Americans Know Very Little about Amazon Web Services that Knocked Out Large Swaths of East Coast Internet Services on December 7

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: December 14, 2021 ~

Jeffrey Bezos

Jeffrey Bezos

FINRA is Wall Street’s self-regulator. Last Tuesday afternoon, December 7, we attempted to access the part of its website that houses data on Wall Street’s Dark Pools. The web page was there but the data wouldn’t open. We contacted FINRA via email and asked what the problem was. We were told that it was “a result of today’s Amazon Web Services issue.”

Our problem at FINRA’s website was just the tip of the iceberg last Tuesday. As a result of problems at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud-service network, customers couldn’t get through to Delta Air Lines on its AWS-supported phone lines; the Associated Press was limited in what it could publish for much of the day; Barron’s reported it was negatively impacted; apps for McDonald’s and Ticketmaster and streaming services from Disney and Netflix were also knocked offline. Amazon delivery drivers couldn’t access the necessary information to deliver packages and some Amazon warehouses couldn’t process orders. The outages also negatively impacted other Amazon services, such as the Alexa voice assistant, Kindle, Amazon Music, Amazon’s video conferencing service Chime, and its Ring security cameras.

But the outages that were reported by the media last Tuesday, which were concentrated on the East Coast of the U.S. from late morning to most of the afternoon, were likely just the tip of the iceberg. According to a report by John Cave at Contino on January 28, 2020, the following companies and government agencies were then on record as using AWS:

“Aon, Adobe, Airbnb, Alcatel-Lucent, AOL, Acquia, AdRoll, AEG, Alert Logic, Autodesk, Bitdefender, BMW, British Gas, Baidu, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Canon, Capital One, Channel 4, Chef, Citrix, Coinbase, Comcast, Coursera, Disney, Docker, Dow Jones, European Space Agency, ESPN, Expedia, Financial Times, FINRA, General Electric, GoSquared, Guardian News & Media, Harvard Medical School, Hearst Corporation, Hitachi, HTC, IMDb, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, International Civil Aviation Organization, ITV, iZettle, Johnson & Johnson, JustGiving, JWT, Kaplan, Kellogg’s, Lamborghini, Lonely Planet, Lyft,, McDonalds, NASA, NASDAQ OMX, National Rail Enquiries, National Trust, Netflix, News International, News UK, Nokia, Nordstrom, Novartis, Pfizer, Philips, Pinterest, Quantas, Reddit, Sage, Samsung, SAP, Schneider Electric, Scribd, Securitas Direct, Siemens, Slack, Sony, SoundCloud, Spotify, Square Enix, Tata Motors, The Weather Company, Twitch, Turner Broadcasting, Ticketmaster, Time Inc., Trainline, Ubisoft, UCAS, Unilever, US Department of State, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, UK Ministry of Justice, Vodafone Italy, WeTransfer, WIX, Xiaomi, Yelp, Zynga and Zillow.”

Amazon Web Services describes itself as follows: “…the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally. Millions of customers — including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies — are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster.”

Some of those “leading government agencies” are actually in the United States – notwithstanding the fact that Amazon is under scrutiny by multiple governments for abusing anti-trust law and attempting to squash smaller competitors. ABC News reports that AWS “holds roughly a third of the $152 billion market for cloud services, according to a report by Synergy Research — a larger share than its closest rivals, Microsoft and Google, combined.”

It also doesn’t seem to concern Amazon’s big corporate and government clients, in trusting their confidential data to Amazon’s cloud, that the billionaire founder and Executive Chairman of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, couldn’t even keep his salacious, private texts with his mistress out of the hands of the media.

Amazon has a unit called AWS GovCloud. It describes its U.S. operations as follows:

“AWS GovCloud (US) Regions are AWS’ isolated infrastructure and services designed to host sensitive data and regulated workloads. AWS GovCloud (US) Regions give U.S. government customers and U.S. regulated commercial companies the flexibility to architect cloud solutions that comply with: Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) High baselines, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Department of Defense Cloud (DoD) Computing Security Requirements Guide (SRG) for Impact Levels 2/4/5, Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS), and other compliance regimes.”

AWS says it operates in 245 countries. Some of those countries may pose security risks to the United States. AWS has announced it is partnering with local companies in China and Russia to deliver cloud services. It reports that “the service operator and provider for Amazon Web Services China (Beijing) Region based out of Beijing and adjacent areas is Beijing Sinnet Technology Co., Ltd. (Sinnet), and the service operator and provider for Amazon Web (Ningxia) Region based out of Ningxia is Ningxia Western Cloud Data Technology Co., Ltd. (NWCD).”

ICT.Moscow reported in July of last year that AWS had “reached an agreement with Group on partnership to enter the Russian market. Companies will be able to offer customers unified access to their cloud services and solutions in the multi-cloud format.”

With its sprawling global footprint, AWS has become a major profit center within the retailing juggernaut. CNBC reported on September 5 that “more than half of Amazon’s operating profit” has come from AWS, which represented $13 billion in operating income in 2020 versus Amazon’s total net income of $21 billion.

On December 10, three days after the mass outages, AWS finally posted a detailed explanation of what had gone wrong. But this is far from the first time that AWS has experienced outages.

Given its size and dominance, its growing encroachment into storage of multiple governments’ data, and its history of outages, Congress needs to open a formal investigation into AWS operations around the world along with more granular details on exactly what occurred last Tuesday, December 7.

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