Flash game “Punch the Monkey” and replaced the monkey with a logo of a competitor of our target. They now only played the game (infecting themselves with our virus), but gave to others inside the company to play, infecting others, including the CEO.

Thumb drives like this have been used in many incidents, such as Russians hacking military headquarters in Afghanistan. It’s really hard to defend against.

More: “Computer Virus Hits U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan” — USNews (2008), “The Return of the Worm That Ate The Pentagon” — Wired (2011), DoD Bans Flash Drives — Stripes (2008)

Googling [*]

Search engines like Google will index your website — your entire website. Frequently companies put things on their website without much protection because they are nearly impossible for users to find. But Google finds them, then indexes them, causing them to pop up with innocent searches.
There are books written on “Google hacking” explaining what search terms to look for, like “not for public release”, in order to find such documents.

More: Wikipedia entry on Google Hacking, “Google Hacking” book.

URL editing [*]

At the top of every browser is what’s called the “URL”. You can change it. Thus, if you see a URL that looks like this:

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138493

Then you can edit it to see the next document on the server:

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138494

The owner of the website may think they are secure, because nothing points to this document, so the Google search won’t find it. But that doesn’t stop a user from manually editing the URL.
An example of this is a big Fortune 500 company that posts the quarterly results to the website an hour before the official announcement. Simply editing the URL from previous financial announcements allows hackers to find the document, then buy/sell the stock as appropriate in order to make a lot of money.
Another example is the classic case of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer who did this trick in order to download the account email addresses of early owners of the iPad, including movie stars and members of the Obama administration. It’s an interesting legal case because on one hand, techies consider this so obvious as to not be “hacking”. On the other hand, non-techies, especially judges and prosecutors, believe this to be obviously “hacking”.

DDoS, spoofing, and amplification [*]

For decades now, online gamers have figured out an easy way to win: just flood the opponent with Internet traffic, slowing their network connection. This is called a DoS, which stands for “Denial of Service”. DoSing game competitors is often a teenager’s first foray into hacking.
A variant of this is when you hack a bunch of other machines on the Internet, then command them to flood your target. (The hacked machines are often called a “botnet”, a network of robot computers). This is called DDoS, or “Distributed DoS”. At this point, it gets quite serious, as instead of competitive gamers hackers can take down entire businesses. Extortion scams, DDoSing websites then demanding payment to stop, is a common way hackers earn money.
Another form of DDoS is “amplification”. Sometimes when you send a packet to a machine on the Internet it’ll respond with a much larger response, either a very large packet or many packets. The hacker can then send a packet to many of these sites, “spoofing” or forging the IP address of the victim. This causes all those sites to then flood the victim with traffic. Thus, with a small amount of outbound traffic, the hacker can flood the inbound traffic of the victim.
This is one of those things that has worked for 20 years, because it’s so obvious teenagers can do it, yet there is no obvious solution. President Trump’s executive order of cyberspace specifically demanded that his government come up with a report on how to address this, but it’s unlikely that they’ll come up with any useful strategy.

More: Wikipedia on DDoS, Wikipedia on Spoofing

Conclusion

Tweet me (@ErrataRob) your obvious hacks, so I can add them to the list.

The end of Flash

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/728790/rss

The long-awaited end of Flash has come a little closer with this
announcement
from Adobe. “Given this progress, and in
collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple,
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla – Adobe is planning to end-of-life
Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash
Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any
existing Flash content to these new open formats.

Facebook Buys Startup to Expand its Anti-Piracy Repertoire

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-buys-startup-expand-anti-piracy-repertoire-170725/

facebayIn common with other sites dealing with user-generated content, Facebook has to battle a constant stream of unauthorized copyright material.

When it comes to targeting infringement, Facebook has rolled out a few anti-piracy initiatives in recent years. The company has a “Rights Manager” tool that detects infringing material automatically and allows owners to take down or monetize this content.

The social media network is not done yet, though. Anti-piracy strategies need constant refinement and with a new acquisition, Facebook has expanded its expertise in this area.

Facebook has taken over the startup Source3, which specializes in IP recognition, IP licensing and rights administration services. The company is a known player in the copyright industry and its founders previously sold another startup, RightsFlow, to Google.

“Today, we wanted to let everyone know that we’ve decided to continue our journey with Facebook,” Source3 announced in a statement on its website.

“We’re excited to bring our IP, trademark and copyright expertise to the team at Facebook and serve their global community of two billion people, who consume content, music, videos and other IP every day.”

Commenting on the deal, a Facebook spokesperson informed Recode that they are excited to learn from Source3’s copyright expertise. No further details were released on the terms of the deal, and it’s unclear how much was paid.

Neither company has shared any concrete plans for the future, but it’s likely that the acquisition will be used to expand existing anti-piracy initiatives.

Among other things, the startup heavily focused on automated licensing tools. This could mean that Facebook might want to offer its users the option to license content from rightsholders and minimize copyright infringement in a positive way.

“Source3 can monitor and manage third-party IP and proactively establish licensing relationships with brands,” the company boasted on its website, before the acquisition.

“We also provide a range of scalable licensing tools, supported by a team of licensing veterans, to manage the licensing process from negotiation to real-time approvals to royalty reporting,” it added.

Time will tell how exactly Facebook will expand its anti-piracy efforts, but it’s clear that it remains a high priority for the social network.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

BulkyIPTV Operator Was Arrested For Fraud, Money Laundering

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bulkyiptv-operator-was-arrested-for-fraud-money-laundering-170724/

For many years, video-focused Internet piracy was all about obtaining pre-recorded content such as movies and TV shows. Now, however, the rise of streaming is enabling a massive uptake of live ‘pirate’ programming.

At the forefront of this movement are web streaming portals, dedicated Kodi add-ons, and premium IPTV services. The latter, which can rival official services, tend to offer a better quality service but with a price tag attached. This has resulted in a whole new market for people seeking to generate revenue from piracy.

One of those outfits was UK-based BulkyIPTV, but as first reported here on TF, last week the entire operation was shut down after police arrested its operator.

“Hi all. Today I was arrested. Everything has been shut down,” its operator confirmed Wednesday.

“They took everything – phone, laptop, PC and cash, as well as other stuff to gather evidence against me. I’m sorry it has come to this but i’m looking at a stretch inside.”

Soon after the news was made public, many people on Facebook speculated that the arrest never happened and that BulkyIPTV’s operator had conjured up a story in order to “do a runner” with his customers’ subscription money.

However, a source close to the situation insisted that an arrest had been made in the Derby area of the UK in connection with live TV piracy, a fact we reported in our article.

For a few days things went silent, but in a joint statement with the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Derbyshire Police have now confirmed that they executed a warrant at a Derby property last week.

“The warrant took place on Tuesday (18th July) as part of ongoing work to stop the use of the illegal set top boxes, which are tampered with to enable them to offer a range of premium subscription services such as Sky TV and BT Sport without paying for them,” the police statement reads.

While the police don’t specifically mention BulkyIPTV in their press release, everything points to the operator of the service being the person who was targeted last week.

BulkyGifts.co.uk, a site connected to BulkyIPTV that sold a product which enabled people to access cable and satellite programming cheaply, was initially registered to the address that police targeted on Tuesday in Grenfell Avenue, Sunny Hill. The name of the person who registered the domain is also a perfect match with Electoral Roll records and social media profiles across numerous sites.

Police confirmed that a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, and copyright offenses. Electronic equipment was seized along with a “large amount” of cash.

In a statement, Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, reminded sellers and buyers of these services that their actions are illegal.

“This collaboration between Derbyshire police and FACT is another step forward in disrupting the sale of illegal streaming devices,” Sharp said.

“People may think there is nothing wrong with having one of these devices and streaming premium pay-for channels for free, such as live sports. However, this is illegal and you would be breaking the law.”

As highlighted in our opinion piece last week, some service providers appear to be playing fast and loose with their security. If that trend continues, expect FACT and the police to keep taking these services down.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Defending anti-netneutrality arguments

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/07/defending-anti-netneutrality-arguments.html

Last week, activists proclaimed a “NetNeutrality Day”, trying to convince the FCC to regulate NetNeutrality. As a libertarian, I tweeted many reasons why NetNeutrality is stupid. NetNeutrality is exactly the sort of government regulation Libertarians hate most. Somebody tweeted the following challenge, which I thought I’d address here.

The links point to two separate cases.

  • the Comcast BitTorrent throttling case
  • a lawsuit against Time Warning for poor service
The tone of the tweet suggests that my anti-NetNeutrality stance cannot be defended in light of these cases. But of course this is wrong. The short answers are:

  • the Comcast BitTorrent throttling benefits customers
  • poor service has nothing to do with NetNeutrality

The long answers are below.

The Comcast BitTorrent Throttling

The presumption is that any sort of packet-filtering is automatically evil, and against the customer’s interests. That’s not true.
Take GoGoInflight’s internet service for airplanes. They block access to video sites like NetFlix. That’s because they often have as little as 1-mbps for the entire plane, which is enough to support many people checking email and browsing Facebook, but a single person trying to watch video will overload the internet connection for everyone. Therefore, their Internet service won’t work unless they filter video sites.
GoGoInflight breaks a lot of other NetNeutrality rules, such as providing free access to Amazon.com or promotion deals where users of a particular phone get free Internet access that everyone else pays for. And all this is allowed by FCC, allowing GoGoInflight to break NetNeutrality rules because it’s clearly in the customer interest.
Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent is likewise clearly in the customer interest. Until the FCC stopped them, BitTorrent users were allowed unlimited downloads. Afterwards, Comcast imposed a 300-gigabyte/month bandwidth cap.
Internet access is a series of tradeoffs. BitTorrent causes congestion during prime time (6pm to 10pm). Comcast has to solve it somehow — not solving it wasn’t an option. Their options were:
  • Charge all customers more, so that the 99% not using BitTorrent subsidizes the 1% who do.
  • Impose a bandwidth cap, preventing heavy BitTorrent usage.
  • Throttle BitTorrent packets during prime-time hours when the network is congested.
Option 3 is clearly the best. BitTorrent downloads take hours, days, and sometimes weeks. BitTorrent users don’t mind throttling during prime-time congested hours. That’s preferable to the other option, bandwidth caps.
I’m a BitTorrent user, and a heavy downloader (I scan the Internet on a regular basis from cloud machines, then download the results to home, which can often be 100-gigabytes in size for a single scan). I want prime-time BitTorrent throttling rather than bandwidth caps. The EFF/FCC’s action that prevented BitTorrent throttling forced me to move to Comcast Business Class which doesn’t have bandwidth caps, charging me $100 more a month. It’s why I don’t contribute the EFF — if they had not agitated for this, taking such choices away from customers, I’d have $1200 more per year to donate to worthy causes.
Ask any user of BitTorrent which they prefer: 300gig monthly bandwidth cap or BitTorrent throttling during prime-time congested hours (6pm to 10pm). The FCC’s action did not help Comcast’s customers, it hurt them. Packet-filtering would’ve been a good thing, not a bad thing.

The Time-Warner Case
First of all, no matter how you define the case, it has nothing to do with NetNeutrality. NetNeutrality is about filtering packets, giving some priority over others. This case is about providing slow service for everyone.
Secondly, it’s not true. Time Warner provided the same access speeds as everyone else. Just because they promise 10mbps download speeds doesn’t mean you get 10mbps to NetFlix. That’s not how the Internet works — that’s not how any of this works.
To prove this, look at NetFlix’s connection speed graphis. It shows Time Warner Cable is average for the industry. It had the same congestion problems most ISPs had in 2014, and it has the same inability to provide more than 3mbps during prime-time (6pm-10pm) that all ISPs have today.

The YouTube video quality diagnostic pages show Time Warner Cable to similar to other providers around the country. It also shows the prime-time bump between 6pm and 10pm.
Congestion is an essential part of the Internet design. When an ISP like Time Warner promises you 10mbps bandwidth, that’s only “best effort”. There’s no way they can promise 10mbps stream to everybody on the Internet, especially not to a site like NetFlix that gets overloaded during prime-time.
Indeed, it’s the defining feature of the Internet compared to the old “telecommunications” network. The old phone system guaranteed you a steady 64-kbps stream between any time points in the phone network, but it cost a lot of money. Today’s Internet provide a free multi-megabit stream for free video calls (Skype, Facetime) around the world — but with the occasional dropped packets because of congestion.
Whatever lawsuit money-hungry lawyers come up with isn’t about how an ISP like Time Warner works. It’s only about how they describe the technology. They work no different than every ISP — no different than how anything is possible.
Conclusion

The short answer to the above questions is this: Comcast’s BitTorrent throttling benefits customers, and the Time Warner issue has nothing to do with NetNeutrality at all.

The tweet demonstrates that NetNeutrality really means. It has nothing to do with the facts of any case, especially the frequency that people point to ISP ills that have nothing actually to do with NetNeutrality. Instead, what NetNeutrality really about is socialism. People are convinced corporations are evil and want the government to run the Internet. The Comcast/BitTorrent case is a prime example of why this is a bad idea: government definitions of what customers want is actually far different than what customers actually want.

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

timeShift(GrafanaBuzz, 1w) Issue 5

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2017/07/21/timeshiftgrafanabuzz-1w-issue-5/

We cover a lot of ground in this week’s timeShift. From diving into building your own plugin, finding the right dashboard, configuration options in the alerting feature, to monitoring your local weather, there’s something for everyone. Are you writing an article about Grafana, or have you come across an article you found interesting? Please get in touch, we’ll add it to our roundup.


From the Blogosphere

  • Going open-source in monitoring, part III: 10 most useful Grafana dashboards to monitor Kubernetes and services: We have hundreds of pre-made dashboards ready for you to install into your on-prem or hosted Grafana, but not every one will fit your specific monitoring needs. In part three of the series, Sergey discusses is experiences with finding useful dashboards and shows off ten of the best dashboards you can install for monitoring Kubernetes clusters and the services deployed on them.

  • Using AWS Lambda and API gateway for server-less Grafana adapters: Sometimes you’ll want to visualize metrics from a data source that may not yet be supported in Grafana natively. With the plugin functionality introduced in Grafana 3.0, anyone can create their own data sources. Using the SimpleJson data source, Jonas describes how he used AWS Lambda and AWS API gateway to write data source adapters for Grafana.

  • How to Use Grafana to Monitor JMeter Non-GUI Results – Part 2: A few issues ago we listed an article for using Grafana to monitor JMeter Non-GUI results, which required a number of non-trivial steps to complete. This article shows of an easier way to accomplish this that doesn’t require any additional configuration of InfluxDB.

  • Programming your Personal Weather Chart: It’s always great to see Grafana used outside of the typical dev-ops usecase. This article runs you through the steps to create your own weather chart and show off your local weather stats in Grafana. BONUS: Rob shows off a magic mirror he created, which can display this data.

  • vSphere Performance data – Part 6 – The Dashboard(s): This 6-part series goes into a ton of detail and walks you through the various methods of retrieving vSphere performance data, storing the data in a TSDB, and creating dashboards for the metrics. Part 6 deals specifically with Grafana, but I highly recommend reading all of the articles, as it chronicles the journey of metrics exploration, storage, and visualization from someone who had no prior experience with time series data.

  • Alerting in Grafana: Alerting in Grafana is a fairly new feature and one that we’re continuing to iterate on. We’re soon adding additional data source support, new notification channels, clustering, silencing rules, and more. This article steps you through all the configuration options to get you to your first alert.


Plugins and Dashboards

It can seem like work slows during July and August, but we’re still seeing a lot of activity in the community. This week we have a new graph panel to show off that gives you some unique looking dashboards, and an update to the Zabbix data source, which adds some really great features. You can install both of the plugins now on your on-prem Grafana via our cli, or with one-click on GrafanaCloud.

NEW PLUGIN

Bubble Chart Panel This super-cool looking panel groups your tag values into clusters of circles. The size of the circle represents the aggregated value of the time series data. There are also multiple color schemes to make those bubbles POP (pun intended)! Currently it works against OpenTSDB and Bosun, so give it a try!

Install Now

UPDATED PLUGIN

Zabbix Alex has been hard at work, making improvements on the Zabbix App for Grafana. This update adds annotations, template variables, alerting and more. Thanks Alex! If you’d like to try out the app, head over to http://play.grafana-zabbix.org/dashboard/db/zabbix-db-mysql?orgId=2

Install 3.5.1 Now


This week’s MVC (Most Valuable Contributor)

Open source software can’t thrive without the contributions from the community. Each week we’ll recognize a Grafana contributor and thank them for all of their PRs, bug reports and feedback.

mk-dhia (Dhia)
Thank you so much for your improvements to the Elasticsearch data source!


Tweet of the Week

We scour Twitter each week to find an interesting/beautiful dashboard and show it off! #monitoringLove

This week’s tweet comes from @geek_dave

Great looking dashboard Dave! And thank you for adding new features and keeping it updated. It’s creators like you who make the dashboard repository so awesome!


Upcoming Events

We love when people talk about Grafana at meetups and conferences.

Monday, July 24, 2017 – 7:30pm | Google Campus Warsaw


Ząbkowska 27/31, Warsaw, Poland

Iot & HOME AUTOMATION #3 openHAB, InfluxDB, Grafana:
If you are interested in topics of the internet of things and home automation, this might be a good occasion to meet people similar to you. If you are into it, we will also show you how we can all work together on our common projects.

RSVP


Tell us how we’re Doing.

We’d love your feedback on what kind of content you like, length, format, etc – so please keep the comments coming! You can submit a comment on this article below, or post something at our community forum. Help us make this better.

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and join the Grafana Labs community.

IPTV Service Raided By Police & Shutdown, Operator Arrested

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-service-raided-by-police-shutdown-operator-arrested-170719/

As torrents and regular streaming continue in the background, premium IPTV services are becoming increasingly popular.

Available for a few pounds, dollars or euros per month, these products offer a TV viewing service to rival and even beat those put out by the world’s leading entertainment distribution groups.

For an outlay of less than £8 in the UK, for example, it’s possible to receive more TV channels than Sky, Virgin and BT Sport have to offer – combined – and then much more on top.

The main providers (wholesalers, for want of a better term) cascade their products/channels down to smaller providers who act as retailers with direct contact with the public. These kinds of businesses are on the rise and often sell their products locally, via websites and social media, Facebook in particular.

Yesterday it appears that one of these ‘retailers’ found out what it’s like to be the low-hanging fruit in the piracy chain. During the course of the day, visitors to BulkyIPTV’s forums began complaining that the system had gone down.

“Is the bulkyiptv server down at the minute? If so can anyone tell me how long this is likely to take?” posted one.

“Yes mine is down too, v annoying. Also the website is redirecting to partycabs!” said another.

Indeed, the main website for BulkyIPTV had stopped offering various IPTV and similar TV-focused products and begun redirecting to a company offering a white London taxi cab experience for partygoers.

How BulkyIPTV looked before its disappearance

Questions on third-party forums went unanswered too.

“Hi guys, any one know what’s happened tonight? Facebook page gone,” a user asked.

A disappearing Facebook page in any ‘pirate’ setting is rarely a good sign. Many IPTV ‘companies’ use the social platform to interact with existing customers and generate new sales. When a page is deleted, many providers can do neither and that’s hardly compatible with good business.

But while the Facebook page may have been deleted, that didn’t happen before the owner of BulkyIPTV and other ‘Bulky’ branded services (including a hosting company and sites that sold other ‘unofficial’ TV products) had made a post detailing why there are problems. A post shared with TF by a member revealed all.

“Hi all. Today I was arrested. Everything has been shut down,” it read.

“They took everything – phone, laptop, PC and cash, as well as other stuff to gather evidence against me. I’m sorry it has come to this but i’m looking at a stretch inside.”

The Facebook post

The person, who is a regular poster to the Bulky Facebook page, has a name and credentials that match the WHOIS details on various ‘Bulky’ domains, plus matching photos posted elsewhere on social media, signed off with a note saying: “I’m not one to bullshit.”

With no announcement yet from the police, it’s unclear where the arrest took place but TF sources indicate the site owner is from the Derbyshire region of the UK. That was relatively easy to confirm using a number of publicly available sources.

Perhaps surprisingly, there appears to have been zero effort to stay anonymous online. The operator’s real name can be found across his business ventures ‘helpfully’ accompanied by detailed postings not only on Facebook but also Twitter and various image storage sites.

TorrentFreak’s requests for comment from the operator of the service remain unanswered.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

[$] Apache disallows the Facebook BSD+patent license

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/728178/rss

Software patents may not have brought about the free-software apocalypse
that some have feared over the years, but they remain a minefield for the
software industry as a whole. A small-scale example of this can be seen in
the recent decision by the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to move a
license with patent-related terms to its “Category-X”
list
of licenses that cannot be used by ASF projects. A number of
projects will be scrambling to replace software dependencies on a short
timeline, all because Facebook wanted to clarify its patent-licensing
terms.

Several TVAddons Domains Transferred to Canadian Lawfirm

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/several-tvaddons-domains-transferred-to-canadian-lawfirm-170718/

The last couple of months have been the most chaotic on record for the booming Kodi third-party addon scene. After years of largely interrupted service, a single lawsuit changed the entire landscape.

Last month, TF broke the news that third-party Kodi add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were being sued in a federal court in Texas. The fallout was something to behold.

Within days the ‘pirate’ Kodi community found itself in turmoil. Several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down and even TVAddons itself went dark without explanation.

At the time, unsubstantiated rumors suggested that TVAddons’ disappearance could be attributed to some coincidental site maintenance. However, with around 40 million regular users built up over a number of years, a disappearing Facebook page, and complete radio silence during alleged “routine maintenance,” something was clearly wrong.

It would’ve taken just a couple of minutes to put a ‘maintenance’ notice on the site but one didn’t appear back in June, and one hasn’t appeared since. Behind the scenes,
however, things have been shifting.

In addition to wiping the DNS entries of TVAddons.ag, on at least another couple of occasions the domain has been quietly updated. The image below shows how it used to look.

TVAddons historical domain WHOIS

PrivacyDotLink refers to a service offered by Cayman Islands-based registry Uniregistry. Instead of displaying the real name and address of the domain owner (in this case the person behind TVAddons.ag), the registry replaces the information with details of its own.

The privacy service is used for many reasons, but it’s not hard to see why it’s of particular use to sites in the ‘pirate’ sector.

While some of the changes to the TVAddons domain during the past five weeks or so haven’t been obvious, this morning we observed the biggest change yet. As seen in the image below, its ownership details are no longer obscured by the privacy service.

TVAddons new domain WHOIS

What stands out here is the name Daniel Drapeau. On closer inspection, this gentleman turns out to be a Canada-based lawyer who was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1991.

“A passion for IP and a 20 year track record, servicing corporations and individuals alike in a wide variety of industries, including industrial equipment, consumer products, publishing, food & beverage, fashion and arts,” Drapeau’s Linkedin page reads.

“His forte is the strategic use of IP rights and litigation to achieve his clients’ goals, whether they be protective, aggressive or defensive. Specialties: Expeditive remedies, including injunctions and seizure orders.”

The other fresh detail in the WHOIS is an address – 600, de Maisonneuve West, Montreal (Quebec) H3A 3J2. It’s a perfect match for the premises of DrapeauLex, a law firm launched by Drapeau in 2012.

Only adding to the intrigue is the fact that other domains operated by TVAddons both recently and historically have also been transferred to the lawfirm.

XMBCHUB.com, which was the domain used by TVAddons before making the switch several years ago, was transferred yesterday. The same can be said about Offshoregit.com, the domain used by TVAddons to distribute Kodi addons.

While there are a few explanations for a lawyer’s name appearing on the TVAddons domains, none of them are yet supported by legal documentation filed in the United States. As of this morning, the Dish Network case docket had received no additional updates. No notice of action in Canada has been made public.

Nevertheless, as a past president of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada’s anti-counterfeiting committee, Drapeau is certainly an interesting character in the IP space. As noted in a 2009 article by Professor of Law Michael Geist, Drapeau “urged the government to adopt a system of notice-and-takedown.”

Interestingly, Drapeau also worked at law firm Smart & Biggar, where former colleague Jean-Sébastien Dupont recently went on to represent Canadian broadcasters in Wesley (Mtlfreetv.com) v. Bell Canada, the big Kodi-addon piracy case currently underway in Canada.

At this stage, it’s unclear who Drapeau is working for in the TVAddons case. It’s possible that he’s working for Dish and this is a step towards the domains being handed over to the broadcaster as part of a settlement deal with TVAddons. That being said, the XBMChub and Offshoregit domains weren’t mentioned in the Dish lawsuit so something else might be underway.

TorrentFreak reached out to Drapeau for comment and clarification, but at the time of publication, we had received no response.

Dan Drapeau talks Intellectual Property from DrapeauLex on Vimeo.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-get-your-first-1000-customers/

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

If you launch your startup and no one knows, did you actually launch? As mentioned in my last post, our initial launch target was to get a 1,000 people to use our service. But how do you get even 1,000 people to sign up for your service when no one knows who you are?

There are a variety of methods to attract your first 1,000 customers, but launching with the press is my favorite. I’ll explain why and how to do it below.

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

Social following: If you have a massive social following, those people are a reasonable target for what you’re offering. In particular if your relationship with them is one where they would buy something you recommend, this can be one of the easiest ways to get your initial customers. However, building this type of following is non-trivial and often is done over several years.

Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well

Paid advertising: The advantage of paid ads is you have control over when they are presented and what they say. The primary disadvantage is they tend to be expensive, especially before you have your positioning, messaging, and funnel nailed.

Viral: There are certainly examples of companies that launched with a hugely viral video, blog post, or promotion. While fantastic if it happens, even if you do everything right, the likelihood of massive virality is miniscule and the conversion rate is often low.

Press: As I said, this is my favorite. You don’t need to pay a PR agency and can go from nothing to launched in a couple weeks. Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well.

How to Pitch the Press

It’s easy: Have a compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up. Of course, each one of those has some nuance, so let’s dig in.

Have a compelling story

How to Get Attention When you’ve been working for months on your startup, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae when talking to others. Stories that a journalist will write about need to be something their readers will care about. Knowing what story to tell and how to tell it is part science and part art. Here’s how you can get there:

The basics of your story

Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers:

  • What are we doing? What product service are we offering?
  • Why? What problem are we solving?
  • What is interesting or unique? Either about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, or for who we’re doing it.

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

Neither was announcing a data backup company, believe me. Look for angles that make it compelling. Here are some:

  • Did someone on your team do something major before? (build a successful company/product, create some innovation, market something we all know, etc.)
  • Do you have an interesting investor or board member?
  • Is there a personal story that drove you to start this company?
  • Are you starting it in a unique place?
  • Did you come upon the idea in a unique way?
  • Can you share something people want to know that’s not usually shared?
  • Are you partnered with a well-known company?
  • …is there something interesting/entertaining/odd/shocking/touching/etc.?

It doesn’t get much less exciting than, “We’re launching a company that will backup your data.” But there were still a lot of compelling stories:

  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs, bootstrapped a capital-intensive company, committed to each other for a year without salary.
  • Challenging the way that every backup company before was set up by not asking customers to pick and choose files to backup.
  • Designing our own storage system.
  • Etc. etc.

For the initial launch, we focused on “unlimited for $5/month” and statistics from a survey we ran with Harris Interactive that said that 94% of people did not regularly backup their data.

It’s an old adage that “Everyone has a story.” Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

The headline

Once you’ve captured what you think the interesting story is, you’ve got to boil it down. Yes, you need the elevator pitch, but this is shorter…it’s the headline pitch. Write the headline that you would love to see a journalist write.

Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

Now comes the part where you have to be really honest with yourself: if you weren’t involved, would you care?

The “Techmeme Test”

One way I try to ground myself is what I call the “Techmeme Test”. Techmeme lists the top tech articles. Read the headlines. Imagine the headline you wrote in the middle of the page. If you weren’t involved, would you click on it? Is it more or less compelling than the others. Much of tech news is dominated by the largest companies. If you want to get written about, your story should be more compelling. If not, go back above and explore your story some more.

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

Journalists write about news. Thus, if you’ve already announced something and are then pitching a journalist to cover it, unless you’re giving her something significant that hasn’t been said, it’s no longer news. As a result, there are ‘embargoes’ and ‘exclusives’.

Embargoes

    • : An embargo simply means that you are sharing news with a journalist that they need to keep private until a certain date and time.

If you’re Apple, this may be a formal and legal document. In our case, it’s as simple as saying, “Please keep embargoed until 4/13/17 at 8am California time.” in the pitch. Some sites explicitly will not keep embargoes; for example The Information will only break news. If you want to launch something later, do not share information with journalists at these sites. If you are only working with a single journalist for a story, and your announcement time is flexible, you can jointly work out a date and time to announce. However, if you have a fixed launch time or are working with a few journalists, embargoes are key.

Exclusives: An exclusive means you’re giving something specifically to that journalist. Most journalists love an exclusive as it means readers have to come to them for the story. One option is to give a journalist an exclusive on the entire story. If it is your dream journalist, this may make sense. Another option, however, is to give exclusivity on certain pieces. For example, for your launch you could give an exclusive on funding detail & a VC interview to a more finance-focused journalist and insight into the tech & a CTO interview to a more tech-focused journalist.

Call-to-Action: With our launch we gave TechCrunch, Ars Technica, and SimplyHelp URLs that gave the first few hundred of their readers access to the private beta. Once those first few hundred users from each site downloaded, the beta would be turned off.

Thus, we used a combination of embargoes, exclusives, and a call-to-action during our initial launch to be able to brief journalists on the news before it went live, give them something they could announce as exclusive, and provide a time-sensitive call-to-action to the readers so that they would actually sign up and not just read and go away.

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

“If a press release is published and no one sees it, was it published?” Perhaps the time existed when sending a press release out over the wire meant journalists would read it and write about it. That time has long been forgotten. Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day. If you want your compelling story to be covered, you need to find the handful of journalists that will care.

Determine the publications

Find the publications that cover the type of story you want to share. If you’re in tech, Techmeme has a leaderboard of publications ranked by leadership and presence. This list will tell you which publications are likely to have influence. Visit the sites and see if your type of story appears on their site. But, once you’ve determined the publication do NOT send a pitch their “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” email addresses. In all the times I’ve done that, I have never had a single response. Those email addresses are likely on every PR, press release, and spam list and unlikely to get read. Instead…

Determine the journalists

Once you’ve determined which publications cover your area, check which journalists are doing the writing. Skim the articles and search for keywords and competitor names.

Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day.

Identify one primary journalist at the publication that you would love to have cover you, and secondary ones if there are a few good options. If you’re not sure which one should be the primary, consider a few tests:

  • Do they truly seem to care about the space?
  • Do they write interesting/compelling stories that ‘get it’?
  • Do they appear on the Techmeme leaderboard?
  • Do their articles get liked/tweeted/shared and commented on?
  • Do they have a significant social presence?

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

In addition to Techmeme or if you aren’t in the tech space Google will become a must have tool for finding the right journalists to pitch. Below the search box you will find a number of tabs. Click on Tools and change the Any time setting to Custom range. I like to use the past six months to ensure I find authors that are actively writing about my market. I start with the All results. This will return a combination of product sites and articles depending upon your search term.

Scan for articles and click on the link to see if the article is on topic. If it is find the author’s name. Often if you click on the author name it will take you to a bio page that includes their Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook profile. Many times you will find their email address in the bio. You should collect all the information and add it to your outreach spreadsheet. Click here to get a copy. It’s always a good idea to comment on the article to start building awareness of your name. Another good idea is to Tweet or Like the article.

Next click on the News tab and set the same search parameters. You will get a different set of results. Repeat the same steps. Between the two searches you will have a list of authors that actively write for the websites that Google considers the most authoritative on your market.

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

Your next step is to find the writers whose articles get shared the most socially. Go to Buzzsumo and click on the Most Shared tab. Enter search terms for your market as well as competitor names. Again I like to use the past 6 months as the time range. You will get a list of articles that have been shared the most across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. In addition to finding the most shared articles and their authors you can also see some of the Twitter users that shared the article. Many of those Twitter users are big influencers in your market so it’s smart to start following and interacting with them as well as the authors.

How to Find Author Email Addresses

Some journalists publish their contact info right on the stories. For those that don’t, a bit of googling will often get you the email. For example, TechCrunch wrote a story a few years ago where they published all of their email addresses, which was in response to this new service that charges a small fee to provide journalist email addresses. Sometimes visiting their twitter pages will link to a personal site, upon which they will share an email address.

Of course all is not lost if you don’t find an email in the bio. There are two good services for finding emails, https://app.voilanorbert.com/ and https://hunter.io/. For Voila Norbert enter the author name and the website you found their article on. The majority of the time you search for an author on a major publication Norbert will return an accurate email address. If it doesn’t try Hunter.io.

On Hunter.io enter the domain name and click on Personal Only. Then scroll through the results to find the author’s email. I’ve found Norbert to be more accurate overall but between the two you will find most major author’s email addresses.

Email, by the way, is not necessarily the best way to engage a journalist. Many are avid Twitter users. Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them. Later when you email them, you won’t be just a random email address.

Don’t spam

Now that you have all these email addresses (possibly thousands if you purchased a list) – do NOT spam. It is incredibly tempting to think “I could try to figure out which of these folks would be interested, but if I just email all of them, I’ll save myself time and be more likely to get some of them to respond.” Don’t do it.

Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them.

First, you’ll want to tailor your pitch to the individual. Second, it’s a small world and you’ll be known as someone who spams – reputation is golden. Also, don’t call journalists. Unless you know them or they’ve said they’re open to calls, you’re most likely to just annoy them.

Build a relationship

Build Trust with reporters Play the long game. You may be focusing just on the launch and hoping to get this one story covered, but if you don’t quickly flame-out, you will have many more opportunities to tell interesting stories that you’ll want the press to cover. Be honest and don’t exaggerate.
When you have 500 users it’s tempting to say, “We’ve got thousands!” Don’t. The good journalists will see through it and it’ll likely come back to bite you later. If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know but let me find out for you.” Most journalists want to write interesting stories that their readers will appreciate. Help them do that. Build deeper relationships with 5 – 10 journalists, rather than spamming thousands.

Stay organized

It doesn’t need to be complicated, but keep a spreadsheet that includes the name, publication, and contact info of the journalists you care about. Then, use it to keep track of who you’ve pitched, who’s responded, whether you’ve sent them the materials they need, and whether they intend to write/have written.

Make their life easy

Journalists have a million PR people emailing them, are actively engaging with readers on Twitter and in the comments, are tracking their metrics, are working their sources…and all the while needing to publish new articles. They’re busy. Make their life easy and they’re more likely to engage with yours.

Get to know them

Before sending them a pitch, know what they’ve written in the space. If you tell them how your story relates to ones they’ve written, it’ll help them put the story in context, and enable them to possibly link back to a story they wrote before.

Prepare your materials

Journalists will need somewhere to get more info (prepare a fact sheet), a URL to link to, and at least one image (ideally a few to choose from.) A fact sheet gives bite-sized snippets of information they may need about your startup or product: what it is, how big the market is, what’s the pricing, who’s on the team, etc. The URL is where their reader will get the product or more information from you. It doesn’t have to be live when you’re pitching, but you should be able to tell what the URL will be. The images are ones that they could embed in the article: a product screenshot, a CEO or team photo, an infographic. Scan the types of images included in their articles. Don’t send any of these in your pitch, but have them ready. Studies, stats, customer/partner/investor quotes are also good to have.

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

Think back to the headline you want. Is it really compelling? Can you shorten it to a subject line? Include what’s happening and when. For Mike Arrington at Techcrunch, our first subject line was “Startup doing an ‘online time machine’”. Later I would include, “launching June 6th”.

For John Timmer at ArsTechnica, it was “Demographics data re: your 4/17 article”. Why? Because he wrote an article titled “WiFi popular with the young people; backups, not so much”. Since we had run a demographics survey on backups, I figured as a science editor he’d be interested in this additional data.

Body

A few key things about the body of the email. It should be short and to the point, no more than a few sentences. Here was my actual, original pitch email to John:

Hey John,

We’re launching Backblaze next week which provides a Time Machine-online type of service. As part of doing some research I read your article about backups not being popular with young people and that you had wished Accenture would have given you demographics. In prep for our invite-only launch I sponsored Harris Interactive to get demographic data on who’s doing backups and if all goes well, I should have that data on Friday.

Next week starts Backup Awareness Month (and yes, probably Clean Your House Month and Brush Your Teeth Month)…but nonetheless…good time to remind readers to backup with a bit of data?

Would you be interested in seeing/talking about the data when I get it?

Would you be interested in getting a sneak peak at Backblaze? (I could give you some invite codes for your readers as well.)

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

The Good: It said what we’re doing, why this relates to him and his readers, provides him information he had asked for in an article, ties to something timely, is clearly tailored for him, is pitched by the CEO and Co-Founder, and provides my cell.

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

Hi Peter, there has been much debate about whether temperature affects how long a hard drive lasts. Following up on the Backblaze analyses of how long do drives last & which drives last the longest (that you wrote about) we’ve now analyzed the impact of heat on the nearly 40,000 hard drives we have and found that…

We’re going to publish the results this Monday, 5/12 at 5am California-time. Want a sneak peak of the analysis?

Timing

A common question is “When should I launch?” What day, what time? I prefer to launch on Tuesday at 8am California-time. Launching earlier in the week gives breathing room for the news to live longer. While your launch may be a single article posted and that’s that, if it ends up a larger success, earlier in the week allows other journalists (including ones who are in other countries) to build on the story. Monday announcements can be tough because the journalists generally need to have their stories finished by Friday, and while ideally everything is buttoned up beforehand, startups sometimes use the weekend as overflow before a launch.

The 8am California-time is because it allows articles to be published at the beginning of the day West Coast and around lunch-time East Coast. Later and you risk it being past publishing time for the day. We used to launch at 5am in order to be morning for the East Coast, but it did not seem to have a significant benefit in coverage or impact, but did mean that the entire internal team needed to be up at 3am or 4am. Sometimes that’s critical, but I prefer to not burn the team out when it’s not.

Finally, try to stay clear of holidays, major announcements and large conferences. If Apple is coming out with their next iPhone, many of the tech journalists will be busy at least a couple days prior and possibly a week after. Not always obvious, but if you can, find times that are otherwise going to be slow for news.

Follow-up

There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. I once had a journalist write me after we had an announcement that was covered by the press, “Why didn’t you let me know?! I would have written about that!” I had sent him three emails about the upcoming announcement to which he never responded.

My general rule is 3 emails.

Ugh. However, my takeaway from this isn’t that I should send 10 emails to every journalist. It’s that sometimes these things happen.

My general rule is 3 emails. If I’ve identified a specific journalist that I think would be interested and have a pitch crafted for her, I’ll send her the email ideally 2 weeks prior to the announcement. I’ll follow-up a week later, and one more time 2 days prior. If she ever says, “I’m not interested in this topic,” I note it and don’t email her on that topic again.

If a journalist wrote, I read the article and engage in the comments (or someone on our team, such as our social guy, @YevP does). We’ll often promote the story through our social channels and email our employees who may choose to share the story as well. This helps us, but also helps the journalist get their story broader reach. Again, the goal is to build a relationship with the journalists your space. If there’s something relevant to your customers that the journalist wrote, you’re providing a service to your customers AND helping the journalist get the word out about the article.

At times the stories also end up shared on sites such as Hacker News, Reddit, Slashdot, or become active conversations on Twitter. Again, we try to engage there and respond to questions (when we do, we are always clear that we’re from Backblaze.)

And finally, I’ll often send a short thank you to the journalist.

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is more than one way to get your first 1,000 customers. My favorite is working with the press to share your story. If you figure out your compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up, you stand a high likelyhood of getting coverage and customers. Better yet, that coverage will provide credibility for your company, and if done right, will establish you as a resource for the press for the future.

Like any muscle, this process takes working out. The first time may feel a bit daunting, but just take the steps one at a time. As you do this a few times, the process will be easier and you’ll know who to reach out and quickly determine what stories will be compelling.

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