Amazon announced Monday that it is launching a new version of its popular Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-based storage solution designed specifically for use by the intelligence community, including the U.S. government and contractors.
The new service, or “Secret Region” as Amazon is labeling it, will be designed to house workloads that have up to the Secret U.S. security classification level, making it the first commercial cloud provider to offer regions that can serve government workloads across the full range of data classifications.
“Today we mark an important milestone as we launch the AWS Secret Region,” Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Amazon Web Services Worldwide Public Sector said in a statement. “AWS now provides the U.S. Intelligence Community a commercial cloud capability across all classification levels: Unclassified, Sensitive, Secret, and Top Secret. The U.S. 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.”
AWS launched its service to house classified information for U.S. intelligence agencies and government contractors three years ago. The company has provided “air-gapped” commercial cloud that are not connected to or accessible through the internet. Those services have been used to house documents labeled “Top Secret” in the past. The Secret Region marks an expansion of those existing services.
Amazon did note the new region, which will be available to both government intelligence agencies and contractors who work with those organizations, is not a part of the $600 million cloud services contract from the U.S. intelligence community that Amazon won.
“The AWS Secret Region is a key component of the Intel Community’s multi-fabric cloud strategy,” John Edwards, the CIA’s chief information officer, said in a statement. “It will have the same material impact on the IC at the Secret level that [commercial cloud services] has had at Top Secret.”
The announcement of the new Secret Region at AWS comes at a precarious time, as cloud services hosted by Amazon have been the source of misconfigurations that have resulted in sensitive data leaking online in recent months.
Just last week, information collected by the United States Department of Defense—including two Pentagon unified combatant commands—was left exposed online for anyone to access in AWS cloud databases. The public-facing databases contained at least 1.8 billion internet posts scraped by intelligence agencies from news sites, comment sections, web forums and social media including Facebook. The data spanned collected over an eight-year period.
Prior to the apparent leak of Department of Defense data, a number of government contractors also suffered from similar issues. In May, it was discovered defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton exposed more than 60,000 sensitive US military files with a misconfigured server.
In September, the resumes of nearly 10,000 U.S. veterans and contractors were found exposed online as the result of a mistake made by a third-party provider.