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Amazon Acquires Encryption App Amidst $10B Fight With Pentagon

Amazon’s cloud services giant Amazon Web Services has acquired encrypted messaging app Wickr.

Wickr claims that it is the only messaging service in the world that meets the NSA-approved criteria for security. As Amazon explain:

“With Wickr, customers and partners benefit from advanced security features not available with traditional communications services – across messaging, voice and video calling, file sharing, and collaboration.

“This gives security conscious enterprises and government agencies the ability to implement important governance and security controls to help them meet their compliance requirements.”

It is unclear which, if any, government agencies use Wickr, but the idea of Amazon owning the gateway software that provides these “advanced security features” should give some pause.

It will also, no doubt, turn off those who use the app purely because they wish to avoid the big four tech companies, who don’t have the best record when it comes to user privacy.

Also unclear is how much AWS paid to secure Wickr. The company had recently raised just short of US$60 million in funding,

Amazon is currently embroiled in a legal stoush over a $10 billion security contract with the Pentagon. The company claims that President Trump actively blocked it from winning the contract in 2018, awarding it instead to Microsoft.

In the lawsuit, Amazon has offered up numerous insistences when Trump displayed his dislike for Jeff Bezos, and is quoted as telling former Defense Secretaries James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the contract bid.

In July, 2019, Trump told reporter: ““I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon,” adding that the contract wasn’t competitively bid.

“I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on,” Trump said of the Defense Department, “because I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining. Not only complaining from the media — or at least asking questions about it from the media — but complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM. Great companies are complaining about it.”

The Defense Department already has a cloud-based deal in place with Amazon, aside from the aforementioned Pentagon contract.

Having a product such as Wickr in its arsenal could prove a savvy move.

Stephen Schmidt Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer for AWS, said of the acquistion:

“Today, public sector customers use Wickr for a diverse range of missions, from securely communicating with office-based employees to providing service members at the tactical edge with encrypted communications.

“The need for this type of secure communications is accelerating. With the move to hybrid work environments, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprises and government agencies have a growing desire to protect their communications across many remote locations.”

Whether it will be used by the Pentagon remains to be seen.

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