We’ve updated our AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam to include new services and architectural best practices, including the pillars of the Well-Architected Framework.
About The Exam
The new AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (Released February 2018) exam validates knowledge of how to architect and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS technologies. We recommend candidates have at least one year of hands-on experience designing available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable and distributed systems on AWS before taking the exam. This exam covers:
Designing resilient architectures
Defining performant architectures
Specifying secure applications and architectures
Designing cost-optimized architectures
Defining operationally excellent architectures
How To Prepare
We also refreshed our exam preparation resources. If you are looking to expand your Architecting knowledge, we recommend the following resources:
AWS has released a new whitepaper that has been requested by many AWS customers: AWS Policy Perspectives: Data Residency. Data residency is the requirement that all customer content processed and stored in an IT system must remain within a specific country’s borders, and it is one of the foremost concerns of governments that want to use commercial cloud services. General cybersecurity concerns and concerns about government requests for data have contributed to a continued focus on keeping data within countries’ borders. In fact, some governments have determined that mandating data residency provides an extra layer of security.
This approach, however, is counterproductive to the data protection objectives and the IT modernization and global economic growth goals that many governments have set as milestones. This new whitepaper addresses the real and perceived security risks expressed by governments when they demand in-country data residency by identifying the most likely and prevalent IT vulnerabilities and security risks, explaining the native security embedded in cloud services, and highlighting the roles and responsibilities of cloud service providers (CSPs), governments, and customers in protecting data.
Large-scale, multinational CSPs, often called hyperscale CSPs, represent a transformational disruption in technology because of how they support their customers with high degrees of efficiency, agility, and innovation as part of world-class security offerings. The whitepaper explains how hyperscale CSPs, such as AWS, that might be located out of country provide their customers the ability to achieve high levels of data protection through safeguards on their own platform and with turnkey tooling for their customers. They do this while at the same time preserving nation-state regulatory sovereignty.
The whitepaper also considers the commercial, public-sector, and economic effects of data residency policies and offers considerations for governments to evaluate before enforcing requirements that can unintentionally limit public-sector digital transformation goals, in turn possibly leading to increased cybersecurity risk.
AWS continues to engage with governments around the world to hear and address their top-of-mind security concerns. We take seriously our commitment to advocate for our customers’ interests and enforce security from “ground zero.” This means that when customers use AWS, they can have the confidence that their data is protected with a level of assurance that meets, if not exceeds, their needs, regardless of where the data resides.
Take the AWS Certified Security – Specialty beta exam for the chance to be among the first to hold this new AWS Certification. This beta exam allows experienced cloud security professionals to demonstrate and validate their expertise. Register today – this beta exam will only be available from January 15 to March 2!
About the exam
This beta exam validates that the successful candidate can effectively demonstrate knowledge of how to secure the AWS platform. The exam covers incident response, logging and monitoring, infrastructure security, identity and access management, and data protection.
The exam validates:
Familiarity with regional- and country-specific security and compliance regulations and meta issues that these regulations embody.
An understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms.
An understanding of data encryption methods and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
An understanding of secure Internet protocols and AWS mechanisms to implement them.
A working knowledge of AWS security services and features of services to provide a secure production environment.
Competency gained from two or more years of production deployment experience using AWS security services and features.
Ability to make tradeoff decisions with regard to cost, security, and deployment complexity given a set of application requirements.
The beta is open to anyone who currently holds an Associate or Cloud Practitioner certification. We recommend candidates have five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions, and at least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads.
How to prepare
We have training and other resources to help you prepare for the beta exam:
AWS Security Fundamentals Digital| 3 Hours This course introduces you to fundamental cloud computing and AWS security concepts, including AWS access control and management, governance, logging, and encryption methods. It also covers security-related compliance protocols and risk management strategies, as well as procedures related to auditing your AWS security infrastructure.
Security Operations on AWS Classroom | 3 Days This course demonstrates how to efficiently use AWS security services to stay secure and compliant in the AWS Cloud. The course focuses on the AWS-recommended security best practices that you can implement to enhance the security of your data and systems in the cloud. The course highlights the security features of AWS key services including compute, storage, networking, and database services.
AWS User Guide to Financial Services Regulations and Guidelines in Australia – Summarizes APRA requirements and recommendations related to outsourcing, IT risk, and the cloud. This 34-page whitepaper is intended for APRA-regulated institutions looking to run material workloads in the cloud. It’s particularly useful for leadership, security, risk, and compliance teams that need to understand APRA requirements about outsourcing policies, agreements, and notification and consultation with APRA.
The APRA CPG 234 Workbook (download through AWS Artifact; an AWS account is required) – Includes a detailed analysis of the APRA CPG 234 guidelines and how they map to AWS controls. APRA-regulated institutions can use this 53-page guide when conducting technical due diligence before running material workloads in the cloud.
These documents join existing guides for other jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific, such as India, Singapore, and Hong Kong. We will release additional AWS Financial Services resource guides in 2018 to help you navigate regulatory requirements in other markets around the world.
The following list includes the ten most downloaded AWS security and compliance documents in 2017. Using this list, you can learn about what other AWS customers found most interesting about security and compliance last year.
AWS Security Best Practices – This guide is intended for customers who are designing the security infrastructure and configuration for applications running on AWS. The guide provides security best practices that will help you define your Information Security Management System (ISMS) and build a set of security policies and processes for your organization so that you can protect your data and assets in the AWS Cloud.
AWS: Overview of Security Processes – This whitepaper describes the physical and operational security processes for the AWS managed network and infrastructure, and helps answer questions such as, “How does AWS help me protect my data?”
Introduction to AWS Security –This document provides an introduction to AWS’s approach to security, including the controls in the AWS environment, and some of the products and features that AWS makes available to customers to meet your security objectives.
AWS: Risk and Compliance – This whitepaper provides information to help customers integrate AWS into their existing control framework, including a basic approach for evaluating AWS controls and a description of AWS certifications, programs, reports, and third-party attestations.
Use AWS WAF to Mitigate OWASP’s Top 10 Web Application Vulnerabilities – AWS WAF is a web application firewall that helps you protect your websites and web applications against various attack vectors at the HTTP protocol level. This whitepaper outlines how you can use AWS WAF to mitigate the application vulnerabilities that are defined in the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 list of most common categories of application security flaws.
Introduction to Auditing the Use of AWS – This whitepaper provides information, tools, and approaches for auditors to use when auditing the security of the AWS managed network and infrastructure.
AWS Security and Compliance: Quick Reference Guide – By using AWS, you inherit the many security controls that we operate, thus reducing the number of security controls that you need to maintain. Your own compliance and certification programs are strengthened while at the same time lowering your cost to maintain and run your specific security assurance requirements. Learn more in this quick reference guide.
We recently launched AWS Architecture Monthly, a new subscription service on Kindle that will push a selection of the best content around cloud architecture from AWS, with a few pointers to other content you might also enjoy.
From building a simple website to crafting an AI-based chat bot, the choices of technologies and the best practices in how to apply them are constantly evolving. Our goal is to supply you each month with a broad selection of the best new tech content from AWS — from deep-dive tutorials to industry-trend articles.
With your free subscription, you can look forward to fresh content delivered directly to your Kindledevice or Kindle app including: – Technical whitepapers – Reference architectures – New solutions and implementation guides – Training and certification opportunities – Industry trends
The January issue is now live. This month includes: – AWS Architecture Blog: Glenn Gore’s Take on re:Invent 2017 (Chief Architect for AWS) – AWS Reference Architectures: Java Microservices Deployed on EC2 Container Service; Node.js Microservices Deployed on EC2 Container Service – AWS Training & Certification: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate – Sample Code: aws-serverless-express – Technical Whitepaper: Serverless Architectures with AWS Lambda – Overview and Best Practices
At this time, Architecture Monthly annual subscriptions are only available in the France (new), US, UK, and Germany. As more countries become available, we’ll update you here on the blog. For Amazon.com countries not listed above, we are offering single-issue downloads — also accessible from our landing page. The content is the same as in the subscription but requires individual-issue downloads.
FAQ I have to submit my credit card information for a free subscription? While you do have to submit your card information at this time (as you would for a free book in the Kindle store), it won’t be charged. This will remain a free, annual subscription and includes all 10 issues for the year.
Why isn’t the subscription available everywhere? As new countries get added to Kindle Newsstand, we’ll ensure we add them for Architecture Monthly. This month we added France but anticipate it will take some time for the new service to move into additional markets.
What countries are included in the Amazon.com list where the issues can be downloaded? Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Gibraltar, Guernsey, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican City
At re:Invent 2014, we announced AWS Lambda, what is now the center of the serverless platform at AWS, and helped ignite the trend of companies building serverless applications.
This year, at re:Invent 2017, the topic of serverless was everywhere. We were incredibly excited to see the energy from everyone attending 7 workshops, 15 chalk talks, 20 skills sessions and 27 breakout sessions. Many of these sessions were repeated due to high demand, so we are happy to summarize and provide links to the recordings and slides of these sessions.
Over the course of the week leading up to and then the week of re:Invent, we also had over 15 new features and capabilities across a number of serverless services, including AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, AWS [email protected], AWS SAM, and the newly announced AWS Serverless Application Repository!
Amazon API Gateway Supports Access Logging – The access logging feature lets you generate access logs in different formats such as CLF (Common Log Format), JSON, XML, and CSV. The access logs can be fed into your existing analytics or log processing tools so you can perform more in-depth analysis or take action in response to the log data.
AWS Serverless Application Repository
Serverless Application Repository is a new service (currently in preview) that aids in the publication, discovery, and deployment of serverless applications. With it you’ll be able to find shared serverless applications that you can launch in your account, while also sharing ones that you’ve created for others to do the same.
Coming up with the right mix of talks for an event like this can be quite a challenge. The Product, Marketing, and Developer Advocacy teams for Serverless at AWS spent weeks reading through dozens of talk ideas to boil it down to the final list.
From feedback at other AWS events and webinars, we knew that customers were looking for talks that focused on concrete examples of solving problems with serverless, how to perform common tasks such as deployment, CI/CD, monitoring, and troubleshooting, and to see customer and partner examples solving real world problems. To that extent we tried to settle on a good mix based on attendee experience and provide a track full of rich content.
Below are the recordings and slides of breakout sessions from re:Invent 2017. We’ve organized them for those getting started, those who are already beginning to build serverless applications, and the experts out there already running them at scale. Some of the videos and slides haven’t been posted yet, and so we will update this list as they become available.
At re:Invent, we delivered instructor-led skills sessions to help attendees new to serverless applications get started quickly. The content from these sessions is already online and you can do the hands-on labs yourself! Build a Serverless web application
Still looking for more?
We also recently completely overhauled the main Serverless landing page for AWS. This includes a new Resources page containing case studies, webinars, whitepapers, customer stories, reference architectures, and even more Getting Started tutorials. Check it out!
Do you design applications and systems on AWS? Want to demonstrate your AWS Cloud skills? Ring in 2018 by becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. It’s a way to validate your expertise with an industry-recognized credential and give your career a boost.
Why get certified, you ask? According to the 2017 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, cloud certifications, including AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, generally have salaries well above average. For example, a typical U.S. salary for AWS Certified IT staff is 27.5 percent higher than the normal salary rate. Looking ahead, the report also finds that the IT industry will continue investing heavily in certification as a way to validating employees’ skills and expertise.
The exam tests your technical expertise in designing and deploying scalable, highly-available, and fault-tolerant systems on AWS. It’s for anyone with one or more years of hands-on experience designing distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform.
Continue with Digital and Classroom Training
Next, brush up on key AWS services covered in the exam with our new free digital training offerings at aws.training. Our 100+ bite-sized online courses are each 10 minutes long so you learn AWS fundamentals at your own pace.
Just getting started learning the fundamentals of the AWS Cloud? We recommend you take ourAWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course, part of our free digital training offerings.
For more in-depth technical training, register for our immersiveArchitecting on AWS course. It’s three days of instructor-led classroom training, books, and labs, built and taught by AWS experts.
Study with Exam Prep Resources
Once you have an idea of what’s on the exam, and you’ve taken training to prepare, it’s time to prepare for the exam itself.
Now you’re ready to take the exam! Go to aws.training to schedule an exam at a testing center near you at. Once you’ve passed and are AWS Certified, you’ll enjoy AWS Certification benefits like access to the AWS Certified LinkedIn Community, invitations to AWS Certification Appreciation Receptions, digital AWS Certified badges, access to AWS Certified merchandise, and more.
Visit us at aws.amazon.com/training for more information on digital training, classroom training, and AWS Certifications.
At AWS re:Invent 2017, the AWS Compliance team participated in excellent engagements with AWS customers about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), including discussions that generated helpful input. Today, I am announcing resulting enhancements to our recently launched GDPR Center and the release of a new whitepaper, Navigating GDPR Compliance on AWS. The resources available on the GDPR Center are designed to give you GDPR basics, and provide some ideas as you work out the details of the regulation and find a path to compliance.
In this post, I focus on two of these new GDPR requirements in terms of articles in the GDPR, and explain some of the AWS services and other resources that can help you meet these requirements.
Background about the GDPR
The GDPR is a European privacy law that will become enforceable on May 25, 2018, and is intended to harmonize data protection laws throughout the European Union (EU) by applying a single data protection law that is binding throughout each EU member state. The GDPR not only applies to organizations located within the EU, but also to organizations located outside the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU data subjects. All AWS services will comply with the GDPR in advance of the May 25, 2018, enforcement date.
We are already seeing customers move personal data to AWS to help solve challenges in complying with the EU’s GDPR because of AWS’s advanced toolset for identifying, securing, and managing all types of data, including personal data. Steve Schmidt, the AWS CISO, has already written about the internal and external work we have been undertaking to help you use AWS services to meet your own GDPR compliance goals.
Article 25 – Data Protection by Design and by Default (Privacy by Design)
Privacy by Design is the integration of data privacy and compliance into the systems development process, enabling applications, systems, and accounts, among other things, to be secure by default. To secure your AWS account, we offer a script to evaluate your AWS account against the full Center for Internet Security (CIS) Amazon Web Services Foundations Benchmark 1.1. You can access this public benchmark on GitHub. Additionally, AWS Trusted Advisor is an online resource to help you improve security by optimizing your AWS environment. Among other things, Trusted Advisor lists a number of security-related controls you should be monitoring. AWS also offers AWS CloudTrail, a logging tool to track usage and API activity. Another example of tooling that enables data protection is Amazon Inspector, which includes a knowledge base of hundreds of rules (regularly updated by AWS security researchers) mapped to common security best practices and vulnerability definitions. Examples of built-in rules include checking for remote root login being enabled or vulnerable software versions installed. These and other tools enable you to design an environment that protects customer data by design.
An accurate inventory of all the GDPR-impacting data is important but sometimes difficult to assess. AWS has some advanced tooling, such as Amazon Macie, to help you determine where customer data is present in your AWS resources. Macie uses advanced machine learning to automatically discover and classify data so that you can protect data, per Article 25.
Article 32 – Security of Processing
You can use many AWS services and features to secure the processing of data regulated by the GDPR. Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) lets you provision a logically isolated section of the AWS Cloud where you can launch resources in a virtual network that you define. You have complete control over your virtual networking environment, including the selection of your own IP address range, creation of subnets, and configuration of route tables and network gateways. With Amazon VPC, you can make the Amazon Cloud a seamless extension of your existing on-premises resources.
AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) is a managed service that makes it easy for you to create and control the encryption keys used to encrypt your data, and uses hardware security modules (HSMs) to help protect your keys. Managing keys with AWS KMS allows you to choose to encrypt data either on the server side or the client side. AWS KMS is integrated with several other AWS services to help you protect the data you store with these services. AWS KMS is also integrated with CloudTrail to provide you with logs of all key usage to help meet your regulatory and compliance needs. You can also use the AWS Encryption SDK to correctly generate and use encryption keys, as well as protect keys after they have been used.
One of the main tenets of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is the protection of student education records, including personally identifiable information (PII) and directory information. We recently updated our FERPA Compliance on AWS whitepaper to include AWS service-specific guidance for 24 AWS services. The whitepaper describes how these services can be used to help secure protected data. In conjunction with more detailed service-specific documentation, this updated information helps make it easier for you to plan, deploy, and operate secure environments to meet your compliance requirements in the AWS Cloud.
The updated whitepaper is especially useful for educational institutions and their vendors who need to understand:
How AWS services can be used to help deploy educational and PII workloads securely in the AWS Cloud.
Key security disciplines in a security program to help you run a FERPA-compliant program (such as auditing, data destruction, and backup and disaster recovery).
In a related effort to help you secure PII, we also added to the whitepaper a mapping of NIST SP 800-122, which provides guidance for protecting PII, as well as a link to our NIST SP 800-53 Quick Start, a CloudFormation template that automatically configures AWS resources and deploys a multi-tier, Linux-based web application. To learn how this Quick Start works, see the Automate NIST Compliance in AWS GovCloud (US) with AWS Quick Start Tools video. The template helps you streamline and automate secure baselines in AWS—from initial design to operational security readiness—by incorporating the expertise of AWS security and compliance subject matter experts.
For more information about AWS Compliance and FERPA or to request support for your organization, contact your AWS account manager.
– Chris Gile, Senior Manager, AWS Security Assurance
Glenn Gore here, Chief Architect for AWS. I’m in Las Vegas this week — with 43K others — for re:Invent 2017. We’ve got a lot of exciting announcements this week. I’m going to check in to the Architecture blog with my take on what’s interesting about some of the announcements from an cloud architectural perspective. My first post can be found here.
The Media and Entertainment industry has been a rapid adopter of AWS due to the scale, reliability, and low costs of our services. This has enabled customers to create new, online, digital experiences for their viewers ranging from broadcast to streaming to Over-the-Top (OTT) services that can be a combination of live, scheduled, or ad-hoc viewing, while supporting devices ranging from high-def TVs to mobile devices. Creating an end-to-end video service requires many different components often sourced from different vendors with different licensing models, which creates a complex architecture and a complex environment to support operationally.
In my role, I participate in many AWS and industry events and often work with the production and event teams that put these shows together. With all the logistical tasks they have to deal with, the biggest question is often: “Will the live stream work?” Compounding this fear is the reality that, as users, we are also quick to jump on social media and make noise when a live stream drops while we are following along remotely. Worse is when I see event organizers actively selecting not to live stream content because of the risk of failure and and exposure — leading them to decide to take the safe option and not stream at all.
With AWS Media Services addressing many of the issues around putting together a high-quality media service, live streaming, and providing access to a library of content through a variety of mechanisms, I can’t wait to see more event teams use live streaming without the concern and worry I’ve seen in the past. I am excited for what this also means for non-media companies, as video becomes an increasingly common way of sharing information and adding a more personalized touch to internally- and externally-facing content.
AWS Media Services will allow you to focus more on the content and not worry about the platform. Awesome!
Amazon Neptune As a civilization, we have been developing new ways to record and store information and model the relationships between sets of information for more than a thousand years. Government census data, tax records, births, deaths, and marriages were all recorded on medium ranging from knotted cords in the Inca civilization, clay tablets in ancient Babylon, to written texts in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages.
One of the first challenges of computing was figuring out how to store and work with vast amounts of information in a programmatic way, especially as the volume of information was increasing at a faster rate than ever before. We have seen different generations of how to organize this information in some form of database, ranging from flat files to the Information Management System (IMS) used in the 1960s for the Apollo space program, to the rise of the relational database management system (RDBMS) in the 1970s. These innovations drove a lot of subsequent innovations in information management and application development as we were able to move from thousands of records to millions and billions.
Today, as architects and developers, we have a vast variety of database technologies to select from, which have different characteristics that are optimized for different use cases:
Relational databases are well understood after decades of use in the majority of companies who required a database to store information. Amazon Relational Database (Amazon RDS) supports many popular relational database engines such as MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and Oracle. We have even brought the traditional RDBMS into the cloud world through Amazon Aurora, which provides MySQL and PostgreSQL support with the performance and reliability of commercial-grade databases at 1/10th the cost.
Non-relational databases (NoSQL) provided a simpler method of storing and retrieving information that was often faster and more scalable than traditional RDBMS technology. The concept of non-relational databases has existed since the 1960s but really took off in the early 2000s with the rise of web-based applications that required performance and scalability that relational databases struggled with at the time. AWS published this Dynamo whitepaper in 2007, with DynamoDB launching as a service in 2012. DynamoDB has quickly become one of the critical design elements for many of our customers who are building highly-scalable applications on AWS. We continue to innovate with DynamoDB, and this week launched global tables and on-demand backup at re:Invent 2017. DynamoDB excels in a variety of use cases, such as tracking of session information for popular websites, shopping cart information on e-commerce sites, and keeping track of gamers’ high scores in mobile gaming applications, for example.
Graph databases focus on the relationship between data items in the store. With a graph database, we work with nodes, edges, and properties to represent data, relationships, and information. Graph databases are designed to make it easy and fast to traverse and retrieve complex hierarchical data models. Graph databases share some concepts from the NoSQL family of databases such as key-value pairs (properties) and the use of a non-SQL query language such as Gremlin. Graph databases are commonly used for social networking, recommendation engines, fraud detection, and knowledge graphs. We released Amazon Neptune to help simplify the provisioning and management of graph databases as we believe that graph databases are going to enable the next generation of smart applications.
A common use case I am hearing every week as I talk to customers is how to incorporate chatbots within their organizations. Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly have made it easy for customers to experiment and build chatbots for a wide range of scenarios, but one of the missing pieces of the puzzle was how to model decision trees and and knowledge graphs so the chatbot could guide the conversation in an intelligent manner.
Graph databases are ideal for this particular use case, and having Amazon Neptune simplifies the deployment of a graph database while providing high performance, scalability, availability, and durability as a managed service. Security of your graph database is critical. To help ensure this, you can store your encrypted data by running AWS in Amazon Neptune within your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) and using encryption at rest integrated with AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS). Neptune also supports Amazon VPC and AWS Identity and Access Management (AWS IAM) to help further protect and restrict access.
Our customers now have the choice of many different database technologies to ensure that they can optimize each application and service for their specific needs. Just as DynamoDB has unlocked and enabled many new workloads that weren’t possible in relational databases, I can’t wait to see what new innovations and capabilities are enabled from graph databases as they become easier to use through Amazon Neptune.
Look for more on DynamoDB and Amazon S3 from me on Monday.
You’ve probably heard about GDPR. The new European data protection regulation that applies practically to everyone. Especially if you are working in a big company, it’s most likely that there’s already a process for gettign your systems in compliance with the regulation.
The regulation is basically a law that must be followed in all European countries (but also applies to non-EU companies that have users in the EU). In this particular case, it applies to companies that are not registered in Europe, but are having European customers. So that’s most companies. I will not go into yet another “12 facts about GDPR” or “7 myths about GDPR” posts/whitepapers, as they are often aimed at managers or legal people. Instead, I’ll focus on what GDPR means for developers.
Why am I qualified to do that? A few reasons – I was advisor to the deputy prime minister of a EU country, and because of that I’ve been both exposed and myself wrote some legislation. I’m familiar with the “legalese” and how the regulatory framework operates in general. I’m also a privacy advocate and I’ve been writing about GDPR-related stuff in the past, i.e. “before it was cool” (protecting sensitive data, the right to be forgotten). And finally, I’m currently working on a project that (among other things) aims to help with covering some GDPR aspects.
I’ll try to be a bit more comprehensive this time and cover as many aspects of the regulation that concern developers as I can. And while developers will mostly be concerned about how the systems they are working on have to change, it’s not unlikely that a less informed manager storms in in late spring, realizing GDPR is going to be in force tomorrow, asking “what should we do to get our system/website compliant”.
The rights of the user/client (referred to as “data subject” in the regulation) that I think are relevant for developers are: the right to erasure (the right to be forgotten/deleted from the system), right to restriction of processing (you still keep the data, but mark it as “restricted” and don’t touch it without further consent by the user), the right to data portability (the ability to export one’s data), the right to rectification (the ability to get personal data fixed), the right to be informed (getting human-readable information, rather than long terms and conditions), the right of access (the user should be able to see all the data you have about them), the right to data portability (the user should be able to get a machine-readable dump of their data).
Additionally, the relevant basic principles are: data minimization (one should not collect more data than necessary), integrity and confidentiality (all security measures to protect data that you can think of + measures to guarantee that the data has not been inappropriately modified).
Even further, the regulation requires certain processes to be in place within an organization (of more than 250 employees or if a significant amount of data is processed), and those include keeping a record of all types of processing activities carried out, including transfers to processors (3rd parties), which includes cloud service providers. None of the other requirements of the regulation have an exception depending on the organization size, so “I’m small, GDPR does not concern me” is a myth.
It is important to know what “personal data” is. Basically, it’s every piece of data that can be used to uniquely identify a person or data that is about an already identified person. It’s data that the user has explicitly provided, but also data that you have collected about them from either 3rd parties or based on their activities on the site (what they’ve been looking at, what they’ve purchased, etc.)
Having said that, I’ll list a number of features that will have to be implemented and some hints on how to do that, followed by some do’s and don’t’s.
“Forget me” – you should have a method that takes a userId and deletes all personal data about that user (in case they have been collected on the basis of consent, and not due to contract enforcement or legal obligation). It is actually useful for integration tests to have that feature (to cleanup after the test), but it may be hard to implement depending on the data model. In a regular data model, deleting a record may be easy, but some foreign keys may be violated. That means you have two options – either make sure you allow nullable foreign keys (for example an order usually has a reference to the user that made it, but when the user requests his data be deleted, you can set the userId to null), or make sure you delete all related data (e.g. via cascades). This may not be desirable, e.g. if the order is used to track available quantities or for accounting purposes. It’s a bit trickier for event-sourcing data models, or in extreme cases, ones that include some sort of blcokchain/hash chain/tamper-evident data structure. With event sourcing you should be able to remove a past event and re-generate intermediate snapshots. For blockchain-like structures – be careful what you put in there and avoid putting personal data of users. There is an option to use a chameleon hash function, but that’s suboptimal. Overall, you must constantly think of how you can delete the personal data. And “our data model doesn’t allow it” isn’t an excuse.
Notify 3rd parties for erasure – deleting things from your system may be one thing, but you are also obligated to inform all third parties that you have pushed that data to. So if you have sent personal data to, say, Salesforce, Hubspot, twitter, or any cloud service provider, you should call an API of theirs that allows for the deletion of personal data. If you are such a provider, obviously, your “forget me” endpoint should be exposed. Calling the 3rd party APIs to remove data is not the full story, though. You also have to make sure the information does not appear in search results. Now, that’s tricky, as Google doesn’t have an API for removal, only a manual process. Fortunately, it’s only about public profile pages that are crawlable by Google (and other search engines, okay…), but you still have to take measures. Ideally, you should make the personal data page return a 404 HTTP status, so that it can be removed.
Restrict processing – in your admin panel where there’s a list of users, there should be a button “restrict processing”. The user settings page should also have that button. When clicked (after reading the appropriate information), it should mark the profile as restricted. That means it should no longer be visible to the backoffice staff, or publicly. You can implement that with a simple “restricted” flag in the users table and a few if-clasues here and there.
Export data – there should be another button – “export data”. When clicked, the user should receive all the data that you hold about them. What exactly is that data – depends on the particular usecase. Usually it’s at least the data that you delete with the “forget me” functionality, but may include additional data (e.g. the orders the user has made may not be delete, but should be included in the dump). The structure of the dump is not strictly defined, but my recommendation would be to reuse schema.org definitions as much as possible, for either JSON or XML. If the data is simple enough, a CSV/XLS export would also be fine. Sometimes data export can take a long time, so the button can trigger a background process, which would then notify the user via email when his data is ready (twitter, for example, does that already – you can request all your tweets and you get them after a while).
Allow users to edit their profile – this seems an obvious rule, but it isn’t always followed. Users must be able to fix all data about them, including data that you have collected from other sources (e.g. using a “login with facebook” you may have fetched their name and address). Rule of thumb – all the fields in your “users” table should be editable via the UI. Technically, rectification can be done via a manual support process, but that’s normally more expensive for a business than just having the form to do it. There is one other scenario, however, when you’ve obtained the data from other sources (i.e. the user hasn’t provided their details to you directly). In that case there should still be a page where they can identify somehow (via email and/or sms confirmation) and get access to the data about them.
Consent checkboxes – this is in my opinion the biggest change that the regulation brings. “I accept the terms and conditions” would no longer be sufficient to claim that the user has given their consent for processing their data. So, for each particular processing activity there should be a separate checkbox on the registration (or user profile) screen. You should keep these consent checkboxes in separate columns in the database, and let the users withdraw their consent (by unchecking these checkboxes from their profile page – see the previous point). Ideally, these checkboxes should come directly from the register of processing activities (if you keep one). Note that the checkboxes should not be preselected, as this does not count as “consent”.
Re-request consent – if the consent users have given was not clear (e.g. if they simply agreed to terms & conditions), you’d have to re-obtain that consent. So prepare a functionality for mass-emailing your users to ask them to go to their profile page and check all the checkboxes for the personal data processing activities that you have.
“See all my data” – this is very similar to the “Export” button, except data should be displayed in the regular UI of the application rather than an XML/JSON format. For example, Google Maps shows you your location history – all the places that you’ve been to. It is a good implementation of the right to access. (Though Google is very far from perfect when privacy is concerned)
Age checks – you should ask for the user’s age, and if the user is a child (below 16), you should ask for parent permission. There’s no clear way how to do that, but my suggestion is to introduce a flow, where the child should specify the email of a parent, who can then confirm. Obviosuly, children will just cheat with their birthdate, or provide a fake parent email, but you will most likely have done your job according to the regulation (this is one of the “wishful thinking” aspects of the regulation).
Encrypt the data in transit. That means that communication between your application layer and your database (or your message queue, or whatever component you have) should be over TLS. The certificates could be self-signed (and possibly pinned), or you could have an internal CA. Different databases have different configurations, just google “X encrypted connections. Some databases need gossiping among the nodes – that should also be configured to use encryption
Encrypt the data at rest – this again depends on the database (some offer table-level encryption), but can also be done on machine-level. E.g. using LUKS. The private key can be stored in your infrastructure, or in some cloud service like AWS KMS.
Encrypt your backups – kind of obvious
Implement pseudonymisation – the most obvious use-case is when you want to use production data for the test/staging servers. You should change the personal data to some “pseudonym”, so that the people cannot be identified. When you push data for machine learning purposes (to third parties or not), you can also do that. Technically, that could mean that your User object can have a “pseudonymize” method which applies hash+salt/bcrypt/PBKDF2 for some of the data that can be used to identify a person
Protect data integrity – this is a very broad thing, and could simply mean “have authentication mechanisms for modifying data”. But you can do something more, even as simple as a checksum, or a more complicated solution (like the one I’m working on). It depends on the stakes, on the way data is accessed, on the particular system, etc. The checksum can be in the form of a hash of all the data in a given database record, which should be updated each time the record is updated through the application. It isn’t a strong guarantee, but it is at least something.
Have your GDPR register of processing activities in something other than Excel – Article 30 says that you should keep a record of all the types of activities that you use personal data for. That sounds like bureaucracy, but it may be useful – you will be able to link certain aspects of your application with that register (e.g. the consent checkboxes, or your audit trail records). It wouldn’t take much time to implement a simple register, but the business requirements for that should come from whoever is responsible for the GDPR compliance. But you can advise them that having it in Excel won’t make it easy for you as a developer (imagine having to fetch the excel file internally, so that you can parse it and implement a feature). Such a register could be a microservice/small application deployed separately in your infrastructure.
Log access to personal data – every read operation on a personal data record should be logged, so that you know who accessed what and for what purpose
Register all API consumers – you shouldn’t allow anonymous API access to personal data. I’d say you should request the organization name and contact person for each API user upon registration, and add those to the data processing register. Note: some have treated article 30 as a requirement to keep an audit log. I don’t think it is saying that – instead it requires 250+ companies to keep a register of the types of processing activities (i.e. what you use the data for). There are other articles in the regulation that imply that keeping an audit log is a best practice (for protecting the integrity of the data as well as to make sure it hasn’t been processed without a valid reason)
Finally, some “don’t’s”.
Don’t use data for purposes that the user hasn’t agreed with – that’s supposed to be the spirit of the regulation. If you want to expose a new API to a new type of clients, or you want to use the data for some machine learning, or you decide to add ads to your site based on users’ behaviour, or sell your database to a 3rd party – think twice. I would imagine your register of processing activities could have a button to send notification emails to users to ask them for permission when a new processing activity is added (or if you use a 3rd party register, it should probably give you an API). So upon adding a new processing activity (and adding that to your register), mass email all users from whom you’d like consent.
Don’t log personal data – getting rid of the personal data from log files (especially if they are shipped to a 3rd party service) can be tedious or even impossible. So log just identifiers if needed. And make sure old logs files are cleaned up, just in case
Don’t put fields on the registration/profile form that you don’t need – it’s always tempting to just throw as many fields as the usability person/designer agrees on, but unless you absolutely need the data for delivering your service, you shouldn’t collect it. Names you should probably always collect, but unless you are delivering something, a home address or phone is unnecessary.
Don’t assume 3rd parties are compliant – you are responsible if there’s a data breach in one of the 3rd parties (e.g. “processors”) to which you send personal data. So before you send data via an API to another service, make sure they have at least a basic level of data protection. If they don’t, raise a flag with management.
Don’t assume having ISO XXX makes you compliant – information security standards and even personal data standards are a good start and they will probably 70% of what the regulation requires, but they are not sufficient – most of the things listed above are not covered in any of those standards
Overall, the purpose of the regulation is to make you take conscious decisions when processing personal data. It imposes best practices in a legal way. If you follow the above advice and design your data model, storage, data flow , API calls with data protection in mind, then you shouldn’t worry about the huge fines that the regulation prescribes – they are for extreme cases, like Equifax for example. Regulators (data protection authorities) will most likely have some checklists into which you’d have to somehow fit, but if you follow best practices, that shouldn’t be an issue.
I think all of the above features can be implemented in a few weeks by a small team. Be suspicious when a big vendor offers you a generic plug-and-play “GDPR compliance” solution. GDPR is not just about the technical aspects listed above – it does have organizational/process implications. But also be suspicious if a consultant claims GDPR is complicated. It’s not – it relies on a few basic principles that are in fact best practices anyway. Just don’t ignore them.
Customers have been building their innovations on AWS for over 11 years. During that time, our solutions architects have conducted tens of thousands of architecture reviews for our customers. In 2012 we created the “Well-Architected” initiative to share with you best practices for building in the cloud, and started publishing them in 2015. We recently released an updated Framework whitepaper, and a new Operational Excellence Pillar whitepaper to reflect what we learned from working with customers every day. Today, we are pleased to announce a new concept called a “lens” that allows you to focus on specific workload types from the well-architected perspective.
A well-architected review looks at a workload from a general technology perspective, which means it can’t provide workload-specific advice. For example, there are additional best practices when you are building high-performance computing (HPC) or serverless applications. Therefore, we created the concept of a lens to focus on what is different for those types of workloads.
In each lens, we document common scenarios we see — specific to that workload — providing reference architectures and a walkthrough. The lens also provides design principles to help you understand how to architect these types of workloads for the cloud, and questions for assessing your own architecture.
On the AWS Solutions Architecture team we know we’re following in the footsteps of other technical experts who pulled together the best practices of their eras. Around 22 BC the Roman Architect Vitruvius Pollio wrote On architecture (published as The Ten Books on Architecture), which became a seminal work on architectural theory. Vitruvius captured the best practices of his contemporaries and those who went before him (especially the Greek architects).
It has therefore been thought desirable to gather under one cover the most important papers which have appeared upon the subject of the gas turbine in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland, together with some account of the work in America, and to add to this such information upon actual experimental machines as can be secured.
In the present state of the art this is all that can be done, but it is believed that this will aid materially in the conduct of subsequent work, and place in the hands of the gas-power engineer a collection of material not generally accessible or available in convenient form.
Both authors wrote books that captured the current knowledge on design principles and best practices (in architecture and engineering) to improve awareness and adoption. Like these authors, we at AWS believe that capturing and sharing best practices leads to better outcomes. This follows a pattern we established internally, in our Principal Engineering community. In 2012 we started an initiative called “Well-Architected” to help share the best practices for architecting in the cloud with our customers.
Every year AWS Solution Architects dedicate hundreds of thousands of hours to helping customers build architectures that are cloud native. Through customer feedback, and real world experience we see what strategies, patterns, and approaches work for you.
“After our well-architected review and subsequent migration to the cloud, we saw the tremendous cost-savings potential of Amazon Web Services. By using the industry-standard service, we can invest the majority of our time and energy into enhancing our solutions. Thanks to (consulting partner) 1Strategy’s deep, technical AWS expertise and flexibility during our migration, we were able to leverage the strengths of AWS quickly.”
Paul Cooley, Chief Technology Officer for Imprev
This year we have again refreshed the AWS Well-Architected Framework, with a particular focus on Operational Excellence. Last year we announced the addition of Operational Excellence as a new pillar to AWS Well-Architected Framework. Having carried out thousands of reviews since then, we reexamined the pillar and are pleased to announce some significant changes. First, the pillar dives more deeply into people and process because this is an area where we see the most opportunities for teams to improve. Second, we’ve pivoted heavily to focusing on whether your team and your workload are ready for runtime operations. Key to this is ensuring that in the early phases of design that you think about how your architecture will be operated. Reflecting on this we realized that Operational Excellence should be the first pillar to support the “Architect for run-time operations” approach.
We’ve also added detail on how Amazon approaches technology architecture, covering topics such as our Principal Engineering Community and two-way doors and mechanisms. We refreshed the other pillars to reflect the evolution of AWS, and the best practices we are seeing in the field. We have also added detail on the review process, in the surprisingly named “The Review Process” section.
As part of refreshing the pillars are have also released a new Operational Excellence Pillar whitepaper, and have updated the whitepapers for all of the other pillars of the Framework. For example we have significantly updated the Reliability Pillar whitepaper to provide guidance on application design for high availability. New sections cover techniques for high availability including and beyond infrastructure implications, and considerations across the application lifecycle. This updated whitepaper also provides examples that show how to achieve availability goals in single and multi-region architectures.
You can find free training and all of the ”state of the art” whitepapers on the AWS Well-Architected homepage:
This is a guest post by Robin Cottiss, strategic customer consultant, Russell Christopher, staff product manager, and Vaidy Krishnan, senior manager of product marketing, at Tableau. Tableau, in their own words, “helps anyone quickly analyze, visualize, and share information. More than 61,000 customer accounts get rapid results with Tableau in the office and on the go. Over 300,000 people use Tableau Public to share public data in their blogs and websites.”
We’re excited to announce today an update to our Amazon Redshift connector with support for Amazon Redshift Spectrum to analyze data in external Amazon S3 tables. This feature, the direct result of joint engineering and testing work performed by the teams at Tableau and AWS, was released as part of Tableau 10.3.3 and will be available broadly in Tableau 10.4.1. With this update, you can quickly and directly connect Tableau to data in Amazon Redshift and analyze it in conjunction with data in Amazon S3—all with drag-and-drop ease.
This connector is yet another in a series of market-leading integrations of Tableau with AWS’s analytics platform, with services such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon EMR, and Amazon Athena. These integrations have allowed Tableau to become the natural choice of tool for analyzing data stored on AWS. Beyond this, Tableau Server runs seamlessly in the AWS Cloud infrastructure. If you prefer to deploy all your applications inside AWS, you have a complete solution offering from Tableau.
How does support for Amazon Redshift Spectrum help you?
If you’re like many Tableau customers, you have large buckets of data stored in Amazon S3. You might need to access this data frequently and store it in a consistent, highly structured format. If so, you can provision it to a data warehouse like Amazon Redshift. You might also want to explore this S3 data on an ad hoc basis. For example, you might want to determine whether or not to provision the data, and where—options might be Hadoop, Impala, Amazon EMR, or Amazon Redshift. To do so, you can use Amazon Athena, a serverless interactive query service from AWS that requires no infrastructure setup and management.
But what if you want to analyze both the frequently accessed data stored locally in Amazon Redshift AND your full datasets stored cost-effectively in Amazon S3? What if you want the throughput of disk and sophisticated query optimization of Amazon Redshift AND a service that combines a serverless scale-out processing capability with the massively reliable and scalable S3 infrastructure? What if you want the super-fast performance of Amazon Redshift AND support for open storage formats (for example, Parquet or ORC) in S3?
To enable these AND and resolve the tyranny of ORs, AWS launched Amazon Redshift Spectrum earlier this year.
Amazon Redshift Spectrum gives you the freedom to store your data where you want, in the format you want, and have it available for processing when you need it. Since the Amazon Redshift Spectrum launch, Tableau has worked tirelessly to provide best-in-class support for this new service. With Tableau and Redshift Spectrum, you can extend your Amazon Redshift analyses out to the entire universe of data in your S3 data lakes.
This latest update has been tested by many customers with very positive feedback. One such customer is the world’s largest food product distributor, Sysco—you can watch their session referencing the Amazon Spectrum integration at Tableau Conference 2017. Sysco also plans to reprise its “Tableau on AWS” story again in a month’s time at AWS re:Invent.
Now, I’d like to use a concrete example to demonstrate how Tableau works with Amazon Redshift Spectrum. In this example, I also show you how and why you might want to connect to your AWS data in different ways.
I use the pipeline described following to ingest, process, and analyze data with Tableau on an AWS stack. The source data is the New York City Taxi dataset, which has 9 years’ worth of taxi rides activity (including pick-up and drop-off location, amount paid, payment type, and so on) captured in 1.2 billion records.
In this pipeline, this data lands in S3, is cleansed and partitioned by using Amazon EMR, and is then converted to a columnar Parquet format that is analytically optimized. You can point Tableau to the raw data in S3 by using Amazon Athena. You can also access the cleansed data with Tableau using Presto through your Amazon EMR cluster.
Why use Tableau this early in the pipeline? Because sometimes you want to understand what’s there and what questions are worth asking before you even start the analysis.
After you find out what those questions are and determine if this sort of analysis has long-term usefulness, you can automate and optimize that pipeline. You do this to add new data as soon as possible as it arrives, to get it to the processes and people that need it. You might also want to provision this data to a highly performant “hotter” layer (Amazon Redshift or Tableau Extract) for repeated access.
In the illustration preceding, S3 contains the raw denormalized ride data at the timestamp level of granularity. This S3 data is the fact table. Amazon Redshift has the time dimensions broken out by date, month, and year, and also has the taxi zone information.
Now imagine I want to know where and when taxi pickups happen on a certain date in a certain borough. With support for Amazon Redshift Spectrum, I can now join the S3 tables with the Amazon Redshift dimensions, as shown following.
I can next analyze the data in Tableau to produce a borough-by-borough view of New York City ride density on Christmas Day 2015.
Or I can hone in on just Manhattan and identify pickup hotspots, with ride charges way above the average!
With Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you now have a fast, cost-effective engine that minimizes data processed with dynamic partition pruning. You can further improve query performance by reducing the data scanned. You do this by partitioning and compressing data and by using a columnar format for storage.
At the end of the day, which engine you use behind Tableau is a function of what you want to optimize for. Some possible engines are Amazon Athena, Amazon Redshift, and Redshift Spectrum, or you can bring a subset of data into Tableau Extract. Factors in planning optimization include these:
Are you comfortable with the serverless cost model of Amazon Athena and potential full scans? Or do you prefer the advantages of no setup?
Do you want the throughput of local disk?
Effort and time of setup. Are you okay with the lead-time of an Amazon Redshift cluster setup, as opposed to just bringing everything into Tableau Extract?
To meet the many needs of our customers, Tableau’s approach is simple: It’s all about choice. The choice of how you want to connect to and analyze your data. Throughout the history of our product and into the future, we have and will continue to empower choice for customers.
Check out the The Tableau AWS Modern Data Warehouse Quickstart for an automated AWS-certified reference deployment of Tableau on Amazon Redshift. The Quickstart simplifies the process of launching, configuring, and running projects with the required AWS resources for compute, network, storage and other services while following best practices for security, availability and optimum query performance
Hear Sysco and Expedia talk about their experiences deploying Tableau on AWS to achieve self-service analytics at AWS re:Invent 2017 in Las Vegas
The blockchain hype is huge, the ICO craze (“Coindike”) is generating millions if not billions of “funding” for businesses that claim to revolutionize basically anything.
I’ve been following all of that for a while. I got my first (and only) Bitcoin several years ago, I know how the technology works, I’ve implemented the data structure part, I’ve tried (with varying success) to install an Ethereum wallet since almost as soon as Ethereum appeared, and I’ve read and subscribed to newsletters about dozens of projects and new cryptocurrencies, including storj.io, siacoin, namecoin, etc. I would say I’m at least above average in terms of knowledge on how the cryptocurrencies, blockchain, smart contracts, EVM, proof-of-wahtever operates. And I’ve voiced my concerns about the technology in general.
Now it’s rant time.
I’ve been reading whitepapers of various projects, I’ve been to various meetups and talks, I’ve been reading the professed future applications of the blockchain, and I have to admit – it’s all Greek to me. I have no clue what these people are talking about. And why would all of that make any sense. I still think I’m not clever enough to understand the upcoming revolution, but there’s also a cynical side of me that says “this is all a scam”.
Why “X on the blockchain” somehow makes it magical and superior to a good old centralized solution? No, spare me the cliches about “immutable ledger”, “lack of central authority” and the likes. These are the phrases that a person learns after reading literally one article about blockchain. Have you actually written anything apart from a complex-sounding whitepaper or a hello-world smart contract? Do you really know how the overlay network works, how the economic incentives behind that network work, how all the cryptography works? Maybe there are many, many people that indeed know that and they know it better than me and are thus able to imagine the business case behind “X on the blockchain”.
I can’t. I can’t see why it would be useful to abandon a centralized database that you can query in dozens of ways, test easily and scale trivially in favour of a clunky write-only, low-throughput, hard-to-debug privacy nightmare that is any public blockchain. And how do you imagine to gain a substantial userbase with an ecosystem where the Windows client for the 2nd most popular blockchain (Ethereum) has been so buggy, I (a software engineer) couldn’t get it work and sync the whole chain. And why would building a website ontop of that clunky, user-unfriendly database has any benefit over a centralized competitor?
Do we all believe that somehow the huge datacenters with guarnateed power backups, regular hardware and network checks, regular backups and overall – guaranteed redundancy – will somehow be beaten by a few thousand machines hosting a software that has the sole purpose of guaranteeing integrity? Bitcoin has 10 thousand nodes. Ethereum has 22 thousand nodes. And while these nodes are probably very well GPU-equipped, they aren’t supercomputers. Amazon’s AWS has a million servers. How’s that for comparison. And why would anyone take seriously 22 thousand non-servers. Or even 220 thousand, if we believe in some inevitable growth.
Don’t get me wrong, the technology is really cool. The way tamper-evident data structures (hash chains) were combined with a consensus algorithm, an overlay network and a financial incentive is really awesome. When you add a distributed execution environment, it gets even cooler. But is it suitable for literally everything? I fail to see how.
I’m sure I’m missing something. The fact that many of those whitepapers sound increasingly like Greek to me might hint that I’m just a dumb developer and those enlightened people are really onto something huge. I guess time will tell.
But I happen to be living in a country that saw a transition to capitalism in the years of my childhood. And there were a lot of scams and ponzi schemes that people believed in. Because they didn’t know how capitalism works, how the market works. I’m seeing some similarities – we have no idea how the digital realm really works, and so a lot of scams are bound to appear, until we as a society learn the basics.
Until then – enjoy your ICO, enjoy your tokens, enjoy your big-player competitor with practically the same business model, only on a worse database.
And I hope that after the smoke of hype and fraud clears, we’ll be able to enjoy the true benefits of the blockchain innovation.
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.
Three researchers from Michigan State University have developed a low-cost, open-source fingerprint reader which can detect fake prints. They call it RaspiReader, and they’ve built it using a Raspberry Pi 3 and two Camera Modules. Joshua and his colleagues have just uploaded all the info you need to build your own version — let’s go!
Sadly not the real output of the RaspiReader
We’ve probably all seen a movie in which a burglar crosses a room full of laser tripwires and then enters the safe full of loot by tricking the fingerprint-secured lock with a fake print. Turns out, the second part is not that unrealistic: you can fake fingerprints using a range of materials, such as glue or latex.
The RaspiReader team collected live and fake fingerprints to test the device
If the spoof print layer capping the spoofer’s finger is thin enough, it can even fool readers that detect blood flow, pulse, or temperature. This is becoming a significant security risk, not least for anyone who unlocks their smartphone using a fingerprint.
This is where Anil K. Jain comes in: Professor Jain leads a biometrics research group. Under his guidance, Joshua J. Engelsma and Kai Cao set out to develop a fingerprint reader with improved spoof-print detection. Ultimately, they aim to help the development of more secure commercial technologies. With their project, the team has also created an amazing resource for anyone who wants to build their own fingerprint reader.
So that replicating their device would be easy, they wanted to make it using inexpensive, readily available components, which is why they turned to Raspberry Pi technology.
The Raspireader and its output
Inside the RaspiReader’s 3D-printed housing, LEDs shine light through an acrylic prism, on top of which the user rests their finger. The prism refracts the light so that the two Camera Modules can take images from different angles. The Pi receives these images via a Multi Camera Adapter Module feeding into the CSI port. Collecting two images means the researchers’ spoof detection algorithm has more information to work with.
Real on the left, fake on the right
The Camera Adaptor uses the RPi.GPIO Python package. The RaspiReader performs image processing, and its spoof detection takes image colour and 3D friction ridge patterns into account. The detection algorithm extracts colour local binary patterns … please don’t ask me to explain! You can have a look at the researchers’ manuscript if you want to get stuck into the fine details of their project.
Build your own fingerprint reader
I’ve had my eyes glued to my inbox waiting for Josh to send me links to instructions and files for this build, and here they are (thanks, Josh)! Check out the video tutorial, which walks you through how to assemble the RaspiReader:
Building a cost-effective, open-source, and spoof-resilient fingerprint reader for $160* in under an hour. Code: https://github.com/engelsjo/RaspiReader Links to parts: 1. PRISM – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WL3OBK4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (Better fit) https://www.thorlabs.com/thorproduct.cfm?partnumber=PS611 2. RaspiCams – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012V1HEP4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 3. Camera Multiplexer https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012UQWOOQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 4. Raspberry Pi Kit: https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Clear-Power-Supply/dp/B01C6EQNNK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1507058509&sr=8-6&keywords=raspberry+pi+3b Whitepaper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.07887 * Prices can vary based on Amazon’s pricing. P.s.
You can find a parts list with links to suppliers in the video description — the whole build costs around $160. All the STL files for the housing and the Python scripts you need to run on the Pi are available on Josh’s GitHub.
Enhance your home security
The RaspiReader is a great resource for researchers, and it would also be a terrific project to build at home! Is there a more impressive way to protect a treasured possession, or secure access to your computer, than with a DIY fingerprint scanner?
Although many people are happy to see the site go offline, the decision is not without consequence. It goes directly against what many saw as the core values of the company.
For years on end, Cloudflare has been asked to remove terrorist propaganda, pirate sites, and other possibly unacceptable content. Each time, Cloudflare replied that it doesn’t take action without a court order. No exceptions.
“Even if it were able to, Cloudfare does not monitor, evaluate, judge or store content appearing on a third party website,” the company wrote just a few weeks ago, in its whitepaper on intermediary liability.
“We’re the plumbers of the internet. We make the pipes work but it’s not right for us to inspect what is or isn’t going through the pipes,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince himself said not too long ago.
“If companies like ours or ISPs start censoring there would be an uproar. It would lead us down a path of internet censors and controls akin to a country like China,” he added.
The same arguments were repeated in different contexts, over and over.
This strong position was also one of the reasons why Cloudflare was dragged into various copyright infringement court cases. In these cases, the company repeatedly stressed that removing a site from Cloudflare’s service would not make infringing content disappear.
Pirate sites would just require a simple DNS reconfiguration to continue their operation, after all.
“[T]here are no measures of any kind that CloudFlare could take to prevent this alleged infringement, because the termination of CloudFlare’s CDN services would have no impact on the existence and ability of these allegedly infringing websites to continue to operate,” it said.
That comment looks rather misplaced now that the CEO of the same company has decided to “kick” a website “off the Internet” after an emotional, but deliberate, decision.
Taking a page from Cloudflare’s (old) playbook we’re not going to make any judgments here. Just search Twitter or any social media site and you’ll see plenty of opinions, both for and against the company’s actions.
We do have a prediction though. During the months and years to come, Cloudflare is likely to be dragged into many more copyright lawsuits, and when they are, their counterparts are going to bring up Cloudflare’s voluntary decision to kick a website off the Internet.
Unless Cloudflare suddenly decides to pull all pirate sites from its service tomorrow, of course.
This new guide examines Singaporean requirements and guidelines, providing information that will help you conduct due diligence on AWS with regard to IT security and risk management. The guide also shares leading practices to empower you to develop your own governance programs by using AWS.
The guide focuses on three top considerations for financial institutions operating in Singapore:
Outsourcing guidelines – Conduct a self-assessment of AWS services and align your governance requirements within a shared responsibility model.
Technology risk management – Take a deeper look at where shared responsibility exists for technology implementation and perform a self-assessment of AWS service responsibilities.
Cloud computing implementation – Assess additional responsibilities to ensure security and compliance with local guidelines.
We will release additional AWS Financial Services resource guides this year to help you understand the requirements in other markets around the globe. These guides will be posted on the AWS Compliance Resources page.
If you have questions or comments about this new guide, submit them in the “Comments” section below.
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