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AWS signs major deal with UK spy agencies

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

GHCQ, the UK’s cybersecurity agency, has awarded a cloud computing contract to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host its classified material, according to reports.

First shared by the Financial Times, the deal is estimated by industry experts to be worth £500 to £1 billion over the next decade, and will reportedly boost the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) for the UK's intelligence establishment.

The FT added that while GCHQ spearheaded  the procurement of the cloud, the system will also be used by other defense services such as the MI5 and MI6, as well as other government departments such as the Ministry of Defense.

The deal was reportedly signed earlier this year according to anonymous sources familiar with the matter, and comes with the assurance that all the data of all the agencies will be held in Britain.

Crunching big data

GCHQ has reportedly been dabbling with basic forms of AI such as machine translation for years, but is now set to step up its use, driven partly by the use of the technology by hostile states, and partly due to the accumulation of enough data to make such use effective.

The report adds that the GCHQ had earlier this year acknowledged that they had fully embraced AI to uncover patterns in vast amounts of data to counter hostile disinformation and trap child abusers.

Over in the US, AWS has reportedly signed a similar contract with the National Security Agency (NSA), code-named WildandStormy.

However, that contract, which has been protested by Microsoft, follows the scrapping of the multi-billion dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, which was awarded to Microsoft in 2019, but had tangled in legal wrangling brought on by AWS.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, GCHQ’s director Jeremy Fleming disclosed that the number of ransomware attacks on British institutions has doubled in the past year, according to The Guardian.

Fleming’s remark comes even as AWS has tied up with endpoint protection vendor CrowdStrike to safeguard AWS’ cloud customers against ransomware attacks.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.