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Amazon Has Mysterious Ways: AWS Announces the Secret Region

Posted by Augusto Alvarez on December 12, 2017
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Amazon recently announced a new addition to their current offerings, specifically around regions and confidentiality: AWS Secret Region. The AWS Secret Region can operate workloads, contain data and other functionalities using the Secret U.S. security classification level. The AWS Secret Region is available to the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) through the IC’s Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) contract with AWS.

Amazon Web Service - Top Secret - Confidential

We definitely can say the AWS Secret Region sounds like a great marketing technique, or we may think Amazon found the way to deploy a set of datacenters and no one really knows where but a few people; but not quite, the Secret Region will be dedicated to special Government (and some specific non-governmental institutions) to provide the “Secret” level of security clearance.

What Are the Security Clearances Levels?

Not tied to technology but to all type of permissions and qualifications, the US has a very distinctive and hard requirements associated to security clearances. Security clearances can be issued by many United States of America government agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Energy (DoE), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

There are three levels of DoD security clearances:

  1. TOP SECRET: Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
  2. SECRET: Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
  3. CONFIDENTIAL: Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security.

In addition to these, depending on the government organization, there are also definitions for “SENSITIVE” (similar than confidential) and “UNCLASSIFIED”.

With this, Amazon is the first commercial cloud provider to be able to serve government workloads across the full range of data classifications, including Unclassified, Sensitive, Secret, and Top Secret.

AWS GovCloud (US) - logo

The Secret Region Credentials

There won’t be any disclosure, for obvious reasons, around the location, size or technical details around the Secret Region. But Amazon is confirming that this region will be accredited for security compliance under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Intelligence Community Directive (ICD 503) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-53 Revision 4.

The AWS Secret Region also will be available to non-IC U.S. Government customers with appropriate Secret-level network access and their own contract vehicles for use in the AWS Secret Region. These contract vehicles will not be part of the IC’s C2S contract.

 

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