Tag: Amazon

Hackers hack Amazon’s cloud

Amazon-Cloud-OutageHackers have worked out a way to break into Amazon’s cloud and install DDoS malware.

The hole is thanks to a vulnerability in distributed search engine software Elasticsearch which is a popular open-source search engine server. The software was  developed in Java that allows applications to perform full-text search for various types of documents through a REST API (representational state transfer application programming interface).

Elasticsearch is commonly used in cloud environments and is used on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine and other cloud platforms.

Versions 1.1.x of Elasticsearch have support for active scripting through API calls in their default configuration. For some reason this does not require authentication which is how the malware writers have broke into the systm.

Elasticsearch’s developers have not released a patch for the 1.1.x branch, but starting with version 1.2.0, released on May 22, dynamic scripting is disabled by default.

Kaspersky Lab has found variants of Mayday, a Trojan program for Linux that’s used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

One of the new Mayday variants was found running on compromised Amazon EC2 server instances.

Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner said that it was not the only victim. The attackers break into   virtual machines run by Amazon EC2 customers by exploiting the CVE-2014-3120 vulnerability in Elasticsearch 1.1.x, which is still being used by some organisations in active commercial deployments despite being superseded by Elasticsearch 1.2.x and 1.3.x.

Baumgartner saw the early stages of the Elasticsearch attacks and that the hackers modified publicly available proof-of-concept exploit code for CVE-2014-3120 and used it to install a Perl-based Web shell. This gave them a backdoor script that allows remote attackers to execute Linux shell commands over the Web. The script, downloads the new version of the Mayday DDoS bot, detected as Backdoor.Linux.Mayday.g.

Amazon faces off with the French

Obama BarackUS bookseller Amazon is engaged in a war of words with the French government.

Last month, the French parliament stood up for small book retailers and voted to ban major online book retailers, including Amazon and the French retailer FNAC, from offering free delivery on book orders.

The idea was that if customers had to pay for delivery for books they would be more inclined to shop at their local bookshop.

However it appears that they did not think the law through properly. Amazon did start charging for delivery, it was just that it charged a Euro cent.

It posted the following FAQ saying:

“We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders. We have therefore fixed delivery costs at one centime per order [0.01 Euros, or roughly a US penny] containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders.”

France has had a long running war on major US tech companies flogging books.

In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing. In 2012, there was a spat between French lawmakers and Google over the country’s desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results.

In most cases, the solution involved a quick and easy way to regain the upperhand. Google suggested it would sooner cut off French media sites than pay them for the snippets of content it features in search results. This would kill off the newspapers online efforts, or give a commercial advantage to those who did not insist Google paid up.

Quanta pins hopes on servers

server-racksTaiwanese ODM firm Quanta is hoping that demand for servers will help boost its profits.

That’s according to Digitimes, which claimed that Quanta’s direct customers include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, NTT, KDDI, Korea Telecom and Singapore Telecom. NEC uses Quanta to build its units.

The wire reports that server shipments this wire will grow by 20 percent in volume and 40 percent in value.

Quanta, known primarily for its position as a notebook ODM, has decided to create a subsidiary aimed at growing direct sales.

It now has marketing units in the US, China, Japan, Singapore and Germany and hopes to increase sales by opening another European office.

Amazon UK accused of stressing workers

Amazon logoA BBC Panorama report is claiming that working at Amazon can really stress you out.

That’s a claim Amazon rejects.

According to the BBC, it planted a reporter at the firm’s Swansea warehouse and he used a hidden camera to record the action.

His job was to pick orders from the huge warehouse, using a handset that told him what to collect.

The handset gave the reporter, Adam Littler, a fixed time to pick the products and it started counting down and beeped at him if he got it wrong.

The handset reported the speed at which Littler was performing and if his performance wasn’t under par, he was reported to managers.  He worked 10 and a half hour night shifts at £8.25 an hour and reported that he walked 11 miles on an average shift.

Amazon told the BBC that it was “working hard to make sure we’re better tomorrow than we are today”. The Panorama programme airs tonight at 9:30PM.

Quanta slashes tablet forecast by a quarter

cheap-tabletsQuanta Computer, the world’s biggest laptop maker for hire, has slashed its tablet shipment forecast for 2013 from 20 million units to just 15 million. The reason? Cheap white-box tablets.

“We were optimistic about the company’s tablet shipments this year and didn’t expect that our clients’ products would face pricing competition from Chinese white-brands,” Quanta vice chairman C.C. Leung said in a conference call, reports Taipei Times.

In other words, it wasn’t exactly Quanta’s fault, it was their clients’ fault. Amazon and Google account for the majority of Quanta’s tablet orders and they obviously underestimated the impact of cheap white-box tablets on Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire sales.

However, Quanta still believes it will be able to ship 20 million tablets – next year, of course.
Luckily Quanta did not see a dip in laptop shipments and its annual forecast of 44 million units still stands. In addition, Quanta is hoping to see plenty of growth in server shipments next year thanks to growing demand for could servers.

eBay, Argos partner for collection

argos-logoFor some time now, eBay has been pushing discussion about the future of etail, the high street, and how brick and mortar will intersect with online shopping – now, in a bold move, the company has joined up with Argos in a bid to offer the best of both worlds.

Online shoppers will be able to buy selected goods from eBay and pick them up in-store at Argos outlets across the UK. 50 eBay merchants are taking part, but are anonymous at time of publication.

Argos already has its own click and collect service but expanding it to include popular eBay stores will certainly not harm the company, provided the scheme is implemented properly. Amazon, which eBay increasingly sees as its top competition rather than its original selling point as a bidding website, has collection points in the UK too.

Earlier this year, Argos reported its first sales boost in years. It attributed much of this to the check and reserve feature. This is not to be sniffed at considering the otherwise lacklustre state of the UK’s tattoo-parlour, betting and pawn-shop packed high streets.

eBay has trialled a service called eBay Now across the pond in New York and San Francisco, partnering with popular retail outlets such as Home Depot and Urban Outfitters to arrange for goods to be delivered within the hour for a fee. This may be rolled out to Britain next year.

Commenting on the announcement, Warick Business School’s retail expert, Dr Scott Dacko, said whether or not this service becomes “the” model, integration between online and offline sales is “the future for retail”.

“It is likely to be a win-win-win arrangement, with both partners and UK consumers benefiting all round,” Dacko said. “I am sure the arrangement will prompt a host of competitors to move more quickly into not only seamlessly integrating their online and brick-and-mortar operations but also looking into similar partnerships as well”.

During Christmas last year, eBay experimented with a bricks and mortar showroom where customers could try out products and interact with them through an app.

Euro online sales to double in five years

visa-epayOnline retail sales in Europe are expected to double by 2018, reaching €323 billion. This year online retail should hit €188 billion and some companies like Amazon are expected to see even faster growth, according to market research firm Mintel.

Mintel’s survey covered 19 markets in Europe and it was made exclusively available to Reuters. The survey found that Germany, Britain and France would remain by far the largest markets for online retail. However, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland should see fast growth, while Norway and Sweden already have the highest online per-capita spend.

Mintel analyst John Mercer said there is a big North-South divide in e-commerce in Europe. French participation levels lag Britain and Germany, but Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are even further behind, which is hardly surprising since they can barely afford Molotov cocktails now.

Amazon is expected to maintain its lead and double its market share in the next three to four years. Amazon currently has just five dedicated websites in Europe, in Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Mercer reckons Amazon would be better off with localised sites for the Nordics than Italy.

British grocers are doing surprisingly well. Tesco’s market share is 2.3 percent, Asda and Sainsbury’s have 1.1 percent and 0.9 percent respectively. However, online grocery shopping is not popular in the rest of the continent.

iPad market share at an all-time low

cheap-tabletsApple’s share of the tablet market appears to be at an all-time low, thanks to strong competition from cheap and cheerful Android tablets.

Despite the slump, Apple still remains the biggest player in the tablet market, but it is no longer the only outfit in town.

According to Trend Force, iPad sales dipped from 17 million to 14.6 million units last quarter. It ended the quarter with a 35.5 percent market share. Samsung ranked second with 8.8 million units and a 21.4 percent share. This is rather surprising, since Samsung’s tablets tend to be overpriced and overhyped.

Asus wound up in a distant third spot, with shipments of 1.6 million and a 3.9 percent market share. Acer wasn’t far behind, with 1.5 million units and a 3.6 percent share. Amazon ranked fifth with 1.1 million units and a 2.7 percent share.

Microsoft and Google in next, at 0.9 million and 0.7 million respectively and the figures are surprising to say the least. Google’s Nexus 7 was supposed to be a cheap, high volume device, but it seems it was outpaced even by Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

It should be noted that Apple is gearing up to introduce the fifth generation iPad and the second generation iPad mini. It current line-up is rather dated and the new iPads could turn things around. Google introduced the new Nexus 7 last week and it is getting some very positive reviews as we speak.

However, we believe the most interesting number in the report has nothing to do with Apple, Samsung or Google. Makers of white-box tablets sipped 9.7 million units last quarter, for a combined market share of 23.5% percent. In other words for every Surface RT or Nexus 7 tablet sold last quarter, nameless Chinese manufacturers sold ten of their equally nameless tablets.

Time to make a quick buck on PRISM fiasco

National-Security-Agency--008While the big internet companies are wringing their hands about being caught helping the US snoop on its citizens, there are some companies who are turning this into a money making opportunity.

DuckDuckGo, a service that does not does not keep a record of searches or tailor them to what its users have looked for in the past, said it took the company four years to get one million searches a day, but this had tripled to three million in the eight days after the PRISM surveillance scandal broke.

A tweet from the company said: “It took 1445 days to get 1M searches, 483 days to get 2M searches, and then just 8 days to pass 3M searches.”

While this is nothing in comparison to Google, it could be the tip of the iceburg for companies who are concerned about the deals that US companies made with their government.

The Patriot Act, under which PRISM was developed, has already been helping fledgling European Cloud companies see off much larger US competition.

This is because the US companies would have to guarantee to the Europeans that their data will not leave Europe, otherwise they would have to give it to the US government. This created a rush to build European data centres to support US cloud operations in the “old country.” However there is still some concern that a strict interpretation of the Patriot Act could force those US suppliers to hand over foreign data whether it is stored in Europe or not.

While all this is a mess for the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, it is great news for European Cloud providers such as the French Sovereign Cloud.

While there are fears that local spooks might also want to look in corporate clouds, that is a better option that giving the data to a foreign power.

As F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen pointed out: “If you are going to have a Big Brother, it is better to have a domestic Big Brother than a foreign Big Brother.”

Meanwhile European Union could force US cloud suppliers to give up the European customers. At the moment they are asking the US some fairly sticky questions, and could turn to regulating the American cloud users from the market.

At very least, it could recommend that companies opt for European cloud providers instead. In Germany they take such recommendations very seriously. One security recommendation nearly killed off the use of Internet Explorer and gave Firefox a significant boost.

Telecoms groups such as Orange and Deutsche Telekom have announced that they are trying to exploit the concerns as they build their own cloud businesses.

Government agencies and municipalities, especially in more privacy-conscious countries such as Germany, are more likely to turn to local alternatives for cloud services.

Sweden banned Google Apps in the public sector over concerns that Google had too much leeway over how the data was used and stored and PRISM could be a final nail in the service’s coffin in that country.

 

Online shops get physical

google-walletAmerica pioneered online shopping and its e-commerce outfits are now spearheading another trend. They are thinking of opening traditional brick and mortar stores.

Online juggernaut Amazon is said to be actively exploring a store concept and it is not alone. Bonobos, Warby Parker, Sigma Beauty and others are doing it as well.

It might sound surprising, given the e-commerce boom, but online outfits are looking ahead. They can’t hope to sustain current growth rates much longer, so they might be compelled to branch into physical stores sooner or later.

“But we wanted to put a face on the brand, and we wanted people to touch and feel the product,” Sigma cofounder Simone Xavier told CPA Practice Advisor.

Although online retailers tend to have much lower costs than their traditional counterparts, websites can’t completely replace showrooms and stores, or good salespersons for that matter.

“It is strange to see e-commerce sites open physical stores,” said retail consultant Jeff Green. “But when you think about, it’s not surprising. The most successful retailers are going to have a combination of bricks-and-mortars and digital sales. For online retailers, you might as well get to the sale as close as you can.”

Of course, online retailers will stay true to their roots and their physical stores won’t replace online. Many probably won’t bother with physical stores at all and even those that do are likely to face a lot of challenges.

Google – the egregious corporation

Google the OgleDoes being the Jack of all Trades and the master of none apply to Google? I fear so. Having oodles of cash has tempted Google into all manner of strange ventures but it’s pretty clear that some of its wacky ideas are way off kilter.

Take the supply chain, for example, and Google’s venture into being a hardware company. The evidence is that it simply doesn’t have a clue about the very complicated infrastructure in Asia – the original design manufacturers (ODMs) need to be cultivated and have learned from the School of Hard Knocks that most of the trouble in the world come from vendors that make microprocessors and operating systems.

To be fair to Google, it has been consistent. It has, like Amazon, destroyed more industries than it’s created.  Bookshops. What are they?  Books? Google will take care of that problem, thank you very much. Google has also undermined the publishing and the advertising industries. You might say that is a good thing, but ask any large publisher what they think of Google and you will hear a torrent of bad language that would make a navvie quake.

Then there’s news. Google News is one of the stupidest concepts on the planet and is well on its way to destroying journalism, with hacks everywhere not bothering to cultivate contacts but simply copying what other hacks have written. So much for investigative journalism – Google News has turned hackdom into a crazy carousel.

The Google search engine is, of course, bloody useful, but it encourages laziness too and the search results are tainted by Google adverts.

Google’s motto about doing no evil implies it is doing evil.  These mottoes invariably turn into their opposites – think of the League of Nations, think of the United Nations.  Any organization that uses the word harmony contains within itself the seed of chaos.  Catchlines are minetraps.  Google is a money making organization and altruism is no part of that.

Don’t let yourself be bullied by Google. Nor by Microsoft or Intel. Rant over.

Tesco chucks cash at digital services

tescoTesco is continuing in its quest to become the all singing all dancing supermarket giant.

The company has now said it will be launching a new UK digital music and book service, while, like many companies, is moving to improve its presence in China, launching its Clubcard into the country.

Head honcho Philip Clarke said that the supermarket would be throwing $750 million at the technology market  this year, a mark up three times more than in 2010, in a bid to go head to head with the likes of Amazon and Play.com.

He said the company would be embracing digital retailing, eventually offering apps to help customers shop easier as well as confirming that it would launch blinkboxmusic and blinkboxbooks over the coming months.

It’s taking the moves seriously – hiring one of Facebook’s most senior European executives, Gavin Sathianathan, to lead the operation.

Mark Bennett, a former EMI and Warner Music executive, has been tasked with heading up blinkboxmusic.

This is one of many paths the company has been taking in its quest to become supermarket king.

Earlier this month it was reportedly in talks to buy family food chain Giraffe as well as entering into the price match war with its rivals.

Tablets a boon for shops

stylustabletWhile the humble desktop PC emits a death rattle across Europe, consumers are flocking to tablets – devices which tend to be much more comfortable to keep on your lap when channel surfing.

According to analyst house Context, tablet sales have increased an enormous 350 percent in a single year, proving a boon to retailers who had the foresight to invest in the devices. Global MD of retail research at Context, Adam Simon, pointed out that there is a shift away from online-only retail channels, giving bricks and mortar stores the opportunity to capitalise while the consumer embarks on its cheap-and-cheerful tablet frenzy. Amazon is an example, which now stocks the Kindle in regular stores.

Click and collect is an emerging trend which is also helping the traditional retailers. Rather than waiting for the postman to stealthily drop in a “Sorry you weren’t at home” card in the nanosecond he or she was at the door, customers order online and pick up their product from a designated site. This is a pretty neat option because you don’t need to take a week off work to make sure you catch your delivery. Argos has enjoyed success with this model.

Of course, Apple is still very popular, but Context pointed out that top tablets in Western Europe also included the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, the Galaxy Tab2 10, and the Nexus 7. Samsung’s laughing.

Context tablet analyst Salman Chaudhry said in a statement that Apple’s show and play concept “was a real leader and taught consumers to enjoy experiential purchases while also creating links between their own stores and other retail outlets”.

“Various tablet vendors are now following these footsteps by making more devices available in stores for people to trial before they buy, with even Google getting in on the act with their stands in PC World,” Chaudhry said.

 

Bitcoin hopes to take on big players

bitcoinBitcoin is slowly gaining more support from mainstream businesses, but it is still largely relegated to transactions involving virtual goods, gambling or some even shadier activities. Bitcoin Store hopes to change all that.

The outfit focuses on consumer electronics and gadgets and according to The Verge,   it has a pretty good variety of products to offer. Since it’s not the first Bitcoin retailer out there, the company hopes to make a name for itself by undercutting the competition, including the likes of Amazon and NewEgg.

Bitcoin Store head of marketing Jon Holmquist said the whole point of the site is to demonstrate that both consumers and businesses can save a bit of cash simply by using Bitcoin. He said that Ingram Micro is the site’s supplier and that all large electronics sites use the same supplier.

However, the Bitcoin Store somehow managed to get into the highest pricing tier for Ingram Micro, which means it is the first time that a Bitcoin company is getting products at the same price as conventional retailers.

“It really showcases how much cheaper it is to pay with Bitcoin,” he said. Holmquist went on to point out that pricing on the site changes automatically as Bitcoin exchange rates fluctuate.

He also pointed out that the site’s owner, Bitcoin guru Roger Ver, decided to keep all Bitcoins amassed from sales, as he believes Bitcoin will continue to rise in value.