Artificial Intelligence: British Spy Agencies To Store Top Secret Data On AWS

October 26, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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The agencies will apply AI and data analytics to enhance espionage.

The GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence body, along with MI5 and MI6, will host their top secret data on AWS servers to allow for data analytics and gain AI-powered insights form the vast trove. The contract with AWS is worth £500m to £1bn over the next decade, experts estimate. (FT)

The data will be located in Britain, however, and AWS will not have any access to it.

AWS cloud: AI to enable more efficient use of data

Secret agents in remote, foreign locations can share data on the cloud, and the agencies can also perform fast searches on the mutually shared databases.

Ciaran Martin, who previously headed the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, said the high-security, cloud-based system would deliver “information from huge amounts of data in minutes, rather than in weeks and months.”

He also noted that “the obvious business case is to use existing large amounts of data more effectively.”

Sovereignty concerns

Predictably, the prospect of storing Britain’s intelligence data on servers owned by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), a US company, has excited worry.

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International and an expert in technology and human rights, called for more information on the deal to be shared with Parliament, regulators and citizens.

He said the secret public-private partnership would grant a monopoly to Amazon in the business of hosting data belonging to the world’s intelligence agencies.

However, people familiar with the deal revealed that UK companies did not have the scale or capabilities required, though GCHQ was initially scouting for a domestic cloud service.

Across the pond, the CIA runs its data on the cloud with a consortium made up of AWS, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), and IBM (NYSE: IBM).

Admiral Mike Rogers, former head of the US National Security Agency, said the cloud systems flagged suspects much faster.

“It gives us speed, it gives us flexibility and by being able to aggregate more data, it increases the possibility that you’re going to identify that needle in the haystack,” he said to the FT.

Related Story: GCHQ, The U.K.’s Spy Agency, To Use AI Against Threats

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