Chris White on August 7, 2019
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is under fire as lawmakers are questioning why Amazon’s cloud technology was unable to detect the Capital One hack.
- The company is being scrutinized after President Donald Trump’s criticisms prompted the DOD to put a hold on a program giving Amazon the ability to build out the agency’s cloud technology.
- DOD’s decision to place a hold on the $10 billion program also comes as critics of Amazon’s role in the project manage to impress upon Trump how deeply Bezos was involved.
President Donald Trump’s growing skepticism of a potential Department of Defense cloud computing program with Amazon comes as CEO Jeff Bezos fields questions about why his company’s technology was unable to prevent the Capital One hack.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is now reviewing accusations of unfairness in the contract process for the program, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), the Pentagon announced on Aug. 1. His decision came after Trump ratcheted up criticism of the project. Amazon and Microsoft are the only two finalists.
Amazon, which is expected to land the program, is now wrestling with questions from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who wants to know why the company’s cloud computing technology was unable to prevent Capital One hack. The company stored the 106 million Capital One credit-card records an accused hacker allegedly stole.
Capital One blamed the incident on “a specific configuration vulnerability” in the way it uses Amazon’s cloud. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday how the accused hacker was allegedly able to exploit a weakness in some misconfigured networks that cloud security experts frequently warn about. Amazon has not replied to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Conservatives and other experts warn that relying on one cloud system creates severe security risks.
“The use of multiple cloud solutions follows industry-wide best practices utilized by most Fortune 500 companies. Mr. [Trey] Hodgkins [of IT Alliance for Public Sector] noted that by using multiple providers, the cybersecurity and functionality of the JEDI system would be improved, costs would decrease through increased competition,” conservative groups wrote in a May 16 letter to Russell Vought, the acting director for the Office of Management and Budget.
Esper’s review is expected to delay awarding the JEDI contract, which would give the Pentagon a single cloud computing system for data ranging from personnel statistics to intelligence information rather than the hundreds the military currently uses.
Controversy has plagued the cloud computing program. Computing giant Oracle, for instance, alleged in a May 31 complaint that former DOD official Deap Ubhi was offered shares in Amazon and a salary with the big tech giant while he was finding a company to help build out JEDI. Ubhi never recused himself, according to the document.
Instead, “he spent weeks as a DoD official, downloading the JEDI Google drive to his laptop, meeting with AWS competitors as a DoD official, requesting and participating cloud meetings … and obtaining submissions from JEDI competitors,” Oracle noted in its document, referring to Amazon Web Services, the arm responsible for implementing the system.
Other reports revealed similar problems. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attended a 2017 event with Teresa Carlson, vice president of Amazon’s worldwide public sector services. The dinner ultimately helped forge another meeting in August 2017 between Mattis and Bezos, The Wall Street Journal reported in July, citing emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
White House officials recently showed Trump a document that connects Ubhi and others to a ploy awarding Amazon the 10-year contract, CNN reported in July, citing documents. The document is identical to one from Oracle lobbyist Kenneth Glueck, an executive vice president with the company. The DCNF has independently confirmed the existence of the flow charts.
Trump has gotten more public in his criticisms. “So I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” the president said during a July interview. He was referring to complaints conservative have made recently about a $10 billion winner-take-all cloud computing contract. The president also retweeted a Fox News segment on July 22 criticizing the JEDI contract as “The Bezos Bailout.”
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