Amazon “Secret Region” Will Store Top Secret Data from US Spy Agencies
In November, Amazon announced the launch of a “secret region” for cloud hosting, analyzing, and sharing data from 17 US spy agencies.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides customizable cloud computing software and a variety of other bespoke services. Now, 17 US intelligence agencies will have access to a secret region cut-off from the rest of the internet. Here they can share unclassified, sensitive, secret, and top secret information.
Amazon “Secret Region” for information sharing
“The US intelligence community can now execute their missions with a common set of tools, a constant flow of the latest technology and the flexibility to rapidly scale with the mission,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of AWSWorldwide Public Sector said.
When people think of the US intelligence community, they usually think of the CIA and FBI. There are actually 17 agencies working under the intel umbrella. A few common ones include the National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
For decades, these agencies have struggled to communicate and share information with one another. Sometimes this is due to lack of technology and resources. In other cases (and probably more frequently) it’s due to bureaucracy and pecking order.
This new secret region of Amazon will make it easier for agencies to share information. So the organization collecting geolocations can share intel with the DEA more easily. Or the NSA can easily share phone information with the FBI.
A history of exposing sensitive information
Government agencies frequently contract the tech giant for hosting sensitive information sometimes with mixed results. In fact, confidential information is commonly exposed to the public through these cloud platforms — usually due to human error.
Earlier this year, a contracting company working within the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency left information in an AWS bucket completely unprotected. How unprotected you ask? It didn’t even require a freaking password. It’s easy to laugh this off and not care until you realize what kind of information the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency collects. This agency is responsible for tracking geolocations. So, the organization monitoring everyone’s whereabouts just left a bunch of information totally out in the open. (They also partner with Google Maps, by the way.)
Just a month after that incident, another contracting company working for the Republican National Committee left a bunch of personal voter information in a public AWS bucket. Once again, totally unprotected exposing the intimate details of millions of people.
More recently in November, the Pentagon left about 1.8 billion aggregated social media posts dating back to 2009 wholly unprotected in an AWS bucket. Anyone with a free AWS account could view the information. (Dang, I really dropped the ball there.)
Funny how the news tends to report these as “hacks” when in most instances, the information is left exposed due to human error.
Amazon’s long-term relationship with spy agencies
Amazon working hand-in-hand with US spy agencies isn’t new. In 2014, the tech giant announced a partnership with the CIA and other intel agencies which included a $600 million contract.
The US defense department spends roughly $40 billion on technology development each year. This new secret region from Amazon is simply the company’s attempt to corner the market by beating competitors like Google or Microsoft to the punch.
This new deal will simply shut off the intel community’s info from the rest of AWS.
On the one hand, this does make it easier for agencies to share information on otherwise innocent people. But it still doesn’t remove the egos and pecking order infamously associated with defense organizations. Whether or not they’ll actually be able to cooperate with each other behind closed doors is another story.