Home Office: Cloud computing aiding terrorism

Storm clouds

Terrorists are using cloud computing to plan attacks and remain undetected - and the UK Government needs to keep up with such technological advances.

This was the message of Home Secretary Theresa May, who today outlined the Government's updated counter-terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST.

Cloud, one of the hot topics in the IT world right now, is one example of how terrorists are using modern technologies for their own ends.

"Cloud computing offers new means for storing, sharing and distributing material online," May warned.

"It can be encrypted and configured to work with mobile devices, leaving little or no trace of the data behind."

Cloud-based companies such as Google are also unwittingly helping terrorists, the Home Secretary explained.

"Terrorists are increasingly using online technology, including Google Earth and Street View for attack planning," she said.

"Ahead of its attempted aviation attacks, AQ-AP used commercial systems to allow air mail to be tracked in real time we can speculate that this was to detonate a device over a particular city, to maximise casualties, or perhaps over a particular country, to maximise the political fallout."

May also noted how extremists could use peer-to-peer networks to "distribute files and information rapidly and securely." Furthermore, software to encrypt mobile calls and texts is now widely available and improving, the Home Secretary said.

"To tackle these new and emerging threats our own technology must constantly evolve and adapt. That's why we are investing in new systems and new capabilities," May added.

"Our Communications Capabilities Development Programme will ensure that our investigative capabilities are maintained in the face of rapid changes in digital technology. Legislation will be brought forward to put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that the response to this technological challenge is both proportionate and appropriate."

The updated CONTEST strategy also focused on the need to strengthen border security, using technology such as that involved in e-Borders.

The Government will be announcing its own updated cloud computing strategy before September.

Earlier this week, the UK terror threat level was reduced from "severe" to "substantial."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.