Amazon executive resigns over company’s ‘chickenshit’ firings of employee activists | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Tim Bray, a top engineer and vice-president at Amazon, announced on Monday he is resigning “in dismay” over the company’s firing of employee activists who criticized working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bray’s resignation comes as Amazon faces increased scrutiny and employee activism surrounding its internal response to coronavirus. Amazon workers on Friday participated in a nationwide sick-out to protest against poor working conditions and inadequate safety protections, claiming the company has failed to provide enough face masks for workers, did not implement regular temperature checks it promised at warehouses, and has refused to give workers paid sick leave.
In a blogpost explaining his resignation, Bray called the firings of organizers at the company “chickenshit”, and said they were “designed to create a climate of fear”. In resigning, Bray has become the highest-ranking corporate employee at Amazon to publicly speak out about worker conditions.
“Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Bray, who had worked at the company for nearly six years, said.
The Guardian previously published Bray’s blogpost in full under Creative Commons licensing, but took it down at his request.
Bray cited the experiences of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa – two user experience designers at Amazon who were fired in April after publicly denouncing the treatment of warehouse workers.

Bray also cited activism among warehouse workers themselves, including actions from Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Bashir Mohammed and Chris Smalls – all of whom were fired after organizing.
A leaked memo obtained by Vice News showed how an Amazon executive denigrated Smalls, who had helped organize an action at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse, labeling him as “not smart or articulate” in a meeting with Jeff Bezos.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment, but previously cited violations of internal policies as reasons for dismissing these employees.
Amazon made more than $33m per hour in the first three months of the year, according to earnings reports last week, boosted by consumers on lockdown ordering supplies to be delivered to home. The chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, who was already the richest man in the world, has personally seen his fortune swell by $13bn this month to $145bn.
“At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response,” Bray said. “It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.”

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North Korea hackers targeted think tanks, activists: Microsoft- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Microsoft has revealed that a North Korea-linked hacker group has stolen sensitive personal information of government employees, think tanks, university staff members, members of organisations focused on world peace and human rights, as well as individuals who work on nuclear proliferation related issues.
Microsoft has now gained control of 50 domains that the group uses to conduct its operations, the company said. With this action, the sites can no longer be used to execute attacks.
A court case against the hacker group, called Thallium, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, resulted in a court order enabling Microsoft to take control of the web domains, Microsoft Customer Security and Trust Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has been tracking and gathering information on Thallium, monitoring the group’s activities to establish and operate a network of websites, domains and Internet-connected computers.
This network was used to target victims and then compromise their online accounts, infect their computers, compromise the security of their networks and steal sensitive information.
Most targets were based in the US, as well as Japan and South Korea, Burt said. Like many cybercriminals and threat actors, Thallium typically attempts to trick victims through a technique known as spear phishing.
By gathering information about the targeted individuals from social media, public personnel directories from organisations the individual is involved with and other public sources, Thallium is able to craft a personalised spear-phishing email in a way that gives the email credibility to the target.
The link in the email redirects the user to a website requesting the user’s account credentials. By tricking victims into clicking on the fraudulent links and providing their credentials, Thallium is then able to log into the victim’s account.
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By using forwarding rules, Thallium can continue to see email received by the victim, even after the victim’s account password is updated.
“You can protect yourself from these types of attacks in at least three ways. We recommend, first, that you enable two-factor authentication on all business and personal email accounts,” Burt said.
“Second, learn how to spot phishing schemes and protect yourself from them. Third, enable security alerts about links and files from suspicious websites and carefully check your email forwarding rules for any suspicious activity,” he added.

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Climate activists plan to use drones to shut down Heathrow Airport next month – gpgmail


A UK group of climate activists is planning to fly drones close to Heathrow Airport next month in a direct action they hope will shut down the country’s largest airport for days or even longer.

The planned action is in protest at the government’s decision to green-light a third runway at Heathrow.

They plan to use small, lightweight “toy” drones, flown at head high (6ft) within a 5km drone ‘no fly’ zone around the airport — but not within flight paths. The illegal drone flights will also be made in the early morning at a time when there would not be any scheduled flights in the air space to avoid any risk of posing a threat to aircraft.

The activists point out that the government recently declared a climate emergency — when it also pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 — arguing there is no chance of meeting that target if the UK expands current airport capacity.

A press spokesman for the group, which is calling itself Heathrow Pause, told gpgmail: “Over a thousand child are dying as a result of climate change and ecological collapse — already, every single day. That figure is set to significantly worsen. The government has committed to not just reducing carbon emissions but reducing them to net zero — that is clearly empirically impossible if they build another runway.”

The type of drones they plan to use for the protest are budget models which they say can be bought cheaply at UK retailer Argos — which, for example, sells the Sky Viper Stunt Drone for £30; the Revell GO! Stunt Quadcopter Drone for £40; and the Revell Spot 2.0 Quadcopter (which comes with a HD camera) for £50.

The aim for the protest is to exploit what the group dubs a loophole in Heathrow’s health and safety protocol around nearby drone flights to force it to close down runways and ground flights.

Late last year a spate of drone sightings near the UK’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, led to massive disruption for travellers just before Christmas after the airport responded by grounding flights.

At the time, the government was sharply criticized for having failed to foresee weaknesses in the regulatory framework around drone flights near sensitive sites like airports.

In the following months it responded by beefing up what was then a 1km airport exclusion zone to 5km — with that expanded ‘no fly’ zone coming into force in March. However a wider government plan to table a comprehensive drones bill has faced a number of delays.

It’s the larger 5km ‘no fly’ zone that the Heathrow Pause activists are targeting in a way they hope will safely trigger the airport’s health & safety protocol and shut down the airspace and business as usual.

Whether the strategy to use drones as a protest tool to force the closure of the UK’s largest airport will fly remains to be seen.

A spokeswoman for Heathrow airport told us it’s confident it has “robust plans” in place to ensure the group’s protest does not result in any disruption to flights. However she would not provide any details on the steps it will take to avoid having to close runways and ground flights, per its safety protocol.

When we put the airport’s claim of zero disruption from intended action back to Heathrow Pause, its spokesman told us: “Our understanding is that the airport’s own health and safety protocols dictate that they have to ground airplanes if there are any drones of any size flying at any height anywhere within 5km of the airport.

“Our position would be that it’s entirely up to them what they do. That the action that we’re taking does not pose a threat to anybody and that’s very deliberately the case. Having said that I’d be surprised to hear that they’re going to disregard their own protocols even if those are — in our view — excessive. It would still come as a surprise if they weren’t going to follow them.”

“We won’t be grounding any flights in any circumstances,” he added. “It’s not within our power to do so. All of the actions that have been planned have been meticulously planned so as not to pose any threat to anybody. We don’t actually see that there need to be flights grounded either. Having said that clearly it would be great if Heathrow decided to ground flights. Every flight that’s grounded is that much less greenhouse gas pumped into the atmosphere. And it directly saves lives.

“The fewer flights there are the better. But if there are no flights cancelled we’d still consider the action to be an enormous success — purely upon the basis of people being arrested.”

The current plan for the protest is to start illegally flying drones near Heathrow on September 13 — and continue for what the spokesman said could be as long as “weeks”, depending on how many volunteer pilots it can sign up. He says they “anticipate” having between 50 to 200 people willing to risk arrest by breaching drone flight law.

The intention is to keep flying drones for as long as people are willing to join the protest. “We are hoping to go for over a week,” he told us.

Given the plan has been directly communicated to police the spokesman conceded there is a possibility that the activists could face arrest before they are able to carry out the protest — which he suggested might be what Heathrow is banking on.

Anyone who flies a drone in an airport’s ‘no fly’ zone is certainly risking arrest and prosecution under UK law. Penalties for the offence range from fines to life imprisonment if a drone is intentionally used to cause violence. But the group is clearly taking pains to avoid accusations the protest poses a safety risk or threatens violence — including by publishing extensive details of their plan online, as well as communicating it to police and airport authorities.

A detailed protocol on their website sets out the various safety measures and conditions the activists are attaching to the drone action — “to ensure no living being is harmed”. Such as only using drones lighter than 7kg, and giving the airport an hour’s advance notice ahead of each drone flight.

They also say they have a protocol to shut down the protest in the event of an emergency — and will have a dedicated line of communication open to Heathrow for this purposes.

Some of the activists are scheduled to meet with police and airport authorities  tomorrow, face to face, at a London police station to discuss the planned action.

The group says it will only call off the action if the Heathrow third runway expansion is cancelled.

In an emailed statement in response to the protest, Heathrow Airport told us:

We agree with the need to act on climate change. This is a global issue that requires constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offences and disrupting passengers is counterproductive.

Flying of any form of drone near Heathrow is illegal and any persons found doing so will be subject to the full force of the law. We are working closely with the Met Police and will use our own drone detection capability to mitigate the operational impact of any illegal use of drones near the airport.

Asked why the environmental activists have selected drones as their tool of choice for this protest, rather than deploying more traditional peaceful direct action strategies, such as trespassing on airport grounds or chaining themselves to fixed infrastructure, the Heathrow Pause spokesman told us: “Those kind of actions have been done in the past and they tend to result in very short duration of time during which very few flights are cancelled. What we are seeking to do is unprecedented in terms of the duration and the extent of the disruption that we would hope to cause.

“The reason for drones is in order to exploit this loophole in the health and safety protocols that have been presented to us — that it’s possible for a person with a toy drone that you can purchase for a couple of quid, miles away from any planes, to cause an entire airport to stop having flights. It is quite an amazing situation — and once it became apparent that that was really a possibility it almost seemed criminal not to do it.”

He added that drone technology, and the current law in the UK around how drones can be legally used, present an opportunity for activists to level up their environmental protest — “to cause so much disruption with so few people and so little effort” — that it’s simply “a no brainer”.

During last year’s Gatwick drone debacle the spokesman said he received many enquiries from journalists asking if the group was responsible for that. They weren’t — but the mass chaos caused by the spectre of a few drones being flown near Gatwick provided inspiration for using drone technology for an environmental protest.

The group’s website is hosting video interviews with some of the volunteer drone pilots who are willing to risk arrest to protest against the expansion of Heathrow Airport on environmental grounds.

In a statement there, one of them, a 64-year-old writer called Valerie Milner-Brown, said: “We are in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency. I am a law-abiding citizen — a mother and a grandmother too. I don’t want to break the law, I don’t want to go to prison, but right now we, as a species, are walking off the edge of a cliff. Life on Earth is dying. Fires are ravaging the Amazon. Our planet’s lungs are quite literally on fire. Hundreds of species are going extinct every day. We are experiencing hottest day after hottest day, and the Arctic is melting faster than scientists’ worst predictions.

“All of this means that we have to cut emissions right now, or face widespread catastrophe on an increasingly uninhabitable planet. Heathrow Airport emits 18 million tons of CO2 a year. That’s more than most countries. A third runway will produce a further 7.3 million tons of CO2. For all Life — now and in the future — we have to take action. I’m terrified but if this is what it will take to make politicians, business leaders and the media wake up, then I’m prepared to take this action and to face the consequences.”


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