British spy service to store secret material on Amazon servers

The contract raises concerns about data sovereignty, as sensitive UK information will be under the responsibility of an American company.

LONDON – The three UK spy agencies will store secret material on servers in the cloud of AWS, one of the arms of Amazon, reported the British newspaper Financial Times.

The contract for a high-security cloud system was funded by GCHQ, the intelligence body in charge of security and espionage and counter-espionage in British communications, and will be used by sister services MI5 and MI6, as well as other government departments such as the Defense Ministry.

According to the FT, the agreement aims to increase the use of data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) for espionage. The data must remain stored on servers in the UK, and, according to the paper, Amazon will not have access to the information.

GCHQ said it would not comment on news about its relationships with technology providers. AWS declined to comment on the matter.

In February, GCHQ’s British cyber spies said they had adopted artificial intelligence to discover patterns in large amounts of global data to stem hostile disinformation and arrest child sex abusers.

GCHQ has used basic forms of AI, such as translation technology, for years, but is now intensifying its use, partly in response to the use of AI by hostile states and partly due to the data explosion, which makes the tool more useful.

The contract is likely to raise concerns about data sovereignty, as much of the UK’s most sensitive information will be held by a single company in the US.

The deal is estimated to have cost between 500 million pounds (BRL 3.823 billion) and 1 billion pounds (BRL 7.65 billion), to be paid over the next 10 years. Details are not public.

The GCHQ has a long history of using computation for espionage: it was at its center that British mathematician Alan Turing cracked the Enigma naval code from Germany during World War II. AI allows modern computers to learn to sift through data to see traces of spies and criminals that a human brain might not notice.

The world’s biggest spy agencies in the United States, China, Russia, and Europe are in a race to bolster their defensive and offensive capabilities in the cyber realm. In cyber intelligence, the United States is ranked by the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School as the greatest global power, followed by the United Kingdom, China and Israel.

Source: with Agencies


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