Private sector to use GCHQ tech?


The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is believed to be considering selling security monitoring to the private sector as a service.

The UK intelligence agency, which monitors emails and phone data for the Government, is highly secretive due to the nature of the information it collects.

However, the BBC has reported Dame Pauline Neville Jones, the Coalition's security minister, telling the Commons Science and Technology Committee GCHQ was considering ways of selling its technical know-how to private companies.

She claimed there were "many ways Cheltenham could supply a service to the private sector," as well as stating it was a "live issue."

The director of GCHQ, Iain Lobban, recently made a speech claiming the cyber threat facing UK was "real and credible" and could attack our critical infrastructure.

However, he was not keen on releasing into the public domain the way GCHQ tackled such a threat, saying: "I would not wish to talk about the steps we take with the security service to reduce specific vulnerabilities."

Risky move by GCHQ?

The move, should it go ahead, has been met with interest by experts.

"It is interesting that the formerly secretive folks at GCHQ are investigating the possibility of commercialising their services," said Rik Ferguson, senior security advisor at Trend Micro.

He claimed by opening up the tools of GCHQ, the organisation could suffer and the private sector might not be as welcoming as the Government thinks it will be.

"Firstly I imagine that if they commercialise their true top level capabilities then they surely run the risk of exposing the tools and techniques they use to public and international scrutiny, which may be to their detriment," Ferguson added.

"Secondly, companies may be reticent to invite a governmental organisation, charged with intelligence gathering, into the heart of their corporate networks."

We contacted the GCHQ to find out more on the plans but a spokesperson told IT PRO they had no further comment to add to the minister's remarks.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.