В изпълнение на Търговския закон от 1974 г. американското правителство публикува доклад – т.нар. Доклад 301 – за наличието на адекватна и ефективна защита на правата на интелектуалната собственост по света – в държавите-търговски партньори на САЩ.
За миналата година 11 държави са в т.нар. Priority Watch List, между тях Китай, Индия, Русия, Украйна, и 23 – в Watch List, между тях България. Тази година България е извадена от Watch List – с обяснението на стр. 28, че България през март 2018 г. е приела изменения на закона за авторското право, участвала е в операция ЕВРОПОЛ срещу голяма пиратска мрежа в региона, отделила е допълнителни ресурси на звеното за разследване на онлайн пиратството, а Главна прокуратура се е ангажирала да предприеме допълнителни стъпки за подобряване на прилагането. Според доклада проблемите, свързани с прилагането на законодателството, продължават да се отнасят до високите нива на онлайн пиратството, недостатъчното съдебно преследване, недостатъчно възспиращото действие на наказателните санкции.
Министерството на външните работи е отбелязало новия доклад 301 с отделно съобщение, в което се казва, че “в резултат на дългогодишните усилия на посолството на Република България във Вашингтон и българските институции страната ни вече е изключена от т.нар. „черен списък“ за защита на интелектуалната собственост на САЩ.”
Няма съмнение, че напускането на Watch List е изисквало усилия. Все пак съобщението е можело да бъде по-прецизно по отношение на т.нар. в съобщението черен списък, защото – както се вижда, има черен, има и по-черен.
Критично отношение към доклада изразява EFF: “Някои доклади и публикации от американските правителствени агенции имат репутация на задълбочени, актуални и основани на факти[…] Специален доклад 301, чието последно годишно издание е публикуванo миналата седмица, не е такъв.” Според EFF докладът разкрива законите, политиките и практиките, които не осигуряват адекватна и ефективна защита на интелектуалната собственост, но няма последователна методология за оценка кое е адекватно и ефективно.
Bitcoin was a neat idea. No, really! Decentralization is cool. Overhauling our terrible financial infrastructure is cool. Hash functions are cool.
Unfortunately, it seems to have devolved into mostly a get-rich-quick scheme for nerds, and by nearly any measure it’s turning into a spectacular catastrophe. Its “success” is measured in how much a bitcoin is worth in US dollars, which is pretty close to an admission from its own investors that its only value is in converting back to “real” money — all while that same “success” is making it less useful as a distinct currency.
Blah, blah, everyone already knows this.
What concerns me slightly more is the gold rush hype cycle, which is putting cryptocurrency and “blockchain” in the news and lending it all legitimacy. People have raked in millions of dollars on ICOs of novel coins I’ve never heard mentioned again. (Note: again, that value is measured in dollars.) Most likely, none of the investors will see any return whatsoever on that money. They can’t, really, unless a coin actually takes off as a currency, and that seems at odds with speculative investing since everyone either wants to hoard or ditch their coins. When the coins have no value themselves, the money can only come from other investors, and eventually the hype winds down and you run out of other investors.
I fear this will hurt a lot of people before it’s over, so I’d like for it to be over as soon as possible.
That said, the hype itself has gotten way out of hand too. First it was the obsession with “blockchain” like it’s a revolutionary technology, but hey, Git is a fucking blockchain. The novel part is the way it handles distributed consensus (which in Git is basically left for you to figure out), and that’s uniquely important to currency because you want to be pretty sure that money doesn’t get duplicated or lost when moved around.
But now we have startups trying to use blockchains for website backends and file storage and who knows what else? Why? What advantage does this have? When you say “blockchain”, I hear “single Git repository” — so when you say “email on the blockchain”, I have an aneurysm.
Bitcoin seems to have sparked imagination in large part because it’s decentralized, but I’d argue it’s actually a pretty bad example of a decentralized network, since people keep forking it. The ability to fork is a feature, sure, but the trouble here is that the Bitcoin family has no notion of federation — there is one canonical Bitcoin ledger and it has no notion of communication with any other. That’s what you want for currency, not necessarily other applications. (Bitcoin also incentivizesfrivolous forking by giving the creator an initial pile of coins to keep and sell.)
And federation is much more interesting than decentralization! Federation gives us email and the web. Federation means I can set up my own instance with my own rules and still be able to meaningfully communicate with the rest of the network. Federation has some amount of tolerance for changes to the protocol, so such changes are more flexible and rely more heavily on consensus.
Federation is fantastic, and it feels like a massive tragedy that this rekindled interest in decentralization is mostly focused on peer-to-peer networks, which do little to address our current problems with centralized platforms.
Again, the tech is cool and all, but the marketing hype is getting way out of hand.
Maybe what I really want from 2018 is less marketing?
For one, I’ve seen a huge uptick in uncritically referring to any software that creates or classifies creative work as “AI”. Can we… can we not. It’s not AI. Yes, yes, nerds, I don’t care about the hair-splitting about the nature of intelligence — you know that when we hear “AI” we think of a human-like self-aware intelligence. But we’re applying it to stuff like a weird dog generator. Or to whatever neural network a website threw into production this week.
And this is dangerously misleading — we already had massive tech companies scapegoating The Algorithm™ for the poor behavior of their software, and now we’re talking about those algorithms as though they were self-aware, untouchable, untameable, unknowable entities of pure chaos whose decisions we are arbitrarily bound to. Ancient, powerful gods who exist just outside human comprehension or law.
It’s weird to see this stuff appear in consumer products so quickly, too. It feels quick, anyway. The latest iPhone can unlock via facial recognition, right? I’m sure a lot of effort was put into ensuring that the same person’s face would always be recognized… but how confident are we that other faces won’t be recognized? I admit I don’t follow all this super closely, so I may be imagining a non-problem, but I do know that humans are remarkably bad at checking for negative cases.
Hell, take the recurring problem of major platforms like Twitter and YouTube classifying anything mentioning “bisexual” as pornographic — because the word is also used as a porn genre, and someone threw a list of porn terms into a filter without thinking too hard about it. That’s just a word list, a fairly simple thing that any human can review; but suddenly we’re confident in opaque networks of inferred details?
I don’t know. “Traditional” classification and generation are much more comforting, since they’re a set of fairly abstract rules that can be examined and followed. Machine learning, as I understand it, is less about rules and much more about pattern-matching; it’s built out of the fingerprints of the stuff it’s trained on. Surely that’s just begging for tons of edge cases. They’re practically made of edge cases.
I’m reminded of a point I saw made a few days ago on Twitter, something I’d never thought about but should have. TurnItIn is a service for universities that checks whether students’ papers match any others, in order to detect cheating. But this is a paid service, one that fundamentally hinges on its corpus: a large collection of existing student papers. So students pay money to attend school, where they’re required to let their work be given to a third-party company, which then profits off of it? What kind of a goofy business model is this?
And my thoughts turn to machine learning, which is fundamentally different from an algorithm you can simply copy from a paper, because it’s all about the training data. And to get good results, you need a lot of training data. Where is that all coming from? How many for-profit companies are setting a neural network loose on the web — on millions of people’s work — and then turning around and selling the result as a product?
This is really a question of how intellectual property works in the internet era, and it continues our proud decades-long tradition of just kinda doing whatever we want without thinking about it too much. Nothing if not consistent.
A bit tougher, since computers are pretty alright now and everything continues to chug along. Maybe we should just quit while we’re ahead. There’s some real pie-in-the-sky stuff that would be nice, but it certainly won’t happen within a year, and may never happen except in some horrific Algorithmic™ form designed by people that don’t know anything about the problem space and only works 60% of the time but is treated as though it were bulletproof.
The giants are getting more giant. Maybe too giant? Granted, it could be much worse than Google and Amazon — it could be Apple!
Amazon has its own delivery service and brick-and-mortar stores now, as well as providing the plumbing for vast amounts of the web. They’re not doing anything particularly outrageous, but they kind of loom.
Ad company Google just put ad blocking in its majority-share browser — albeit for the ambiguously-noble goal of only blocking obnoxious ads so that people will be less inclined to install a blanket ad blocker.
Twitter is kind of a nightmare but no one wants to leave. I keep trying to use Mastodon as well, but I always forget about it after a day, whoops.
Facebook sounds like a total nightmare but no one wants to leave that either, because normies don’t use anything else, which is itself direly concerning.
IRC is rapidly bleeding mindshare to Slack and Discord, both of which are far better at the things IRC sadly never tried to do and absolutely terrible at the exact things IRC excels at.
The problem is the same as ever: there’s no incentive to interoperate. There’s no fundamental technical reason why Twitter and Tumblr and MySpace and Facebook can’t intermingle their posts; they just don’t, because why would they bother? It’s extra work that makes it easier for people to not use your ecosystem.
I don’t know what can be done about that, except that hope for a really big player to decide to play nice out of the kindness of their heart. The really big federated success stories — say, the web — mostly won out because they came along first. At this point, how does a federated social network take over? I don’t know.
I… don’t really have a solid grasp on what’s happening in tech socially at the moment. I’ve drifted a bit away from the industry part, which is where that all tends to come up. I have the vague sense that things are improving, but that might just be because the Rust community is the one I hear the most about, and it puts a lot of effort into being inclusive and welcoming.
So… more projects should be like Rust? Do whatever Rust is doing? And not so much what Linus is doing.
I haven’t heard this brought up much lately, but it would still be nice to see. The Bay Area runs on open source and is raking in zillions of dollars on its back; pump some of that cash back into the ecosystem, somehow.
I’ve seen a couple open source projects on Patreon, which is fantastic, but feels like a very small solution given how much money is flowing through the commercial tech industry.
One might wonder where the money to host a website comes from, then? I don’t know. Maybe we should loop this in with the above thing and find a more informal way to pay people for the stuff they make when we find it useful, without the financial and cognitive overhead of A Transaction or Giving Someone My Damn Credit Card Number. You know, something like Bitco— ah, fuck.
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“Are you crazy?” “Why would you do that?!” “You shouldn’t share that!”
These are just a few of the common questions and comments we heard after posting some of the information we have shared over the years. So was it crazy? Misguided? Should you do it?
With that background I’d like to dig into the decision to become so transparent, from releasing stats on hard drive failures, to storage pod specs, to publishing our cloud storage costs, and open sourcing the Reed-Solomon code. What was the thought process behind becoming so transparent when most companies work so hard to hide their inner workings, especially information such as the Storage Pod specs that would normally be considered a proprietary advantage? Most importantly I’d like to explore the positives and negatives of being so transparent.
Sharing Intellectual Property
The first “transparency” that garnered a flurry of “why would you share that?!” came as a result of us deciding to open source our Storage Pod design: publishing the specs, parts, prices, and how to build it yourself. The Storage Pod was a key component of our infrastructure, gave us a cost (and thus competitive) advantage, took significant effort to develop, and had a fair bit of intellectual property: the “IP.”
The negatives of sharing this are obvious: it allows our competitors to use the design to reduce our cost advantage, and it gives away the IP, which could be patentable or have value as a trade secret.
The positives were certainly less obvious, and at the time we couldn’t have guessed how massive they would be.
We wrestled with the decision: prospective users and others online didn’t believe we could offer our service for such a low price, thinking that we would burn through some cash hoard and then go out of business. We wanted to reassure them, but how?
This is how our response evolved:
We’ve built a lower cost storage platform.
But why would anyone believe us?
Because, we’ve designed our own servers and they’re less expensive.
But why would anyone believe they were so low cost and efficient?
Because here’s how much they cost versus others.
But why would anyone believe they cost that little and still enabled us to efficiently store data?
Because here are all the components they’re made of, this is how to build them, and this is how they work.
Ok, you can’t argue with that.
Great — so that would reassure people. But should we do this? Is it worth it?
This was 2009, we were a tiny company of seven people working from our co-founder’s one-bedroom apartment. We decided that the risk of not having potential customers trust us was more impactful than the risk of our competitors possibly deciding to use our server architecture. The former might kill the company in short order; the latter might make it harder for us to compete in the future. Moreover, we figured that most competitors were established on their own platforms and were unlikely to switch to ours, even if it were better.
Takeaway: Build your brand today. There are no assurances you will make it to tomorrow if you can’t make people believe in you today.
A Sharing Success Story — The Backblaze Storage Pod
So with that, we decided to publish everything about the Storage Pod. As for deciding to actually open source it? That was a ‘thank you’ to the open source community upon whose shoulders we stood as we used software such as Linux, Tomcat, etc.
With eight years of hindsight, here’s what happened:
As best as I can tell, none of our direct competitors ever used our Storage Pod design, opting instead to continue paying more for commercial solutions.
Hundreds of press articles have been written about Backblaze as a direct result of sharing the Storage Pod design.
Millions of people have read press articles or our blog posts about the Storage Pods.
Backblaze was established as a storage tech thought leader, and a resource for those looking for information in the space.
Our blog became viewed as a resource, not a corporate mouthpiece.
Recruiting has been made easier through the awareness of Backblaze, the appreciation for us taking on challenging tech problems in interesting ways, and for our openness.
Sourcing for our Storage Pods has become easier because we can point potential vendors to our blog posts and say, “here’s what we need.”
And those are just the direct benefits for us. One of the things that warms my heart is that doing this has helped others:
Several companies have started selling servers based on our Storage Pod designs.
Netflix credits Backblaze with being the inspiration behind their CDN servers.
Many schools, labs, and others have shared that they’ve been able to do what they didn’t think was possible because using our Storage Pod designs provided lower-cost storage.
And I want to believe that in general we pushed forward the development of low-cost storage servers in the industry.
So overall, the decision on being transparent and sharing our Storage Pod designs was a clear win.
Takeaway: Never underestimate the value of goodwill. It can help build new markets that fuel your future growth and create new ecosystems.
Sharing An “Almost Acquisition”
Acquisition announcements are par for the course. No company, however, talks about the acquisition that fell through. If rumors appear in the press, the company’s response is always, “no comment.” But in 2010, when Backblaze was almost, but not acquired, we wrote about it in detail. Crazy?
The negatives of sharing this are slightly less obvious, but the two issues most people worried about were, 1) the fact that the company could be acquired would spook customers, and 2) the fact that it wasn’t would signal to potential acquirers that something was wrong.
So, why share this at all? No one was asking “did you almost get acquired?”
First, we had established a culture of transparency and this was a significant event that occurred for us, thus we defaulted to assuming we would share. Second, we learned that acquisitions fall through all the time, not just during the early fishing stage, but even after term sheets are signed, diligence is done, and all the paperwork is complete. I felt we had learned some things about the process that would be valuable to others that were going through it.
As it turned out, we received emails from startup founders saying they saved the post for the future, and from lawyers, VCs, and advisors saying they shared them with their portfolio companies. Among the most touching emails I received was from a founder who said that after an acquisition fell through she felt so alone that she became incredibly depressed, and that reading our post helped her see that this happens and that things could be OK after. Being transparent about almost getting acquired was worth it just to help that one founder.
And what about the concerns? As for spooking customers, maybe some were — but our sign-ups went up, not down, afterward. Any company can be acquired, and many of the world’s largest have been. That we were being both thoughtful about where to go with it, and open about it, I believe gave customers a sense that we would do the right thing if it happened. And as for signaling to potential acquirers? The ones I’ve spoken with all knew this happens regularly enough that it’s not a factor.
Takeaway: Being open and transparent is also a form of giving back to others.
Sharing Strategic Data
For years people have been desperate to know how reliable are hard drives. They could go to Amazon for individual reviews, but someone saying “this drive died for me” doesn’t provide statistical insight. Google published a study that showed annualized drive failure rates, but didn’t break down the results by manufacturer or model. Since Backblaze has deployed about 100,000 hard drives to store customer data, we have been able to collect a wealth of data on the reliability of the drives by make, model, and size. Was Backblaze the only one with this data? Of course not — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and any other cloud-scale storage provider tracked it. Yet none would publish. Should Backblaze?
Again, starting with the main negatives: 1) sharing which drives we liked could increase demand for them, thus reducing availability or increasing prices, and 2) publishing the data might make the drive vendors unhappy with us, thereby making it difficult for us to buy drives.
But we felt that the largest drive purchasers (Amazon, Google, etc.) already had their own stats and would buy the drives they chose, and if individuals or smaller companies used our stats, they wouldn’t sufficiently move the overall market demand. Also, we hoped that the drive companies would see that we were being fair in our analysis and, if anything, would leverage our data to make drives even better.
Again, publishing the data resulted in tremendous value for Backblaze, with millions of people having read the analysis that we put out quarterly. Also, becoming known as the place to go for drive reliability information is a natural fit with being a backup and storage provider. In addition, in a twist from many people’s expectations, some of the drive companies actually started working closer with us, seeing that we could be a good source of data for them as feedback. We’ve also seen many individuals and companies make more data-based decisions on which drives to buy, and researchers have used the data for a variety of analyses.
Takeaway: Being open and transparent is rarely as risky as it seems.
Sharing Revenue (And Other Metrics)
Journalists always want to publish company revenue and other metrics, and private companies always shy away from sharing. For a long time we did, too. Then, we opened up about that, as well.
The negatives of sharing these numbers are: 1) external parties may otherwise perceive you’re doing better than you are, 2) if you share numbers often, you may show that growth has slowed or worse, 3) it gives your competitors info to compare their own business too.
We decided that, while some may have perceived we were bigger, our scale was plenty significant. Since we choose what we share and when, it’s up to us whether to disclose at any point. And if our competitors compare, what will they actually change that would affect us?
I did wait to share revenue until I felt I had the right person to write about it. At one point a journalist said she wouldn’t write about us unless I disclosed revenue. I suggested we had a lot to offer for the story, but didn’t want to share revenue yet. She refused to budge and I walked away from the article. Several year later, I reached out to a journalist who had covered Backblaze before and I felt understood our business and offered to share revenue with him. He wrote a deep-dive about the company, with revenue being one of the components of the story.
Sharing these metrics showed that we were at scale and running a real business, one with positive unit economics and margins, but not one where we were gouging customers.
Takeaway: Being open with the press about items typically not shared can be uncomfortable, but the press can amplify your story.
Should You Share?
For Backblaze, I believe the results of transparency have been staggering. However, it’s not for everyone. Apple has, clearly, been wildly successful taking secrecy to the extreme. In their case, early disclosure combined with the long cycle of hardware releases could significantly impact sales of current products.
“For Backblaze, I believe the results of transparency have been staggering.” — Gleb Budman
I will argue, however, that for most startups transparency wins. Most startups need to establish credibility and trust, build awareness and a fan base, show that they understand what their customers need and be useful to them, and show the soul and passion behind the company. Some startup companies try to buy these virtues with investor money, and sometimes amplifying your brand via paid marketing helps. But, authentic transparency can build awareness and trust not only less expensively, but more deeply than money can buy.
Backblaze was open from the beginning. With no outside investors, as founders we were able to express ourselves and make our decisions. And it’s easier to be a company that shares if you do it from the start, but for any company, here are a few suggestions:
Ask about sharing: If something significant happens — good or bad — ask “should we share this?” If you made a tough decision, ask “should we share the thinking behind the decision and why it was tough?”
Default to yes: It’s often scary to share, but look for the reasons to say ‘yes,’ not the reasons to say ‘no.’ That doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes decide not to, but make that the high bar.
Minimize reviews: Press releases tend to be sanitized and boring because they’ve been endlessly wordsmithed by committee. Establish the few things you don’t want shared, but minimize the number of people that have to see anything else before it can go out. Teach, then trust.
Engage: Sharing will result in comments on your blog, social, articles, etc. Reply to people’s questions and engage. It’ll make the readers more engaged and give you a better understanding of what they’re looking for.
Accept mistakes: Things will become public that aren’t perfectly sanitized. Accept that and don’t punish people for oversharing.
Building a culture of a company that is open to sharing takes time, but continuous practice will build that, and over time the company will navigate its voice and approach to sharing.
Now that you can reserve seating in AWS re:Invent 2017 breakout sessions, workshops, chalk talks, and other events, the time is right to review the list of introductory, advanced, and expert content being offered this year. To learn more about breakout content types and levels, see Breakout Content.
SID202 – Deep dive about how Capital One automates the delivery of directory services across AWS accounts Traditional solutions for using Microsoft Active Directory across on-premises and AWS Cloud Windows workloads can require complex networking or syncing identities across multiple systems. AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory, also known as AWS Managed AD, offers you actual Microsoft Active Directory in the AWS Cloud as a managed service. In this session, you will learn how Capital One uses AWS Managed AD to provide highly available authentication and authorization services for its Windows workloads, such as Amazon RDS for SQL Server.
SID205 – Building the Largest Repo for Serverless Compliance-as-Code When you use the cloud to enable speed and agility, how do you know if you’ve done it correctly? We are on a mission to help builders follow industry best practices within security guardrails by creating the largest compliance-as-code repository, available to all. Compliance-as-code is the idea to translate best practices, guardrails, policies, and standards into codified unit testing. Apply this to your AWS environment to provide insights about what can or must be improved. Learn why compliance-as-code matters to gain speed (by getting developers, architects, and security pros on the same page), how it is currently used (demo), and how to start using it or being part of building it.
SID206 – Best Practices for Managing Security Operation on AWS To help prevent unexpected access to your AWS resources, it is critical to maintain strong identity and access policies and track, detect, and react to changes. In this session, you will learn how to use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control access to AWS resources and integrate your existing authentication system with IAM. We will cover how to deploy and control AWS infrastructure using code templates, including change management policies with AWS CloudFormation.
SID207 – Feedback Security in the Cloud Like many security teams, Riot has been challenged by new paradigms that came with the move to the cloud. We discuss how our security team has developed a security culture based on feedback and self-service to best thrive in the cloud. We detail how the team assessed the security gaps and challenges in our move to AWS, and then describe how the team works within Riot’s unique feedback culture.
SID208 – Less (Privilege) Is More: Getting Least Privilege Right in AWS AWS services are designed to enable control through AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Join us in this chalk talk to learn how to apply these toward the security principal of least privilege for applications and data and how to practically integrate them in your security operations.
SID209 – Designing and Deploying an AWS Account Factory AWS customers start off with one AWS account, but quickly realize the benefits of having multiple AWS accounts. A common learning curve for customers is how to securely baseline and set up new accounts at scale. This talk helps you understand how to use AWS Organizations, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), AWS CloudFormation, and other tools to baseline new accounts, set them up for federation, and make a secure and repeatable account factory to create new AWS accounts. Walk away with demos and tools to use in your own environment.
SID210 – A CISO’s Journey at Vonage: Achieving Unified Security at Scale Making sense of the risks of IT deployments that sit in hybrid environments and span multiple countries is a major challenge. When you add in multiple toolsets and global compliance requirements, including GDPR, it can get overwhelming. Listen to Vonage’s Chief Information Security Officer, Johan Hybinette, share his experiences tackling these challenges.
SID212 – Maximizing Your Move to AWS – Five Key Lessons from Vanguard and Cloud Technology Partners CTP’s Robert Christiansen and Mike Kavis describe how to maximize the value of your AWS initiative. From building a Minimum Viable Cloud to establishing a cloud robust security and compliance posture, we walk through key client success stories and lessons learned. We also explore how CTP has helped Vanguard, the leading provider of investor communications and technology, take advantage of AWS to delight customers, drive new revenue streams, and transform their business.
SID213 – Managing Regulator Expectations – Lessons Learned on Positioning AWS Services from an Audit Perspective Cloud migration in highly regulated industries can stall without a solid understanding of how (and when) to address regulatory expectations. This session provides a guide to explaining the aspects of AWS services that are most frequently the subject of an internal or regulatory audit. Because regulatory agencies and internal auditors might not share a common understanding of the cloud, this session is designed to help you to help them, regardless of their level of technical fluency.
SID214 – Best Security Practices in the Intelligence Community Executives from the Intelligence community discuss cloud security best practices in a field where security is imperative to operations. CIA security cloud chief John Nicely and NGA security cloud chief Scot Kaplan share success stories of migrating mass data to the cloud from a security perspective. Hear how they migrated their IT portfolios while managing their organizations’ unique blend of constraints, budget issues, politics, culture, and security pressures. Learn how these institutions overcame barriers to migration, and ask these panelists what actions you can take to better prepare yourself for the journey of mass migration to the cloud.
SID216 – Defending Diverse Applications Against Common Threats In this session, you learn how to adapt application defenses and operational responses based on your unique requirements. You also hear directly from customers about how they architected their applications on AWS to protect their applications. There are many ways to build secure, high-availability applications in the cloud. Services such as Amazon API Gateway, Amazon VPC, ALB, ELB, and Amazon EC2 are the basic building blocks that enable you to address a wide range of use cases. Best practices for defending your applications against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, exploitation attempts, and bad bots can vary with your choices in architecture.
SID301 – Using AWS Lambda as a Security Team Operating a security practice on AWS brings many new challenges that haven’t been faced in data center environments. The dynamic nature of infrastructure, the relationship between development team members and their applications, and the architecture paradigms have all changed as a result of building software on top of AWS. In this session, learn how your security team can leverage AWS Lambda as a tool to monitor, audit, and enforce your security policies within an AWS environment.
SID302 – Force Multiply Your Security Team with Automation and Alexa Adversaries automate. Who says the good guys can’t as well? By combining AWS offerings like AWS CloudTrail, Amazon Cloudwatch, AWS Config, and AWS Lambda with the power of Amazon Alexa, you can do more security tasks faster, with fewer resources. Force multiplying your security team is all about automation! Last year, we showed off penetration testing at the push of an (AWS IoT) button, and surprise-previewed how to ask Alexa to run Inspector as-needed. Want to see other ways to ask Alexa to be your cloud security sidekick? We have crazy new demos at the ready to show security geeks how to sling security automation solutions for their AWS environments (and impress and help your boss, too).
SID303 – How You Can Use AWS’s Identity Services to be Successful on Your AWS Cloud Journey Every journey to the AWS Cloud is unique. Some customers are migrating existing applications, while others are building new applications using cloud-native services. Along each of these journeys, identity and access management helps customers protect their applications and resources. In this session, you will learn how AWS’s identity services provide you a secure, flexible, and easy solution for managing identities and access on the AWS Cloud. With AWS’’s Identity Services, you do not have to adapt to AWS. Instead, you have a choice of services designed to meet you anywhere along your journey to the AWS Cloud. Every journey to the AWS Cloud is unique. Some customers are migrating existing applications, while others are building new applications using cloud-native services.
SID304 – SecOps 2021 Today: Using AWS Services to Deliver SecOps This talk dives deep on how to build end-to-end security capabilities using AWS. Our goal is orchestrating AWS Security services with other AWS building blocks to deliver enhanced security. We cover working with AWS CloudWatch Events as a queueing mechanism for processing security events, using Amazon DynamoDB to provide a stateful layer to provide tailored response to events and other ancillary functions, using DynamoDB as an attack signature engine, and the use of analytics to derive tailored signatures for detection with AWS Lambda.
SID306 – How Chick-fil-A Embraces DevSecOps on AWS As Chick-fil-A became a cloud-first organization, their security team didn’t want to become the bottleneck for agility. But the security team also wanted to raise the bar for their security posture on AWS. Robert Davis, security architect at Chick-fil-A, provides an overview about how he and his team recognized that writing code was the best way for their security policies to scale across the many AWS accounts that Chick-fil-A operates.
SID307 – Serverless for Security Officers: Paradigm Walkthrough and Comprehensive Security Best Practices For security practitioners, serverless represents a context switch from the familiar servers and networks to a decentralized set of code snippets and AWS platform constructs. This new ecosystem also represents new operational teams, data flows, security tooling, and faster-then-ever change velocity. In this talk, we perform live demos and provide code samples for a wide array of security best practices aligned to industry standards such as NIST 800-53 and ISO 27001.
SID308 – Multi-Account Strategies We will explore a multi-account architecture and how to approach the design/thought process around it. This chalk talk will allow attendees to dive deep into the topic and discuss the nuances of the architecture as well as provide feedback around the approach.
SID309 – Credentials, Credentials, Credentials, Oh My! For new and experienced customers alike, understanding the various credential forms and exchange mechanisms within AWS can be a daunting exercise. In this chalk talk, we clear up the confusion by performing a cartography exercise. We visually depict the right source credentials (for example, enterprise user name and password, IAM keys, AWS STS tokens, and so on) and transformation mechanisms (for example, AssumeRole and so on) to use depending on what you’re trying to do and where you’re coming from.
SID310 – Moving from the Shadows to the Throne What do you do when leadership embraces what was called “shadow IT” as the new path forward? How do you onboard new accounts while simultaneously pushing policy to secure all existing accounts? This session walks through Cisco’s journey consolidating over 700 existing accounts in the Cisco organization, while building and applying Cisco’s new cloud policies.
SID311 – Designing Security and Governance Across a Multi-Account Strategy When organizations plan their journey to cloud adoption at scale, they quickly encounter questions such as: How many accounts do we need? How do we share resources? How do we integrate with existing identity solutions? In this workshop, we present best practices and give you the hands-on opportunity to test and develop best practices. You will work in teams to set up and create an AWS environment that is enterprise-ready for application deployment and integration into existing operations, security, and procurement processes. You will get hands-on experience with cross-account roles, consolidated logging, account governance and other challenges to solve.
SID312 – DevSecOps Capture the Flag In this Capture the Flag workshop, we divide groups into teams and work on AWS CloudFormation DevSecOps. The AWS Red Team supplies an AWS DevSecOps Policy that needs to be enforced via CloudFormation static analysis. Participant Blue Teams are provided with an AWS Lambda-based reference architecture to be used to inspect CloudFormation templates against that policy. Interesting items need to be logged, and made visible via ChatOps. Dangerous items need to be logged, and recorded accurately as a template fail. The secondary challenge is building a CloudFormation template to thwart the controls being created by the other Blue teams.
SID313 – Continuous Compliance on AWS at Scale In cloud migrations, the cloud’s elastic nature is often touted as a critical capability in delivering on key business initiatives. However, you must account for it in your security and compliance plans or face some real challenges. Always counting on a virtual host to be running, for example, causes issues when that host is rebooted or retired. Managing security and compliance in the cloud is continuous, requiring forethought and automation. Learn how a leading, next generation managed cloud provider uses automation and cloud expertise to manage security and compliance at scale in an ever-changing environment.
SID314 – IAM Policy Ninja Are you interested in learning how to control access to your AWS resources? Have you wondered how to best scope permissions to achieve least-privilege permissions access control? If your answer is “yes,” this session is for you. We look at the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy language, starting with the basics of the policy language and how to create and attach policies to IAM users, groups, and roles. We explore policy variables, conditions, and tools to help you author least privilege policies. We cover common use cases, such as granting a user secure access to an Amazon S3 bucket or to launch an Amazon EC2 instance of a specific type.
SID315 – Security and DevOps: Agility and Teamwork In this session, you learn pragmatic steps to integrate security controls into DevOps processes in your AWS environment at scale. Cybersecurity expert and founder of Alert Logic Misha Govshteyn shares insights from high performing teams who are embracing the reality that an agile security program can enable faster and more secure workload deployments. Joining Misha is Joey Peloquin, Director of Cloud Security Operations at Citrix, who discusses Citrix’s DevOps experiences and how they manage their cybersecurity posture within the AWS Cloud. Session sponsored by Alert Logic.
SID316 – Using Access Advisor to Strike the Balance Between Security and Usability AWS provides a killer feature for security operations teams: Access Advisor. In this session, we discuss how Access Advisor shows the services to which an IAM policy grants access and provides a timestamp for the last time that the role authenticated against that service. At Netflix, we use this valuable data to automatically remove permissions that are no longer used. By continually removing excess permissions, we can achieve a balance of empowering developers and maintaining a best-practice, secure environment.
SID317 – Automating Security and Compliance Testing of Infrastructure-as-Code for DevSecOps Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) has emerged as an essential element of organizational DevOps practices. Tools such as AWS CloudFormation and Terraform allow software-defined infrastructure to be deployed quickly and repeatably to AWS. But the agility of CI/CD pipelines also creates new challenges in infrastructure security hardening. This session provides a foundation for how to bring proven software hardening practices into the world of infrastructure deployment. We discuss how to build security and compliance tests for infrastructure analogous to unit tests for application code, and showcase how security, compliance and governance testing fit in a modern CI/CD pipeline.
SID318 – From Obstacle to Advantage: The Changing Role of Security & Compliance in Your Organization A surprising trend is starting to emerge among organizations who are progressing through the cloud maturity lifecycle: major improvements in revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and mission success are being directly attributed to improvements in security and compliance. At one time thought of as speed bumps in the path to deployment, security and compliance are now seen as critical ingredients that help organizations differentiate their offerings in the market, win more deals, and achieve mission-critical goals faster. This session explores how organizations like Jive Software and the National Geospatial Agency use the Evident Security Platform, AWS, and AWS Quick Starts to automate security and compliance processes in their organization to accomplish more, do it faster, and deliver better results.
SID319 – Incident Response in the Cloud In this session, we walk you through a hypothetical incident response managed on AWS. Learn how to apply existing best practices as well as how to leverage the unique security visibility, control, and automation that AWS provides. We cover how to set up your AWS environment to prevent a security event and how to build a cloud-specific incident response plan so that your organization is prepared before a security event occurs. This session also covers specific environment recovery steps available on AWS.
SID320 – Fraud Prevention, Detection, Lessons Learned, and Best Practices Fighting fraud means countering human actors that quickly adapt to whatever you do to stop them. In this presentation, we discuss the key components of a fraud prevention program in the cloud. Additionally, we provide techniques for detecting known and unknown fraud activity and explore different strategies for effectively preventing detected patterns. Finally, we discuss lessons learned from our own prevention activities as well as the best practices that you can apply to manage risk.
SID322 – The AWS Philosophy of Security AWS distinguished engineer Eric Brandwine speaks with hundreds of customers each year, and noticed one question coming up more than any other, “How does AWS operationalize its own security?” In this session, Eric details both strategic and tactical considerations, along with an insider’s look at AWS tooling and processes.
SID324 – Automating DDoS Response in the Cloud If left unmitigated, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have the potential to harm application availability or impair application performance. DDoS attacks can also act as a smoke screen for intrusion attempts or as a harbinger for attacks against non-cloud infrastructure. Accordingly, it’s crucial that developers architect for DDoS resiliency and maintain robust operational capabilities that allow for rapid detection and engagement during high-severity events. In this session, you learn how to build a DDoS-resilient application and how to use services like AWS Shield and Amazon CloudWatch to defend against DDoS attacks and automate response to attacks in progress.
SID325 – Amazon Macie: Data Visibility Powered by Machine Learning for Security and Compliance Workloads In this session, Edmunds discusses how they create workflows to manage their regulated workloads with Amazon Macie, a newly-released security and compliance management service that leverages machine learning to classify your sensitive data and business-critical information. Amazon Macie uses recurrent neural networks (RNN) to identify and alert potential misuse of intellectual property. They do a deep dive into machine learning within the security ecosystem.
SID326 – AWS Security State of the Union Steve Schmidt, chief information security officer at AWS, addresses the current state of security in the cloud, with a particular focus on feature updates, the AWS internal “secret sauce,” and what’s on horizon in terms of security, identity, and compliance tooling.
SID327 – How Zocdoc Achieved Security and Compliance at Scale With Infrastructure as Code In less than 12 months, Zocdoc became a cloud-first organization, diversifying their tech stack and liberating data to help drive rapid product innovation. Brian Lozada, CISO at Zocdoc, and Zhen Wang, Director of Engineering, provide an overview on how their teams recognized that infrastructure as code was the most effective approach for their security policies to scale across their AWS infrastructure. They leveraged tools such as AWS CloudFormation, hardened AMIs, and hardened containers. The use of DevSecOps within Zocdoc has enhanced data protection with the use of AWS services such as AWS KMS and AWS CloudHSM and auditing capabilities, and event-based policy enforcement with Amazon Elasticsearch Service and Amazon CloudWatch, all built on top of AWS.
SID328 – Cloud Adoption in Regulated Financial Services Macquarie, a global provider of financial services, identified early on that it would require strong partnership between its business, technology and risk teams to enable the rapid adoption of AWS cloud technologies. As a result, Macquarie built a Cloud Governance Platform to enable its risk functions to move as quickly as its development teams. This platform has been the backbone of Macquarie’s adoption of AWS over the past two years and has enabled Macquarie to accelerate its use of cloud technologies for the benefit of clients across multiple global markets. This talk will outline the strategy that Macquarie embarked on, describe the platform they built, and provide examples of other organizations who are on a similar journey.
SID329 – A Deep Dive into AWS Encryption Services AWS Encryption Services provide an easy and cost-effective way to protect your data in AWS. In this session, you learn about leveraging the latest encryption management features to minimize risk for your data.
SID330 – Best Practices for Implementing Your Encryption Strategy Using AWS Key Management Service AWS Key Management Service (KMS) is a managed service that makes it easy for you to create and manage the encryption keys used to encrypt your data. In this session, we will dive deep into best practices learned by implementing AWS KMS at AWS’s largest enterprise clients. We will review the different capabilities described in the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) Security Perspective and how to implement these recommendations using AWS KMS. In addition to sharing recommendations, we will also provide examples that will help you protect sensitive information on the AWS Cloud.
SID331 – Architecting Security and Governance Across a Multi-Account Strategy Whether it is per business unit or per application, many AWS customers use multiple accounts to meet their infrastructure isolation, separation of duties, and billing requirements. In this session, we discuss considerations, limitations, and security patterns when building out a multi-account strategy. We explore topics such as identity federation, cross-account roles, consolidated logging, and account governance. Thomson Reuters shared their journey and their approach to a multi-account strategy. At the end of the session, we present an enterprise-ready, multi-account architecture that you can start leveraging today.
SID332 – Identity Management for Your Users and Apps: A Deep Dive on Amazon Cognito Learn how to set up an end-user directory, secure sign-up and sign-in, manage user profiles, authenticate and authorize your APIs, federate from enterprise and social identity providers, and use OAuth to integrate with your app—all without any server setup or code. With clear blueprints, we show you how to leverage Amazon Cognito to administer and secure your end users and enable identity for the applied patterns of mobile, web, and enterprise apps.
SID335 – Implementing Security and Governance across a Multi-Account Strategy As existing or new organizations expand their AWS footprint, managing multiple accounts while maintaining security quickly becomes a challenge. In this chalk talk, we will demonstrate how AWS Organizations, IAM roles, identity federation, and cross-account manager can be combined to build a scalable multi-account management platform. By the end of this session, attendees will have the understanding and deployment patterns to bring a secure, flexible and automated multi-account management platform to their organizations.
SID336 – Use AWS to Effectively Manage GDPR Compliance The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is considered to be the most stringent privacy regulation ever enacted. Complying with GDPR could be a challenge for organizations, and AWS services can help get you ahead of the May 2018 enforcement deadline. In this chalk talk, the Legal and Compliance GDPR leadership at AWS discusses what enforcement of GDPR might mean for you and your customer’s compliance programs.
SID337 – Best Practices for Managing Access to AWS Resources Using IAM Roles In this chalk talk, we discuss why using temporary security credentials to manage access to your AWS resources is an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) best practice. IAM roles help you follow this best practice by delivering and rotating temporary credentials automatically. We discuss the different types of IAM roles, the assume role functionality, and how to author fine-grained trust and access policies that limit the scope of IAM roles. We then show you how to attach IAM roles to your AWS resources, such as Amazon EC2 instances and AWS Lambda functions. We also discuss migrating applications that use long-term AWS access keys to temporary credentials managed by IAM roles.
SID338 – [email protected] Once a customer achieves success with using AWS in a few pilot projects, most look to rapidly adopt an “all-in” enterprise migration strategy. Along this journey, several new challenges emerge that quickly become blockers and slow down migrations if they are not addressed properly. At this scale, customers will deal with the governance of hundreds of accounts, as well as thousands of IT resources residing within those accounts. Humans and traditional IT management processes cannot scale at the same pace and inevitably challenging questions emerge. In this session, we discuss those questions about governance at scale.
SID339 – Deep Dive on AWS CloudHSM Organizations building applications that handle confidential or sensitive data are subject to many types of regulatory requirements and often rely on hardware security modules (HSMs) to provide validated control of encryption keys and cryptographic operations. AWS CloudHSM is a cloud-based hardware security module (HSM) that enables you to easily generate and use your own encryption keys on the AWS Cloud using FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validated HSMs. This chalk talk will provide you a deep-dive on CloudHSM, and demonstrate how you can quickly and easily use CloudHSM to help secure your data and meet your compliance requirements.
SID340 – Using Infrastructure as Code to Inject Security Best Practices as Part of the Software Deployment Lifecycle A proactive approach to security is key to securing your applications as part of software deployment. In this chalk talk, T. Rowe Price, a financial asset management institution, outlines how they built their security automation process in enabling their numerous developer teams to rapidly and securely build and deploy applications at scale on AWS. Learn how they use services like AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), HashiCorp tools, Terraform for automation, and Vault for secrets management, and incorporate certificate management and monitoring as part of the deployment process. T. Rowe Price discusses lessons learned and best practices to move from a tightly controlled legacy environment to an agile, automated software development process on AWS.
SID341 – Using AWS CloudTrail Logs for Scalable, Automated Anomaly Detection This workshop gives you an opportunity to develop a solution that can continuously monitor for and detect a realistic threat by analyzing AWS CloudTrail log data. Participants are provided with a CloudTrail data source and some clues to get started. Then you have to design a system that can process the logs, detect the threat, and trigger an alarm. You can make use of any AWS services that can assist in this endeavor, such as AWS Lambda for serverless detection logic, Amazon CloudWatch or Amazon SNS for alarming and notification, Amazon S3 for data and configuration storage, and more.
SID342 – Protect Your Web Applications from Common Attack Vectors Using AWS WAF As attacks and attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in web applications become more sophisticated, having an effective web request filtering solution becomes key to keeping your users’ data safe. In this workshop, discover how the OWASP Top 10 list of application security risks can help you secure your web applications. Learn how to use AWS services, such as AWS WAF, to mitigate vulnerabilities. This session includes hands-on labs to help you build a solution. Key learning goals include understanding the breadth and complexity of vulnerabilities customers need to protect from, understanding the AWS tools and capabilities that can help mitigate vulnerabilities, and learning how to configure effective HTTP request filtering rules using AWS WAF.
SID343 – User Management and App Authentication with Amazon Cognito Are you curious about how to authenticate and authorize your applications on AWS? Have you thought about how to integrate AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) with your app authentication? Have you tried to integrate third-party SAML providers with your app authentication? Look no further. This workshop walks you through step by step to configure and create Amazon Cognito user pools and identity pools. This workshop presents you with the framework to build an application using Java, .NET, and serverless. You choose the stack and build the app with local users. See the service being used not only with mobile applications but with other stacks that normally don’t include Amazon Cognito.
SID344 – Soup to Nuts: Identity Federation for AWS AWS offers customers multiple solutions for federating identities on the AWS Cloud. In this session, we will embark on a tour of these solutions and the use cases they support. Along the way, we will dive deep with demonstrations and best practices to help you be successful managing identities on the AWS Cloud. We will cover how and when to use Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 (SAML), OpenID Connect (OIDC), and other AWS native federation mechanisms. You will learn how these solutions enable federated access to the AWS Management Console, APIs, and CLI, AWS Infrastructure and Managed Services, your web and mobile applications running on the AWS Cloud, and much more.
SID345 – AWS Encryption SDK: The Busy Engineer’s Guide to Client-Side Encryption You know you want client-side encryption for your service but you don’t know exactly where to start. Join us for a hands-on workshop where we review some of your client-side encryption options and explore implementing client-side encryption using the AWS Encryption SDK. In this session, we cover the basics of client-side encryption, perform encrypt and decrypt operations using AWS KMS and the AWS Encryption SDK, and discuss security and performance considerations when implementing client-side encryption in your service.
SID401 – Let’s Dive Deep Together: Advancing Web Application Security Beginning with a recap of best practices in CloudFront, AWS WAF, Route 53, and Amazon VPC security, we break into small teams to work together on improving the security of a typical web application. How can we creatively use the services? What additional features would help us? This technically advanced chalk talk requires certification at the solutions architect associate level or greater.
SID402 – An AWS Security Odyssey: Implementing Security Controls in the World of Internet, Big Data, IoT and E-Commerce Platforms This workshop will give participants the opportunity to take a security-focused journey across various AWS services and implement automated controls along the way. You will learn how to apply AWS security controls to services such as Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, AWS Lambda, and Amazon VPC. In short, you will learn how to use the cloud to protect the cloud. We will talk about how to: Adopt a workload-centric approach to your security strategy, Address security issues in a cost-effective manner Automate your security responses to promote maturity and auditability. In order to complete this workshop, attendees will need a laptop with wireless access, an AWS account and an IAM user that has full administrative privileges within their account. AWS credits will be provided as attendees depart the session to cover the cost of running the workshop in their own account.
SID404 – Amazon Inspector – Automating the “Sec” in DevSecOps Adopting DevSecOps can be challenging using traditional security tools that are designed for on-premises infrastructure. Amazon Inspector is an automated security assessment service that helps you adopt DevSecOps by integrating security assessments directly into the development process of applications running on Amazon EC2. We dive deep on how to use Inspector to automate host security assessments. We show you how to integrate Inspector with other AWS Cloud services to provide automated security assessments throughout your development process. We demo installing the AWS agent, setting up assessment targets and templates, and running assessments. We review the findings and discuss how you can automate the management and remediation of those findings with your available AWS services.
SID405 – Five New Security Automation Improvements You Can Make by Using Amazon CloudWatch Events and AWS Config Rules This presentation will include a deep dive into the code behind multiple security automation and remediation functions. This session will consider potential use cases, as well as feature a demonstration of a proposed script, and then walk through the code set to explain the various challenges and solutions of the intended script. All examples of code will be previously unreleased and will feature integration with services such as Trusted Advisor and Macie. All code will be released as OSS after re:Invent.
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In my previous posts, I talked about coming up with an idea, determining the solution, and getting your first customers. But you’re building a company, not a product. Let’s talk about what the first year should look like.
The primary goals for that first year are to: 1) set up the company; 2) build, launch, and learn; and 3) survive.
Setting Up the Company
The company you’re building is more than the product itself, and you’re not going to do it alone. You don’t want to spend too much time on this since getting customers is key, but if you don’t set up the basics, there are all sorts of issues down the line.
Find Your Co-Founders & Determine Roles
You may already have the idea, but who do you need to execute it? At Backblaze, we needed people to build the web experience, the client backup application, and the server/storage side. We also needed someone to handle the business/marketing aspects, and we felt that the design and user experience were critical. As a result, we started with five co-founders: three engineers, a designer, and me for the business and marketing.
Of course not every role needs to be filled by a co-founder. You can hire employees for positions as well. But think through the strategic skills you’ll need to launch and consider co-founders with those skill sets.
Too many people think they can just “work together” on everything. Don’t. Determine roles as quickly as possible so that it’s clear who is responsible for what work and which decisions. We were lucky in that we had worked together and thus knew what each person would do, but even so we assigned titles early on to clarify roles.
Takeaway: Fill critical roles and explicitly split roles and responsibilities.
Get Your Legal Basics In Place
When we’re excited about building a product, legal basics are often the last thing we want to deal with. You don’t need to go overboard, but it’s critical to get certain things done.
Determine ownership split. What is the percentage breakdown of the company that each of the founders will own? It can be a tough discussion, but it only becomes more difficult later when there is more value and people have put more time into it. At Backblaze we split the equity equally five ways. This is uncommon. The benefit of this is that all the founders feel valued and “in it together.” The benefit of the more common split where someone has a dominant share is that person is typically empowered to be the ultimate decision-maker. Slicing Pie provides some guidance on how to think about splitting equity. Regardless of which way you want you go, don’t put it off.
Incorporate. Hard to be a company if you’re not. There are various formats, but if you plan to raise angel/venture funding, a Delaware-based C-corp is standard.
Deal With Stock. At a minimum, issue stock to the founders, have each one buy their shares, and file an 83(b). Buying your shares at this stage might be $100. Filing the 83(b) election marks the date at which you purchased your shares, and shows that you bought them for what they were worth. This one piece of paper paper can make the difference between paying long-term capital gains rates (~20%) or income tax rates (~40%).
Assign Intellectual Property. Ask everyone to sign a Proprietary Information and Inventions Assignment (“PIIA”). This document says that what they do at the company is owned by the company. Early on we had a friend who came by and brainstormed ideas. We thought of it as interesting banter. He later said he owned part of our storage design. While we worked it out together, a PIIA makes ownership clear.
The ownership split can be worked out by the founders directly. For the other items, I would involve lawyers. Some law firms will set up the basics and defer payment until you raise money or the business can pay for services out of operations. Gunderson Dettmer did that for us (ask for Bennett Yee). Cooley will do this on a casey-by-case basis as well.
Takeaway: Don’t let the excitement of building a company distract you from filing the basic legal documents required to protect and grow your company.
Get Health Insurance
This item may seem out of place, but not having health insurance can easily bankrupt you personally, and that certainly won’t bode well for your company. While you can buy individual health insurance, it will often be less expensive to buy it as a company. Also, it will make recruiting employees more difficult if you do not offer healthcare. When we contacted brokers they asked us to send the W-2 of each employee that wanted coverage, but the founders weren’t taking a salary at first. To work around this, make the founders ‘officers’ of the company, and the healthcare brokers can then insure them. (Of course, you need to be ok with your co-founders being officers, but hopefully, that is logical anyway.)
Takeaway: Don’t take your co-founders’ physical and financial health for granted. Health insurance can serve as both individual protection and a recruiting tool for future employees.
Building, Launching & Learning
Getting the company set up gives you the foundation, but ultimately a company with no product and no customers isn’t very interesting.
Ideally, you have one person on the team focusing on all of the items above and everyone else can be heads-down building product. There is a lot to say about building product, but for this post, I’ll just say that your goal is to get something out the door that is good enough to start collecting feedback. It doesn’t have to have every feature you dream of and doesn’t have to support 1 billion users on day one.
If you’re building a car or rocket, that may take some time. But with the availability of open-source software and cloud services, most startups should launch inside of a year.
Launching forces a scoping of the feature set to what’s critical, rallies the company around a goal, starts building awareness of your company and solution, and pushes forward the learning process. Backblaze launched in public beta on June 2, 2008, eight months after the founders all started working on it full-time.
Takeaway: Focus on the most important features and launch.
Learn & Iterate
As much as we think we know about the customers and their needs, the launch process and beyond opens up all sorts of insights. This early period is critical to collect feedback and iterate, especially while both the product and company are still quite malleable. We initially planned on building peer-to-peer and local backup immediately on the heels of our online offering, but after launching found minimal demand for those features. On the other hand, there was tremendous demand from companies and resellers.
Takeaway: Use the critical post-launch period to collect feedback and iterate.
“Live to fight another day.” If the company doesn’t survive, it’s hard to change the world. Let’s talk about some of the survival components.
Consider What You As A Founding Team Want & How You Work
Are you doing this because you hope to get rich? See yourself on the cover of Fortune? Make your own decisions? Work from home all the time? Founder fighting is the number one reason companies fail; the founders need to be on the same page as much as possible.
At Backblaze we agreed very early on that we wanted three things:
Build products we were proud of
This has driven various decisions over the years and has evolved into being part of the culture. For example, while Backblaze is absolutely a company with a profit motive, we do not compromise the product to make more money. Other directions are not bad; they’re just different.
Pretend you’re getting married to each other. Do some introspection and talk about your vision of the future a lot. Do you expect everyone to work 20 or 100 hours every week? In the office or remote? How do you like to work? What pet peeves do you have?
When getting married each person brings the “life they’ve known,” often influenced by the life their parents lived. Together they need to decide which aspects of their previous lives they want to keep, toss, or change. As founders coming together, you have the same opportunity for your new company.
Takeaway: In order for a company to survive, the founders must agree on what they want the company to be. Have the discussions early.
Determine How You Will Fund Your Business
Raising venture capital is often seen as the only path, and considered the most important thing to start doing on day one. However, there are a variety of options for funding your business, including using money from savings, part-time work, friends & family money, loans, angels, and customers. Consider the right option for you, your founding team, and your business.
Whichever option you choose for funding your business, chances are high that you will not be flush with cash on day one. In certain situations, you actually don’t want to conserve cash because you’ve raised $100m and now you want to run as fast as you can to capture a market — cash is plentiful and time is not. However, with the exception of founder struggles, running out of cash is the most common way companies go under. There are many ways to conserve cash — limit hiring of employees and consultants, use lawyers and accountants sparingly, don’t spend on advertising, work from a home office, etc. The most important way is to simply ensure that you and your team are cash conscious, challenging decisions that commit you to spending cash.
Backblaze spent a total of $94,122 to get to public beta launch. That included building the backup application, our own server infrastructure, the website with account/billing/restore functionality, the marketing involved in getting to launch, and all the steps above in setting up the company, paying for healthcare, etc. The five founders took no salary during this time (which, of course, would have cost dramatically more), so most of this money went to computers, servers, hard drives, and other infrastructure.
Takeaway: Minimize cash burn — it extends your runway and gives you options.
Slowly Flesh Out Your Team
We started with five co-founders, and thus a fairly fleshed-out team. A year in, we only added one person, a Mac architect. Three months later we shipped a beta of our Mac version, which has resulted in more than 50% of our revenue.
Minimizing hiring is key to cash conservation, and hiring ahead of getting market feedback is risky since you may realize that the talent you need will change. However, once you start getting feedback, think about the key people that you need to move your company forward. But be rigorous in determining whether they’re critical. We didn’t hire our first customer support person until all five founders were spending 20% of their time on it.
Takeaway: Don’t hire in anticipation of market growth; hire to fuel the growth.
Keep Your Spirits Up
Startups are roller coasters of emotion. There have been some serious articles about founders suffering from depression and worse. The idea phase is exhilarating, then there is the slog of building. The launch is a blast, but the week after there are crickets.
On June 2, 2008, we launched in public beta with great press and hordes of customers. But a few months later we were signing up only about 10 new customers per month. That’s $50 new monthly recurring revenue (MRR) after a year of work and no salary.
On August 25, 2008, we brought on our Mac architect. Two months later, on October 26, 2008, Apple launched Time Machine — completely free and built-in backup for all Macs.
There were plenty of times when our prospects looked bleak. In the rearview mirror it’s easy to say, “well sure, but now you have lots of customers,” or “yes, but Time Machine doesn’t do cloud backup.” But at the time neither of these were a given.
Takeaway: Getting up each day and believing that as a team you’ll figure it out will let you get to the point where you can look in the rearview mirror and say, “It looked bleak back then.”
Succeeding in Your First Year
I titled the post “Surviving Your First Year,” but if you manage to, 1) set up the company; 2) build, launch, and learn; and 3) survive, you will have done more than survive: you’ll have truly succeeded in your first year.
I’m pleased to announce that today we’ve launched a new security service, Amazon Macie.
This service leverages machine learning to help customers prevent data loss by automatically discovering, classifying, and protecting sensitive data in AWS. Amazon Macie recognizes sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) or intellectual property, providing customers with dashboards and alerts that give visibility into how data is being accessed or moved. This enables customers to apply machine learning to a wide array of security and compliance workloads, we think this will be a significant enabler for our customers.
Отново е пролет – и както всяка пролет вече десетки години (в изпълнение на Търговския закон от 1974 г.) американското правителство публикува доклад – т.нар. Доклад 301 – за наличието на адекватна и ефективна защита на правата на интелектуалната собственост по света – в държавите-търговски партньори на САЩ.
Сега е оповестен Доклад 301 за 2017 година (2017 Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights).
34 държави попадат в списъците на проблемните – 11 в т.нар. Priority Watch List, между тях Китай, Индия, Русия, Украйна, и 23 – в Watch List, между тях България.
Съдейки по този блог, България си е там и през 2006 година, в навечерието на членството в ЕС. Основанията може и да варират през годините, защото технологиите се развиват – изчезнала е тротоарната търговия със CD, сега са посочени пиратството онлайн и при кабелните телевизии.
There’s a new report of a nation-state attack, presumed to be from China, on a series of managed ISPs. From the executive summary:
Since late 2016, PwC UK and BAE Systems have been assisting victims of a new cyber espionage campaign conducted by a China-based threat actor. We assess this threat actor to almost certainly be the same as the threat actor widely known within the security community as ‘APT10’. The campaign, which we refer to as Operation Cloud Hopper, has targeted managed IT service providers (MSPs), allowing APT10 unprecedented potential access to the intellectual property and sensitive data of those MSPs and their clients globally. A number of Japanese organisations have also been directly targeted in a separate, simultaneous campaign by the same actor.
We have identified a number of key findings that are detailed below.
APT10 has recently unleashed a sustained campaign against MSPs. The compromise of MSP networks has provided broad and unprecedented access to MSP customer networks.
Multiple MSPs were almost certainly being targeted from 2016 onwards, and it is likely that APT10 had already begun to do so from as early as 2014.
MSP infrastructure has been used as part of a complex web of exfiltration routes spanning multiple victim networks.
APT10 focuses on espionage activity, targeting intellectual property and other sensitive data.
APT10 is known to have exfiltrated a high volume of data from multiple victims, exploiting compromised MSP networks, and those of their customers, to stealthily move this data around the world.
The targeted nature of the exfiltration we have observed, along with the volume of the data, is reminiscent of the previous era of APT campaigns pre-2013.
PwC UK and BAE Systems assess APT10 as highly likely to be a China-based threat actor.
It is a widely held view within the cyber security community that APT10 is a China-based threat actor.
Our analysis of the compile times of malware binaries, the registration times of domains attributed to APT10, and the majority of its intrusion activity indicates a pattern of work in line with China Standard Time (UTC+8).
The threat actor’s targeting of diplomatic and political organisations in response to geopolitical tensions, as well as the targeting of specific commercial enterprises, is closely aligned with strategic Chinese interests.
I know nothing more than what’s in this report, but it looks like a big one.
Abstract: About a decade ago, intellectual property started getting systematically treated as a national security threat to the United States. The scope of the threat is broadly conceived to include hacking, trade secret theft, file sharing, and even foreign students enrolling in American universities. In each case, the national security of the United States is claimed to be at risk, not just its economic competitiveness. This article traces the U.S. government’s efforts to establish and articulate intellectual property theft as a national security issue. It traces the discourse on intellectual property as a security threat and its place within the larger security dialogue of cyberwar and cybersecurity. It argues that the focus on the theft of intellectual property as a security issue helps justify enhanced surveillance and control over the Internet and its future development. Such a framing of intellectual property has consequences for how we understand information exchange on the Internet and for the future of U.S. diplomatic relations around the globe.
For those just learning about the ISO 27001:2013 certification, the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) created the widely adopted global security standard that set out requirements and best practices for a systematic approach to managing company and customer information. This approach is based on periodic risk assessments appropriate to ever-changing threat scenarios.
“Using this family of standards will help your organization manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted to you by third parties. ISO/IEC 27001 is the best-known standard in the family providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS).”
This brings the total up to 33 services now available for use under the standard of ISO 27001. The complete list can be found in our AWS ISO 27001 FAQs.
Additionally, 10 regions are now in scope, including the newly added EU (Frankfurt). The complete list is as follows: US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (N. California), AWS GovCloud (US), South America (Sao Paulo), EU (Ireland), EU (Frankfurt), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo).
In order to achieve the certification, AWS has shown it has a systematic and ongoing approach to managing information security risks that affect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of company and customer information. This certification reinforces Amazon’s commitment to providing transparency into our security controls and practices.
AWS was certified by an independent third-party audit, EY CertifyPoint, an ISO certifying agent. Importantly, there is no increase in service costs for any region as a result of this certification. You can download a copy of the AWS certification and use it to jump-start your own certification efforts (you are not automatically certified by association; however, using an ISO 27001 certified provider like AWS can make your certification process easier). You may also want to read the AWS ISO 27001 FAQs.
(In order to avoid any ambiguity here, this is a personal opinion. The Free Software Foundation’s opinion on this matter is here)Canonical have a legal policy surrounding reuse of Intellectual Property they own in Ubuntu, and you can find it here. It’s recently been modified to handle concerns raised by various people including the Free Software Foundation, who have some further opinions on the matter here. The net outcome is that Canonical made it explicit that if the license a piece of software is under explicitly says you can do something, you can do that even if the Ubuntu IP policy would otherwise forbid it.Unfortunately, “Canonical have made it explicit that they’re not attempting to violate the GPL” is about the nicest thing you can say about this. The most troubling statement is Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries.. The apparent aim here is to avoid situations where people take Ubuntu, modify it and continue to pass it off as Ubuntu. But it reaches far further than that. Cases where this may apply include (but are not limited to):Anyone producing a device that runs an operating system based on Ubuntu, even if it’s entirely invisible to the user (eg, an embedded ARM device using Ubuntu as its base OS)Anyone producing containers based on UbuntuAnyone producing cloud images (such as AMIs) based on UbuntuIn each of these cases, a strict reading of the policy indicates that you are distributing a modified version of Ubuntu and therefore must either get it approved by Canonical or remove the trademarks and rebuild everything. The strange thing is that this doesn’t limit itself to rebuilding packages that include Canonical’s trademarks – there’s a requirement that you rebuild all binaries.Now obviously this is good engineering practice in a whole bunch of ways, but it’s a huge pain in the ass. And to make things worse, Canonical won’t clarify what they consider to be use of their trademarks. Many Ubuntu packages rebuilt from Debian include the word “ubuntu” in their version string. Many Ubuntu packages will contain the word “ubuntu” in maintainer email addresses. Many Ubuntu packages include references to Ubuntu (for instance, documentation might say “This configuration file is located under /etc/default in Debian and Ubuntu”). And many Ubuntu packages will include the compiler version string, which will include the word “ubuntu”. Realistically, there’s no risk of confusion by using the trademarks in this way, and as a consequence there would be no infringement under trademark law. But Canonical aren’t using trademark law here. Canonical assert that they hold copyright over binaries that they have built form source, and require that for you to have permission to redistribute these binaries under copyright law you must remove the trademarks. This means that it doesn’t matter whether your use of the trademarks would be infringing or not – you’re required to remove them, because fuck you that’s why.This is a huge overreach. It’s hostile to free software, in that it makes it significantly more difficult to produce derivative works of Ubuntu and doesn’t benefit the community in the process. It’s hostile to our understanding of IP law, in that it claims that the mechanical process of turning source code into binaries creates an independently copyrightable work. And in some cases it may make it impossible to create derivative works that interoperate with Ubuntu due to applications making assumptions about the presence of strings.It’d be easy write this off as an over the top misinterpretation of the policy if it hadn’t been confirmed by the Ubuntu Community Manager that any binaries shipped by Ubuntu under licenses that don’t grant an explicit right to redistribute the binaries can’t be redistributed without permission or rebuilding. When I asked for clarification from Canonical over a year ago, I got no response. Perhaps Canonical don’t want to force you to remove every single use of the word Ubuntu from derivative works, but their policy is written such that the natural reading is that they do, and they’ve refused every single opportunity they’ve been given to clarify the point.So, we’re left with a policy that makes it hugely impractical to redistribute modified versions of Ubuntu unless Canonical approve of it. That’s not freedom, and it’s certainly not Ubuntu. If Canonical are serious about participating in the free software community then they need to demonstrate their willingness to continue improving this policy to bring it closer to our goals. Failure to do so will give a strong indication of their priorities.  While I’m a member of the FSF’s board of directors, I’m not involved in the majority of the FSF’s day to day activities and was not part of this process Nebula’s OS was a mixture of binary packages we pulled straight from Ubuntu and packages we rebuilt, so we were obviously pretty interested in what the answer was comments
ACTA is a dangerous international agreement that would establish additional criminal penalties, promulgate DMCA/EUCD-like legislation around the world, and otherwise extend copyright law into places it should not go. Copyright law is already much stronger than anyone needs.
On a meta-point, it’s extremely important that USA citizens participate in comment processes like this. The reason that things like ACTA can happen in the USA is because most of the citizens don’t pay attention. By way of hyperbolic fantasy, imagine if every citizen of the USA wrote a letter today to Mr. McCoy about ACTA. It’d be a news story on all the major news networks tonight, and would probably be in the headlines in print/online news stories tomorrow. Our whole country would suddenly be debating whether or not we should have criminal penalties for copying TV shows, and whether breaking a DVD’s DRM should be illegal.
Obviously, that fantasy won’t happen, but getting from where we are to that wonderful fantasy is actually linear; each person who writes to Mr. McCoy today makes a difference! Please take 15 minutes out of your day today and do so. It’s the least you can do on this issue.
Stanford K. McCoy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation Office of the United States Trade Representative 600 17th St NW Washington, DC 20006
Re: ACTA Public Comments (Docket no. USTR-2010-0014)
Dear Mr. McCoy:
I am a USA citizen writing to urge that the USA not sign ACTA. Copyright law already reaches too far. ACTA would extend problematic, overly-broad copyright rules around the world and would increase the already inappropriate criminal penalties for copyright infringement here in the USA.
Both individually and as an agent of my employer, I am regularly involved in copyright enforcement efforts to defend the Free Software license called the GNU General Public License (GPL). I therefore think my perspective can be uniquely contrasted with other copyright holders who support ACTA.
Specifically, when engaging in copyright enforcement for the GPL, we treat it as purely a civil issue, not a criminal one. We have been successful in defending the rights of software authors in this regard without the need for criminal penalties for the rampant copyright infringement that we often encounter.
I realize that many powerful corporate copyright holders wish to see criminal penalties for copyright infringement expanded. As someone who has worked in the area of copyright enforcement regularly for 12 years, I see absolutely no reason that any copyright infringement of any kind ever should be considered a criminal matter. Copyright holders who believe their rights have been infringed have the full power of civil law to defend their rights. Using the power of government to impose criminal penalties for copyright infringement is an inappropriate use of government to interfere in civil disputes between its citizens.
Finally, ACTA would introduce new barriers for those of us trying to change our copyright law here in the USA. The USA should neither impose its desired copyright regime on other countries, nor should the USA bind itself in international agreements on an issue where its citizens are in great disagreement about correct policy.
Thank you for considering my opinion, and please do not allow the USA to sign ACTA.
Sincerely, Bradley M. Kuhn
The collective thoughts of the interwebz
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