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Government pressed on GCHQ-AWS cloud deal

28/10/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK Government has been pressed to explain details of a reported deal between intelligence and security agency GCHQ and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

cyber lock in digital cloud

Conor McGinn MP, the Labour Party’s shadow security minister, has written to Minister for Security and Borders Defence Damian Hinds MP asking him to explain the apparent secrecy of the deal and to respond to concerns around the security of data.

This follows a report in the Financial Times AWS has been signed to provide a high security cloud system to GCHQ, also for use by security agencies MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, to host classified material and boost the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence.

It said the contract was signed earlier this year but has not been published.

McGinn said: “For a deal with this scale of impact on national security and huge cost to the taxpayer, it’s vital that there is appropriate scrutiny. The Government must - urgently - update Parliament on the nature of the contract and what security protections are in place.”

Serious questions

His letter to Hinds refers to estimates of the deal being worth between £500 million and £1 billion, and says it raises “serious questions about the wider security safeguards in place when it comes the potential risks of outsourcing critical elements of UK national security infrastructure to non-UK based companies”.

He asks questions on: why the contract was awarded to AWS and what procurement process was involved; whether it was discussed at the National Security Council; what assessment was made on the implications for national security; if there had been an assessment of the cyber resilience of data held on the AWS cloud; and whether the home secretary will make a statement to Parliament on the matter.

The Ministry of Defence said any public response should come from GCHQ, which has been contacted for comment.

Image from iStock, Ipopba

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