Spy agencies including MI5 and MI6 strike deal with AMAZON

Spy agencies including MI5 and MI6 strike deal with AMAZON

Spy agencies strike deal with AMAZON: Top secret data from GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 will be hosted on the cloud in deal worth as much as £1billion

  • GCHQ championed the move and service will also be used by MI5 and MI6
  • Advocates say contract – worth as much as £1billion – will boost the use of AI
  • Likely to ignite concerns over sovereignty with data held by one US tech firm

Britain’s three spy agencies have handed a contract to Amazon to host top secret material on its secure cloud system, it was reported today.

GCHQ championed the procurement of a high-security cloud and it will also be used by MI5 and MI6, as well as other government departments such as the Ministry of Defence during joint operations, according to the Financial Times.

Advocates say the deal – worth as much as £1billion – will boost the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for the UK’s intelligence agencies.

However, it is likely to ignite concerns over sovereignty given that vast amounts of the country’s most secret data will now be hosted by a single US tech company. Earlier this year the French backed the creation of a ‘sovereign cloud’, which will be used to handle sensitive public information.

GCHQ championed the procurement of a high-security cloud and it will also be used by MI5 and MI6 (pictured is the Security Service’s headquarters) 

The agreement was signed this year with AWS, Amazon’s cloud service unit, and the data of all the agencies will be held in Britain, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the discussions.

The sources said Amazon will not have any access to information held on the cloud platform.

It is understood the new deal will allow spies within the intelligence agencies to share data more easily from field locations overseas.

It will also enable the agencies to use specialist applications such as speech recognition software which can ‘spot’ and translate particular voices from hours’ worth of recordings.

Reports suggest the use of AWS will also enable the agencies to conduct quicker searches on each other’s datastores.

Industry experts estimate the deal could be up to £500million to £1billion over the next 10 years. 

Advocates say the deal – worth as much as £1billion – will boost the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for the UK’s intelligence agencies (MI5 HQ Thames House) 

Amazon will not have any access to information held on the cloud platform, sources said. Pictured: GCHQ in Cheltenham 

GCHQ said it would not comment on reports about its relationships with tech suppliers and AWS – which is a lesser known part of Amazon but is far more valuable than the online retail operation – declined to comment.

Ciaran Martin, the former head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said the cloud deal would allow the security services ‘to get information from huge amounts of data in minutes, rather than in weeks and months’ but dismissed the idea it enabled them to store more data.

In February, Britain’s cyber spies at GCHQ said they had fully embraced artificial intelligence to uncover patterns in vast amounts of global data to counter hostile disinformation and snare child abusers.

GCHQ has been using basic forms of AI such as translation technology for years but is now stepping up its use, partly in response to the use of AI by hostile states and partly due to the data explosion that makes it effective.

Yesterday, GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming told a conference the number of ransomware attacks had doubled across the UK in 2021, compared with last year.

He told the Cipher Briefing: ‘We’ve seen twice as many attacks this year as last year in the UK – but the reason is proliferating is because it works. It just pays.

GCHQ said it would not comment on reports about its relationships with tech suppliers and AWS – which is a lesser known part of Amazon but is far more valuable than the online retail operation – declined to comment 

‘Criminals are making very good money from it and are often feeling that that’s largely uncontested.’

In April, Mr Fleming said that Britain faced a ‘moment of reckoning’ in the race for technological supremacy and must adapt or risk falling prey to China.

He called for the country to evolve like an animal in a changing habitat as the ‘global digital environment’ comes under threat from foreign adversaries like China and Russia.

He also warned that the digital dominance of hostile states like China threatens our future prosperity and security. 

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