Tag Archives: retail

Amazon Redshift Dense Compute (DC2) Nodes Deliver Twice the Performance as DC1 at the Same Price

Post Syndicated from Quaseer Mujawar original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/amazon-redshift-dense-compute-dc2-nodes-deliver-twice-the-performance-as-dc1-at-the-same-price/

Amazon Redshift makes analyzing exabyte-scale data fast, simple, and cost-effective. It delivers advanced data warehousing capabilities, including parallel execution, compressed columnar storage, and end-to-end encryption as a fully managed service, for less than $1,000/TB/year. With Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you can run SQL queries directly against exabytes of unstructured data in Amazon S3 for $5/TB scanned.

Today, we are making our Dense Compute (DC) family faster and more cost-effective with new second-generation Dense Compute (DC2) nodes at the same price as our previous generation DC1. DC2 is designed for demanding data warehousing workloads that require low latency and high throughput. DC2 features powerful Intel E5-2686 v4 (Broadwell) CPUs, fast DDR4 memory, and NVMe-based solid state disks.

We’ve tuned Amazon Redshift to take advantage of the better CPU, network, and disk on DC2 nodes, providing up to twice the performance of DC1 at the same price. Our DC2.8xlarge instances now provide twice the memory per slice of data and an optimized storage layout with 30 percent better storage utilization.

Customer successes

Several flagship customers, ranging from fast growing startups to large Fortune 100 companies, previewed the new DC2 node type. In their tests, DC2 provided up to twice the performance as DC1. Our preview customers saw faster ETL (extract, transform, and load) jobs, higher query throughput, better concurrency, faster reports, and shorter data-to-insights—all at the same cost as DC1. DC2.8xlarge customers also noted that their databases used up to 30 percent less disk space due to our optimized storage format, reducing their costs.

4Cite Marketing, one of America’s fastest growing private companies, uses Amazon Redshift to analyze customer data and determine personalized product recommendations for retailers. “Amazon Redshift’s new DC2 node is giving us a 100 percent performance increase, allowing us to provide faster insights for our retailers, more cost-effectively, to drive incremental revenue,” said Jim Finnerty, 4Cite’s senior vice president of product.

BrandVerity, a Seattle-based brand protection and compliance‎ company, provides solutions to monitor, detect, and mitigate online brand, trademark, and compliance abuse. “We saw a 70 percent performance boost with the DC2 nodes for running Redshift Spectrum queries. As a result, we can analyze far more data for our customers and deliver results much faster,” said Hyung-Joon Kim, principal software engineer at BrandVerity.

“Amazon Redshift is at the core of our operations and our marketing automation tools,” said Jarno Kartela, head of analytics and chief data scientist at DNA Plc, one of the leading Finnish telecommunications groups and Finland’s largest cable operator and pay TV provider. “We saw a 52 percent performance gain in moving to Amazon Redshift’s DC2 nodes. We can now run queries in half the time, allowing us to provide more analytics power and reduce time-to-insight for our analytics and marketing automation users.”

You can read about their experiences on our Customer Success page.

Get started

You can try the new node type using our getting started guide. Just choose dc2.large or dc2.8xlarge in the Amazon Redshift console:

If you have a DC1.large Amazon Redshift cluster, you can restore to a new DC2.large cluster using an existing snapshot. To migrate from DS2.xlarge, DS2.8xlarge, or DC1.8xlarge Amazon Redshift clusters, you can use the resize operation to move data to your new DC2 cluster. For more information, see Clusters and Nodes in Amazon Redshift.

To get the latest Amazon Redshift feature announcements, check out our What’s New page, and subscribe to the RSS feed.

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Roku Shows FBI Warning to Pirate Channel Users

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-shows-fbi-warning-to-pirate-channel-users-171009/

In recent years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal services such as Netflix and HBO are flourishing, but at the same time millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices.

Hollywood insiders have dubbed this trend “Piracy 3.0” and are actively working with stakeholders to address the threat. One of the companies rightsholders are working with is Roku, known for its easy-to-use media players.

Earlier this year a Mexican court ordered retailers to take the Roku media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it was a clear signal to the company, which now has its own anti-piracy team.

Several third-party “private” channels have been removed from the player in recent weeks as they violate Roku’s terms and conditions. These include the hugely popular streaming channel XTV, which offered access to infringing content.

After its removal, XTV briefly returned as XTV 2, but that didn’t last for long. The infringing channel was soon removed again, this time showing the FBI’s anti-piracy seal followed by a rather ominous message.

“FBI Anti-Piracy Warning: Unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law,” it reads. “Roku has removed this unauthorized service due to repeated claims of copyright infringement.”

FBI Warning (via Cordcuttersnews)

The unusual warning was picked up by Cordcuttersnews and states that Roku itself removed the channel.

To some it may seem that the FBI is cracking down on Roku channels, but this is not the case. The anti-piracy seal and associated warning are often used in cases where the organization is not actively involved, to add extra weight. The FBI supports this, as long as certain standards are met.

A Roku spokesperson confirmed to TorrentFreak that they’re using it on their own accord here.

“We want to send a clear message to Roku customers and to publishers that any publication of pirated content on our platform is a violation of law and our platform rules,” the company says.

“We have recently expanded the messaging that we display to customers that install non-certified channels to alert them to the associated risks, and we display the FBI’s publicly available warning when we remove channels for copyright violations.”

The strong language shows that Roku is taking its efforts to crack down on infringing channels very seriously. A few weeks ago the company started to warn users that pirate channels may be removed without prior notice.

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

‘China Should Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Box Distributors’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-should-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-box-distributors-171001/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has informed the U.S. Government that China must step up its game to better protect the interests of copyright holders.

The US Trade Representative is reviewing whether China has done enough to comply with its WTO obligations, but IIPA members including RIAA and MPAA believe there is still work to be done.

One of the areas to which the Chinese Government should pay more attention is enforcement. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, especially in combating music piracy, new threats have emerged.

One of the areas highlighted by IIPA is the streaming box ecosystem, aptly dubbed as “piracy 3.0” by the Motion Picture Association. This appeals to a new breed of pirates who rely on set-top boxes which are filled with pirate add-ons.

Industry groups often refer to these boxes as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) and they see China as a major hub through which these are shipped around the world.

“ISDs are media boxes, set-top boxes or other devices that allow users, through the use of piracy apps, to stream, download, or otherwise access unauthorized content from the Internet,” IIPA writes.

“These devices have emerged as a significant means through which pirated motion picture and television content is accessed on televisions in homes in China as well as elsewhere in Asia and increasingly around the world. China is a hub for the manufacture of these devices.”

Although the hardware and media players are perfectly legal, things get problematic when they’re loaded with pirate add-ons and promoted as tools to facilitate copyright infringement.

IIPA states that the Chinese Government should do more to stop these devices from being sold. Cracking down on the main distribution points would be a good start, they say.

“However it is done, the Chinese government must increase enforcement efforts, including cracking down on piracy apps and on device retailers and/or distributors who preload the devices with apps that facilitate infringement.

“Moreover, because China is the main source of this problem spreading across Asia, the Chinese government should take immediate actions against key distribution points for devices that are being used illegally,” IIPA adds.

In addition to pirate boxes, the industry groups also want China to beef up its enforcement against online journal piracy, pirate apps, unauthorized camcording, and unlicensed streaming platforms.

IIPA intends to explain the above and several other shortcomings in detail during a hearing in Washington, DC, next Wednesday. The group has submitted an overview of its testimony to the Trade Representative, which is available here (pdf).

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

Roku Is Building Its Own Anti-Piracy Team

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-building-anti-piracy-team/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch unauthorized content through their regular TV.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and more.

The entertainment industry isn’t happy with this development and is trying to halt further growth wherever possible.

Just a few months ago, Roku was harshly confronted with this new reality when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it’s clear that Roku itself is now taking a more proactive role.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, the company is taking steps to better deal with the problem. The company has already begun warning users of copyright-infringing third-party channels, but that was only the beginning.

Two new job applications posted by Roku a few days ago reveal that the company is putting together an in-house anti-piracy team to keep the problem under control.

One of the new positions is that of Director Anti-Piracy and Content Security. Roku stresses that this is a brand new position, which involves shaping the company’s anti-piracy strategy.

“The Director, Anti-Piracy and Content Security is responsible for defining the technology roadmap and overseeing implementation of anti-piracy and content security initiatives at Roku,” the application reads.

“This role requires ability to benchmark Roku against best practices (i.e. MPAA, Studio & Customer) but also requires an emphasis on maintaining deep insight into the evolving threat landscape and technical challenges of combating piracy.”

The job posting

The second job listed by Roku is that of an anti-piracy software engineer. One of the main tasks of this position is to write software for the Roku to monitor and prevent piracy.

“In this role, you will be responsible for implementing anti-piracy and content protection technology as it pertains to Roku OS,” the application explains.

“This entails developing software features, conducting forensic investigations and mining Roku’s big data platform and other threat intelligence sources for copyright infringement activities on and off platform.”

While a two-person team is relatively small, it’s possible that this will grow in the future, if there aren’t people in a similar role already. What’s clear, however, is that Roku takes piracy very seriously.

With Hollywood closely eyeing the streaming box landscape, the company is doing its best to keep copyright holders onside.

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

Prime Day 2017 – Powered by AWS

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/prime-day-2017-powered-by-aws/

The third annual Prime Day set another round of records for global orders, topping Black Friday and Cyber Monday, making it the biggest day in Amazon retail history. Over the course of the 30 hour event, tens of millions of Prime members purchased things like Echo Dots, Fire tablets, programmable pressure cookers, espresso machines, rechargeable batteries, and much more! July 11th also set a record for the number of new Prime memberships, as people signed up in order to take advantage of hundreds of thousands of deals. Amazon customers shopped online and made heavy use of the Amazon App, with mobile orders more than doubling from last Prime Day.

Powered by AWS
Last year I told you about How AWS Powered Amazon’s Biggest Day Ever, and shared what the team had learned with regard to preparation, automation, monitoring, and thinking big. All of those lessons still apply and you can read that post to learn more. Preparation for this year’s Prime Day (which started just days after Prime Day 2016 wrapped up) started by collecting and sharing best practices and identifying areas for improvement, proceeding to implementation and stress testing as the big day approached. Two of the best practices involve auditing and GameDay:

Auditing – This is a formal way for us to track preparations, identify risks, and to track progress against our objectives. Each team must respond to a series of detailed technical and operational questions that are designed to help them determine their readiness. On the technical side, questions could revolve around time to recovery after a database failure, including the all-important check of the TTL (time to live) for the CNAME. Operational questions address schedules for on-call personnel, points of contact, and ownership of services & instances.

GameDay – This practice (which I believe originated with former Amazonian Jesse Robbins), is intended to validate all of the capacity planning & preparation and to verify that all of the necessary operational practices are in place and work as expected. It introduces simulated failures and helps to train the team to identify and quickly resolve issues, building muscle memory in the process. It also tests failover and recovery capabilities, and can expose latent defects that are lurking under the covers. GameDays help teams to understand scaling drivers (page views, orders, and so forth) and gives them an opportunity to test their scaling practices. To learn more, read Resilience Engineering: Learning to Embrace Failure or watch the video: GameDay: Creating Resiliency Through Destruction.

Prime Day 2017 Metrics
So, how did we do this year?

The AWS teams checked their dashboards and log files, and were happy to share their metrics with me. Here are a few of the most interesting ones:

Block Storage – Use of Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) grew by 40% year-over-year, with aggregate data transfer jumping to 52 petabytes (a 50% increase) for the day and total I/O requests rising to 835 million (a 30% increase). The team told me that they loved the elasticity of EBS, and that they were able to ramp down on capacity after Prime Day concluded instead of being stuck with it.

NoSQL Database – Amazon DynamoDB requests from Alexa, the Amazon.com sites, and the Amazon fulfillment centers totaled 3.34 trillion, peaking at 12.9 million per second. According to the team, the extreme scale, consistent performance, and high availability of DynamoDB let them meet needs of Prime Day without breaking a sweat.

Stack Creation – Nearly 31,000 AWS CloudFormation stacks were created for Prime Day in order to bring additional AWS resources on line.

API Usage – AWS CloudTrail processed over 50 billion events and tracked more than 419 billion calls to various AWS APIs, all in support of Prime Day.

Configuration TrackingAWS Config generated over 14 million Configuration items for AWS resources.

You Can Do It
Running an event that is as large, complex, and mission-critical as Prime Day takes a lot of planning. If you have an event of this type in mind, please take a look at our new Infrastructure Event Readiness white paper. Inside, you will learn how to design and provision your applications to smoothly handle planned scaling events such as product launches or seasonal traffic spikes, with sections on automation, resiliency, cost optimization, event management, and more.

Jeff;

 

A printing GIF camera? Is that even a thing?

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/printing-gif-camera/

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera uses two Raspberry Pis, the Model 3 and the Zero W, to take animated images and display them on an ejectable secondary screen.

Instagif – A DIY Camera that prints GIFs instantly

I built a camera that snaps a GIF and ejects a little cartridge so you can hold a moving photo in your hand! I’m calling it the “Instagif NextStep”.

The humble GIF

Created in 1987, Graphics Interchange Format files, better known as GIFs, have somewhat taken over the internet. And whether you pronounce it G-IF or J-IF, you’ve probably used at least one to express an emotion, animate images on your screen, or create small, movie-like memories of events.

In 2004, all patents on the humble GIF expired, which added to the increased usage of the file format. And by the early 2010s, sites such as giphy.com and phone-based GIF keyboards were introduced into our day-to-day lives.

A GIF from a scene in The Great Gatsby - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Welcome to the age of the GIF

Polaroid cameras

Polaroid cameras have a somewhat older history. While the first documented instant camera came into existence in 1923, commercial iterations made their way to market in the 1940s, with Polaroid’s model 95 Land Camera.

In recent years, the instant camera has come back into fashion, with camera stores and high street fashion retailers alike stocking their shelves with pastel-coloured, affordable models. But nothing beats the iconic look of the Polaroid Spirit series, and the rainbow colour stripe that separates it from its competitors.

Polaroid Spirit Camera - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Shake it like a Polaroid picture…

And if you’re one of our younger readers and find yourself wondering where else you’ve seen those stripes, you’re probably more familiar with previous versions of the Instagram logo, because, well…

Instagram Logo - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

I’m sorry for the comment on the previous image. It was just too easy.

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera

Abhishek labels his creation the Instagif NextStep, and cites his inspiration for the project as simply wanting to give it a go, and to see if he could hold a ‘moving photo’.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is that they involve a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines”, he explains at the start of his lengthy, highly GIFed and wonderfully detailed imugr tutorial. “Hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc. that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly. Ironically, this is also what I hate about these kinds of projects”

Care to see how the whole thing comes together? Well, in the true spirit of the project, Abhishek created this handy step-by-step GIF.

Piecing it together

I thought I’ll start off with the entire assembly and then break down the different elements. As you can see, everything is assembled from the base up in layers helping in easy assembly and quick disassembly for troubleshooting

The build comes in two parts – the main camera housing a Raspberry Pi 3 and Camera Module V2, and the ejectable cartridge fitted with Raspberry Pi Zero W and Adafruit PiTFT screen.

When the capture button is pressed, the camera takes 3 seconds’ worth of images and converts them into .gif format via a Python script. Once compressed and complete, the Pi 3 sends the file to the Zero W via a network connection. When it is satisfied that the Zero W has the image, the Pi 3 automatically ejects the ‘printed GIF’ cartridge, and the image is displayed.

A demonstration of how the GIF is displayed on the Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

For a full breakdown of code, 3D-printable files, and images, check out the full imgur post. You can see more of Abhishek’s work at his website here.

Create GIFs with a Raspberry Pi

Want to create GIFs with your Raspberry Pi? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t? So check out our free time-lapse animations resource. As with all our learning resources, the project is free for you to use at home and in your clubs or classrooms. And once you’ve mastered the art of Pi-based GIF creation, why not incorporate it into another project? Say, a motion-detecting security camera or an on-the-go tweeting GIF camera – the possibilities are endless.

And make sure you check out Abhishek’s other Raspberry Pi GIF project, Peeqo, who we covered previously in the blog. So cute. SO CUTE.

The post A printing GIF camera? Is that even a thing? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How Aussie ecommerce stores can compete with the retail giant Amazon

Post Syndicated from chris desantis original https://www.anchor.com.au/blog/2017/08/aussie-ecommerce-stores-vs-amazon/

The powerhouse Amazon retail store is set to launch in Australia toward the end of 2018 and Aussie ecommerce retailers need to ready themselves for the competition storm ahead.

2018 may seem a while away but getting your ecommerce site in tip top shape and ready to compete can take time. Check out these helpful hints from the Anchor crew.

Speed kills

If you’ve ever heard of the tale of the tortoise and the hare, the moral is that “slow and steady wins the race”. This is definitely not the place for that phrase, because if your site loads as slowly as a 1995 dial up connection, your ecommerce store will not, I repeat, will not win the race.

Site speed can be impacted by a number of factors and getting the balance right between a site that loads at lightning speed and delivering engaging content to your audience. There are many ways to check the performance of your site including Anchor’s free hosting check up or pingdom.

Taking action can boost the performance of your site:

Here’s an interesting blog from the WebCEO team about site speed’s impact on conversion rates on-page, or check out our previous blog on maximising site performance.

Show me the money

As an ecommerce store, getting credit card details as fast as possible is probably at the top of your list, but it’s important to remember that it’s an actual person that needs to hand over the details.

Consider the customer’s experience whilst checking out. Making people log in to their account before checkout, can lead to abandoned carts as customers try to remember the vital details. Similarly, making a customer enter all their details before displaying shipping costs is more of an annoyance than a benefit.

Built for growth

Before you blast out a promo email to your entire database or spend up big on PPC, consider what happens when this 5 fold increase in traffic, all jumps onto your site at around the same time.

Will your site come screeching to a sudden halt with a 504 or 408 error message, or ride high on the wave of increased traffic? If you have fixed infrastructure such as a dedicated server, or are utilising a VPS, then consider the maximum concurrent users that your site can handle.

Consider this. Amazon.com.au will be built on the scalable cloud infrastructure of Amazon Web Services and will utilise all the microservices and data mining technology to offer customers a seamless, personalised shopping experience. How will your business compete?

Search ready

Being found online is important for any business, but for ecommerce sites, it’s essential. Gaining results from SEO practices can take time so beware of ‘quick fix guarantees’ from outsourced agencies.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practices can have lasting effects. Good practices can ensure your site is found via organic search without huge advertising budgets, on the other hand ‘black hat’ practices can push your ecommerce store into search oblivion.

SEO takes discipline and focus to get right. Here are some of our favourite hints for SEO greatness from those who live and breathe SEO:

  • Optimise your site for mobile
  • Use Meta Tags wisely
  • Leverage Descriptive alt tags and image file names
  • Create content for people, not bots (keyword stuffing is a no no!)

SEO best practices are continually evolving, but creating a site that is designed to give users a great experience and give them the content they expect to find.

Google My Business is a free service that EVERY business should take advantage of. It is a listing service where your business can provide details such as address, phone number, website, and trading hours. It’s easy to update and manage, you can add photos, a physical address (if applicable), and display shopper reviews.

Get your site ship shape

Overwhelmed by these starter tips? If you are ready to get your site into tip top shape–get in touch. We work with awesome partners like eWave who can help create a seamless online shopping experience.

 

The post How Aussie ecommerce stores can compete with the retail giant Amazon appeared first on AWS Managed Services by Anchor.

Roku Gets Tough on Pirate Channels, Warns Users

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-gets-tough-on-pirate-channels-warns-users-170815/

In recent years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal services such as Netflix and HBO are flourishing, but there’s also a darker side to this streaming epidemic. Millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices.

Hollywood insiders have dubbed this trend “Piracy 3.0” are actively working with stakeholders to address the threat. One of the companies rightsholders are working with is Roku, known for its easy-to-use media players.

Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn’t over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn’t without consequences.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance.

Pirate content generally doesn’t show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party “private” channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these “private” channels to “non-certified” channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed.

A “WARNING!” message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

Roku Warning

“By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences,” Roku’s warning reads.

“Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku’s terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE.”

TorrentFreak reached out to Roku to find out how they plan to enforce this policy, but we have yet to hear back. According to Cord Cutters News, several piracy channels have already been removed recently, with other developers opting to leave the platform.

Roku’s General Counsel Steve Kay previously informed us that the company is taking the piracy problem seriously. Together with various stakeholders, they are working hard to address the problem.

“We actively work to prevent third-parties from using our platform to distribute copyright infringing content. Moreover, we have been actively working with other industry stakeholders on a wide range of anti-piracy initiatives,” Kay said.

Roku is not the only platform dealing with the piracy epidemic, the popular media player software Kodi is in the same boat. Kodi has also taken an active anti-piracy stance but they’re not banning any add-ons. They believe it would be pointless due to the open source nature of their software.

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

Pimoroni is 5 now!

Post Syndicated from guru original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pimoroni-is-5-now/

Long read written by Pimoroni’s Paul Beech, best enjoyed over a cup o’ grog.

Every couple of years, I’ve done a “State of the Fleet” update here on the Raspberry Pi blog to tell everyone how the Sheffield Pirates are doing. Half a decade has gone by in a blink, but reading back over the previous posts shows that a lot has happened in that time!

TL;DR We’re an increasingly medium-sized design/manufacturing/e-commerce business with workshops in Sheffield, UK, and Essen, Germany, and we employ almost 40 people. We’re totally lovely. Thanks for supporting us!

 

We’ve come a long way, baby

I’m sitting looking out the window at Sheffield-on-Sea and feeling pretty lucky about how things are going. In the morning, I’ll be flying east for Maker Faire Tokyo with Niko (more on him later), and to say hi to some amazing people in Shenzhen (and to visit Huaqiangbei, of course). This is after I’ve already visited this year’s Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin.

Pimoroni started out small, but we’ve grown like weeds, and we’re steadily sauntering towards becoming a medium-sized business. That’s thanks to fantastic support from the people who buy our stuff and spread the word. In return, we try to be nice, friendly, and human in everything we do, and to make exciting things, ideally with our own hands here in Sheffield.

Pimoroni soldering

Handmade with love

We’ve made it onto a few ‘fastest-growing’ lists, and we’re in the top 500 of the Inc. 5000 Europe list. Adafruit did it first a few years back, and we’ve never gone wrong when we’ve followed in their footsteps.

The slightly weird nature of Pimoroni means we get listed as either a manufacturing or e-commerce business. In reality, we’re about four or five companies in one shell, which is very much against the conventions of “how business is done”. However, having seen what Adafruit, SparkFun, and Seeed do, we’re more than happy to design, manufacture, and sell our stuff in-house, as well as stocking the best stuff from across the maker community.

Pimoroni stocks

Product and process

The whole process of expansion has not been without its growing pains. We’re just under 40 people strong now, and have an outpost in Germany (also hilariously far from the sea for piratical activities). This means we’ve had to change things quickly to improve and automate processes, so that the wheels won’t fall off as things get bigger. Process optimization is incredibly interesting to a geek, especially the making sure that things are done well, that mistakes are easy to spot and to fix, and that nothing is missed.

At the end of 2015, we had a step change in how busy we were, and our post room and support started to suffer. As a consequence, we implemented measures to become more efficient, including small but important things like checking in parcels with a barcode scanner attached to a Raspberry Pi. That Pi has been happily running on the same SD card for a couple of years now without problems 😀

Pimoroni post room

Going postal?

We also hired a full-time support ninja, Matt, to keep the experience of getting stuff from us light and breezy and to ensure that any problems are sorted. He’s had hugely positive impact already by making the emails and replies you see more friendly. Of course, he’s also started using the laser cutters for tinkering projects. It’d be a shame to work at Pimoroni and not get to use all the wonderful toys, right?

Employing all the people

You can see some of the motley crew we employ here and there on the Pimoroni website. And if you drop by at the Raspberry Pi Birthday Party, Pi Wars, Maker Faires, Deer Shed Festival, or New Scientist Live in September, you’ll be seeing new Pimoroni faces as we start to engage with people more about what we do. On top of that, we’re starting to make proper videos (like Sandy’s soldering guide), as opposed to the 101 episodes of Bilge Tank we recorded in a rather off-the-cuff and haphazard fashion. Although that’s the beauty of Bilge Tank, right?

Pimoroni soldering

Such soldering setup

As Emma, Sandy, Lydia, and Tanya gel as a super creative team, we’re starting to create more formal educational resources, and to make kits that are suitable for a wider audience. Things like our Pi Zero W kits are products of their talents.

Emma is our new Head of Marketing. She’s really ‘The Only Marketing Person Who Would Ever Fit In At Pimoroni’, having been a core part of the Sheffield maker scene since we hung around with one Ben Nuttall, in the dark days before Raspberry Pi was a thing.

Through a series of fortunate coincidences, Niko and his equally talented wife Mena were there when we cut the first Pibow in 2012. They immediately pitched in to help us buy our second laser cutter so we could keep up with demand. They have been supporting Pimoroni with sourcing in East Asia, and now Niko has become a member of the Pirates’ Council and the Head of Engineering as we’re increasing the sophistication and scale of the things we do. The Unicorn HAT HD is one of his masterpieces.

Pimoroni devices

ALL the HATs!

We see ourselves as a wonderful island of misfit toys, and it feels good to have the best toy shop ever, and to support so many lovely people. Business is about more than just profits.

Where do we go to, me hearties?

So what are our plans? At the moment we’re still working absolutely flat-out as demand from wholesalers, retailers, and customers increases. We thought Raspberry Pi was big, but it turns out it’s just getting started. Near the end of 2016, it seemed to reach a whole new level of popularityand still we continue to meet people to whom we have to explain what a Pi is. It’s a good problem to have.

We need a bigger space, but it’s been hard to find somewhere suitable in Sheffield that won’t mean we’re stuck on an industrial estate miles from civilisation. That would be bad for the crewwe like having world-class burritos on our doorstep.

The good news is, it looks like our search is at an end! Just in time for the arrival of our ‘Super-Turbo-Death-Star’ new production line, which will enable to make devices in a bigger, better, faster, more ‘Now now now!’ fashion \o/

Pimoroni warehouse

Spacious, but not spacious enough!

We’ve got lots of treasure in the pipeline, but we want to pick up the pace of development even more and create many new HATs, pHATs, and SHIMs, e.g. for environmental sensing and audio applications. Picade will also be getting some love to make it slicker and more hackable.

We’re also starting to flirt with adding more engineering and production capabilities in-house. The plan is to try our hand at anodising, powder-coating, and maybe even injection-moulding if we get the space and find the right machine. Learning how to do things is amazing, and we love having an idea and being able to bring it to life in almost no time at all.

Pimoroni production

This is where the magic happens

Fanks!

There are so many people involved in supporting our success, and some people we love for just existing and doing wonderful things that make us want to do better. The biggest shout-outs go to Liz, Eben, Gordon, James, all the Raspberry Pi crew, and Limor and pt from Adafruit, for being the most supportive guiding lights a young maker company could ever need.

A note from us

It is amazing for us to witness the growth of businesses within the Raspberry Pi ecosystem. Pimoroni is a wonderful example of an organisation that is creating opportunities for makers within its local community, and the company is helping to reinvigorate Sheffield as the heart of making in the UK.

If you’d like to take advantage of the great products built by the Pirates, Monkeys, Robots, and Ninjas of Sheffield, you should do it soon: Pimoroni are giving everyone 20% off their homemade tech until 6 August.

Pimoroni, from all of us here at Pi Towers (both in the UK and USA), have a wonderful birthday, and many a grog on us!

The post Pimoroni is 5 now! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

IPTV Service Raided By Police & Shutdown, Operator Arrested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How BulkyIPTV looked before its disappearance

Questions on third-party forums went unanswered too.

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

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

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

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

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

The Facebook post

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

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

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

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

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

Pirate App Store Operator Jailed for Criminal Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-app-store-operator-jailed-for-criminal-copyright-infringement-170710/

Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket during the summer of 2012.

The domain seizures were the first ever against “rogue” mobile app marketplaces and followed similar actions against BitTorrent and streaming sites.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted. This is also true for the now 27-year-old Joshua Taylor, a resident of Kentwood, Michigan.

Taylor, who arranged SnappzMarket’s servers, was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and has now been sentenced (pdf) to 16 months in prison for his role in the operation.

According to the Department of Justice, SnappzMarket distributed more than one million pirated apps with a retail value exceeding $1.7 million.

In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorney John Lovell argued that his client never made any “profits” from his involvement, noting that the co-conspirators played a much more significant role.

“Josh Taylor is 27 years old with no other criminal history. His offense involved procuring storage space for the masterminds of the operation,” Lovell wrote. “SnappzMarket did not pay Josh. Whatever profits were generated by SnappzMarket were split between Sharp and Peterson.”

The court record further reveals that Taylor had a very tough childhood and was plagued by both mental and physical challenges.

According to the testimony from his psychologist Meredith Davis, he didn’t understand that he was committing a felonious act, and lacked the cognitive capacity do so intentionally.

The psychologist stressed that her client deeply regrets what happened and she doesn’t think it’s likely that would run into similar problems in the future.

“He has expressed a great deal of remorse for his involvement in the charged crime. Mr. Taylor possesses a high degree of vigilance to avoid any further contact with the law,” Davis wrote to the court.

Despite these arguments, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten Sr. found a prison sentence appropriate.

While 16 months is significant, it’s not as much as 46 month prison sentence co-conspirator Scott Walton received earlier. Kody Peterson, another key SnappzMarket operator, only received a one year sentence but he agreed to do undercover work for the FBI.

Gary Edwin Sharp II, the only remaining defendant, previously pleaded guilty and is currently scheduled to be sentenced in November. Like the others, he also faces up to several years in prison.

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

Analysis of Top-N DynamoDB Objects using Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight

Post Syndicated from Rendy Oka original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/analysis-of-top-n-dynamodb-objects-using-amazon-athena-and-amazon-quicksight/

If you run an operation that continuously generates a large amount of data, you may want to know what kind of data is being inserted by your application. The ability to analyze data intake quickly can be very valuable for business units, such as operations and marketing. For many operations, it’s important to see what is driving the business at any particular moment. For retail companies, for example, understanding which products are currently popular can aid in planning for future growth. Similarly, for PR companies, understanding the impact of an advertising campaign can help them market their products more effectively.

This post covers an architecture that helps you analyze your streaming data. You’ll build a solution using Amazon DynamoDB Streams, AWS Lambda, Amazon Kinesis Firehose, and Amazon Athena to analyze data intake at a frequency that you choose. And because this is a serverless architecture, you can use all of the services here without the need to provision or manage servers.

The data source

You’ll collect a random sampling of tweets via Twitter’s API and store a variety of attributes in your DynamoDB table, such as: Twitter handle, tweet ID, hashtags, location, and Time-To-Live (TTL) value.

In DynamoDB, the primary key is used as an input to an internal hash function. The output from this function determines the partition in which the data will be stored. When using a combination of primary key and sort key as a DynamoDB schema, you need to make sure that no single partition key contains many more objects than the other partition keys because this can cause partition level throttling. For the demonstration in this blog, the Twitter handle will be the primary key and the tweet ID will be the sort key. This allows you to group and sort tweets from each user.

To help you get started, I have written a script that pulls a live Twitter stream that you can use to generate your data. All you need to do is provide your own Twitter Apps credentials, and it should generate the data immediately. Alternatively, I have also provided a script that you can use to generate random Tweets with little effort.

You can find both scripts in the Github repository:

https://github.com/awslabs/aws-blog-dynamodb-analysis

There are some modules that you may need to install to run these scripts. You can find them in Python’s module repository:

To get your own Twitter credentials, go to https://www.twitter.com/ and sign up for a free account, if you don’t already have one. After your account is set up, go to https://apps.twitter.com/. On the main landing page, choose the Create New App button. After the application is created, go to Keys and Access Tokens to get your credentials to use the Twitter API. You’ll need to generate Customer Tokens/Secret and Access Token/Secret. All four keys will be used to authenticate your request.

Architecture overview

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the overall flow of information will look like, from data ingestion into DynamoDB to visualization of results in Amazon QuickSight.

As illustrated in the architecture diagram above, any changes made to the items in DynamoDB will be captured and processed using DynamoDB Streams. Next, a Lambda function will be invoked by a trigger that is configured to respond to events in DynamoDB Streams. The Lambda function processes the data prior to pushing to Amazon Kinesis Firehose, which will output to Amazon S3. Finally, you use Amazon Athena to analyze the streaming data landing in Amazon S3. The result can be explored and visualized in Amazon QuickSight for your company’s business analytics.

You’ll need to implement your custom Lambda function to help transform the raw <key, value> data stored in DynamoDB to a JSON format for Athena to digest, but I can help you with a sample code that you are free to modify.

Implementation

In the following sections, I’ll walk through how you can set up the architecture discussed earlier.

Create your DynamoDB table

First, let’s create a DynamoDB table and enable DynamoDB Streams. This will enable data to be copied out of this table. From the console, use the user_id as the partition key and tweet_id as the sort key:

After the table is ready, you can enable DynamoDB Streams. This process operates asynchronously, so there is no performance impact on the table when you enable this feature. The easiest way to manage DynamoDB Streams is also through the DynamoDB console.

In the Overview tab of your newly created table, click Manage Stream. In the window, choose the information that will be written to the stream whenever data in the table is added or modified. In this example, you can choose either New image or New and old images.

For more details on this process, check out our documentation:

http://docs.aws.amazon.com/amazondynamodb/latest/developerguide/Streams.html

Configure Kinesis Firehose

Before creating the Lambda function, you need to configure Kinesis Firehose delivery stream so that it’s ready to accept data from Lambda. Open the Firehose console and choose Create Firehose Delivery Stream. From here, choose S3 as the destination and use the following to information to configure the resource. Note the Delivery stream name because you will use it in the next step.

For more details on this process, check out our documentation:

http://docs.aws.amazon.com/firehose/latest/dev/basic-create.html#console-to-s3

Create your Lambda function

Now that Kinesis Firehose is ready to accept data, you can create your Lambda function.

From the AWS Lambda console, choose the Create a Lambda function button and use the Blank Function. Enter a name and description, and choose Python 2.7 as the Runtime. Note your Lambda function name because you’ll need it in the next step.

In the Lambda function code field, you can paste the script that I have written for this purpose. All this function needs is the name of your Firehose stream name set as an environment variable.

import boto3
import json
import os

# Initiate Firehose client
firehose_client = boto3.client('firehose')

def lambda_handler(event, context):
    records = []
    batch   = []
    try :
        for record in event['Records']:
            tweet = {}
            t_stats = '{ "table_name":"%s", "user_id":"%s", "tweet_id":"%s", "approx_post_time":"%d" }\n' \
                      % ( record['eventSourceARN'].split('/')[1], \
                          record['dynamodb']['Keys']['user_id']['S'], \
                          record['dynamodb']['Keys']['tweet_id']['N'], \
                          int(record['dynamodb']['ApproximateCreationDateTime']) )
            tweet["Data"] = t_stats
            records.append(tweet)
        batch.append(records)
        res = firehose_client.put_record_batch(
            DeliveryStreamName = os.environ['firehose_stream_name'],
            Records = batch[0]
        )
        return 'Successfully processed {} records.'.format(len(event['Records']))
    except Exception :
        pass

The handler should be set to lambda_function.lambda_handler and you can use the existing lambda_dynamodb_streams role that’s been created by default.

Enable DynamoDB trigger and start collecting data

Everything is ready to go. Open your table using the DynamoDB console and go to the Triggers tab. Select the Create trigger drop down list and choose Existing Lambda function. In the pop-up window, select the function that you just created, and choose the Create button.

At this point, you can start collecting data with the Python script that I’ve provided. The first one will create a script that will pull public Twitter data and the other will generate fake tweets using Lorem Ipsum text.

Configure Amazon Athena to read the data

Next, you will configure Amazon Athena so that it can read the data Kinesis Firehose outputs to Amazon S3 and allow you to analyze the data as needed. You can connect to Athena directly from the Athena console, and you can establish a connection using JDBC or the Athena API. In this example, I’m going to demonstrate what this looks like on the Athena console.

First, create a new database and a new table. You can do this by running the following two queries. The first query creates a new database:

CREATE DATABASE IF NOT EXISTS ddbtablestats

And the second query creates a new table:

CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE IF NOT EXISTS ddbtablestats.twitterfeed (
    `table_name` string,
    `user_id` string,
    `tweet_id` bigint,
    `approx_post_time` timestamp 
) PARTITIONED BY (
    year string,
    month string,
    day string,
    hour string 
)
ROW FORMAT SERDE 'org.openx.data.jsonserde.JsonSerDe'
WITH SERDEPROPERTIES ('serialization.format' = '1')
LOCATION 's3://myBucket/dynamodb/streams/transactions/'

Note that this table is created using partitions. Partitioning separates your data into logical parts based on certain criteria, such as date, location, language, etc. This allows Athena to selectively pull your data without needing to process the entire data set. This effectively minimizes the query execution time, and it also allows you to have greater control over the data that you want to query.

After the query has completed, you should be able to see the table in the left side pane of the Athena dashboard.

After the database and table have been created, execute the ALTER TABLE query to populate the partitions in your table. Replace the date with the current date when the script was executed.

ALTER TABLE ddbtablestats.TwitterFeed ADD IF NOT EXISTS
PARTITION (year='2017',month='05',day='17',hour='01') location 's3://myBucket/dynamodb/streams/transactions/2017/05/17/01/'

Using the Athena console, you’ll need to manually populate each partition for each additional partition that you’d like to analyze, however you can programmatically automate this process by using the JDBC driver or any AWS SDK of your choice.

For more information on partitioning in Athena, check out our documentation:

http://docs.aws.amazon.com/athena/latest/ug/partitions.html

Querying the data in Amazon Athena

This is it! Let’s run this query to see the top 10 most active Twitter users in the last 24 hours. You can do this from the Athena console:

SELECT user_id, COUNT(DISTINCT tweet_id) tweets FROM ddbTableStats.TwitterFeed
WHERE year='2017' AND month='05' AND day='17'
GROUP BY user_id
ORDER BY tweets DESC
LIMIT 10

The result should look similar to the following:

Linking Athena to Amazon QuickSight

Finally, to make this data available to a larger audience, let’s visualize this data in Amazon QuickSight. Amazon QuickSight provides native connectivity to AWS data sources such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, and Amazon Athena. Amazon QuickSight can also connect to on-premises databases, Excel, or CSV files, and it can connect to cloud data sources such as Salesforce.com. For this solution, we will connect Amazon QuickSight to the Athena table we just created.

Amazon QuickSight has a free tier that provides 1 user and 1GB of SPICE (Superfast Parallel In-memory Calculated Engine) capacity free. So you can sign up and use QuickSight free of charge.

When you are signing up for Amazon QuickSight, ensure that you grant permissions for QuickSight to connect to Athena and the S3 bucket where the data is stored.

After you’ve signed up, navigate to the new analysis button, and choose new data set, and then select the Athena data source option. Create a new name for your data source and proceed to the next prompt. At this point, you should see the Athena table you created earlier.

Choose the option to import the data to SPICE for a quicker analysis. SPICE is an in-memory optimized calculation engine that is designed for quick data visualization through parallel processing. SPICE also enables you to refresh your data sets at a regular interval or on-demand as you want.

In the dialog box, confirm this data set creation, and you’ll arrive on the landing page where you can start building your graph. The X-axis will represent the user_id and the Value will be used to represent the SUM total of the tweets from each user.

The Amazon QuickSight report looks like this:

Through this visualization, I can easily see that there are 3 users that tweeted over 20 times that day and that the majority of the users have fewer than 10 tweets that day. I can also set up a scheduled refresh of my SPICE dataset so that I have a dashboard that is regularly updated with the latest data.

Closing thoughts

Here are the benefits that you can gain from using this architecture:

  1. You can optimize the design of your DynamoDB schema that follows AWS best practice recommendations.
  1. You can run analysis and data intelligence in order to understand the current customer demands for your business.
  1. You can store incremental backup for future auditing.

The flexibility of our AWS services invites you to create and design the ideal workflow for your production at any scale, and, as always, if you ever need some guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.I  hope this has been helpful to you! Please leave any questions and comments below.

 


Additional Reading

Learn how to analyze VPC Flow Logs with Amazon Kinesis Firehose, Amazon Athena, and Amazon QuickSight.


About the Author

Rendy Oka is a Big Data Support Engineer for Amazon Web Services. He provides consultations and architectural designs and partners with the TAMs, Solution Architects, and AWS product teams to help develop solutions for our customers. He is also a team lead for the big data support team in Seattle. Rendy has traveled to dozens of countries around the world and takes every opportunity to experience the local culture wherever he goes

 

 

 

 

Websites Grabbing User-Form Data Before It’s Submitted

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/websites_grabbi.html

Websites are sending information prematurely:

…we discovered NaviStone’s code on sites run by Acurian, Quicken Loans, a continuing education center, a clothing store for plus-sized women, and a host of other retailers. Using Javascript, those sites were transmitting information from people as soon as they typed or auto-filled it into an online form. That way, the company would have it even if those people immediately changed their minds and closed the page.

This is important because it goes against what people expect:

In yesterday’s report on Acurian Health, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo told Gizmodo that giving users a “send” or “submit” button, but then sending the entered information regardless of whether the button is pressed or not, clearly violates a user’s expectation of what will happen. Calo said it could violate a federal law against unfair and deceptive practices, as well as laws against deceptive trade practices in California and Massachusetts. A complaint on those grounds, Calo said, “would not be laughed out of court.”

This kind of thing is going to happen more and more, in all sorts of areas of our lives. The Internet of Things is the Internet of sensors, and the Internet of surveillance. We’ve long passed the point where ordinary people have any technical understanding of the different ways networked computers violate their privacy. Government needs to step in and regulate businesses down to reasonable practices. Which means government needs to prioritize security over their own surveillance needs.

Cybercrime Officials Shutdown Large eBook Portal, Three Arrested

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cybercrime-officials-shutdown-large-ebook-portal-three-arrested-170626/

Back in February 2015, German anti-piracy outfit GVU filed a complaint against the operators of large eBook portal Lul.to.

Targeted mainly at the German audience, the site carried around 160,000 eBooks, 28,000 audiobooks, plus newspapers and periodicals. Its motto was “Read and Listen” and claimed to be both the largest German eBook portal and the largest DRM-free platform in the world.

Unlike most file-sharing sites, Lul.to charged around 30,000 customers a small fee to access content, around $0.23 per download. However, all that came to end last week when authorities moved to shut the platform down.

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, searches in several locations led to the discovery of around 55,000 euros in bitcoin, 100,000 euros in bank deposits, 10,000 euros in cash, plus a “high-quality” motorcycle.

As is often the case following significant action, the site has been completely taken down and now displays the following seizure notice.

Lul.to seized (translated from German)

Authorities report that three people were arrested and are being detained while investigations continue.

It is not yet clear how many times the site’s books were downloaded by users but investigators believe that the retail value of the content offered on the site was around 392,000 euros. By volume, investigators seized more than 11 terabytes of data.

The German Publishers & Booksellers Association welcomed the shutdown of the platform.

“Intervening against lul.to is an important success in the fight against Internet piracy. By blocking one of the largest illegal providers for e-books and audiobooks, many publishers and retailers can breathe,” said CEO Alexander Skipis.

“Piracy is not an excusable offense, it’s the theft of intellectual property, which is the basis for the work of authors, publishers, and bookshops. Portals like lul.to harm the media market massively. The success of the investigation is another example of the fact that such illegal models ultimately can not hold up.”

Last week in a separate case in Denmark, three men aged between 26 and 71-years-old were handed suspended sentences for offering subscription access to around 198 pirate textbooks.

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

Amazon Patents Measures to Prevent In-Store Comparison Shopping

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/amazon_patents_.html

Amazon has been issued a patent on security measures that prevents people from comparison shopping while in the store. It’s not a particularly sophisticated patent — it basically detects when you’re using the in-store Wi-Fi to visit a competitor’s site and then blocks access — but it is an indication of how retail has changed in recent years.

What’s interesting is that Amazon is on the other side of this arms race. As an on-line retailer, it wants people to walk into stores and then comparison shop on its site. Yes, I know it’s buying Whole Foods, but it’s still predominantly an online retailer. Maybe it patented this to prevent stores from implementing the technology.

It’s probably not nearly that strategic. It’s hard to build a business strategy around a security measure that can be defeated with cellular access.

Roku Sales Banned in Mexico Over Piracy Concerns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-sales-banned-in-mexico-over-piracy-concerns-170619/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch it through their regular TV.

While a lot of attention has been on Kodi, there are other players on the market that allow people to do the same. Roku, for example, has been doing very well too.

Like Kodi, Roku media players don’t offer any pirated content out of the box. In fact, they can be hooked up to a wide variety of legal streaming options including HBO Go, Hulu, and Netflix. Still, there is also a market for third-party pirate channels, outside the Roku Channel Store, which turn the boxes into pirate tools.

This pirate angle has now resulted in a ban on Roku sales in Mexico, according to a report in Milenio.

The ban was issued by the Superior Court of Justice of the City of Mexico, following a complaint from Cablevision. The order in question prohibits stores such as Amazon, Liverpool, El Palacio de Hierro, and Sears from importing and selling the devices.

In addition, the court also instructs banks including Banorte and BBVA Bancomer to stop processing payments from a long list of accounts linked to pirated services on Roku.

The main reason for the order is the availability of pirated content through Roku, but banning the device itself is utterly comprehensive. It would be similar to banning all Android-based devices because certain apps allow users to stream copyrighted content without permission.

Roku

Roku has yet to release an official statement on the court order. TorrentFreak reached out to the company but hadn’t heard back at the time of publication.

It’s clear, however, that streaming players are among the top concerns for copyright holders. Motion Picture Association boss Stan McCoy recently characterized the use of streaming players to access infringing content as “Piracy 3.0.

“If you think of old-fashioned peer-to-peer piracy as 1.0, and then online illegal streaming websites as 2.0, in the audio-visual sector, in particular, we now face challenge number 3.0, which is what I’ll call the challenge of illegal streaming devices,” McCoy said earlier this month.

Unlike the court order in Mexico, however, McCoy stressed that the devices themselves, and software such as Kodi, are ‘probably’ not illegal. However, copyright-infringing pirate add-ons have the capability to turn them into an unprecedented piracy threat.

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

Online Platforms Should Collaborate to Ban Piracy and Terrorism, Report Suggests

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/online-platforms-collaborate-ban-piracy-terrorism-report-suggests-170608/

With deep ties to the content industries, the Digital Citizens Alliance periodically produces reports on Internet piracy. It has published reports on cyberlockers and tried to blame Cloudflare for the spread of malware, for example.

One of the key themes pursued by DCA is that Internet piracy is inextricably linked to a whole bunch of other online evils and that tackling the former could deliver a much-needed body blow to the latter.

Its new report, titled ‘Trouble in Our Digital Midst’, takes this notion and runs with it, bundling piracy with everything from fake news to hacking, to malware and brand protection, to the sextortion of “young girls and boys” via their computer cameras.

The premise of the report is that cybercrime as a whole is undermining America’s trust in the Internet, noting that 64% of US citizens say that their trust in digital platforms has dropped in the last year. Given the topics under the spotlight, it doesn’t take long to see where this is going – Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube must tackle the problem.

“When asked, ‘In your opinion, are digital platforms doing enough to keep the Internet safe and trustworthy, or are do they need to do more?’ a staggering 75 percent responded that they need to do more to keep the Internet safe,” the report notes.

It’s abundantly clear that the report is mostly about piracy but a lot of effort has been expended to ensure that people support its general call for the Internet to be cleaned up. By drawing attention to things that even most pirates might find offensive, it’s easy to find more people in agreement.

“Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the pairing of brand name advertising with offensive online content – like ISIS/terrorism recruiting videos – as a threat to the continued trust and integrity of the Internet,” the report notes.

Of course, this is an incredibly sensitive topic. When big brand ads turned up next to terrorist recruiting videos on YouTube, there was an almighty stink, and rightly so. However, at every turn, the DCA report manages to weave the issue of piracy into the equation, noting that the problem includes the “$200 million in advertising that shows up on illegal content theft websites often unbeknownst to the brands.”

The overriding theme is that platforms like Google, Facebook, and YouTube should be able to tackle all of these problems in the same way. Filtering out a terrorist video is the same as removing a pirate movie. And making sure that ads for big brands don’t appear alongside terrorist videos will be just as easy as starving pirates of revenue, the suggestion goes.

But if terrorism doesn’t grind your gears, what about fake news?

“64 percent of Americans say that the Fake News issue has made them less likely to trust the Internet as a source of information,” the report notes.

At this juncture, Facebook gets a gentle pat on the back for dealing with fake news and employing 3,000 people to monitor for violent videos being posted to the network. This shows that the company “takes seriously” the potential harm bad actors pose to Internet safety. But in keeping with the theme running throughout the report, it’s clear DCA are carefully easing in the thin end of the wedge.

“We are at only the beginning of thinking through other kinds of illicit and illegal activity happening on digital platforms right now that we must gain or re-gain control over,” DCA writes.

Quite. In the very next sentence, the group goes on to warn about the sale of drugs and stolen credit cards, adding that the sale of illicit streaming devices (modified Kodi boxes etc) is actually an “insidious yet effective delivery mechanism to infect computers with malware such as Remote Access Trojans.”

Both Amazon and Facebook receive praise in the report for their recent banning (1,2) of augmented Kodi devices but their actions are actually framed as the companies protecting their own reputations, rather than the interests of the media groups that have been putting them under pressure.

“And though this issue underscores the challenges faced by digital platforms – not all of which act with the same level of responsibility – it also highlights the fact digital platforms can and will step up when their own brands are at stake,” the report reads.

But pirate content and Remote Access Trojans through Kodi boxes are only the beginning. Pirate sites are playing a huge part as well, DCA claims, with one in three “content theft websites” exposing people to identify theft, ransomware, and sextortion via “the computer cameras of young girls and boys.”

Worst still, if that was possible, the lack of policing by online platforms means that people are able to “showcase live sexual assaults, murders, and other illegal conduct.”

DCA says that with all this in mind, Americans are looking for online digital platforms to help them. The group claims that citizens need proactive protection from these ills and want companies like Facebook to take similar steps to those taken when warning consumers about fake news and violent content.

So what can be done to stop this tsunami of illegality? According to DCA, platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter need to up their game and tackle the problem together.

“While digital platforms collaborate on policy and technical issues, there is no evidence that they are sharing information about the bad actors themselves. That enables criminals and bad actors to move seamlessly from platform to platform,” DCA writes.

“There are numerous examples of industry working together to identify and share information about exploitive behavior. For example, casinos share information about card sharks and cheats, and for decades the retail industry has shared information about fraudulent credit cards. A similar model would enable digital platforms and law enforcement to more quickly identify and combat those seeking to leverage the platforms to harm consumers.”

How this kind of collaboration could take place in the real world is open to interpretation but the DCA has a few suggestions of its own. Again, it doesn’t shy away from pulling people on side with something extremely offensive (in this case child pornography) in order to push what is clearly an underlying anti-piracy agenda.

“With a little help from engineers, digital platforms could create fingerprints of unlawful conduct that is shared across platforms to proactively block such conduct, as is done in a limited capacity with child pornography,” DCA explains.

“If these and other newly developed measures were adopted, digital platforms would have the information to enable them to make decisions whether to de-list or demote websites offering illicit goods and services, and the ability to stop the spread of illegal behavior that victimizes its users.”

The careful framing of the DCA report means that there’s something for everyone. If you don’t agree with them on tackling piracy, then their malware, fake news, or child exploitation angles might do the trick. It’s quite a clever strategy but one that the likes of Google, Facebook, and YouTube will recognize immediately.

And they need to – because apparently, it’s their job to sort all of this out. Good luck with that.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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

“Only a year? It’s felt like forever”: a twelve-month retrospective

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/12-months-raspberry-pi/

This weekend saw my first anniversary at Raspberry Pi, and this blog marks my 100th post written for the company. It would have been easy to let one milestone or the other slide had they not come along hand in hand, begging for some sort of acknowledgement.

Alex, Matt, and Courtney in a punt on the Cam

The day Liz decided to keep me

So here it is!

Joining the crew

Prior to my position in the Comms team as Social Media Editor, my employment history was largely made up of retail sales roles and, before that, bit parts in theatrical backstage crews. I never thought I would work for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, despite its firm position on my Top Five Awesome Places I’d Love to Work list. How could I work for a tech company when my knowledge of tech stretched as far as dismantling my Game Boy when I was a kid to see how the insides worked, or being the one friend everyone went to when their phone didn’t do what it was meant to do? I never thought about the other side of the Foundation coin, or how I could find my place within the hidden workings that turned the cogs that brought everything together.

… when suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a new job with a dream company. #raspberrypi #positive #change #dosomething

12 Likes, 1 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “… when suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a new job with a dream company. #raspberrypi #positive…”

A little luck, a well-written though humorous resumé, and a meeting with Liz and Helen later, I found myself the newest member of the growing team at Pi Towers.

Ticking items off the Bucket List

I thought it would be fun to point out some of the chances I’ve had over the last twelve months and explain how they fit within the world of Raspberry Pi. After all, we’re about more than just a $35 credit card-sized computer. We’re a charitable Foundation made up of some wonderful and exciting projects, people, and goals.

High altitude ballooning (HAB)

Skycademy offers educators in the UK the chance to come to Pi Towers Cambridge to learn how to plan a balloon launch, build a payload with onboard Raspberry Pi and Camera Module, and provide teachers with the skills needed to take their students on an adventure to near space, with photographic evidence to prove it.

All the screens you need to hunt balloons. . We have our landing point and are now rushing to Therford to find the payload in a field. . #HAB #RasppberryPi

332 Likes, 5 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “All the screens you need to hunt balloons. . We have our landing point and are now rushing to…”

I was fortunate enough to join Sky Captain James, along with Dan Fisher, Dave Akerman, and Steve Randell on a test launch back in August last year. Testing out new kit that James had still been tinkering with that morning, we headed to a field in Elsworth, near Cambridge, and provided Facebook Live footage of the process from payload build to launch…to the moment when our balloon landed in an RAF shooting range some hours later.

RAF firing range sign

“Can we have our balloon back, please, mister?”

Having enjoyed watching Blue Peter presenters send up a HAB when I was a child, I marked off the event on my bucket list with a bold tick, and I continue to show off the photographs from our Raspberry Pi as it reached near space.

Spend the day launching/chasing a high-altitude balloon. Look how high it went!!! #HAB #ballooning #space #wellspacekinda #ish #photography #uk #highaltitude

13 Likes, 2 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “Spend the day launching/chasing a high-altitude balloon. Look how high it went!!! #HAB #ballooning…”

You can find more information on Skycademy here, plus more detail about our test launch day in Dan’s blog post here.

Dear Raspberry Pi Friends…

My desk is slowly filling with stuff: notes, mementoes, and trinkets that find their way to me from members of the community, both established and new to the life of Pi. There are thank you notes, updates, and more from people I’ve chatted to online as they explore their way around the world of Pi.

Letter of thanks to Raspberry Pi from a young fan

*heart melts*

By plugging myself into social media on a daily basis, I often find hidden treasures that go unnoticed due to the high volume of tags we receive on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Kids jumping off chairs in delight as they complete their first Scratch project, newcomers to the Raspberry Pi shedding a tear as they make an LED blink on their kitchen table, and seasoned makers turning their hobby into something positive to aid others.

It’s wonderful to join in the excitement of people discovering a new skill and exploring the community of Raspberry Pi makers: I’ve been known to shed a tear as a result.

Meeting educators at Bett, chatting to teen makers at makerspaces, and sharing a cupcake or three at the birthday party have been incredible opportunities to get to know you all.

You’re all brilliant.

The Queens of Robots, both shoddy and otherwise

Last year we welcomed the Queen of Shoddy Robots, Simone Giertz to Pi Towers, where we chatted about making, charity, and space while wandering the colleges of Cambridge and hanging out with flat Tim Peake.

Queen of Robots @simonegiertz came to visit #PiTowers today. We hung out with cardboard @astro_timpeake and ate chelsea buns at @fitzbillies #Cambridge. . We also had a great talk about the educational projects of the #RaspberryPi team, #AstroPi and how not enough people realise we’re a #charity. . If you’d like to learn more about the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the work we do with #teachers and #education, check out our website – www.raspberrypi.org. . How was your day? Get up to anything fun?

597 Likes, 3 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “Queen of Robots @simonegiertz came to visit #PiTowers today. We hung out with cardboard…”

And last month, the wonderful Estefannie ‘Explains it All’ de La Garza came to hang out, make things, and discuss our educational projects.

Estefannie on Twitter

Ahhhh!!! I still can’t believe I got to hang out and make stuff at the @Raspberry_Pi towers!! Thank you thank you!!

Meeting such wonderful, exciting, and innovative YouTubers was a fantastic inspiration to work on my own projects and to try to do more to help others discover ways to connect with tech through their own interests.

Those ‘wow’ moments

Every Raspberry Pi project I see on a daily basis is awesome. The moment someone takes an idea and does something with it is, in my book, always worthy of awe and appreciation. Whether it be the aforementioned flashing LED, or sending Raspberry Pis to the International Space Station, if you have turned your idea into reality, I applaud you.

Some of my favourite projects over the last twelve months have not only made me say “Wow!”, they’ve also inspired me to want to do more with myself, my time, and my growing maker skill.

Museum in a Box on Twitter

Great to meet @alexjrassic today and nerd out about @Raspberry_Pi and weather balloons and @Space_Station and all things #edtech 🎈⛅🛰📚🤖

Projects such as Museum in a Box, a wonderful hands-on learning aid that brings the world to the hands of children across the globe, honestly made me tear up as I placed a miniaturised 3D-printed Virginia Woolf onto a wooden box and gasped as she started to speak to me.

Jill Ogle’s Let’s Robot project had me in awe as Twitch-controlled Pi robots tackled mazes, attempted to cut birthday cake, or swung to slap Jill in the face over webcam.

Jillian Ogle on Twitter

@SryAbtYourCats @tekn0rebel @Beam Lol speaking of faces… https://t.co/1tqFlMNS31

Every day I discover new, wonderful builds that both make me wish I’d thought of them first, and leave me wondering how they manage to make them work in the first place.

Space

We have Raspberry Pis in space. SPACE. Actually space.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

New post: Mission accomplished for the European @astro_pi challenge and @esa @Thom_astro is on his way home 🚀 https://t.co/ycTSDR1h1Q

Twelve months later, this still blows my mind.

And let’s not forget…

  • The chance to visit both the Houses of Parliment and St James’s Palace

Raspberry Pi team at the Houses of Parliament

  • Going to a Doctor Who pre-screening and meeting Peter Capaldi, thanks to Clare Sutcliffe

There’s no need to smile when you’re #DoctorWho.

13 Likes, 2 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “There’s no need to smile when you’re #DoctorWho.”

We’re here. Where are you? . . . . . #raspberrypi #vidconeu #vidcon #pizero #zerow #travel #explore #adventure #youtube

1,944 Likes, 30 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “We’re here. Where are you? . . . . . #raspberrypi #vidconeu #vidcon #pizero #zerow #travel #explore…”

  • Making a GIF Cam and other builds, and sharing them with you all via the blog

Made a Gif Cam using a Raspberry Pi, Pi camera, button and a couple LEDs. . When you press the button, it takes 8 images and stitches them into a gif file. The files then appear on my MacBook. . Check out our Twitter feed (Raspberry_Pi) for examples! . Next step is to fit it inside a better camera body. . #DigitalMaking #Photography #Making #Camera #Gif #MakersGonnaMake #LED #Creating #PhotosofInstagram #RaspberryPi

19 Likes, 1 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “Made a Gif Cam using a Raspberry Pi, Pi camera, button and a couple LEDs. . When you press the…”

The next twelve months

Despite Eben jokingly firing me near-weekly across Twitter, or Philip giving me the ‘Dad glare’ when I pull wires and buttons out of a box under my desk to start yet another project, I don’t plan on going anywhere. Over the next twelve months, I hope to continue discovering awesome Pi builds, expanding on my own skills, and curating some wonderful projects for you via the Raspberry Pi blog, the Raspberry Pi Weekly newsletter, my submissions to The MagPi Magazine, and the occasional video interview or two.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for joining me on the ride!

The post “Only a year? It’s felt like forever”: a twelve-month retrospective appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

How to Control TLS Ciphers in Your AWS Elastic Beanstalk Application by Using AWS CloudFormation

Post Syndicated from Paco Hope original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-control-tls-ciphers-in-your-aws-elastic-beanstalk-application-by-using-aws-cloudformation/

Securing data in transit is critical to the integrity of transactions on the Internet. Whether you log in to an account with your user name and password or give your credit card details to a retailer, you want your data protected as it travels across the Internet from place to place. One of the protocols in widespread use to protect data in transit is Transport Layer Security (TLS). Every time you access a URL that begins with “https” instead of just “http”, you are using a TLS-secured connection to a website.

To demonstrate that your application has a strong TLS configuration, you can use services like the one provided by SSL Labs. There are also open source, command-line-oriented TLS testing programs such as testssl.sh (which I do not cover in this post) and sslscan (which I cover later in this post). The goal of testing your TLS configuration is to provide evidence that weak cryptographic ciphers are disabled in your TLS configuration and only strong ciphers are enabled. In this blog post, I show you how to control the TLS security options for your secure load balancer in AWS CloudFormation, pass the TLS certificate and host name for your secure AWS Elastic Beanstalk application to the CloudFormation script as parameters, and then confirm that only strong TLS ciphers are enabled on the launched application by testing it with SSLLabs.

Background

In some situations, it’s not enough to simply turn on TLS with its default settings and call it done. Over the years, a number of vulnerabilities have been discovered in the TLS protocol itself with codenames such as CRIME, POODLE, and Logjam. Though some vulnerabilities were in specific implementations, such as OpenSSL, others were vulnerabilities in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or TLS protocol itself.

The only way to avoid some TLS vulnerabilities is to ensure your web server uses only the latest version of TLS. Some organizations want to limit their TLS configuration to the highest possible security levels to satisfy company policies, regulatory requirements, or other information security requirements. In practice, such limitations usually mean using TLS version 1.2 (at the time of this writing, TLS 1.3 is in the works) and using only strong cryptographic ciphers. Note that forcing a high-security TLS connection in this manner limits which types of devices can connect to your web server. I address this point at the end of this post.

The default TLS configuration in most web servers is compatible with the broadest set of clients (such as web browsers, mobile devices, and point-of-sale systems). As a result, older ciphers and protocol versions are usually enabled. This is true for the Elastic Load Balancing load balancer that is created in your Elastic Beanstalk application as well as for web server software such as Apache and nginx.  For example, TLS versions 1.0 and 1.1 are enabled in addition to 1.2. The RC4 cipher is permitted, even though that cipher is too weak for the most demanding security requirements. If your application needs to prioritize the security of connections over compatibility with legacy devices, you must adjust the TLS encryption settings on your application. The solution in this post helps you make those adjustments.

Prerequisites for the solution

Before you implement this solution, you must have a few prerequisites in place:

  1. You must have a hosted zone in Amazon Route 53 where the name of the secure application will be created. I use example.com as my domain name in this post and assume that I host example.com publicly in Route 53. To learn more about creating and hosting a zone publicly in Route 53, see Working with Public Hosted Zones.
  2. You must choose a name to be associated with the secure app. In this case, I use secure.example.com as the DNS name to be associated with the secure app. This means that I’m trying to create an Elastic Beanstalk application whose URL will be https://secure.example.com/.
  3. You must have a TLS certificate hosted in AWS Certificate Manager (ACM). This certificate must be issued with the name you decided in Step 2. If you are new to ACM, see Getting Started. If you are already familiar with ACM, request a certificate and get its Amazon Resource Name (ARN).Look up the ARN for the certificate that you created by opening the ACM console. The ARN looks something like: arn:aws:acm:eu-west-1:111122223333:certificate/12345678-abcd-1234-abcd-1234abcd1234.

Implementing the solution

You can use two approaches to control the TLS ciphers used by your load balancer: one is to use a predefined protocol policy from AWS, and the other is to write your own protocol policy that lists exactly which ciphers should be enabled. There are many ciphers and options that can be set, so the appropriate AWS predefined policy is often the simplest policy to use. If you have to comply with an information security policy that requires enabling or disabling specific ciphers, you will probably find it easiest to write a custom policy listing only the ciphers that are acceptable to your requirements.

AWS released two predefined TLS policies on March 10, 2017: ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-1-2017-01 and ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01. These policies restrict TLS negotiations to TLS 1.1 and 1.2, respectively. You can find a good comparison of the ciphers that these policies enable and disable in the HTTPS listener documentation for Elastic Load Balancing. If your requirements are simply “support TLS 1.1 and later” or “support TLS 1.2 and later,” those AWS predefined cipher policies are the best place to start. If you need to control your cipher choice with a custom policy, I show you in this post which lines of the CloudFormation template to change.

Download the predefined policy CloudFormation template

Many AWS customers rely on CloudFormation to launch their AWS resources, including their Elastic Beanstalk applications. To change the ciphers and protocol versions supported on your load balancer, you must put those options in a CloudFormation template. You can store your site’s TLS certificate in ACM and create the corresponding DNS alias record in the correct zone in Route 53.

To start, download the CloudFormation template that I have provided for this blog post, or deploy the template directly in your environment. This template creates a CloudFormation stack in your default VPC that contains two resources: an Elastic Beanstalk application that deploys a standard sample PHP application, and a Route 53 record in a hosted zone. This CloudFormation template selects the AWS predefined policy called ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 and deploys it.

Launching the sample application from the CloudFormation console

In the CloudFormation console, choose Create Stack. You can either upload the template through your browser, or load the template into an Amazon S3 bucket and type the S3 URL in the Specify an Amazon S3 template URL box.

After you click Next, you will see that there are three parameters defined: CertificateARN, ELBHostName, and HostedDomainName. Set the CertificateARN parameter to the ARN of the certificate you want to use for your application. Set the ELBHostName parameter to the hostname part of the URL. For example, if your URL were https://secure.example.com/, the HostedDomainName parameter would be example.com and the ELBHostName parameter would be secure.

For the sample application, choose Next and then choose Create, and the CloudFormation stack will be created. For your own applications, you might need to set other options such as a database, VPC options, or Amazon SNS notifications. For more details, see AWS Elastic Beanstalk Environment Configuration. To deploy an application other than our sample PHP application, create your own application source bundle.

Launching the sample application from the command line

In addition to launching the sample application from the console, you can specify the parameters from the command line. Because the template uses parameters, you can launch multiple copies of the application, specifying different parameters for each copy. To launch the application from a Linux command line with the AWS CLI, insert the correct values for your application, as shown in the following command.

aws cloudformation create-stack --stack-name "SecureSampleApplication" \
--template-url https://<URL of your CloudFormation template in S3> \
--parameters ParameterKey=CertificateARN,ParameterValue=<Your ARN> \
ParameterKey=ELBHostName,ParameterValue=<Your Host Name> \
ParameterKey=HostedDomainName,ParameterValue=<Your Domain Name>

When that command exits, it prints the StackID of the stack it created. Save that StackID for later so that you can fetch the stack’s outputs from the command line.

Using a custom cipher specification

If you want to specify your own cipher choices, you can use the same CloudFormation template and change two lines. Let’s assume your information security policies require you to disable any ciphers that use Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode encryption. These ciphers are enabled in the ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 managed policy, so to satisfy that security requirement, you have to modify the CloudFormation template to use your own protocol policy.

In the template, locate the three lines that define the TLSHighPolicy.

- Namespace:  aws:elb:policies:TLSHighPolicy
OptionName: SSLReferencePolicy
Value:      ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01

Change the OptionName and Value for the TLSHighPolicy. Instead of referring to the AWS predefined policy by name, explicitly list all the ciphers you want to use. Change those three lines so they look like the following.

- Namespace: aws:elb:policies:TLSHighPolicy
OptionName: SSLProtocols
Value:  Protocol-TLSv1.2,Server-Defined-Cipher-Order,ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384,ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256,ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384,ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256

This protocol policy stipulates that the load balancer should:

  • Negotiate connections using only TLS 1.2.
  • Ignore any attempts by the client (for example, the web browser or mobile device) to negotiate a weaker cipher.
  • Accept four specific, strong combinations of cipher and key exchange—and nothing else.

The protocol policy enables only TLS 1.2, strong ciphers that do not use CBC mode encryption, and strong key exchange.

Connect to the secure application

When your CloudFormation stack is in the CREATE_COMPLETED state, you will find three outputs:

  1. The public DNS name of the load balancer
  2. The secure URL that was created
  3. TestOnSSLLabs output that contains a direct link for testing your configuration

You can either enter the secure URL in a web browser (for example, https://secure.example.com/), or click the link in the Outputs to open your sample application and see the demo page. Note that you must use HTTPS—this template has disabled HTTP on port 80 and only listens with HTTPS on port 443.

If you launched your application through the command line, you can view the CloudFormation outputs using the command line as well. You need to know the StackId of the stack you launched and insert it in the following stack-name parameter.

aws cloudformation describe-stacks --stack-name "<ARN of Your Stack>" \
--query 'Stacks[0].Outputs'

Test your application over the Internet with SSLLabs

The easiest way to confirm that the load balancer is using the secure ciphers that we chose is to enter the URL of the load balancer in the form on SSL Labs’ SSL Server Test page. If you do not want the name of your load balancer to be shared publicly on SSLLabs.com, select the Do not show the results on the boards check box. After a minute or two of testing, SSLLabs gives you a detailed report of every cipher it tried and how your load balancer responded. This test simulates many devices that might connect to your website, including mobile phones, desktop web browsers, and software libraries such as Java and OpenSSL. The report tells you whether these clients would be able to connect to your application successfully.

Assuming all went well, you should receive an A grade for the sample application. The biggest contributors to the A grade are:

  • Supporting only TLS 1.2, and not TLS 1.1, TLS 1.0, or SSL 3.0
  • Supporting only strong ciphers such as AES, and not weaker ciphers such as RC4
  • Having an X.509 public key certificate issued correctly by ACM

How to test your application privately with sslscan

You might not be able to reach your Elastic Beanstalk application from the Internet because it might be in a private subnet that is only accessible internally. If you want to test the security of your load balancer’s configuration privately, you can use one of the open source command-line tools such as sslscan. You can install and run the sslscan command on any Amazon EC2 Linux instance or even from your own laptop. Be sure that the Elastic Beanstalk application you want to test will accept an HTTPS connection from your Amazon Linux EC2 instance or from your laptop.

The easiest way to get sslscan on an Amazon Linux EC2 instance is to:

  1. Enable the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository.
  2. Run sudo yum install sslscan.
  3. After the command runs successfully, run sslscan secure.example.com to scan your application for supported ciphers.

The results are similar to Qualys’ results at SSLLabs.com, but the sslscan tool does not summarize and evaluate the results to assign a grade. It just reports whether your application accepted a connection using the cipher that it tried. You must decide for yourself whether that set of accepted connections represents the right level of security for your application. If you have been asked to build a secure load balancer that meets specific security requirements, the output from sslscan helps to show how the security of your application is configured.

The following sample output shows a small subset of the total output of the sslscan tool.

Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-GCM-SHA384
Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-SHA256
Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-SHA
Rejected TLS12 256 bits CAMELLIA256-SHA
Failed TLS12 256 bits PSK-AES256-CBC-SHA
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256

An Accepted connection is one that was successful: the load balancer and the client were both able to use the indicated cipher. Failed and Rejected connections are connections whose load balancer would not accept the level of security that the client was requesting. As a result, the load balancer closed the connection instead of communicating insecurely. The difference between Failed and Rejected is based one whether the TLS connection was closed cleanly.

Comparing the two policies

The main difference between our custom policy and the AWS predefined policy is whether or not CBC ciphers are accepted. The test results with both policies are identical except for the results shown in the following table. The only change in the policy, and therefore the only change in the results, is that the cipher suites using CBC ciphers have been disabled.

Cipher Suite Name Encryption Algorithm Key Size (bits) ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 Custom Policy
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 AESGCM 256 Enabled Enabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384 AES 256 Enabled Disabled
AES256-GCM-SHA384 AESGCM 256 Enabled Disabled
AES256-SHA256 AES 256 Enabled Disabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 AESGCM 128 Enabled Enabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 AES 128 Enabled Disabled
AES128-GCM-SHA256 AESGCM 128 Enabled Disabled
AES128-SHA256 AES 128 Enabled Disabled

Strong ciphers and compatibility

The custom policy described in the previous section prevents legacy devices and older versions of software and web browsers from connecting. The output at SSLLabs provides a list of devices and applications (such as Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7) that cannot connect to an application that uses the TLS policy. By design, the load balancer will refuse to connect to a device that is unable to negotiate a connection at the required levels of security. Users who use legacy software and devices will see different errors, depending on which device or software they use (for example, Internet Explorer on Windows, Chrome on Android, or a legacy mobile application). The error messages will be some variation of “connection failed” because the Elastic Load Balancer closes the connection without responding to the user’s request. This behavior can be problematic for websites that must be accessible to older desktop operating systems or older mobile devices.

If you need to support legacy devices, adjust the TLSHighPolicy in the CloudFormation template. For example, if you need to support web browsers on Windows 7 systems (and you cannot enable TLS 1.2 support on those systems), you can change the policy to enable TLS 1.1. To do this, change the value of SSLReferencePolicy to ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-1-2017-01.

Enabling legacy protocol versions such as TLS version 1.1 will allow older devices to connect, but then the application may not be compliant with the information security policies or business requirements that require strong ciphers.

Conclusion

Using Elastic Beanstalk, Route 53, and ACM can help you launch secure applications that are designed to not only protect data but also meet regulatory compliance requirements and your information security policies. The TLS policy, either custom or predefined, allows you to control exactly which cryptographic ciphers are enabled on your Elastic Load Balancer. The TLS test results provide you with clear evidence you can use to demonstrate compliance with security policies or requirements. The parameters in this post’s CloudFormation template also make it adaptable and reusable for multiple applications. You can use the same template to launch different applications on different secure URLs by simply changing the parameters that you pass to the template.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, start a new thread on the CloudFormation forum.

– Paco