The United Kingdom has signed a secret contract with American tech giant Amazon to provide cloud computing storage service for its spying agencies.
The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that UK intelligence agencies had entrusted classified data to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud service unit, in a deal designed to vastly speed up their espionage capabilities by boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence in espionage activities conducted by Britain's cybersecurity agency GCHQ, MI5, the UK's domestic security service, and MI6, its foreign arm, as well as other government agencies.
The agreement was signed this year but the details were closely guarded and were not intended to be made public, the report added, citing people familiar with the discussions.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), which is part of the GCHQ issued a warning in 2017 against cyber security breaches.
UK cloud providers reportedly lacked the capabilities that GCHQ deemed necessary for UK spy agencies to carry out worldwide espionage activities.
Professor Alan Woodward, a computer security expert at the University of Surrey, said "The likes of Amazon, Microsoft can keep a large amount of data live -- that can be searched -- in minutes rather than in days. It's more agile."
Woodward added that it was likely that Amazon had agreed to build a storage facility for the UK that would be accessible only to British spy services.
He, however, noted that Britain and the US were already close intelligence partners.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also signed a cloud data deal with Amazon in 2013.
In 2020, the CIA expanded its contract to allow bids from other companies, as well.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of Amazon, is believed to be the richest man in the world with over $200 billion.
His company, which opened in 1995 as an online bookseller, is one of the Big Five companies in the US information technology industry, along with Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook.