Feeds

GCHQ outsources net snooping... to EDS

We weren't consulted about these consultants

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Exclusive The government has outsourced parts of its biggest ever mass surveillance project to the disaster-prone IT services giant formerly known as EDS, The Register has learned.

HP contractors are busily helping GCHQ build systems to allow data mining of every communication online, even though the government's response to a limited public consultation on the plans has not yet been published.

Workers from the division of HP formerly known as EDS are employed at the Concrete Doughnut in Cheltenham, designing and installing the massive computing resources that will be needed to analyse details of who contacts whom, when where and how.

It's understood that the firm is closely involved in GCHQ's internet surveillance projects, which aim to enable the spy agency to fish intelligence from the oceans of data it plans to intercept online, and from what is already collected by ISPs and phone operators. Contractors are being consulted on policy debates, for example.

News of the firm's involvement is likely to increase concern among politicians over the project. EDS has been involved in a parade of government IT failures, budget overruns and data losses in recent years, including but not limited to the National Offender Management Information Service, the tax credits system, the Defence Information Infrastructure and the Child Support Agency.

The relationship with GCHQ is considered so sensitive within HP - which has recently integrated EDS after acquiring it for $13.9bn last year - that executives refer to the agency and its 5,000 staff as "a client in the West Country".

News that work continues with the private sector securely on board raises questions over the Home Office's consultation, Protecting the public in a changing communications environment.

The document, published in June, ostensibly sought views on whether ISPs should be forced to gather terabytes of data from their networks on the government's behalf. That collection and storage strand of the intelligence and security system's broader effort to monitor and interrogate internet communications is called the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP). It's estimated it will cost £2bn over 10 years.

Work in Cheltenham to crunch the data is being carried out under a secret project called Mastering the Internet.

A major government IT delivery contractor's long-term, ongoing involvement in the effort is likely to be seen as an indication the Home Office's consultation could never have made any substantial difference to the plans.

Earlier this year The Register revealed that Detica and Lockheed Martin were already both involved in Mastering the Internet, contracting on analysis software and hardware respectively.

One very senior national security official recently defended the consultation. International allies had described even having a consultation as "totally crazy", he said.

The official added that the type of mining software provided by Detica, which searches bulk data, such as communications records, for patterns, was a powerful tool to identify suspects.

In a statement, the Home Office said: "We know that this is a complex and sensitive subject, with a fine balance to be made between protecting public safety and civil liberties.

"This is why we launched a public consultation to seek views from interested parties. That consultation has now finished and we are considering the responses received."

At time of publication HP had not responded to a request for comment.

Government policy is to never comment on GCHQ's work or contracts. The Home Office said: "Part of the role of Government in working to protect the public is to understand from industry how emerging technologies may help address threats to public safety and achieve a workable balance between public safety interests and individual human rights. We continue to examine the technology available." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.