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Fears over delicate US army information in industrial cloud

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The Pentagon – the arena’s biggest place of work development – is the United States’ army headquarters

A generation corporate bidding for a Pentagon contract to retailer delicate information has shut partnerships with a company connected to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, the BBC has realized.

The Jedi challenge, an enormous cyber-cloud which could in the long run retailer nuclear codes, has already sparked security fears.

Viktor Vekselberg, who’s on the subject of the Kremlin, has hyperlinks to the C5 Group, a cyber-investment company which has labored carefully with the main bidder, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Both C5 and AWS say C5 isn’t concerned within the Jedi bid in anyway.

All bids for the cloud are sealed. The Pentagon refused to remark pointing out that details about companies concerned could no longer be disclosed.

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Viktor Vekselberg (L) has met Russian President Vladimir Putin on a lot of events

What is the Jedi contract?

In a bid to compete with Russia and China, the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure is likely one of the maximum formidable ventures the Pentagon has introduced.

Instead of army information being saved on smaller servers throughout other departments inside the Pentagon, the tips will probably be held in a cloud.

The cloud is a term used to explain plenty of far off servers, related to the web, which is able to retailer huge arrays of knowledge and can also be accessed from anyplace on the planet.

Top army secrets and techniques will probably be transferred to the Jedi cloud, including labeled information about guns methods, army body of workers, intelligence and operations.

It will supply infantrymen at the frontline with quick get right of entry to to all the newest intelligence, making them simpler at the battlefield.

US Brigadier General Krumm, who helped to plan the contract, defined at its release that having such data on the army’s fingertips would help the United States win wars.

He stated: “The data must be to be had to a military platoon {that a} pleasant unit is just across the block and won’t open fire.

“It’s were given to be to be had to a platoon of marines who’re about to breach a door that an IED has been discovered.”

There were warnings that if the Pentagon’s IT device isn’t up to date urgently then the United States will “lose the long run conflict”.

Huge, global generation companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and IBM have submitted bids, with a choice due in April 2019.

Leading voices within the sector – including the opposite companies vying for the contract – say that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the transparent frontrunner.

Why is the challenge so arguable?

John Weiler, the director of the IT procurement staff IT-AAC primarily based in Washington, advised the BBC: “I’d no longer retailer my maximum non-public information, nor would my fellow colleagues, in a industrial cloud, length, the top.”

He says there are massive dangers to storing such labeled data on a public, commercially-held cloud run by way of just one corporate.

“We have our nuclear codes, the place our troops are going to be from in the future to the following. If the cloud’s security is breached then our enemies could use our data against us. They could be looking forward to us.”

The Pentagon had to give an explanation for to Congress why it used to be most effective providing the contract to a unmarried corporate, with requires a cloud of this measurement to be run by way of more than one provider suppliers to unfold the danger of security breaches.

It stated having just one cloud supplier would higher serve troops at the floor and would accelerate get right of entry to to necessary data.

AWS additionally defended the United States government’s place pointing out: “A unmarried cloud could be extra protected than a multi-cloud setting.”

There have additionally been accusations that the bid has been written with just one corporate in thoughts, AWS, one thing the Pentagon denies, announcing that the method has been clear and independent.

Questions have additionally been raised about AWS’ hyperlinks to the C5 Group.

Who are Amazon Web Services and C5 Capital?

Amazon Web Services has grown to be the most important cloud provider supplier on the planet. A subsidiary of the net buying groceries corporate, it controls a 3rd of the cloud computing marketplace.

The C5 Group is a relative newcomer however inside of a couple of years it has raised £100m to spend money on cyber-security.

Despite AWS and C5 running in combination on plenty of cloud computing initiatives far and wide the arena, each companies have denied having a detailed dating.

One of the numerous cyber-companies within the C5 staff, C5 Accelerate claims on its website online that it’s “growing a Cloud Accelerator Cluster in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States, along Amazon Web Services”.

C5 maintains it hasn’t ever made a joint contract bid with AWS of any type in any nation and has labored with different cloud provider suppliers like IBM and Microsoft.

However, the vice-president of AWS, Teresa Carlson, and the man in the back of the C5 Group, Andre Pienaar, have toured the arena selling their companies’ dating.

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AWS already has the important security clearances because of their involvement with the CIA’s computing cloud

They have additionally joined forces on a challenge within the Middle East. AWS secured a freelance to increase cloud-computing platforms for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and C5 got here in emigrate government internet sites to the cloud.

Who is Andre Pienaar and the way is he connected to Russia?

Mr Pienaar, the man in the back of the C5 staff, is a well-connected South African with business ties to a wealth of illustrious names.

The board of one in all his flagship companies, C5 Capital, includes a roll call of one of the crucial maximum influential and depended on figures in army and security circles on all sides of the Atlantic.

He additionally has hyperlinks to Viktor Vekselberg, who’s on the United States sanctions listing for his shut ties to Vladimir Putin.

When the BBC requested Viktor Vekselberg if he knew Mr Pienaar, he stated that for two-and-a-half years, Mr Pienaar used to be a paid portfolio supervisor for his companies in South Africa. That position most effective got here to an finish previous this year.

According to this model of occasions he should were running for Mr Vekselberg while working C5 and dealing on initiatives with Amazon Web Services.

When the BBC put that to Mr Pienaar, he denied having ever labored for Mr Vekselberg’s corporate, and stated he had most effective prompt them on a mining factor.

Shortly afterwards, Viktor Vekselberg’s spokesman got here again to amend their previous observation to compare Mr Pienaar’s – which might recommend that they’re nonetheless involved.

How is his business, the C5 Group, connected to Russia?

Looking in the course of the labyrinthine construction of companies round C5, the BBC has discovered an injection of Russian cash.

One of C5’s subsidiaries, C5 Razor Bidco, introduced in an funding of £16.1m in 2015, just as Vladmir Kuznetsov turned into a director and main shareholder of the corporate.

AWS wired that it does no longer paintings with C5 Razor Bidco. However, C5 Razor Bidco is a part of the C5 Group and is owned by way of Andre Pienaar.

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Media captionHow the Russian oligarch device works

Vladimir Kuznetsov is extensively reported as being the depended on lieutenant of the sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

He labored for the Russian oligarch from 1999 till previous this year, when the sanctions against Mr Vekselberg ended in mass resignations around the board of his business staff, Renova.

Mr Kuznetsov advised the BBC he had resigned from the vast majority of Mr Vekselberg’s companies in 2014, except last at the board of Renova Management till April 2018.

He denied being his “right-hand man”.

The BBC has additionally noticed a report, revealed by way of an organisation referred to as the Family Office Circle Foundation in 2016, which states that Mr Kuznetsov, who used to be talking at one in all their occasions, used to be from “Viktor Vekselberg’s family offices” and used to be “director of Renova Group”.

Mr Kuznetsov stated his funding in C5 Razor Bidco used to be no longer influenced by way of both Mr Vekselberg or the Kremlin and the cash got here from his personal checking account.

C5 stated that the oligarch had indirectly or not directly invested in any of the crowd’s companies.

Mr Vekselberg stated Mr Kuznetsov hasn’t ever run “his family offices” and he has no longer made any funding in C5’s portfolio thru Mr Kuznetsov or by way of another manner.

Who is Viktor Vekselberg?

His popularity in the United States as a “nice oligarch” who spent his cash on Fabergé eggs used to be tainted in April this year when the United States government sanctioned him for his shut ties to the Kremlin.

Mr Vekselberg has stated he’s going to enchantment against the sanctions that have proved expensive to a couple of his multi-million pound companies.

Former Pentagon legit Michael Carpenter, who used to be the deputy assistant secretary of defence overseeing Russia, advised the BBC that he believes Mr Vekselberg “poses a risk to the US”.

“Any oligarch in Russia when called upon by the Kremlin to do their bidding will do so, and that is the condition that they keep their wealth.”

Shortly after his title seemed on the United States Treasury’s sanctions listing, the billionaire used to be stopped as he attempted to board a aircraft in New York.

Federal brokers running for the Robert Mueller inquiry into alleged Russian interference within the 2016 US election puzzled him and seized his digital gadgets.

He denies any wrongdoing or involvement in President Donald Trump’s campaign.

It emerged previous this year that Columbus Nova, an organization affiliated to his Renova Group empire, paid £500,000 to Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s attorney on the time.

The cash went to his corporate, Essential Consultants LLC, the company he used as a part of a “hush agreement” with Stormy Daniels to prevent her publicising her alleged affair with Mr Trump.

Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Mr Vekselberg, advised NBC News that neither Mr Vekselberg nor Renova “has ever had any contractual relationship with Mr Cohen or Essential Consultants”.

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Vladimir Kuznetsov used to be the manager technique officer for one in all Viktor Vekselberg’s key companies, the Renova Group

What is Skolkovo?

When the Skolkovo Innovation Centre used to be established by way of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev again in 2009, when he used to be Russia’s president, it used to be noticed as the rustic’s solution to Silicon Valley.

Viktor Vekselberg used to be introduced in to run it and has remained on the helm ever since.

It used to be described as an incubator of the newest applied sciences which might create hundreds of jobs and help cut back Russia’s dependence on oil and fuel, and make allowance it to compete with the West.

However, a couple of years after its inception, warnings of possible espionage got here from each the United States army and the FBI, an accusation that Skolkovo and Viktor Vekselberg strongly deny.

Both the FBI and the United States army have warned that the innovation centre, designed to rival California’s Silicon Valley, could be a entrance for “industrial espionage”.

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Skolkovo is described as a “technology incubator”.

Mr Vekselberg stated it used to be with “great regret” that Skolkovo were the topic of such complaint and that the centre labored carefully with the United States and plenty of global generation companies as a part of an “ecosystem” the place “innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive”.

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