March 20, 2013
Amazon May Be Helping CIA Build Spook Cloud
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Given the way Amazon seemingly tracks consumer purchases, makes recommendations based on past visits to the online retail site, and knows just about all of the viewing habits of its customers, it almost seems the world´s largest retailer is in the spy game. Thus, it is no wonder the CIA is reportedly looking to Amazon to help the intelligence agency build its cloud service.Federal Computer Week reported on Tuesday the Central Intelligence Agency has agreed to a cloud computing contract with the e-commerce giant, worth up to $600 million over 10 years.
According to the story, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will aid the CIA in building a private cloud infrastructure. This will be used to help the agency keep up with emerging technologies, including big data. But it will also allow the government agency to do so in a cost-effective manner that it is reportedly not possible under existing cloud efforts at the CIA.
At present, Amazon Web Services remains the largest public cloud provider, and it could be charged with building what promises to be quite a large -- and very private -- cloud.
Of course, Amazon officials did not confirm the existence of any contract, not even with the often used, “I could tell you but then I´d have to kill you,” line from spy movies. For its part, the CIA was also not forthcoming.
“As a general rule, the CIA does not publicly disclose details of our contracts, the identities of our contractors, the contract values, or the scope of work,” a CIA spokesperson told FCW.
AWS would seem like a good fit for the CIA, as the group currently runs its GovCloud services.
“AWS GovCloud (US) is an AWS Region designed to allow US government agencies and customers to move more sensitive workloads into the cloud by addressing their specific regulatory and compliance requirements,” AWS noted on its website. Amazon´s oldest data center farm, US-East, which also happens to be its largest, has reportedly been expanding in recent months. It is located in Ashburn, Virginia, just 20 miles from the CIA´s headquarters in Langley.
It is also worth noting AWS´s chief information security officer (CSO) Stephen Smidt comes from the government side of things, and while he didn´t hail from the CIA, he did spend ten years as a section chief for the FBI; while AWS´s deputy CSO Carl Moses worked as an FBI Assistant Section Chief. There is also Andrew Doane, who currently serves as AWS´s director of security products and services, and he reportedly spent six years as a technical director in the “US Intelligence Community,” which sounds like black hat stuff for sure.
The connection between public company and the government sector is unique, but not unheard of as well. AWS did launch its Virtual Private Cloud four years ago and has recently noted it was adding new features. At the same time, intelligence agencies tend to look to work with companies that are often times closely tied with the government.
This is true for Chinese companies such as Huawei -- which for its part has been accused of spying for the Chinese government -- but also firms such as Lockheed, Oracle and Cisco. While still not actually part of the US government, these companies work so closely, they´ve become the go-to sources for their respective products and services.
While none of this means Amazon will become a vehicle of the CIA, it also probably doesn´t mean CIA employees will get free Amazon Prime accounts either.