Is Pentagon’s military cloud (cyberwar cloud) security in the hands of a Russian provider?

A technology company competing for a Pentagon contract has links to an organization related to a Russian oligarch

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud is a Pentagon project focused on the U.S. defense’s confidential information protection that could ultimately store even nuclear codes. According to experts in digital forensics from the International Institute of Cyber Security, this project has already begun to generate serious security concerns, even though it is still in the bidding phase.

Viktor Vekselberg, close to the Russian government, has been linked to C5, a group of companies that has worked closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS), leaders in the career of the Pentagon’s contract award.

Both C5 and AWS have stated that the C5 group is not involved in any form in the bidding of the JEDI project. On the other hand, the Pentagon has refused to make any statements about it, in compliance with the confidentiality of the bidding process.

Amazon Web Services and C5 Capital

AWS has become the world’s largest cloud computing service provider, controlling a third of the entire market for this kind of services. On the other hand, C5 is a relatively new group, but in a few years it has made a capital close to $120M USD for investment in cybersecurity. Although they have collaborated on various cloud projects, both companies deny keeping close links.

C5 Accelerate, one of the companies that integrate C5, says on its website that it is “developing a cluster of cloud accelerators in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the U.S., in collaboration with AWS”. However, C5 maintains that it has never participated in a bid along with AWS, stating that it has worked with companies like IBM and Microsoft, without distinction.

Nonetheless, according to experts in digital forensics, Teresa Carlson and Andre Pienaar, representatives of AWS and C5, have traveled multiple countries promoting the relationship between the two companies.

Andre Pienaar and his links with Russia

Pienaar, the man behind C5, is a South African citizen who keeps close relations with many of the most important people in different industrial branches. On the payroll of C5 Capital, one of its most important companies, are some of the most influential names within military and security elites, whether in the east or the west.

Pienaar has also been linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian businessman who is on the U.S. government’s list of sanctions for his links with Russian government, headed by President Vladimir Putin.

Links between C5 and Russia

According to experts in digital forensics and cybersecurity, an important injection of Russian capital has been discovered in the intricate structure of the C5 group.

C5 Razor Bidco, a subsidiary of C5, provided an investment of about $17M USD in 2015, just as the businessman Vladmir Kuznetsov became director and principal shareholder of the company. AWS notes that it’s never worked with C5 Razor Bidco, but this company is part of the C5 group and is owned by Andre Pienaar. In addition, it is widely reported that Vladimir Kuznetsov is one of the trusted men of the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Kutznetsov has repeatedly denied being Vekselberg’s “right hand”.

The involved parties have denied the alleged links, mentioning that they regret the misunderstandings. However, these supposed interests of men so close to the Kremlin in projects like JEDI cloud have already triggered an alert about the state of cybersecurity of confidential information in the U.S.