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January 19, 2022 23 mins

Today we take a look at the hundred million dollars deals Amazon has done with both the CIA and MI6. Not only is Amazon spying on customers through home security technology, they're making cloud technology so spy agencies can better keep tabs on the rest of the world. Is this the beginning of a megcorporation dystopia?

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon
customer because you guys paid progress, you guys paid problems.
This is megaco an investigative podcast exposing some of the
world's most unethical corporations. This series is about Amazon. I'm

(00:22):
Jake Hanrahan, journalists and documentary filmmaker. Megacorp is produced by
H eleven for cool Zone Media. In the last episode,
we looked at how Amazon is spying on its customers

(00:43):
through its home security technology. Today, though, we'll be looking
at Amazon's dealings with the actual spy agencies, specifically America's
CIA and the UK's m I five and m I six.
To understand how Amazon works with these intelligence agencies, for
we need to look into Amazon Web Services or a WUS.

(01:05):
AWS will feature a lot in this episode, so let's
hear what Amazon has to say about it. AWS is
the world's most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. Millions
of customers trust AWS to power their infrastructure and applications.
Organizations of every type in size are using AWS to

(01:26):
lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster. AWS gives
you more services and more features within those services than
any other cloud provider. This makes it faster, easier, and
more cost effective to move your existing applications to the
cloud and to build anything you can imagine, from infrastructure

(01:47):
technologies like compute, storage and databases to emerging technologies such
as machine learning and artificial intelligence, data lakes and analytics,
and Internet of things. Building on AWS means you can
choose the right tool for the jar. With AWS, you
can leverage the latest technologies to experiment and innovate more quickly.
We are continually accelerating our pace of innovation to invent

(02:10):
entirely new technologies you can use to transform your business.
Our infrastructure is built to satisfy the security standards of
the most risk sensitive organizations. To put it simply, AWS
is the world's most used cloud computing platform, the cloud
being a technology that allows users to access the same
files and applications from almost any device wherever they are.

(02:34):
So what does Amazon's AWS have to do with the CIA. Well,
in Amazon secured a contract to build the c I,
a six hundred million dollar cloud computing technology that would
service all seventeen of the U S Intelligence agencies. Those
agencies benefiting from Amazon's cloud technology are as follows. The

(02:58):
Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the
National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the
Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug
Enforcement Administration, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Energy,
the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, Air

(03:20):
Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Army Military Intelligence, the Office
of Naval Intelligence, the Marine Corps Intelligence, and the Coast
Guard Intelligence. Every one of those agencies is using AWS
created services by Amazon, the same company who has had
scandal after scandal regarding the improper use of the data, video,

(03:42):
and sound files of millions of people across the world
that they have stored in their cloud via their home
security products the Chat. Amazon's deal with the CIA to
build them a robust cloud computing technology was first handled
in secret. When it became public, there were a few
interesting legal issues, as explained in an Atlantic article about

(04:06):
the deal by Frank Concole Quote. After weighing bids from
Amazon Web Services, IBM, and an unnamed third vendor, the
CIA awarded a contract to a WS worth up to
six hundred million dollars over a period of up to
ten years. IBM filed a bid protest with g a

(04:28):
O that the watchdog eventually upheld in June, forcing the
CIA to reopen bids to both companies for the contract.
A legal struggle between Amazon and Big Blue ensued, and
a WS filed a lawsuit against the federal government in July,
claiming the g a O sus statement was a flawed decision.

(04:49):
In October, US Court of Federal Claims, Judge Thomas Wheeler
sided with Amazon and overturned g ao's decision to force
the CIA to read but the contrast, Big Blue went home.
A WS claimed a victory under the deal's original financial specs.
Nearly eighteen months after the procurement was first released, the

(05:10):
CIA and Amazon went to work end quote. Now to
give you an idea of how big this Amazon CIA
deal was, let me tell you what the c i
A Chief Information Officer, Douglas Wolfe said about it. He
called it, quote one of the most important technology procurements
in recent history. End quote. Well, you might be thinking, well,

(05:34):
it's the CIA simply leasing technology from Amazon. Bear in
mind that the Amazon engineers oversee all the hardware for
this CIA cloud tech. Why Well, because a w S
actually owns the hardware, and they're the ones responsible for
maintaining it. That said, let's take a look at some

(05:54):
of the previous security issues Amazon has had with online security,
including hearts of its a WS technology. January, hacker broke
the security of an Amazon owned online store, exposing the
information twenty four million customers. December fourteen, hackers from Anonymous

(06:17):
leaked thirteen thousand user names and passwords for Amazon accounts,
along with several other websites. November twenty fifteen, Amazon found
a credible security risk was forced to reset the past
words of thousands of its users. July hacker claimed to
a brief an Amazon server to obtain the personal details

(06:40):
of eighty thousand Kindle users. Amazon said the breach wasn't legit,
to which the hacker responded saying the server was owned
by Amazon and that the details could be used to
disable all of the leaked accounts. November eighteen, a major
data breach of customer information was announced, in which Amazon
claimed a technical issue led to customers private information accidentally

(07:04):
being posted online. This information included customers names and email addresses. July,
a Capital One server using Amazon's a WS was hacked
by a former Amazon employee. Information of over one million
customers was exposed, including social security numbers, bank account numbers,

(07:26):
credit card transaction records, and credit scores. The hacker was
allegedly an AWS systems engineer. Amazon denied any responsibility for
the attack. September, Amazon users in Japan begin to see
the order histories, purchase details, shopper names, and delivery addresses

(07:47):
of other Amazon customers. There were nothing to do with them.
This lasted a few days until Amazon said they'd fix
the problem without fully explaining what had happened. January twenty,
several Amazon employees were fired after it was discovered they'd
been sharing sensitive customer data with a third party. Several

(08:08):
customer email addresses and phone numbers were later leaked online. Again,
Amazon has never fully explained what happened with this incident. February,
a large AWS database that wasn't secured was discovered online.
It held sensitive data or millions of customers in Europe

(08:28):
for Amazon and for other companies. Names, addresses, emails, phone numbers,
payment histories, invoice links, and partial credit card numbers were
all left unsecured. As well as this and Amazon Marketplace
web Services authentication token was in the database. As well
as an a w S access key I D. October

(08:50):
twenty more Amazon employees were fired over a separate incident,
but they've been leaking Amazon customer email addresses to a
third party one line. February one third party gained access
to logitechs AWS cloud server, which contained backup files to
customer management of risk and compliance data for security matters.

(09:14):
October one hacker posted one d and twenty eight gigabytes
of leaked files from Amazon's Twitch streaming service to a
four Chan message board. The files included Twitches source code,
earnings numbers for streamers, and much more. For the job. Now,

(09:37):
I know there was a long list, but it was
worth going into detail when you consider it's all related
to the company that ran a six hundred million dollar
cloud text service for the c I, a arguably the
most active intelligence agency on Earth. Now, if you're wondering
where I'm going with this, things might become clearer when

(09:58):
we take a look at some of the ways in
which the CIA themselves have spied on people across the world.
This project mocking Bird in nineteen sixty three, for example,
Mockingbird was a c I a wire tapping operation initiated
by then President John F. Kennedy, the CIA secretly listened

(10:19):
into the phone conversations of journalists to uncover their sources.
Then there's the time in nineteen sixty nine when the
CIA wire tapped anti war activists who were opposed to
the conflict in Vietnam. Frankly, there are many examples of
US intelligence agencies spying on its own citizens. One of

(10:40):
the most notorious was exposed by whistleblower Edwards Snowden, who
showed through stolen documents that the n s A was
spying on millions of Americans. Privacy is what gives you
the ability to share with the world who you are
on your own terms. Privacy is the fountain head of
all others. Front of speech doesn't have a lot of

(11:02):
meaning if you can't have a quiet space, a space
within yourself, within your mind, within the community of your
friends with you to decide what it is that you
actually want to say. Without privacy, you don't have anything
for yourself. Arguing that you don't care about privacy because
you have nothing to hide is like arguing that you
don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say. Now,

(11:26):
if you believe that the n s a, the CIA
and all the others have moved past all that and
would never do it again. Then I guess sleep easy. However,
I think it's worth considering that the next wave of
technology will probably be used by intelligence agencies the same
way or the others were. What we do know is this, Amazon,

(11:49):
a gigantic global company that pretty much openly has no
scruples when it comes to abusing its workers and spying
on its customers, has contracts were of the CIA to
run a cloud network for the data of all seventeen
of its intelligence agencies, agencies that also have no scruples

(12:09):
on spying on people and harvesting data to serve its
own purposes. But don't worry, I'm not about to go
all conspiracy theorists on you. But honestly, it is no
secret that the lines between big tech government agencies and
mega corporations are becoming increasingly blurred. Facebook and Twitter's constant

(12:29):
compliance with both totalitarian regimes and global intelligence agencies has
proved this time and again. As we can see, Amazon
is certainly no stranger to this game either. In less
than thirty years since it was founded, Amazon went from
a company that sells cheap books to one that builds
cloud storage databases for the CIA and willingly gives the

(12:53):
US police access to its customers home security networks during
civil rights protests. When you put all of this into context,
I think personally that it starts to feel like we're
already running full pel into a grim corporate dystopia. But
that's me. I'm quite cynical now, Americans, don't worry. It's

(13:14):
not just you lot that have Amazon team and not
with your intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, the same thing is happening
in my country in the UK. Last year in one
it was revealed in the British media that the country's
three main intelligence agencies had contracted Amazon's a WS to

(13:35):
host classified data in a deal that the Financial Times
newspaper said was quote aimed at boosting the use of data,
analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage end quote. The technology
has been taken on by Britain's Government Communications Headquarters or

(13:56):
g h c Q, and it will also be used
by Britain's the intel agencies, the Secret Intelligence Service or
m I six and the Security Service m I five.
It will also be used by the Ministry of Defence
in joint operations I think. The following quote from the
f T sums up many concerns in Britain when it

(14:18):
comes to this deal. Quote. The contract is likely to
ignite concerns over sovereignty given that a vast amount of
the UK's most secret data will be hosted by a
single U S tech company. The agreement, estimated by industry
experts to be worth five hundred million pounds to one
billion pounds over the next decade, was signed this year.

(14:41):
According to four people familiar with the discussions. However, the
details are closely guarded and we're not intended to be
made public end quote. At least when in the US
the CIA did their deal with Amazon, the figures were
out there for the public to see. For us here
in the UK, we're not even allowed to know how

(15:02):
much of our money as taxpayers went into this deal
with Amazon, and they didn't even want the details to
get out at all. Sadly, this level of secrecy and
audacity from our government is nothing new. Despite the utterly
negligent lack of coverage on this in the mainstream media,
the UK is actually slowly becoming an increasingly authoritarian country.

(15:26):
This isn't a political earbashion either, don't worry, this is
just an objective fact. Take, for example, the current government's
plans to introduce something called the Police, Crime, Sentencing and
Court Bill. It's a long bill, but to sum it up,
it's effectively an openly authoritarian plan put forward by the

(15:47):
Tory government to criminalize protests, even completely peaceful ones. It
will give police the powers to shut down any protest
based on extremely vague parameters such as noise levels. So
if it passes, you could literally be legally arrested by
the police for simply banging a drum at a protest.

(16:10):
The bill has passed its first round of votes and
will almost definitely be made into law. Once that's passed,
the data collected on all protesters will no doubt end
up processed in the new AWS cloud contracted to Amazon
by the British government for an undisclosed fee. In this

(16:30):
hypothetical situation, you could argue that Amazon would essentially become
a tool for the blatant degradation of a free society.
I mentioned all of this because I think when you
look at the grand scheme of things, it all starts
to tie into each other. I think that becomes even
clearer when you look at what some of this new
Amazon a WS built technology will be used for. It

(16:54):
will quote enable spiers to share data more easily from
field locations overseas and power specialist applications such as speech recognition,
which can spot and translate particular voices from ours worth
of intercepted recordings end quote. As we know, governments often

(17:14):
use spy technology like this to keep tabs on its
own citizens. Got you saying? The executive director of Privacy,
International charity that defends and promotes the right to privacy

(17:34):
across the world, said the following quote. This is yet
another worrying public private partnership agreed in secret. If this
contract goes through, Amazon will be positioned as the go
to cloud provider for the world's intelligence agencies. Amazon has
to answer for itself which country security services it would

(17:56):
be prepared to work for. Ends quote. I think he's
got a good point there. Now very in mind, this
Amazon a w S deal is all backed by Jeremy Fleming,
the director of g h c Q, who was said
he wants to put artificial intelligence at quote the heart
of British spy agencies. Now trust me, it's not just

(18:19):
me who sees a problem with this a w S
spy cloud. Even British MPs have kicked up a fuss
in Parliament over it. Politicians from Labor, the British opposition party,
have demanded that PRETP tell the Home Secretary explain why
Britain will be using a US based company for our
most secretive information. They're also asking if any risk assessment

(18:42):
was done before this deal was put into motion. One
Labor MP named Conor mcgin wrote in a letter saying
quote these reports are deeply concerning and raised serious questions
about the wider security safeguards in place when it comes
to the potential risks of outsource in critical elements of
UK national security infrastructure to non UK based companies end quote. Now,

(19:08):
if you look at the history of Britain, outsourcing is
hardly something politicians have cared about before. For example, Margaret Thatcher,
the now deceased former Prime minister, decimated the north of
the country through outsourcing. But I digress now. The response
from the government to the Amazon a w S UK
spy cloud was frankly a bit blunt and unhelpful. A

(19:33):
British government spokesman said the following quote, I'm not going
to comment on the technology used by intelligence services for
both security and commercial sensitivity reasons end quote. Amazon, for
their part, declined to comment entirely. Now, I think one
thing that's worth considering once all these a WS spy

(19:56):
agency clouds are up and running is what if there's
a major outage. Well, in December twenty one, there was
a major a WS outage, Amazon's web server suffering a
crippling outage today delivery trucks halted for a time and
taking parts of the Internet with it. The problem not
only affecting Amazon, but reportedly many other major services, including Netflix,

(20:20):
Disney Plus, and some of the smart devices right in
your own home. That massive Amazon server outage temporarily crippling
some of the world's most popular online services. It went
through over the JIB. The service was down for several
hours after a loss of power at one single data
center in the US. The knock on effect was massive.

(20:41):
The PlayStation network went down, Zoom went down, Slack went down,
so did Hulu, Disney, Imager, Epic Games, Grinder, Asana, Netflix,
and many more applications and sites. It affected many services
for hours, and this was actually the third a WS
outage in the space of four weeks. What happens if

(21:04):
the secret intelligence clouds of the world's most powerful countries
get an AWS style outage. My guess is it would
be much worse than not being able to play Halo
for a few hours. So we know Amazon is spying
on customers in their homes and is now helping actual

(21:25):
spy agencies spy on people across the world. Now, let's
be real. The world is a big, bad place and
there will always be some need for espionage. Otherwise, every
hostile country would have the drop on each other, Militants
would be able to attack innocent people at will, and
it will probably be more chaotic than it already is.

(21:47):
But I think we have to ask ourselves, knowing what
we know about Amazon, do we really want them to
become the new Big Brother. Well, as we've spoken about
in this episode, that becomes a really we won't even
have a choice in the matter. On the next episode
of Mega Corp, we'll be looking at Jeff bezos quest

(22:09):
to dominate space and the questionable dealings of his Blue
origin commercial rocket company. Megacorp is made by my production
company H eleven for Cool Zone Media. It's written, researched,
and produced by myself, Jake Hanrahan. It was also produced

(22:31):
by Sophie Lichtman. Music is by some Black, graphics by
Adam Doyle and sound engineering by Splicing Block. If you
want to get in touch, follow me on social media
at Jake Underscore Hanrahan. That's h a n A h
A n
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