UK government hands secret services cloud contract to AWS

The UK’s intelligence services are to store their secret files in the AWS cloud in a deal inked earlier this year, according to reports.

The GCHQ organisation (electrical/radio communications eavesdropping), MI5 (domestic UK intelligence matters), MI6 (external UK intel) and also the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will access their data in the cloud, albeit in UK-located AWS data centres.

The news was first reported in the Financial Times newspaper (paywall), which said GCHQ drove the deal that was signed earlier this year, and the data will be stored in a high-security way. It is claimed by unknown sources that AWS itself will not have access to the data.

Apparently the three agencies plus the MoD will be able to access information faster and share it more quickly when needed. This is presumably in contrast to each agency storing its own information on its own on-premises computer systems.


The US’s CIA signed a $600m AWS Cloud contract in 2013. That contract was upgraded in 2020 and involved AWS, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle in a consortium.

Of course, for the US, AWS is a domestic firm. The French government is setting up its own sovereign public cloud called Bleu for sensitive government data. This “Cloud de Confiance” will be based on Microsoft’s Azure platform – and will include Microsoft 365 – but will apparently be “delivered via an independent environment” that has “immunity from all extraterritorial legislation and economic independence” from within an “isolated infrastructure that uses data centres located in France.”

In GCHQ’s reported view, no UK-based public cloud could provide the scale or capabilities needed for the security services data storage requirements.


Source: UK government hands secret services cloud contract to AWS • The Register

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