Tag Archives: fashion

China to Start Blocking Unauthorized VPN Providers This April

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-to-start-blocking-unauthorized-vpn-providers-this-april-180203/

Back in January 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced a 14-month campaign to crack down on ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

China said that Internet technologies and services had been expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, so regulation was required. No surprise then that the campaign targeted censorship-busting VPN services, which are used by citizens and corporations to traverse the country’s Great Firewall.

Heralding a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up”, China warned that anyone operating such a service would require a government telecommunications business license. It’s now been more than a year since that announcement and much has happened in the interim.

In July 2017, Apple removed 674 VPN apps from its App Store and in September, a local man was jailed for nine months for selling VPN software. In December, another man was jailed for five-and-a-half years for selling a VPN service without an appropriate license from the government.

This week the government provided an update on the crackdown, telling the media that it will begin forcing local and foreign companies and individuals to use only government-approved systems to access the wider Internet.

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) chief engineer Zhang Feng reiterated earlier comments that VPN operators must be properly licensed by the government, adding that unlicensed VPNs will be subjected to new rules which come into force on March 31. The government plans to block unauthorized VPN providers, official media reported.

“We want to regulate VPNs which unlawfully conduct cross-border operational activities,” Zhang told reporters.

“Any foreign companies that want to set up a cross-border operation for private use will need to set up a dedicated line for that purpose,” he said.

“They will be able to lease such a line or network legally from the telecommunications import and export bureau. This shouldn’t affect their normal operations much at all.”

Radio Free Asia reports that state-run telecoms companies including China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, which are approved providers, have all been ordered to prevent their 1.3 billion subscribers from accessing blocked content with VPNs.

“The campaign aims to regulate the market environment and keep it fair and healthy,” Zhang added. “[As for] VPNs which unlawfully conduct cross-border operational activities, we want to regulate this.”

So, it appears that VPN providers are still allowed in China, so long as they’re officially licensed and approved by the government. However, in order to get that licensing they need to comply with government regulations, which means that people cannot use them to access content restricted by the Great Firewall.

All that being said, Zhang is reported as saying that people shouldn’t be concerned that their data is insecure as a result – neither providers nor the government are able to access content sent over a state-approved VPN service, he claimed.

“The rights for using normal intentional telecommunications services is strictly protected,” said Zhang, adding that regulation means that communications are “secure”.

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

Udemy Targets ‘Pirate’ Site Giving Away its Paid Courses For Free

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/udemy-targets-pirate-site-giving-away-its-paid-courses-for-free-180129/

While there’s no shortage of people who advocate free sharing of movies and music, passions are often raised when it comes to the availability of educational information.

Significant numbers of people believe that learning should be open to all and that texts and associated materials shouldn’t be locked away by copyright holders trying to monetize knowledge. Of course, people who make a living creating learning materials see the position rather differently.

A clash of these ideals is brewing in the United States where online learning platform Udemy has been trying to have some of its courses taken down from FreeTutorials.us, a site that makes available premium tutorials and other learning materials for free.

Early December 2017, counsel acting for Udemy and a number of its individual and corporate instructors (Maximilian Schwarzmüller, Academind GmbH, Peter Dalmaris, Futureshock Enterprises, Jose Marcial Portilla, and Pierian Data) wrote to FreeTutorials.us with DMCA takedown notice.

“Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), this communication serves as a notice of infringement and request for removal of certain web content available on freetutorials.us,” the letter reads.

“I hereby request that you remove or disable access to the material listed in Exhibit A in as expedient a fashion as possible. This communication does not constitute a waiver of any right to recover damages incurred by virtue of any such unauthorized activities, and such rights as well as claims for other relief are expressly retained.”

A small sample of Exhibit A

On January 10, 2018, the same law firm wrote to Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The DMCA notice asked Cloudflare to disable access to the same set of infringing content listed above.

It seems likely that whatever happened next wasn’t to Udemy’s satisfaction. On January 16, an attorney from the same law firm filed a DMCA subpoena at a district court in California. A DMCA subpoena can enable a copyright holder to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer without having to file a lawsuit and without needing a signature from a judge.

The subpoena was directed at Cloudflare, which provides services to FreeTutorials. The company was ordered to hand over “all identifying information identifying the owner, operator and/or contact person(s) associated with the domain www.freetutorials.us, including but not limited to name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), email address(es), Internet protocol connection records, administrative records and billing records from the time the account was established to the present.”

On January 26, the date by which Cloudflare was ordered to hand over the information, Cloudflare wrote to FreeTutorials with a somewhat late-in-the-day notification.

“We received the attached subpoena regarding freetutorials.us, a domain managed through your Cloudflare account. The subpoena requires us to provide information in our systems related to this website,” the company wrote.

“We have determined that this is a valid subpoena, and we are required to provide the requested information. In accordance with our Privacy Policy, we are informing you before we provide any of the requested subscriber information. We plan to turn over documents in response to the subpoena on January 26th, 2018, unless you intervene in the case.”

With that deadline passing last Friday, it’s safe to say that Cloudflare has complied with the subpoena as the law requires. However, TorrentFreak spoke with FreeTutorials who told us that the company doesn’t hold anything useful on them.

“No, they have nothing,” the team explained.

Noting that they’ll soon dispense with the services of Cloudflare, the team confirmed that they had received emails from Udemy and its instructors but hadn’t done a lot in response.

“How about a ‘NO’? was our answer to all the DMCA takedown requests from Udemy and its Instructors,” they added.

FreeTutorials (FTU) are affiliated with FreeCoursesOnline (FCO) and seem passionate about what they do. In common with others who distribute learning materials online, they express a belief in free education for all, irrespective of financial resources.

“We, FTU and FCO, are a group of seven members assorted as a team from different countries and cities. We are JN, SRZ aka SunRiseZone, Letap, Lihua Google Drive, Kaya, Zinnia, Faiz MeemBazooka,” a spokesperson revealed.

“We’re all members and colleagues and we also have our own daily work and business stuff to do. We have been through that phase of life when we didn’t have enough money to buy books and get tuition or even apply for a good course that we always wanted to have, so FTU & FCO are just our vision to provide Free Education For Everyone.

“We would love to change our priorities towards our current and future projects, only if we manage to get some faithful FTU’ers to join in and help us to grow together and make FTU a place it should be.”

TorrentFreak requested comment from Udemy but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back. However, we did manage to get in touch with Jonathan Levi, an Udemy instructor who sent this takedown notice to the site in October 2017:

“I’m writing to you on behalf of SuperHuman Enterprises, LLC. You are in violation of our copyright, using our images, and linking to pirated copies of our courses. Remove them IMMEDIATELY or face severe legal action….You have 48 hours to comply,” he wrote, adding:

“And in case you’re going to say I don’t have evidence that I own the files, it’s my fucking face in the videos.”

Levi says that the site had been non-responsive so now things are being taken to the next level.

“They don’t reply to takedowns, so we’ve joined a class action lawsuit against FTU lead by Udemy and a law firm specializing in this type of thing,” Levi concludes.

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

Top 8 Best Practices for High-Performance ETL Processing Using Amazon Redshift

Post Syndicated from Thiyagarajan Arumugam original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/top-8-best-practices-for-high-performance-etl-processing-using-amazon-redshift/

An ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) process enables you to load data from source systems into your data warehouse. This is typically executed as a batch or near-real-time ingest process to keep the data warehouse current and provide up-to-date analytical data to end users.

Amazon Redshift is a fast, petabyte-scale data warehouse that enables you easily to make data-driven decisions. With Amazon Redshift, you can get insights into your big data in a cost-effective fashion using standard SQL. You can set up any type of data model, from star and snowflake schemas, to simple de-normalized tables for running any analytical queries.

To operate a robust ETL platform and deliver data to Amazon Redshift in a timely manner, design your ETL processes to take account of Amazon Redshift’s architecture. When migrating from a legacy data warehouse to Amazon Redshift, it is tempting to adopt a lift-and-shift approach, but this can result in performance and scale issues long term. This post guides you through the following best practices for ensuring optimal, consistent runtimes for your ETL processes:

  • COPY data from multiple, evenly sized files.
  • Use workload management to improve ETL runtimes.
  • Perform table maintenance regularly.
  • Perform multiple steps in a single transaction.
  • Loading data in bulk.
  • Use UNLOAD to extract large result sets.
  • Use Amazon Redshift Spectrum for ad hoc ETL processing.
  • Monitor daily ETL health using diagnostic queries.

1. COPY data from multiple, evenly sized files

Amazon Redshift is an MPP (massively parallel processing) database, where all the compute nodes divide and parallelize the work of ingesting data. Each node is further subdivided into slices, with each slice having one or more dedicated cores, equally dividing the processing capacity. The number of slices per node depends on the node type of the cluster. For example, each DS2.XLARGE compute node has two slices, whereas each DS2.8XLARGE compute node has 16 slices.

When you load data into Amazon Redshift, you should aim to have each slice do an equal amount of work. When you load the data from a single large file or from files split into uneven sizes, some slices do more work than others. As a result, the process runs only as fast as the slowest, or most heavily loaded, slice. In the example shown below, a single large file is loaded into a two-node cluster, resulting in only one of the nodes, “Compute-0”, performing all the data ingestion:

When splitting your data files, ensure that they are of approximately equal size – between 1 MB and 1 GB after compression. The number of files should be a multiple of the number of slices in your cluster. Also, I strongly recommend that you individually compress the load files using gzip, lzop, or bzip2 to efficiently load large datasets.

When loading multiple files into a single table, use a single COPY command for the table, rather than multiple COPY commands. Amazon Redshift automatically parallelizes the data ingestion. Using a single COPY command to bulk load data into a table ensures optimal use of cluster resources, and quickest possible throughput.

2. Use workload management to improve ETL runtimes

Use Amazon Redshift’s workload management (WLM) to define multiple queues dedicated to different workloads (for example, ETL versus reporting) and to manage the runtimes of queries. As you migrate more workloads into Amazon Redshift, your ETL runtimes can become inconsistent if WLM is not appropriately set up.

I recommend limiting the overall concurrency of WLM across all queues to around 15 or less. This WLM guide helps you organize and monitor the different queues for your Amazon Redshift cluster.

When managing different workloads on your Amazon Redshift cluster, consider the following for the queue setup:

  • Create a queue dedicated to your ETL processes. Configure this queue with a small number of slots (5 or fewer). Amazon Redshift is designed for analytics queries, rather than transaction processing. The cost of COMMIT is relatively high, and excessive use of COMMIT can result in queries waiting for access to the commit queue. Because ETL is a commit-intensive process, having a separate queue with a small number of slots helps mitigate this issue.
  • Claim extra memory available in a queue. When executing an ETL query, you can take advantage of the wlm_query_slot_count to claim the extra memory available in a particular queue. For example, a typical ETL process might involve COPYing raw data into a staging table so that downstream ETL jobs can run transformations that calculate daily, weekly, and monthly aggregates. To speed up the COPY process (so that the downstream tasks can start in parallel sooner), the wlm_query_slot_count can be increased for this step.
  • Create a separate queue for reporting queries. Configure query monitoring rules on this queue to further manage long-running and expensive queries.
  • Take advantage of the dynamic memory parameters. They swap the memory from your ETL to your reporting queue after the ETL job has completed.

3. Perform table maintenance regularly

Amazon Redshift is a columnar database, which enables fast transformations for aggregating data. Performing regular table maintenance ensures that transformation ETLs are predictable and performant. To get the best performance from your Amazon Redshift database, you must ensure that database tables regularly are VACUUMed and ANALYZEd. The Analyze & Vacuum schema utility helps you automate the table maintenance task and have VACUUM & ANALYZE executed in a regular fashion.

  • Use VACUUM to sort tables and remove deleted blocks

During a typical ETL refresh process, tables receive new incoming records using COPY, and unneeded data (cold data) is removed using DELETE. New rows are added to the unsorted region in a table. Deleted rows are simply marked for deletion.

DELETE does not automatically reclaim the space occupied by the deleted rows. Adding and removing large numbers of rows can therefore cause the unsorted region and the number of deleted blocks to grow. This can degrade the performance of queries executed against these tables.

After an ETL process completes, perform VACUUM to ensure that user queries execute in a consistent manner. The complete list of tables that need VACUUMing can be found using the Amazon Redshift Util’s table_info script.

Use the following approaches to ensure that VACCUM is completed in a timely manner:

  • Use wlm_query_slot_count to claim all the memory allocated in the ETL WLM queue during the VACUUM process.
  • DROP or TRUNCATE intermediate or staging tables, thereby eliminating the need to VACUUM them.
  • If your table has a compound sort key with only one sort column, try to load your data in sort key order. This helps reduce or eliminate the need to VACUUM the table.
  • Consider using time series This helps reduce the amount of data you need to VACUUM.
  • Use ANALYZE to update database statistics

Amazon Redshift uses a cost-based query planner and optimizer using statistics about tables to make good decisions about the query plan for the SQL statements. Regular statistics collection after the ETL completion ensures that user queries run fast, and that daily ETL processes are performant. The Amazon Redshift utility table_info script provides insights into the freshness of the statistics. Keeping the statistics off (pct_stats_off) less than 20% ensures effective query plans for the SQL queries.

4. Perform multiple steps in a single transaction

ETL transformation logic often spans multiple steps. Because commits in Amazon Redshift are expensive, if each ETL step performs a commit, multiple concurrent ETL processes can take a long time to execute.

To minimize the number of commits in a process, the steps in an ETL script should be surrounded by a BEGIN…END statement so that a single commit is performed only after all the transformation logic has been executed. For example, here is an example multi-step ETL script that performs one commit at the end:

Begin
CREATE temporary staging_table;
INSERT INTO staging_table SELECT .. FROM source (transformation logic);
DELETE FROM daily_table WHERE dataset_date =?;
INSERT INTO daily_table SELECT .. FROM staging_table (daily aggregate);
DELETE FROM weekly_table WHERE weekending_date=?;
INSERT INTO weekly_table SELECT .. FROM staging_table(weekly aggregate);
Commit

5. Loading data in bulk

Amazon Redshift is designed to store and query petabyte-scale datasets. Using Amazon S3 you can stage and accumulate data from multiple source systems before executing a bulk COPY operation. The following methods allow efficient and fast transfer of these bulk datasets into Amazon Redshift:

  • Use a manifest file to ingest large datasets that span multiple files. The manifest file is a JSON file that lists all the files to be loaded into Amazon Redshift. Using a manifest file ensures that Amazon Redshift has a consistent view of the data to be loaded from S3, while also ensuring that duplicate files do not result in the same data being loaded more than one time.
  • Use temporary staging tables to hold the data for transformation. These tables are automatically dropped after the ETL session is complete. Temporary tables can be created using the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE syntax, or by issuing a SELECT … INTO #TEMP_TABLE query. Explicitly specifying the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement allows you to control the DISTRIBUTION KEY, SORT KEY, and compression settings to further improve performance.
  • User ALTER table APPEND to swap data from the staging tables to the target table. Data in the source table is moved to matching columns in the target table. Column order doesn’t matter. After data is successfully appended to the target table, the source table is empty. ALTER TABLE APPEND is much faster than a similar CREATE TABLE AS or INSERT INTO operation because it doesn’t involve copying or moving data.

6. Use UNLOAD to extract large result sets

Fetching a large number of rows using SELECT is expensive and takes a long time. When a large amount of data is fetched from the Amazon Redshift cluster, the leader node has to hold the data temporarily until the fetches are complete. Further, data is streamed out sequentially, which results in longer elapsed time. As a result, the leader node can become hot, which not only affects the SELECT that is being executed, but also throttles resources for creating execution plans and managing the overall cluster resources. Here is an example of a large SELECT statement. Notice that the leader node is doing most of the work to stream out the rows:

Use UNLOAD to extract large results sets directly to S3. After it’s in S3, the data can be shared with multiple downstream systems. By default, UNLOAD writes data in parallel to multiple files according to the number of slices in the cluster. All the compute nodes participate to quickly offload the data into S3.

If you are extracting data for use with Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you should make use of the MAXFILESIZE parameter to and keep files are 150 MB. Similar to item 1 above, having many evenly sized files ensures that Redshift Spectrum can do the maximum amount of work in parallel.

7. Use Redshift Spectrum for ad hoc ETL processing

Events such as data backfill, promotional activity, and special calendar days can trigger additional data volumes that affect the data refresh times in your Amazon Redshift cluster. To help address these spikes in data volumes and throughput, I recommend staging data in S3. After data is organized in S3, Redshift Spectrum enables you to query it directly using standard SQL. In this way, you gain the benefits of additional capacity without having to resize your cluster.

For tips on getting started with and optimizing the use of Redshift Spectrum, see the previous post, 10 Best Practices for Amazon Redshift Spectrum.

8. Monitor daily ETL health using diagnostic queries

Monitoring the health of your ETL processes on a regular basis helps identify the early onset of performance issues before they have a significant impact on your cluster. The following monitoring scripts can be used to provide insights into the health of your ETL processes:

Script Use when… Solution
commit_stats.sql – Commit queue statistics from past days, showing largest queue length and queue time first DML statements such as INSERT/UPDATE/COPY/DELETE operations take several times longer to execute when multiple of these operations are in progress Set up separate WLM queues for the ETL process and limit the concurrency to < 5.
copy_performance.sql –  Copy command statistics for the past days Daily COPY operations take longer to execute • Follow the best practices for the COPY command.
• Analyze data growth with the incoming datasets and consider cluster resize to meet the expected SLA.
table_info.sql – Table skew and unsorted statistics along with storage and key information Transformation steps take longer to execute • Set up regular VACCUM jobs to address unsorted rows and claim the deleted blocks so that transformation SQL execute optimally.
• Consider a table redesign to avoid data skewness.
v_check_transaction_locks.sql – Monitor transaction locks INSERT/UPDATE/COPY/DELETE operations on particular tables do not respond back in timely manner, compared to when run after the ETL Multiple DML statements are operating on the same target table at the same moment from different transactions. Set up ETL job dependency so that they execute serially for the same target table.
v_get_schema_priv_by_user.sql – Get the schema that the user has access to Reporting users can view intermediate tables Set up separate database groups for reporting and ETL users, and grants access to objects using GRANT.
v_generate_tbl_ddl.sql – Get the table DDL You need to create an empty table with same structure as target table for data backfill Generate DDL using this script for data backfill.
v_space_used_per_tbl.sql – monitor space used by individual tables Amazon Redshift data warehouse space growth is trending upwards more than normal

Analyze the individual tables that are growing at higher rate than normal. Consider data archival using UNLOAD to S3 and Redshift Spectrum for later analysis.

Use unscanned_table_summary.sql to find unused table and archive or drop them.

top_queries.sql – Return the top 50 time consuming statements aggregated by its text ETL transformations are taking longer to execute Analyze the top transformation SQL and use EXPLAIN to find opportunities for tuning the query plan.

There are several other useful scripts available in the amazon-redshift-utils repository. The AWS Lambda Utility Runner runs a subset of these scripts on a scheduled basis, allowing you to automate much of monitoring of your ETL processes.

Example ETL process

The following ETL process reinforces some of the best practices discussed in this post. Consider the following four-step daily ETL workflow where data from an RDBMS source system is staged in S3 and then loaded into Amazon Redshift. Amazon Redshift is used to calculate daily, weekly, and monthly aggregations, which are then unloaded to S3, where they can be further processed and made available for end-user reporting using a number of different tools, including Redshift Spectrum and Amazon Athena.

Step 1:  Extract from the RDBMS source to a S3 bucket

In this ETL process, the data extract job fetches change data every 1 hour and it is staged into multiple hourly files. For example, the staged S3 folder looks like the following:

 [[email protected] ~]$ aws s3 ls s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/
2017-07-02 01:59:58   81900220 20170702T01.export.gz
2017-07-02 02:59:56   84926844 20170702T02.export.gz
2017-07-02 03:59:54   78990356 20170702T03.export.gz
…
2017-07-02 22:00:03   75966745 20170702T21.export.gz
2017-07-02 23:00:02   89199874 20170702T22.export.gz
2017-07-02 00:59:59   71161715 20170702T23.export.gz

Organizing the data into multiple, evenly sized files enables the COPY command to ingest this data using all available resources in the Amazon Redshift cluster. Further, the files are compressed (gzipped) to further reduce COPY times.

Step 2: Stage data to the Amazon Redshift table for cleansing

Ingesting the data can be accomplished using a JSON-based manifest file. Using the manifest file ensures that S3 eventual consistency issues can be eliminated and also provides an opportunity to dedupe any files if needed. A sample manifest20170702.json file looks like the following:

{
  "entries": [
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T01.export.gz", "mandatory":true},
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T02.export.gz", "mandatory":true},
    …
    {"url":" s3://<<S3 Bucket>>/batch/2017/07/02/20170702T23.export.gz", "mandatory":true}
  ]
}

The data can be ingested using the following command:

SET wlm_query_slot_count TO <<max available concurrency in the ETL queue>>;
COPY stage_tbl FROM 's3:// <<S3 Bucket>>/batch/manifest20170702.json' iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::0123456789012:role/MyRedshiftRole' manifest;

Because the downstream ETL processes depend on this COPY command to complete, the wlm_query_slot_count is used to claim all the memory available to the queue. This helps the COPY command complete as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Transform data to create daily, weekly, and monthly datasets and load into target tables

Data is staged in the “stage_tbl” from where it can be transformed into the daily, weekly, and monthly aggregates and loaded into target tables. The following job illustrates a typical weekly process:

Begin
INSERT into ETL_LOG (..) values (..);
DELETE from weekly_tbl where dataset_week = <<current week>>;
INSERT into weekly_tbl (..)
  SELECT date_trunc('week', dataset_day) AS week_begin_dataset_date, SUM(C1) AS C1, SUM(C2) AS C2
	FROM   stage_tbl
GROUP BY date_trunc('week', dataset_day);
INSERT into AUDIT_LOG values (..);
COMMIT;
End;

As shown above, multiple steps are combined into one transaction to perform a single commit, reducing contention on the commit queue.

Step 4: Unload the daily dataset to populate the S3 data lake bucket

The transformed results are now unloaded into another S3 bucket, where they can be further processed and made available for end-user reporting using a number of different tools, including Redshift Spectrum and Amazon Athena.

unload ('SELECT * FROM weekly_tbl WHERE dataset_week = <<current week>>’) TO 's3:// <<S3 Bucket>>/datalake/weekly/20170526/' iam_role 'arn:aws:iam::0123456789012:role/MyRedshiftRole';

Summary

Amazon Redshift lets you easily operate petabyte-scale data warehouses on the cloud. This post summarized the best practices for operating scalable ETL natively within Amazon Redshift. I demonstrated efficient ways to ingest and transform data, along with close monitoring. I also demonstrated the best practices being used in a typical sample ETL workload to transform the data into Amazon Redshift.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 


About the Author

Thiyagarajan Arumugam is a Big Data Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services and designs customer architectures to process data at scale. Prior to AWS, he built data warehouse solutions at Amazon.com. In his free time, he enjoys all outdoor sports and practices the Indian classical drum mridangam.

 

New Kodi Addon Tool Might Carry Interesting Copyright Liability Implications

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-kodi-addon-tool-might-carry-interesting-copyright-liability-implications-180124/

Kodi is the now ubiquitous media player taking the world by storm. In itself it’s a great piece of software but augmented with third-party software it can become a piracy powerhouse.

This software, known collectively as ‘add-ons’, enables Kodi to do things it was never designed for such as watching pirated movies, TV shows, and live sports. As a result, it’s the go-to media platform for millions around the globe, but for those distributing the add-ons, there can be risks attached.

As one of the most prominent Kodi-related sites around, TVAddons helped to distribute huge numbers of add-ons. The platform insists that if any add-on infringed copyright, it was only too willing to remove them under a DMCA-like regime. Last year, however, it became clear that copyright holders would prefer to sue TVAddons (1,2) than ask for takedowns.

With those lawsuits still ongoing, the site was left with a dilemma. Despite add-ons being developed and uploaded by third-parties, rightsholders are still trying to hold TVAddons responsible for what those add-ons can do. It’s a precarious situation that has led to TVAddons not having its own repository/repo (a place where the addons are stored for users to download) since the site ran into trouble last summer.

Now, however, the site has just launched a new tool which not only provides some benefits for users looking for addons, but also attempts to shift some liability for potential infringement away from the service and onto a company with much broader shoulders.

TVAddons’ Github Browser was released yesterday and is available via the platform’s Indigo tool. Its premise is simple.

Since many third-party Kodi add-ons are developed and first made available on Github, the world’s leading software development platform, why don’t users install them directly from there instead?

The idea is that this might reduce liability for distributors like TVAddons but could also present benefits for users, as they can be assured that they’re getting add-ons directly from the source.

Github Browser welcome screen

“Before the GitHub Browser, when an end user wanted to install a particular addon, they’d first have to download the necessary repository from either Fusion Installer or an alternative,” a TV addons spokesperson informs TF.

“This new feature gives the end user the ability to easily install any Kodi addon, and empowers developers to distribute their addons independently, without having to align themselves with a particular release group or web site.”

Aside from the benefits to users, it also means that TVAddons can provide its users with access to third-party add-ons without having to curate, store, or distribute them itself. In future, storage and distribution aspects can be carried out by Github, which has actually been the basic behind-the-scenes position for some time.

“GitHub has always been the leading host of Kodi addons, and also respects the law. The difference is, they are big enough to not be bullied by draconian legal maneuvers used by big corporations to censor the internet. We also felt that developers should be able to develop without having to comply with our rules, or any other Kodi web site’s rules for that matter,” TVAddons explain.

The screenshot of the Github Browser below reveals a text-heavy interface that will probably mean little to the low-level user of Kodi who bought his device already setup from a seller. However, those more familiar with the way Kodi functions will recognize that the filenames relate to add-ons which can now be directly installed via the browser.

The Github Browser

While the approach may seem basic or even inaccessible at first view, that wrongfully discounts the significant resources available to the sprawling third-party Kodi add-on community.

Dozens of specialist blogs and thousands of YouTube videos report in detail on the most relevant addons, providing all of the details users will need to identify and locate the required software. Developer usernames could be a good starting point, TVAddons suggests.

“We have already seen many social media posts, blogs and developers advertising their GitHub usernames in order to make it easier for users to find them,” the site explains.

From our tests, it appears that users really have to do all the work themselves. There doesn’t appear to be any add-on curation and users must know what they’re looking for in advance. Indeed, entering the Github usernames of developers who produce software that has nothing to do with Kodi can still present zip file results in the browser. Whether this will prove problematic later on will remain to be seen.

While most keen users won’t have a problem using the Github Browser, there is the question of whether redirecting the focus to the development platform will cause copyright holders to pay more attention to Github.

This has certainly happened in the past, such as when the Federation Against Copyright Theft targeted the SportsDevil add-on and had it removed from Github. It’s also worth noting that Github doesn’t appear to challenge takedown requests, so add-ons could be vulnerable if the heat gets turned up.

Nevertheless, TVAddons believes that the open source nature of most addons coupled with Github’s relative strength means that they’ll be able to stand up to most threats.

“Open source code lives on forever, it’s impossible to scrub the internet of freely distributed legitimate code. I think that GitHub is in a better position to legitimately assess and enforce the DMCA than us. They won’t be sued out of nowhere in circumvention of the DMCA in similar fashion to what we have been the victim of,” TVAddons says.

Several years ago, when The Pirate Bay got rid of torrents and relied on magnet links instead, the platform became much more compact, thus saving on bandwidth. The lack of a repository at TVAddons has also had benefits for the site. Previously it was consuming around 3PB (3,000,000 gigabytes) of bandwidth a month, with a hosting provider demanding $25,000 per month not to discontinue business.

Finally, the team says it is working on new browser features for the future, including repository distribution over torrents. Only time will tell how this new system will be viewed by copyright holders but even with add-on hosting taken care of externally, any form of curation could be instantly frowned upon, with serious consequences.

Details of the browser can be found here.

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

The EU is Working On Its Own Piracy Watch-List

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-eu-is-working-on-its-own-piracy-watch-list-180124/

Earlier this month, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” ostensibly identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The annual list overview helps to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

The most recent version featured traditional pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, Rapidgator, and Gostream, but also the Russian social network VK and China-based marketplaces Alibaba and Taobao.com.

Since the list only identifies foreign sites, American services are never included. However, this restriction doesn’t apply in Europe, where the European Commission announced this week that it’s working on its own piracy watch list.

“The European Commission – on the basis of input from the stakeholders – after thorough verification of the received information – intends to publish a so called ‘Counterfeit and Piracy Watch-List’ in 2018, which will be updated regularly,” the EU’s call for submissions reads.

The EU watch list will operate in a similar fashion to the US equivalent and will be used to encourage site operators and foreign governments to take action.

“The list will identify and describe the most problematic marketplaces – with special focus on online marketplaces – in order to encourage their operators and owners as well as the responsible local authorities and governments to take the necessary actions and measures to reduce the availability of IPR infringing goods or services.”

In recent years various copyright holder groups have repeatedly complained about a lack of anti-piracy initiatives from companies such as Google and Cloudflare, so it will be interesting to see if these will be mentioned.

The same is true for online marketplaces. Responding to the US list last week, Alibaba also highlighted that several American companies suffer the same piracy and counterfeiting problems as they do, without being reprimanded.

“What about Amazon, eBay and others? USTR has no basis for comparison, because it does not ask for similar data from U.S. companies,” Alibaba noted in a rebuttal.

The EU watch list is clearly inspired by the US counterpart. It shows striking similarities with the US version of the watch list and some of the language appears to be copied (or pirated) word for word.

The EU writes, for example, that their list “will not mean to reflect findings of legal violations, nor will it reflect the European Union’s analysis of the general intellectual property rights protection and enforcement climate in the country or countries concerned.”

Just a few days earlier the USTR noted that its list “does not make findings of legal violations. Nor does it reflect the U.S. Government’s analysis of the general IP protection and enforcement climate in the countries connected with the listed markets.”

The above means that, despite branding foreign services as notorious offenders, these are mere allegations. No hard proof is to be expected in the report, nor will the EU research the matter on its own.

If the US example is followed, the watch list will be mostly an overview of copyright holder complaints, signed by the authorities. The latter is not without controversy, as China says it doubts the objectivity of USTR’s report for this very reason.

Copyright holders and other interested parties are invited to submit their contributions and comments by 31 March 2018, and the final list is expected to be released later in the year.

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

Early Challenges: Managing Cash Flow

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

Cash flow projection charts

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

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

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

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

Raising Your Initial Funding

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

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

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

Sources of Funding

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

Customers

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

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

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

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

Investors

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

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

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

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

Debt

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

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

Grants

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

At Backblaze, we used a number of these options:

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

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

GAAP vs. Cash

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

Stages of Cash Flow Management

All-spend

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

Sales-generating

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

Ramen-profitable

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

Business-profitable

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

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

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

Cash Flow Forecasting

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

Two things to consider:

1) Unit Economics (COGS)

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

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

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

2) Operating Expenses (OpEx)

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

Incremental Net Profit Per Unit

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

Calculating Your Profit

The math on getting to ramen-profitable is simple:

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

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

Improving Cash Flow

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

There are two ways to improve cash flow:

1) Collect More Cash

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

2) Spend Less Cash

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

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

Be Careful (Why GAAP Matters)

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

Summary

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

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

Kodi Piracy and Addon Predictions for 2018

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-piracy-and-addon-predictions-for-2018-171228/

During 2017, Kodi and its sea of third-party addons hit the headlines hundreds of times.

Streaming in this fashion became a massive deal throughout the year and eventually, copyright holders decided to take action, cracking down on groups such as TVAddons, ZemTV, and addons offered by jsergio123 and The_Alpha.

In November, the problems continued when the Ares Project, the group behind the hugely popular Ares Wizard and Kodi repository, threw in the towel after being threatened by the MPA-led anti-piracy coalition Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

The combined might of Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner, Netflix, Amazon, and Sky TV was too much, leading to Ares Project leader Tekto shutting everything down.

This was a significant development. Over a two year period, Ares serviced an estimated 100 million users. After interviewing Tekto last month, today we catch up with the developer again, listening to his thoughts on how the scene might further develop in 2018 and what threats lie ahead.

TF: Could you tell us a bit about Kodi’s suitability as an unauthorized streaming platform moving forward? Is it flexible enough to deal with threats, is its current development effort sufficient, do addon developers like the way it works, and how could it be improved?

Tekto: The public awareness of Kodi and the easy ways with which it can be customised via builds and its open source nature makes it the perfect platform for Python coders. It’s easy to fork, copy, adapt and learn, and it’s good for “builders” who modify, personalize, and “brand”.

It’s also easy for users to obtain, install, and work with the plethora of wizards and addons etc, all backed by up blogs and YouTube tutorials. It’s the perfect open source platform to develop and customise to access a massive range of content. Content that may well be contentious but regardless, it is publicly available all over the web.

TF: Obviously Kodi is the big thing at the moment but other apps, such as Showbox, TerrariumTV, and similar products are carving a decent niche for themselves. Where do you see the market sitting on these kinds of products moving forward and are they a threat to Kodi’s dominance?

Tekto: The apps and other services don’t offer the same level of personalization. That’s what will keep a certain dedicated following happy with Kodi. We’ve had Plex, Streamio, Emby and so on, but none offer the flexibility of Kodi.

TF: Does Kodi have any major weaknesses that you know of? Is it under threat from other systems perhaps?

Tekto: Lets not forget we had CCcam [card sharing] for a decade and with Sky [UK TV provider] changing their encryption to end that source, a myriad of IPTV providers sprung up to replace it. All that killing the CCcam method has done, is moved people off CCcam to IPTV. It hasn’t stopped piracy or access to “premium content”, it just moved somewhere else. It probably also makes the providers more money than CCcam accounts ever did.

TF: There have been a lot of legal threats in 2017. Are third-party addon developers and their community under serious threat?

Tekto: If Kodi third-party devs “stopped”, something else would take over. All the Android apps that have sprung up (some have been around a while anyway) are already filling some gaps or giving options for those looking to stream.

Having tried some of these, I have to say for non-tech users there are two or three apps that will suit them perfectly. Others need more work and fewer invasive ads to be more successful. Will Kodi stop? No. It is evolving and finding a new path. It has to. Well, the coders have to, at least.

TF: What is your overall assessment of the various legal attacks this year?

Tekto: What is being missed by all these legal “efforts” is the removal of the sources being accessed. Whilst the sources exist, apps and Kodi add-ons will find ways to access them.

Did taking out a few Kodi devs and a wizard remove any content? Did it stop just one movie from being accessed? No. It did nothing to stop piracy. It did, however, give those receiving HUGE fees to act for the various movie and broadcasters, something to write on their “success” boards and reports.

It just upset users for a few days whilst things adapted to the new situation. The Kodi builds listed on Ares all had their own wizards anyway – so they all carried on working. All the add-ons on Ares were mostly linked to Github, so they carried on working anyway.

The takedown of guys working on the URL resolver for Covenant didn’t work at all. The code still works and if you add, let’s say, Real Debrid, it won’t ever stop working, even Exodus still works! Let’s add to this that Covenant was then forked five or six times and re-marketed.

I’d say it probably increased “acts of copyright infringement” or at least access to “copyright infringing material”. TV Addons immediately took over development of the “URL resolver”, so it will be maintained and fixes for it released.

The URL resolver module uses regex – regular expressions to emulate a web browser (for the most part). Let that sink in; A URL resolver is a way to bypass a web browser, as most of the content is hosted on “publicly accessible” websites, that still remain publicly available with or without Covenant or whatever the forks are called.

TF: Sp there isn’t a Doomsday scenario?

Tekto: If the Kodi third-party scene is somehow stopped – all Wizards, builds, etc were all stopped this very second – there would be a dozen new apps for Android in weeks. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of websites you could switch to, to watch the same content. ACE, MPA etc need to wake up to that fact.

TF: One of the big deals this year, as far as the legal position goes, has been the clarification of “communication to the public” following cases at the European level featuring [pirate box seller] Filmspeler and The Pirate Bay. How do you think this will affect the addon and build scenes moving forward?

Tekto: I’ve long believed that Kodi wizards and scraper addons operated in a way that wasn’t illegal, in that they never provided content, never actually handled the copyright protected files themselves.

It still remains my belief that the recent efforts to use the Ziggo [Pirate Bay] ruling concerning “communicating to the public” is directly linked to torrents or at the very least actually providing content itself. It may be legal “saber rattling” – however standing your ground in the face of a well-funded legal behemoth is beyond hobbyists.

TF: An addon developer I spoke with recently said that fellow addon developers will need to be smarter in future, perhaps by developing addons that aren’t so obviously infringing and are more general in their functionality. Do you feel this is a route they’re likely to take and will it make any difference? How do you think a more ‘underground’ scene will affect the situation on the ground?

Tekto: Going Underground? Most will say grab a VPN and you’re safe – take note that a VPN isn’t enough. They may not get your logs, but they will get your payment info, or the times you are online tagged against another log etc. Anything like PayPal, Gmail, AdSense, etc is 100% out too – they will give people up in a heartbeat. People will have to avoid Facebook, Twitter and so on, as again, they will also link back to the “real you”.

I expect more will move to Tor as a first level of hiding their identities. Hosting via Tor-only sites might be a way to avoid some obvious methods of tracing people. Add-on devs could access Github and release code without ever having to reveal who they are.

Let’s not get into the whole “freedom of speech” etc scenario, however. It should mean that any developer should realistically make much greater efforts to hide their identities.

TF: Thank you for your time, Tekto. Any final messages for the readers?

Tekto: Yes, our Ares Wizard has returned. It’s a mainentance tool now.

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

University College London is Accidentally Running a Huge “Pirate” Movie Site

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/university-college-london-is-accidentally-running-a-huge-pirate-movie-site-171216/

If someone wants to obtain the latest movies for free, all they need to do is head over to the nearest torrent or streaming portal, press a few buttons, and the content appears in a matter of seconds or minutes, dependent on choice.

Indeed, for those seeking mainstream content DRM-free, this is the only way to obtain it, since studios generally don’t make their content available in this fashion. But we know an establishment that does, on a grand scale.

University College London is the third largest university in the UK. According to accounts (pdf) published this summer, it has revenues of more than £1.32 billion. Somewhat surprisingly, this educational behemoth also has a sensational multimedia trick up its considerable sleeve.

The university’s website, located at UCL.ac.uk, is a polished affair and provides all the information anyone could need. However, until one browses to the Self-Access Centre, the full glory of the platform remains largely hidden.

Located at resources.clie.ucl.ac.uk/home/sac/english/films, it looks not unlike Netflix, or indeed any one of thousands of pirate streaming sites around today. However, it appears to be intended for university and educational use only.

UCL’s Self-Access Centre

“Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the English materials we have in the SAC and explore our online materials,” the site reads.

“They were designed to help you improve your English skills. Most of the video materials, including films and documentaries, are now available to be watched online. Log on with your UCL id and password to watch them!”

According to a university video tutorial, all content on the SAC can be viewed on campus or from home, as long as a proper login and password is entered. The material is provided for educational purposes and when viewed through the portal, is accompanied by questions, notes, and various exercises.

Trouble is, the entire system is open to the wider Internet, with no logins or passwords required.

A sample of the movies on offer for direct download

The above image doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. In one directory alone, TorrentFreak counted more than 700 English language movies. In another, more than 600 documentaries including all episodes of the BBC’s Blue Planet II. World Cinema produced close to 90 results, with hundreds of titles voiced in languages from Arabic to Japanese to Welsh.

Links can be pasted into VLC and streamed direct

Quite how long this massive trove of films and TV shows has been open to the public isn’t clear but a simple Google search reveals not only the content itself, but also links to movies and other material on sites in the Middle East and social networks in Russia.

Some of them date back to at least 2016 so it’s probably safe to assume that untold terabytes of data have already been liberated from the university’s servers for the pleasure of the public.

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

Resilient TVAddons Plans to Ditch Proactive ‘Piracy’ Screening

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/resilient-tvaddons-plans-to-ditch-proactive-piracy-screening-171207/

After years of smooth sailing, this year TVAddons became a poster child for the entertainment industry’s war on illicit streaming devices.

The leading repository for unofficial Kodi addons was sued for copyright infringement in the US by satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network. Around the same time, a similar case was filed by Bell, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers in Canada.

The latter case has done the most damage thus far, as it caused the addon repository to lose its domain names and social media accounts. As a result, the site went dead and while many believed it would never return, it made a blazing comeback after a few weeks.

Since the original TVAddons.ag domain was seized, the site returned on TVaddons.co. And that was not the only difference. A lot of the old add-ons, for which it was unclear if they linked to licensed content, were no longer listed in the repository either.

TVAddons previously relied on the DMCA to shield it from liability but apparently, that wasn’t enough. As a result, they took the drastic decision to check all submitted add-ons carefully.

“Since complying with the law is clearly not enough to prevent frivolous legal action from being taken against you, we have been forced to implement a more drastic code vetting process,” a TVAddons representative told us previously.

Despite the absence of several of the most used add-ons, the repository has managed to regain many of its former users. Over the past month, TVAddons had over 12 million unique users. These all manually installed the new repository on their devices.

“We’re not like one of those pirate sites that are shut down and opens on a new domain the next day, getting users to actually manually install a new repo isn’t an easy feat,” a TVAddons representative informs TorrentFreak.

While it’s still far away from the 40 million unique users it had earlier this year, before the trouble began, it’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Interestingly, the vast majority of all TVAddons traffic comes from the United States. The UK is second at a respectable distance, followed by Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.

While many former users have returned, the submission policy changes didn’t go unnoticed. The relatively small selection of add-ons is a major drawback for some, but that’s about to change as well, we are informed.

TVAddons plans to return to the old submission model where developers can upload their code more freely. Instead of proactive screening, TVAddons will rely on a standard DMCA takedown policy, relying on copyright holders to flag potentially infringing content.

“We intend on returning to a standard DMCA compliant add-on submission policy shortly, there’s no reason why we should be held to a higher standard than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Reddit given the fact that we don’t even host any form of streaming content in the first place.

“Our interim policy isn’t pragmatic, it’s nearly impossible for us to verify the global licensing of all forms of protected content. When you visit a website, there’s no way of verifying licensing beyond trusting them based on reputation.”

The upcoming change doesn’t mean that TVAddons will ignore its legal requirements. If they receive a legitimate takedown notice, proper action will be taken, as always. As such, they would operate in the same fashion as other user-generated sites.

“Right now our interim addon submission policy is akin to North Korea. We always followed the law and will always continue to do so. Anytime we’ve received a legitimate complaint we’ve acted upon it in an expedited manner.

“Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other online communities would have never existed if they were required to approve the contents of each user’s submissions prior to public posting.”

The change takes place while the two court cases are still pending. TVAddons is determined to keep up this fight. Meanwhile, they are also asking the public to support the project financially.

While some copyright holders, including those who are fighting the service in court, might not like the change, TVAddons believes that this is well within their rights. And with support from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they don’t stand alone in this.

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

Marvellous retrofitted home assistants

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/retrofitted-home-assistants/

As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.

Google AIY Robot Conversion

Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.

Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…

Teddy Ruxpin

Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)

Alexa Ruxpin – Raspberry Pi & Alexa Powered Teddy Bear

Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.

Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…

Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.

Give old tech new life

Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.

Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:

1986 Google Pi Intercom

This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.

Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.

Also take a look at Martin’s 1970s Amazon Alexa phone for more nostalgic splendour.

Put it in a box

…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…

A GIF from the emperors new groove - Raspberry Pi Home Assistant

A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.

You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.

Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:

Raspberry Pi 3 Amazon Echo – The Alexa Kids Build!

My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.

Also see the Google AIY Projects Voice kit — the cardboard box-est of home assistant boxes.

Make your own home assistant

And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.

Check out these other home assistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.

Ten virtual house points for everyone who shares their build with us online, either in the comments below or by tagging us on your social media account.

The post Marvellous retrofitted home assistants appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

In the Works – AWS IoT Device Defender – Secure Your IoT Fleet

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/in-the-works-aws-sepio-secure-your-iot-fleet/

Scale takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to IoT. Last year I was lucky enough to tour a gigantic factory that had, on average, one environment sensor per square meter. The sensors measured temperature, humidity, and air purity several times per second, and served as an early warning system for contaminants. I’ve heard customers express interest in deploying IoT-enabled consumer devices in the millions or tens of millions.

With powerful, long-lived devices deployed in a geographically distributed fashion, managing security challenges is crucial. However, the limited amount of local compute power and memory can sometimes limit the ability to use encryption and other forms of data protection.

To address these challenges and to allow our customers to confidently deploy IoT devices at scale, we are working on IoT Device Defender. While the details might change before release, AWS IoT Device Defender is designed to offer these benefits:

Continuous AuditingAWS IoT Device Defender monitors the policies related to your devices to ensure that the desired security settings are in place. It looks for drifts away from best practices and supports custom audit rules so that you can check for conditions that are specific to your deployment. For example, you could check to see if a compromised device has subscribed to sensor data from another device. You can run audits on a schedule or on an as-needed basis.

Real-Time Detection and AlertingAWS IoT Device Defender looks for and quickly alerts you to unusual behavior that could be coming from a compromised device. It does this by monitoring the behavior of similar devices over time, looking for unauthorized access attempts, changes in connection patterns, and changes in traffic patterns (either inbound or outbound).

Fast Investigation and Mitigation – In the event that you get an alert that something unusual is happening, AWS IoT Device Defender gives you the tools, including contextual information, to help you to investigate and mitigate the problem. Device information, device statistics, diagnostic logs, and previous alerts are all at your fingertips. You have the option to reboot the device, revoke its permissions, reset it to factory defaults, or push a security fix.

Stay Tuned
I’ll have more info (and a hands-on post) as soon as possible, so stay tuned!

Jeff;

New- AWS IoT Device Management

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-iot-device-management/

AWS IoT and AWS Greengrass give you a solid foundation and programming environment for your IoT devices and applications.

The nature of IoT means that an at-scale device deployment often encompasses millions or even tens of millions of devices deployed at hundreds or thousands of locations. At that scale, treating each device individually is impossible. You need to be able to set up, monitor, update, and eventually retire devices in bulk, collective fashion while also retaining the flexibility to accommodate varying deployment configurations, device models, and so forth.

New AWS IoT Device Management
Today we are launching AWS IoT Device Management to help address this challenge. It will help you through each phase of the device lifecycle, from manufacturing to retirement. Here’s what you get:

Onboarding – Starting with devices in their as-manufactured state, you can control the provisioning workflow. You can use IoT Device Management templates to quickly onboard entire fleets of devices with a few clicks. The templates can include information about device certificates and access policies.

Organization – In order to deal with massive numbers of devices, AWS IoT Device Management extends the existing IoT Device Registry and allows you to create a hierarchical model of your fleet and to set policies on a hierarchical basis. You can drill-down through the hierarchy in order to locate individual devices. You can also query your fleet on attributes such as device type or firmware version.

Monitoring – Telemetry from the devices is used to gather real-time connection, authentication, and status metrics, which are published to Amazon CloudWatch. You can examine the metrics and locate outliers for further investigation. IoT Device Management lets you configure the log level for each device group, and you can also publish change events for the Registry and Jobs for monitoring purposes.

Remote ManagementAWS IoT Device Management lets you remotely manage your devices. You can push new software and firmware to them, reset to factory defaults, reboot, and set up bulk updates at the desired velocity.

Exploring AWS IoT Device Management
The AWS IoT Device Management Console took me on a tour and pointed out how to access each of the features of the service:

I already have a large set of devices (pressure gauges):

These gauges were created using the new template-driven bulk registration feature. Here’s how I create a template:

The gauges are organized into groups (by US state in this case):

Here are the gauges in Colorado:

AWS IoT group policies allow you to control access to specific IoT resources and actions for all members of a group. The policies are structured very much like IAM policies, and can be created in the console:

Jobs are used to selectively update devices. Here’s how I create one:

As indicated by the Job type above, jobs can run either once or continuously. Here’s how I choose the devices to be updated:

I can create custom authorizers that make use of a Lambda function:

I’ve shown you a medium-sized subset of AWS IoT Device Management in this post. Check it out for yourself to learn more!

Jeff;

 

EU Court: Cloud-Based TV Recorder Requires Rightsholder Permission

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-court-cloud-based-tv-recorder-requires-rightsholder-permission-171130/

Over the years, many useful devices have come along which enable the public to make copies of copyright works, the VCR (video cassette recorder) being a prime example.

But while many such devices have been consumed by history, their modern equivalents still pose tricky questions for copyright law. One such service is VCAST, which markets itself as a Video Cloud Recorder. It functions in a notionally similar way to its older cousin but substitutes cassette storage for that in the cloud.

VCAST targets the Italian market, allowing users to sign up in order to gain access to more than 50 digital terrestrial TV channels. However, rather than simply watching live, the user can tell VCAST to receive TV shows (via its own antenna system) while recording them to private cloud storage (such as Google Drive) for subsequent viewing over the Internet.

VCAST attracted the negative interests of rightsholders, including Mediaset-owned RTI, who doubted the legality of the service. So, in response, VCAST sued RTI at the Turin Court of First Instance, seeking a judgment confirming the legality of its operations. The company believed that since the recordings are placed in users’ own cloud storage, the Italian private copying exception would apply and rightsholders would be compensated.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the complexity of the case, the Turin Court decided to refer questions to the European Court of Justice. It essentially asked whether the private copying exception is applicable when the copying requires a service like VCAST and whether such a service is allowed to operate without permission from copyright holders.

In September, Advocate General Szpunar published his opinion, concluding that EU law prohibits this kind of service when copyright holders haven’t given their permission. Today, the ECJ handed down its decision, broadly agreeing with Szpunar’s conclusion.

“By today’s judgment, the Court finds that the service provided by VCAST has a dual functionality, consisting in ensuring both the reproduction and the making available of protected works. To the extent that the service offered by VCAST consists in the making available of protected works, it falls within communication to the public,” the ECJ announced.

“In that regard, the Court recalls that, according to the directive, any communication to the public, including the making available of a protected work or subject-matter, requires the rightholder’s consent, given that the right of communication of works to the public should be understood, in a broad sense, as covering any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting.”

The ECJ notes that the original transmission made by RTI was intended for one audience. In turn, the transmission by VCAST was intended for another. In this respect, the subsequent VCAST transmission was made to a “new public”, which means that copyright holder permission is required under EU law.

“Accordingly, such a remote recording service cannot fall within the private copying exception,” the ECJ concludes.

The full text of the judgment can be found here.

The key ruling reads as follows:

Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, in particular Article 5(2)(b) thereof, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which permits a commercial undertaking to provide private individuals with a cloud service for the remote recording of private copies of works protected by copyright, by means of a computer system, by actively involving itself in the recording, without the rightholder’s consent.

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

AWS Media Services – Process, Store, and Monetize Cloud-Based Video

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-media-services-process-store-and-monetize-cloud-based-video/

Do you remember what web video was like in the early days? Standalone players, video no larger than a postage stamp, slow & cantankerous connections, overloaded servers, and the ever-present buffering messages were the norm less than two decades ago.

Today, thanks to technological progress and a broad array of standards, things are a lot better. Video consumers are now in control. They use devices of all shapes, sizes, and vintages to enjoy live and recorded content that is broadcast, streamed, or sent over-the-top (OTT, as they say), and expect immediate access to content that captures and then holds their attention. Meeting these expectations presents a challenge for content creators and distributors. Instead of generating video in a one-size-fits-all format, they (or their media servers) must be prepared to produce video that spans a broad range of sizes, formats, and bit rates, taking care to be ready to deal with planned or unplanned surges in demand. In the face of all of this complexity, they must backstop their content with a monetization model that supports the content and the infrastructure to deliver it.

New AWS Media Services
Today we are launching an array of broadcast-quality media services, each designed to address one or more aspects of the challenge that I outlined above. You can use them together to build a complete end-to-end video solution or you can use one or more in building-block style. In true AWS fashion, you can spend more time innovating and less time setting up and running infrastructure, leaving you ready to focus on creating, delivering, and monetizing your content. The services are all elastic, allowing you to ramp up processing power, connections, and storage and giving you the ability to handle million-user (and beyond) spikes with ease.

Here are the services (all accessible from a set of interactive consoles as well as through a comprehensive set of APIs):

AWS Elemental MediaConvert – File-based transcoding for OTT, broadcast, or archiving, with support for a long list of formats and codecs. Features include multi-channel audio, graphic overlays, closed captioning, and several DRM options.

AWS Elemental MediaLive – Live encoding to deliver video streams in real time to both televisions and multiscreen devices. Allows you to deploy highly reliable live channels in minutes, with full control over encoding parameters. It supports ad insertion, multi-channel audio, graphic overlays, and closed captioning.

AWS Elemental MediaPackage – Video origination and just-in-time packaging. Starting from a single input, produces output for multiple devices representing a long list of current and legacy formats. Supports multiple monetization models, time-shifted live streaming, ad insertion, DRM, and blackout management.

AWS Elemental MediaStore – Media-optimized storage that enables high performance and low latency applications such as live streaming, while taking advantage of the scale and durability of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

AWS Elemental MediaTailor – Monetization service that supports ad serving and server-side ad insertion, a broad range of devices, transcoding, and accurate reporting of server-side and client-side ad insertion.

Instead of listing out all of the features in the sections below, I’ve simply included as many screen shots as possible with the expectation that this will give you a better sense of the rich set of features, parameters, and settings that you get with this set of services.

AWS Elemental MediaConvert
MediaConvert allows you to transcode content that is stored in files. You can process individual files or entire media libraries, or anything in-between. You simply create a conversion job that specifies the content and the desired outputs, and submit it to MediaConvert. There’s no software to install or patch and the service scales to meet your needs without affecting turnaround time or performance.

The MediaConvert Console lets you manage Output presets, Job templates, Queues, and Jobs:

You can use a built-in system preset or you can make one of your own. You have full control over the settings when you make your own:

Jobs templates are named, and produce one or more output groups. You can add a new group to a template with a click:

When everything is ready to go, you create a job and make some final selections, then click on Create:

Each account starts with a default queue for jobs, where incoming work is processed in parallel using all processing resources available to the account. Adding queues does not add processing resources, but does cause them to be apportioned across queues. You can temporarily pause one queue in order to devote more resources to the others. You can submit jobs to paused queues and you can also cancel any that have yet to start.

Pricing for this service is based on the amount of video that you process and the features that you use.

AWS Elemental MediaLive
This service is for live encoding, and can be run 24×7. MediaLive channels are deployed on redundant resources distributed in two physically separated Availability Zones in order to provide the reliability expected by our customers in the broadcast industry. You can specify your inputs and define your channels in the MediaLive Console:

After you create an Input, you create a Channel and attach it to the Input:

You have full control over the settings for each channel:

 

AWS Elemental MediaPackage
This service lets you deliver video to many devices from a single source. It focuses on protection and just-in-time packaging, giving you the ability to provide your users with the desired content on the device of their choice. You simply create a channel to get started:

Then you add one or more endpoints. Once again, plenty of options and full control, including a startover window and a time delay:

You find the input URL, user name, and password for your channel and route your live video stream to it for packaging:

AWS Elemental MediaStore
MediaStore offers the performance, consistency, and latency required for live and on-demand media delivery. Objects are written and read into a new “temporal” tier of object storage for a limited amount of time, then move silently into S3 for long-lived durability. You simply create a storage container to group your media content:

The container is available within a minute or so:

Like S3 buckets, MediaStore containers have access policies and no limits on the number of objects or storage capacity.

MediaStore helps you to take full advantage of S3 by managing the object key names so as to maximize storage and retrieval throughput, in accord with the Request Rate and Performance Considerations.

AWS Elemental MediaTailor
This service takes care of server-side ad insertion while providing a broadcast-quality viewer experience by transcoding ad assets on the fly. Your customer’s video player asks MediaTailor for a playlist. MediaTailor, in turn, calls your Ad Decision Server and returns a playlist that references the origin server for your original video and the ads recommended by the Ad Decision Server. The video player makes all of its requests to a single endpoint in order to ensure that client-side ad-blocking is ineffective. You simply create a MediaTailor Configuration:

Context information is passed to the Ad Decision Server in the URL:

Despite the length of this post I have barely scratched the surface of the AWS Media Services. Once AWS re:Invent is in the rear view mirror I hope to do a deep dive and show you how to use each of these services.

Available Now
The entire set of AWS Media Services is available now and you can start using them today! Pricing varies by service, but is built around a pay-as-you-go model.

Jeff;

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 2

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-2/

Yesterday in Part 1 of this blog post, I showed you how to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance with an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role, an Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume, and tags that Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (Systems Manager) and Amazon Inspector use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.

Today in Steps 3 and 4, I show you how to:

  1. Take Amazon EBS snapshots using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  2. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

To catch up on Steps 1 and 2, see yesterday’s blog post.

Step 3: Take EBS snapshots using EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In this section, I show you how to use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take snapshots of your instances at specific intervals. To do this, I will show you how to:

  • Determine the schedule for EBS Snapshot Scheduler by providing you with best practices.
  • Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler by using AWS CloudFormation.
  • Tag your EC2 instances so that EBS Snapshot Scheduler backs up your instances when you want them backed up.

In addition to making sure your EC2 instances have all the available operating system patches applied on a regular schedule, you should take snapshots of the EBS storage volumes attached to your EC2 instances. Taking regular snapshots allows you to restore your data to a previous state quickly and cost effectively. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store, and snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to make regular snapshots of your EC2 instance. EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes advantage of other AWS services including CloudFormation, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Lambda to make backing up your EBS volumes simple.

Determine the schedule

As a best practice, you should back up your data frequently during the hours when your data changes the most. This reduces the amount of data you lose if you have to restore from a snapshot. For the purposes of this blog post, the data for my instances changes the most between the business hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time. During these hours, I will make snapshots hourly to minimize data loss.

In addition to backing up frequently, another best practice is to establish a strategy for retention. This will vary based on how you need to use the snapshots. If you have compliance requirements to be able to restore for auditing, your needs may be different than if you are able to detect data corruption within three hours and simply need to restore to something that limits data loss to five hours. EBS Snapshot Scheduler enables you to specify the retention period for your snapshots. For this post, I only need to keep snapshots for recent business days. To account for weekends, I will set my retention period to three days, which is down from the default of 15 days when deploying EBS Snapshot Scheduler.

Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In Step 1 of Part 1 of this post, I showed how to configure an EC2 for Windows Server 2012 R2 instance with an EBS volume. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take eight snapshots each weekday of your EC2 instance’s EBS volumes:

  1. Navigate to the EBS Snapshot Scheduler deployment page and choose Launch Solution. This takes you to the CloudFormation console in your account. The Specify an Amazon S3 template URL option is already selected and prefilled. Choose Next on the Select Template page.
  2. On the Specify Details page, retain all default parameters except for AutoSnapshotDeletion. Set AutoSnapshotDeletion to Yes to ensure that old snapshots are periodically deleted. The default retention period is 15 days (you will specify a shorter value on your instance in the next subsection).
  3. Choose Next twice to move to the Review step, and start deployment by choosing the I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources check box and then choosing Create.

Tag your EC2 instances

EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes a few minutes to deploy. While waiting for its deployment, you can start to tag your instance to define its schedule. EBS Snapshot Scheduler reads tag values and looks for four possible custom parameters in the following order:

  • <snapshot time> – Time in 24-hour format with no colon.
  • <retention days> – The number of days (a positive integer) to retain the snapshot before deletion, if set to automatically delete snapshots.
  • <time zone> – The time zone of the times specified in <snapshot time>.
  • <active day(s)>all, weekdays, or mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, and/or sun.

Because you want hourly backups on weekdays between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, you need to configure eight tags—one for each hour of the day. You will add the eight tags shown in the following table to your EC2 instance.

Tag Value
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:0900 0900;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1000 1000;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1100 1100;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1200 1200;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1300 1300;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1400 1400;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1500 1500;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1600 1600;3;utc;weekdays

Next, you will add these tags to your instance. If you want to tag multiple instances at once, you can use Tag Editor instead. To add the tags in the preceding table to your EC2 instance:

  1. Navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console and choose Tags in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose Add/Edit Tags and then choose Create Tag to add all the tags specified in the preceding table.
  3. Confirm you have added the tags by choosing Save. After adding these tags, navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console. Your EC2 instance should look similar to the following screenshot.
    Screenshot of how your EC2 instance should look in the console
  4. After waiting a couple of hours, you can see snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console.Screenshot of snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console
  5. To check if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active, you can check the CloudWatch rule that runs the Lambda function. If the clock icon shown in the following screenshot is green, the scheduler is active. If the clock icon is gray, the rule is disabled and does not run. You can enable or disable the rule by selecting it, choosing Actions, and choosing Enable or Disable. This also allows you to temporarily disable EBS Snapshot Scheduler.Screenshot of checking to see if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active
  1. You can also monitor when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule as shown in the previous screenshot and choosing Show metrics for the rule.Screenshot of monitoring when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule

If you want to restore and attach an EBS volume, see Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Step 4: Use Amazon Inspector

In this section, I show you how to you use Amazon Inspector to scan your EC2 instance for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and set up Amazon SNS notifications. To do this I will show you how to:

  • Install the Amazon Inspector agent by using EC2 Run Command.
  • Set up notifications using Amazon SNS to notify you of any findings.
  • Define an Amazon Inspector target and template to define what assessment to perform on your EC2 instance.
  • Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs to assess your EC2 instance on a regular interval.

Amazon Inspector can help you scan your EC2 instance using prebuilt rules packages, which are built and maintained by AWS. These prebuilt rules packages tell Amazon Inspector what to scan for on the EC2 instances you select. Amazon Inspector provides the following prebuilt packages for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures
  • Center for Internet Security Benchmarks
  • Runtime Behavior Analysis

In this post, I’m focused on how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances patched, backed up, and inspected for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). As a result, I will focus on how to use the CVE rules package and use your instance tags to identify the instances on which to run the CVE rules. If your EC2 instance is fully patched using Systems Manager, as described earlier, you should not have any findings with the CVE rules package. Regardless, as a best practice I recommend that you use Amazon Inspector as an additional layer for identifying any unexpected failures. This involves using Amazon CloudWatch to set up weekly Amazon Inspector scans, and configuring Amazon Inspector to notify you of any findings through SNS topics. By acting on the notifications you receive, you can respond quickly to any CVEs on any of your EC2 instances to help ensure that malware using known CVEs does not affect your EC2 instances. In a previous blog post, Eric Fitzgerald showed how to remediate Amazon Inspector security findings automatically.

Install the Amazon Inspector agent

To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use EC2 Run Command, which allows you to run any command on any of your EC2 instances that have the Systems Manager agent with an attached IAM role that allows access to Systems Manager.

  1. Choose Run Command under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. Then choose Run a command.
    Screenshot of choosing "Run a command"
  2. To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use an AWS managed and provided command document that downloads and installs the agent for you on the selected EC2 instance. Choose AmazonInspector-ManageAWSAgent. To choose the target EC2 instance where this command will be run, use the tag you previously assigned to your EC2 instance, Patch Group, with a value of Windows Servers. For this example, set the concurrent installations to 1 and tell Systems Manager to stop after 5 errors.
    Screenshot of installing the Amazon Inspector agent
  3. Retain the default values for all other settings on the Run a command page and choose Run. Back on the Run Command page, you can see if the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances.
    Screenshot showing that the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances

Set up notifications using Amazon SNS

Now that you have installed the Amazon Inspector agent, you will set up an SNS topic that will notify you of any findings after an Amazon Inspector run.

To set up an SNS topic:

  1. In the AWS Management Console, choose Simple Notification Service under Messaging in the Services menu.
  2. Choose Create topic, name your topic (only alphanumeric characters, hyphens, and underscores are allowed) and give it a display name to ensure you know what this topic does (I’ve named mine Inspector). Choose Create topic.
    "Create new topic" page
  3. To allow Amazon Inspector to publish messages to your new topic, choose Other topic actions and choose Edit topic policy.
  4. For Allow these users to publish messages to this topic and Allow these users to subscribe to this topic, choose Only these AWS users. Type the following ARN for the US East (N. Virginia) Region in which you are deploying the solution in this post: arn:aws:iam::316112463485:root. This is the ARN of Amazon Inspector itself. For the ARNs of Amazon Inspector in other AWS Regions, see Setting Up an SNS Topic for Amazon Inspector Notifications (Console). Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) uniquely identify AWS resources across all of AWS.
    Screenshot of editing the topic policy
  5. To receive notifications from Amazon Inspector, subscribe to your new topic by choosing Create subscription and adding your email address. After confirming your subscription by clicking the link in the email, the topic should display your email address as a subscriber. Later, you will configure the Amazon Inspector template to publish to this topic.
    Screenshot of subscribing to the new topic

Define an Amazon Inspector target and template

Now that you have set up the notification topic by which Amazon Inspector can notify you of findings, you can create an Amazon Inspector target and template. A target defines which EC2 instances are in scope for Amazon Inspector. A template defines which packages to run, for how long, and on which target.

To create an Amazon Inspector target:

  1. Navigate to the Amazon Inspector console and choose Get started. At the time of writing this blog post, Amazon Inspector is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
  2. For Amazon Inspector to be able to collect the necessary data from your EC2 instance, you must create an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector. Amazon Inspector can create this role for you if you choose Choose or create role and confirm the role creation by choosing Allow.
    Screenshot of creating an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector
  3. Amazon Inspector also asks you to tag your EC2 instance and install the Amazon Inspector agent. You already performed these steps in Part 1 of this post, so you can proceed by choosing Next. To define the Amazon Inspector target, choose the previously used Patch Group tag with a Value of Windows Servers. This is the same tag that you used to define the targets for patching. Then choose Next.
    Screenshot of defining the Amazon Inspector target
  4. Now, define your Amazon Inspector template, and choose a name and the package you want to run. For this post, use the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures package and choose the default duration of 1 hour. As you can see, the package has a version number, so always select the latest version of the rules package if multiple versions are available.
    Screenshot of defining an assessment template
  5. Configure Amazon Inspector to publish to your SNS topic when findings are reported. You can also choose to receive a notification of a started run, a finished run, or changes in the state of a run. For this blog post, you want to receive notifications if there are any findings. To start, choose Assessment Templates from the Amazon Inspector console and choose your newly created Amazon Inspector assessment template. Choose the icon below SNS topics (see the following screenshot).
    Screenshot of choosing an assessment template
  6. A pop-up appears in which you can choose the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you (choose Finding reported).
    Screenshot of choosing the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you

Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs

The last step in using Amazon Inspector to assess for CVEs is to schedule the Amazon Inspector template to run using Amazon CloudWatch Events. This will make sure that Amazon Inspector assesses your EC2 instance on a regular basis. To do this, you need the Amazon Inspector template ARN, which you can find under Assessment templates in the Amazon Inspector console. CloudWatch Events can run your Amazon Inspector assessment at an interval you define using a Cron-based schedule. Cron is a well-known scheduling agent that is widely used on UNIX-like operating systems and uses the following syntax for CloudWatch Events.

Image of Cron schedule

All scheduled events use a UTC time zone, and the minimum precision for schedules is one minute. For more information about scheduling CloudWatch Events, see Schedule Expressions for Rules.

To create the CloudWatch Events rule:

  1. Navigate to the CloudWatch console, choose Events, and choose Create rule.
    Screenshot of starting to create a rule in the CloudWatch Events console
  2. On the next page, specify if you want to invoke your rule based on an event pattern or a schedule. For this blog post, you will select a schedule based on a Cron expression.
  3. You can schedule the Amazon Inspector assessment any time you want using the Cron expression, or you can use the Cron expression I used in the following screenshot, which will run the Amazon Inspector assessment every Sunday at 10:00 P.M. GMT.
    Screenshot of scheduling an Amazon Inspector assessment with a Cron expression
  4. Choose Add target and choose Inspector assessment template from the drop-down menu. Paste the ARN of the Amazon Inspector template you previously created in the Amazon Inspector console in the Assessment template box and choose Create a new role for this specific resource. This new role is necessary so that CloudWatch Events has the necessary permissions to start the Amazon Inspector assessment. CloudWatch Events will automatically create the new role and grant the minimum set of permissions needed to run the Amazon Inspector assessment. To proceed, choose Configure details.
    Screenshot of adding a target
  5. Next, give your rule a name and a description. I suggest using a name that describes what the rule does, as shown in the following screenshot.
  6. Finish the wizard by choosing Create rule. The rule should appear in the Events – Rules section of the CloudWatch console.
    Screenshot of completing the creation of the rule
  7. To confirm your CloudWatch Events rule works, wait for the next time your CloudWatch Events rule is scheduled to run. For testing purposes, you can choose your CloudWatch Events rule and choose Edit to change the schedule to run it sooner than scheduled.
    Screenshot of confirming the CloudWatch Events rule works
  8. Now navigate to the Amazon Inspector console to confirm the launch of your first assessment run. The Start time column shows you the time each assessment started and the Status column the status of your assessment. In the following screenshot, you can see Amazon Inspector is busy Collecting data from the selected assessment targets.
    Screenshot of confirming the launch of the first assessment run

You have concluded the last step of this blog post by setting up a regular scan of your EC2 instance with Amazon Inspector and a notification that will let you know if your EC2 instance is vulnerable to any known CVEs. In a previous Security Blog post, Eric Fitzgerald explained How to Remediate Amazon Inspector Security Findings Automatically. Although that blog post is for Linux-based EC2 instances, the post shows that you can learn about Amazon Inspector findings in other ways than email alerts.

Conclusion

In this two-part blog post, I showed how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances up to date with patching, how to back up your instances with snapshots, and how to monitor your instances for CVEs. Collectively these measures help to protect your instances against common attack vectors that attempt to exploit known vulnerabilities. In Part 1, I showed how to configure your EC2 instances to make it easy to use Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also showed how to use Systems Manager to schedule automatic patches to keep your instances current in a timely fashion. In Part 2, I showed you how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

If you have comments about today’s or yesterday’s post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

“The Commercial Usenet Stinks on All Sides,” Anti-Piracy Boss Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-commercial-usenet-stinks-on-all-sides-anti-piracy-boss-says-171118/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted pirates of all shapes and sizes over the past several years.

It’s also one of the few groups keeping a close eye on Usenet piracy. Although Usenet and associated piracy are a few decades old already and relatively old-fashioned, the area still has millions of frequent users. This hasn’t escaped the attention of law enforcement.

Last week police in Germany launched one of the largest anti-piracy operations in recent history. Houses of dozens of suspects connected to Usenet forums were searched, with at least 1,000 gigabytes of data and numerous computers seized for evidence.

In their efforts, German authorities received help from international colleagues in the Netherlands, Spain, San Marino, Switzerland and Canada. Rightfully so, according to BREIN boss Tim Kuik, who describes Usenet as a refuge for pirates.

“Usenet was originally for text only. People were able to ask questions and exchange information via newsgroups. After it became possible to store video and music as Usenet text messages, it became a refuge for illegal copies of everything. That’s where the revenue model is based on today,” Kuik says.

BREIN states that uploaders, Usenet forums, and Usenet resellers all work in tandem. Resellers provide free accounts to popular uploaders, for example, which generates more traffic and demand for subscriptions. That’s how resellers and providers earn their money.

The same resellers also advertise on popular Usenet forums where links to pirated files are shared, suggesting that they specifically target these users. For example, one of the resellers targeted by BREIN in the past, was sponsoring one of the sites that were raided last week, BREIN notes.

Last year BREIN signed settlements with several Usenet uploaders. This was in part facilitated by a court order, directing Usenet provider Eweka to identify a former subscriber who supposedly shared infringing material.

Following this verdict, several Dutch Usenet servers were taken over by a San Marino company. But, according to BREIN this company can also be ordered to share customer information if needed.

“It is not unthinkable that this construction has been called into existence by Usenet companies who find themselves in hot water,” Kuik says.

According to BREIN it’s clear. Large parts of Usenet have turned into a playground for pirates and people who profit from copyright infringement. This all happens while the legitimate rightsholders don’t see a penny.

“For a long time, there’s been a certain smell to the commercial Usenet,” Kuik says. “It’s stinking on all sides.”

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

MPAA Warns Australia Not to ‘Mess’ With Fair Use and Geo-Blocking

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-warns-australia-not-mess-with-fair-use-and-geo-blocking-171107/

Last year, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission published a Draft Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, recommending various amendments to local copyright law.

The Commission suggested allowing the use of VPNs and similar technologies to enable consumers to bypass restrictive geo-blocking. It also tabled proposals to introduce fair use exceptions and to expand safe harbors for online services.

Two months ago the Government responded to these proposals. It promised to expand the safe harbor protections and announced a consultation on fair use, describing the current fair dealing exceptions as restrictive. The Government also noted that circumvention of geo-blocks may be warranted, in some cases.

While the copyright reform plans have been welcomed with wide support from the public and companies such as Google and Wikipedia, there’s also plenty of opposition. From Hollywood, for example, which fears that the changes will set back Australia’s progress to combat piracy.

A few days ago, the MPAA submitted its 2018 list of foreign trade barriers to the U.S. Government. The document in question highlights key copyright challenges in the most crucial markets, Australia included. According to the movie industry group, the tabled proposals are problematic.

“If the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, they could result in legislative changes that undermine the current balance of protection in Australia. These changes could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPAA writes.

“Of concern is a proposal to introduce a vague and undefined ‘fair use’ exception unmoored from decades of precedent in the United States. Another proposal would expand Australia’s safe harbor regime in piecemeal fashion,” the group adds.

The fair use opposition is noteworthy since the Australian proposal is largely modeled after US law. The MPAA’s comment suggests, however, that this can’t be easily applied to another country, as that would lack the legal finetuning that’s been established in dozens of court cases.

That the MPAA isn’t happy with the expansion of safe harbor protections for online service providers is no surprise. In recent years, copyright holders have often complained that these protections hinder progress on the anti-piracy front, as companies such as Google and Facebook have no incentive to proactively police copyright infringement.

Moving on, the movie industry group highlights that circumvention of geo-blocking for copyrighted content and other protection measures are also controversial topics for Hollywood.

“Still another would allow circumvention of geo-blocking and other technological protection measures. Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments.

“Local policymakers should take care to ensure that Australia’s vibrant market is not inadvertently impaired and that any proposed relaxation of copyright and related rights protection does not violate Australia’s international obligations,” the MPAA adds.

Finally, while it was not included in the commission’s recommendations, the MPAA stresses once again that Australia’s anti-camcording laws are not up to par.

Although several camming pirates have been caught in recent years, the punishments don’t meet Hollywood’s standards. For example, in 2012 a man connected to a notorious release group was convicted for illicitly recording 14 audio captures, for which he received an AUS$2,000 fine.

“Australia should adopt anticamcording legislation. While illegal copying is a violation of the Copyright Act, more meaningful deterrent penalties are required,” the MPAA writes. “Such low penalties fail to reflect the devastating impact that this crime has on the film industry.”

The last suggestion has been in the MPAA’s recommendations for several years already, but the group is persistent.

In closing, the MPAA asks the US Government to keep these and other issues in focus during future trade negotiations and policy discussions with Australia and other countries, while thanking it for the critical assistance Hollywood has received over the years.

MPAA’s full submission, which includes many of the recommendations that were made in previous years, is available here (pdf).

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