British spy agency to scrap $140m IT system over security fears

DeloitteBy IAN ALLEN | |
Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, has decided to “accept defeat” and scrap a multimillion digital records management program over fears it could create a dangerous “intelligence vacuum”. The program, which has so far cost the British taxpayer over £90 million ($140 million) in payments to private consultants, was first conceived in the run-up to the London 2012 summer Olympic Games. While evaluating terrorist-related threats posed by the hosting of the Games in the United Kingdom, British security officials decided that the government-wide intelligence-sharing system in place was archaic and in need of serious overhaul. They hired a group of senior IT management consultants from Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services firm, headquartered in New York, NY. The pricey corporate experts were tasked with helping MI5 digitally collate intelligence data collected or produced by all departments of the British government. Deloitte’s planning team had projected that the multi-million dollar system would be in place and operational by the summer of 2012, before the Olympic Games were held in London. This, however, proved wildly optimistic; Deloitte barely managed to scrape together a watered-down version of the promised records management program in late 2012. When the program was tested by MI5’s intelligence collection managers, it was found to contain serious errors that, according to British newspaper The Independent, could leave the country’s intelligence agencies “vulnerable and struggling with an intelligence vacuum”. When initially questioned about the Deloitte debacle by British lawmakers, MI5’s (now retired) Director, Sir Jonathan Evans, told the frustrated members of the British House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee not to worry. Deloitte’s performance would soon improve, he said; additionally a “temporary delay” in the program was inconsequential, especially since the original target of having it in place before the 2012 Olympic Games had been missed. But in January of 2013, the Deloitte system was carefully re-examined, and MI5’s intelligence collection managers arrived took the decision to “admit failure” and hire a new team of consultants from another firm to complete the job. The Independent contacted MI5’s institutional patron, the British Home Office, which said that it didn’t recognize the paper’s £90 million figure, but refused to provide further comment on the subject. Deloitte, meanwhile, still waxes lyrical on its website about its contribution to the success of the London Olympic Games.

4 Responses to British spy agency to scrap $140m IT system over security fears

  1. Pete says:

    Two issues (in addition to cost) MI5 may have worried about include:

    – the Boston bombings – where the heavily IT database reliant FBI allowed concerns about the two bomber brothers to slip through the database(?) cracks, and

    – the inherent vulnerability of large classified databases to being downloaded (by people like Manning) and then published.

  2. IT is the vulnerable area which has to be addressed and there are no easy options, it is going to be a difficult area for years to come, because of exploits and manned stations being compromised by their operators.

  3. I am ready to go ahead and take next phase in my career and after working security
    for a number of years, I’d love to polish up on my current skills and acquire a few new ones. Where is the best place to start I ponder?

  4. Pete says:

    Re “- the inherent vulnerability of large classified databases to being downloaded (by people like Manning) and then published”

    Wonder if Snowden read that May comment?

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