Tech Explained

The Big Picture for the Tech Economy

Amazon and Facebook have reached all time highs but their success may not actually be good for the economy, in fact its probably pretty bad for it. Pretty regularly the two tech companies are seeing their stock sour other big names have reported their first quarter earnings below estimates and are struggling with falling numbers. Macy’s and Disney land are the two most recent corporations to be slammed in recent weeks. Some inside traders can’t help but wonder that the internet giants are to blame.

Amazon is shaking up everything, and is changing the way people buy and sell everything. The brick and mortar are no longer the necessity they once were. “Amazon has a huge impact on employment, on rents and on downtown usage, we’ve seen mall retail effects here that are nontrivial.”

More over, their vast online retail sector that Amazon has also introduced a myriad of services, over the years to compete in a variety of markets. The company is also now expanded to include not only their Amazon Prime swag, but also their grocery delivery service. fgfgfg

Facebook, is also for the most part expanded beyond its core social media platform which is becoming, an ad revenue generating powerhouse which is thanks in large part to its huge reach and scope. But that seems kind of obvious.

“So Facebook and Google control online advertising and Amazon is 30-plus percent of e-commerce, so what’s a bit counter intuitive about these new and exciting technologies that are making everything competitive is they tend to be very dominant.”

But the true scope we are trying to understand may be harder to see than originally believed, but that’s fine. Especially, given their reliance on the internet and their vast reach across burgeoning markets.

“There’s a big disruption going on and economists really have trouble quantifying it in terms of productivity growth, which at the end of the day is important for economic growth. There’s an old saying that you can see the internet every where except the productivity data, and you’re definitely seeing that play in the stock market as well… You have disruption but it’s not yet crating the kind of growth that we had either in wages or in the economy with prior technologies like in the 1920’s and 30’s.” Colas added.

So we are in between a rock and a hard place for our economy. In once sense we don’t really want to break away from

Amazon.com Inc. logos are displayed on laptop computers in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Amazon.com Inc. is scheduled to release third-quarter earnings on Oct. 24. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

this trend because of the convenience and speed inherent to its model. However, it is clearly a kind of means to toxicity in the market place and among US consumers. So where they decide to go from here will only tell of the coming change we see across the board both in distribution and manufacturing.

What is going to be interesting is what the face of Facebook will be in a decade and how they will continue to monetize their product. What I mean is that this is largely a market experiment so we’ll see how it goes down in the town.

FBI Employee Information Accessed By Hacker

This Monday, the US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced that investigations were taking place regarding a hacker that broke into the American government’s computer systems and stole sensitive information about employees at the agencies.

The hacker accessed and stole information regarding 9,000 Department of Homeland Security employees online Sunday and publicized data on 20,000 FBI employees on Monday.

DHS spokesperson S.Y. Lee gave the following staement:

motherboard“We are looking into the reports of purported disclose of DHS employee contact information… We take these reports very seriously; however, there is no indication at this time that there is any breach of sensitive or personally identifiable information.”

The Department of Justice was investigating “unauthorized access of a system operated by one its its components containing employee contact information,” and added that no sensitive personally identifiable information appeared to have been compromised.

Strange statements considering that DHS data posted to the Web contained phone numbers and email addresses of past employees, though some of them hadn’t worked int he agency for years.

Motherboard did report the data theft on Sunday, claiming that a hacker had turned stolen information over to it and announced his intention to go public with the information.

According to Motherboard, the hacker was able to use the email account of a DOJ employee and social engineering to enter into the agency’s intranet and download 200GB of files. This was all explained to Motherboard by the hacker.

Motherboard is a section of Vice news focused on the future:

“With in-depth blogging, longford reporting, and video journalism, Motherboard investigates the news and events that are already affecting the years to come. We want to help you get your hands on tomorrow. Beyond that, we strive to bring our audience an honest portrait of the futures we’re racing towards.”

The hacker apparently failed to penetrate the DOJ Web portal on his own,  but had the bright idea to call a government department, act like a newbie, and simply request the code for accessing the portal, which eh was given over the phone. Once inside, he gained access to the computer used by the person whose email he had compromised and gained access to DOJ’s internal network.

mb2“It was a fairly simplistic attack combined with social engineering, but audacious when your’e going after an FBI employee,” commented chief research analyst with IT-Harvest Richard Stiennon. “It’s easy for complacency to set in at high-volume call environments such as government help desks… If you flood a help desk with password reset requests and similar requests without any negative consequences, eventually operators are going to get comfortable handing out login tokens.”

The whole situation is an indicator of the limits of even the most secure systems; the gullible employee is always the Achilles’ heel.

“All the advanced algorithms, machine learning and log aggregators can’t protect an organization from a gullible employee susceptible to the ‘Look, your shoe’s untied’ ruse,” commented Stealthbits Technologies channel marketing manager Jeff hill.

“In today’s world, the best cybersecurity strategy is to look for and identify suspicious behavior of legitimate accounts,” he added.

Zano Fails, Kickstarter Hires Investigative Journalist

Zano promised the world a mini-drone with a host of bells and whistles, and the world was psyched. Its Kickstarter raised over $3 million and earned its stature as a Kickstarter staff pick. It was even short listed for its best of CES 2015 award and chosen as one of Popular Science’s 100 most amazing innovations of 2015 last October.

torquing groupUnfortunately, the crew behind Zano just couldn’t deliver on its promises.  Its failure sparked intense anger among Kickstarter donors, who accused Zano of scamming them out of their hard-earned donations. Kickstarter took a creative approach to the mounting tension, enlisting an investigative journalist named Mark Harris to determine what factors led to Zano’s disappointing inability to produce.

Based in Seattle, Harris was shown to South Wales, where he spent six weeks conducting interviews and connecting the dots to complete an epic tale of tragedy that was no scam, but a legitimate failure on the part of Zano.

It all started with a business called the Torquing Group, a business led by self-taught engineer Ivan Reedman. Reedman wanted to create a marketable drone that, through clever and misleading marketing, lit Kickstarter on fire and galloped towards its target goal.

Unfortunately, once the money was secured, Reedman and his associates soon discovered that the past to mass producing what would have been an incredible drone was fraught with obstacles; obstacles none of them was equipped to handle.

“Torquing’s director managed their business poorly and spent the Kickstarter money too freely, but I’ve found no evidence that any of them ended up rich on the backs of the crown,” concluded Mark Harris in his 13,000 word write up. He claims that as production problems increased, Touring associates demonstrated “a dangerous lack of self-awareness of the problems the company was making for itself.”

Reedman himself apparently admitted that neither he or any member of his team “possessed the technical or commercial competencies necessary to deliver the Zano as specified in the original campaign.”

And so a humbling lesson was duly learnt by Reedman and the Tourquing group. But what about Kickstarter?

kickstarterHarris asserted that Kickstarter and other funding websites must “reconsider the way they deal with projects involving complex hardware, massive overfunding, or large sums of money,” advising that they bring in mentors to keep an eye on projects like Zano which suddenly become responsible for opening much more money on many more consumers than originally projected.

Harris also stated that Kickstarter and crowd-funding websites should be much more straight-forward about the risks that backers face; after all, it’s not Kickstarter’s responsibility if a project like Zano ends up tanking.

Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler wasn’t open to much of Harris’s criticisms. He claims that Kickstarter’s rules regarding realistic videos and genuine prototypes are extremely difficult to enforce, and that it is a backer’s responsibility to assess the potential for the creator to successfully create the product.

“If you want 100% success with hardware and new products, I think the only solution is that you just shop on Amazon,” Strickler stated.